Something Ventured -- Silicon Valley Podcast

William Davidow is a Silicon Valley pioneer, former Intel VP, and renowned venture capitalist.  He is author of the new book, with tech journalist Michael Malone, THE AUTONOMOUS REVOLUTION: Reclaiming the Future We’ve Sold to Machines (Berrett-Koehler, February 18, 2020).  It’s a provocative look at how to safeguard humanity from our autonomous future and how to harness its benefits.

According to Davidow and Malone, for the third time in the history of humanity civilization is undergoing phase change.  The first was the Agricultural Revolution, the second the Industrial Revolution, and we are now in the midst of the Autonomous Revolution.

Some ideas discussed:

  • How to adapt society to our new era and transform our relationship with intelligent machines the authors propose in the new book

  • Creating tiered personal information “safety deposit boxes” over which users would have complete control to protect internet privacy;
  • Imposing a tax on sending emails, time spent on social networks, and gaming;
  • Programs that automatically block phone use while we’re driving;
  • Regulation that puts limits on Artificial Intelligence;
  • Proactive investment in the infrastructure of the future to offset inevitable job loss.


More on William Davidow: 

William Davidow is a Silicon Valley pioneer who ran the microprocessor division at Intel at the dawn of the chip revolution and was later senior vice president of marketing and sales. Prior to Intel Corp., Bill worked in various managerial positions at Hewlett Packard and General Electric. He cofounded Mohr Davidow Ventures, one of the Valley's premier venture capital firms, in 1985. Bill serves on the boards of California Institute of Technology and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy. He is the author of three books and the coauthor of two, including The Virtual Corporation, which sold more than 100,000 copies.


Episode Exerpts:

On the Evolution of Technology Innovation

“When I was at Intel, you know, we used to get up and feel like we were putting on our Superman shirts and going out and changing the world. And what we were doing was automating existing processes: In other words, we made a stoplight run better or we made a typewriter into a word processor.

But if you looked at it, there was still a factory or there was still a stoplight. We didn't change the structure of things. And what is different today is that our technologies are changing the social and economic structure of things.”

The Problem of Virtual Worlds like Facebook

“We have real problem that people are choosing to live in a virtual world. It turns out that you evolved in a physical world, YOU controlled the physical world. A tree was not created to be firewood. You managed the world and made the tree firewood.   The physical world had no purpose and you were running the physical world. But when you go to a virtual world, a virtual world DOES have a purpose. And the purpose of the virtual world is to control your behavior. you you're down to two senses, both of which are impaired. “

On the Accelerating Pace of Job Destruction

We keep finding new work for people to do, so we keep creating opportunities, I think today the challenge is that we may not be able to create the opportunities fast enough. I mean, these technologies have such broad impact. Netflix put Blockbuster Video out of business, when Blockbuster Video had nine thousand stores and 60,000 employees. And Netflix, I think, had one thousand employees. And those are the kinds of things will continue to happen. It’s going to turn everything upside down. I believe in a free market, but free markets have their flaws. They do not allocate wealth based on social contribution, they allocate wealth based on your ability to make money. In the future we may be living in a society where we're going to have to find ways to compensate people based on their social contribution as opposed to whether they're just a great high speed trader. “

Kent Lindstrom (host):

William Davidow:        

Something Ventured: 

Direct download: 145_William_Davidow.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:51pm EDT