Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, May 20, 2009
HP Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B01

Enernet: Internet Lessons for Solving Energy

Bob Metcalfe
Polaris Venture Partners
About the talk:

What can we learn from Internet history, say since 1946, for how best to meet world needs for cheap and clean energy? A lot, much to the annoyance of energy experts. One lesson of the Internet is that it will prove easier to teach energy to entrepreneurs than entrepreneurship to the energy industry. Another Internet lesson is that solving energy is more than a shovel-ready Manhattan Project, it will take decades, and so there is time for science. Another lesson is that, when we solve energy, we will not end up using less, but much much more, cheap and clean energy in squanderable abundance, enabling completely unanticipated applications. So, let's ask, What will be energy's YouTubes? Water? Space travel? Our current taxonomies will not likely survive. Remember the separate everything for voice, video, and data? Today, for example, it's separate everything for feed, food, and fuel, not. Will there be surprises? Yes, remember that we started the Internet thinking that larger computer mainframes were the future, not. Will there be silver bullets? Yes, like dense wave division multiplexing at the optical core of today's Internet. Perhaps fission, fusion, or something better will be a silver bullet at the core of tomorrow's Enernet. Is there a Global Warming Bubble, just like there was an Internet Bubble? Yes, so watch out. Sorry, but solving climate change and solving energy are not the same thing. Are speculative bubbles a good thing? Yes, they accelerate technological innovation; just have a chair when the music stops. If the energy movement is to have a color, Internet history indicates that green is not a good choice. Let the Green's have green; let energy be blue. Energy is looking more every day like a network problem; let's use the Internet to solve energy.


Download the slides for this presentation in PDF format.

About the speaker:

Bob Metcalfe is at Polaris Venture Partners, near Boston, since 2001. After graduating from MIT and Harvard in 1973, he invented Ethernet at Xerox Parc, pioneered distributed computing at Stanford 1975-1983, founded 3Com Corporation in 1979, and received the National Medal of Technology in 2005 for leadership in the invention, standardization, and commercialization of Ethernet, of which 350 million switch ports shipped last year, and that's not counting WiFi.

Contact information:

Bob Metcalfe