radical Insights.

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

Not Hype nor Doom and Gloom — Consider the Middle Ground.

Oct 4, 2022

Dear Friend,

I am three weeks out from “pens down,” and thus, no more content edits to my upcoming book Disrupt Disruption. Exciting times — and a lot of work. As Winston Churchill once said (and this is the opening quote to the book): “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Read on to discover why we believe the middle ground is where the action happens, our weekly insight into the thin wisps of tomorrow, and why we ought to skip stones again.

Practical Futurism // Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

The article I shared this week on “Handing the surgeon’s scalpel to a robot” (see our “Thin Wisps of Tomorrow” section) is an excellent example of many of the challenges we face with technology. From technological insufficiencies (surgical robots must learn to navigate the peculiarities of an individual human being, similarly to self-driving cars who need to know not just the rules of the road but all the messiness which come with it) all the way to social acceptance. A recent Pew Research study found that 44% of Americans believe that using AI for autonomous vehicles is a “bad idea for society.” One can only assume that an even more significant percentage of the population considers AI-powered surgical robots equally bad.

The important lesson from our perspective is not that surgical robots or self-driving cars might be further off than folks like Elon Musk want to make us believe, but that we sometimes get hung up on focusing on the end state rather than considering the many advances we can, and do, make along the way. You don’t need fully autonomous vehicles to fundamentally change the way we think about transportation — sufficient autonomy on highways alone will already shift many factors in freight transportation. The same is true for surgical robots: You don’t need your next surgeon to be a robot; all that is required is a robot able to perform a complicated incision or alteration when guided by a human to the right spot.

Consider the middle ground next time you look at the development of an exponential technology: Instead of getting caught in the hype, or the negative doom and gloom scenario, contemplate the shifts occurring when parts of the technology become functional. (via Pascal)

What We Are Reading

🏢 To Get People Back in the Office, Make It Social After two years of a global pandemic, getting people back into the office is proving to be a headache for most business leaders. Making work social is key. Here are three ways for leaders to prioritize building and rebuilding connections to fuel creativity and teamwork. JaneRead

😃 The Glory of Feeling Fine Feeling fine is underrated; we only appreciate how it feels to feel fine when we become ill. This is due to two things: negativity bias and hedonic adaptation. MafeRead

🔋 Who Gave The Battery Such Power? Digging into the history of battery innovation and the materials involved can help us better understand the complexities and implications of today’s energy transformation. JeffreyRead

🇺🇳 U.S. and Russia Duel Over Leadership of U.N. Tech Group In stark contrast to the popularity of consumer-facing tech, foundational governance aspects of technology rarely receive adequate attention — like in this case. JulianRead

🏥 Handing the surgeon’s scalpel to a robot Excellent insight into why surgical robots are some ways off — insights that translate into many other tech domains as well. PascalRead

The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow

🥽 The Sad Reality of the Metaverse Starts to Emerge: Walmart Launches ‘Metaverse’ Experience in Roblox to Sell Toys to Children.

🏀 Meanwhile, in VR Land: NBA Star Luka Dončić Has Been Turned into a Metahuman.

🧑‍🎨 Here is DALL-E Expanding Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid.”

📺 AI Now Makes Videos From Your Text Prompts.

🎧 AI-generated Music in One Big Playlist.

🤖 Bipedal Robot Sets 100 Meter Record — And You Still Easily Outrun The Beast.

🍔 Your Food Delivery Destroyed The Power Grid.

📞 Finally! Someone Made a New (LTE) Rotary Cell Phone.

📉 NFT Trading Volumes Collapse 97% From 2022 Peak.

🛰️ You Can’t Hide Anymore: Satellite Data Suggests Dictators Lie About Economic Growth.

☕ In case you needed proof: Caffeine And Exercise Performance

Internet Finds

Stone Skipping is a Lost Art. Time to revive it! 🪨

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: I Used to Think

🧨 Disrupt Disruption: Last week, we got to speak with Natasha Gedge, COO at Signal and former Chief Operating Officer of the UK Ministry of Defence’s most successful innovation team. In our conversation, Natasha and I explore her approach to innovation in a highly complex and interdependent environment, why and how organizations fail and what to do about it. Listen now.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

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