The Democratization of Technology

be radical Briefing | March 14th, 2023


Dear Friend,

I will not add another voice to the tumultuous cacophony around the fall of Silicon Valley Bank. The one thing worth pointing out, though, is a comment from Nicole Glaros, former Chief Investment Strategy Officer at TechStars (one of the preeminent startup accelerators and investors): “Why can’t we ever come together as an industry?”

Silicon Valley loves to talk a big game about the ecosystem — but, as we have just witnessed, when push comes to shove, it predominantly acts exceptionally selfish. As they say: Talk is cheap…

Read on for a real-world example of the power of democratization and its implications for the future.

Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

Peter Diamandis, years ago, summarized the effects of technological progress in his “Six Ds of Disruption” framework. The final stage in the progression is “democratization.”

Personally, I might not always agree with Diamandis, but in this case, his insight is spot on. We all had heard the curious case of the iPhone — affordable only by upper-middle-class consumers in affluent societies when it launched; today, you are hard-pressed to see anyone without a (typically Android-based) smartphone anywhere in the world. And democratization affects not only the sheer cost of technology but also its accessibility.

Here is a very recent example: On March 1st, OpenAI announced the availability of not only ChatGPT via its API and Whisper. The former receives all the press at the moment, but the latter is no less impressive: Whisper takes voice recordings and transcribes them into text. All it takes is one (!) line of code (“transcription = openai.Audio.transcribe(“whisper-1”, file)”) at the cost of a mere $0.006 per minute, and you can transcribe, with high accuracy, spoken word into editable text.

Within 5 minutes (literally 5 minutes), I wrote a proof-of-concept taking a voice recording from my iPhone, transcribed it with Whisper, and sent it on to ChatGPT to summarize the recording in bullet points. All for a few cents and near instantaneously.

At a far lesser accuracy, this type of technology was considered magical (and partly impossible) just a few years ago. This brings up an important question: What technologies are we seeing today which aren’t quite good enough, and more importantly, too expensive to use at scale, becoming democratized in the next few years? And what are we going to build with them? (via Pascal)

What We Are Reading

👪 Why neglecting work relationships can sabotage innovation and productivity, according to research Studies indicate employee relationships and network ties at work play a huge role in innovation, work-life balance, job satisfaction, and productivity. Here’s why working relationships are so important—and what teams can do to strengthen them. JaneRead

📺 What You Can’t Say on YouTube YouTube’s demonetization policies are anything but clear leading many people to seek other platforms that don’t “censor” videos such as Rumble. But everyday creators are willing to work with YouTube’s rules… if they only knew what those rules were exactly. MafeRead

👀 FTI 2023 Trend Reports One of the best and most comprehensive annual tech trends reports (from Amy Webb’s team at FTI) is now available for download (password: trends). JeffreyRead

💸 The Cost Of Deglobalization Onshoring and friendshoring are increasingly popular; it just shows what a complex attempt it is and that fundamental systemic changes would be necessary to enable it. Chipmaker TSMC shows what an approach might look like. JulianRead

♀️ Unsung Heroes: Women Also Shaped the History of Tech When we think of the history of technology, we often picture a male-dominated field. However, women’s contributions to technology have been just as significant, if not more so. PedroRead

💾 50 Years Later, We’re Still Living in the Xerox Alto’s World Legendary computer scientist and key instigator at Xerox PARC called it years ago: Silicon Valley since the 80s was built on commercializing the inventions coming out of PARC – and now we are running out of them. PascalRead

The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow

🙍‍♂️ Turns out rest isn’t all good for you: Study finds your mood declines during rest and simple tasks…

📉 A good overview of what has been happening in the startup world lately.

🧠 Using LLMs to reconstruct your brain activity into highly accurate images. Not scary at all!

🤖 How to make the most of Bing AI.

🙋 ChatGPT explained for normal people.

Internet Finds

Ever wondered what our dystopian ChatGPT-powered world will look like? Here it is. 😱

In Other Parts of the Radical Universe

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: The Most Important Insight Into Leadership 🎧 Listen to the audio version

🧨 Disrupt Disruption - The Podcast: We dig deep into the learnings from thousands of startups, explore how corporates can better partner and work with entrepreneurs and their companies, and discuss common pitfalls to avoid with the amazing Mary Grove, Managing Partner at Bread and Butter in our latest episode of the podcast. Listen now.

📕 Disrupt Disruption – The Book: Get your copy of our bestselling book and learn how to decode the future, disrupt your industry, and transform your business here.

🔗 The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow Flipboard: Our continuously updated collection of Thin Wisps of Tomorrow as a Flipboard Magazine.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

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