Steve Jurvetson

Partner at DFJ

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 28, 2017

Discussion

Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
I am Steve Jurvetson, one of the partners at DFJ and board member of some very fun companies (SpaceX, Tesla, Planet, D-Wave and Synthetic Genomics). I am especially interested in machine intelligence, software-defined hardware, and technology futures across ever-widening frontiers. Ask me anything; I like to learn.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
hey Steve If you had to swap lives with a tech CEO for a week, who would it be and why?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@bentossell Very interesting. The key part of the question for me is the timeframe of a week. Rather than imagine that I could get anything done in a week that would stick after I’m gone, I approach the question from a learning perspective: where could I learn the most in a week from being on the inside, and presumably, being able to ask any question of the team. So I’d say Google. I’d want to learn about how they are using deep learning in every single product. I’d have so many questions for the Android team and Google brain. And I’d want to see what they are doing with custom chips (TPU) and their 8x8 quantum computer in development.
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@bentossell thanks and goodbye y'all. I gotta run to a dinner salon I am co-hosting on "Deep Learning at the Edge"
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
What is the most surprising thing about being on Tesla’s board?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@ayrton Oh I'll have to think about this one a bit. As it is a public company. ;) First reaction is the breathtaking scope of change... A decade ago I would not have imagined how the opportunities would expand from what at the time sounded like a big vision: catalyzing the EV transition and getting us off oil. Now it is so much more
Chad Whitaker@chadwhitaker · Product Designer at Product Hunt 👋
What does the future of technology look like? What trends are you focusing on and do you think wider consumers are missing anything now that will become more mainstream down the line?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@chadwhitaker So much here. First reaction: deep learning and iterative algorithms in general (directed evolution, generative design and all of the machine intelligence approaches) => many consumer product effects, such as a renaissance in voice interfaces (imagine an Amazon Alexa interface for under $1 on any consumer product, including non-internet connected & battery powered). Second: be prepared for ubiquitous broadband rolling out by satellite. 2->6B people online faster than forecasters predict.
Kunal Bhatia@kunalslab · Co-founder & Design Lead @SlidesUp
Hey Steve! As an avid learner, how do you learn? What do you like to learn about? Do you have a framework for picking a learning technique given the subject? I'm inspired by @ellenchisa's article/talks about Learning in Product. Very curious to hear your take, especially as someone who looks at such a broad range of subjects. Thanks!
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@kunalslab @ellenchisa awesome "process" question. I need to think about this and open to ideas. I have focused on conferences, and smart people and working with a team that has cognitive diversity, and most of all nurturing a child-like mind: http://jurvetson.blogspot.com/20... Use it or lose it. We have to get out of the mental ruts that career tracks and academic “disciplines” can foster. Physical exercise is repetitive; mental exercise is eclectic.
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@kunalslab @ellenchisa More on the value of cognitive diversity... being more important than ability on certain teams — a lot of this was reinforced at a Management 2.0 brainstorming offsite http://www.flickr.com/photos/jur... where I wrote: Four tenets jump to mind if we consider the Wisdom of Crowds as an emergent phenomenon, operating at a higher level of abstraction: 1) team (thinking style) diversity is more important than individual ability 2) disagreement is more important than consensus 3) and the voting policies and selection mechanisms that you put in place are more important than the coherence or even the comprehensibility about what you do. 4) The role of upper management is to tune the parameters of communication I first started thinking about this in 2005 at the Santa Fe Institute: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jur... where Scott Page shared an interesting rejoinder: "People in diverse groups are less happy. Their views are challenged, and they feel like the outcomes were manipulated. Based on their experiences, they will self-report that it was not better than when they were on a homogenous team." More for the curious: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jur... http://www.flickr.com/photos/jur... http://seedmagazine.com/content/...
Kunal Bhatia@kunalslab · Co-founder & Design Lead @SlidesUp
@dfjsteve thanks for such detailed responses! Just finished reading your article about nurturing a child-like mind. Perhaps this is why I'm obsessed with Pixar movies and goofy outdoor workout communities! Also, totally jealous you got to have a play-date with David Kelley :) What do you think of his new Design Impact program at Stanford, where students now pick themes in Energy and Healthcare? http://designimpact.stanford.edu/
Kunal Bhatia@kunalslab · Co-founder & Design Lead @SlidesUp
@dfjsteve since you focus on learning at conferences, could I ask you a few questions about your past experiences? Working on something to help you learn and connect with people of diverse thinking styles at these events. More details on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KunalsLab/st...) and I'd be happy to email you to discuss further.
