The Empathy Economy

Op-ed published February 7, 2018 on Business Insider

Throughout history, different eras have begotten different heroes of productivity in industry. In the 80s, the stock broker was the rock star of the business world. In the late 90s and 2000s, it was the computer programmer. For the last decade or so, it’s been the data scientist. As the work of data scientists and engineers creates the Automation Age, the next industrial rock star will be the customer service specialist.

Before you scoff at the idea of what may be considered a lower-level job today, ask yourself what happened to the stock broker? When’s the last time you talked to one or even heard of one? Jobs ebb, flow, and disappear. The importance of a function today is not equivalent to the importance of that same function tomorrow, and it never will be.

Humans have three core capabilities with which robots cannot compete: creativity, community, and empathy. As we enter the Automation Age, where the fear of robots replacing human work is likely to come true, those three skills will enable the future of human productivity. The last of the three, empathy, should well be considered the most important.

Empathy is what most makes us human – the capacity for mutual understanding. As the Automation Age eliminates rote and some not-so-rote tasks, it will create an opportunity for humans to capitalize on empathy. The manifestation of empathy in industry is through unique and memorable customer service, no matter the business. Welcome to the Empathy Economy.

The Empathy Economy is an intentional spin on the Sharing Economy. Just as the Sharing Economy was a byproduct of a super connected world via the Internet and smartphones, the Empathy Economy will arise through the result of job loss from automation. Uber, Airbnb, WeWork, and countless other business have changed the way humans think about asset ownership and even asset leasing. If users own assets, they want to get more out of them. If users need assets, they want instant access to them on demand without the burden of ownership. The Sharing Economy, as with all functional economies, is efficient in matching two complementary desires. The Empathy Economy will similarly match humans or businesses who desire empathic services with those willing to offer them.

We see 3 core opportunities within the Empathy Economy:

  1. Services that augment human empathy: For example, a lightweight CRM tool that enables employees to instantly recognize customers when they walk in the door, remember details about their lives, and know their preferences for service at the business.
  2. Services that build empathy: For example, a simulated environment that puts trainees through various situations to help them understand why another person feels a certain way and how to best serve them.
  3. Marketplaces that match buyers and sellers of empathy: For example, a platform that makes freelance customer service experts available for various tasks that might require a human touch to differentiate and enhance a particular service.

Today’s businesses must adopt automation technologies and embrace the Empathy Economy simultaneously by leveraging empathic customer service specialists as the face of their automated tools. In other words, people will act as a truly human skin on the work being produced by robots.

In the future, H&R Block will leverage AI to automate every customer’s taxes, but it’s also likely that they’ll need a human, who may only have cursory knowledge about accounting, present the sensitive reality that a customer owes the government a few thousand dollars in taxes; or perhaps the joy that they’ll be getting a few thousand dollars in refund. Either way, the human presentation creates a differentiated customer experience that can be distinctly H&R Block. Using only automation as their selling point, which every other tax prep service will also have and may only vary slightly, will necessitate a race to the bottom in price. In this example, H&R Block could benefit by adopting services that help augment and build empathy as the core skill of their customer service specialists.

Another outcome of the Empathy Economy could be Target leveraging a marketplace for freelance workers with specific product expertise and high empathic qualities to deliver orders to local customers with personalized service. Similar to the tax example, this moves the discussion away from price towards experience, which can command a premium.

You may be wondering why empathy is the greatest opportunity in the triumvirate of uniquely human traits. Creativity and community already exist in a structured sense in our societies. Creativity has always been a democracy, but the Internet made the distribution of creativity available to all. There are numerous ways, both online and offline, to share creativity and get paid for it, YouTube and Patreon as examples. These platforms will only become more important in the Automation Age. As for community, traditional institutions provide this now – governments, churches, schools, local businesses, etc. Technology will help these institutions continue to evolve with automation; however, trusting relationships between people will remain the heart of community because, by definition, it has to.  Empathy doesn’t yet seem to have a defined structure for application in our world. We know it’s important and the best businesses find ways to implement empathy into their culture, but it’s still a nebulous, unmeasurable thing. The Empathy Economy will change that.

