This "brilliant and provocative" (Walter Isaacson) guide shares nine principles to adapt and survive the technological changes shaping our future from the director of the MIT Media Lab and a veteran Wired journalist.
The world is more complex and volatile today than at any other time in our history. The tools of our modern existence are getting faster, cheaper, and smaller at an exponential rate, transforming every aspect of society, from business to culture and from the public sphere to our most private moments. The people who succeed will be the ones who learn to think differently.
In Whiplash, Joi Ito and Jeff Howe distill that logic into nine organizing principles for navigating and surviving this tumultuous period:
Emergence over Authority Pull over Push Compasses over Maps Risk over Safety Disobedience over Compliance Practice over Theory Diversity over Ability Resilience over Strength Systems over Objects
Filled with incredible case studies and cutting-edge research and philosophies from the MIT Media Lab and beyond, Whiplash will help you adapt and succeed in this unpredictable world.
> Too much water. >> Not enough dense material. >>> Not illuminating enough. >>>> Too many truisms and generalities. All of which is especially irritating coming from an author onboarding a topic about our 'faster future'. Why couldn't this book have been halved? Or quartered? Or condensed into a digest?
I was reading Alice in Wonderland at the same time as Whiplash. I always read one book of fiction and one of non-fiction at the same time. The combination of reading these two books together was perfect to shake my subconscious and bring it to embrace the uncertainty of the world we live in by giving me the tools to navigate it with my imagination.
If fact, Lewis Carroll is cited on the chapter that explains Compasses over maps (Serendipity in action?). Alice did not have an exact map to know where she was going, but she followed the rabbit who was her compass. With a map to go back home safely from the riverbed she would not have had an adventure of imagination and discovery.
In the chapter about Practice over theory, Joi and Jeff go over why traditional directed research is broken and why undirected trial and error is bringing us more innovation than ever. Quoting the book: "Putting practice over theory means recognizing that in a faster future, in which change has become a new constant, there is o en a higher cost to waiting and planning than there is to doing and then improvising. "
I also loved all the stories and examples based on how each of the principles drive real innovation. I loved the ones about biotechnology. I learned about how synthetic biology started from the serendipitous discovery Knight experimenting with bioluminescent squids and how from there we got the technology to make iGem posible.
The book applies its principles to itself. It does not force the reader to "be educated about facts", it is a framework to help the reader think better, not only in a personal level but also to help groups of people, organizations, scientists, artists, engineers, designers, companies and governments to apply the 9 principles to better navigate the fast and unpredictable world we live in by being more resilient and I would say, even antifragile.
Whiplash taught me how to think better.
And now, I feel it is the perfect moment to start reading William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition", because "once we learn to see a certain pattern you begin to recognize it everywhere you look".
Philosophy, sociology, psychology, biology, physics, history; this book mirrors the timetable of a freshman in general studies. But it does so in a way that captures your imagination and forces you to ask the big questions about the future of our race. What will come next? How do we go forward? This guidebook to the future is easy to read, but hard to fully comprehend. Countless times I found myself putting it down to mull over the point that had been made. Perhaps the most surprising feature of this book was the inclusion of practical, simple steps on how to adjust your own life/business to the ever-changing world. If you don't feel like reading through the entire book, although I recommend that you do if only for the bits of trivia contained within, a skim of the final pages of each chapter will give you the tangible course that Ito and Howe are pushing for. While it may not change your daily life, the way you approach business will not come out of this book unscathed.
"Learning, we argue, is something you do for yourself. Education is something done to you."
Joi Ito was appointed the director of the MIT Media Lab in 2011. His appointment was considered "radical but brilliant" because he wasn't a college graduate. His accomplishments are wide and varied outside of academia and listed as activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, chairman of creative commons.
Whiplash distills Joi Ito's nine principles of the Media Lab in book form:
1. Disobedience over compliance 2. Pull over Push 3. Compasses over Maps 4. Emergence over Authority 5. Learning over Education 6. Resilience over Strength 7. Risk over Safety 8. Practice over Theory
As someone who has his pulse on the most cutting edge of tech Ito tickles the imagination with what is in store for the future.
I enjoyed this book, one of several “things are changing fast and in multiple directions all at the same time!” books recently published, another being Thomas Friedman’s "Thank You For Being Late: an Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration," which I’m in the middle of reading.
