By Nick Fritz
Eliot Peper is a former venture capitalist, strategist and currently a science fiction author of books like “Cumulous” and “Neon Fever Dreams.” In this session, Berit Anderson, CEO of Scout, discussed the real world inspirations for Peper’s books and his motivation to become an author.
The discussion began with an explanation of Peper’s uncommon background and transition to being an author. Peper realized from his time in venture capital that there is a locus of human drama in that world that nobody was writing about. He felt Big type A personalities, high stakes deals, fortunes won and lost, and potentially world changing technologies make for juicy writing.
“This is the book that I wanted to read, but nobody had written it,” he said. “So I did.”
The discussion turned to the book “Cumulous,” set is a dystopian future world where a giant tech company governs the world. This tech company, although well meaning, has inadvertently created ubiquitous surveillance and crippling economic disparity. The theme of the book was inspired by the incredibly powerful social networking and software applications that are now being created more quickly than ever before. Further, it includes the suggestion that there may be very serious but unintended negative social externalities in this software age.
Digging into that idea of externalities, Anderson asked Peper about the negative externalities that he sees playing out over the next 15 years. His answer was primarily geopolitical. He said that information has reduced the usefulness of national borders and has increased the porosity of these borders with respect to information flow, economics, and crime. Traditional governments are not well equipped to deal with this border porosity, and as a consequence private companies are stepping in to fill these skill gaps in areas where governments typically operate. He gave the example of Google’s Jigsaw, which is working in online crime prevention, radicalization, disruption, and protection of human rights, all functions typically filled by government entities.
The interview ended with a discussion about Mars as another example of a private firm working in the traditional government sector. Peper spoke about the motivation for Mars colonization not only a as hedge against Earth, but also an intentional wake up call to think seriously about taking care of the Earth and to think disruptively about solutions.
Following this discussion, it becomes clear that Peper’s transition from tech venture capitalist to science fiction is actually not much of a leap. In a world where the nature of international borders is changing through technology and a private company is planning to colonize Mars in the next ten years, Peper’s science fiction may not read much differently from the perspective of his former investment opportunities.
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