Have you seen those beautiful casts of an ant nest?
All we see on the surface is a small mound with some holes in. But once you start exploring, well, you enter another world that is vast and spectacular.
Photo by Charles F. Badland, with permission from Walter R. Tschinkel
30 days into life as a Partner at Main Sequence Ventures, that’s what it feels like.
Here’s an example of two things I found on my travels this month.
Imagine a room the size of a basketball court. Everywhere we look there is an autonomous vehicle. Some of them have wings and some have wheels. There are about 20 people taking them to pieces and putting them back together again. Some of them wander farms and tend to the crops. Some of them look after the cattle far away from the homestead. Some of them pick people up in crowded cities of pedestrians and whisk them the last mile to their destination. A glimpse at how we will travel better. A glimpse at how we will make more food for the growing population.
Imagine two tiny tablets of silica with a gap in between. In that gap are 8 ions, trapped by a magnetic field. Surrounding them, is an array of lasers, bouncing around the room with small mirrors used to send signals to the ions. This is an early quantum computer. Sydney, it turns out, is one of a handful of global epicentres for quantum information research that many believe will drive the next technology revolution. When particle-powered qubits replace the ‘bits’ of modern computers, we’ll see an exponential explosion in computing power. We’re talking computations that would take longer than the length of the universe today, nailed in seconds. We’ve only scratched the surface of what we could do with that capability.
I hope you will feel what I feel. That this is wonderful. That humans are extraordinary. That there is so much to do. That we are far from done with inventing a new possible.
How do these things become real?
I think we are at the start of a historical surge in innovation that people will look back on like we view the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. In those periods of history, separate groups of people started to work together. During the Renaissance it was the artists and the scientists driving a new curiosity. In the Enlightenment it was the merchants and scientists recognising that technology could fuel an exponential leap in productivity. Here we are again, with science and commerce poised to create extraordinary change.
I think we are there again with vast stores of potential stored in the force of scientists and entrepreneurs. Inventing the future is not just for Google and Elon Musk. There are university incubators inventing businesses to launch satellites now.
People will drive the change.
People with new skills. Scientists learning how to get their technology into the world with a model that makes it thrive. Entrepreneurs getting into the lab and learning about hard things that were once hidden behind closed doors. This is happening.
People with new relationships. Scientists working with enterprise, working with startups working with artists. This is happening.
People with new curiosity. People asking new questions. The ingredients for the answer are there in a ways they have not been in history. This is happening.
People with new courage. There will need to be a new kind of audaciousness for people to think that they can tackle some of these problems. But when Elon Musk said he was going to make us an interplanetary species, we should consider the gauntlet thrown down.
It is time to get into the hard stuff.
I think we will need to make our new deep tech innovation fund all about the people.