Shift 2020 Brain Food #17 – On Social Change, Polarisation and Crowd Based Capitalism

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Welcome to the shift 2020 Brain Food #17 newsletter with news on my activities, insights and links to must read articles on the technological transformations in business and society, carefully curated by yours truly.

The header of this newsletter is an image I’ve been using in most of my recent presentations (courtesy of Frank Diana). The slide includes most of my topics and thoughts on the future evolution of exponential technologies. You can see the Science and Technology Foundation elements most of us have access to now (Internet, Mobile, Social, Cloud, Big Data), the Emerging, Future and Innovation Accelerators (3D Printing, Renewable Energy, Internet of Things, Cognitive Systems, Nanotechnology, Robotics, Blockchain, Genomics, Drones), and the Future Scenarios  that span areas including health, materials, food, transport, logistics, energy, shelter, agriculture, governing, war, security, manufacturing, and the future of the human species.

The future is more and more about the Combinatorial Impact of all those technologies and the learning we can develop from the analysed data these different technologies will generate. Connecting the dots has always been essential for innovation as the various intersections amplify the impact of those dots.

Frank Diana explains: “It is this second curve that creates a number of converging paradigm shifts that collectively transform our world. We have never witnessed the sheer number of shifts occurring at the same time, and if that isn’t enough, societal factors amplify the impact. There is an interesting reciprocal tension at work here, as the social dimension is impacted or squeezed by the curves, while at the same time, social change has a reciprocal effect.” 

And this part is exactly what we seem to forget about being (too) focused just on our jobs, trying to become someone or trying to find solutions for everything. It is the holistic impact these technologies have on various aspects of social change, which we will have to face in the future as well. Convergence is occurring not just across the technology and future scenario curves, but also the various aspects of social change.

Combine the dots (at your own risk) on all the “must read” articles mentioned in this newsletter. Who knows, while reading this, we might be witnessing the disruption of capitalism and the Industrial Age in itself.


Global investment banks see ‘slowest start to the year’ since financial crisis

Economic uncertainty and investor caution resulted in the slowest start to the year since the 2008 financial crisis for investment banks, according to a survey of the world’s 12 largest investment banks which showed a 25 percent drop in revenues in the first quarter from a year ago.

The far right’s narrow defeat in Austria should be a wake-up call for Europe

The economic frustrations, insecurities and fears that are fuelling the radical right and the new left are set to increase. Social democracy has become a spent political force.

An Exhausted Democracy: Donald Trump and the New American Nationalism

Excellent analysis in Der Spiegel on the parallels between DT’s campaign, the way he is playing with totalitarian elements in a dangerous way and the symptoms of the 1930s in Europe.

“Trump’s answer to the crisis is the exclusion of others. But the correct answer should be inclusion — not just of Trump’s supporters, but also that of society’s weakest. There’s much more at stake in the United States right now than the contest between two candidates. This is a question of tolerance, pluralism and the very future of a deeply drained democracy.”

BTW did you know the number of people who still believe in the American Dream has fallen to the lowest level in 20 years? More than half of all Americans under 25 no longer believe that capitalism is the best of all economic systems, according The New York Times.

Related: The dangerous acceptance of Donald Trump

Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity. Scary!

Related: Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, to be delegate for Donald Trump and The only living Trump supporter in Silicon Valley. Or the consequence of the belief in money and power systems at all cost.

New Socratic Design Workshops

A different way.

Learn how to (re) connect to your core values and learn how to (re) design your life, your professional future, or the future business of your company and join our next Socratic Design Workshop in Cadaques, June 19-21. For entrepreneurs and executives. Get insights about the world we’re moving into rapidly, and learn how to transform and adapt your business to prepare for the perpetual technological changes ahead. In good company, in a unique atmosphere.

“It’s such a spoiling experience to attend the Socratic Design Workshop at the incredibly beautiful Cadaques. Rarely do I have the opportunity to explore deep philosophical topics with the world’s best thinkers in such an amazing environment. Both the ideas and format are unique, thought provoking and mind blowing, not to mention the food.” – Sam Liang – former lead architect for Google’s locations platform / former CEO & Co-Founder of Alohar Mobile Inc. (acquired by Alibaba) / currently Co-Founder of a Stealth Mode Mobile Startup.

