Future Tech & How To Get It Faster: A blog about future tech and the companies who are inventing it.
by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
The next big thing in personal transportation will be the Hyperloop. The idea is to put people in capsules and shoot them through low-pressure tubes. Musk thinks it will take 7 or 8 years and $6 billion to build a prototype.
At that point, there will be two possible ways forward. One is to get a giant company to build more. This would be incredibly expensive, and would probably take at least 10 years. The other way is to let a thousand companies bloom, which I’m guessing could get you from prototype to widespread availability in about half the time and for less than a tenth the money.
The same thing happened with commercial jets. You’d think such an important invention would have been developed by one of the giant aerospace companies. But it wasn’t; it was developed by a guy named Bill Allen at Boeing, with little help from the rest of his company. (Allen later became CEO.) As with rockets, most of the important work was done in small teams with little bureaucracy or management overhead.
The Future Is Here: Imagine a world where computers are not only everywhere, they’re in everything. And they’re not just super fast, they’re also virtually free.
You may be thinking, “that already exists.” But it doesn’t. Not yet.
For most of human history, the number of things we can make has been limited by our ability to design them. We’ve had a few breakthroughs that have increased our rate of invention and production – the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine and electricity – but there haven’t been many and each required decades to spread widely through society.
But now something else is happening: computers. Computers have gotten so small that they can be embedded in all sorts of things. And they’re getting faster and more powerful every year with no sign that this exponential increase is going to end any time soon. For example:
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit was doubling every year (later revised to every 18 months). This trend continued for 30 years until transistors were about the size of an atom, but then engineers found a new way to make computer chips using light instead of electricity which allowed for even smaller transistors than before.
More and more companies are realizing that continuous innovation is the only way to prosper. But most are also finding that despite their best efforts they rarely succeed in innovating fast enough. So how can they do it better?
One approach is to create a separate internal lab devoted to innovation. Corporate labs like 3M’s, PARC (formerly Xerox PARC), Bell Labs, and IBM Research have produced many of the innovations that have shaped our world today. And there are many companies today working diligently on their own innovation labs.
But there are also major downsides to this approach. First, it takes a long time for any lab to build up its talent and expertise–often three years or more. Second, even after a lab has been built up and is operating smoothly, it remains difficult for the company to control its direction and output; researchers are often pursuing their own interests rather than those of the company itself. For example, many of PARC’s breakthroughs were never applied by Xerox itself, which instead chose to focus on selling more copiers (a strategy that failed). And third, even when a corporate lab successfully produces an innovation, it can be very difficult for the parent company to adopt it due to cultural issues or other factors.
Singularity Hub is a news and information site focused on the Singularity. We cover topics such as artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, robotics, regenerative medicine, and more.
It’s a place to learn about the people and technologies that are reshaping the human experience.
You’ll find interviews with top thinkers from Ray Kurzweil to Elon Musk, articles about cutting-edge research projects at places like Google and MIT, and explanations of how mind-blowing technologies work—from 3D printing to synthetic biology.
There are many things that could be done to speed up development of new technologies. Most of them are not being done.
Some of these aren’t even controversial. For example, we should stop subsidizing agriculture and putting tariffs on imported food. Instead we should tax pollution and resource depletion, so as to encourage sustainable agriculture and make space for wild habitat. Doing this might double the growth rate of agricultural productivity, and quadruple the growth rate of wild animal numbers, with no new technologies at all.
Other things (like increasing immigration) are more contentious in the short term but less so if you think in terms of decades or centuries.
But what I want to focus on here is a class of measures whose effects on future generations would be uncontroversial if their benefits were immediate, but which are very controversial when their benefits are in the distant future. Two examples are investing in AI safety research, and regulating nuclear waste disposal. How can we get people excited about improving the lives of future generations?
The good news is that there is something you can do about it: work on hard problems. Because it’s harder to get new ideas to spread, the most valuable companies tend to be those that monopolize an idea whose time has come.
If you want to create and capture lasting value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business. Anybody can be good at that. Instead, build a monopoly business based on something unique.
It’s not enough to have a good idea or a proven concept. You have to have both in spades. You need so many good ideas that you can afford to throw out the bad ones, and your concept has to be so proven that you have no doubt it will work, even when everyone else does.