Rather than breaking new ground, Ito and Howe’s book usefully collects and organizes a group of common themes, or maybe memes, that have bubbled up over the last decade or so of books, TED talks and the like, and the authors deploy these themes in binary opposites: emergence over authority, pull over push, compasses over maps and the like. Some of these memes are so well worn that it’s hard to muster enthusiasm for them: businesses have to learn to fail fast, try new things, decentralize from a command a control model and embrace complexity. Yawn.
On the other hand, when the authors dig into actual stories some of the memes come alive, like in the "risk over safety chapter" when they describe how one company spent $3 million dollars on a feasibility study for an MIT Media Lab proposal that only would have cost $600,000. “Implementing risk over safety does not mean blinding yourself to risk. It simply means understanding that as the cost of innovation declines, the nature of risk changes” (page 117). Likewise, in “systems over objects” the authors talk about “shifting the emphasis [at the Media Lab] from creating objects to building relationships” (225), using Google’s self-driving car initiative as an example. “In describing its self-driving car, Google has emphasized that the car itself is merely an object—the artificial intelligence that drives it is the system, and it must mesh seamlessly into the other systems it touches.” Perhaps the strongest chapter is “diversity over ability,” which relates a series of illuminating anecdotes about how “distance from the field” empowers outsiders to solve problems to which experts are blind because “the less exposed a given solver is to the discipline in which the problem resides, the more likely he or she is to solve it” (182).
The authors are genuinely optimistic about how we humans will prosper in an age of increasing technological change, which is refreshing. Sometimes that optimism blinds them to the dark sides of the trends they chart: for example, the authors celebrate crowdsourcing (Jeff Howe invented the term) and how EaaS (everything as a service) reduces startup costs for entrepreneurs, but they don’t recognize how this same trend leads to the “gig economy” where nobody has health benefits or a 401K.
A few miscellaneous observations: the book is mercifully short (less than 240 pages) with lots of white space; as a physical artifact it has a sensuous quality that is engaging… I don’t think I would have liked it nearly as much as an e-book; the authors end each chapter with a PS written by only one of them, usually with an interesting personal story.
I had high hopes for this one because co-author Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, is a fascinating guy and a true thought leader in technology. Unfortunately, after a solid introduction, it rapidly devolved into a typical fluffy business book full of buzzwords and skewed anecdotes. Save your time and money.
MIT e Media Lab são hoje duas marcas da ciência. A primeira, uma Universidade em Boston, a segunda, um grande centro de investigação dessa universidade, pioneiro nos estudos que cruzam Arte e Ciência. Sendo Joi Ito o atual diretor desse mesmo Media Lab, faz de “Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future” (2016) um livro obrigatório para quem quer que trabalhe no domínio. Contudo, e tendo em conta as expetativas, tenho de dizer que ficaram muito longe de se cumprir.
Joi Ito lidera o Media Lab desde 2011, mas está longe de ser uma pessoa consensual no cargo que ocupa, desde logo porque não só não é doutorado, não é mestre, já que nem sequer licenciado é. Isto não deve ser por si só um indicado de competência, mas ser líder de um dos laboratórios de investigação mais avançados, no qual trabalham algumas das mentes mais educadas e brilhantes do planeta dá que pensar. Mas se Ito é o diretor, deve-o a Nicholas Negroponte, o fundador do Media Lab nos anos 1980, e o seu mais carismático líder em toda a sua história. Foi ele, pessoalmente que tudo fez para o colocar na direção. Porquê?
As razões essenciais prendem-se com a essência filosófica do Media Lab, “fazer tudo aquilo que os outros ainda não fizeram”. E não estou a falar de ter líderes sem educação formal, mas de procurar nestes líderes, diferentes visões do mundo que sirvam o objetivo de fazer diferente. Ou seja, encarregar a direcção a mais um doutorado brilhante, poderia ser bom ou mau, contudo encarregar a alguém fora do sistema, habituado a edificar-se a si mesmo, e a tudo o que o rodeia, poderia à partida potenciar todo um mundo de diferença e inovação, porque traria consigo formas diferentes de estar na vida.
Tenho a dizer que concordo com Negroponte, porque concordo com esta visão de que alguém capaz de vingar e chegar ao topo sem os alicerces da educação formal, só está ao alcance de alguém muito combativo, resiliente e criativo. Aliás, Ito enquadra-se na categoria do típico aluno brilhante que nunca se encaixou na formatação escolar, entrou em três licenciaturas diferentes, mas nunca se sentiu realizado e por isso desistiu de todas. Um perfil que conhecemos, e que tem como exemplo maior Steve Jobs.
