Artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrency and collaborative web platforms. These are all major tech trends in their own rights, but thanks to the unpredictability of 2020, the pace of innovation is quickening and their growth and acceptance is converging at the same time.
In a recent podcast, a16z General Partner Chris Dixon, Sep Kamvar (cofounder of cryptocurrency platform Celo) and Elad Gil (investor and cofounder of health technology company Color Genomics) talked about what they are seeing relative to these trends.
Their general philosophy is that with all breakthrough technologies, there are two stages. In the first stage, a company builds something that does an existing task better. In the second stage, a company builds something that does new things we could never do before.
You could make this correlation for a number of things, including the internet. The web started as a way to pass messages more quickly than by fax. At the time, we would never have imagined being able to push a button and have our groceries delivered.
A similar acceleration has occurred relative to collaborative web platforms over the past eight months. While the technology for conference calls has existed for decades, we’ve finally gotten to a place of improved audio and video quality, reduced latency and real-time collaboration. (We previously wrote about our long-term investment in the latest communications technologies that allow us to serve our clients in real time from anywhere.)
This same two-stage parallel can also be made for cryptocurrency. Crypto started as a way to have decentralized peer-to-peer transactions, but new implications such as the ability to program money are now emerging and more large companies are turning to digital assets as a way to future-proof their businesses.
As Kamvar noted on the podcast, cryptocurrency needed greater stabilization and access to transactional data in order to get this next evolution right. We agree. That is something we have understood for years, and it’s why we built an assurance portal to instill confidence that providers have enough digital assets to meet users’ liabilities. It’s also why we host our own trusted nodes to provide real-time attestation.
When it comes to AI, the first forms of it helped to solve math problems faster than humans. Now, the technology has evolved to a point where we have GPT-3, a pre-trained machine learning model that can create anything that has a language structure (such as writing essays, translating languages and more).
There have long been media stories that promote the game-changing benefits of AI, but many businesses have felt that it was out of reach or they were ill-equipped to apply it. To help, we created an AI Lab to bring together the best minds for education and actual proof-of-concept projects, as well as to interact, share ideas and predict the future of AI technology.
All in all, the alarming pace at which technology is transitioning from stage one to stage two in our new normal will have a profound impact on whether businesses survive and thrive. We see digital transformation as kind of the next business superpower. Judging by the acceleration of these tech trends, business leaders who can expand their strategic thinking and vision to new heights will likely be the ones to ultimately see unmatched performance and growth.