VC Perspective on Transformative Technology – Tim Chang

by Bijay
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Growing up in Michigan, Tim was a nerdy little Asian kid and always felt like an outsider. His father gave him
an Apple 2. Normal to any kid Tim wanted to play a game but it was the early 80s and there were no computer games. So he learned to program in basic and started to create RPGs or role-playing games where you could craft your alternative ego your alternative personality. With these alternative personalities you could craft out your life according to what you wanted to be. So Tim had the idea of managing your life to make it optimal. The idea of gamification or treating your real life like a game. The thing that makes games work really well our statistics
you have stats and points for every action every decision everything you do in real time you’re getting feedback on
it and it tells you are you advancing towards the goal or not right with that. Quantified self guys; geeky guys measuring and talking about all the things they would track. They were thinking about things like fitness or exercise and this actually inspired me to help put together a company called basis one of the very first wearable companies and to this day still pretty advanced it does 24 by 7 heart rate as well as galvanic skin temperature ambient temperature motion Intel acquired them but it was with device like this I always thought this is how we’re going to master our bodies and here’s the funny part about it it turns out that mastering your body
fat actually has more to do with what
you eat so there’s a saying that abs are
made in the kitchen not in the gym and
it turns out to be true so I kind of
started thinking about what’s a you know
kind of different way to do it I end up
with sort of a whitelist approach I try
to basically every day standardize on no
more than about 12 different foods and
that kind of worked but it was more
notion of cutting things out with that
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about
what does a mental six-pack look like
what does a emotional six-pack
what’s a spiritual six-pack look like
does it follow the same process is it
about purifying is about focusing is
about cutting out the fluff whatever
that might be and so that’s sort of my
latest experiment these days the other
thing that kind of took me on another
journey was when I went to this place it
looks like Second Life but in real life
and it is it is Burning Man is where you
get to live out your alternative ego
your alternate persona whether it be in
tutus or a furry animal onesies or
whatever happened to be right and you
learn a lot of different states of
perception and expand your viewpoints
the the other thing that I kind of was
inspired by was going to EDC Electric
Daisy Carnival is I began a love affair
with electronic dance music spurred by
Burning Man and if you’ve ever been to a
DC this is an event that brings in
200,000 people probably has revenues of
over 150 million production budget of 50
million if you see the slide these are
literally four story tall LCD screens
July 4th caliber fireworks every 30
minutes 50,000 people bouncing at the
exact same beat feeling the same thing
right in front of Tiesto in that moment
I think I kind of experienced the notion
of ego death or what it’s like to lose
yourself in a crowd of people and that
moment hit me that this is kind of like
church except instead of a preacher or
the shaman it’s the DJ using newer tools
of today instead of a didgeridoo or a
pulpit or something else they’re setting
the tempo they’re setting the tone that
everybody taps into and it was actually
very powerful and it made me realize why
people go
and crave these experiences because at
heart were tribal beings we’re seeking
this kind of communion through whatever
technology is available today this has
had a you know kind of impact on me as
I’ve had this sort of question I’ve been
wrestling with between science which
I’ve been trained in as well as
spirituality I grew up in a very
Christian religious family and never can
make the two resolve I was thought as
are they in harmony or and in conflict
and this is what has been sort of my
mission lately with a lot of the things
I invest in today so here are the key
trends we’re gonna attend billion mobile
devices now by 2018 far more the number
of people in the world multiple devices
per person each one with more computing
power than you know the original
computers that sent the Apollo mission
to the moon on top of that computers are
also going to attach to every device in
your life every refrigerator appliance
your house all the rooms they will be
connected to the cloud we’re gonna have
the Internet of Things so to speak which
right now is this wonderful cambria
explosion phase of sticking sensors onto
everything and then connecting that
to the cloud and see what sticks right
smart toilets
you know nest of furnaces all sorts of
things and with that what we’re creating
is this digital exhaust trail your life
now leaves so much data behind that that
is a perfect data selfie of you all the
behaviors all your interests were used
surf on the web what you say your word
cloud in your chat threads purchasing
behavior that is actually a better
portrait of you than a biographer could
right moving on so I got a stick instead
back and I also had why are we doing
this why are we tracking things why
quantify this where is this headed
what’s the point and the thing is this
is nothing new human being since the
dawn of time have been trying to design
frameworks to explain all of this stuff
the Cardinal question why are we here
it’s kind of funny because we also like
to pay people money other people to
interpret the signals for us if you
can’t read the tea leaves some will be
happy to tell you what they mean that’s
the world’s second oldest profession so
we’ve got this multi multi-billion
dollar market of self-help where does it
actually get us well I kind of think
back and as I look back there have been
a lot of forms of Technology
getting back from ancient days as well
even things like psilocybin (Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms, collectively known as psilocybin) or things
found in nature are an ancient form of
technology for driving self-awareness
changing perspectives we’ve since
learned to refine and synthesize things
and much you know kind of effective
formats but what blows my mind is some
of the most powerful tools were
discovered millennia ago and I’ve been
sort of exploring a resurgence of
interest for example with ayahuasca a
very powerful combination of DMT and MAO
inhibitor found in natural minds and
roots in the rainforest the lessons I’ve
learned so far from these things is
Timothy Leary got it right this whole
notion of set and setting it’s not the
what it’s not the tool it’s the with who
and why and with what intention you
bring to it I would say the same thing a
lot of smartphones people say
smartphones are destroying society we’re
all living looking at our phones but
really it’s a tool for you and I keep
thinking well technology can drive you
apart or it could bring you closer
together can make you more human it’s
all about us.

