Scott Rasmussen: A ray of hope far from Washington

Scott Rasmussen

Scott Rasmussen

Listening to the political junkies discuss the 2016 presidential election more than a year ahead of time is enough to depress just about anyone who has a life outside the political bubble. It will get even worse next year with the avalanche of civic pollution known as campaign commercials.

That’s why the Bloomberg Technology Conference in San Francisco this week was such a breath of fresh air. Unlike official Washington, the tech industry is actually working to create a brighter future for our nation and the entire world.

The health care discussion was a real highlight. While politicians argue about who will pay the bills for an outdated health care system, the tech industry is focused on improving our health.

Beth Seidenberg of Kleiner, Perkins noted that 75 percent of chronic care costs could be reduced or eliminated by lifestyle choices. Technology can play such a major role in achieving such savings that Seidenberg thinks the entire industry will be rebranded from health care to self-care. She even believes this is the answer to the looming financial crisis in Medicare.

Glen Tullman, the CEO of Livongo Health, is one of those leading the charge to a new world of self-care. Focusing initially on diabetes, Tullman challenges the status quo approach of always asking the patients to put more work into caring for their health. His company takes the opposite view and is creating devices that do more of the work and require less patient engagement. In other words, patients can put less effort into managing their condition while getting improved health outcomes.

But there was much more on the agenda. In fact, you got the sense that the entire industry was committed to problem solving on a grand scale. Nina Tandon of EpiBone talked of her firm’s ability to grow bones from your own cells to provide a personalized bone graft.

Dan Widmaier of Bolt Threads told how technology has enabled his firm to grow artificial spider silk. You’re likely to see it in apparel as early as next year.

Also on the fashion front, Katrina Lake, CEO of Stitch Fix, described how technology enables her service to offer the talents of professional personal stylists to middle-class consumers. The end result is having a fitting room delivered to your home. You keep what you want and return the rest.

What stood out more than the individual presentations, though, was a clear recognition of how much the digital revolution is changing our world.

One sign of this was the revelation that agents are no longer just for professional athletes and movie stars. Coders — the people who actually write the underlying computer instructions — now have agents. Who would have thought? It’s a truly amazing world we’re entering. And, more than just agents for coders, the digital revolution is reshaping everything we know about work, business and relationships.

The tech industry is approaching these sweeping societal changes with a problem-solving, enthusiastic can-do attitude. They expect to solve old problems and also address the new ones that arise.

Perhaps that’s why political campaigns seem so painfully out of touch. It’s hard to know whether the candidates don’t recognize what’s happening or just don’t know what to do about it.


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