With technology rapidly evolving and seamlessly finding its way into our daily lives, the future of software is almost certain. Time will come and it could eventually become so powerful that it changes our lifestyle and the entire society as we know it. Doctor Awesome explores this subject even further with Keith Teare of SignalRank. Together, they discuss the growing ability of artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT and its huge impact in the world of work right now. Keith explains why these advanced tools should not be seen as an existential threat and what safeguards must be applied to mitigate the risks of a total AI takeover of industries. He also discusses how AI actually expands the brain performance of humans instead of dumbing them down to mere end users.

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


The Future Of Software With Keith Teare

I have Keith Teare, who is CEO of SignalRank, which is using artificial intelligence to invest in technology companies that is pioneering growth of technology throughout the tech sector. I want to make sure that we give him his full due. He’s been a pioneer in the internet. He has sold a number of companies and has been involved with a number of companies that have gone on to do a lot of amazing things. He’s in the heart of it all in Palo Alto. Without further ado, Keith, tell us a little bit about yourself and the technology that you are working on right now.

I’m British but lived in Palo Alto for many years. I moved here after starting Europe’s first internet service provider in 1994. It IPOed super fast. Fifteen months from formation, it was a public company. That was the luck of timing. The internet was just about taking off in ‘94 for consumers. By the end of ‘95, you had Windows 95. We were the partner to Microsoft for that launch, and then we IPOed in early-‘96. I moved here soon after that because there’s nothing harder than doing a tech company in England where the risk appetite is super low. By contrast, I spent some time in New York, merging one of my companies with an American company. I figured out the US was way more into risk than the UK.

She spent some time in Harvard Square. The merger was between Siberia Cafe, which was my company. It was the world’s first internet cafe before the wording, and Cyber Smith, which was the second one. It came up in Harvard Square. Students used to go there to use the internet. We were merging, and I worked with Allen & Company, the bank.

They put me on a private jet on day one and flew me to Sun Valley. In England, my accent is very working-class. England is very class-divided and regional accents give away birth in a way. I’m from Yorkshire, very working class. In England, people didn’t want to support me. I went on this private jet and I was the center of attention. I thought, “I have got to live in America.” America feels more like home than England.

I moved here in ‘97. I have been here ever since. I did a company called RealNames. The internet is all in English back then. If you didn’t speak or read English, you couldn’t use the internet because you needed to type URLs that use Latin characters. RealNames was creating web addresses out of every language in the world. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, you name it.


FSP 9 | Future Of Software


Also, it became a unicorn in late-1999, which was only two years after launching and filed for an IPO here in the US. I have been in Palo Alto ever since. I have three boys who were born here. They will think I speak with a weird accent, and I have been in tech ever since. I cofounded TechCrunch, which probably some of your readers read.

I never worked for TechCrunch. I never worked in it. Me and Mike Larrington, who was the guy who ran it and was the founder, created it together in an incubator we co-owned. I was his mentor, I guess. Since it sold in 2010, I have focused on looking at venture capital from the point of view of a technologist.

A venture capital is a cottage industry. It’s almost like an artisan industry where individuals who have the reputation of being good at picking companies dominate. The idea that could use data to improve on them, not to replace them, is alien to them. It’s weird. They think data can improve everything except for venture capital, where it’s expertise and skill. I disagree with that. SignalRank, it’s an AI system, although I will tell you I hate the label AI because it’s this catchall word that describes lots of data stuff that isn’t AI.

A venture capital is a cottage industry. It’s almost like an artisan industry where individuals who have the reputation of being good at picking companies dominate.

I personally don’t think SignalRank is AI. You have got to use the label the market once, so we use that label. SignalRank is data intelligence supplied to investing and it scores investors. Why does it score investors? A little bit like you if look at coaches that run teams, a bigger signal as to how good the team is based on the coach than there is on the players.

In venture investing, there’s a bigger signal based on the investors than there is on the companies. We score investors across many years and all stages of venture, and we apply those scores to real-time investment decisions and score funding rounds out of them. Our funding round scores tells us what the top 5% of the funding rounds are. A rounds, B rounds, C rounds, or D rounds. It doesn’t matter. We then procure capital to put into the highest-scoring ones. It’s my set of algorithms. I even coded them, which I haven’t done for a long time. The last time I coded was many years ago, and it works.

I feel like artificial intelligence, I agree, it’s this catchall term and it’s based on computer learning something. What the real value of data right now, the lowest hanging fruit for data right now is the collective intelligence between a number of people. A quorum which is the prediction model where it pulls a whole bunch of different people and it bases its prediction based on that.

Expertise is something that you can quantify and then build on, and you get this hive mind that is much more knowledgeable than the individual person. Especially in medicine, where I’m getting a lot of these new technologies delivered to me, that’s something that I’d look at. Rather than basing your decision on one doctor’s expertise, you do it from 100 doctors.

