Bill Davidow has been a high-technology industry executive and a venture investor for more than 30 years. He continues to act as an active advisor to Mohr Davidow Ventures, a venture capital firm
In his latest book, Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet , he explains how the almost miraculous success of the Internet has also engendered a unique set of hazards and challenges for government, social institutions, business, and economies.
In Overconnected, Davidow meticulously — and counter-intuitively — anatomizes how overconnectivity can create systems with excessive amounts of positive feedback, making those systems extremely volatile, accident prone, and subject to contagion.
I loved the book. I found his presentation was...meticulous, concise loaded with examples of companies and even countries who suffered from excessive amounts of positive feedback...And while I initially disagreed with his premise, by the end of our conversation he showed me our common ground.
I asked him about the power and threat of being overconnected and its role in our nation's current challenges.
We’ve reached the imagination moment in the show. Being a venture capitalist you have been exposed to imaginative enterprises, so this may be the best part of the show.
Let's imagine President Obama calls you right after we finish. He says:
David, I'm sorry I missed you at my dinner out in Silicon Valley a few weeks ago. Mark and Steve are so pushy, I had to give them those seats next to me. But look, I got elected from the power of connections. But now in power, I'm a little ambivalent. Still, we're a fractured country. How do we realize the promise of the internet in being connected and avoid the dangers of being overconnected.
What are three things our country can do and come on up to DC and I'll take you to dinner next time your in DC.
And Bill answers:
I’m afraid President Obama wouldn’t like my answers. One of the things I would point out to him is that the internet enables you to arbitrage everything.
And of course that’s an exaggeration.
But a slight difference in wages and you can arbitrage it. A slight difference in policy and you can arbitrage it or taxes and you can arbitrage it. I don’t like the financial regulation in the US and I’ll go operate where they don’t have those regulations. I don’t like the labor laws in Iowa, I’ll go elsewhere.
I would say to President Obama that:
Suddenly we’ve gotten into a world where we have to be competitive in everything we do.
We cannot tolerate any inefficiencies whether it’s in government or business or education.
We can’t afford to run a grade-school system and then have the high-school act as a backup.
And connectivity is forcing us into an extremely competitive world where we’re all having to do our best every single day.
And, I don’t think the US has faced up to that today.
Some may say this is inappropriate.
This is politics! And you never discuss politics at Thanksgiving Dinners, backyard barbecues and on a business radio show.
I disagree. As long as only politicians can discuss solutions for our country then those solutions and their interested audiences will remain off-limits, political, for those who make this brand, our country, run.
And only politicians, these days that's only career politicians, can discuss those ideas and spoon-feed solutions to the public.
I see our times as an all hands-on-deck opportunity and not a crisis. That opportunity is for each of us to lend our hands, our conversations, our ideas to find and share solutions. In our absence those challenges are left to ideologues, vested interests and politicians of all stripes and partisan persuasion. We...are the only ones with vested interests. And now we have, with social media and the urgency of today, the opportunity to reclaim our place at this table and discuss our ideas to solve our challenges. At the very least, we can listen to a discussion until we are ready to speak up.
Want More from Bill Davidow?
- Read transcripts of our conversation here.
- Listen to our conversation here.
- Follow him on Twitter
- Buy his books.