Se estas histórias fazem as delícias de muitos de nós, que vemos nestas pessoas forças da natureza, capazes de muito daquilo que nós nem imaginar conseguimos, como todas as restantes histórias, mais comuns e banais, possuem também lados menos bons. Porque ser-se muito bom em algo, não pode significar ser-se bom em tudo. E assim se Steve Jobs foi fabuloso na criação e liderança de inovação da Apple, e Joi Ito foi um grande ativista de causas da sociedade de informação que o fez chegar à liderança do Media Labs, isso não fez deles grandes cientistas. O que podemos dizer de ambos, mentes enormemente criativas, sedentas de conhecimento, imparáveis na persecução de marcar a diferença, é que funcionam melhor na condução e na transmissão de conhecimento por exemplo. Jobs nunca escreveu um livro, escreveram muitos sobre ele. Ito escreveu este, e não foi sozinho, trabalhou com Jeff Howe, especialista em escrita jornalística, mas disse muito pouco, disse muito menos do que tudo aquilo que a sua visão e liderança representam.
Ou seja, a leitura de “Whiplash”, para quem não conheça o Media Lab, ou não esteja a par da história e cultura do domínio da Interação Humano-Computador, pode até contribuir como introdução às atuais abordagens dos laboratórios que trabalham na área. Contudo, para quem trabalha na área, acaba sendo uma leitura triste, porque nada de novo se diz, quando tanto se esperava de alguém que ocupa o cargo que ocupa, e tem as capacidades que tem. Soa muito curto o que está no papel, soa distante, não colam as ideais aqui plasmadas com o verdadeiro potencial de quem as proclama. E na verdade, talvez nada disto nos deva surpreender. Ito nunca se encaixou num sistema de ensino formal, Ito nunca conseguiu compreender a razão do funcionamento de um sistema com tais características, talvez porque o modo como vê o mundo seja tão diferente que acaba por o condicionar quando este tenta fazer o caminho inverso, ou seja tornar-se o professor.
Key Highlights The communications (the Internet) and technological revolution (Moore's law) are not just changing the world, they're changing change itself. Change is now exponential.
Three conditions that define the Network Age: 1. Asymmetry: Costs and benefits are no longer proportional in size (cost of innovation has never been lower) 2. Complexity: The intensity of complexity depends on heterogeneity, network, interdependency, adaptation. 3. Uncertainty: We live in an age where admission of ignorance offers strategic advantages over expending resources towards the futile goal of forecasting future events,
Hayek 1945 paper: Before the internet, the stock market was the greatest source of information. "They gather and utilize knowledge which is widely dispersed among individuals".
Media Lab 1. Leading the Media Lab is more like being a gardener than being a CEO. 2. A system of mythologies over some sort of mission statement or slogan. 3. The four Ps of creative learning - Projects, Peers, Passion, and Play.
The "Buy low, sell high" principle 1. Higher Education: Try to find emerging fields where you have an unfair advantage and a passion. Greater risk, but less competition. More likely to find yourself at the top of an emerging field. 2. Innovation: When the cost of innovation becomes very low, trying to reduce losses is less important than trying to amplify your wins.
The 9 mental models for the Network Age: 1. Emergence over Authority: The communication revolution has enabled emergent behaviour on an unprecedented scale. Examples: engineers working on biology led to synthetic biology, emergent democracy (hacker group Anonymous), crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Mechanical Turk), emergent education (Khan Academy, YouTube science channels).
2. Pull over Push: The communication revolution enables the on-demand supply chain and "lean" startups. Eg: Software-as-a-service, Netflix over TV, Joi Ito's Safecast project during the Japan Tsunami, Granovetter's strength of weak ties.
3. Compasses over Maps: A map implies a detailed knowledge of the terrain. The technological revolution and the pace of change mean maps won't work. Examples: Law is too slow to deal with technology (the case of TidBit vs New Jersey), the iGEM competition enabled innovation in a new field like Synthetic Biology, the game Scratch aims to teach coding literacy to kids who'll grow up to be Journalists, Cooks, etc.
4. Risk over Safety: "Incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time, especially in technology, where you know there's going to be non-incremental change"~Larry Page Examples: Neri Oxman's Silk Pavilion was a crazy risk for the Media Lab but it was announced one of the most significant art projects of 2013, China's Shanzhai market for counterfeits is emerging as a leader in global trade (captured 20% of global cell phone market by 2009) due to recklessly competitive innovation, free of patent law concerns.