That’s exactly what it is. In our case, we can wait each of the investors according to their recent past in a real-time waiting engine. We have programmed the hive mind of early-stage investing. Everyday, we know the difference between a good and a bad funding round. The hard thing is knowing which is good is not the same as being able to put money into it.

Selecting the best funding rounds is hard but doable. Putting money into them is almost impossible because those are the most competitive funding rounds on the planet. Through an understanding of venture capital, we have developed a way of getting money into it almost any funding round that we want to. The way we do that is we partner with the investors who invest early.

At the seed round or the A round of a company, they are typically writing checks between $500,000 and up to maybe $5 million. By the time the third funding round for the company comes along, they don’t have any capital to keep investing, so they typically get diluted. That is to say, their percentage share shrinks as new money comes in and buys shares.

We provide capital to them to maintain their ownership for free. We give them the money. They get to keep 20% of the profit from our money. It’s called pro rata. Pro rata is the right to continue to invest, which is usually most early investors have, but they don’t have the money to do it. That gives us access. The third thing is, and this comes to the humanity piece of this, the only people who can’t invest in early-stage startups that are growing fast is poor people.

America has rules called the accredited investor rule, which means you have got to be worth at least $300,000 a year in salary or $1 million of net worth, excluding your home, to be allowed to invest in these high-growth companies. What SignalRank is doing is building an index of all the companies we invest in and we will eventually list SignalRank on the Nasdaq. At that point, anyone will be able to buy our shares as owning a piece of the index of the underlying company.

You are democratizing it so that everybody can get in place. That’s great. I’m excited to hear about what is in store for you in the future. When I saw your CV and not knowing that you were on the first beginnings of the internet and you have seen all of this change and now you are in venture capital, which is driving the change, in my opinion.

You must have such an interesting outlook on where we are going as a species and how technology is going to affect us as a species. You have seen the internet be adopted by everyone around the world. Now it’s a utility. It’s right in some countries. Where do you see technology going in some of the companies that you are investing in. What is going to be the next big thing now that you have this different worldview than we do?

It’s interesting because part of my training, I was a Political Science and Sociology major and I studied Philosophy and Social Economic History as minors. I look at the world through a historical like what is history? History is successive failures leading to success. Human beings almost never do something right the first time. You will know that from the history of medical science. You got to fail to succeed.

History is successive failures leading to success. Human beings almost never do something right the first time. You need to fail to succeed.

The way I look at the world now is there’s a massive amount of very valuable failure going on. The Elon Musk rocket that blew up after launch is a good example. ChatGPT making up lies is a good example. Why is that valuable? Failure is valuable because once it works, it’s going to change things massively. There are a lot of people saying ChatGPT should stop. Why would you stop at the point of failure? That’s the wrong time to stop. The time to stop is after you have succeeded.

To your question, pretty much every effort that we see has 1 of 2 goals, and these goals are specific to the period we live in, either technology is supporting conflict. A great example of supporting conflict would be the cybersecurity companies that sell to governments in order to help the governments fight other governments.

Palantir is a good example of that. Palantir is a large American company. Very vocal about its support for America in a world of conflict and very anti-China, for example. Some of tech is focused on fighting battles to support nations. I hate that. I’m not that guy. Those people get rich, and we are living at a time of de-globalization. I don’t like that term. My interpretation is we are living at a time where China, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria are the future winners in the world economy. America, like Britain before, is in relative decline. Not in absolute decline, but relative to the others, it’s not growing as fast.

When that happens and it happened for Britain as well, you try to slow the other guys down from the opposition of power. A lot of tech is focused on that. The bit that I like is the opposite where tech is focused on globalization so all humanity can benefit from it, and where it’s focused on making human life better, which I reduced down to getting rid of the need to work. Work, to me, is a necessary disease born from the lack of progress. If we made progress, there would be no work. Why? It’s because it automates almost everything. The track we are on now is to figure out automation.

I respectfully disagree. Working can be something that can be fun. It’s part of the human condition. I think that some struggle is necessary for human beings to feel the best.


FSP 9 | Future Of Software


I don’t disagree with you, but I use the word work in a very specific economic way, meaning wage labor. I use the word effort to describe what you said and challenge. I don’t think that ever goes away. I have a hobby. I have got a nice camera here. I can stream. I don’t get paid for that. I do it because I love it, and by the way, I learn new things every day. I don’t need to get paid to make effort and be challenged and enjoy it.

Once work defined more narrowly is largely automated. I read an MIT document about robotic sperm insertion into an unfertilized egg outside the womb leading to 100% success of creating embryos. What’s bad about that? If you are infertile and trying to have a child, it’s an amazing thing for you. It’s so small and microscopic, it would be super hard for a human to do it.

