A search related to the topic of IoT or 'Internet of Things', eventually led me to a book called 'The Zero Marginal Cost Society' written by Jeremy Rifkin.
In this book, Mr. Rifkin has built a case, when it relates to how the cost to produce most things in the near future will be virtually zero (0). That there will always be a 'fixed cost' associated with launching any new product/server. However, increased efficiencies, automation and a combination of other things (mentioned below) will drive the marginal cost (cost to produce more units of the same) will be driven to virtually zero. Not zero, but almost zero.
Now, I have heard of this concept of 'zero marginal cost' before. I cannot find the actual clip on Youtube. But I have heard, at least one leading Venture Capitalist making a brief mention of it in one of their talks.
There are a bunch of technologies and phenomenon that Jeremy has mentioned in this book. From what I can recall at the top of my mind. Since the book has been returned to the library and this blogpost has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a month now. Anyhow, in random order:
Alongside the introduction to these technologies (and more), Jeremy then builds a hypothesis whereby we will witness the emergence of two major trends.
The author goes into a fair bit of detail, when it comes to the History of the Capitalist economic model and also how a 'commons' model used to predate this model. The author hypothesizes that the combined effect of the technologies that have been introduced and some of the other factors will usher the return to the commons era for our species. However, in my opinion the author could have spent a bit more time hypothesizing a future systems model, whereby resource distribution can be done in an optimal fashion for 7 to 10 billion people using a 'commons model'. Maybe an advanced form of AI and certain efficiencies can help us achieve that goal.
Now, I can't say that every (technological) phenomenon mentioned in this book was something new to me. But then again, that's coming from a person who has a hacker mindset and is always on the lookout when it comes to new and upcoming technologies.
This book is a hopeful, optimistic aspiration of what part of our future could be. An interesting read. I would recommend it.
"The Chaos Imperative", written by Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack has got to be one of the best books I have gone through this year.
I recall going through 'The Starfish and the Spider' about a decade ago, so I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect in terms of the writing style and how Ori (in particular) would tackle the subject at hand.
Now, during the past couple of decades a lot of interesting work has been done specially when it relates to the subjects of innovation, creativity and even disruption.
However, what has been missing is some kind of a unified mechanism and principles for harnessing these elements. Although, this is not the intent of this book. That being said, some of the concepts that Ori has shed light upon, could potentially lead to some interesting constructs and way of looking at problems in the near future.
Now, there are some really interesting insights packed into this book. This is the kind of book that gives credence to this range of gut feeling. Specifically the kind of gut feeling that relates to how work is conducted and how issues and challenges are generally tackled. And specially how most of the times, people and organizations tend to get stuck in a rutt. When there is so much focus on execution that you start missing the forest for the trees (big picture).
The contents within the book help shed light on unique and interesting insights such as:
There are tons of examples and use cases along the way. From leveraging examples throughout history and even using the findings from some of the work Ori has conducted himself. Most notably, the work that he has done with the US Army.
Now this blogpost has been sitting in my drafts folder for far too long and I am having difficulty finding an adequate amount of time for writing a descriptive blogpost. However, if you are a leader, a problem solver and would like to read up on some new/interesting and super simple ways of looking at problems, defining them and would like to leverage simple constructs for helping solve these problems. Then this is a great read.
Two of the many random thoughts that emerged in my mind while I was going through this book.
Coming back to the original book review. 'Chaos imperative' is a great read. I definitely want to read it again!
The conceptual designs for the O’Neill Colonies and the subject of Nanotechnology have always managed to capture my attention.
At least when it comes to the O'Neill colonies, often I find myself going back and observing the designs as envisioned by Gerard O'Neill. Also, I keep thinking and wondering about the enormous potential nanotechnology, in a developed form can offer for our species.
To cut to through the chase, large scale sustainable colonization of space is impossible, unless and until our species gets a much a better control over how to structure and positions atoms.
A thought related to this conceptual merger between space colonies and nanotechnology, led me to this very question.
