Silly Apps Aren’t the Future of Tech

The contenders in the 2014 TechCrunch Disrupt included a startup that seeks to change the way in which diseases are diagnosed, a medical-grade health scanner, a platform to connect innovators with scientists and a suite of business-intelligence tools for conservation and drought planning. Sadly, the winner was a simple app for the elite: Alfred Club. This allows you to hire someone to do everyday chores such...

The coming era of unlimited—and free—clean energy

In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones.  McKinsey & Company noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant.  It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units, and advised AT&T to pull out.  McKinsey was wrong, of course.  There were more than 100 million...

It’s a beautiful time to be alive and educated

This is a commencement address I gave at Hult International Business School August 22, 2014. I grew up watching Star Trek and believing that by the time I became an adult we would all be using communicators, replicators, tricorders, and transporters. I was optimistic that the world would be a much better place: that we would have solved humanity’s problems and be exploring new worlds. That’s why my first...

Why we should believe the dreamers—not the experts

History is littered with the failed predictions of experts. Yet governments hire high-paid consultants to advise on policy; businesses use them to vet research and development projects; and venture capitalists have them make investment decisions.  Experts excel in looking backwards, protecting their turf, and saying what their clients want to hear. Their short-term predictions are sometimes right, but they...

We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government does

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers revived a debate I’d had with futurist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 about the jobless future. He echoed the words of Peter Diamandis, who says that we are moving from a history of scarcity to an era of abundance. Then he noted that the technologies that make such abundance possible are allowing production of far more output using...

How today’s technology is rapidly catching up to Star Trek

In a distant part of the galaxy, 300 years in the future, Starship Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk talks to his crew via a communicator; has his medical officer assess medical conditions through a handheld device called a tricorder; synthesizes food and physical goods using his replicator; and travels short distances via a transporter. Kirk’s successors hold meetings in virtual-reality chambers, called holodecks,...

Washington Post: Come on, Silicon Valley, you can do better than this

A new messaging app, called Yo, has created a sensation in Silicon Valley.  It is being hailed as the next big thing. The amazing breakthrough?  Sending the word “Yo” to a contact with just one click. This app received justifiable ridicule from Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and many others.  But some technology industry moguls are taking it seriously.  Marc Andreessen wrote on Twitter that...

The powerful role of incentive competitions to spur innovation

In the 1920s, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize to the first person to fly non-stop between New York and Paris. Several unsuccessful attempts were made before an American airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh won the competition in 1927 with his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh’s achievement made him a national hero and a global celebrity, but it also sparked the interest...

How the Nature of Competition Has Changed

 Not long ago, you could see your competition coming. What you had to worry about most was a new entrant within your industry that had a simpler, lower-priced product. To stay ahead, you could either improve your product’s functionality or build new products that extended the range and value of your offerings. Management guru Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” to describe how...

Washington Post: How technology can unleash India’s full potential

  Indians are fed up with government inaction and corruption.  They want accountability, better education for their children, improved health care, and economic prosperity.  And they want change now. Technology-led solutions may be the only way for India’s new government to rapidly uplift its population.  Large-scale government programs and social welfare will take too long. Here are seven ways technology...

Times of India: A tech manifesto for the new (Indian) government

As the Indian political upheaval shows, Indians are fed up with government inaction and corruption . They want accountability, better education and healthcare , and prosperity. And they want them now. Technology-led solutions may be the only way for India’s new government to rapidly uplift its population. Large-scale government programmes and social welfare will take too long. Take education as an example....

Large companies need to disrupt themselves or be disrupted

“If you owned Salesforce.com’s shares today would you sell them,” asked journalist Dennis Kneale.  In response, I said that if I owned the company, I would make its chief executive Marc Benioff the chief technology officer to get him back in the visionary role.  That’s because it needs someone like him driving it forward and reinventing itself — while it is in flight.  If it doesn’t disrupt itself,...