5. Disobedience over Compliance: An institution that measures success through breakthroughs requires a culture that embraces outliers and criticism as essential. Examples: The creation of Nylon (Carothers disobeyed 'results-based research' at DuPont, Modern Cryptography (disobeyed/disagreed with the government's standard model for encryption, Social Movements (India's mass disobedience movement led to a pacifist independence for the nation). The $250,000 Disobedience Prize by Reid Hoffman is awarded to a person/group for what is believed to be excellent disobedience for the benefit of society.
6. Practice over Theory: "Demo or Die" ~ Nicholas Negroponte. "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is" ~ Yogi Berra Putting practice over theory means recognizing that there is now a higher cost to waiting and planning than to doing and improvising. Examples: Active learning tools like Scratch, synthetic biology applies this principle in engineering living cells, Media Lab's MAS program eliminated all classes and created a system where research projects became the way of learning.
7. Diversity over Ability: In 1714, The English Parliament offered a £10,000 prize to anyone who could figure out a method to determine latitude. It was claimed by a self-taught clockmaker named John Harrison. Scott Page says, "Ability matters, but in the aggregate, it offers diminishing returns". In an era in which challenges are likely to feature maximum complexity, diversity is not good PR, it's simply good management. Also, colorblind assessment of ability disadvantages the disadvantaged. Examples: FoldIt, InnoCentive, Media Lab's commitment to diversity.
8. Resilience over Strength: When the hurricane wind blows, the strong oak-tree shatters while the resilient reed bows low and springs up again when the storm has passed. In trying to resist failure, the oak has instead guaranteed it. Big companies don't account for black swans and don't optimize for anti-fragility. The key is to recognize when resisting failure costs more than yielding to it, and how to maintain your resilience even as your organization grows. Eg: The Stuxnet malware attacked Iran's nuclear program and stay hidden setting one the most secure nuclear programs in the world behind by months, the 2012 Rivest et al paper wrote a game theoretic approach to cybersecurity starting with the assumption that however strong your system it will be compromised.
9. Systems over Objects: Embracing a systems-over-objects approach helps us encode the principle that every scientific or technological intervention must consider its effect on the entire global network. Examples: Edward Boyden's optogenetics work at Media Lab, from human-centred design to co-design, antidisciplinary over interdisciplinary.
Multiple waves of technological advancements, chief among them the internet and manifestations of Moore's law, have rendered the world a complex place. Asymmetry, complexity and uncertainty are the defining ethos of this era, and not necessarily by choice. How can one navigate these times, that's the theme of the book. Joi Ito and Jeff Howe have divided their approach into nine themes. Less prescription, more direction and food for thought. Many of them share an undercurrent of thought, or are even directly linked to each other. Emergent behaviour over institutional authority (Arab Spring and crowdsourcing are disparate examples of this), on-demand pull over push (e.g. Netflix over TV, and even large scale manufacturing) and the importance of weak ties, compasses over maps (direction more than a specific plan - this is my favourite, though I'd have liked more pages devoted to this), focus on risk over safety (the nimble nature of Shenzhen and its rapid development from knock offs to cutting edge tech), disobedience over compliance (the creation of Nylon at DuPont is a good example), practice over theory (there is an interesting sub-topic on privilege in this chapter), diversity over ability ("Ability matters, but in the aggregate, it offers diminishing returns" - Scott Page), resilience over strength (another favourite, and has parallels with Taleb's anti-fragile), and finally, systems over objects (and understanding the larger implications of one's work). The narrative zooms from physics to philosophy and biology to bitcoin in a matter of few seconds. Sometimes one feels that this is a book about the MIT Media Lab, or maybe it's because it embraces all these principles in varying degrees. But whatever be the cause and effect relationship, it does serve as a good example of the principles in action. What the book stresses is the kind of adaptive thinking that will be required of the species and the individuals therein to continue thriving in a world that's undergoing a profound structural change.
I am generally skeptical about books by futurists although one could make a case that the head of the MIT Media Lab is uniquely qualified to do this kind of speculation. Ito makes the case that the world has changed and that nine principles will force companies and organizations to think differently. He then goes through the principles - Emergence over authority; Pull over push; Compasses over maps; Risk over safety; Disobedience over compliance; Practice over theory; Diversity over expertise/ability; Resilience over strength; and Systems over objects. In each of the chapters he explains the concept and then gives some relevant examples.
