How Frontier Tech Will Benefit Humanity
Frontier tech has the potential to profoundly impact humanity for better and for worse. That potential is not lost on us. In order to address the downside risks, we published an ethical code for investing:
Invest in high-integrity founders making products people love and that our LPs will be proud to back.
This statement aligns our investment decisions with our core values, the values of our limited partners, and the importance of the founding team in an early stage investment. It also helps us address the reality that society can use any disruptive technology good and evil purposes. While it’s hard to predict the latter case, investing only in high-integrity founders limits the downside risk our investments may pose to humanity.
With these risks systematically and procedurally addressed as best we can, it is encouraging to consider the many ways frontier tech can impact the world for the better.
Management thinker Peter Drucker famously asked: How can we make society both more productive and more humane? We believe that frontier tech can and will accomplish both of these objectives.
Our Manifesto 2.0 outlines our investment thesis: We invest in frontier tech companies automating the world and building new ways to experience it. Automation will dramatically improve economic productivity. Machines will deliver speed, accuracy, and the ability to analyze a large amount of data. At the same time, humans will be driven to focus on jobs that require uniquely human skills: creativity, community, and empathy. Novel ways of experiencing the world and connecting with others will make the world more humane.
Herein lie the benefits of frontier tech.
Our Role in an Automated World
We’re often asked about humans’ role in an increasingly automated world. We think the answer is a simple economic function of comparative advantage. Humans will do things that robots cannot: creativity, community, and empathy.
- Creativity: We believe automation will unlock more time for people to focus on creative pursuits, to explore their curiosity, and to master new forms of work and play. Entrepreneurs are pursuing machines that deliver some of the benefits of creativity, but they are fundamentally lacking other elements. Robots that paint, for example, produce remarkable works, but the emotional response to these works is more akin to a print than an original painting. They lack the human creation story, which adds value – sometimes the vast majority of the value – to a work of art. Conversely, automation will increase human productivity and enable people to focus on this uniquely human skill set.
- Community: We believe new experiences — both virtual and real — will enable new points of human connection. As an example, our series on The Metaverse outlines a virtual world similar yet very different from our own. The Metaverse will be an integral part of the future of work, play, and communication because it will enable communities to gather in new ways. Technologists are pursuing various forms of digital companionship, but there remains a distinctly mutual form of community that only humans can share.
- Empathy: Automation will force human labor to specialize in interpersonal connection, something that machines cannot offer (as we outlined in our piece on The Empathy Economy). In short, empathy will be increasingly core to the value proposition of human labor. People will act as a truly human skin on the work being produced by robots. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another based on mutual experience. By definition, a machine cannot deliver true empathy.
Frontier Tech Will Meet Fundamental Human Needs
Technology has always enabled humans to deliver creativity, community, and empathy in new and improved ways.
In our Manifesto, we explore six areas where Frontier Tech is already having an impact: the future of work, retail, transportation, communication, play, and the brain. Each of these futures involves great potential for increased creativity, community, and empathy. At the intersection of these futures and these three uniquely human skills lie many fundamental human needs.
- The Future of Work: This is perhaps the purest example of frontier tech’s benefit on humanity. We’ve already outlined the benefits of automation (productivity and freedom), but work itself meets various human needs. In an automated world, we will be free to focus less on productivity and more on these elements. Work provides an outlet for human creativity and our innate desire to bring order to the world. Work also provides a context for teams to build friendships, serve one another, and find fulfillment in mastering a skill. Finally, teams can foster mutual understanding internally along with the added benefit of meeting a customer need, all of which drives empathy.
- The Future of Retail: Stores have long been a center of gravity for community and human connection. And the retailer is uniquely positioned to understand a customer, consult, provide service, and provide value via empathy. Frontier tech will enable retailers to be super retailers – unleashing the power of data and personalization on the in-person shopping experience. We see the future of retail as a huge opportunity for tech to deliver against our need for creativity, community, and empathy.
- The Future of Transportation: Autonomous vehicles will profoundly impact the human experience. Transportation unlocks our ability to explore and learn, fostering creativity. It also enables us to gather and connect, fostering community. Ultimately, these are the building blocks of mutual understanding among individuals, groups, cultures, and communities.
- The Future of Communication: At its core, communication is about storytelling, a form of creativity. Communication is also a fundamental building block of communities. Groups develop unique communication patterns, dialects, accents, and language. And communication in some form is a requirement for empathy. As such, new experiences and new ways for communities to gather will require new forms of communication, driving creativity, community, and empathy in new ways.
- The Future of Play: Creativity is synonymous with play. The Marshmello concert in Fortnite was a great example of the future of play enabling new forms of creativity. The concert fused the digital and physical worlds enabling a new form of recreation for gamers — an entirely new experience. Fortnite also provides a novel context for connection between gamers, and new shared experiences support new and different forms of empathy.
- The Future of the Brain: The human brain differentiates the species from all others. As we harness the power of the brain in new ways, we will unlock higher levels of consciousness and mastery. The brain is also the root of all communication. Neurotechnology will allow for new forms of human connection and shared experiences, permitting us new ways to commune and empathize with one another.
As these fundamental human needs are met, Drucker’s imperatives are met, too. Frontier tech will make the world both more productive and more humane.
Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest or may invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we may write about companies that are in our portfolio. As managers of the portfolio, we may earn carried interest, management fees or other compensation from such 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 any investment decisions and provided solely for informational purposes. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections and the content on this site should not be relied upon. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.