Class 2 of Venturing 2017: What I learned.

“Venturing to change the world”, our class at Columbia College for undergrads about startups, is back on, and this is class two. (Class one.)


This one was about the social context of entrepreneurship. The rate of technological change, what’s driving it, what are some of the themes investors are pursuing, and what are the dislocations being created.

Straight off, a big surprise for me and Damon: the room was hugely anxious and worried about AI. All the questions: will it automate all the jobs, why are we in college, can it be used for evil, will AI be able to replace fundamentally human functions, etc.

A year ago people wondered in this class if “AI would ever happen”. This year, it’s happened.

Partly that was technology’s advance this year (Amazon Echo? Self-driving cars?) but partly that has been the national discussion leading through the Trump election.

The content: We take a tour of the accelerating pace of change — the exponential pace — and the wild possibility of a $1,000 computer that has the computing power of the entire human population by 2050. Artificial Intelligence, post-human future. We cover innovation’s big successes and disappointments of the last 30 years, and explored how to consider the value or importance of an innovation.

A meaningful piece of the discussion was inequality in society related to technology. A big aha for me was: more equal societies create more innovations. Inequality — locally inside the US and across nations — seems to correlate to less innovation and creativity.

Some stuff Damon put up:

The other big social context point was the changing world of jobs. We laid out a theory of consider jobs that will be automated:

  • Routine vs. Non-routine
  • Cognitive vs. Manual
    • Judgment vs. Information
    • Empathy vs. Analysis
  • Automated-Soon vs. Automated-Eventually
  • Don’t forget the economy will be 10x bigger in 50 years, so small job categories grow

The big question still hanging in the room for me was: what will the new jobs be? One of the best bits of reading we covered did the math on the 20th Century.

So…here is my running list of jobs of the future. 

Follow along the course here.

Update: one of my older posts on the same topic.