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In less than twenty five years, the Internet has evolved from a fledgling network of less than twenty million users to over three and a half billion users today. Over this time, the quality, accessibility, affordability and availability of the Internet has improved dramatically — for the most part. We can stream movies on our phones, video chat with family and friends halfway around the world, navigate ourselves from almost any point to another, see and check the weather in real time from a phone in our hand. And yet, everyone faces those frustrating moments when they have no connectivity or poor connectivity — and life still goes on. …

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Our climate needs us. Our most recent climate report demands that we act, urgently. In its aftermath, we’ve seen some audacious, inspiring and even crazy ideas: dimming the sun by using aerosols, using mechanical scrubbers to remove carbon dioxide and beyond. Perhaps they are necessary to help solve the problem of climate change; but we have a more humble request that’s equally audacious, but much simpler. Plant more trees!

In the four and half billion years of Planet Earth’s existence we’ve seen three “versions” of our atmosphere. …

“The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession” — Sherlock Holmes

When Arthur Conan Doyle wrote these words in 1915, he may as well have been talking about every large business in the very early 21st century. Over the last decade, these businesses have woken up to a very new world.

More Devices

With the advent of the smart phone in 2005 and the proliferation of smart devices more recently— home technology (security, irrigation, control systems), agricultural technology (energy and water systems, controlled environment agriculture, autonomous vehicles and tools), manufacturing technology (manufacturing robotics, supply chain speech and vision systems), transportation and delivery technology (UAV, robots) — we have over 27 billion smart connected devices worldwide today. That number is likely to be 80 billion by 2025–ten devices for every human on this planet. Imagine what these devices have the capability to do for businesses catering to their customers— be it growing better quality food, preventing fires, intervening in critical health situations — the list could go on. They render critical information that could solve so many hard problems! …

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My first word, everyone’s first word, was air.

-Simon Armitage, 2014

The History of Air

Planetary Scale

Today, the bulk of our atmosphere (three quarters) is concentrated within seven miles of the surface of our planet. That’s a quarter of the distance that most Americans drive every day. This thin layer separates us from the dangers of space, and has been responsible for sustaining life for 3.5 billion years, allowing our species to thrive over the last five thousand years.

We’ve had three major changes in our atmosphere since the birth of our planet.

Early Hydrogen Atmosphere (v1.0)

The earliest atmosphere contained the primordial gases of the solar system: hydrogen, methane, ammonia, water vapor and hydrides. …

Over 2000 years ago, humans gathered around resource rich land and built the real life social networks we know today — cities. This human experiment has been so successful that by 2050, an estimated 70% of humans will live in cities.

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Cities are superstructures for culture, lifestyles, aspirations, and well-being for half of the world’s population. Today, cities represent 80% of global economic output and 70% of total energy consumption. If cities were an industry, they’d be the world’s largest.

And yet today, our cities are slipping, fast: poor air quality, lack of pure drinking water, inequity and poverty, failing healthcare and education -all confounded by poor planning, execution and a lack of goal-oriented development. …

The FCC’s Auction 1000 finally came to an end last month, after nearly a year and four rounds of bidding. Participating telecom operators had the opportunity to purchase spectrum in the 600 MHz frequencies, which had been previously held by TV broadcasters. Social Capital surprised some when we registered to participate in the auction, citing our interest in creating a new, tech-enabled wireless carrier. And while we’re more excited about opportunities in the wireless industry than ever before, we ultimately decided that purchasing 600 MHz spectrum wasn’t the right approach for us. …


Jay Zaveri

Partner @socialcapital

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