thoughts re 2000,2010,2020

decades only happen so often…. and now feels like as good a time as any to pause and do a sketch of 2020, based on a comparison of 2000 and 2010.  In Jan the BLKNY30 is going to host an event with the NYC founder’s round with a similar goal – but in the meantime here is my personal take and a few calls in the form of 2000 | 2010 | 2020 –

as with all my blogposts – especially exceedingly speculative ones – the standard disclaimer applies that I am writing with an open audience in mind but ultimately as a format to clarify my own thinking, I almost never disclose conflicts of interest, I work in bracketed time so I need to apologize to my mother and proponents of english grammar and diction, and the views expressed might not actually be my personal beliefs, but rather what I choose to represent as my personal beliefs in this format (the medium is the message)

Headlines from the exercise:

A.  The Relative ‘Resolution’ of 10 Years:  It is mind blowing to me the seemingly important/formative things that fade away when you step the resolution out to 10 years. 

For instance, I started the decade without an ipod, and I am ending the decade without one — even though it was very important bit of tech in the middle.  Same thing with college… which was highly formative, but actually just made up a minority of a period that fit well within the bounds of our resolution.  That doesn’t mean that college or the ipod weren’t critical, but it does underscore just how big a decade really is (especially with the backdrop of accelerating technology)…  the number of locally important world events, personal events, startups, people, etc. that get washed out of a 10 year pull-up is just staggering – Bain, Youtube, Twitter, Tiger, Giants/Patriots, and certainly rowing.

B.  Acceleration:  Chronological time seems ever more disconnected from other measures of definite meaning.

Chronologically the last decade was exactly as long as the one before it (give or take a few seconds based on the speed of the earth’s revolution I believe), but in almost any other unit that is not even close to the case.  If we measure time in terms of the amount of unique content created, the last decade was probably 10X as long as the one before it.  Worldwide births, probably 1.2X (just guessing – not looking it up).  If I personally measure it in terms of percentage of my life to date, the number of messages I received, dates I went on (almost all with the same girl :) , beers, dinners I ate out, hours I spent in lectures, hours I spent earning money, flights I took, miles I ran, or a myriad of other factors, 2000-2010 looked nothing like 1990-2000, nor will 2010-2020 look anything like 2000-2010.  The world is accelerating, and so am I.

C.  Core beliefs & big challenges:  I don’t think that my core belief system has changed very much/will change very much 2000,2010,2020.  In 2020, just as in 2010, just as in 2000, I suspect I will strongly believe that people are good and that free markets solve most problems very well (or at least orders of magnitude better than anything else we have come up with).

In 2020, just as now, I will believe that our big challenges exist where short term incentives and the immediate interests of one generation run counter to our own longer term interest and that of the species.  The biggest problems we face now and will face in 2020 involve a growing set of situations where stakeholders are not yet around, or not yet empowered.

I will be then, as I am now, most concerned at a macro level about the environment and privacy, two clear cases where our short and long term interests are diametrically opposed.  I will also be increasingly concerned about the worldwide technological/economic/social/and political monoculture that are forming …  because mono-cultures have an unfortunate way of not lasting very long, and not degrading very gracefully – and we seem to be building one at an accelerated rate.

D.  Friends:  this was a big decade re: personal relationships.

Unlike 1990-2000, where I carried through as friends no more than a handful of people, I truly suspect that the people I became close with 2000-2010 will remain central to my passion, creativity, and enjoyment well through 2020.  Further, I suspect that in terms of new meaningful human relationships the next 10 years will be far less important than the last.  I think this generally fits into a natural lifecycle, but I also think that I just had the incredible luck, honor, and privilege of coming into contact with and developing personally meaningful relationships with some of the most interesting and wonderful people in the last 10.  A very high bar has been established.
E.  Technology, moving towards implicit data and central services, maximizing value/bit, with all the pluses and minuses:

We are currently in a period of explicit gestures (double confirmed declared facebook ‘friends’), status updates, ‘checkins’ – we are going to a world of implicit gestures culled from real action by 2020.  Not who you declare your friends to be, but how you actually transact with other people…  etc.  Moving away from ‘may I ask who is calling’ and towards caller-ID.  This is part of a constant trend of maximizing the value/bit of information transmission because while we are *relatively* not storage constrained, we are constrained by our own human IO and processing on the edge.

The winners will be people who have asymmetric privileged information about and around those transactions.  Facebook, Google, Credit Card Companies, AWS, and anyone else who can compound their accuracy by owning the throttle points where people give up more and more of what the Betaworks guys call ‘data exhaust’….

Because the value of all of this is based on asymmetry (if everyone can plug into your dataflow then your dataflow is worthless) all this will compound around centrally controlled services.  Which means that there isn’t much room to attack smart incumbents in the next 10 years without some sort of massive discontinuity in the economics of technology.