To join this unique workshop as a Brain Food reader, follow this link and benefit a 50% discount: Socratic Design Workshop Cadaques June 2016

Smart Cities

Some great opinion pieces this week on Smart Cities World:

The Future Workplace as a Creative Microcosmos, by Inma Martinez

The smart city network that you own, by Marcus Kirsch

Learning from the first wave of Smart Cities, by Alicia Asín, CEO of Libelium

Building blocks to happiness by Philip Watson, design director at Atkins

On the Smart Cities World website, you’ll find daily news articles, opinions and special reports related to the infrastructure underpinning smart cities with a focus on Energy, Buildings, Transport, Connectivity, Data and Governance and all in one place.

If you’re an expert in one of these area’s and you would like to contribute as a regular guest blogger, please get in touch.

Google I/O

In case you missed it, here’s Google’s biggest announcements from I/O 2016 or read the quick impressions of Google’s keynote at I/O by Josh Elman. For a real deep dive and great insight, read Benedict Evans lucid analysis in his newsletter.

Related: Levi’s® and Google collaborate to create the newest in wearable technology – the Levi’s® Commuter™ x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket. Coming in the Spring of 2017, it is the first ever smart garment with Jacquard by Google technology woven in. Stay connected, not distracted as you get directions, information on nearby places, change your music, and answer calls.

Why a glowing button might be more important than a touch-sensitive jacket sleeve


How to check if your LinkedIn account was hacked

More than four years since LinkedIn was famously hacked, there are fresh claims millions of customers are still at risk from attack.

Security researchers have discovered more than 117 million account details being sold on data sharing websites in recent weeks – and the hack could affect up to 167m customers.

Australian security expert Troy Hunt has now uploaded the entire dataset to his data breach website,, to allow anyone to check whether their account was compromised.


Igniting Growth in Consumer Technology by Accenture 

Growth is stalling and IoT has not yet filled the gap

The consumer technology industry’s decade of unprecedented growth is coming to an end as the smartphone market hits maturity. The 2016 Accenture Digital Consumer Survey for communications, media and technology companies polled 28,000 consumers in 28 countries on their use of consumer technology. The research indicates that consumer demand is sluggish across a number of categories from smartphones to tablets and laptops. And unfortunately, demand for the next generation of devices enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) is not growing fast enough to offset declines in traditional categories.

Download the full report.

Internet of Things: Are We There Yet? (The 2016 IoT Landscape) by Matt Turck

What seemed like complete science fiction 10 years ago is in the process of becoming reality, and we are getting very close to being surrounded by connected objects, drones and autonomous cars. The bigger question might be whether we are ready as a society for this level of change.


Machine Bias

There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.

Why you can’t teach human values to artificial intelligence

Twenty years ago, social scientists came to the conclusion that intelligent machines will always reflect the knowledge and experiences of the communities they are embedded within. The question is not whether machines can be made to obey human values but which humans ought to decide those values.

What is the technology behind Viv, the next generation of Siri? by Brian Roemmele

The secret to Viv is the system actually writes it’s own code. In contrast to any other similar system, It is a profound and monumental giant leap forward.

AI will create ‘useless class’ of human, predicts historian Yuval Noah Harari

Smarter artificial intelligence is one of 21st century’s most dire threats, predicts the bestselling author in the follow-up of Sapiens.

The road to Artificial Intelligence by Rand Hindi from Snips (Your Intelligent Memory)

Once the capabilities of AIs grow beyond the complexity that connected devices bring, our perception of technology is that it will simply disappear into the background.

AI Uncovers the Biomarkers That Are Related to Aging

A bioinformatics company called Insilico Medicine has just announced Aging.AI, an online platform that guesses a person’s age using data from blood tests.


A Venture Fund With Plenty of Virtual Capital, but No Capitalist

The Decentralized Autonomous Organization, a start-up, a sort of venture capital fund, has essentially come out of nowhere in the last month and attracted about $152 million, at last count, from investors around the world, making it the most successful crowdfunded venture ever, by a significant margin.

You can still buy yourself in, the campaign ends on May 28th at 09:00 GMT.

