Co-written with Kenn Herskind
Put yourself into these shoes. They contain the feet of an investor about to step into a Californian elevator during the height of the dotcom craze. These are feet that belong to a cynic. The shoes may shine with polish, but the soul of their wearer is pragmatic and shrewd.
Into the elevator a couple of pairs of trainers also tread. Both pairs support students, young, fresh faced, with naïve charm. And as the nine of you, that’s you, the two students and the six items of footwear travel to the top floor a sales pitch is begun.
It’s the classic elevator pitch, and you are on the receiving end.
These students have some hare-brained idea for a search engine. For your pragmatic mind this is a no go. Dotcoms are over priced, you correctly reason. Not for you another investment into a wing and a prayer and dotcom idiocy.
You are right, of course; dotcoms crash soon afterwards, but you are right only up to a point. For these two young men are none other than Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The company they are trying to get backing for goes by the name of Google. If only you had been one of those early backers, then today you would have seen a thousandfold return on your money. Your shoes could have been coated in gold.
Innovation is like that. It is not predictable, and yet there is a rhythm. We may not know what form it will take, or where or when, but we do know that if we set the right environment, the beat of innovation will stretch on.
Most of the book was written before the crash of 2008; it was completed during the period of this crash. It applies the ideas of evolution to the economy. Bubbles can be dangerous, but they can also – surprisingly – be rather useful. Homo Sapiens literally means wise man. When we strode the plains during our hunter-gatherer past, we were indeed wise. But are we so wise today, living in a complex world of technology, one that is quite different from the world in which we evolved to occupy? Are we living in the greatest bubble of the lot – one that began when we bit on the fruit called agriculture, stepped out of Eden, or our hunter-gatherer past, and – charged by Malthusian population growth and advancing technology – began a journey that can only ever end in one almighty pop? Or can the bubble be good?