It’s cliché to say that empathy is in short supply today because every generation probably has the same sentiment. The good news is that automation will force humans to be more human, and the Empathy Economy will create opportunities for humans to monetize a uniquely human capability. True empathy isn’t easy, but it’s the most powerful expression of humanity. In a world full of robots, empathy can only become more valuable.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

3 Reasons Amazon Will Buy Target This Year

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, about five times bigger in that space than Walmart and its Jet.com subsidiary. Yet despite Amazon’s deep online roots and dominance over Internet shopping, I believe it will buy Target in 2018.

After digging into the realities of both companies, it becomes clear that Amazon buying Target isn’t as bold of a prediction as one might think. Here are three reasons why a merger makes sense.

Offline sales will always be a big part of retail.

It’s no secret that online retail is slowly killing offline. My firm, Loup Ventures, estimates that in the fourth quarter of 2017, about 10% of total U.S. retail sales, or about $125 billion, were online. The longer-term question is: How much of total retail will eventually happen online? Based on our analysis of U.S. retail sales by category (excluding gas and restaurant expenditures), 55% of total retail sales should eventually happen online.

Even if half of commerce shifts to online, that still leaves a massive market offline at 45%. People in the future will still want to pick up groceries at a local store. As retail changes dramatically going forward, the biggest winners will promote both online and offline opportunities.

They both pursue affluent customers.

 Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods last year confirmed that the online giant’s focus is on the high-income consumer. Market research firm GfK MRI estimates the median household income for an Amazon shopper is $90,100, similar to Whole Foods at $95,200. Target reports its average shopper earns $87,000. These far exceed the U.S. median household income of $55,322.

By buying Target, Amazon would solidify its dominance of the high-income consumer. Conversely, if Amazon were to acquire a company targeting lower-income customers, such as Dollar Tree, Amazon would steer its focus away from its core consumers. In my years of observing tech companies, I’ve seen that owning a demographic usually yields the best results.

Brick and mortar will get more advanced.

Over the following 10 years, I’d expect Amazon to convert Target and Whole Foods stores to an automated model with few employees. Stores would be monitored by computer vision systems; shelves would be stocked by robots; customers would be helped by service robots that understand natural language; and checkout would resemble Amazon Go locations, where customers simply walk out with their purchases. In this future, the lines between online shopping and automated brick and mortar stores would blur, as cost-focused stores become more like smart warehouses. The few employees working in stores would focus on delivering personalized service based on mutual understanding and empathy, which would enable retailers to differentiate themselves.

Any number of factors could derail such a combination, including government intervention. But sometimes mergers make too much sense to ignore. Amazon buying Target is one such situation.

This note was originally published on Fortune.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Great Founder?

Every VC says they only invest in great founders, but the majority of venture-backed businesses still end in relative failure. Does that mean we as VCs are just bad judges of founders or do we not know what great founders look like? This is a question we’ve obsessed over since we started Loup Ventures — trying to define what makes a great founder and how to test for it. It’s hard. Great founders come from a host of different backgrounds, educations, genders, ethnicities. We’ve identified 10 traits across two categories that make great founders at the seed stage: Innate and Dynamic.

Innate Qualities of a Great Founder

Innate traits are character elements that are difficult to impossible to learn — either the founder has them or they don’t. Regardless of the type of business a founder starts, there are five imperative innate traits for all great founders:

  • Intelligence
  • Integrity
  • Commitment to suffering
  • Focused curiosity
  • Resourcefulness

Warren Buffett has talked about a few of these traits as things he looks for in his managers. Naval Ravikant has also talked about a few of them, so they shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Intelligence is probably the most obvious of the innate traits. To start a valuable company, a founder must have some kind of smarts because intelligence leads to interesting insights about a market (see the next section). These insights translate into vision, which is the only truly defensible element and most important asset of any startup business. Vision is how an entrepreneur attracts talent and creates strategy.

 

Pure book smarts matter, but emotional intelligence is important too. A founder has to deeply understand his or her customers to deliver products they want, not just products the founder wants to build. A founder also has to deeply understand his or her employees and what motivates them to sustain high levels of productivity.

