Startups make the future less scary.
From long-lived dogs to transformative creative tools—how founders build futures worth moving towards.
Welcome to Multitudes. Essay up top and my favorite links of the week down below.
As founders, we have the opportunity to build the future. But the things we create face an uphill battle because society's default view of the future is one of fear. People cannot stop the future from arriving and fear what they don't know or understand. So when they catch a glimpse of a potential future, they imagine all that could go wrong. It is a way of mentally preparing for the worst.
The best startups can make the future feel less scary. They don't just make people feel safe; they make them feel like the future is something they can look forward to. Startups guide society down a path where technology is an ally, not an enemy. As founders, we have an opportunity to make the best possible outcomes legible and exciting.
The vast majority of innovation has been astoundingly good for everyone. Medical advancements, for example, have always led to increases in global abundance and life expectancy. Yet people often fear the next technological breakthrough. For example, consider the field of longevity: most medicine used to treat disease has helped to increase the average lifespan, but longevity treatments seem to be viewed differently. These drugs are a scary idea to many for a specific reason. The fear is that they will be available exclusively to the ultra-wealthy, who will live forever while everyone else dies off at earlier ages.
The way Celine Halioua, founder of Loyal, has chosen to make longevity less scary is to start by extending the lives of our best friends—our dogs. The idea of dogs living longer is amazing. It's easy to say someone is being selfish for wishing to live to 120 years of age. It's much harder to criticize a person for wanting to spend more quality time with their beloved pet. Celine and the team are expanding the Overton window around the topic of longevity. By the time Loyal can extend the lifespan of humans, the idea of life extension will be commonplace and socially acceptable due to their initial work with our pets.
Technology is about creating new tools. Tools make us better, and we should want that. Yet throughout history, there has always been a fear these new tools will completely replace people. Modern worries about artificial intelligence follow the same premise but with a unique twist. Whereas past technologies seemed at risk of impacting "blue collar" workers, AI has "knowledge workers" fearing that they might soon be displaced.
If anyone has anything to fear about AI putting creative types out of a job, it should be Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper. The pair run a startup called Every, whose primary product is a paid newsletter featuring interesting essays on business, tech, and personal development. Who will pay for a newsletter created by humans once creative writing is abundant and written by AI?
Instead of accepting the inevitable loss of their livelihoods to artificial intelligence, Nathan and Dan are doing something highly unusual: they're building their very own word processor, which uses AI to create a better writing experience. This word processor, called Lex, has no aspirations to write on one's behalf. Instead, it intends to help the writers at Every (and you and me) write better.
For all our fears, prior technological revolutions have not resulted in widespread, long-term unemployment. Technologies are tools. And better tools mean people can become even better at their craft or profession.
I am not a professional writer—I need all the help I can get. But AI only wrote one sentence in this essay. Instead of writing it all, AI helped me experiment with different directions to take the narrative and how to frame specific ideas. Far from replacing me, Lex has helped me break through in moments writing this when I otherwise would have gotten stuck and thrown in the towel—or tabbed away to some distraction. I think that Lex will make me a better writer. It also makes me more excited about a future where AI helps us get better at everything.
The future doesn't have to be scary. Founders building transformative technology companies can help swap out the default view of "what will go wrong" for one of "what could go right." This might be the best reason to start a startup—to make a better future more legible. Most startups will be unsuccessful, and as a result, most of these futures will fail to materialize. But the ones that do will change the world for the better. These are efforts worth supporting.
Thank you to Meg Fitzpatrick, Tyler Willis, Andrew Rea, Charles Cushing, and Vikram Rajagopalan for reading and offering feedback on this essay.
I’m Julian. I co-founded On Deck and I vote for the future by investing in Other founders.
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Noteworthy ideas and links
The Search for a Pill That Can Help Dogs—and Humans—Live Longer
Extensive long-form piece on Celine and what she’s building at Loyal.
Wander launches world’s first vacation rental REIT
For the first time you can invest in a basket of luxury vacation rental properties. You can also stay in them.
Nathan explains what inspired Lex, why he thinks it is resonating, and what might happen next.
Cabin and the Opposite of Loneliness
Alex Stein is one of my new favorite writers—perhaps the best writer on DAOs. Here he discusses Cabin’s goal of building a networked city and what the word community and belonging mean in a life split between URL and IRL
If you’d like an invite to Lex I can try to get you one (the waitlist is >25k people)—subscribe to this newsletter then reply to the email confirmation.
That’s all for now — thanks for reading!