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Can you give me another example of how Intellectual Ventures might be the architect for planetary-scale innovation?

Another big problem, whose solution is harder to imagine, has to do with the world’s aging population. One piece of this problem is that today the longer people live, the higher their medical costs. Our entire medical system was based around treating acute conditions. The other piece is that, concomitantly, developed nations tend to have a nongrowing base of workers. So as your aging population grows and your birthrates go down (which is generally true of most developed economies), you’re going to hit an economic wall where you don’t have a lot of people generating your tax-base revenue—and yet you have a lot of people consuming more.

There are these two pieces of the problem that need to be addressed together: you have to both cut expenses and increase revenue. To address both pieces, we have a project we call “Wisdom Economy,” which is a very grand architecture for an innovation economy that, on the one hand, improves the productivity of the dwindling work force of young people as well as the productivity (including the social contributions) of the aging and, on the other hand, creates a platform for diagnostic and therapeutic medicine that induces more innovation and shifts the emphasis from acute care to chronic care.

Now, none of these things are new in and of themselves. Lots of people have been thinking about them for decades. But very few people have tried to bolt all of this together into one system and create incentives for innovation throughout the system. I’ve talked to health ministers, and I’ll ask them, “How do you build your big building projects like dams? I mean, do you get somebody to come up with a big plan, an integrative plan, and then find all of the people to go build it?” And they say, “Absolutely.” “And you build your house that way too, right?” They go, “Oh, yeah, absolutely. You need a plan.” And I say, “How come you don’t do your health-care system that way?”

I should be remiss if I did not bluntly ask: Are Intellectual Ventures intellectual-property trolls?

Are you asking, “Why do we litigate?”

I accept that you litigate. You have a large pool of intellectual property that you created yourselves, or which you acquired in investing in technologies. It must be defended. No, the line against Intellectual Ventures is that you buy up undervalued intellectual property as assets and then take patent violators to court. That all your own invention is just a kind of window dressing for a fairly squalid business.

At the end of the day we can’t control how people describe us. I can only tell you my intention.

What’s the intention?

Our whole reason to exist is to create better ways of coming up with inventions. So it’s very, very important to us that those inventions are well protected. We have a network of thousands of inventors all over the world who are working on the kinds of problems we’ve discussed. If you can’t protect their inventions, then you’re undermining them.

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Credit: Intellectual Ventures

Tagged: Computing, innovation, venture capital, patent

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Jason Pontin Editor

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