Metcalfe looks for silver bullet to solve energy problem

“I'm interested in silver bullets. I think they exist,” says Bob Metcalfe (right), one of the most engaging and wise enterpreneur/inventors I've ever met. Metcalfe got filthy rich inventing Ethernet, the now ubiquitous technology that lets computers on a local area network talk to each other. He's now, mostly, a venture capitalist. But in a recent interview in which he talks about the future of optical networks — he believes terabit Ethernet is a decade or two away (!) — he says the lessons of the Internet's construction hold some promise for the great challenge at the beginning of the beginning of this century: clean and cheap energy.

Metcalfe — who joked that he may start up a blog called The Ener-net — has been hanging around the green-tech community and often hears the “gray hairs”, as he calls them, repeat the conventional wisdom that the path to sustainable cheap, clean energy will be slow, “requiring scalable solutions” and there “there will be no silver bullets.”

So Metcalfe thought about that.

“So I reflected on the history of the Internet, which I judge to be a great success, and there were silver bullets! One of them, probably the biggest silver bullets in the Internet story was the invention of dense-wave division multiplexing, or the earlier invention of optical communications in general. That's a silver bullet! That converted telecommunications from scarce to plentiful, just like that. That's a silver bullet. I'm interested in silver bullets. I think they exists. So I'm hoping to find some in the energy space.”

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