By Janine Perrett

I would start off by saying happy new year, but by now many in the market think it has been anything but.

So I won’t start out 2016 with an “I told you so”; that can wait until later in the week when I can give you the latest from the wise minds of Wall Street.

Instead let’s kick off the Australia Day holiday week on a more upbeat note with the positive side of What I Did On My Holiday.

It did include a conference in Silicon Valley with the 10th annual West Coast Australian American Leadership Dialogue.

Very valuable given that PM Turnbull is still high on innovation, as was his US counterpart President Barrack Obama in his State of the Union speech earlier this month. 

So what did we learn at that world centre of innovation.  Well I can’t say same old, same old can I?

They are still frenetic, still denying there is a bubble and stressing the differences between this one and the tech wreck at the start of the century. However privately some do concede it has got a bit frothy and above all they too are not immune to the turmoil on world markets. 

Already it is emerging that the new rounds of venture capital funding are much lower and valuations are already dropping significantly.

Of course such a shakeout or drop to reality is not a bad thing overall just as an overheated stock market could do with a big correction.

The question is when is enough?  

Sorry drifting back into that negative market talk again.

For Australia Day I’m lucky to be an ambassador for the regional town of Yass and the positive message I will stress is that while we need to emulate the innovators in Silicon Valley, we need to retain our unique Australianess as well.

Tech nerds and start up entrepreneurs are rightly single minded and we can do with that kind of focus but the Australian penchant for being laidback is not a bad thing either.

Having lived in the valley for a year in 2008 when I had a fellowship to Stanford University I saw the best of it – the drive, the ideas; and the worst of it – the insular-ness.

It is why the capital of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto is not the most appealing place to live. ( If you’ve seen the Steve Jobs movie I can assure you he is not a caricature).

Even though it has the highest proportion of billionaires in one postcode it did not have a well-rounded community.

Some visitors said it felt like a bad country town (note I said bad), not like most Australian country towns which are perfectly pleasant and actually know what the word community means.

Many young tech geeks did not seem to know how to balance their lives. 

Sure they were probably starting the next Facebook or Twitter, which could be a good thing, but I returned to Australia full of determination with a strong message to keep the good things about ourselves.

And that means keeping a bit of that laid back attitude even though we need to embrace a dynamic entrepreneurial culture. I think you can have both.

By all means emulate Silicon Valley but adapt it to our own way of life.

From an economic view we do have to do something dramatic to improve our outlook and pushing innovation and encouraging start-ups is a good beginning.

The disruption economy is already here and it has benefits as well as causing job loss mayhem.

During this recent visit I learnt that driverless cars are coming, sooner than you think.

And it won’t just be a novelty for drivers but will be adapted on farms just as miners are using driverless trucks to their advantage.

Drones are huge, we heard. Not just toys for overgrown man children but will have benefits especially in rural communities for everything from mapping farms and crops to delivering goods. 

Artificial intelligence is the big buzz term and yes we saw the movie years ago and we’ve been hearing about robots taking over for decades.

They won’t replace humans we are assured. They are only here to help.

Indeed computers can solve problems but they can’t always solve crises. Not human made ones anyway.

Sure we can make a mess of things, especially politicians, as we can see by the current state of the world and appalling refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. 

But it is also humans that will solve the problems and save the world too. 

So I’ll leave on another positive note from that Silicon Valley visit – their other great forecast is that your children born today will probably live until at least 150 years old. Immortality is coming…so best we really look after this great land of ours don’t you think?