If we take a step back and look at what has driven our technological evolution from cavemen to CAVE men (virtual reality joke), nearly all of our progress can be traced back to two fundamental human inclinations: curiosity and communication. Today, our biggest tech companies capitalize on these two C's. Google is a curiosity engine. Facebook is a communication machine. Apple creates communication technology and aggregates curiosities for us to explore. The rest of the most valuable tech companies - Microsoft, Samsung, and IBM - also are driven by our curiosity and need to communicate.
The two C's continue to direct our technological progress. Let's examine the top 10 most valuable startups.
- Uber - $51 billion - Communication
- Xiaomi - $46 billion - Communication
- AirBnB - $25.5 billion - Communication
- Palantir - $20 billion - Curiosity
- Snapchat - $16 billion - Communication
- Didi Kuaidi - $16 billion - Communication
- Flipkart - $15 billion - Communication
- SpaceX - $12 billion - Curiosity
- Pinterest - $11 billion - Curiosity, Communication
- Dropbox - $10 billion - Communication
Uber, Didi, or AirBnB might not seem to fit so smoothly into the two C's mold, but when you dig down, they're actually strong examples of the power of communication. Instead of buying cars or building hotels, they built communication platforms to connect owners with renters. By simply allowing people to communicate in an efficient and effective way, these companies were able fundamentally change the business of travel.
Want more proof of how central curiosity and communication are to the human condition? Look at what happens when we extinguish either. Regimes which ban individual thought - aka curiosity - are often overthrown. People can suffer brutal hardships and austerity, but take away their ability to follow their curiosity wherever it may lead, and rebellion quickly follows. The response to involuntary severance of communication is just as severe. When someone is locked away in solitary confinement, they can lose touch with reality, hallucinate, and eventually have a complete mental breakdown. Communication literally grounds us in a common reality.
If you want to know if a new technology will be big, just ask yourself, "does this facilitate our ability to communicate or discover new information?" When you think about virtual reality, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" on both counts. VR will be a quantum leap for communication as it is the first medium in which experiences can be directly transmitted. Before VR, an experience had to be disassembled into communicable information - words, pictures, or a video - but with VR, we will be able to communicate that experience directly in a fully-immersive way. Nothing gets lost in translation. How will this influence our curiosity? Being able to experience anything in VR will be an incredible improvement in our ability to discover new information, and our insatiable curiosity may have met its match.