In this second interview with Tom Chi, Founder of At One Ventures, Tom provides updates on his fund’s work, and discusses his forecast on the next three economic “epochs” that humanity will create and experience through thoughtful guidance and compassionate commerce.
APPROACHING NEW ECONOMIC EPOCHS
In our current epoch, what Tom calls “Epoch 0,” our global economic activity is primarily extractive, and has embedded in it a dangerously destructive logic: “to run the economy, we must destroy the ecology.” In the next epoch (Epoch One), our economic activity will be “materially productive” instead of extractive, Tom asserts. Then in the subsequent epoch (Epoch Two), the global economy will be primarily focused around enriching ecosystem metabolics. Finally, in the most advanced economic epoch (Epoch Three), Tom predicts that we’ll be maximizing diverse nutrient flows and “savoring” each solar photon and each water molecule – all within the logical rubric of global commercial activity. These Epochs are discussed in further detail in the “State of the Planet” talk that Tom gave at a recent At One Ventures annual general meeting of shareholders. Tom has shared a Vimeo link to this talk – available in the show notes.
Ultimately, according to Tom, we are undergoing an evolution of human economics that is taking us from the massive extraction and exploitation of our current “Anthropocene” economics toward a fundamental and systematized ecological and societal sacredness that will infuse stewardship and regeneration into our entire global system of trade and commerce.
This is a very lofty, compelling, and – one might also say – inspirational view of what’s possible in our shared near- and mid-term future. And, although Tom is a philosophical humanist, he is by no means isolated in an ivory tower. Rather, Tom is the founder and CEO of the investment firm, At One Ventures, which has already deployed approximately $150 million into a variety of advanced regenerative technologies through its first fund, and is now deploying $300 million through its second fund. The fund is performing in the very top 2% of all venture capital funds nation-wide.
ECONOMICS IS A DESIGN DISCIPLINE – NOT A SCIENCE
Perhaps one of the most salient insights that Tom shares with us in his second Y on Earth Community Podcast appearance, is the critically important recognition that economics is a design discipline, not a science. That is, instead of dealing in “laws of nature” as is too often assumed and/or conflated with economics, the systems and structures of our global commercial activity are instead the result of human constructs. And these all too often are embedded with erroneous, immoral, and ultimately ineffective assumptions.
ABOUT TOM CHI
Cornell educated, Tom Chi has worked in a wide range of roles from astrophysical researcher to designer to corporate executive developing new hardware/software products and services. He has played a significant role in established projects with global reach (Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Search, Google), and scaled new projects from conception to significance (Yahoo Answers from 0 to 90 million users). Tom has pioneered and practiced a unique approach to rapid prototyping, visioning, and leadership that can jump start innovative new ideas as well as move organizations at unprecedented speeds. These approaches have benefitted both industry-leading multinationals and startups alike. He was a founding team member of Google X developing technology such as Google Glass and Google’s self-driving cars. Through his investment work he was able to establish and elaborate a thesis on how humanity can become a net positive force through the emergence of environmentally regenerative technology as well as radically disrupting “nature-negative” industries. This has allowed him to combine two areas of longtime focus – developing breakthrough technology while addressing global issues. Tom brings a fundamentals-driven (both physics and financial) approach to investment and is deeply passionate about supporting entrepreneurs, building relationships, and helping to realize a future that brings humanity and nature back into vibrant harmony.