In mid November, the innovators of Silicon Valley were gathered in a 1970's lecture hall on a typically damp East Anglian dusktime, to talk to gathered academics, students and entrepreneurs about what they thought the world would look like in 2034.
Thanks to the team at SVC2UK, this insight into the future happens on an annual basis, bringing the latest ideas from the more experimental teams at Google, Facebook, US biotech and edtech speakers such as Catherine Mohr (Intuitive Surgical), Crystal Hutter (Edmodo) and John Katzman (Noodle Education) to Cambridge and London. The event allows on the ground entrepreneurs, aspiring students and emerging leaders to network and exchange ideas.
Here's what I learnt at Silicon Valley Comes To The UK, in bite-size form:
1. Google will know you're ill before you do. You may not have read about nanobots, Google X's latest venture, as it is 5 to 7 years from completion. However, if you are an inhabitant of the US or the UK, this might be coming to your doctor's surgery before 2034. The nanobots take the form of a pill that you can swallow and which will measure markers, or even gather up and bring back malign cells, for particular illnesses - cancer or diabetes, say - and send the results back to your medical practitioner. Less invasive and allowing for testing over a period of days, this should bring precision and pain reduction to diagnostics.
2. Google will soon control the stratosphere. Google Loons is a project to send balloons to the edge of our atmosphere, in order to bring economical internet access to previously inaccessible areas. Education and communications will be greatly enhanced for those rural areas, which have not had regular and reliable internet access. Farmers can use better weather information and doctors can collaborate on new learning. The Loons are environmentally neutral as they decrease the need for infrastructure projects such as cable laying, and Loon recovery is prioritised as the data is needed for development.
3. Facebook believes in the Arts and Humanities. If the company is to craft products to answer real needs (as opposed to the imagined ones of inviting friends to play Candy Crush), a big dollop of empathy and a more diverse workforce will go a long way to achieving this. The Humanities helps us to understand what we should be building in product design and gets us closer to delivering those goals. If Facebook or any other company can enable products that help us to deliver better education and healthcare, and help to eradicate poverty - then those new products will have the living, breathing heart that only the Humanities can provide it with.
4. Everybody wants to eradicate poverty and ill health. Without exception, the thought leaders on the stage at each event in Cambridge, were united in their desire to create products which would deliver meaningful benefits to those that needed it most. As the humanities helps decide "what to develop" so the STEM subjects contain the knowledge of "how to develop". The bleeding edge engineers of Google X deliver innovative alternatives to electricity, communications and logistics in order to lift populations out of poverty, whilst the bleeding heart liberal over in Product Design provide the benign oversight to make sure the commercial aspects don't dominate the mission.
5. How to get a job at Google. OK, so this is what the students were really there for: to secure employment for themselves or an acquirer for their start-up. "Of course," the Googlers said, Google looks for "good education and good grades". However, a candidate must provide evidence that they have ingenuity and resolve in spades, going beyond what is ever expected or asked for them - and all of that with a creative spark.