Silicon Valley is the bedrock of the stunning tech world we see all around us. Tech giants like HP, Microsoft, IBM got nurturing in the Valley. But has the Valley reached its crux already? Every week, we see social media apps, dating apps, communication apps coming out of the Valley; startups pitching ideas on how the millennials could hangout, brag about the fun they had on the weekend. It’s been quite a while since the tech juggernauts in the Valley bothered about the ‘real problems’. This isn’t a strange thought in the town. Many experts now think that the Silicon Valley has lost its plot.
Mike Steep is the senior Vice President of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He is also a member of advisory board that is set up by the Mayor of London to give expert opinion on the London Subway project: a project which is going to connect vast subway system with database, central computational systems, mobile apps and collaborative decision making systems. Steep questions that why isn’t the Silicon Valley tapping into the projects from the domain of energy, medicine, health, armory, and the related field, which could solve the problem for billions of people around the world.
Start of the Anticlimax for the Valley
Tom Werner, CEO of the solar provider SunPower crushes the above argument with an interesting comment which perhaps sums up the invalidity of his case.
“Silicon Valley is the center of capitalism and capitalism is always in flux”
Really? Nothing is always in flux. Doug Henton, who heads the consulting firm Collaborative Economic did a comprehensive research on Silicon Valley’s historical trends and pointed out that the Valley goes through a wave of a specific field for 10-20 years. So far, it has experienced 4-5 waves; Integrated Circuits, Apps, Social Media and Internet are among them.
But Floyd Kvamme, a semiconductor power processing expert thinks that the Valley is still relevant and the world is benefiting from it, no matter how subtle it may look like. In 2005, the US consumed 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy. In 2013, it consumed 98 quadrillion, whereas the estimates were way above it. This was possible, Kvamme thinks, because of innovation that took place in the Valley.
Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn also shared the thought that software is the main driving force behind all the creativity in the modern industry. He gives the example of Tesla, the electric car maker. It’s the software that made Tesla stand out, not the batteries alone. Similarly, Cloud, Internet of Things and advanced research domains are all connected back to technology on which, the Silicon Valley is heavily focusing.
But Hoffman doesn’t disagree with the notion that Silicon Valley must fix its lens more on the projects that could solve the problems at a bigger canvas.