ChatGPT is already doing that in the bits that where it excels, which is complimenting a human being by doing some of the work they would normally spend time doing, but I use it for coding. I don’t code in Python. I can code in a language called SQL. My team wanted some Python code, so I described the problem to ChatGPT and it gave me the Python code for the problem and it worked and it took five minutes. Automation correlates to that human desire, which we can look back in history and see it’s ever present, which is the desire to reduce the working day. No one has ever said, “I want a longer working day.”

Automation correlates to the human desire to reduce the working day. No one has ever said that they wanted to work longer days.

Elon Musk does just to get more time in the day.

If he could figure out how to stop sleeping, he would do it.

I think a lot of us would. I like a lot of what you are saying, and this is something that I tell a lot of my guests, is that I look at it as a tool than can be used for good and it could be used for bad. I hope that the opportunity to use it for good people get excited about it because I do get excited about it. I would love to not have to work every day.

I would love to do what I do for the love of it, but I think that there were a lot of steps to that. I hope that automation is going to make our lives easier. There’s a lot of science fiction that shows that robot butlers and everything like that would lead to a more pleasurable experience. What are you most excited about that is in the pipeline right now? What do you look at and you are like, “I can’t wait until that gets to fruition?”

There’s a lot, but if I had to pick one, I think it’s that part of medical science to do with CRISPR and stem cells. The idea that the human body is programmable. Even though we are biological and chemical, we are understandable at a very finite level for things like genetic diseases, viruses, and so on. That’s where my brain can’t go because I wasn’t trained in chemistry and biology, so I don’t understand how that can be done.

For me, that’s the closest to science fiction, but it isn’t. With AI, I understand how it works. I’m less in awe of it, but it’s going to have a huge impact as well, and then energy-related things. I don’t know enough about nuclear fusion to know if it’s real, but a lot of smart people think it is and if it is, that will be dramatic in its consequences.

They are making it. They have a nuclear fusion plant literally three blocks from where I live here in Cambridge and closer every single day. In the news, they had the net positive energy from the fusion process, which is a big deal. Coming from my aspect, I know the biology and the chemistry. I’m also excited about CRISPR. I know it well enough to know that this is going to have a profound impact. What are some things in your wheelhouse that you see having the most profound impact in the next few years?

I hope the answer is social and that technology opens up. Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI that did ChatGPT, has a second project called Worldcoin. Worldcoin is an answer to the question, how will people live when there are no longer jobs? That is obviously a long-term question. Worldcoin says, “Anything that’s produced in an automated fashion without human effort should be taxed at 100%.” That money should be distributed to people 100% because there should be a payoff for being part of humanity.

If collectively we have reached the stage where food can be grown, harvested, and processed, homes can be built, furnished, and lived in, travel can be available to everybody, there should be a human dividend, not a rich person’s dividend. Sam Altman, who’s a billionaire, is building this thing world coin to make sure that he does not stay a billionaire if automation happens.

It’s part of something that’s quite popular called Universal Basic Income, which in Boston, there’s a lot of people talk about, especially economists at Harvard, which is how do you distribute the benefits of progress to the whole human race, not to a small number of rich people? Firstly, he deserves credit for even thinking about it because he could sit there getting rich.

I guarantee Mark Zuckerberg isn’t thinking about it. I don’t think Elon’s thinking about it. He’s put something on the agenda. He’s even addressed some of the challenges like how do you stop people stealing money by claiming twice and they have got this thing called the orb, which is a retina scanner that validates 100% that you are you and there’s only one of you. They put the results of that into a mobile device, which can then validate that wallet on that device that is owned by that person and only one of them.

There’s some very real work going on there, and it sounds pie in the sky on the science fiction. There’s a great science fiction book that was written in 1939. It’s called For Us, The Living and it’s a famous American sci-fi writer, Robert Heinlein. It was a book he wrote and remained undiscovered until he passed away and his beneficiaries found it, and now it’s published.

In that book, written in 1939, there is the concept of somebody dies and wakes up in 2083. They are saved by a woman in a forest in California who takes the person in and it’s a Friday night and she switches on a flat screen on her wall and performs a dance that she’s been learning all week, and she gets paid credits by the viewers for the dance. The credits come from something called the Human Dividend. By 2083 in this sci-fi, every human being gets this and it’s amazing to me.

The social credit score is something that sounds like that would be a whole host of other social issues. I think that’s going to be certainly interesting. I’m very interested in the post-finance world. Another science fiction that I follow is Star Trek and that’s the goal. That’s their utopian society where they don’t have financial issues anymore, and when you work, it’s out of a labor of love.

