Vivek Wadhwa, the former Triangle tech entrepreneur who survived a nearly fatal heart attack to become a widely published author and academic at Duke University and elsewhere, examines the threats and promise of technology for our future with a new book – his third. Will it be Star Trek or Mad Max?

Will it be utopia or dystopia?

Wadhwa, who now lives in Silicon Valley and is a frequent contributor to WRAL TechWire, talks with The Skinny about “The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future” in an exclusive Q&A.

  • What is the one most essential message you want to deliver with this book?

The essential message is that technology has advanced to the point that both amazing and scary things are possible.

We can now solve the grand challenges of humanity such as disease, hunger, energy, and education. We could live in an era of abundance of food and energy and be in perfect health – believe it or not this is now possible.

We could literally be headed to the future we saw in Star Trek – 300 years ahead of schedule.

Or we could descend down the path we have most recently taken towards the dystopia of Mad Max, with the
destructive things that these technologies have made possible and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots.

In “Driver in the Driverless Car,” I explain the basics of advancing technologies and what they make possible. I discuss the choices we must make to reach Star Trek rather than Mad Max. I have tried to write this in a way that anyone can understand – your parents as well as children.

  • What was the inspiration to write it?

I am really excited and worried at the same time.

I see the potential to uplift humanity and worry about the dark side; about the widening gaps between people who benefit from these technologies and others who are left out.

I spent two and a half years writing and rewriting this book because I began to understand more and more about the future of technology and became concerned about how Silicon Valley was beginning to leave the rest of the world behind.

I never imagined what we saw in the last elections – with the extreme right and extreme left both rising their ugly heads. The dystopia started happening even faster than I expected.

This book has become even more important than ever as a result because what we have seen is nothing
compared to what is yet to come. I explain more in the book.

  • Do you have any plans to visit the Triangle and meet with readers here?

Nothing scheduled yet, but I am always looking for reasons to visit my old home.

Part Two: The challenges of writing the book, the differences between venture capitalists and book editors/publishers, and much more.