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Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

Alexa & Co: What We Got Wrong — And Why.

Aug 1, 2022

Dear Friend,

Last week we soft-launched Disrupt Disruption, our book about, well, disruption. It’s been an incredible journey to this point (and the journey is far from over — the book will launch in February 2023) — you will, of course, hear more about the book, the journey, and what is in store for the future, here and on our book mini site soon.

And now, this…

Practical Futurism // Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

The other day, a friend of mine called me out on something I said in one of my talks a couple of years ago — that by this year we would have somewhat human-like interactions with our speech assistants like Siri or Alexa. This obviously hasn’t happened. Which begets the question: What did we get wrong — and why?

First, let me start with admitting that I get plenty of things wrong. In many ways, that’s par for the course if you try to make any prediction about the future. It is also a function of most forms of public speaking, where nuance is lost due to the format, shortness, and necessity to bring home a point. All of which, of course, doesn’t mean we ought to do careful and thoughtful analysis to ensure what is presented it as valid and correct as possible.

Looking at speech assistants and the question of why they still feel largely crummy in their ability to hold conversation — I believe the aspects we holy misjudged is our desire to engage with these devices in almost any other form than barking simple commands (“Siri, call my dentist”, “Alexa set a 10-minute timer”, or “Siri, remind me to order flowers for Mother’s Day”). We, collectively, seem to have much less desire to discuss the relationship between Newtonian and quantum physics, or even ask Alexa to order batteries for us (my example back in the day). Looks like we are quite happy tapping on our phones to do so. And with that, the mighty makers of Alexa and Siri seem to have shifted their focus (and research & development dollars) to solving the things we actually do with our friendly speech assistants, instead of giving us the Star Trek future some of us still dream of.

All of which is to say: It is incredibly important to revisit not just our predictions but also the underlying ideas, drivers, and hypotheses. (via Pascal)

What We Are Reading

👩‍⚕️ Amazon Wants to Be Your Doctor, Too Amazon: Where you go to buy extension chords, cleaning products, and now healthcare? The company’s move will give amazon even more access to user data. MafeRead

📈 A Goldman Legend, Crypto Star and Top Banker Warn of Next Big Risk With so much focus understandably concentrated on the possibility of a recession in the near term, now is a particularly important time to not lose sight of longer-term systemic risks. JeffreyRead

🏅 Why Big Tech Is Making a Big Play for Live Sports A market shifting through the balance of traditional players trying to compete with the new — and deep pockets. JulianRead

😞 Amid the hype, they bought crypto near its peak. Now, they cope with painful losses As much as we can enjoy a healthy dose of Schadenfreude over the crypto collapse, it does have very real ramifications for people. PascalRead


⚕️ Google’s AI AlphaFold reveals the structure of the protein universe

🤖 The Importance of (Exponentially More) Computing Power.

😮 Surprise, surprise! The metaverse is a privacy nightmare.

♟️ Robot uprising! Remember the day it started — when the chess robots had enough.

💻 With venture capital firms embracing more than Silicon Valley, is this the end of an era?

💸 $365 million in investment reap $6,500 in monthly revenue — yes, Web3 rocks!

🎨 The world is becoming less colorful!

☕ Love coffee? Why not use lasers to brew it?

Internet Finds

Emojis rule the world. And now you can create new ones by combining two existing emojis — hours of fun await you! 😅

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic:  Der Fisch Stinkt Vom Kopf 

🧨 Disrupt Disruption: Last week we got to speak with Hemali Vyas from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. In our conversation, we explore (no pun!) the future of space exploration, and what companies and leaders can learn from NASA.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

— Pascal, Mafe and the three Js (Jane, Jeffrey, and Julian)