Vlad Belyaev@vladislav_belyaev · Co-founder & CEO @ Reason8.ai
How a deep learning startup from Russia can reach top Valley VCs?
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What is one thing about the future you believe in but very few others agree with you on?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@bentossell That we are in the middle of a sea change in how much of engineering will be done. It will be more like parenting than programming. The locus of learning shifts from end products to the process of their creation. An ever-growing percentage of software will be grown and an ever-growing percentage of compute will run on infrastructure that resembles the brain (massively parallel, fine grained architectures with in-memory compute and a growing focus on the memory and interconnect elements)
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@bentossell And on a derivative note, I also believe that the conversion of every business into an information business will have profound aggregate effect, such as an accelerating rich-poor gap that is not self-rectifying. What if technology raises the bottom of the pyramid for all, and democratizes upward mobility, yet at the same time, transforms it from a pyramid to a conical spike — where an ever shrinking percentage of the population controls an even-growing percentage of an information-economy embedded with winner-take-all network effects and power laws? In short, I ask if the ironic byproduct of erasing the digital divide is a further acceleration of the rich-poor gap? What happens to peoples who opt out of the vector of progress, as the sea change of destiny becomes the drumbeat of decades, instead of centuries? What is the nature of work in the future? And how can our culture and the very fabric of society co-evolve with our technologies during the transition? And it motivates me to address some basic human needs, like free healthcare forever: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ju...
David Joseph@dvdrjo · Co-Founder, President. Regeneration.com
@dfjsteve @bentossell Free Healthcare is something that is very possible. The main question needs to be what perspective is that information being created from. Is it the conventional pharmaceutical approach. Or an Integrative approach that encompasses the best of modern medicine with ancient technology that is thousands of years old. Addressing the whole being is what has been lost from conventional care which sees the body as a machine. When it is a vastly more complex system composed of interconnected psychological, emotional, and physical bodies. Any thoughts on this perspective as our society shifts towards self-actualization as a result of our basic human needs being met?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@dvdrjo @bentossell The learning comes from the people, just like for Google today. So it can incorporate non-traditional medicine as well. Everything that works. Imagine it starts with a simple mobile text interface, and as the next three billion people come online in this decade, it could become enriched with imagery and diagnostic sensors in the smartphones. The proposition for the consumer is free, unbiased advice as long as they respond to the daily prompts for input on the remedies tried and the progression of symptoms through resolution. The recommendations would come from a special purpose AI (using machine learning and then deep learning) that benefits from what would become the largest data set of over-the-counter, prescription and non-traditional remedies. What actually works? What is the actual rate of adverse events over time? (This data set alone could provide enough revenue to cover the marginal cost of operation.) The vast majority of health care does not require surgery, especially in the developing world (think infectious diseases and nutrition), but when it is required, the system could help point people to the specialist they need. The service would be offered in all languages with voice/text conversion for the illiterate. Regional epidemiologic patterns and proactive warnings would naturally follow as it becomes a trusted, life-saving advisor. As it scales, it could become a powerful distribution channel for generic drugs, priced at a small fixed margin over manufacturing cost. Since the system is the trusted advisor, the brand of the drug would be anonymous and there is no sales or marketing expense to reach this large customer base.
Alex Wellman@alex_wellman · e-Residency in Estonia
Hi, Steve! As an e-resident of Estonia, what do you think about the future of digital citizenship and identity?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@alex_wellman Go Estonia. Their Prime Minister told me: "Signing documents digitally saves us 2% of GDP annually."