I hope that we get that future. For me, what I get most excited about coming out of your industry is the low-hanging fruit. I can’t wait until I have a robot butler. I can’t wait until I don’t have to remember about watering my plants anymore. That butler does it for me and I get the benefits of beautiful plants that are in my house.

I can’t wait until I have an artificial assistant where I can talk to them like a normal person like Alexa. It’s omnipresent. I love the amount of data collection that’s happening in Silicon Valley right now and distilling that into a tangible benefit for us as a human society. Those are the things that I get excited about. Can you comment on any of those that you got excited about?

I got super excited about vertical farming. I was one of the first investors in a company called Infarm, which was created by two Israeli brothers and the wife of one of the brothers living in Berlin. They figured out how to use hydroponics, light, and heat to replicate the growing cycle. A lot of different varietals. Each one needed different things, and so they basically learned how to optimize the taste and growing cycles.

It was very scientific. They did it first on a small scale. When I met them, they had these growing units that could fit in a supermarket. If you go into any Kroger’s supermarket in Canada, you will find their stuff, so they still have that. My intuition was that growing food was a societal issue, not a retail issue. What they needed would be to grow at scale indoors. Meaning that every square foot of land could be turned into as many tiers that you could build on that so that the amount of earth you needed to grow a certain amount of lettuces, let’s say, is much less.

Growing food is a societal issue, not a retail issue. Food need to be grown at scale indoors, with every square foot of land turned into as many tiers as possible for farming purposes.

It becomes a three-dimensional plane as opposed to a two-dimensional plane, which is what farmland is.

Plus you get rid of transport. You no longer have to do transport. You get rid of pesticide. You get rid of all the bad stuff that poisons the land. Fertilizers and such, you get rid of all that. It’s pure water with nutrients.

Have you heard of the company Gardyn?

I have heard the name. I haven’t got one.

I bought one. It’s what you are talking about. It’s a hydroponic setup. I was surprised by the amount of biomass this thing created. It’s probably 5X3 feet and maybe 25% of that is a reservoir of water. You are only getting maybe 5 feet or maybe 4X3 feet. The fact of the matter is this thing produced so much food that me and my wife cannot keep up with it.

The taste was as good or better than anything that I had in the grocery store. That’s something that is readily available for people. Those strawberries grown in New Jersey that are the sweetest strawberries that have ever been created are charging $20 for this artisanal strawberry process, but it’s so different. Have you had any of those at all?

I have. Infarm do strawberries. They do mushrooms now. They claim they are going to do tomatoes. It’s amazing. However, and this is interesting, since the stock market for tech corrected, this is a private company that’s raised close to $1 billion already. It’s super expensive to build out these farms. You are talking $10 million per farm.

Theoretically, every city in the world with 100,000 people or more could have a farm per 100,000 people. They are super expensive and venture capital now won’t underwrite that spending. They have had to cut headcount a lot by half and started to slow down. They have even closed down some of the facilities that they previously did. That’s because society, at the government top-down level, doesn’t want to put money into food production. Venture capital can only do it when there’s a growing value that is recognized by the next investor up until the time a company goes public.

That company probably needs billions of dollars. In the age of WeWork, billions of dollars were available to what was arguably not a very good idea. Food production is a great idea, but billions of dollars are not available now. That’s one of the compromises you have to make. I have got another company that answers your question. It’s called Nodes & Links.

It’s a two-person startup originally both out of Imperial College London. Applying AI to construction projects before they start building to figure out all of the points of failure in the project and the overrun on cost that would lead to before they become failures. They have been built in now into the high-speed rail project in the UK. A bunch of other projects. Lots. They are literally saving billions of dollars of money, but also lots of time and energy to complete projects on time. That seems to be a very current use of AI. There are so many variables in those projects. It would be real hard for a human being to see the points of failure.

That increase in efficiency is happening across all different industries, and that’s leading to a real change in our idea of what is available immediately to us. The Amazon concept of immediacy. Me getting something in the mail that day or the next day has changed, at least first-world society of my opinion, to have this appetite for things done faster.

That’s something that is probably second nature to a lot of people in your industry, but I don’t think it is necessarily the case when I think about all industries. There are some industries like surgery, for example. The speed is not the most important thing. The complexity of the surgery is the most important thing. That’s what’s driving innovation in that sector. The point being is that there is a lot of stuff that’s happening more efficiently now, and there’s an appetite for that for getting into industries that you normally would not expect that to happen.

It’s like construction. You know it’s going to take a long time. The fact is that bringing down that efficiency is something. With my daughter’s generation, they might be able to get into a house the same day, like a fully built house by robots or something like that. What is the biggest efficiency change that you are going to see in different industries that you are exposed to? Some stuff coming down the pipeline that maybe myself that’s not in that space or technology is making these industries more efficient. What are some industries that might be most affected by that?