Integrity is the current buzz word in the startup world. We used to think about integrity as honesty, but that doesn’t seem to fully encompass the spirit of the trait. Honesty is a requirement because it means the founder learns from his or her mistakes. Dishonesty assumes problems are someone else’s fault, which means it’s impossible to learn. Ownership is a popular modern term for honesty – taking responsibility for things that happen whether they’re purely in your control or not.

The interesting component about integrity as it relates to startups is that great founders need to be willing to break rules to build valuable businesses. However, there’s a line between what’s acceptable and what’s not, and sometimes it’s blurry. Salesforce.com hired fake protestors to disrupt a Siebel conference in its early days. Clever guerilla marketing. The cases of Hampton Creek, Theranos, and Zenefits are clearly in the unacceptable camp. The ride sharing legal disputes are blurrier, although we agree that the laws are outdated and ride sharing is a significant net positive to the world. In any case, dishonesty and unethical behavior are contagious, so integrity must come from the top and be a guiding light for any startup.

The third quality of great founders is a commitment to suffering for at least five years. This might sound more extreme than necessary, but starting a company is a rollercoaster of suffering. You need to be comfortable with hearing no over and over and not let that destroy your will. You need to be able to withstand low periods that are inevitable — unexpected customer or employee losses, investor rejections, tax bills, fights with cofounders. Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need to revel in difficulty, but it helps. We like to track the number of times we hear no during the week to reduce the negative reinforcement of it.

Why five years of suffering? It usually takes at least two years before you have any reasonable traction to show that your business might be working, then another few years of driving growth to create something that looks like a moat. Then you can afford to breathe. A little.

Focused curiosity might seem like an oxymoron, but curiosity that is targeted at a specific market leads to a commitment to testing new things. Testing new things leads to new business opportunities and products. Curiosity may be particularly necessary for seed stage founders (our focus) because their businesses are so nascent and require constant iteration. A lack of curiosity at the early stage leads to stagnation, which leads to death.

An early stage startup is an unending series of challenges. This is doubly true for first time founders who not only have to figure out how to deliver their specific offering to market, but how to operate a business in general. The final innate trait, resourcefulness, gives founders the ability to thrive in the face of persistent tests. A great founder is not one that says he or she couldn’t do something because they didn’t have enough capital or it was too difficult. They figure it out and keep figuring it out.

Dynamic Qualities of a Great Founder

Where the innate traits are binary and fixed, the dynamic traits of a great founder are five qualities that exist on a spectrum and evolve over time:

  • Market insight
  • Operational capability
  • Product sense
  • Growth
  • Leadership

Market insight is our term for the popular “founder/market fit.” What we want to see from a founder is that he or she has spent a lot of time thinking about and experimenting on a problem they’ve identified. In that sense, market insights are a byproduct of the innate intelligence trait being applied to a specific problem over a length of time. Founder/market fit to us implies that the founder has spent time involved in a market, thus the fit; however, prior market experience isn’t necessary for great founders. Jeff Bezos didn’t have founder/market fit when he started Amazon. He never ran a bookstore before, but he had a market insight about the Internet changing the way people shopped. The founders of Uber never worked in the livery business, but they had an insight about mobile changing the way people arranged transport. Airbnb is another example, and there are many others.

The other four traits are relatively straight forward business-related qualities. Operational capability is the founder’s ability to deliver their product or service and serve customers. Product sense is the founder’s ability to create a product or service that unexpectedly delights consumers. Product sense is what enables a founder to reach product/market fit. Growth is the founder’s ability to market and sell the product or service. Leadership is the founder’s ability to organize his or her team to meet objectives.

All five of these traits work in conjunction with one another, and all five are necessary for an early stage founder to possess in some degree. However, numerous factors influence the relative importance of the dynamic qualities of a founder. In other words, some of the dynamic traits need to be more developed depending on type of the founder’s company. For example, in a highly social company, a founder’s product sense seems to matter more than any other trait because user growth will have to be organically rapid for the company to service. The immediate experience of the users will be what keeps them engaged and sharing the product with others. An enterprise founder should require stronger growth capabilities to directly sell their B2B product, software or otherwise. Hardware companies tend to need stronger operational capability given the manufacturing requirements of their product.

