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A Conversation with Marc Andreessen: Part 2 By @BobGourley | @ThingsExpo #IoT

The impact of emerging tech on jobs, training, education and home life

This post is the second in a series based on a discussion with Marc Andreessen. The first was on: AI, Robotics, Jobs and Accelerating The Future

Gourley: Can you provide more context on what kind of education and training?

Andreessen: It is fair to say I am biased on that subject but my view is that the quantitative skills will be in greater demand: Math, Economics, Science, Engineering, and Computer Science. The requirements for these are rising at much higher rates so their premium is rising. All of us should seek to self-educate on these when we can and this is what we should encourage our youth to pursue. We should of course value other more qualitative skills like history, politics, arts and culture, but understand that this is an increasingly technical world and even those people will need more understanding about how the world really works. If you want to be as relevant as possible, get as many quantitative skills as you can and keep learning.

Of course this is not a zero sum game. The computer scientist can learn history, for example, and it is very important to have broad context. But it is pretty clear this is a technology-focused economy.

Gourley: You said above that technology creates jobs. How can we accelerate that?

Andreessen: This is another key question we all need to spend more time on. We should all keep asking ourselves, since the effect of technology on jobs creation is well understood and since as tech automates it will create higher quality jobs, how do we accelerate the creation of new businesses, products and industries to create the greatest good in terms of new opportunities?

First an example. Consider the old concept of a company town. An entire town might exist to serve the large factory for the firm, for example, Kodak and its company town in Rochester, New York. For years the town consisted of people who either worked for Kodak or served those that did. When the market changed on Kodak the town and its people suffered. What if instead of the town serving one factory it served six? Then people would have more opportunity to serve and less chance of being on the losing side of a market disruption. Now take that lesson into the globally connected technology-based economy we have now where there is more opportunity to create opportunity and serve industries far from your geographic location.

One factor we can leverage to accelerate job creation is to enable success of new industries that can create new businesses that can leverage globally connected skilled labor and globally connected consumers. Tech firms operate this way now. Most other industries are moving in this direction. But we need to take steps to accelerate this approach into education, healthcare, transportation, farming, finance and all the services sectors to expand opportunities for all.

We also absolutely must ask ourselves how to keep the old incumbent companies from holding back progress. The old ways of doing things are too frequently just designed to thwart the innovation we need to accelerate the higher quality jobs. Consider, for example, the old industries whose entrenched lobbying firms build up regulations that cause unnecessary impediments for innovators. How do we mitigate that behavior and ensure the old firms do not hold up progress?

We also need to ask ourselves how to ensure we keep global markets open. And need to continually think about how to make it easier to start new companies. How do we encourage entrepreneurship and innovation?

These are the big questions we should be thinking about.

Gourley: I’d like to ask your views about another scenario. Projections are that by 2020 there will be over 100 billion Internet-connected devices, and easily 1 trillion sensors generating data around us all. In the U.S. the average home will likely have between 300 to 600 high-powered chips in devices capable of communicating directly with each other and with the traditional Internet connected computers in the house. In this world of the near future, who will be there to help homeowners optimize and secure their environments?

Andreessen: You bring to mind a company we have invested in called 21. They are a bitcoin company building a specialized bitcoin computer designed to help developers create applications that can buy, sell and trade bitcoin. Today their purpose-built computer has utility for developers. But consider the very likely evolution of this type of solution. Consider software that runs on all your devices in your home and in your car that is continually mining (producing) bitcoin. Not only does this mean that your devices are producing something of value for you when they are not in use, but now they can exchange more trusted information and even value in ways that better serve you. Take for example your car on a trip to the airport. You wonder which garage to park in and your car guides you to the one closest to your terminal and then takes you to the best available empty spot, and when it is time to pay it automatically pays with the bitcoin it has generated. This will be simple and convenient and efficient.

Now back to your home, with each of your devices communicating together and with workloads able to be distributed over them you will be able to operate them as a connected supercomputer in your home. Chips on everything from your toothbrush to your toaster will be able to process workloads as you direct, drawing very little power in doing so. When you are not mining bitcoin, you may want to focus your home supercomputer to help find cures for disease or research other scientific pursuits. There are so many possible uses for this new capability.

Gourley: Seems like a risk we are introducing in doing this is the risk that we are potentially giving cyber criminals of the future more direct access to our personal lives and private information.

Andreessen: There is absolutely more work to be done here but a great deal is underway and my sense is security needs are pushing more and more control to the cloud. The many chips and systems in the home will need to be expertly configured and managed and overseen and that is a perfect use case for managed professional services from the cloud. Chips will need to be tethered in some way to cloud services under the homeowners control but managed by trusted security teams and automated processes. Simply having a home firewall is not the answer here. The homes of the future will require administrative solutions that operate at scale and that means the cloud.

Consider today’s example of the Tesla and how its software is loaded and managed. Most other modern cars have ports for mechanics to plug into to check and manage the vehicle. Guess what, mechanics, although they have valuable skills, are generally not going to be as proficient at loading software as they are at maintaining high-performance engines. All the Tesla software loads are controlled through cloud services, the mechanic does not need to touch it at all. There are lessons for the future house from this model.

Gourley: Thank you Marc.

Andreessen: My pleasure.

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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com