If you mean unconvincingly pitched, it would probably be the applications we get from people who've discovered new power sources that violate the laws of physics.
1) We're going to build the next Facebook!
2) We're going to found the next Apple!
3) Our product will create sweeping political change! This will produce a major economic revolution in at least one country! (Seasteading would be change on this level if it worked; creating a new country successfully is around the same level of change as this.)
4) Our product is the next nuclear weapon. You wouldn't want that in the wrong hands, would you?
5) This is going to be the equivalent of the invention of electricity if it works out.
6) We're going to make an IQ-enhancing drug and produce basic change in the human condition.
7) We're going to build serious Drexler-class molecular nanotechnology.
8) We're going to upload a human brain into a computer.
9) We're going to build a recursively self-improving Artificial Intelligence.
10) We think we've figured out how to hack into the computer our universe is running on.
My startup, http://automicrofarm.com/, rates between a 3 and a 5, depending on how successful it becomes, in my opinion.
Anyone else got 3 or higher?
I have a drug that could massively raise the IQ of the world's population, in total more than the power of all the world's computers combined. And it costs only a couple pennies per person per year.
For everyone reading this, it's already far far too late. I've been compiling some of the child & adult iodine studies into a little meta-analysis: http://www.gwern.net/Nootropics#iodine
Current conclusion: for 13+ year olds, the effect size is (95% CI) -0.11 to 0.29. Yes, we can't even rule out that iodine is harmful to adults.
The trick is to be one of the Barons when networks are becoming widespread, and not an early innovator who gets in the history books but dies penniless. (Again fits with the railroad analogy.)
(And yes, trusted computation [DRM] as it is practiced now is bad, in the way that many things only possessed by only the powerful are also bad.)
A great sign for this idea, is that it gets pooh-poohed and shouted down, particularly by people who don't even hear the entire thing and just pattern match the security part. The idea that DRM can be useful and beneficial to society as a whole is precisely "What You Can't Say" for large swathes of the tech community and even more mainstream society.
Now, it's a console with some good games, but I wouldn't rate it as equivalent in social impact to electricity or nuclear weapons.
A real computing device (I'd accept tablets, but really, enterprise desktops and especially servers) would be entirely different.
What I really care about is servers which can be trusted to be "fair" by all parties -- server operators, software operators, and end users. There is absolutely nothing like that today, and it's impossible without trusted computing. It's unclear if trusted computing itself is feasible (it's theoretically possible).
If it works, we end up with Vernor Vinge's _True Names_
Edit: It's not a drug - but it will, imho, produce a change in the basic human condition, if/when implemented.
He's probably talking about an idea similar to the H+ neural implant (http://www.youtube.com/user/HplusDigitalSeries).
It's a nano device that is injected into or around your spine/brain, and after a week it learns how to interface with your body.
Then it links out to the network and you can do all the things that we can do now online, except it's all in your head.
Funny, considering I'm a strong proponent of "ideas are nothing, execution is everything"...
I don't mean to sound down on the idea- I'm sure it could work out great. But come on.
More information about the idea there.
Count me interested! As long as it doesn't involve entomophagy... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entomophagy
A cool Maker-type article on how to build your own setup (it looks like the AutoMicroFarm may be loosely based on this):
I know someone in Campbell who is playing with this stuff, and he's sent me tons of links that I can share here if people are really interested.
* 3 and 4 are really on the same level, just interchangeable
* 6 should really be an 8 or a 9, since it enables 7, 8 and perhaps 9
* the whole scale should be expanded so that 2-10 become 11-20, and 1 becomes e.g. a weekend hack that can bring in enough revenue to buy me a new toy every once in a while.
* While 3) and 4) both create sweeping political changes, 4) is decidedly scarier owing to the sheer destructive power. 3) encompasses positive change as well.
* 6) may enable 7), 8) and perhaps 9), but is less ambitious in that it doesn't seek to bring those frighteningly ambitious ideas into reality (it only possibly enables them).
Would love to have a nano tank like the one you describe. Please keep us posted.
1) Open Google Reader http://www.google.com/reader
2) click the red "Subscribe" button
3) paste the rss url from your site's sidebar http://blog.automicrofarm.com/rss
4) click "Add"
5) GReader says "You have subscribed to 'AutoMicroFarm Blog. ... "AutoMicroFarm Blog" has no items'
As far as blight and mold, those problems have been identified and solved with greenhouse and hydroponics growing. The key to these problems and other diseases is to make it easy to prevent, or failing that, treat those diseases. But again, this is a solved problem.
Least I can do is add myself to your mailing list...
Time for a career change.
It only takes one genius to change the world, but it turns out that one genius tends to produce many changes (cf Einstein // Lord kelvin // Faraday)
I just can't imagine thinking "Well, I voted. That's the best I can do."
- you could try to change career, become a renowned research scientist and invent number 3-8 on the Yudkowsky Ambition scale, but ...
