Mr Vinod Khosla, a distinguished alumnus of IIT Delhi, came to deliver a talk in Dogra Hall on 9th August in an event organized by the AAIP- Alumni Affairs and International Programmes- IIT Delhi. He is a renowned businessman and venture capitalist and is known for investing in pioneering tech companies. His talk was based upon new technology ventures that are redefining societal structure for the better.
As Mr Khosla entered the hall, a burst of loud applause erupted from the jam-packed audience who then stood up to welcome him. After a short address covering the achievements of Mr Khosla, Professor Sanjeev Sanghi, Dean of AAIP facilitated him with a bouquet. Shortly after this, Mr Khosla began his presentation.
He illustrated the need for reinvention in every sector of life by stating examples from diverse fields. According to him, to fulfil the rich lifestyle that 7 billion people desire, we will need to push reinvention by 10X without increasing the number of cars on the road or needing more doctors. He edged the audience to think of things that could be reinvented or recreated. According to him with some stupidity and blundering, anything could be done. It just takes unconventional people to achieve unconventional things. He pointed out that after looking through 30 years of major disruptions in innovation, he couldn't find any that originated from large companies or institutions. He went ahead to predict a major innovation boom in the next 10 years stating that we are right at the beginning of a hypercycle of innovation. This is because there are more axes of innovation now than ever. He then presented to the crowd what a technologically enhanced world would be like in 2050.
He started with healthcare, where every citizen will be the CEO of their health. There will be a free physician for everyone at the ease of a simple search. So many companies have already started real imaging, monitoring and diagnosis. In the transportation sector, little pods will facilitate point to point transportation. Car crashes will reduce drastically and transit will be extremely cheap and effortless.
He took up the concept of dematerialisation in sectors like housing, infrastructure, city design and manufacturing. Carbon minimalism and reusing space more efficiently will be the way to go. In food and agriculture, he talked about concepts like vertical farming. At the end of his talk, he also expressed his desire for free education in every sphere and AI tutors for kids.
After that, the director Prof. V Ramgopal Rao was invited onto the stage for a fireside chat with Mr Khosla. He expressed the pleasure he felt to welcome such an eminent alumnus back to the institution and then delved into some fascinating things that he had uncovered about Mr Khosla. One such thing was that he neither takes breakfast or lunch; he’s been eating one meal per day for the past 20 years. He’s also a religious walker and walks up to 100 km a month.
Professor Rao’s first question to Mr Khosla was to describe his best memories that he had in college and what was the craziest thing that he had done. Mr Khosla shook his head and refused to talk about the crazy “3 AM” things he had done in his hostel, Nilgiri (this garnered a lot of hoots and claps from the crowd). He described his IIT life as when he had truly learned how to “learn new things”. He learned how to think a certain way and got a very diverse education. This made it easier for him to make models of innovations in his head. He didn’t find the system to be rigid at all. His best memory was when the IT staff went on a strike and their computer club got full access to the entire computer centre!
Professor Rao then described to Mr Khosla how young engineers and entrepreneurs in India frequently abandoned their education to pursue their start-ups. He asked Mr Khosla's thoughts on how much a technical degree mattered in such cases. Mr Khosla answered that it completely depended upon the field. If it was coding, anyone could teach it to themselves in 2 years but some fields like innovations in medicine required a solid background.
One of the last questions Professor Rao asked was about the changes in startup culture and how it has changed in the last 30 years. Mr Khosla answered this question by recounting his own experiences. He narrated how before starting Sun Microsystems, everyone discouraged him and told him to get a good job. Now, areas of innovation have expanded and so has social support. Every senior manager now wants to join a promising startup.
After that, the floor was opened for a Q&A session, with a lot of teens and adults eager to ask questions. The session ended with the presentation of a memento to Mr Khosla and a string of photographs.