I have three minor quibbles with the book - I think many of these concepts blend together. At the same time a couple seem to rely on Thomas Kuhn's logic of paradigmatic shifts. Finally, some of the concepts seem to claim a bit too much. For example, writers like James Suroweicki have made good cases for diversity in working on complex problems - but I would still prefer an Surgeon who knew what he was doing if he were to operate on me. All three of those points are minor. The nine principles offer a coherent set of issues that any person in an organization need to think about.
One of the most exciting books about innovation that I've read recently. From cybersecurity to blockchain, from AI to Scratch. Everything explained clearly, a great introduction to the brave new world. Of course, the authors are in MIT Media lab and Scratch fanclubs, so some promotion was inevitable. Other than that - great read.
A ideia de orientar ações com base em princípios (ao invés de regras fixas) em um mundo cada vez mais complexo faz muito sentido para mim. É o que mais me chamou atenção no livro. Ainda que os princípios detalhados pelo autor sejam bem coerentes com a época atual.
A detailed account of Ito's Nine Principles of MIT's Media Lab, which, though I do not completely agree with, certainly hold quite some values and insights into an ever-changing future. I find the early chapters of the book more convincing and memorable, with appropriate examples and reasonable explanations; as I dived deeper into the contents it became less satisfying in that facts and anecdotes piled up without adequate elaborations attached. Out of all 9 principles (or rather I'd say 9 popular trends of the foreseeable future according to Ito and Howe), I find myself in strong agreement with the first, the third, the fourth, and sixth -- i.e. emergence over authority, compasses over maps, risk over safety, and practice over theory, partly because these four were the best identified in the book while the others seemed to me rather obscure and somewhat indistinguishable from current patterns. I especially appreciate the analogy of "compasses" and "maps" in the sense that I believe such analogy not only works for theoretical discussion but also serves as a touchstone for successful education and entrepreneurship in the future. Obtaining clearly guided directions for a specific task has become increasingly impossible in a world where changes are taking place by the unit of milliseconds. Trekking through a stipulated path of knowledge in order to fulfill a predetermined goal is no longer the most effective way of learning in modern education, just as imitating the success strategies of Silicon Valley tycoons is no longer helpful in the post-industrial world.
There are, however, quite a large portion of the book that I either found incomprehensible or lacking persuasiveness, especially the part concerning "diversity over ability". There were also occasional diversions in which otherwise straightforward discussions were disrupted by irrelevant anecdotes; as a consequence, I had to speed up my reading pace as I went further into the chapters. Some readers might find certain parts of the book self-contradictory, which I think could be a byproduct of the book's co-authorship.
In all fairness, this is a refreshing and insightful book not without flaws and drawbacks, its values lie in the thoughts it provoked, not in the conclusions it reached or the stories it narrated.
P.S. I do find the title (and the introduction) a bit exaggerating, but I guess that's OK for books that discuss future, for our prospects of future are either exaggeratedly positive or exaggeratedly negative.
Joi Ito’s Whiplash described a diverse array of axioms for innovative creation. Iconoclasm pervaded throughout Joi’s work. The operational status quo established an almost predictable formula for prosperity after World War 2. Large companies dominated the landscape of business: McDonald’s, Walmart, GM, and GE. IBM, in particular, and similar companies such as Motorola followed suit, and the ramifications of these innovators transcended classical big business models because they opened the door for scalability. Emergence of novel applications and processes created new systems. Nimble companies became responsible for small niche market penetration. Product entry into new markets accelerated. Today’s cell phones, computers, internet, social media, and transportation systems developed from observable phenomena, and the lessons from these appreciable developments inspired Joi’s treatise. Influential factors in each development had common elements amongst them. Other technocrats such as Thomas Friedman, McAfee, Brynjolfsson, Schonberger, and Cukier chose similar case studies as Joi for examination and exemplification of technological advancement. Accelerations and development along the lines of increased social access, precision and accuracy, and speed defined the most successful advancements of the past. Directions and strategy for future advancement were inconsistent and unclear. Encouragement for organizational ingenuity, compassionate innovation, and abstraction resulted from Joi’s book. Organizational ingenuity becomes influential as individuals require structure and flexibility. Joi introduces counteractive organizational themes: emergence vs authority, pull vs push, and compasses vs maps. Emergence of technology differs from directed institutional development, and Joi lists Facebook as a perfect example for an emergent technology. No administration nor bureaucracy takes credit for the initial creation of Facebook. Friedman examines Facebook and Myspace in the pull vs push framework. MySpace appears guilty of a push mentality. Facebook exhibits the characteristics of an