Anatomy of a Speech

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at the World Business Dialogue in Cologne, Germany on “Tech for Good”.

As part of my speech I prepared speaking notes for the deck I was using. Below you’ll find the raw notes – this is the completely unedited version I wrote to prepare myself for the speech a day before the event itself.

I figured it might be fun to get a peek into the ugly underbelly of making a public speech.

[1] Good afternoon. Let’s talk a bit about what I mean when I talk about technology for good, why it’s important and why I am so passionate about it that I spent considerable amounts of my time working on it.

[2] Over the last century we experienced a rapidly accelerating curve of progress - all driven by technology. We long left the linear growth path and are on an accelerated exponential curve.

You might have heard of Moore’s Law: Intel’s founder Gordon Moore predicted that computers will double in speed about every two years. That’s linear growth. And it’s not true for a lot of technologies anymore - we far exceed this growth pattern.

Let me give you just two examples:

[3] 5 Exabytes of information, that’s a one with 18 zeros, is the amount of information all of mankind produced since the beginning of time until the year 2003.

In 2010 we produced the same amount of information every two days.

Last year we produced those 5 exabytes every 10 minutes.

[4] When the human genome project first sequenced the full human genome we spend about 10 years and 3 billion dollars on it. That was around the year 2000.

In 2006 we brought the price down to $10 million dollars and a few months of sequencing time.

This year you can get your genome sequenced for a mere $1,000 in just a few hours.

[5] These are all exponential trends. They happen in industry after industry - and yet, as humans, we are poorly equipped to identify them.

Take this curve of mobile phone adoption over time: Every single time an expert made a projection their prognosis was way off - and linear. We kept saying: We have reached the tipping point, technology doesn’t get any cheaper, faster or better anymore by the same rate we saw before. And we were wrong.

So why is this important? Because we need to push the envelop to solve some of the worlds most intractable problems.

[6] In 2050 we will have 9 billion people on this planet. To feed them we need to grow agricultural output by 2% year over year. Current technology only produces a 1% year over year gain.

[7] Today 3 billion people live on less than $2.5 a day - that’s about half what your cup of fancy Starbucks coffee cost you.

[8] Currently 800 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. Not running water in their homes - any form of clean drinking water even from a well 10 miles away.

[9] 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to sanitation. Which effectively means open defecation - which results in countless health issues.

[10] We need to create 600 million new jobs in the next 15 years to sustain current employment rates.

And yet…

[11] When it comes to technology too many of us focus on building the next version of this.

Let me give you a few examples of technology solving real world problems at scale:

[12] 30% of all water pumps in the 3rd world don’t work. Nobody knows which ones. The movie which plays again and again is: Aid organizations go into a village, build a well, leave and a year or so later the well doesn’t work anymore.

[13] A San Francisco startup builds this sensor which measures water flow speed and even monitors water quality, sends this information wirelessly to a central command center and allows, for the first time, so see which wells operate well, which need servicing and so on. These sensors cost less than $30 and are currently deployed in Africa by Charity Water.

[14] Or take vaccination: 20% of all vaccines administered in the 3rd world are spoiled due to a break in the cold chain. In the best case this leads to ineffective vaccines, in the worst case it kills people. In any case - it leads to massive challenges if we want to eradicate diseases.

[15] A Boston-based startup developed this wirelessly controlled sensor which monitors temperature every few minutes, sends the data to a server and allows not only to find out if a particular vaccine is spoiled but also where in the chain it spoiled and thus allows, for the first time, to fix and optimize cold chains.

[16] And take natural disasters. One of the big challenges in disaster areas is that often vital infrastructure such as roads is destroyed. To get intel and aid into these regions we fly helicopters and airplanes - very expensive, hard to pull off (you need a working air strip etc), complicated.

[17] This copter-drone, developed by a team at Singularity University costs $2000, delivers up to 20 pounds of medication and provides valuable on-the-ground intel to aid workers.

[18] In summary: We need to develop new and novel ways to solve some of the worlds largest problems. Those solutions need to be deployed at scale. Technology is our ticket out of this situation. Pushing the curve towards exponential growth is what’s needed.

[19] And make no mistake: This is not only charity but good business. People who live on $2.50 a day still spend those $2.50. They just can’t buy good products at the moment. These are markets with hundreds of millions and billions of people.