The above observations were specific to seed stage companies, but stage of the investment also impacts the relative importance of the dynamic qualities in a founder. At the A/B round, product should be somewhat established, so market insights and growth might matter more as the founder tries to leverage his or her unique vision into some sort of durable advantage. In a pre-IPO or public company, the importance of leadership matters significantly more because of the likely larger number of employees at the company.

If You’ve Got It, Go for It

It’s boring to hear every VC say they only fund great founders, but it really is true, and their criteria probably isn’t much different from ours. Early stage companies are extremely fragile. VCs obsess over the quality of founders because it’s one of the few variables we can control. Recognizing these qualities in oneself is also an important variable an entrepreneur can control. Whether you’re running a small business or hoping to build the next Google, you must have all the innate traits and the correct balance of dynamic traits to be great. If you know you have them, then focus on your goal and be great. Hopefully we can help you along the way.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Auto Outlook 2040: The Rise of Fully Autonomous Vehicles

Special thanks to Austin Bohlig for his work on this note. 

Today, we are introducing our 2040 Automotive Model, available here, detailing our projections for electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and fleet services through 2040.

The global automotive industry is quickly approaching a transformation that should fully take shape by 2040. While 20 years doesn’t seem very far away, keep in mind that technology is advancing at an accelerating pace — the next 20 years of innovation will see changes equivalent to what we’ve seen over the last 50 years. We expect to see three major automotive themes emerge: 1) the transition to electric, 2) fully autonomous vehicles, and 3) a higher percentage of people relying on ride sharing services as their primary source of transportation. We believe these three themes will create enormous market opportunities. While some of the traditional auto players will capitalize on these emerging themes, the competitive landscape will change dramatically as more technology companies enter the space to bring these revolutionary technologies to market.

Theme #1 – Transition to Electric

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 84.0M new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles were sold globally in 2016, up ~5% y/y. Of all vehicles sold, 81.5M were internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, 2.0M were hybrid, and 440K were electric. While electric vehicles only accounted for <1% of new vehicles shipped in 2016, this segment of the market has seen tremendous growth over the past 4 years, and we believe we are nearing an infection point for demand of electric vehicles. By 2033, we believe electric vehicles will surpass 50% of total market share. By 2040, we believe 86% (87.9M) of new cars sold will be electric vehicles; from 2020 – 2040 the electric category will experience an ~18% unit CAGR, while ICE vehicles will decline ~13% over that same time period.

Over the next 20 years, electric vehicles will become more affordable, but due to the advanced sensors, onboarding computing processors, and other components that will enable fully autonomous driving capabilities, we expect electric car ASPs to increase modestly. That said, in order for ICE and hybrid vehicles to compete, these categories will see prices steadily decline. In 2040, we believe the global passenger and light vehicle automobile market will represent a $3.8T annual market opportunity, up from $2.9T in 2016. The bulk of the growth will be driven by electric vehicle demand, which we anticipate to increase from $20B in 2016 to $3.4T in 2040, representing a ~18% CAGR.

While affordability will be a meaningful catalyst to electric car adoption, there will be multiple additional catalysts driving the shift to electric vehicles:

  • OEMs Focus Towards Electric – Today, and for the next 20 years, we believe the leading electric car OEM will be Tesla, but we anticipate almost all other traditional car manufacturers will eventually switch their focus to electric vehicles. Volvo was one of the first to do so, and recently announced all new cars they manufacture will be electric or hybrid starting in 2019. We anticipate other OEMs to make similar announcements in the coming years, providing additional tailwinds to the industry.
  • Government Intervention – We believe we will see legislation over the next 5 – 10 years enticing consumers to buy electric vehicles through subsidies; gas powered vehicles may even from the road. France and Britain plan to ban the sale of gas and diesel vehicles beginning in 2040. Scotland recently announced similar plans but with an implementation date of 2032. While this may seem extreme, it’s not unprecedented, even in the US: In the early 1900s, when the Model T began shipping in volume, the government banned horses from operating on the same public roads as automobiles.
  • Transition To Fully Autonomous – Although autonomous cars can take the form of ICE or hybrid vehicles, the majority of autonomous vehicles deployed will be electric cars because there are many synergies between the technology implemented in electric vehicles and what will be incorporated in fully autonomous systems. In addition, given our thesis that most car OEMs will switch their focus to electric, it only makes sense autonomous cars will follow suit.