In your industry, it’s going to be diagnostics. It will largely cease to be human-driven. It may still be human-monitored because of regulatory reasons, but even that, ultimately, there will be a lot more trust over time. The reason I say diagnostic is where human expertise is required but is disruptable. In the media, there’s going to be a lot of that.

If you work in media and you are a copywriter or an editor, if you are putting together movies, a documentary or otherwise, if you work with visual media, a non-expert is going to be able to create stuff that previously required an expert. The first jobs that are vulnerable are high-paid expert jobs because that’s what machines are going to be super good at, not low-paid manual jobs. Why? Robotics is a little bit behind artificial intelligence.

As soon as those two become the same thing, then you see a whole bunch of others. There won’t be a guy picking up your garbage anymore. That will be automated with a self-driving truck and the ability to figure out everything. They are pretty close to that already. Computer vision is a little bit behind other AI. Real-time computer vision is super good.

I worked in it several years ago and it was challenging to identify objects, for example, especially in different lighting conditions. It’s now a lot easier. Robotics requires dexterity and vision. It’s a little bit lagging, and then decision-making is ahead of that. The only reason Elon can do it in a Tesla is because the car has wheels and can’t fall over.

The dexterity is less important for a car than it would be for somebody picking up a garbage can or cleaning a floor, for example. I do think that the low-hanging fruit is human expertise where knowledge is the primary expertise component. I think that will change a lot. Even for you, being a surgeon, you already know you benefit from all these tools that improve your eyes and your hand movement.

I certainly think it’s future-proof for the next 50 years or so. I don’t think that I’m going to have any difficulty with AI to taking my job. I don’t think that robotics are there yet from a surgical perspective, but eventually, that may be the case. I think that the human component can only get more and more better augmented by these things. I think replacement may or may not happen for surgery. It will probably happen for things that are purely diagnostic, like a radiologist might be a thing of the past.

It’s certainly going to make the surgery better. I will tell you that right now. Surgeons, the height of his career is usually in his 50s. That’s where you have all of the wisdom. You have all of the hand skills, which separate us from machines. All of the vision and all of that stuff is still not being detrimentally affected by age, but it would keep your hands super steady.

You might be able to operate at a smaller capacity. I think that that’s something that is certainly futureproof, but I am still excited about it. I don’t think that radiologists will be done away with. They are going to transition into something different. That doomsday thinking where this robot is going to take my job, honestly, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Human beings are too valuable, especially if we program them correctly, which I’m hoping that we will. I look at Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. To me, that’s a shining example of how to do it right. What do you think should be plugged in to the software going forward so that we don’t get a lot of these social issues that people are worried about?

I’m less worried than most people because ChatGPT has been very controversial. There’s a guy called Gary Marcus that I debated on National Public Radio about whether it’s a good or bad thing. Gary is an AI expert and he’s against it because he’s an expert in a slightly different field of AI. He sees it as the wrong path to artificial intelligence and prone to error because it’s sucking everything in. Due to that, it can only be as good as humanity. It can’t be better than humanity most of the time. It will make a lot of the mistakes a human being will make. How many times have you been at dinner and somebody says a fact that you know is wrong? Quite often.

Did you know that 73% of statistics are made up right on the spot?

Funnily enough, I believe that that’s true. These things are not independent beings. They are controlled by their software and they are limited by their constraints. For example, right now. ChatGPT isn’t even connected to the internet. There are some people connecting it. There’s thing something called Auto-GPT where you give it a task like, “I want a two-week holiday in Jamaica in June. I want to stay in an Airbnb.”

Auto-GPT will do all the individual things needed to form a two-week plan and make bookings and the do the whole thing, but it’s very specific to that set of tasks. I’m not worried about this. To be honest, I don’t even object when ChatGPT, just to use an extreme example, is racist. The human race is racist and it reads everything everyone writes. Unless you are an idiot and when it’s racist, you become a racist as well, which no one would. The idea that we are all empty brains ready to be filled by rubbish underestimates the human race.

When the Gutenberg press was first created, the majority of the books were created with the intention of finding witches. That disinformation has always been there, in my opinion. I think the truth wins out. I’m an optimist in that regard, but also, I want to see the future when ChatGPT is able to do all these things. I feel like the hesitance that you hear around artificial intelligence is real. I don’t think it’s an existential threat. Do you think it’s a nice existential threat?

No, and I think the people who do. I said I studied Political Science. There’s a very famous Greek book, Plato’s Republic. In Plato’s Republic, you’d think the word republic means it’s a good thing. In Plato’s Republic, people are deemed to be stupid. Therefore, he gives power in society to a group equals philosopher kings, who are the clever people. He basically says, “Clever people should rule. Don’t trust ordinary people with power.”