Leading to the good news and the bad news.   The good news is that central power is great for creating new and useful information and services — The bad news is that this value will be centrally controlled with potentially hugely negative implications for privacy (which matters by my thinking only in so far as there is a feedback loop where the nature of the channel effects the nature/value of the message itself — living in public alters how people live and think), and certainly for equality.  We need to start to watch out for new incarnations of authoritarian regimes – which will not in any way resemble our parent’s conception of authority.

F.  Ultimately:  the world will still be fascinating, I will still love working with wonderful people to make things, ideas will abound, the real value will be execution

1.  easy stuff:  I will get older, I will more than likely follow a normal life trajectory – I will physically maintain myself because I am highly committed to doing so.  I will do things I love, and be surrounded by people I care deeply about.

age:  16 | 26 | 36
formal education:  high-school | college AB | college AB
living:  New Jersey | New York | Northern Hemisphere
living with:  Mother, Father, Brother, Sister | Solo | Married
approximate flights/year:  8 | 50 | 50
skiing days/year:  15 | 15 | 20
– heli skiing days/year:  0 | 4 | 4
biking miles/year:  0 | 600 | 1000
boxing ability:  0 | 0 | recreational
kite-sporting days/year:  0 | 10 | 10
running miles/week:  25 | 20 | 25
maxed out mile/min time:  4:50 | 5:50 | 5:50
resting heart-rate:  ? | 66 | 66
human priority:  self, family | self, family, friends | self, family, friends
favorite foods:  cheerios, cottage cheese, and tortellini | unchanged | unchanged
major illnesses or injuries requiring hospitalization:  0 | 0 | 0

2. technology interfaces & physical lines: 
the trend will be towards interfaces generally becoming commoditized and getting really cheap and open (how original, I know).  I don’t think we will care very much about our specific boxes that host our connectivity in 10 years, just as now we don’t care about a lot of the components that were once central.  Apple is the only company that has a even shot of maintaining a premium position in the human interface market.

laptop:  Sony Vio | MacBook Pro | Mac XX or vanilla — laptop is still primary interface
point/shoot digital camera:  cannon powershot 10 |  cannon powershot 200 — integrated with phone/irrelevant
cell phone:  startac analog |  iphone & blackberry | open handset/disposable — maker is irrelevant
default screen:  20 inch sony ‘flat’ CRT | 32 inch dell flatscreen | 44+ inch LCD — maker is irrelevant
Primary input device:  static keyboard | static keyboard | static keyboard, but up to 25% of input via touchscreen.
mobile music:  creative nomad | iphone | integrated with phone/not a device — maker is irrelevant
home projector cost:  $15K | $800 — maker is irrelevant | $150
primary hard drive size:  5GB Seagate | 250 GB — maker is irrelevant | 5 TB
Primary OSes:  windows XP | OSX & windows XP |  Chrome/Browser as OS & OSX
cell provider: verizon | ATT & verizon | open/all of the above — crossed fingers for openness
home connectivity speed:  dual tied isdn | cable & wimax | last mile fiber
TV provider:  Direct TV | None | None
Wired Phone:  Yes | VOIP | already not worth talking about
Truly Functional Battery Life on laptop:  2 hours |  5 hours | 12 hours

3. messaging/how we speak to each-other:  Email will technically still be dominant, but it will have evolved so far (all be it on a relatively kluged core system) that the fact that it is technically email & called email will not really be relevant to the end user experience – gmail squared is NOT wave.  voice phone use will be down on a per user/per month basis…  IM and SMS will be massively up, but will be so deeply integrated that we won’t think of them as separate services, rather than just irrelevant communication routing options.

Primary digital communication channel:  email | email | email
‘email’ provider:  hotmail | gmail | gmail & facebook
email client:  outlook |  web based | web-based, but we won’t talk about it that way
IM:  AIM | AIM, FB, Gchat all abstracted via addium | web based basically ubiquitous fully integrated & abstracted service
SMS/week:  20 | 50 | 0 not differentiated as an interface/price/etc., fully integrated
Phone min/month:  200 | 400 | 200
Full video teleconferencing/min/month:  0 | 100 | 500+

4.  central ‘web’ services:  google will still lead search, but search for static answers will be a relative commodity, and adwords will not be as high margin a business as it currently is (though likely it will be far larger in terms of absolute revenue and dollar profitability).  Facebook will dominate identity by dominating the socially validated ‘graph’ and feed will provide leveraged scarce information – the social ‘graph’ will not be open, but other communications forms and transactions will provide different topologies of people, places, and things.  Overall there will be massive consolidation of time spent on the internet, and most services will go hyper vertical or completely commodity.

search:  alta-vista/baby goog |  goog |  goog, but relatively commoditized
identity:  nothing/fractured |  facebook |  facebook, and hugely dominant
payment:  baby paypal | paypal | venmo
marketplace of choice: ebay | ebay | ubiquitous commerce/vanilla  % of my personal data in the cloud vs. on the edge:  ~2% / 98% | ~30% / 70% | ~70% / 30%

5.  content services:  content is everywhere and always accessible….  people stop caring about owning it locally entirely and everything is subscription and/or pay as you go.  The conduits of content are devalued.  The best content creators do relatively well – though the average content producer does much much worse.

