CARLSBAD, Calif.--Humanity is perhaps teetering on the verge of a pandemic that could make millions of people ill. It could also lead to the popularity of the socially distant handshake, according to Bill Joy, a partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, speaking at PC Forum taking place here. The socially distant handshake basically involves bumping elbows. This way, you can stay distant and avoid exchanging germs over a handshake.
Joy is known for his gloomy view of the future (as well as his just-rolled-out-of-a-sleeping-bag hairdo). At various times, he's warned about nanotechnology, bioterrorism and the spread of flu. He's not exactly cheery now, but is more optimistic about the future than five years ago, he said. For one thing, entrepreneurs and investors have begun to take clean energy more seriously than in the past. (Kleiner Perkins, however, was later to these areas than competitors like Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Firelake Partners). Moore's Law will also run for another 15 years or so, allowing computers to continue to increase in power.
"New materials are driving the energy stuff, and the molecular advances are driving the biological changes," he said.
The problem now is dividing the great ideals from the less workable ones. What works better for water purification--sterilization or reverse osmosis (where you take seawater and make it clean)? The ideas a venture firm now has to examine are far broader than when the industry was focused primarily on hardware and software.