The Future of Money (and everything else for that matter)


I’ve been silent for a while. A month in fact, which is almost certainly a record. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m drowning in information and ideas and the only solution seems to be disconnection, which is perhaps a kind of deliberate ignorance.

Anyway, I had a drink with Dave Birch yesterday (blog here) to talk about the future of money. It’s input into my new map of mega-trends. One of the most thought provoking 30 minutes in recent months. We covered everything from the weaponisation if finance (with historical examples) to the rise of disconnection technologies and synthetic staff. I also loved the idea that the money of the future will be much like the Neolithic (I’ll leave readers to figure that one out).

We talked quite a bit about community and the collaborative economy and this map (above) was something he showed me. Link to article about here.

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The robots really are coming


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Thought for Thursday


“And what was the true object of this superstitious stuff? A final clue came from “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” (1996), in which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi acknowledges that, far from being an act of individual inspiration, what we call creativity is simply an expression of professional consensus. Using Vincent van Gogh as an example, the author declares that the artist’s “creativity came into being when a sufficient number of art experts felt that his paintings had something important to contribute to the domain of art.” Innovation, that is, exists only when the correctly credentialed hivemind agrees that it does. And “without such a response,” the author continues, “van Gogh would have remained what he was, a disturbed man who painted strange canvases.” What determines “creativity,” in other words, is the very faction it’s supposedly rebelling against: established expertise.”

Taken from Salon, ‘TED talks are lying to you’ by Thomas Frank
(Article originally published in Harper’s)

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Quote of the week

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“No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be” – Isaac Asimov

Easier said that done, of course.

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Map of Global Mega-Trends

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Latest update on the mess formerly known as the mega-trends map.

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Rage Rooms (a weak signal)

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A while ago, in my book Future Vision, I wrote about people destroying technology for fun (extract above). This wasn’t an existing trend, but one I could see coming. Well it’s come true. In the USA, Canada, Russia and Italy people are setting up ‘Rage Rooms’ where people can pay $3 per minute to destroy everything from TVs to computers with a baseball bat or sledgehammer. There’s a even been a pop up Rage Room in New York and there’s a company called Tantrums in LA. whose slogan is “we break things.”

Meanwhile, and clearly connected, a poll in the US by CNN/ORC has found that 71 per cent of Americans are either “very” or “somewhat angry” about “the way things are going on in the country today.”

Breaking stuff isn’t a new thing. In the UK we’ve had crockery and plate smashing at fairgrounds for hundreds of years. But this is different. This is a cascade of rage. I’m telling you people, this is a very strong weak signal and indicative of something quite nasty potentially.

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Strategy Conversation Cards

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Here’s the website, still in beta. All credit to Kit Huckvale for this. A few tweaks and we’ll go live and order a bundle more physical cards too.

Strategy cards

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Strategic conversation cards

Strategy cards

Strategy cards

They’re here. They look lovely. Just working up a website to explain more….

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Edinburgh International Book Festival

I’m off to Edinburgh on Friday to speak at the Edinburgh festival (12.30 Saturday, Garden Theatre). I’m inclined to somehow weave in the following quote.

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end,… We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”

Henry David Thoreau

Interesting thoughts relating to this here.

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Reasons to be Cheerful

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Who are we? Why are we here and where are we going? If anxiety about climate change, financial meltdowns, terrorism, immigration, pandemics, and the robot that recently went rogue on Twitter isn’t enough to worry about, we’ve got existential questions to contend with. Mostly we haven’t though, largely because a daily deluge of digital distractions means we rarely get much further than worrying about why BBC Three is now only available online or whether answering an instant message during sex is less rude than not responding until tomorrow.

The best bit of advice for such complex conundrums probably comes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The advice is simply: “Don’t Panic!” This is wise counsel; especially if instead of looking forwards, you look backwards over a few thousand years and notice that the human race is more or less still here. We’re survived ice ages, financial collapses, religiously inspired terrorism, immigration, pandemics and the threat of new technology before. We’ve even endured Paris Hilton, Ed Miliband and Paul Daniels, at least one of which turned out to be all right really.

None of this means we should become complacent. As the great economist JK Galbraith once said” There will be no harm in making mild preparations for our destiny.” Furthermore, while the thought of robots stealing our jobs and perhaps even our children’s souls is a concern, it could be that the pace of developments in computing means that it isn’t the clumsy idiot savant software than we have today that we need to worry about, but what their silicon descendants might be capable of doing in 20 or thirty years time. If human minds as sharp as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk believe that true artificial intelligence (broad or general AI) might be the last invention that the human race ever makes, perhaps we should stop looking at Rich Cats of Instagram and pay proper attention to what’s really going on.

I really have no idea how the distant future will pan out, but my best guess is that we’ll more or less be alright, especially if we, the human race, can somehow remain humane and coalesce around a common vision of what our new technology is actually for. Technology is a tool. It is a way. It is a means. It has never been, and never should be, an end it itself. Technology should only be used to enhance or compliment human thinking and relationships, never to replace them. Any wealth that accumulates from the application of such technology should also be gently persuaded to trickle towards those individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of many of these marvels.

I am hopeful that as AI and robotics evolves and starts to behave more like us this will shine an especially strong spotlight on what it is that humans actually are and what they do best. Nobody expects a second renaissance as a result of artificial intelligence, but it would be nice if real human stupidity were diluted and that we congratulated ourselves about the fact that it’s only humans, not machines, that are capable of creating real joy and that imagination, along with empathy, do not appear to be computable.

In the meantime, rejoice in the knowledge that even the smartest robot in the room still struggles to make a decent cup of tea and is totally bewildered by why humans might want their tea, along with their pizza, delivered by drone when they appear to be pondering the nature of their own existence through a poem by Shelly. Illogical.

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