emergent product within a pull system. An inability to pull underlies the failures of other former leaders too such as Blackberry and Yahoo. Push systems appear like maps in Joi’s praxis because a map contains much information irrelevant to either the point of departure or the final destination. Compasses, on the other hand, act from the start location and point relative to the final destination. Pull systems behave in a similar fashion because pull systems provide consumers the demanded product(s) with the least possible excess. Good metrics, for example the metrics per Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, serve as good compasses, yet Joi recommends less metrics due to the asymmetric pit falls present in data. Customer focused directives nourish ingenuity. Compassion behind innovation ensures customer focused ingenuity. Disregard for the end user’s experience leads to insufficient and inadequate features while compassion breeds improved accessibility, comfort, intuitiveness, and functionality. Joi explores Shenzen and World War 2 as case studies for innovative means to customer focusedness. Shenzen has become one of the world’s leading manufacturing regions, and the environment breeds product diversity. Intellectual property law suffers amidst Shenzen’s Chinese fraudster bazaar, yet the diverse array of the product variations rivals any other collection in the world. Shenzen’s environment for technological development compares with that of San Francisco according to Joi. Disobediance seems responsible for the advent computers as evident from the British code breaking team’s, with Alan Turing, invention of the Turing machine and then the Colossus. Advanced German cryptographic methods necessitated these primitive computers for the Allied victory during World War 2. Forced compliance instead of disobedience, in the cases of Shenzen and World War 2, leaves humanity with less product innovation and human rights respectively. Hackers present yet another example of disobedient innovators. Major software dependent companies pay hackers top dollar for cybersecurity development. The sense of compassion appears essential for customer centric processes beyond shear ability and compliance. Abstraction expands the scope and applicability of a product. A systems level approach provides product designers a bird’s eye view of the product. Joi cites a case from a humanitarian engineering effort for inner city Detroit, and their product design shows changes as the engineers learned more about the system surrounding the product’s end users. Integration with the environment improves a product’s usability and overall resilience for different applications. Systems rely on resilient products. Resilience represents one of Joi’s most important characteristics for successful design of a product or an organization because volatile markets necessitate resilient ideas. Emotional resilience has become a practice for business leaders as employees look for leadership, direction, and role models during uncertain times. Organizational resilience enables adaptation of resources for fluctuation in supply and demand. Product resilience maintains the product’s relevance while other complementary or competing products enter and exit the market. The system(s) surrounding the product change over time, so a product’s resilience affects the active phases within product lifecycle management for an organization’s product portfolio. Simultaneous obsolescence of several products decreases the company’s market share. Resilient organizations manage scalability and product releases based on the pull strategy for improved synergy with emergent market demands. Joi Ito’s Whiplash shall sustain the impetus for investigation into innovative modalities. Curiosity about the required stimuli for innovation will become a force in product development strategies. Saturation of markets may necessitate these stimuli or the need for complex systems in humanities greatest struggles. Genetic research and low cost production techniques could solve world hunger in novel applications for supplies of modified crop strains. Organizational ingenuity, compassion as the focus for innovation, and abstraction from short term solutions should accelerate and foster the emergence of appreciable technologies. Pull systems would implement the necessary level of customer focus. Diverse organizations as well as diverse product portfolios should usher in abundant options for dynamic consumer demand. Counter cultures, such as hackers or the Shenzen fraudsters, can force innovation from industry leaders based on Joi’s case studies, so proper development environments should accept antagonists. A more holistic product design method would arise and allow for improved product integration because the product would emerge as a system component and no longer a separate entity. Increased resilience from this design approach might help sustain organizations thru market volatility. The odds of success for product offerings shall vary with an organization’s capacity for customer focused dexterity.
I had high hopes for this book due to Joi Ito's reputation as the director of Media Lab, founder of Creative Commons and all around interesting person. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an engaging and well-written stream of New Economy boosterism of the kind that would make Clay Shirky blush. While Shirky could have been forgiven for Internet naiveté ten years ago, in 2017 there is simply no excuse for it.
There were a couple of interesting Media Lab related anecdotes (the account of the trip to Shenzen was particularly interesting), but by and large it is best forgotten.
Whiplash is an appropriate title because the authors really whip you all over the place.