I think there is this prejudice, especially amongst academics who are opponents of AI, that they are super clever and you can’t trust people with knowledge. I think that’s an inherently elitist point of view about people. Most people I meet blow me away with how smart they are. Even from lowly beginnings, lowly origins. I don’t buy the fact that the human race is so vulnerable. There is evidence I’m wrong. If you read history in a certain way, you would say I’m wrong. How come Trump got elected?

I hear what you are saying, but I think that if we look at the arc of history, we are trending up. There have been things that people have worried about existential threats in the past. Nuclear power being one of them. All in all, we are doing pretty good. Specifically with what you are talking about with artificial intelligence not being existential threat, I think that eventually it’s going to become a tool like any other. I don’t know if that is something that you feel like. Do you feel like that is going to gain consciousness? Some of these worries that people have, I don’t see it, but am I being naive when I say that?

It will gain understanding that benefits humans. It’s not going to stay the same level of clever. It’s going to get clever and clever and that’s good because its point is to serve humans and to make humans be able to turn their attention to things that it can’t do. It’s the division of labor. The story of humanity is all about discovering ways to divide labor from hunters and gatherers through to now, where there are 10 million different kinds of jobs.

The division of labor is a good thing, and to divide it further by allowing machines to do some of the stuff we had to do before is great. I don’t think consciousness is the wrong word, but cleverness, yes. For the most part, you won’t be able to get a job in any knowledge-based work unless you become an expert at using ChatGPT. Your employee’s going to want you to use it because it’s going to make you able to do more in less time. It’s going to become a requirement of success to embrace it.


I’m excited about it. I think that we are also looking at it from the lens of what we have had to live through and experience right now. It might be completely different in the future. I look at my daughter. She might have a relationship with a robot that’s equal or better than a real friendship with a human being.

Who knows if that’s a good thing or a bad thing? I feel like it’s a good thing. I think that if that robot can also teach her seven languages at a rate that is able to be perfectly tailored to her, it’s going to lead to more exciting humans. One thing that you talked about is that you are constantly impressed with the human race. You feel like we are not giving the human race enough credit, and I totally agree with you. There are a lot of naysayers worried about the idiocracy, a movie plot, which is we continue to become dumber as a species because of all of these adjuncts. Do you think that is on our horizon or are you thinking less so?

Dumber is a word that has to be unpacked. A good friend of mine, Andrew Keen, wrote a book called The Cult of the Amateur. I do a weekly podcast called That Was The Week and he’s my counterpart. He almost always disagrees with me, and so we have a conversation. The Cult of the Amateur is saying the internet is going to make us all dumb. Why? It’s because every point of view will be considered equal.

An expert who works for the New York Times and writes about AI will be treated as equally valid to twelve-year-old who blogs about AI and therefore we will all become dumber. I don’t think we become dumber. We become less elitist. I got a degree and I have a brother who left school at fifteen. I can tell you my brother who left school at fifteen is smarter than me.

He learned to code on his own from being a taxi driver. He ended up as the CTO of several companies. He’s retired now and he was never credited with being smart. He was credited with being dumb. In England, you’d call it a dunce. He was called a dunce in class because he was getting Cs and Ds because the education wasn’t custom to him.

He was alienated from what they were trying to force-feed him, but he was super clever. Do you know the way he knew he was clever? His jokes were always funny but sophisticated. You wouldn’t be able to come up with these jokes unless your brain worked in a certain way. I did an IQ test. I scored 99% for abstract thought and pattern recognition and visual acuity. I scored average for two other criteria.

What am I? Am I dumb or am I smart? We all have brains. They all work in different ways. People see things in different ways. I don’t think we are getting dumber. We are getting more tools to be smart. Now, I can do math in my head because I never used a calculator. My kids can’t. They use calculators. Does that mean they are dumber or does it mean they can use their brain power on the hardest stuff? It’s not just learning formulas by road, but it’s now applied math as opposed to pure math. There’s not an easy answer to that.

A lot of the arguments for idiocracy is the fact that highly educated and successful people are having less children, and other demographics are having more children. They are worried about that because they feel like that’s some demographic dilution or something. I feel like it’s not that at all. I look at us as plants. All sorts of different plants have different genetic makeup. Some are taller and some are less tall. Give that plant the best nutrients, the best sunlight exposure, that’s more determinant of their beauty than the genetic makeup that they have.

Just look at Indian engineers in Silicon Valley who were born in India. The vast majority were born into poor households. They went to normal schools. Some of them went to some of India’s better colleges later in life. Chinese engineers in the Valley, there is also a lot. Almost all came from what was then a third-world country. The idea that there’s a correlation between demographics and intelligence is a little bit Nazi.