Blockchain Startup Investment Bounces Back

After plummeting to the lowest levels of funding since 2013, Q1’16 saw a 385% boom in funding and 21% growth in deal volume.


When The Data Bubble Bursts, Companies Will Have To Actually Sell Things Again

We’re pushing the limits of how much of our economy can exist just collecting and selling data to better target ads. Once people realise that’s a losing game, we’ll have to get back to a real economy.


European Digital Progress Report

The European Commission has just released a report on digital progress in the EU. The analysis shows that Member States are at very different stages in the development of the digital economy; some, for example, such as the Nordic countries, are among the most advanced in the world, whilst other still have a lot of catching up to do.

Inequality and the monopolies of unfettered techno markets by Izabella Kaminska at

Companies cut costs rather than improve process so as to grab market share.

There’s No Such Thing as Free Will

But we’re better off believing in it anyway.

“Believing that free will is an illusion has been shown to make people less creative, more likely to conform, less willing to learn from their mistakes, and less grateful toward one another. In every regard, it seems, when we embrace determinism, we indulge our dark side.”

Climate Change

Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat (1994), The Ocean Cleanup is developing world’s first feasible method to rid the oceans of plastic. The Ocean Cleanup’s goal is to extract, prevent, and intercept plastic pollution by initiating the largest cleanup in history.

About 8 million tons of plastic (!) enters the ocean every year. Part of this accumulates in 5 areas where currents converge: the gyres. At least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic (!!!) are currently in the oceans, a third of which is concentrated in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This plastic pollution will continue to inflict damage on the following in the decades to come:

Environment: at least one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution

Economy: plastic pollution causes at least 13 billion U.S. dollars in damage every year to industries that include fishing, shipping and tourism.

Health: ocean plastic adsorbs toxic chemicals (including PCBs and DDTs), increasing their concentration by a million. These persistent organic pollutants enter and bio-accumulate in the food chain, resulting in an even higher concentration of pollutants in fish, including species consumed by humans. Health effects linked to these chemicals are: cancer, malformation and impaired reproduction


French free ‘school of the future’ heads for Silicon Valley

Billionaire Xavier Niel to open $100m Silicon Valley branch of his maverick computing university ‘42’

With no teachers, timetables, or exams, Ecole 42 is a strange kind of educational institution, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students shuffle into this tech-enabled school whenever they want and work as hard as they need.

The World’s Most Beautiful Library Is In Prague, Czech Republic

The Klementinum library, a beautiful example of Baroque architecture, was first opened in 1722 as part of the Jesuit university, and houses over 20,000 books.

How EdTech Startups are democratising Education (infographic)

Must Read Books

The Sharing Economy by Arun Sundararajan

The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism

Arun Sundararajan, an expert on the sharing economy, explains the transition to what he describes as “crowd-based capitalism”—a new way of organising economic activity that may supplant the traditional corporate-centred model. He describes the intriguing mix of “gift” and “market” in its transactions, demystifies emerging blockchain technologies, and clarifies the dizzying array of emerging on-demand platforms. He considers how this new paradigm changes economic growth and the future of work. Will we live in a world of empowered entrepreneurs who enjoy professional flexibility and independence? Or will we become disenfranchised digital labourers scurrying between platforms in search of the next wedge of piecework? Sundararajan highlights the important policy choices and suggests possible new directions for self-regulatory organisations, labor law, and funding our social safety net.

Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business and the World by Don Tapscott

Blockchain is the ingeniously simple technology that powers Bitcoin. But it is much more than that, too. It is a public ledger to which everyone has access, but which no single person controls. It allows for companies and individuals to collaborate with an unprecedented degree of trust and transparency. It is cryptographically secure, but fundamentally open. And soon it will be everywhere. In Blockchain Revolution, Don and Alex Tapscott reveal how this game-changing technology will shape the future of the world economy, dramatically improving everything from healthcare records to online voting, and from insurance claims to artist royalty payments. Brilliantly researched and highly accessible, this is the essential text on the next major paradigm shift. Read it, or be left behind.

That’s it for this week.

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I’m delighted and grateful to be able to do what I love and share these wonderful stories and knowledge with you. How about you?

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Be kind to yourself and your loved ones.


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