Teemu Soilamo@teemusoilamo
Steve, Are you familiar with Mary Lou Jepsen's work on functional near-infrared imaging? She claims to have invented a ski hat sized device that exceeds fMRI in both temporal and spatial resolution and could eventually be manufactured at consumer electronics prices. Some now believe that incorporating deep neural networks to simultaneously predict brain states correlated with actions (say, writing or speaking) could lead to a whole new paradigm of AI development. In other words, we wouldn't need to understand HOW the brain does it, but WHAT it does and WHEN it does it with respect to the input datastream. The brain probably contains a panoply of implicit semantic meaning encoding that can help label and classify different kinds of input. By using that innate capability as a bootstrap, we can effectively bypass the "understanding" part. Any thoughts on this?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@teemusoilamo Just spent my birthday with her. She is an amazing polymath. First met her at the 2012 Google Solve for X retreat: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ju...
d a n n y@searchresults
Would you – hypothetically – fly around the moon on, let's say, a SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@searchresults For sure! But, unlike the Apollo era, in the commercial space era, it should become cheaper and safer over time. I have two specific missions in mind (and I don’t have much interest in suborbital flight or anything shy of these): • spending a few days in a commercial space hotel in low Earth orbit and • a lunar orbital mission, going much closer to the surface than Apollo X, but not landing.
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@searchresults For both trips I am excited about the photography. For the lunar trip, there would not be as many creature comforts or space for weightless play, but the views are pretty breathtaking. Earthrise, the dark side of the moon, Earth and moon at various distances. Since the moon has no atmosphere, it presents a unique orbital opportunity – we could fly incredibly close to the surface while staying in lunar orbit. Apollo X dropped to an orbit 47K feet off the surface – like a private jet altitude over Earth. If the goal is tourism, you could go much lower, and with no landing, it could have a downward facing window optimized for the views. I would want to figure out the tradeoff of orbital altitude and surface speed — skimming a thousand feet over the highest crater (Zeppelin altitudes) would be amazing, but might be dizzying. But, since the moon has 1/6 the mass of Earth, the orbital speeds at any given altitude are about 1/6 as fast... so it could be slow and low, that is the tempo... =) Why not land? The cost and complexity just explodes, as the Russians discovered in the space race. For a new tourist activity, so does the risk. And to what benefit? With the full Apollo stack with EV on the moon, yes, you could cover some distance, but not as much as you can see in orbit. Bouncing around on foot just does not grab me as an essential first person experience. And, moon gravity and Mars gravity is easily simulated on the parabolic planes if that’s the key attraction. And all that weight and design constraint would likely tradeoff with the window-optimized design. I would rather spend more time in orbit, at various heights, than attempt a landing. I do wonder about a spacewalk. These EVA activities are a much easier engineering challenge, and might not tradeoff with the earlier goals. Michael Collins marveled at his EVA in Earth orbit: “This is the best view of the universe that a human has ever had. We are gliding across the world in total silence, with absolute smoothness; a motion of stately grace which makes me feel God-like as I stand erect in my sideways chariot, cruising the night sky. I am in the cosmic arena, the place to gain a celestial perspective; it remains only to slow down long enough to capture it, even a teacup will do, will last a lifetime below."
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Being involved in all these incredible future-forward companies, what are you MOST interesting/excited in?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@bentossell Machine Intelligence. I first chose that as the "top tech trend" in 2013 (where we were asked to look forward 5 years to 2018). It was not a common theme for VCs back then. And it is just beginning. In a recent post, I tried to summarize my enthusiasm. I think the application of iterative algorithms (e.g., machine learning, directed evolution, generative design) to build complex systems is the most powerful advance in engineering since the Scientific Method. Machine learning allows us to build software solutions that exceed human understanding, and shows us how AI can innervate every industry. https://medium.com/@DFJvc/intell...
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · Words @ProductHunt & @AngelList
In your opinion, what is the current state of neural lace technology? Are we anywhere near commercial use of the technology or very much at the research stage? p.s. 2 years ago your talks on YouTube inspired me to look into Ray Kurzweil, which led to 3 solid weeks of reading/my best ever Medium post on the topic: When Exponential Progress Becomes Reality (thank you) 😊
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@nivo0o0 I’ve been working with a neural plasticity company for 14 years now (Posit Science), and became curious about the optical holography effort that spun out of Facebook. One of my concerns with uploading is the extreme plasticity of the sensory cortex and the recruitment of neighboring regions in the face of external changes (like phantom limb pain in amputees). Going back a decade, in talks about AI futures, I was fond of advising to “augment early and often.”