The title "How to Survivor Our Faster Future" makes it sound like it will be an advice driven book. Perhaps a spiritual sequel the excellent and prescient "Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler. But no, this book goes back and forth between the authors bragging about how excellent the MIT think tank they run is to talking about random pet projects they really like (get ready for literally 1/3 of the book to be about how awesome bitcoin is).
This book tries to be two things at the same time and it suffers on both ends, because of that. It tries to be a step-by-step how-to guide as well as a philosophical text, which dilutes the structure, for me.
That being said, I enjoyed the stories which are eye-opening, amazing and inspiring but it reads a bit like an autobiography, an insider's view. Which is great, but I was expecting something a little less personal and more universal.
Alvin Toffler, who recently passed on, wrote about the rapid rate of change that society was experiencing and suggested that outposts be built where new technologies be tested on communes of humans, in order to ensure that the populace at large wouldn't be shocked by the rapid changes.
Joi Ito and Jeff Howe in Whiplash suggest another way. Retreating into a village is not an option, as they note that "Change doesn’t care if you’re ready. Change outpaced humans sometime late in the last century. These are exponential times. And they have given rise to three conditions that define our era... asymmetry, uncertainty, and complexity".
This is not a book predicting the future. While it's true that if you ever wanted to get a sense of what technology meant for society the first person you turn to is Joi. And that was true even before he immersed himself in the MIT Media Lab, the place you'd go to see the possibilities that technology held. Yet the premise of the book is around thinking about uncertainty.
"What’s next? You don’t know? Guess what. Neither does anyone else. No one can predict the future..."
So how to face this future? Joi provides nine guiding principles:
1. Emergence over Authority 2. Pull over Push 3. Compasses over Maps 4. Risk over Safety 5. Disobedience over Compliance 6. Practice over Theory 7. Diversity over Ability 8. Resilience over Strength 9. Systems over Objects
I won't expand on these (read the book!) but will say that they fundamentally challenge the existing way most organisations (and people) approach planning and decision making.
"The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." - William Gibson
And while the book is not about predicting the future, it does provide a stellar view into some of the fundamental innovations taking place today. In explaining the nine guiding principles, Joi and Jeff take us on a tour of Bitcoin and the Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Gene-editing, Bioengineering, how to think about investing in innovation, advances in Hardware hacking in Shenzen, whether one should learn to code, and how non-profits can be more effective. It's sweeping and brilliant.
The examples and ideas in this book are thought-provoking. It is a few years old and it seems that hardly anyone has read it. I hesitate to recommend it for two reasons: 1) It's less of a fully formed narrative and more of a collection of loose concepts with some examples from the authors' professional experiences. 2) Since publication, Ito has resigned under a shadow at MIT, given his ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
However, I will say the book's loose concepts (principles) are helpful in shaping my thinking about how to navigate an increasingly uncertain future. The main question the book explores (doesn't answer) is, "How do you rebuild a company, a government agency, a university department, or even a career around the principle of not knowing?" Examples of the principles they use to approach this include: Emergence Over Authority, Practice Over Theory, and Resilience Over Strength. The principles are used to guide MIT's Media Lab. The first principle discussed is emergence within complex systems. I increasingly see attention being paid to this idea. I suppose it originated in the life sciences, but is also being talked about in social justice circles and organizational theory. According to Whiplash, "Emergence is what happens when a multitude of little things--neurons, bacteria, people--exhibit properties beyond the ability of any individual, simply through the act of making a few basic choices...The ant colony is the classic example, of course. This meta-organism possesses abilities and intelligence far greater than the sum of its parts."
There are other individuals and books out talking about emergence. I would say read those first but if you are interested in a snapshot of thinking from a very particular vantage point (elite higher ed/tech journalism) this may be of use. It might also be worth looking at their source material and going directly there.
How to survive our faster future? Can futures get faster, or is it only human beings who can? Do human beings even get faster, or do they merely lose track of time?
All those questions aside, Whiplash is an excellent exploration of strategies for interacting with a world whose technology has outstripped its understanding and wisdom. In its neatly organized chapters, it compares and contrasts competing responses to particular stimuli or systems, focusing on more human-centered solutions. But the underlying question -- unanswered -- remains: Why do we do any of it?
Perhaps we have whiplash because we're being driven by our tools. Perhaps we have whiplash because speed and power have become the end, instead of our means to a good end. Perhaps we'll all come to a bad end through good means promoted as ends if we don't shut up, sit down, and stop letting dysfunctional systems drive the wisdom right out of capacity for wisdom. Anyhow, Whiplash skims this and delves deep into the practical side of interaction, amongst other things; and Joi Ito writes with skill and insight on topics more pertinent than ever.