You are just one person, probably without the right inclinations to be a world class researcher (or frankly you would have become one, it would have been an irristable calling)
So a more worthwhile use of your time and effort would be as part of a co-ordinated effort to select, support and reward a world wide network of inter-dependant researchers, and then layers of secondary innovators and implementors who in totality will bring the benefits of scientific progress to all humanity.
They also serve who stand and insist politicians use
empirical based testing to validate their spending on
Used to joke with my friends about this, as the most ambitious goal of any rational entity in maximizing the existence utility function.
"Happiness" etc are human factors, while obviously relevant to us now, and may not exist down the line.
Co-operative existence models of super massive intelligent entities (like Matrioshka brains), could equally end up being dominant vs 'last man standing' scenarios. But at least in LMS (which of course we are not fans of), there is no doubt as to the eventual outcome.
Consider just the challenge of defeating the obesity epidemic. Better diet improves energy and massively increases, again at the population level, the amount of raw thoughtful hours are available to a country.
This is even more widely applicable in global health where health initiatives can also be important components of social change. Women's/sexual health is tied deeply to women's rights which is a leading indicator for social revolution.
While medical breakthrough that change the space of healthcare at large might be rare, there's a lot of room instead for the kind of breakthrough which changes how people receive and are impacted by the healthcare knowledge we already have today.
For that, you'd have to think seriously big - doubling our expected lifespan is important, but it wouldn't bring that much of a change in our planet. A significantly improved homo sapiens species may qualify. Or a way to keep us going on forever - permanently fixing or replacing our bodies. Or a way to "upload" skills to brains, matrix-style.
6 is not making the current condition slightly more bearable - it's transferring us to a radically different state.
The internet has affected global GDP a lot, but almost entirely in the "moving numbers around in a database" fields, with all the profit ending up in the pockets of a few hundred hyperrich. (high finance, entertainment)
Normally, you can glaze over such a case, but the internet is basically filled with this kind of thing. Moreover, a lot of the stuff that you would normally have to pay for, you get effectively for free, and I'm not talking about pirated movies. I mean the collaboration, fact-checking, knowing of more options, info you'd normally need to buy a book for, etc. Again, cash payments for that stuff might have dropped, but it made people that much better off.
So if people that were doing things obviated by the Web, then go start doing something different, then, well "GDP is GDP" -- but that is a massive efficiency improvement.
I don't know about human lifespans or manufacturing output (though the widening collaboration opportunity increases the number of people that can solve foundational manufacturing problems), but that's only one of many human values, and I think it's an artificial requirement to compare to electricity on that basis -- almost like penalizing it because it didn't enable better hunting of large animals.
So stepping back to the level of human welfare and modes of life it enables, I think the Web is comparable to electricity.
Here's an informal measure: what does the technology do to the "quaintness" of (non-sci-fi) stories composed before it? After electricity, you might look at a book with a plot element "character can't work at night", and scoff at how backward it is.
Does the Web do something similar? I'd say it does a lot more. Per Steven Landsburg, there was a novel written in '91 (right at the Web's infancy) with plot elements like "someone is endlessly searching bookstores to find an obscure book" and "someone sells expensive encyclopedias to people with a tremendous demand for easy access to knowledge" -- very, very quaint from today's perspective.
(Novel was called, IIRC, "Hunters and Gatherers")
I think it would be good for my blood pressure to find a place where people don't equate "changing the world!" with "finding a new way to sell socks on the internet!"
Maybe we should create one?
Of course, you could argue that anyone who can return non-negligible amounts of mass to earth makes it to 4...
How about the web?
I'd say that's a fairly fundamental change for humanity.
Not sure someone with that kind of access will need seed funding with YCombinator or anywhere else. Unless their hack is unproven and unreliable, and up for immediate rejection.
Being young, I drew a diagram showing why it would fail. With each line, I could sense him deflating, but I kept drawing. Finally, by the time I brought up Newton, I realized that I'd gone too far.
Our friendship didn't really work out too well after that and I still feel somewhat guilty...
I suspect the convincing ones violate conventional wisdom, best practices, and to a certain degree, common sense.
if its so easy to execute and replicate ... its not much of an idea ...
He claimed he can turn water into fuel using some herbs :).
(As that adds real injury to mere insult.)
I genuinely appreciate it.
Is anyone aware of something similar which breaks this down by type of thread?
I was wondering why it was almost a dead response,
While I have seen good response for similar show HN posts.
anyways the post is here:
Imagine a table with a 3 course meal laid out...it's nice. Now imagine a table with a 100 course meal. You'll still eat only three plates of food before you're full but you'd still prefer the 100 course table.
Does kinda imply he may very well be awake at 3AM. That said, he's also wrapping things up then and unlikely to take on a public Q&A requiring nontrivial attention.
I tend to lean toward the cynical interpretation.
That kind of science takes large scale organization and specialization by each person in a narrow field. It carries enormous organizational costs. It's also frequently quite a lot of boring work.
