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Silicon Valley Innovators Share Their Vision of the Future

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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SAN FRANCISCO—How will ubiquitous connectivity and social media change everything? That, in short, was what a number of luminaries in the tech world addressed yesterday at the GigaOM roadmap conference. Rather than bore you with an extended recap, I thought I’d share some of the most salient nuggets of wisdom. I’ve made every effort to capture direct quotes, but in some cases (fast speakers, lots of wisdom) I had to paraphrase.

Jack Dorsey, Co-Founder and CEO of Square and co-founder of Twitter, chatting with Om Malik

On Social Media

Twitter makes the world feel very small. You can fit the world in your pocket.—Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and CEO of Square

There are types of content where you want social interaction and types where you want isolation. With a novel the last thing you want is to see ‘Ping! Your friend Joe also likes this’ when you turn a page. But with textbooks or cookbooks, you might have a question and you want to bring people in. Social needs to be there when you want it and definitely not when you don’t.—Matt MacInnis, CEO and founder, Inkling

With Twitter, I believe that biggest work and challenge ahead is being able to discover something relevant and meaningful right away—instantly.—Jack Dorsey

Gifting is going to be a big part of social retail experience. It’s a hard problem. It’s not done well today. But there’s so much data that’s embedded in social networks that we think we’ll get it right—if not this Christmas than down the line.—Venky Harinarayan, senior vice president of Walmart Global Ecommerce and head of WalmartLabs

Jack Dorsey:

On Design

Simplification is essential. Working really hard to get something down to its essence is challenging but critical. It allows us to focus, to put user first, and puts conceptual debris away.—Jack Dorsey

We’re so engrossed of this idea of a computer as a device, a box. These devices even in our pockets they take us out of the moment out of the human connection that’s what life’s about—Mark Rolston, chief creative officer, frog design

The more we can to have the power of computing without the difficulty of computers the more we can move forward.—Mark Rolston

We’re trying to take all of these signals we have about your environment and you as an individual and use it to personalize your experience. For example, what does an East coast 19-year-old Kanye West listener want to listen to at the start of the day vs. a West coast 40-year-old Kanye West listener at end of day?—Tom Conrad, chief technology officer and executive vice president of product, Pandora

Mark Rolston:

On Media

Online was perceived to be destructive to TV, that hasn’t been the case. Online video is competitive with the DVR—it’s place-shifting and time-shifting.—Jim Lanzone, president of CBS Interactive

Video games are always catching up to high-end animation. And every time they catch up, we’re a little further ahead.—Ed Leonard, chief technology officer of Dreamworks Animation

Television audiences have been rising not declining at the same time that internet video use has been rising. I don’t know where all this extra time comes from in people’s lives.—Jim Lanzone

Fully half of country doesn’t spend any money on music each year. Another 40 percent only buys $15 or so of music. If you want to reach that 90 percent, you have to generate compelling ad-supported experience.—Tom Conrad

The ‘use cases’ for things that we all call books are quite different. Textbooks, for example, are used as learning technology between lectures. They’re not the same as reading novel from cover to cover.—Richard Nash, VP of content and community, Small Demons

For bookstores to continue to exist they have to become community centers to support the acts of writing and reading.—Richard Nash

Seven percent of value of book is the intellectual property, and 93 percent goes into the supply chain. That is ludicrous.—Richard Nash

Books are technology. They’ve just been sanded down over 500 years to point where they are invisible.—Richard Nash

On Buying and Selling

We’re moving from ownership society to access society—Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb

You’re not defined by things you own but by experiences you have.—Brian Chesky

Online shopping 1.0 was bringing the store to the Web. Now with mobile technology we’re in shopping 2.0—how do you bring the Web to the store?—Venky Harinarayan

You want to have convenience of online matched with richness of the store experience.—Venky Harinarayan

On Work and Entrepreneurship

Technology as a way to reflect and meditate on what’s important is something we’re seeing from startup companies more and more.—Jack Dorsey

The tech companies today even the big ones—for example, Apple—have far fewer employees than the big companies of yesteryear like U.S. Steel. The technology economy relies on enormous leverage of intellectual capital.—Michael Moritz, general partner, Sequoia Capital

We have brilliant people in this country, but we’re still stuck in factory models of how work should work.—Matt Mullenweg, founder WordPress/Automattic

One of the biggest problems with going distributed work force is when you have some people in an office and some distributed—the distributed workers become second class citizens.—Matt Mullenweg

One of big difference between today and 20 years ago in Silicon Valley is that the barriers to entering marketplace from remote areas of the world is much less.—Michael Moritz

Amazon cloud has been real source of enablement for startups. Instead of having to build a datacenter you can just rent it.—Andy Bechtolsheim, founder Arista Networks

On Health Care

We spend 18 percent of GDP on health care. A lot of that is legitimate, but the average developed country spends 10 percent and gets much better results. That extra 8 percent would balance the budget many times over.—Frank Moss, co-founder Bluefin Labs and the director of new media medicine at the MIT Media Lab

A logjam analogy in healthcare is too optimistic. We’re an eternal fountain of garbage.—Adam Bosworth, founder and chief technology officer of Keas

Companies recognize that they need to reduce the development of disease in employees because they can’t afford the health care costs.—Frank Moss

The system is incentivized to keep your patients as sick as possible for as long as possible short of dying.—Adam Bosworth

The technology we have in biology, social media, and information technology is coming together to create tremendous opportunity for companies in connected health.—Frank Moss

There’s a tremendous opportunity to make money and also do social good.—Frank Moss

Photo by Kevin Krejci on Flickr

About the Author: Michael Moyer is the editor in charge of space and physics coverage at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @mmoyr.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. the Gaul 9:25 pm 11/11/2011

    Psychics print their predictions in the National Enquirer. Of this group, little better can be said.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Rationallylogicalanimalskeptic 2:36 am 11/12/2011

    pychiatrists goals are to keep destroying the minds of the mentally ill and forcing thier meds on them to keep them subdued

    Link to this
  3. 3. byronraum 12:34 pm 11/13/2011

    These aren’t all visions of the future, they are mostly visions of the present and sometimes of the near past.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Steve3 2:17 am 11/14/2011

    innovation? vision of the future? Where?

    Can innovation and vision be reduced to consumerism in SciAm?

    Link to this
  5. 5. jtdwyer 8:16 am 11/14/2011

    Might as well ask the CEOs of oil companies, financial institutions and government agencies for their visions of the future…

    Link to this

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