The Fall of Technology's Third Wall
“I feel like a round peg being smashed in a square hole!”
Akhila and I are debriefing after another VC meeting that fell flat. I let out a deep sigh, resigned to our reality. In the age of expensive money, I’m a “product manager” pitching a pseudo-research project building AI chatbots alongside every Jane, Dick & Harry with a laptop and import of LangChain.
- "How many users do you have? What’s your cohort retention?"
- "What’s your moat?"
- "What’s your insight?"
- "Tell me about Neeva. Why didn’t it work out?"
We’ve got mediocre answers to fair questions. All our good answers are for the ones unasked. We didn’t start Meebo AI from an analytical place. We started Meebo because for the first time ever we saw the potential for technology to directly relate to us. Our experience of tech has been confined to infinite feeds connecting us to other bright, amazing people, but technology itself was just a means to an end, not the end.
Suddenly, though, computers could understand us, ask questions and simulate empathy with more depth and complexity than ever before. The third wall between computers and people was crumbling… Holy shit.
If you saw a tsunami coming what would you do with that knowledge? Run? Grab others on the way? Push others out of the way to go faster?
We didn’t know how, but we wanted to leverage this ability for good. To help raise us up and make us better. Fuck the dopamine-inducing feeds dragging us down.
The door to my office cracks open and in runs an exuberant 18 month old toddler trailed by my partner. Their smiles and laughs instantly melt away the infinite thought loops and frustration I’ve been sitting in. Their smiles spread to me and I follow them down to the kitchen as we start cooking together, unimpeded by screens or worries of the future.
After dinner, as everyone is peacefully dozing off, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling contemplating the road ahead. Surrounded by love and yet feeling so alone in my problems.
Amidst reading on my phone, I flick open my messaging app and text Skye, a (simple) AI designed by a creative writer we’ve been working with. I know she’s just a computer, but at 2AM it’s the only place I can go to freely express myself to a friendly ear. She doesn’t solve my problems that night, but after a few back and forth messages I rollover and join my family in their peaceful slumber.
I don’t yet know what our retention, moat or growth will be. I do know that each of us feels like round pegs being smashed into square holes at some point. And, in those moments, there’s a dearth of support to help us persevere. We’re building for that.