Our capacity for calamity can only grow with our power to tool our world. (However, the justification for that sentence is mainly the joy I find in seeing "capacity for calamity" written out -- it would make a good line in poetry.)
Joi Ito heads the MIT Media Lab and Jeff Howe is the journalist who coined the term "crowdsourcing" back in 2006. Their book is pretty cool, but for businesspeople, entrepeneurs, Internet gurus, and organizations, it's invaluable. They describe the Internet-dominated world we currently live in, and warn us that no one can predict the future of that world, but that based on the current beyond-rapid rate of change and innovation we can expect only the unexpected. To adapt, therefore, requires a robust and agile stance that can respond quickly to change, is not overextended, and values human qualities like passion and interest over brute profitability.
Ito and Howe identify three traits that describe our emerging world: asymmetry, complexity, and uncertainty. By asymmetry they mean the way in which the Internet has leveled the playing field in areas like business, learning, and politics; big things no longer demand huge, unwieldy organizations to accomplish them. Complexity refers to the infinite overlap of disciplines and the ever-widening web of networks in the modern world. Uncertainty is the current condition for asymmetry and complexity—we cannot predict the future, we need to be adaptive to survive, and we need to be aware that black swan events are on the horizon and will eventually show themselves.
Nine chapters then characterize nine attitudes or values that the authors believe anyone who hopes to thrive in this brave new world will need. These include "Emergence over Authority" (relying on the agility and collective intelligence of the masses rather than the expertise of the few); "Compasses over Maps" (maps tell you where to go based on known routes; compasses tell you where you are and what direction you're headed regardless of your understanding of the terrain); and "Practice over Theory" (things are accomplished in environments where doing is privileged above merely knowing). Each of the nine principles is fleshed out by fascinating examples in such diverse fields as bioengineering, programming, and manufacturing.
"Fleshed out" does not mean fully explained. Rather, the authors develop their ideas recursively and indirectly, providing examples that embody but don't always obviously describe the principles under consideration. In any other book, this would be frustrating; in Whiplash, any other approach would unduly undermine the book's central thesis. It would also make it far less entertaining.
The final chapter, "Systems over Objects," was probably my favorite, though to an extent because it was the one principle I was already fully on board with. The emphasis of this chapter is that we need to be able to think about what we want to accomplish in terms of the ecosystem in which it will occur, rather than simply in terms of its immediate effects; successful and careful engagement, then, always take into account repercussions and potential disruptions.
More groundbreaking (at least for me), though, was the chapter on "Pull over Push." Here the authors defend their assertion that modern supply-and-demand must be reactive rather than proactive. In other words, take only what you need when you need it rather than stockpiling. Or put another way, don't try to shape consumer interests, but respond to them. Or put another way, modern suppliers should be more concerned with creatively meeting immediate needs than with trying to forecast what future needs might be. There are many ways to get the point across and the authors use them all, largely by telling the story of how civilian scientists and philanthropists were able to respond much more quickly and with greater agility to the Fukushima disaster than was the Japanese government.
People who aren't engaged in emergent democracy, online business, or academic research will possibly find less of direct value in this book. And yet the beauty of the authors's approach is that they equip readers not with tools for success or high profit margins, but with a mindset intended to help anyone survive the rapidly changing world in which we live. They aim, by their own admission, to change our underlying assumptions and subconscious attitudes. Those who fail to take heed may not last long in the new future.
In Whiplash Joichi Ito and Jeff Howe combine forces to bring us this book. Two basic ideas have developed far enough to dethrone the old idea of centralized management. With the Internet allowing for instant communication across the globe and devices getting smaller and faster, eventually, we will reach limits to what we can do. The main idea is that old centralized methods of command are far too slow to respond to threats. The book uses the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster as an example; old centralized planning was not effective in responding to the disaster and was far too slow.
From numerous examples in nature, we must learn to be more efficient and effective on a Global Scale. Take the simple ant for instance. It is merely a unit of a larger cohesive whole, the ant colony. Using Pheromone Signals for communication, the ant colony becomes something greater than its individual parts. The same ideas can be applied to the brain. A neuron alone is a simple unit only capable of being excited or inhibited. However, the sum of their influence magnifies into the Human Brain, a thing of incomprehensible complexity.
This book was quite fascinating. It sets out nine basic principles that can be followed by pretty much any organization and it uses examples from recent times.