ishwarya srinivas@ishwaryas · Product manager
Hi steve, Reading about and following the companies you are a part of is fascinating..Would love to know which one of them is your personal favorite and why? and which one of them will make the greatest impact on the world and why?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@ishwaryas Aw, that is like asking me which is my favorite child. They are so special in different ways. But the Elon Musk pantheon sets a pretty high bar ;-)
Steven McCloskey@stevenmccloskey · CEO Nanome Inc
What impact do you see nanotechnology having in the next 10 years outside of computing and medicine?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@stevenmccloskey I still think those are the major impact areas because there are nano-scale structures we care about, and each addresses the "interface problem" I highlighted in the early days. As a thought experiment, imagine that I could hand you today any nanotech marvel of your design – a molecular machine as advanced as you would like. What would it be? A supercomputer? A bloodstream submarine? A matter compiler capable of producing diamond rods or arbitrary physical objects? Pick something. Now, imagine some of the complexities: Did it blow off my hand as I offer it to you? Can it autonomously move to its intended destination? What is its energy source? How do you communicate with it? These questions draw the “interface problem” into sharp focus: Does your design require an entire nanotech industry to support, power, and “interface” to your molecular machine? As an analogy, imagine that you have one of the latest processor out of Intel’s wafer fab. How would you make use of the chip? You then need to wire-bond the chip to a larger lead frame in a package that connects to a larger printed circuit board, fed by a bulky power supply that connects to the electrical power grid. Each of these successive layers relies on the larger-scale precursors from above (which were developed in reverse chronological order), and the entire hierarchy is needed to access the potential of the microchip. For molecular nanotech, where is the scaling hierarchy? The business-driven paths to nanotech diverge into two strategies to cross the “interface” chasm – the biologically inspired bottom-up path, and the top-down approach of the semiconductor industry. The non-biological developers are addressing current markets in the micro-world while pursuing an ever-shrinking spiral of miniaturization that builds the relevant infrastructure tiers along the way. Not surprisingly, this is very similar to the path that has been followed in the semiconductor industry, and many of its adherents see nanotech as inevitable, but in the distant future. On the other hand, biological manipulation presents myriad opportunities to effect great change in the near-term. Drug development, tissue engineering, and genetic engineering are all powerfully impacted by the molecular manipulation capabilities available to us today. And genetically modified microbes, whether by artificial evolution or directed gene splicing, give researchers the ability to build structures from the bottom up. More from 2004:http://jurvetson.blogspot.com/20...
Steven McCloskey@stevenmccloskey · CEO Nanome Inc
@dfjsteve Thanks I see the interface problem as well especially in nanotechnology design. Our company Nanome Inc is addressing this by designing at the nanoscale using Virtual Reality interfaces. I'd love for you to try it out, we've built out the biodesign toolset for molecular modeling and are incorporating materials databases to address the organic to material substrate interface concerns around technologies proposed such as @elonmusk "Neural Lace/Neuralink" as well as branching into computational design.
MHD. ASHIQUE KUTHINI@ashique_kuthini · Rectfy
I'm 20 and started up with two graduate engineers and after a year of bootstrapping and a couple of apps and products becoming zero dollar idea from billion dollar idea we became a curated and refined Startup. We have made a social media application which has a very specific purpose than trying to become another Facebook or Twitter. We have decided to go for no funding in thee beginning since our app can generate revenue from the beginning itself and we thought we can grow from that small income first. But as we added more features and put some into the next version bucket we have got an insight that if we can reach little more users in the first shot it will make a dramatic increase in the revenue we can make now and it can reflect in future revenue also. We have changed our decision of not going for funding just to raise money for marketing of the first app, not much but little more than what we can arrange and for little amount of equity. How do you feel about the change in decision and do you like to give some suggestions on that ?
Miles Albert@miles2045 · Student at USC
What are your thoughts on Ethereum and other blockchain protocols? Will every application that can be decentralized eventually become decentralized (such as cloud computing, data storage, social networking, ride-sharing, etc)?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@miles2045 I texted my brilliant son, who replied: they are super interesting. there are some things that are very suited to becoming decentralized (specifically cloud computing and data storage), and we are seeing that now. however, some things that are more personal can be harder to decentralize. customer service for ride sharing can be difficult on a p2p blockchain with iron clad node-enforced rules. To decentralize something with a p2p blockchain, the premise is that each node can validate each "transaction". this works for ethereum, bitcoin, etc, but may be more difficult when human intent conflicts with the code that's been written a specific example of that "conflict" is the failure of the DAO on ethereum while the human intent obviously wasn't that one person could withdraw all/most of the money deposited in the DAO, it happened anyway due to imprecise translation into code and that code was what really mattered on the blockchain
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@miles2045 As for me, I have been fascinated by the non-cash applications of digital cash going back more than 20 years! e.g. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ju...
