3 Surprising Notes from a Paul Kedrosky Keynote

I’ve been a reader of Paul Kedrosky for several years now, so it was a privilege to listen to his 3.5 reasons for optimism last Friday at the Bend Venture Conference in Bend, Oregon. Paul posts at Infectious Greed and appears often in the media.

I admit its sorely tempting, but, after reflection (and some drafts), I’m not dumb enough to attempt to summarize somebody else’s brilliant 45-minute talk into a post like this. However, I can’t resist sharing at least these three high points and surprises.

1. The uninvention of fire

Consider this an opening salvo, which managed to wake up a sleeping crowd at barely after 8 a.m. on a sunny Friday morning. It worked something like a whack on the side of the head. For me at least. And maybe the coffee helped too.

FIRE = finance + insurance + real estate. For a generation or two now, a high percentage of our smartest people have been going from the high-status educational institutions into those FIRE industries. Now, after the fall, that’s less likely. Or so we hope.

2. Those population statistics

I’d heard somewhere that 40% of the people who ever lived are still walking around, alive today. No, as it turned out, or at least Paul K. seemed convincingly sure of himself as he said it, only 8% of the people who ever lived are alive today.

However, 50% of the lawyers who ever lived are alive today. And 75% of the scientists and engineers are alive today. You decide: good news, bad news, both? Which is which?

3. BioTech as attractive nuisance

Happily, the key visual on this theme is available here on Infectious Greed. It’s a very powerful image, showing that investment in BioTech hasn’t yielded a proportionate amount of new discoveries. I hadn’t heard the term “attractive nuisance” before, but it fit the context pretty well.


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