Theme #2 – The Rise of Self-Driving Vehicles

Today, 99.9% of all passenger and light commercial vehicles on the road have little to no automation capabilities. However, Tesla and a few additional OEMs have made great strides in introducing what the industry classifies as Level 2 (Partial Automation). By 2040, we expect that over 90% of all vehicles sold will be “Highly” and “Fully” autonomous systems, classified as Level 4 and 5 automation, respectively. Here’s a brief definition of the different forms of automation according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • Level 0: No Automation – A human controls all the critical driving functions.
  • Level 1: Driver Assistance – The vehicle can perform some driving function, often with a single feature such as cruise control, but the driver maintains control of the vehicle.
  • Level 2: Partial Automation – The car can perform one or more driving tasks at the same time, including steering and accelerating, but still requires the driver remain alert and in control.
  • Level 3: Conditional Automation – The car drives itself under certain conditions, but requires the human to intervene upon request with sufficient time to respond, but the driver isn’t expected to constantly remain alert.
  • Level 4: High Automation – The car performs all critical driving tasks, monitors roadway conditions the entire trip, and doesn’t require the human to intervene. But self-driving is limited to certain driving locations and environments.
  • Level 5: Full Automation – The car drives itself from departure to destination, and the human is completely removed from the process.

This will not be a gradual transition from one level to the next; we expect most players to skip Level 3, going straight from Partial Automation to High or Full Automation. We also view Level 4 and 5 as very similar levels of automation; Level 4 has a steering wheel but Level 5 does not. So, in our forecast we combine Level 4 and Level 5 into one category labeled “Fully Autonomous.”

Self-Driving Car Rollout Begins in 2020, Inflects in 2028

We estimate that ~130K Level 2 vehicles will be sold in 2017; over the next few years, the industry will see a significant acceleration of Level 2 vehicles delivered, occupying a growing percentage of new vehicles sold through 2033. However, we believe 98K Fully Autonomous vehicles (Level 4 and 5) will enter the market in 2020, which is when the transition to self-driving will start to take shape. While some Level 1 and 2 systems will still be sold in 2040, the two groups combined will account for <6% of all new vehicles delivered, and >94% of systems will take the form of fully automated vehicles. It will take time for fully automated vehicles to gain meaningful traction, largely due to legislative hurdles, but beginning in 2028 we believe the industry will see an influx in demand for Level 4 and 5 automobiles. We expect the industry will go from shipping 98K Fully Autonomous vehicles in 2020 to 96.3M in 2040, representing a 41.2% CAGR over that time frame.

Leaders in Autonomy

While there will be many companies that will benefit from the transition to fully autonomous vehicles, a few companies are already positioning themselves to be early key players:

