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The Future of Silicon Valley

Posted on Monday, Jan 1st 2018

We saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi last week. It feels dated.

All these alternate realities are essentially religious stories, which is why they’ve achieved cult status.

I love Harry Potter. Some love Lord of the Rings. All good vs. evil stories in epic style.

I’m in the mood for post-religious stories.

The world isn’t black and white. It’s full of gray.


There is no supernatural force.

So how do normal human beings fight gray evil that exists in abundance and live fulfilled lives? Without the aid of the Force…

Today, technology has created incredibly powerful channels through which stories can be propagated at an unprecedented scale.

And aided by powerful technology-enabled publicity channels, even old technologies like books are propagating at an immense scale.

Just to cite some numbers, ALL seven of the Harry Potter books sold over 65 million copies, and one of them sold over 100 million.

Lord of the Rings sold 150 million copies.

Millions of people watched Star Wars last week.

In contrast, to spread the messages of Christianity and Buddhism, missionaries and monks had to travel great distances, deliver sermons in small communities, and build their following slowly. Maurya king Ashoka sent emissaries from India to China and Japan in third century BC to spread the message of the Buddha. It took months to get the message to twenty people.

I wrote a series in 2011 called Silicon Valley: The Next Decade. In it, I pointed out that the next major innovation that will come out of Silicon Valley will be at the cusp of technology and the Liberal Arts.

Well, in recent years, one of the companies that has emerged as supremely relevant in our current context from Silicon Valley in an unambiguously positive way, is Netflix. It has not only mastered the technology of streaming video content at massive scale, it has also mastered the art of storytelling. Original content has become the core differentiating engine of the entire streaming video business. Amazon, Apple, YouTube, Disney, Comcast, all are working at mastering it.

Even though, every discussion about recent technology trends that I have had refers to Artificial Intelligence, I am of the opinion that the more important trend is Video Content. Story. Let me explain.

AI will, in the next thirty years, DESTROY the current fabric of the human civilization. It will introduce inequality of an unsustainable level. It will destroy democracy. It will destroy the meaning of existence as we’ve known it for the last couple of centuries.

And on the rubbles of that destruction, a new world order will need to be crafted.

At the heart of that world order will need to be a STORY.

A story that can offer a meaningful narrative around which human beings can rally.

A story that can lend meaning to a post-work society.

A story that can lend structure to a post-religion world.

That story will need to be propagated at lightning speed to billions.

That story CAN be thus propagated with our current technology tools.

But who will come up with that story?

What is at the heart of that story?

I don’t know.

I can tell you, however, that that story is not Star Wars.

Photo credit: Ivan/Flickr.com.

 

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