Even if it’s not intelligence. Even if intelligence is not some end all be all of the qualities that we should have. I feel like, in general, you give a human being the right nutrients that it needs, they will prosper, given the right environment and circumstance. I look at that technological wave that’s coming as more nutrients. I wish that I could give my kid more love than I give her right now because I go to work. If a robot can give her love and she can feel love, I’m happy that she gets the nutrients that she needs to maximize her potential.

Security, confidence, and an optimistic vision go a long way. If you grow up insecure with no confidence and you don’t think you are going to achieve anything in the future, that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy even though there’s no requirement for it to do so. I have got three boys. My three boys are super different to each other, which tells you how little parents have to do with it. We do have something to do with it, but I’m going to guess it’s like 5%.


FSP 9 | Future Of Software


They say birth order is the highest predictor of personality.

I can see that for sure in mine. I’d say the most ambitious is my youngest who’s had to fight for attention his whole life because he’s the youngest. He was excluded. He got hand-me-down clothes. He didn’t fight. He’d be invisible. He’s a fighter. My oldest one, everything came easy. He’s graduating from Syracuse. Computer Science. He’s a cum laude. He’s never had a real challenge in his life apart from when a girlfriend broke up with him once and he was devastated. He’s never had a challenge.

He is super confident, but he doesn’t know how hard it can be. He’s going to probably learn that. My middle one is basically a wild child. Back in my area, he’d been acid-taking hippie listening to The Doors. Nowadays, he’s a White rapper and he doesn’t care about school. He’s the closest to me in terms of how he thinks about the world. When I was his age, I was like him.

Were you a middle child as well?

I was the oldest. In 1968, I was 14. I lived in an era of the world was your oyster. Discipline was not a thing. Everyone was a hippie. You could do whatever you want. Just choose it and go for it. I chose political activism and anti-racism. I was not interested in work on money. My first company that was successful was Easynet, and in 1994 when we started Easynet, I was 40 years old. I’d spent the previous twenty years writing books, organizing protest marches, making speeches in front of large audiences. I was pretty well-trained at communications through that, but I wasn’t interested in money at all.

We are getting towards the end of our time. There are so many different things that I wanted to ask you about when you were talking, but we only have an hour with you. I appreciate you coming on. If you don’t mind, we are going to get into the last three questions of the talk. Your thoughts about different things that I was thinking while we were talking. We alluded to a lot of science fiction. I’m a big science fiction fan. I would love to know what do you think is the most influential science fiction book to you. Something that has either shaped your life or had a profound influence on you, what would you say that is?

It isn’t a book. It’s visual arts. I have watched Star Trek ever since the first episode, even the bad ones.

That’s a great vision for the future. I love the Star Trek adventure.

The universal replicator, the idea that there are no nations anymore. Everyone on the Enterprise comes from different nations, speaks different languages, but they are all part of the same federation, whether human or not human. I hate fake division. For me, nation-states have some good things going for them. They give you stability and structure.

They are bad when it comes to separating humans from each other based on nationality. I hate that. Star Trek would be up there. I read a lot of science fiction as a kid. Probably the one that most two books appealed to me, 1984 and Animal Farm. For different reasons, Animal Farm was like what goes wrong if you try to plan what every individual does.

It’s a textbook on power. It’s such an interesting book for so many different reasons.

It’s about Stalinism. I read a lot of Marx and I’m not anti-Marx. When you read Marx, you don’t equate him to Stalin at all, but you have to read him to know that. Stalin was a brutal dictator. The planners became the elite, and the elite governed everybody from the top down. Animal Farm is really what happens when some pigs are more equal than others.

1984 is more about capitalism. It’s surveillance society. If you have been to the UK, it is stunning that there is a camera every ten yards. We absolutely live in a surveillance society where the population is assumed to contain a lot of bad people, and we should all agree to surveillance to stop the bad people being bad, but then we are all surveilled. It’s pretty hard to square that with civil liberties. When you also join that to some of the social problems where the government isn’t necessarily the good guy, I think racism is one of those, then a lot of things are broken. The idea of Big Brother could be the end of technology in the bad version of technology. I like 1984 as well.

I love George Orwell. We could have a whole episode about Orwell. The fact that he traversed the UK as a poor person for a year as somebody that lived off the street, to me, that’s a writer that has affected me as well. In Star Trek, I agree. Star Trek is our most realistic, best utopian vision. I hope that we can achieve those heights. I think that we will. When I look at the future, it gives me a lot of hope and optimism. I’d love to see those things come to fruition.

You will love the book I mentioned earlier, For Us, The Living.

I will check it out. Thank you for recommending that. One of the other things that we talked about is that you are investing in companies that are in the technology space. Feel free to disclose if you have any controlling interest in them or whatever, but the fact is I want to know what companies right now do you think are changing the world for the better or the species for the better?

