consciousness and intent in technology

Credit to Eric Pickersgill at

We have a thesis we've been discussing internally here at Balderton on The End of Reality. Quantum physics and simulation theory aside, it's clear that we are increasingly escaping our immediate physical reality in favor of alternative digitally (or chemically) constructed realities.

This doesn't come as a surprise to me, but I do think it comes at a cost. While we may be more "connected" than ever, are we as present with those with whom we share physical space? While social media allows us to construct a self according to our mind's eye, do we share our flaws and faults as openly and honestly?

Somehow I feel that in the past year or two we have all collectively begun to go over a brink. I remember in the early days of smart devices people were very conscious of not using them during a meal. Today, it's not uncommon for me to look around at a restaurant and see more than half the groups or couples staring down at LCDs. I think we've slowly started to feel that being somewhere else, and not giving those we surround our attention and our presence, is acceptable.

Are we using technology to enhance our own reality or depart from it? For me this question boils down to intent. App makers are becoming very good at distracting us and keeping us engaged well past the point of accomplishing what it is we originally set out to achieve. For me, this means that I need to be extra vigilant:

Why did I take out my phone?
What was my original intent? Have i fulfilled that intent? If so, why am I still using this? What is the most fulfilling way for me to spending the next few minutes?

I know that if I don't stay sharp on this, then minutes, hours, and days of my life will be spent doing things that aren't high on my priority list, don't help me grow, and that haven't really helped me enjoy or live my life fully.

To some of you it may seem ironic for a tech investor to be stating this, given that many of the companies that have built a foundation for venture returns are driven on attention. But I think that the most impactful and important companies of tomorrow will help enable us to fulfil our intentions, rather than distract us from our life's priorities.

Flurry Analytics reported that in Q42016, Americans were spending 300 minutes (5 hours) a day on mobile devices. That's up from 162 minutes (almost double) from Q12014. 5 hours a day is 30% of your waking life. It is 114 days or almost 4 months every year. No doubt that much of that time was spent video chatting with loved ones, capturing memories, editing documents, listening to awesome albums, and answering urgent emails. But how much of the time was spent on click-bait? On checking your email for the 7th time that hour? On videotaping a concert, taking yourself away from the moment for a video that you will never watch again?

I don't think I'm the only one who is thinking about getting this balance right. I recently spent a week in Brooklyn and while I was there a meditation center and yoga studio opened on my street. I spent last week at a tech conference in Berlin where an entire tent revolved between meditation, yoga, qi gong, and kakao ceremonies. The tent was always full. One of the ways we embody this at Balderton is by banning laptops and smartphones from our Monday meetings so that we can be fully present to engage with one another.

Slowly I think we are realizing that as we plug into the promise of digital interfaces and the instant gratification of their realities, it's becoming increasingly important to slow down and awaken to the feel of the earth under our toes, to listen to the words and smiles of our companions. We need time and space to ponder and process our priorities, and only then can equip ourselves with the right tools to achieve them. It's very unlikely those tools are inside your next push notification.