From the VC perspective where’s the dollars where’s the money in this and hoping to inspire would be entrepreneurs out there to jump in this field because it is the very beginning of this whole Cambrian explosion if in the 80s was the decade of bringing physical fitness awareness and the masses the 2000s are about mental fitness and I think next we’re entering the era of sort of if you will emotional and spiritual fitness so I kind of think one framework is this is just the natural evolution of the self development industry but it’s technology plus old-school wisdoms and ancient practices sensors plus social networks. AI plus wisdom where we’re headed with this I’m a systems engineer by training and if the classic control loop is that you first observe something by sticking sensors on it once you can measure it look at the data see if you can analyze it comprehend it make sense out of it then try to write back with feedback loops into the system to try to improve or tune it and I think that’s actually what’s really going on here right now we’re in the phase of measuring everything we’ve got big data real-time analytics we’ve got data exhaust this screen shows basically a data portraiture your entire existence everything you
everything you do you buy you think about your interest your messaging your communications etc and with that you’ve got the tools now to build the quantified self 2.0 and you can quantify your entire life you can quantify love
yes you can look at tinder look at harmony look at all these sorts of
things it’s even hackable algorithmic matchmakers are probably in the future soon you can quantify your home all the different HVAC flows where the time you spend in it put enough microphones in the room and you can actually record and figure out the words that your baby is learning in real time as he or she grows up quantified sports is already in play quantified learning I posit you can quantify creativity you’ll have quantified work quantified parenting anything and everything can be and will be measured in the mean time we’ve also seen a resurgence of mindfulness and meditation to me it almost represents potentially a modern a replacement for what religion our church used to provide apps like headspace bring meditation the masses and a much more palatable way and remove maybe perhaps the religious overtones that used to have even smart drugs are now reentering vocabulary with
body hackers like Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey looking at nootropic stacks the rasa Tam’s personalized micro dosing driven by AI you know in some ways I’m really curious to see what happens when you combine virtual reality with that so that’s another startup idea someone’s gonna build net trips it’s like Netflix but for visualizations
VR a ourself is fascinating to me everyone thinks is about gaming entertainment I think this is going to
actually enable machine powered empathy instead of telling you or showing you basically I’m saying look just feel it walk a mile in my shoes and this is what its gonna be like most powerful demonstration I saw was an artist who
simulated what it’s like to be asked it’s a schizophrenic paranoid because you’re trying to understand why her suit
or sister committed suicide
now you know the dark side is if it’s so
compelling you might never take off the
VR goggles you might go fully virtually
like a fully digital by the way to me I
think that might be one of the answers
to Fermi’s paradox if you’re enough
sufficiently advanced alien species why
hang around meet space let’s go virtual
transformative Tecmo Minh is really
meaningful to me because of the
convergence of all these different areas
you’ve got sensor tech you’ve got data
tech you know genomics technology
chemical technologies neuro tech cyber
tech as we start to hack with our
wetware behavior tech using gamification
behavior design and then sort of for
lack of a better term

