I got invited to an event at Parliament where they had a number of interesting people talking about technology, society and other related matters. It was part of the ‘Silicon Valley Comes to the UK‘ events and was very interesting. I jotted down a few notes during the seminar that I felt were of interest;
- Joi Ito of MIT’s Media Lab and Creative Commons fame talked about the idea that regions (or countries) who are good at making one thing, can often expand to making a related project and so benefit from the overlap generated by their existing skill base. This seems a good way to look for opportunities in new areas without it being a total leap in the dark. He also talked of this interesting idea that the role of Universities should not be some kind of barrier to learning if you’re not in that institution, far from it they should ‘push out’ knowledge to the wider community. I really liked this approach.
- Speaking of leaps, Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) repeated his pithy and fun summation of what starting a new venture is like: “Entrepreneurship is throwing yourself off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down”. I know the feeling! He also noted that ‘software seems to be eating the world’ and we need more non-virtual systems to compete with the virtual (3D printing!). That said, he noted that the role of software and technology was now so important, that any organisation of more than 20 people needed a technology strategy. This should be more than about what computers you may have on your desk, but is about understanding the role technology can and will play in your area of operation.
- Megan Smith (Google) noted that for new enterprises to work they need to be within a strong network and supportive environment. For example, links to Universities and other educational establishments are key. She noted that Google’s famous 20% time rule for techies, where they can use 20% of the company time to work on their own projects, is a very ‘Darwinian’ system as most projects fail but overall it works producing a small number of ‘winners’ (Google News and Maps for example). This idea interested me, with my PhD being on technology & evolution. She also said that she felt that many of the visionary people at Google including its founders seemed to be from the future, but they’d come back to tell us about it. I like that as a summation of what vision can be.
There are some images from the event here.