  • Tesla – Tesla has already established their dominance in the electric vehicle market, and we expect their commanding market position to prevail through 2040. We estimate that Tesla currently controls ~20% of the global electric vehicle market, and although we anticipate competition to increase in the years to come, we believe Tesla can maintain low-to-mid teens market share through 2040. Almost all Teslas today incorporate Level 2 driving automation, and while Tesla is hoping to get fully autonomous cars on the road by 2019, we believe their near-term focus will be ramping production of the Model 3 and less on getting fully autonomous cars on the road. That said, we view Tesla’s leadership around autonomous driving technology and AI is a step up from almost everyone else, and expect larger deployments to begin in 2020.
  • Waymo – It is still not completely clear what Waymo’s go-to-market strategy will be with regards to autonomous cars, but the company will have a meaningful presence. Waymo’s biggest competitive advantage thus far is the millions of miles their self-driving cars have driven and the terabytes of data gathered, which they can use to train their self-driving car algos. Waymo has already launched a ride sharing service in Phoenix, AZ, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they sell a Waymo branded self-driving car or develop a self-driving car OS that they license to third party car OEMs.
  • Traditional OEMs – It will be a significant challenge for traditional car OEMs to compete as we transition to electric and full autonomy, but there will be some legacy car brands that effectively transition by leveraging decades of car manufacturing expertise to compete with Tesla and Waymo. Ford is one traditional car company that has begun the transition, including promoting a CEO with deep autonomous experience and acquiring leading startups in the space (Argo). While some of these traditional car companies will be able to develop self-driving systems internally, we believe the more effective way will be to enter the space via acquisition.
  • Start-Ups & Others – The self-driving car industry is still in the very early innings, and other tech giants such as Apple, Uber, Lyft, and relatively unknown startups will deliver meaningful innovation. There are many technological gaps that still need to be solved before self-driving cars are fully deployed on public roads.
  • Apple – We continue to expect Apple to play in the self-driving car market, possibly bringing a self-driving car to market, or, more likely, developing an autonomous system for self-driving cars. We’ll cover this with more detail in a future note.

Theme #3 – Transition to Ride Sharing Services

In addition to the world transitioning to electric and autonomous vehicles over the next 20 years, we expect an increasing number of consumers will forgo owning a car and rely fully on ride sharing services for transportation. While we anticipate the number of cars sold will continue to increase through 2040, many of these new cars will go directly towards ride sharing services.

We estimate there were 1.3B passenger and light vehicle cars in use in 2016, of which 5% were dedicated to ride sharing services. In the coming decades, as ride sharing becomes more cost effective and reliable, the percentage of cars dedicated to ride sharing services will increase steadily. By 2040, we estimate that 68% of all vehicles in use will be dedicated to fleet services. As a result, the number of cars personally owned by individuals will decrease at a -2.0% CAGR from 2020 to 2040. Today, companies such as Uber and Lyft dominate the ride sharing market, but we anticipate other leading tech companies (Tesla, Waymo, etc.) and traditional car OEMs to introduce a ride sharing services as well. We also envision a future where individuals that own an autonomous car are able to deploy the system to a fleet service when they are not using the car (e.g., while at work), extracting value from the car’s dormancy.

Bottom Line

The global automotive industry is quickly approaching a paradigm shift, and the types of vehicles on our roads and the competitive landscape in the car market is going to change significantly by 2040. Level 1 and 2 automated vehicles will still be sold, we estimate that >94% of new cars sold will be fully automated in 2040. Some of the traditional auto players will successfully transition to these emerging themes, but several tech companies are most likely to become leaders in the space. Over the next several decades, the biggest headwinds to full autonomy will likely be legislative rather than technical, but the safety and efficiency benefits of autonomous cars will provide a strong tailwind to broad public acceptance and rapid market growth.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Manifesto

The Future Perfect: Rediscovering Utopia

Technology ruined our utopia. When did humans have it better than the dawn of time? We were born with everything and nothing. The entire world was ours. Since everyone had nothing, everyone had everything. We had no property, no houses. We were free to roam and inhabit as we pleased. We only worried about survival — finding enough food and avoiding dangerous predators. We didn’t have to worry about 401(k)s or what car the neighbors just bought. There wasn’t a 1 percent or 99 percent. We didn’t have politics. We just had survival. Humanity at its purest. Then invention doomed us. It was innocent at first. Innovation made it easier to survive. Food and safety became essentially guaranteed, so we needed to find other things to define our lives. Then inventions became those things. Things not for survival, but for status. For having something someone else didn’t. For benefitting unequally based on that ownership. For handing down to the next generation so they didn’t start with nothing. Things became the new goal of survival and they defined our differences. People who had things treated people without them differently. We went to war with others who had things we wanted.

Now most of us are born with nothing. We have to earn everything, buy everything. We’re trapped in a system that forces us to chase things that maintain our differences. We innovated ourselves out of utopia and into industry, and innovation is the only way to get our utopia back.

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