Miles Albert@miles2045 · Student at USC
@dfjsteve I think your son is spot-on. After living through that tremendous DAO attack, one thing that I've realized is that blockchains are still experimental tech and are not quite ready for mission-critical applications. Ethereum, for example, lacks at the moment a strongly typed language and reliable formal verification tools to ensure bugless code. One thing that emerged out of Ethereum as a result of the DAO attack, as we've seen with the acceptance of the hard fork, is a system of social consensus. Due to potential misalignments between code and intent, as you mentioned, the community's willingness to "undo" exploitations of smart contracts via soft or hard forks has been crucial in gaining enterprise trust (hence the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance). But I don't think we'll see another popular DAO anytime soon (at least until Casper), or decentralized social networks that can compete with the network effects already achieved by platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Cloud computing/storage applications that can easily scale and reduce costs like Golem and Storj seem promising in the short term, though.
Stacey Randecker@drivingmzstacey · Founder, Ambler
When it comes to Robots and Autonomous Vehicles, many have a fearful, dystopian view of the future. What do you say to the "Debbie Downers"?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@drivingmzstacey Some of this comes from my exposure to the future, and experiencing it directly (with a Rethink humanoid robot at the office, and much of my commute done by autonomous machine). We trust ourselves to the robots on a plane, because they are already so much better than a pilot. When being driven by a machine, I have get a peek into that inevitable future as well. In general, when it comes to AI, many of us subconsciously cling to the selfish notion that humanity is the endpoint of evolution. In the debates about machine intelligence and genetic enhancements, there is a common and deeply rooted fear about being surpassed – in our lifetime. But, when framed as a question of parenthood (would you want your great grandchild to be smarter and healthier than you?), the emotion often shifts from a selfish sense of supremacy to a universal human search for symbolic immortality.
Stacey Bartlett@stacey_bartlett
@dfjsteve that is deep and I love it. But many people can't see past the end of their nose. It's all about me, and mine and the now. Hence protecting their obsolete jobs and bring on Keystone XL. Have you been able to move the needle with Dystopians or the "Hell No's"?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@stacey_bartlett I do worry about a bifurcation of dreams... between those who seek to understand the structure of the world and the artifacts around us, and those who reject the scientific method and "progress" perhaps from a feeling of alienation
Stacey Bartlett@stacey_bartlett
@dfjsteve or an obsession with navel gazing. Let me know if you want to start a "winning hearts and minds" campaign. I'm determined to get people to lift their gaze to the horizon and beyond...and like it.
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · Words @ProductHunt & @AngelList
@dfjsteve @drivingmzstacey this is deep. amazing response.
mohit gaonkar@mgaonkar
Hello Steve, what are your thought on Elon Musk's Neuralink and have you seen any similar startups?
Teemu Soilamo@teemusoilamo
Hi, Steve! You seem to enjoy the occasional logarithmic chart just like Ray Kurzweil. ;) How did you first meet him, and are you collaborating with him on anything, like gathering data on his upcoming book? Also, what's up with Calico and when will we--i.e., the general public--hear more about them? What are your thoughts on life extension technologies in general?
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@teemusoilamo First met long ago with the Foresight Inst. and then at TED 2005 with Venter. And we updated his iconic curve... which I believe to be the most important thing ever graphed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ju...
Steve Jurvetson@dfjsteve · co-founder of Future Ventures and DFJ
@teemusoilamo Longevity grows the Option Value of Combinatorial Mimetics. More: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ju...
Teemu Soilamo@teemusoilamo
Hey ,Steve-- Have you looked at any 'cold fusion' or LENR reserach that's been done as of late? Andrea Rossi and his Energy Catalyzer is one name that comes to mind. I HIGHLY recommend a Swedish tech journalist Mats Lewan's book on the subject, "An Impossible Invention". It's an absolutely incredible character study on Rossi's mad genius, even if he turned out to be a snake-oil salesman. I know it's a very stigmatized field, but if only one person with deep pockets could finance a verifiable experiment and the subsequent commercialization, the whole world economy and humanity's general philosophy could be turned upside down. The chances of it working are probably slim, but like Elon says, "when something is important enough, you gotta try it -- even when the chances of success are low." :)