Coming to the Valley

Some valuable inside dope on Silicon Valley forecasts of its own near-future, in an article by Michael S. Malone here. Responding to criticism aimed at the frivolity of much app-based social media innovation, local venture capitalists seem agreed that this is a passing phase.

Doug Henton, who heads the consulting firm Collaborative Economics and oversaw an upcoming research report on the state of the Valley, argues that since 1950 the area has experienced five technological waves. Each has lasted about 10 to 20 years and encompassed a frenzy followed by a crash and shakeout and then a mature “deployment period.” Henton has identified these waves as defense (1950s and 1960s), integrated circuits (1960s and 1970s), personal computers (1970s and 1980s), Internet (1990s), and social media (2000s and 2010s). By these lights, the social-media wave, however dominant it is in the public eye, soon may be replaced by another wave. Henton suggests that it’s likely to involve the combination of software, hardware, and sensors in wearable devices and the “Internet of things.”

The share of venture capital going to Internet start-ups has already fallen to 59%, from “a peak of 68 percent in 2011”. Tom Hayes also sees a new wave building:

Autonomous vehicles, he believes, will change the nature of cities and become a new platform, as PCs and smartphones were. “This achievement alone will be enough to create another golden age in the Valley,” he says. “And that’s just one such revolution: drones will be another huge platform, as will mobile medical monitoring devices, including smart watches. And I have no doubt there will be more.”

It sounds as if the age of cyborgs and robots is fast arriving.

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