What’s going to be the next big thing in technology?

The legendary John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers who has backed some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, including Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt of Google; and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, offered answers at the CED Tech Venture Conference on Tuesday.

Doerr made his first public appearance in North Carolina in an unusual and insightful fireside chat with Carbon3D co-founder Steve Nelson at the conference.

Nelson introduced Doerr as “the Michael Jordan of VC,” adding, “He changed the world.” Then he asked his first question. What’s going to be the next big thing in technology.

In addition to asking questions of Doerr himself, Nelson invited a number of prominent entrepreneurs, academics, and tech leaders to come on stage to do the same.

They included:

  • Alex and Nikita Ermoshkin of Carbon, Inc.
  • Mike Capps, former President of Epic Games
  • Carol Folt, Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Anson Dorrance, Head Coach of the UNC Women’s Soccer Team
  • Bill Roper, Chief Executive Officer of the UNC Health CareMe

The AI wave

Nelson asked Doerr, what the next big thing in tech was coming down the pike.

“Huge waves in tech come in 15 year intervals,” Doerr said. “From 1980 to 1995, it was chips. In 1995, the Internet. And the third wave was decisively about mobility. It made Apple the most valuable company in the world.”

Up next?

“I think it’s AI and IA (intelligence augmentation). “Google just put 7,000 engineers through in-house AI training,” he said. “Tomorrow, make systems that learn, that make self-driving cars or medical technology work better, that’s where I’d go.”

Elaborating on another hot area, Doerr said, “Healthcare is enormous. Online advertising in the U.S. that Facebook and Google are fighting over amounts to $85 billion a year. Healthcare is a $3 trillion industry, 50 times bigger than the whole pie Google and Facebook are fighting over.”

Yet, he says, “We haven’t seen those types of companies interested in healthcare. But that’s going to change. What will change it? Data. Healthcare is a decision-making business. Healthcare is the largest economic opportunity of our lifetime.”

Healthcare amounts to $3 trillion of the GDP, he said, “And a trillion is wasted. I’m enormously passionate about this opportunity.” He mentioned that he thinks changes at North Carolina’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield that Nelson helped initiate “can transform healthcare not just in North Carolina, but across the country.”