spirit tech that’s the work from the inside the meditation yoga therapy all those sorts of things the there’s a lot of trends here I won’t read through this but basically wearables are going all over you’re gonna have here ovals seeable x’ ingestible six pebbles implantables thinkable x’ you’re going to see those then track more and more data and those wearables will start to not just read but they’ll be able to write back so you’ll be able to augment the system as they get connected we’re gonna have more and more kindness movement of a collective consciousness and you’ll be able to interact with data streams datasets from other people then you’ll
have not just body hacking you’ll have a
brain hacking emotion hacking mood
hacking all these sorts of things and it
these open up all sorts of business
opportunities we will enter this brave
new world you might have this rise of
super-powered transhumanism right we
could be moving towards this collective
consciousness in the process of we’re
all networked that could mean the death
of privacy could be an interesting thing
too but the fearful part is what if it
creates a new cybernetic divide because
obviously not everybody’s gonna have
equal access to all these different
technologies REE Drummond as noms Nexus
trilogy wonderful series so if we’re
entrepreneurs out there what I would
suggest is as this landscape evolves no
you’re different business model play
books and then start to remix them do
you want to be a component maker you
want to be a device maker you want to
sell gadgets or do you want to bundle
those gadgets with coaching services and
be a device as a service player there’s
all different models you can use here’s
one hint

I’ll give you from the basis experiment don’t sell devices sell device as a service because ultimately software and the services will eclipse hardware hardware gets commoditized naturally at best one two year lead even the multiple sign companies like Fitbit and GoPro are dropping by the week until they can show a recurring revenue stream
through subscription services or other new streams they can add on to that I’m a big believer here that more than data more than dashboards coaching concierge by both humans and AI is what people really want it’s just like that tea reading fortune teller we talked about you need an expert system to help you interpret that data data myself does not make you take action the go-to-market channel dance this is a fun one I call it start would be to freak go to makers go to developers give dev kits out there see what all the people in the fringes people go to Burning Man see what they make as emergent use cases pop up product eyes those into direct consumer offerings as consumers adopt self-insured employers businesses enterprises they will want to pick up on it and then the big holy grail of all is when the insurer and payer landscape picks up on it that’s when the the the size of the deals even dwarf the
consumer revenue streams.

The ultimate playbook of all that I would tell you about is harnessing the power of story storytelling is key to
our existence is the original viral idea container it’s it’s the idea bomb and what’s funny a story always follows the same template the so called Joseph Campbell hero’s journey this is fun because it applies to every story from
the Bible the Star Wars Raiders in the Lost Ark it also applies to a startup because

What you’re trying to do is help people answer three burning questions
1. Who am I? what which character am I? what’s my story?
2. Who is my tribe could my belong with what are the others out there like?
3. Do I have something unique about my story do I have a particular superpower if you help people figure that out they will pay far more than buying just content or buying a device one way I like to explain it is
Eg: mp3 was worth zero but a ringtone for your
phone now that was worth five bucks why one of them was a personal branding
storytelling device the other was
content alright and when you help people
figure out their superpower I think what
you’re really doing is evolving the
humanity overall everybody has a
superpower it’s unique and done right
they are all different they don’t
necessarily compete with each other

Design the player journey into your products and services you’re helping people achieve mastery over something
you can even build these with loops from:
Onboarding
Habit-forming
Mastery

Nerio and other gamification designers even have specific hooks and mechanics for designing engagement loops on getting people through this the point of this ultimately you may have heard that old phrase of a million monkeys
bang down a million typewriters from
million years they’d create all the
works of Shakespeare by accident in the
process they would create every story
and that’s the crux of Bohr his story
the library of Babel amazing amazing
tale basically says if you had an
infinite library of identical books and
basically the contents of them read on
one of the books
ay-ay-ay-ay-ay and the very last one is
e ZZ ZZ all the way through it would
contain every possible story that that
could be in existence every scenario
every simulation that could be run and
to me what’s really interesting is the
most beautiful success stories begin
with pain moistures basically create
these pearls that are formed by awful
irritants really powerful irritants that
don’t kill them but create these
beautiful kind of coping mechanisms
that’s really what the purpose I think
of running all these simulations are
from the Big Bang creating different
kind of planets with different starting
conditions creating Cambrian sea
primordial sea combinations of all the
genetics all the different parts to see
all the stories that can be run if you
take this in a start-up format that’s
called Y Combinator it’s every possible
startup Pinterest refined people Groupon
for cats they all seem like they’re
going to be stupid on the surface but
you never know every startup has a
purpose and there’s an experiment that
should be wrong too you never know which
one’s going to crawl out the sea and
become the next Google so ultimately
this is storytelling needs data right
and we’re really headed towards as
mankind merges with machine and to me I
like to say God and us the only
difference God is perfect data so God
you might say my definition is really
globally omniscient data it’s the
collection of all stories it’s the
result of every simulation run and so
really that’s kind of my challenge to
you is please go hack go make go run all
the experiments share those stories
because the collection of those stories
is really our job to evolve you know our
species beyond just our regular wetware
existence today thank you

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