Welcome to the Break of Dawn
As a young kid,
I remember bemoaning that all the cool stuff in the world had already been invented. The airplane, the automobile, the telephone and the television – how could anything as brilliant ever be created again?
As I grew up, went online and eventually joined the Slush community, I realized that the world is a bit more complex and that smart people solving hard, important problems still exist. However, that original agony – a feeling that today is a less exciting day in tech than yesterday – didn’t completely fade.
I still wondered what it might have been like to work for Bell Labs in the 50s, starting to grasp the impact of machines that can count. I imagined what Yuri Gagarin felt aboard the Vostok 1 when he caught that first glimpse of the deep blue that is our home. I wished that I could have grown up tinkering on a Mosaic rather than Firefox.
When we started preparing Slush 2022 six months ago, I realized that, for the first time, this feeling was gone. Specifically, I couldn’t help but feel like:
- Web3 enthusiasts are today’s computer hobbyists and it’s only a matter of time before one of them builds whatever the decentralized version of the Apple 1 is.
- Even if JFK’s 1962 Rice University speech felt impossibly ambitious at the time, NASA indeed put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. While SpaceX might face impossible odds in 2022, we will stand on Mars by 2030.
- Scientists firing up the first large-scale quantum computers are onto something no less important than John Bardeen and Walter Brattain when they first amplified an electrical signal over a gold foil and germanium crystal in 1947. Today, 20 trillion pieces of their little device – the transistor – are produced every second.
As we explored this enthusiasm more deeply with our team, we became convinced that it’s warranted.
Time and again, fruitful periods in science and technology have been preceded by infrastructural breakthroughs. Junctures in the fabric of human knowledge that, overnight, paint over a blank canvas with exponential opportunities to build stuff that changes the world.
In the past decade, we’ve reached not one but several such junctures. Consider the following:
- Starting in 1990, researchers spent 13 years and $1B sequencing the first human genome. Today, that process costs less than $500 and has been done in 5 hours.
- Exceptional strides in wind and solar, as well as in energy storage, have put us on the brink of reducing electricity costs for the first time in over half a century.
- Battery packs are 90% cheaper today than in 2010.
- As part of our exceptional COVID-19 response, we’ve rolled out the first mRNA vaccines.
- We’ve finally reached quantum supremacy.
- For 50 years, it cost ~$20,000 to launch 1 kg into orbit. In the past decade, that price is down 90% (thanks in part to the miracle that are reusable rockets).
- Brain-computer interfaces are allowing the paralyzed to write and restoring sight to the blind.
- GPT-3 and DALL·E 2 provide early, astonishing glimpses into just how human-like AI will be from now on.
These are astonishing breakthroughs. More importantly, though, each one is only that first critical step into a universe of opportunities. Across energy, biotech, space exploration, computing, the internet, and AI – it’s been long since the future looked this exciting.
This is what we’re inviting 12,000 of you in the Slush community to explore on November 17–18 in Helsinki. After all, it is our imperative in this ecosystem to ensure that these technologies create a brighter future for all of humanity.
This is the Break of Dawn. Tickets available May 25.