Easier to just speculate on a wide area of interesting topics while you wait for people to do the real work.
Looks like I leaned so far towards the cynical interpretation that I fell over on it.
All I can say is - it's starting to look like it did work (the "spend years convincing people to fund it" path) and it's not at all obvious even in retrospect what else we could've done.
There exists an axis which all institutions lie upon where (i) those that do direct business and support short-term incremental innovations exist on the left hand side, and (ii) abstract research institutes supporting long-term paradigm shifts of innovation exist on the right had side.
Both serve the same ultimate purpose.
sorry for grammar i'm tired.
For example: We are building a social platform that will change the way the upper class communicates with a chat-site exclusively for the rich as We are building technology that gets removes the need for cars and allows people to get around faster and safer.
I do wonder how YC would handle someone that is as ambitious and skilled as Musk, but without his financial success. (Un?)Fortunately for them I think that is a pretty rare combination, so they probably don't have to worry too much.
Elon Musk talks about this, in one of his interviews, how Tesla and SpaceX are something that requires a lot of money to begin with. Because they are big risks.
I would expect the majority of people with Musk's skill and ambition to lack his level of financial success. Certainly the percentages will be better than the general population, but it's not guaranteed or even likely.
Timing and luck (from what I have seen) really only seem to matter for things where it doesn't really require a lot of domain expertise. Of course, those are what first time entrepreneurs (at least of the Hacker News variety) are most drawn to, for what should be obvious reasons.
Perhaps it is just due to there being more information about Musk than other founders, but I haven't heard of any YC founders having the level of technical skills and abilities that Musk has. He is older than most, though, and has been at it for a while, so this shouldn't really be surprising.
The original product was a robot that zapped weeds with lasers, they switched to a superheated oil because it's cheap enough to be practical.
Next, I'd like to run two instances, put them in the same space and see if the simulation spontaneously forms an hydrogen molecule.
I'd then like to add a second electron, and see if the result was an Helium atom.
Keep adding electrons until the simulation can do 6 and 8 electrons (carbon and hydrogen).
Now, I'd like to put all three types of simulated atoms (H,C,O) in the same space and see if the result is organic chemistry. At this point, additional optimisations might be necessary, maybe along the lines of starting the simulation by computing simplified models and using those where full accuracy is not required.
I'd then like to continue building the system up, adding optimisations as necessary. Keep adding atoms, and seeing if ever more complex molecules result. Extend to atoms with additional electrons as required (eg. need to add Nitrogen for DNA bases).
At some point, custom hardware would be required. First GPUs/FPGAs, then custom silicon, and whatever else is state-of-the-art at the time.
See how far the optimise/extend cycle can be pushed. Amino acids, DNA, proteins, cells, organs, organisms?
Who knows how far it would get? It might remain an interesting toy, at the 0 level. The closer it is to simulating a human, the closer it is to an 9 or 10 on the "Yudkowsky Ambition Scale".
(They were working on a cement/concrete replacement that was cleaner and cheaper)
"Instagram is the one we'd most likely have missed. It all depends when we'd talked to them. They were a kind of overnight success in traffic. If we'd talked to them even a day after they launched we would certainly have said yes. But before that it might have seemed too speculative."
When we invested in Instagram, it wasn’t actually Instagram. It was a company called Burbn, and the idea was roughly to build a mobile micro blogging service. Technologically, it was also different: an HTML 5 application rather than a native app...
Of course you never know what then happens. Instagram pivots to photos, and exits at ~$1B. But...
As Kevin iterated on Burbn, we made another investment in an excellent entrepreneur, Dalton Caldwell. Dalton’s company, Mixed Media Labs, initially built a product called PicPlz. PicPlz aime d to be a mobile photo sharing service...
Of course, now Dalton (as app.net) is doing what instagram (then as Burbn) set out to do - a micro-blogging service.
So, there ya go...the ol' switcheroo ;D
This pretty much summed up my reaction:
I am almost certain their investors want them to aim at least that high.
Are you sure you're not confusing billion and trillion?
ADDED. I'm not trying to appear bad-ass or hardcore (and in fact, I've never been a founder because I judge that I cannot afford that level of risk of being left with a severely suboptimal monetary reward for my efforts). I am honestly trying to understand VC-funded startups.
But to answer your question and being a startup founder myself - doing a startup is just an amazing experience. It's a bit like trying heroin (not that I've done that, but from what I hear). The highs are extremely high and the lows are extremely low. Going back to a "normal" job after doing a startup is like taking methadone.
Sometimes I wish I could think rationally around this (like you) and just take a normal job again. That would most likely be better for me in every measurable way (salary, benefits etc) but I'm just having too much fun doing startups.
However, I do not find life easy (nor am I young).
They're definitely not only aiming for $1bn+ exits although obviously they're a bonus (in the last decade there have probably been under 50 billion dollar exits in the tech space).
50 billion 4 --- 10 billion : 100 --- 1 Billion : 10,000
Not sure if that would benefit anyone.