TV:  tuner card in my desktop | hulu/apple | google
movies:  dvds | apple & amazon | apple, amazon
music:  napster | lala/thesixtyone | ubiquitous distribution and consumption
books: NA | Amazon | ubiquitous distribution and consumption
winners in the ‘news’ game:  yahoo news | google consolidating free sources | WSJ/Bloomberg/Reuters, the core guys win
balance of power in media:  distribution | distribution | creative talent

6.  Personal content:  I think that I will passively capture far more about myself in the next decade than I did in the last two, but will actually explicitly capture less as the process of recording/memorializing/storing becomes natural exhaust of the event itself:

photos I take/year:  100 | 2,000 | 500
videos I take/year:  5 | 100 | 200
average length/video: 30:00 | 2:00 | 5:00
long form blogposts/year: 0 | ~50 | ~50
short static explicit message updates/year:  0 | ~300 | ~600

7.  public market & law:  Amazon and Facebook will be targeted from anti-trust perspective.  we will be meaningfully concerned about oil and water.  Most other political macro issues/trends will sadly remain unchanged.

facing anti-trust issues:  MSFT (OS) | GOOG (Search) | AMAZON (Cloud) & FBOOK (Graph)
US ‘real’ income: flat | flat | flat
resource:  OIL | OIL | OIL and Water
reported US unemployment in Jan: 4% | ~10% | 14% (actual rate much higher)
Issue people are fixated on:  Economy |  Economy & Terrorism | unchanged
Issue people should be fixated on:  Education | unchanged | unchanged
health care:  Unchanged | Unchanged | Unchanged
primary innovation driver:  US | US | US
dominant currency:  US | US | US, but on last legs
dominant economy in terms of GDP: US | US | US (but with China at 75%+ of US and clear path to dominance)

8.  startups:  traditional advertising is starting to decrease because it has fully shifted online and it turns out it doesn’t really work at scale very well anymore.  Good content does well and is paid for.  Algorithmic search is about finding personal rich media from a sea of content, social technology has basically lost the word ‘friend’ to oblivion but the concepts still apply.  Location is not it’s own interface business – thought from a fundamental perspective it is interesting, in 10 years it will finally be ubiquitous (after 20 years of promise) but as a parameter of social.  The internet will still be very interesting, and a small handful of longterm meaningful internet companies will be born — but the rate of turnover of power will change significantly.  Web applications will be mom-and-pop businesses built on scalable clouds and highly abstracted languages.  Biotech/Nano/Robotics/Health will actually be meaningful in the real world, rather than just promise (yes, I am willing to say that after people have been wrong it in decade predictions for the last 50 years)

Content Monetization Buzz:  CPC/Eyeballs | CPA/analytics | Real-time Generated Personal Offers
Content Monetization Reality:   Doesn’t Work (isn’t ROI positive at scale) | Doesn’t Work (isn’t ROI positive at scale) | People Pay For Valuable Scarce Content
Search Technology Trend: spyders | realtime based on tags |  real-time deep algorithmic contextual search within non-scale media
Social Technology Trend:  finding your actual friends | qualifying/defining the edges of ‘friendship’ | ‘friendship’ is passe as a term, but central in reality…  we move away from explicitly declared to implicit understood networks.
LBS – location based:  visible world | everyone and their mother playing | ubiquitous as a parameter of social (facebook), no meaning in a vacuum/no new services.
‘languages’ which conceptually exciting to me:  PHP | Ruby/Sinatra | I have a guess…
‘Cloud’ dominated by:  N/A | AWS | AWS
Personal Quantification Trend:  hard drive space | short explicit messaging | passive data, especially health related.
Robotics:  not real | almost real | very early but in commercial market
Nano:  not real | almost real | very early but in commercial market
Bio: not real | almost real | very early but in commercial market
Health:  not real | not real | some basic stem cell therapy for very rich
Energy:  not real | early investment | starting to be meaningfully deployed, but still under 10% of power.

Gutter Balls:

major well understood but unaddressed issue:  environment | environment | environment
major social issue:  hard to disaggrete |  privacy | privacy
sleeping giant issue:  | | authoritarian implications of central web services
dark personal information: we are going to have a lot of it, how to search it
health-stats:  those are going to go in the exhaust category

Completely loaded statistics that have a lot of unaccounted for nuance under them but that I still want to wager on (this is before you take out lots of drivers like unemployment, etc.:

US hours spent watching TV per week:  2X
US hours spent playing video games per week: 3X
US hours spent ‘online’ per week:  2X
Price of oil in 2010 dollars: 1.5X
US penetration of hybrids + electric cars: 3X

, Thought-provoking stuff, Sam. I bet the actual advances and changes this decade will be even more wonderful than we can imagine. -Nick G.

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