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Friday, April 15, 2005 | I attended the 21st annual UCSD Connect Life Sciences and High Tech Financial Forum on Thursday, and the good news is that technology in all its wonderful iterations, permutations and combinations is alive and well in San Diego. There were opportunities to invest in medical devices, a zoom lens for a cell phone, orphan nuclear receptors (bring back Spencer Tracy and the Boys Club), terrabyte storage devices and dark fiber.

For me, it was like being a chocolate addict at Willy Wonka’s warehouse.

The opening speaker for high tech was Larry Smarr, director of Cal-IT² (California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology), who painted a picture of what the world might look like in 2015. Yikes!

Here is a daunting statistic. There are 20 million new Web pages being added to the net each day, so we have oodles of noodles, but what does it mean? We have content, but maybe all we really have is sound and fury signifying nothing. Leave it to Shakespeare to see the future.

Smarr suggests that we will have “gigabit wallpaper” so that we can literally see everyone else who we want to see – sort of welcome-to-my-world all the time in real time – on your living room wall. You could think of it as the total social fabric because he feels that one of the most interesting things about the Web is that the whole world can be in touch with the whole rest of the world. My question is: How do you turn the damn thing off?

He encouraged the University of California, San Diego to support entrepreneurship and particularly “the mandate to innovate.” He compared the United States to some of the Scandinavian countries and also to China, Japan and Korea, and the truth is that the United States is not the leader in innovation at this point. In part, he argued this is because of extreme government regulations, particularly in telecommunications. He also said that dorm rooms are ahead of our family rooms since broadband is ubiquitous on the college campus.

The keynote speaker at lunch was Dr. Paul Kedrosky, academic director of the William J. von Liebig Center at UCSD, who titled his talk “Entrepreneurs are from Venus, VC’s (venture capitalists) are from Mars.” Folks, you had to be there. Let it suffice that this guy could give Jay Leno a run for his money. To an audience that knew the truth, his most accurate portrait of “the term sheet meets the pre-nup” brought down the house. Even the few venture capitalists that were in the room (we still can’t seem to get them to attend this event in droves) were forced to smile.

The paid attendance was 300 but like some Padres games, there were definitely some empty seats. Still, the usual suspects worked the room with the unsuspecting, and there was deal talk galore. The real questions are: Who gets voted off the island and who becomes an American Idol?

Neil Senturia, a serial entrepreneur, is married to Barbara Bry, Voice Editor in Chief.

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