Reflections & Inflections

be radical Briefing | January 17th, 2023


Dear Friend,

We hope the New Year is off to a great start for you – keep your eyes peeled for your inbox; you will receive an invite to our exclusive friends & family pre-launch event for our upcoming book “Disrupt Disruption — How to Decode the Future, Disrupt Your Industry, and Transform Your Business.”

And now, this…

Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

It’ll be some time before the new year’s contours take shape and the meaning of 2023 really coheres. But just two weeks in, there’s no shortage of ideas kicking around about how this year will stand in relation to the recent past and perhaps the future as well. This already seems to be the year that higher ed will reckon with AI, investors (and consumers) will fully realize that non-Tesla automakers make great EVs, big tech companies will get serious – possibly about manufacturing, and long-parched California will be flooded with wave after wave of rains that it can’t capture to use effectively. In all of these ways, 2023 holds the prospect of being the year when we finally recognize that the future – or at least significant elements of the futures we envisioned throughout the 2010s – has arrived.

That’s not to say new futures won’t always be in development as tomorrows worming their way into today, only that many of the “eventualities” that preoccupied futures-focused conversations in the last decade are here. Maybe not exactly as envisioned or hoped but here, all the same. We have AI tools that rival or exceed human performance in any number of analytical, creative, or strategic endeavors. We’ve seen the investment in solar to drive the next phase of a global energy transformation. We’re neck-deep – both in terms of the worsening climate crisis and the challenges of mis-/dis- information in heavily networked societies – in the problems we once imagined might define the 2020s.

We’re here. And as the climate futurist Alex Steffen says, we’re not even prepared for what’s already happened – while somehow still straining to look ahead. My hope, though, is that 2023 will represent a shift in the ways people think and talk about the future – that this will be a year when more leaders, more boards, more voters, more consumers, more of us, recognize that “the future” is too important and much too close to be left to the futurists. It won’t wait.

“In technology,” former Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski once told the writer Charles Duhigg, “all that matters is tomorrow.” Outside and beyond technology, what matters is how today connects to and shapes tomorrow and how it learns from and draws upon yesterday. There’s an opportunity for each of us this year to be at once more thoughtful and more urgent in our work navigating today into tomorrow and reconciling a rapidly changing present with an emergent future.

When I worked at Singularity University in the 2010s, we showed folks a lot of exponential curves. The price-performance of processors. The computational throughput used to train AI models. The costs of genomic sequencing and gene editing. And on and on – each chart meant to make the point that the future was coming and it would be wildly disruptive. Many times, those charts were created on a scale that happened to put the “knee” (bend) of the curve right around the present day, almost as though to emphasize that your very own now was the time to take responsibility for this knowledge and to take action. You were cosmically blessed to be living at an inflection point.

Especially for something like computation, the “knee” of the exponential curve is arbitrary – just a question of scale. And yet, there’s something undeniable about /recognizing/ your responsibility and agency in the present to shape and steward the future. For you, the moment you saw that graph or realized what was to come or how you might play a role – well, that probably WAS an inflection point. And perhaps this is as it should be: the word /inflection/ comes to us from the past participle stem of the Latin /inflectere/ which can also mean “to bend /inward/”.

Maybe 2023 will be the year when more organizations and individuals recognize that the future is indeed here and turn themselves more meaningfully to the question of what they will do about it. (via Jeffrey)

What We Are Reading

🧘 How to Make Peace with Feeling Less Ambitious A counter-argument to setting 2023 New Year goals! Have you ever considered what it takes for achievement and ambition to be sustainable? In this article, the author outlines three strategies you can use to make peace with your ambitions and choose a path that makes sense for where you are personally and professionally. JaneRead

🧑‍🎓 Let Go of the Learning Baggage Our brains use different types of processing while learning. Two modes of thinking: ‘focused’ and ‘diffused’ are required to successfully learn. MafeRead

🗺️ 2022’s seismic shift in US tech policy will change how we innovate As the US — and other countries around the world — re-embrace strategic industrial policy we may be entering a new era of governments playing a more active (and critical) role in supporting innovation and scaling of new technologies. JeffreyRead

🗣️ ‘Looking Back, That Advice Was Extremely Wise’: The Most Impactful Conversations of 2022 Recounting a particular conversation is something we should be doing more often. Do it for yourself and maybe be inspired by this snippet on what some influential entrepreneurs were recounting. JulianRead

🍕 You Don’t Know How Bad the Pizza Box Is The pizza box has been the same for the last 80+ years. Pizza in cardboard confinement is a market failure that is screaming to be disrupted! PedroRead

🚑 Crash Detection false alerts from skiers and snowboarders stressing emergency services By introducing a potentially life-saving feature in Apple’s latest iPhones and watches, the company also created a major headache for first responders. A good lesson in unintended consequences. PascalRead

The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow

👩‍⚖️ AI-powered “robot” lawyer will be the first of its kind to represent a defendant in court.

🧑‍⚕️ Healthcare systems are collapsing everywhere. Here is why.

🚘 Creating autonomous vehicles is hard. A recent Tesla crash shows why.

🎯 The hit-driven business model might be on its way out.

🙊 These voices don’t exist.

🔭 This is science: We get better instruments, and our old theories don’t hold anymore. Next up: Our understanding of how galaxies formed.

🧬 Gorgeous visualization of the Four Thousand Weeks book. This a good reminder for a start to the New Year.

Internet Finds

🏭 A beautiful exploration of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry, making the best use of modern-day browser technology.

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: The Adjacent Possible

🧨 Disrupt Disruption: In our latest episode we spoke with Josep Castellet, Group Head of Innovation at Oberalp Group and learned, among many other things, what innovation teams can learn from the famous Swiss Army knife, why sustaining innovation is underrated, and how to lead innovation teams.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

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