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

The Ithaka Effect of Technology.

Nov 1, 2022

Dear Friend,

Elon Musk owns Twitter, and the whole Internet (well, at least my corner of the Internet) can’t seem to talk about anything else. Consider this dispatch your antidote (and yes, we have one commentary link to the whole Twitter saga in our Thin Wisps of Tomorrow section). Enjoy!

Read to the end for an incredible piece of guitar-playing magic.

Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

In 1974 Alan Kay, before joining Xerox PARC, dreamed up a revolutionary new computing device — the Dynabook (aka “KiddiComp”). Described as “a personal computer for children of all ages,” it sported a touch screen, integrated keyboard, long battery life, and a portable form factor. In many ways, the Dynabook looks like a modern-day iPad with its keyboard cover attached. The device was well ahead of its time.

Kay’s vision inspired the creation of the Xerox Alto, the first computer with a graphical user interface — which subsequently inspired Apple to create the Macintosh and Microsoft to develop Windows.

We like to look at the Dynabook and use it as a perfect example for something we have come to call the “Ithaka Effect”: When encountering a new, potentially revolutionary technology (the Dynabook, fully autonomous cars, surgical robots, cryptocurrencies, artificial general intelligence), we often fixate on the end state. The moment the iPad finally becomes reality or all cars on the road will have level 5 autonomy. We ignore the many, many steps along the way which are a) necessary and b) regularly yield deeply disruptive potential in their own right.

As the greek poet C. P. Cavafy once wrote in his poem “Ithaka,” it is as much about the journey as arriving at your destination. Waiting for the technology to be right for the Dynabook to become reality would make you miss the deeply disruptive invention of the graphic user interface along the way (and, in many ways, the source of Microsoft’s market dominance). Holding off until you get full autonomy for your trucking fleet has you miss the enormous potential of remote-controlled trucks. And anxiously looking at the horizon to finally spot the advent of artificial general intelligence makes you miss the many opportunities specialized, narrow AI brings.

As you embark on your journey into your technological future, remember to consider the many points along the way which offer deeply disruptive change and do not fixate on the end state (which might or might not happen at all). (via Pascal)

What We Are Reading

🍀 4 Types of Innovators Every Organization Needs Have you spent time thinking about the core traits of the people you need for innovation? The authors’ research distills four key innovation styles that can lead to success — generators, conceptualizers, optimizers, and implementors. Find out which ingredients your organization needs — and which employee styles can fill in the gaps. JaneRead

♀️ The lack of VC funding to women is a Western societal shortfall The lack of funding women-led startups receive is a clear reflection of the people behind the VCs. The data does not show an improvement in funding; but rather a worrying decline over the years. MafeRead

🎃 How Do You Make a Hit Halloween Costume? A Lot of Data and a Little Bit of Luck How much data might have gone into your Halloween costume? Interesting to see the DIY sector being a major source of trend insights for companies. JulianRead

📰 Yes, Product Thinking Can Save Journalism. Six Reasons Why News Media Need Product Thinkers. A product-thinking mindset is crucial for media companies to embrace and survive in the future. It isn’t anymore just about storytelling and reporting. Treating publications as products and following specific methodologies are among the six reasons news media need product thinkers. PedroRead

🤖 AI Helps Humans Level Up It truly is not about man vs. machine but rather man and machine. Chess players and computer programmers realized this a while ago and leveraged AI to get better at their craft. PascalRead

The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow

🎮 Let your kids play videogames: Video gaming may be associated with better cognitive performance in children

🔋 The World Energy Outlook 2022

🪫 Talking about which, here is what is happening in batteries.

💩 Failure is an excellent teacher. Now we have a museum for it.

🇪🇬 Go on a stunning 3D tour of the Great Pyramid.

🐝 Bees are smart! Group decision-making in honey bee swarms.

🐦 Elon owns Twitter. Welcome to hell, Elon.

Internet Finds

Give a talented person a guitar, and they string together the top 80 guitar intros. Impressive! 🎸

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: Whatever is Easiest Wins

🧨 Disrupt Disruption: In our latest episode, we chat with Barak Berkowitz, former Director Operations and Strategy Director at MIT Media Lab (and a long, storied career in Silicon Valley). It is a fascinating conversation about all things innovation and disruption. Listen here.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

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