The State of Technology

A conversation with Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Gurley.

Touching on healthcare reform, the sharing economy, driverless cars, and even arms races, the SXSW conversation between  New York Times staff writer and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and venture capitalist Bill Gurley left few stones unturned.


The most provocative question of the evening came from Gladwell, who asked, "Do you want a world with a small number of rare catastrophic events or a world with more low level, casual events?"

According to Gladwell, catastrophic error is the switch we've hit in the digital era. As driverless cars inch closer to reality and international hackers pose a greater threat each day to global security, we've consequently exchanged more frequent, casual risks in favor of uncommon, yet increasingly catastrophic ones.

The two also fielded questions from Twitter, and addressed the state of the tech industry at large. When asked by an audience member if we are in the midst of a tech bubble, Gurley replied that it is more like a "risk bubble," going on to explain that investors are pouring money into very young companies founded by those with scant professional experience.

He also noted that financial constraints drive creativity, which in turn drives successful business. With so much money flooding the Valley, Gurley predicts we'll see more than a few "dead unicorns" in the coming years, but then again, only time will tell.

Invoking Warren Buffett's famous quote, "Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful", Gurley noted with candor that, "there is NO fear in Silicon Valley right now."