I can’t talk about investments that we are making because I’m not allowed until they are done and we are making our first investments. I won’t talk about those. You can’t look beyond OpenAI. If you try to pick a second, it’s nowhere near as impactful as OpenAI.

When people talk to me about the technology that’s going to change our lives, I agree with you. It’s artificial intelligence all the way.

I am somewhat of a fan of the vision behind what’s often called Web 3.0.

Bitcoin, crypto, and that type of stuff.

Not so much the coins. I’m interested in the governance structures and distributed autonomous organizations. Instead of creating a company, you create this software structure called a DAO. It has voting or a membership based on putting a stake in. If you put a stake in, you become a voter. It’s like a citizenship in a way that you buy and then you get to make decisions with all the other buyers about the future of whatever the software is focused on.

There’s no corporate ownership. In so far as it succeeds, the value it creates is distributed to all the users in it. It’s super interesting as a structure, and some of them are becoming quite real now they are doing real world tasks like file storage, for example. There’s some video conferencing software built on top of things like a DAO. When they succeed, there’s no shareholders and there’s no rich person that created it that makes most of the money. If I could have figured out a way to use that structure for SignalRank, I would have because there’s something wonderful about that structure.

The AI is going to be the most significant thing. Even the conversation has changed because of OpenAI. Their introduction of ChatGPT exploded like wildfire throughout human society. Before, you could ask someone, “What is ChatGPT?” and maybe only a handful of people knew it, even though many people were using it then. Now, you could walk down and talk to everybody on the street and they know what ChatGPT is. It has gotten through our consciousness. The last question before we end is, where do you see specifically the industry that you are in ten years? That can be either be venture capital or software affecting us.

Venture capital is super challenged right now. The most interesting part of the answer is how will they address the challenges. The main challenge is venture capital isn’t a single asset class anymore. It’s at least three different asset classes. If you think of it almost like train with carriages and the front engine is a public company that IPOed that had a background in venture capital. The last carriage is two guys in a garage thinking up some new ideas.

Venture capital isn’t a single asset class anymore but at least three. It’s almost like a train with the front engine as the public company and the last carriage are two guys in a garage thinking of new ideas.

There are 3 or 4 phases you go through as a company in venture capital. The first phase is the seed stage. The second stage is the venture stage, and the third stage is the growth stage, and then there’s the public stage. The people who play at each stage are totally different people with different amounts of money, with different interests.

If I put $50,000 into a startup, the seed stage, and then maybe I keep going at the eighth round and put in another $100,000 to keep my share, the guys who are coming at the next stage want to get rid of me. If this company’s successful, and most companies die in those first stages, about 70% die, if the ones that survive come through to the next stage, those investors didn’t participate at the early stage, didn’t pay that risk.

Now, people like Marc Andreessen of Andreessen and Horowitz wants me to be reduced in ownership so he can be in growing ownership. That’s a discontinuity. There’s an artificial conflict between investors. The same happens at the late stage. Once the company gets to a fourth or fifth funding round before going public, people like Fidelity come in and they want to own as much as possible.

There are all these discontinuities and they are all driven by subjectivity and a little bit by spreadsheets. There’s a combination of facts and feelings. What needs to happen is that these phases become partner-based like a relay race as opposed to competitive. That the early people who take the risk get the reward that they deserve, and the next people and the next people get the reward they deserve. Everyone is happy that everybody did well. That isn’t the way it is now.

Part of what I’m doing with SignalRank is bridging the first two phases. When I give money to a fund for the seed round, in order that it can put money into a B round, I’m helping that person be rewarded for the work they did before by not being wiped out by the next guys. It’s a better ecosystem. The nice thing about venture which shouldn’t change is it’s tuned to accept failure as a good thing.

Venture capital is almost the only money that tolerates failure happily because when success happens, it produces a lot more value than the money that was lost by the failures. I think that has to be preserved and maintained. Clearly, years from now, AI must impact venture capital. There’s no way venture capital can be immune to AI and almost no venture capitalists believe that’s true now. There’s a denial. The biggest change is individuals are going to be supplemented by data and AI, not replaced, because they are a bit like a surgeon. Their role is still valuable. As an individual, they are way weaker than an individual plus AI.


That’s profound. It was so nice talking with you. We talked about interesting stuff, but we have to end it here. Thank you, guys, for joining us. Keith, it’s a real pleasure. I had a great time. For those who are reading, remember we are going to see you guys in the future. Have a good one.

Thank you.


Important Links

About Keith Teare

FSP 9 | Future Of SoftwareKeith is CEO of AI based investment platform SignalRank. Prior to SignalRank he is credited with creating two companies that became Unicorns – EasyNet and RealNames, He was also a founding shareholder at TechCrunch.


By: The Futurist Society