Once a year, True brings together the entrepreneurs in its portfolio for a day of intimate learning and sharing. This year we held the event in Carmel – here I am with Chris and Jason from Renovo, in what looks to be some kind of serious conversation, or maybe Jason is describing which two cocktails he’s about to try at the closing party 🙂
Surely – hopefully – we’ll come up with a better name for it, but I believe that wetware will be a big, upcoming wave of change in technology. Wetware is the idea of putting computers inside our bodies. Sounds a little gross, but it makes a lot of sense that we’ll go there because of how two of the major themes of technology – networking and user interfaces – have evolved.
Networking: Computers get a lot more interesting when we connect them together, and we’ve been striving to connect more of them into networks and make it easier for us to access those networks. The first networks were local, a bunch of computers connected together in local area networks at universities and companies. Then the network moved to our homes, on our PCs and the internet. Then the network started to move around with us with wifi and laptops. And finally it has moved into our pockets with smartphones. As the network gets more ubiquitous and ever closer to us, it seems feasible that it would move into our bodies next – always there and even closer.
UI: User interfaces are about making it possible and ever more convenient for us to communicate with computers. We all know the evolution of how this works. It started with punch cards, then went to keyboards, then the mouse came along, touch pads, and today the ever present touch screens on our phones. This evolution looks like a move towards a more gestural and natural connection between us and the 0s and 1s of a computer. The next UI step could be an interface between sensors inside my body, likely my hands, and a way for computers to interpret those sensors without us having to move or touch a device anymore. Imagine moving and waving your hands around and your computer understanding what you mean (many people believe that our next step will be to voice interfaces instead – I’m less certain of that, though even in that case I imagine microphones will be embedded in our bodies).
Since two of the major themes of computing – networks and user interfaces – seem to be moving towards having computers inside our bodies, it looks to me like wetware, despite its ickiness factor, will become a reality.
A few thoughts of what it’s been like to blog every day for 4 weeks (minus weekends). First, thank you Om for challenging me to do it. I’ve never been a daily blogger, except for early stretches of photoblogging when I got my first camera phone in 2004. Recently, my blogging had come to a trickle, with a post every month or two, so it was a big change for me to blog every day. For the first two weeks, I felt quite a bit of pressure to publish, and I tried to think ahead for a few days of material. Then it got easier. For the last week, I just waited for something to catch my interest that day and wrote about it. I spent less time editing and rewriting posts as time went on, finding more flow in my writing – I hope this lasts, it’s the main benefit and joy I have gotten from blogging more. I did feel slightly guilty throughout this exercise about blogging too much – about wasting people’s time with my incessant posting. Another hurdle I still have to overcome is the feeling of “someone else has already written about this, and they’re probably a better writer”. Finally, I learned that if I wanted to purely blog for attention, I should write everyday about distributed companies and working from home – my posts about those topics get 10x more traffic than any others.
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My 1985 biodiesel Landcruiser is in the shop, getting its “300,000 mile tune up”. In my case that has involved cutting out rust for the last two weeks and replacing it with new steel in lots of places. I went to check in on the car at the body shop, and they were OK with me wandering around and taking pictures of projects in progress:
I wrote this two years ago and for some reason never published it:
Software is taking over our lives – the way we communicate, learn, play, work, and shop. I’m both thrilled and worried about that. Thrilled because now that we’ve made the mind-boggling investment of putting computers onto every desk and into every pocket and connected them all via the internet, we can build and release infinite amounts of software much more cheaply and quickly than we can build pretty much anything else. And to my delight, the original hippie dream of the technologists who envisioned all of this back in the 1960s and 1970s has largely survived the attempts of businesses and governments to take control: Our various technology platforms, in particular the internet, are largely free, open, and universally accessible to anyone who wants to build a piece of software and send it out to the world. So why am I worried? For all its benefits, software is amazingly fragile. From a creator’s point of view, it requires almost constant maintenance for it to continue to work. The pieces of software I personally run right now – a web browser, email client, a blog, etc – are between a few days and a few months old. Most of the software I ran last year or the year before no longer works, and more crucially, some of the things I created using those older pieces of software stopped working along with it. I have notebooks from grade school sitting in a closet next to me. I can pick them up and they work just fine, the same as they did 30 years ago. Yet keeping my digital documents working requires constant maintenance, backing up, and transferring to new formats, or they simply become defunct.
There’s a concept of technical debt inside software companies. It means that poor software design choices upfront lead to major maintenance hassles down the road. As software takes over our lives, we should think about how to minimize technical debt not just in companies but at a societal level, to help avoid some major risks and headaches in the coming decades.