INVESTING IN THE FUTURE:
Into (Business) Practice
25 years of My Life in 6
Study Oxford, open Store
Build Humanist Website
Sell store, go to
Germany to research
CS, build app, create
In car accident,
decide to move
to SF to push
Where are the philosopher-kings of this
“There will be no end to the trouble of states, or humanity itself,
until philosophers become kings in this world, or until those we
now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers.”
Identifying the Grand Problem
risks killing us.
Identifying the Challenges
1. The Research Pipeline
2. Entrepreneurial Prioritization
3. Societal Values
The Research Pipeline
● Short-sighted focus on ‘churning
● Grant cycles are crushing,
motivating low risk, low reward bets.
● Artificially manufactured‘ground-
Fatal Car Crash
Global Dark Age
Car is StolenLoss of One Hair
One Extra Vehicle
One Species of
Endurable Crushing (Hellish)
•Need to think of most effective way of bringing change
•Disrupt process and models first - make it easier for all
•Biomedical/clinical strategies to solve aging
The total disregard for long-term risk analysis reduces
much of what Silicon Valley creates to being totally
pointless, in terms of the benefit to man now and in the
The problem with us constantly thinking in the short-
term, with short-term rewards and incentives, is that we
line up future generations to be burdened with our
shortcomings and total disregard for their existence.
- The Future Doesn’t Care About Your Start-Up, July 2014
Challenges Highlighted in Publication
• Academic Challenge: Tyranny of publishing papers
• Priorities Challenge: Minimum Viable Consumer Tech vs Existential
• Value Challenge: Not enough social psychology applied to norms
and values around goals
• Venture Capital Challenge: Misaligned LP interest and interest of
• People who do care all work for non-profits: no business
development in these research groups
Always looking for the next exit...
Investors to blame?
Smaller amounts of $ in
higher quantity of companies.
Y-Combinator 500 Start-ups
Less $ buys you code
Causing more harm than good
•Defining technological progress
•Diluting VC as an asset class
“I tend to think of the technium like a child of humanity. Our job will be to train the technium, to
imbue it with certain principles because, at a certain level and at a certain age, it will basically
become much more autonomous than it is now. It will leave us like a teenager who goes on to live
alone: although he or she will continue to interact with us and will always be part of us, we have to
let it go.
“We can’t raise a successful human by remaining in complete control as parents. We have to train
our children well — bury within them a strong conscience with deep values that can guide them to
do the right thing in situations we had not foreseen or even imagined. We need to do the same with
the technium and our technologies. In the same sense we need to embed our values into the
technological superorganism so that these heuristics become guiding factors. As more autonomy
is given and won by the technium, it will then be able to do the right thing.”
Kevin Kelly, Edge.
Problems with Venture Capital
•Very little ‘creative destruction’within industry- not professional risk-takers, but professional
• Kauffman Foundation found the bigger funds (250 million+) are less likely to return investor capita
yet we congratulate big funds
• Meaning VCs support themselves on income from management fees - misaligned interest with LPs
•LPs get a terrible deal! Continuous narrative fallacies (but then they don’t really care either…)
•LPs don’t get anywhere near the due diligence with VCs that VCs do with their portfolio companies
• Not particularly valuable for LPs as an asset class - high risk -and the money is predominantly not
going into high-risk endeavors
•Predominantly an industry run by people who don’t care about long term benefits - bit like
academia - incremental rewards on repetitions of the past
• Even for the ones who do, interpersonal relationships within VC funds reminiscent of playgrounds
full of manipulation and nepotism.
The field of future thought
has a PR problem.
The information gap:
What % of the general public knows that ageing
could be stopped?
The values gap:
What % of the general public thinks that ageing
should be stopped?
We collectively think as groups how to
better ourselves and how to try to influence
the people around us.
Is this really the mosteffective way of
achieving our goals?
We need more spaces in which
people can come together to
figure out the steps
that need to be taken in order to
solve the big problems.
We shouldn’t be trying to
achieve our goals based
on non-profits and
Financial markets work because, despite hiccups, money flows
effectively toward profitable firms. Philanthropy is hugely
inefficient because there is no analogous market for impact.
Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2013
Need to break down our goals into smaller
chunks and create for-profit solutions.*
A lot of the jobs that Effective Altruists could
be in (say through 80k hours)
simply haven’t been created yet.
* not claiming this is easy
Reinvest our profits…
Impact investments are investments made into
companies, organizations, and funds with the intention
of generating a measurable, beneficial social and
environmental impact alongside a financial return.
Impact investing is still young.
A 2009 report from research firm
Monitor Group estimated that the impact
investing industry could grow from around
US$50 billion in assets to US$500 billion in
assets within the subsequent decade.
Impact investors still expect less than a market rate of return. Few
solutions that meet the fundamental needs of the poor will get you
your money back.
Can’t solve big problems in places where poor governance and
huge market failures are the rule. e.g. Financing a mosquito net
factory to combat malaria, when the issue is distribution, not supply.
That’s why we need education, evaluation and well-considered
Crowd-funding is not
the only financial
What types of
models have we not
thought of yet?
QUESTION THAT PLAGUES ME!!!
Too many of us
questions and not
finding the answers
We need an educational incubator
aimed at the creation of companies.
We need to educate and mentor entrepreneurs,
whilst studying the meta-level issues of future
innovation such as innovation financing itself, as well
as audience/consumer psychology.
• Impact Investments - How can we support and spread the change we want to see?
• Existential Risk Mitigation - Educate and innovate around global threats (breaking issues
down into preventative measures).
• Philosophy of Technology - Producing a profitable theory of technology.
• Medical Moonshots - Encouraging radical approaches to medicine.
• Effective Altruism - Inspiring effective, ethical business methodology.
• Consumer Psychology - How can we ensure audience acceptance?
• Financial Innovation - Can we find new economic models to promote bold ideas?
• Wellbeing - Merging philosophy and neuroscience.
• Reinventing Research - Models to incentivize bold science.
• Rationality - How biases affect decision-making.
• Company Formation - How to build and sustain a successful team.
Things to be learnt
Example of profitable plan
that mitigates X-risk- it’s not
impossible, just need to
change the way we think
Can use Leverage’s Strategic Project Checklist/Business Model
Canvas to ensure successful pathways for our companies--
but at the moment what should we be applying this checklist to?
There are higher issues.
As a movement, we shouldn’t be promoting just creating start-
ups and donating profits. Let’s combine profits and values. And if
LET’S FIX THAT FIRST
If we want to spread memes….
we need to translate ideas
into businesses (..sorry)
Let’s build the rockets to
take us to the future.
What are the most valuable models to be
applied to a blank slate tech scene?
e.g., Shared Housing, Incentivised Competition
What lessons can be learned from the Valley?
Thanks for listening.