Make the Scarce Abundant

By editor on February 20, 2018 — 2 mins read

On and on, this cycle of taking something that was a problem, and that was limited and scarce, we would solve it in a way that made it abundant. And that kept going on for centuries. What’s amazing is, two really important things happened in the last several hundred years.

The first was asking the following question, which is, now that we’ve solved all these problems what is the next most obvious, limited, scarce resource? And someone said, it’s our bodies.

If I tried to lift this entire table, I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the physical strength. If I tried to build this building, I could not do it, I don’t have to physical strength. And so we invented machines, and all of a sudden, what did it abstract away? It abstracted away our bodies, because our bodies were a limited resource. And now these machines could do the work of millions, or hundreds of millions of humans. But operated by, a few humans.

And then most importantly, what’s happened is that we’ve now done what was probably, several hundred years ago, unthinkable. We’ve started the process of abstracting our brains. If you think about it, now we are at a point in time where the most precious, scarce resource, is our brainpower. And we have realized now that if we actually take just the smartphones in this aisle, there’s more computing power in these seven phones than in the collective capability of all of our human minds. So then now imagine what it’s like if we took all of the phones in this room and put them together.

So this process of abstracting problems has been happening for centuries. But because now we’ve started to really abstract our mental capability, the ability to think and calculate things and perform tasks, the evolution is happening very quickly. Again, hundreds of thousands of years ago, we were trying to figure out how to do things that were very low level: how to protect ourselves, how to start a fire, how to clean water. And now we’re at a point where we’re talking about AI, machine language, data science, all these very complicated things that are highly computational. And as a result, the rate of change is so rapid. And the reason is because we’ve invented, now, an entire industry of people, whose job it is to find these limited, scarce resources, and make them abundant.

And that is what we do in Silicon Valley, that’s what you’re doing here in China. That is the point of being an entrepreneur. Find something that’s difficult, find a scarce resource, build a solution, make it abundant. (10:40)

Posted in: Entrepreneurship

Editor's Note

These are Chamath Palihapitiya's words. They are probably some of the best thoughts on VC, business, and life, but were scattered around the Internet. They live now in this archive.