summing up 109

summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

What the Hell is Going On? by David Perell

Like fish in water, we’re blind to how the technological environment shapes our behavior. The invisible environment we inhabit falls beneath the threshold of perception. Everything we do and think is shaped by the technologies we build and implement. When we alter the flow of information through society, we should expect radical transformations in commerce, education, and politics.

By understanding information flows, we gain a measure of control over them. Understanding how shifts in information flow impact society is the first step towards building a better world, so we can make technology work for us, not against us.

We shape our technological environment and our technological environment shapes us. But if we're blind to that change, how can we go against the negative effects and augment the positive ones?

The Long Nose of Innovation, by Bill Buxton

What the Long Nose tells us is that any technology that is going to have significant impact in the next 10 years is already at least 10 years old. Any technology that is going to have significant impact in the next 5 years is already at least 15 years old, and likely still below the radar. Hence, beware of anyone arguing for some “new” idea that is “going to” take off in the next 5 years, unless they can trace its history back for 15. If they cannot do so, most likely they are either wrong, or have not done their homework

The Long Nose redirects our focus from the “Edison Myth of original invention”, which is akin to an alchemist making gold. It helps us understand that the heart of the innovation process has far more to do with prospecting, mining, refining, goldsmithing, and of course, financing.

It's such an interesting notion, that technology innovation is not that fast moving thing it seems to be. Rather, technological change takes time, revolutionary change even more so. As the saying goes, it takes years to become famous over night.

WTF and the importance of human/tool co-evolution, by Tim O'Reilly

I think one of the big shifts for the 21st century is to change our sense of what collective intelligence is. Because we think of it as somehow the individual being augmented to be smarter, to make better decisions, maybe to work with other people in a more productive way. But in fact many of the tools of collective intelligence we are contributing to and the intelligence is outside of us. We are part of it and we are feeding into it.

It changes who we are, how we think. Shapes us as we shape it. And the question is whether we're gonna manage the machine or whether it will manage us. Now we tell ourselves in Silicon Valley that we're in charge. But you know, we basically built this machine, we think we know what it's going to do and it suddenly turns out not quite the way we expected.

We have to think about that fundamental goal that we give these systems. Because, yes there is all this intelligence, this new co-evolution and combination of human and machine, but ultimately it's driven by what we tell it to optimize for.

So much in computing is optimized for the single user. The personal computer, the smartphone, but also apps and most of our infrastructure. These days almost every room is equipped with electricity, light and buttons to control it. But just imagine a world, where everyone would carry a flashlight in their pockets, seeing only one thing at a time, charge it up every night, buy a new version every two years, and having one hand always busy. How small and lonely that world would be.

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My letters are about long-lasting, sustainable change that fundamentally amplify our human capabilities and raise our collective intelligence through generations. Would love to have you on board.