by Patrick O’Shaughnessy
My guest this week is Albert Wenger, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures and the author of the book World After Capital.
Albert studied economics at Harvard and earned a PhD in information from technology, but if you’d asked me to guess before looking those up, I’d have guessed that he studied philosophy because of how widely he has thought about the world and the impact of technology.
Our conversation is about how technology is changing the world from an Industrial Age to a knowledge age. We explore how cryptocurrencies, low cost computing, and regulation will impact our future and why the transition may require delicate care.
I loved this conversation because of my obsession with the concept of scarcity. We explore what has been scarce through time and what may be scarce in the future. Albert is one of the most interesting thinkers I’ve come across and was a pleasure to speak with. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Hash Power is presented by Fidelity Investments
2:16 – (First Question) – Defining what it means to be human
2:58 – World After Capital
3:56 – Trans-humans vs neo-humans
4:37 – The concept of Qualia
5:25 – Albert’s investment philosophy
8:27 – How Albert began his exploration into cryptocurrencies
12:59 – Most exciting things blockchains could enable
14:27 – How does Albert view blockchain technology from the view of an venture capital investor
17:00 – Why Albert thinks that the dominate cryptocurrency of our time may not exist just yet and what he is looking for in protocols that will become the leader in the space
20:16 – What are the central functions that will be important in cryptocurrencies
21:22 – The state of regulation in the cryptocurrency space
27:37 – What has Albert most excited for the future of blockchain
29:10 – The idea of universal basic income
32:26 – How do you solve the problem of giving money value in a world of universal basic income
35:00 – How scarcity has changed over time
39:01 – Role of financial capital in the last 200 years of civilization
42:39 – Are we as a society only capable of solving problems once they become an immediate threat
44:15 – Explaining the idea of attention as a scarce resource
47:56 – The two key drivers of change; zero marginal cost distribution and universality of computational power
53:13 – What should we as investors and inventors be focusing on as the new objective function
57:24 – Scariest aspect of this transition into the knowledge age
59:45 – Three basic freedoms we all seek; informational, economic, psychological
1:02:13 – Fermi’s paradox and the scarcity of attention
1:02:56 – How Albert thinks about his own day and wellbeing given all of this information
1:05:01 – Kindest thing anyone has done for Albert