So I started searching the web, and sure enough, my search soon led me to this very book called ‘The Visioneers’ written by a gentleman by the name of W. Patrick McCray.
I was very surprised to observe, that the entire book is a historical record when it comes to the developments related to the two concepts that I was thinking about, namely space colonies and nanotechnology!
As you might have noticed from the front cover (image above), this book is about “How a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies and a limitless future”.
Now, since the 60’s, a number scientists and visionaries have been trying to build a case for the colonization space. But, this vision has been met with a fair bit of resistance. Largely, due to the fact that the technology just wasn’t ready. And even if it was possible, then there has always been scare mongering that has been attached with these concepts (at the time) and how it had the (supposed) potential to destroy the world.
But in fits and starts, this movement has also gained encouragement from certain segments of society, academia and the Government. Namely, the United States Government and from what I can gather from this book. I’m sure that (since the 60’s) other governments have also invested in both nanotechnology and the colonization of space, but that is not in scope when it comes to the contents of this book.
The main characters:
Coming back to the book, most of the content revolves around the work performed by:
Gerard K. O’Neill: An American physicist, inventor and space activist. O’Neill tried to champion the cause of giant space settlements that could hypothetically be used for the colonization of space, using materials used from mining asteroids and the moon. O’Neill’s designs weren’t just an artistic rendition of what the conceptual models for the space colonies and manufacturing sites could look like. In fact, these designs were backed by a lot of research and what really distinguished them from science fiction was the meticulous amount of calculations that went into effect, in order to support the overall models.
Eric K. Drexler: The other amazing individual is Eric K. Drexler. An engineer from MIT (at the time), who in my opinion, is the rightful father of nanotechnology. Drexler, took the ideas as envisioned by Richard Feynmann for manipulating and controlling atoms and molecules and helped nurture and guide those ideas towards a path where they could eventually turn into a science.
Drexler’s book ‘Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology’ (published in 1986) is considered to be the first written record that hypothesizing the designs and details of machines that can be operated on a nanoscale. To quote from Wikipedia, Drexler envisioned a world where: “Molecular robots can be used for any purpose, from medicinal robots that can be guided for helping clear capillaries to environment scrubbers that can clear pollutant from air.” To even molecular robots that come together, in order to build lighter and stronger materials. Drexler worked closely with O’Neill, to see how the overall vision for the colonization of space could be supported with the aid of nanotechnology.
Obviously, there are other characters mentioned in this book as well. But like I said, most of the content focuses on the work performed by these gentlemen.
Meat and Potatoes
The overall narrative is really all about the dreams, the vision (backed by engineering designs) that these individuals continued to pursue, sometimes in the face of resistance and setbacks.
Also, after reading this book, I believe that the present day planning and activity when it relates to space exploration, colonization and mining can only trace it’s roots back to the work that individuals like O’Neill and Drexler helped envision and also champion.
Not only were these gentlemen the original dreamers, they were also the very first pioneers who dedicated a significant chunk (if not the entirety) of their lives when it comes to taking certain ideas and concepts from a fuzzy area and help bring them to a place where they could become very tangible in the foreseeable future. It is my wish that society will look back in time and always be indebted to individuals like O’Neill and Drexler and the fine work they did and sacrifices they made.
It’s also interesting to see how things are interconnected. Starting in the 60’s, from the origins of the L5 society and the whole world catalog and even individuals like Timothy Leary. To the emergence of social networks (in the absence of the internet) in the form of telephone networks e.t.c.
Or on the flip side, in a modern day context and to quote from the book “It’s impossible to ignore a certain homogeneity among this book’s characters. O’Neill, Drexler, Raymond Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Ted Nelson, Freeman Dyson, and even Richard Smalley: all men who graduated from elite schools with technical degrees.
This book is a great read for anyone who is interested in the following:
Also, there is a silver lining to the resistance that visionaries like O'Neill and Drexler had faced. As it can now serve as a lesson for new age visionaries. Namely:
It seems like a lot of things in life, kind of go back a full circle. Towards the beginning of this book, they were talking about this movement of sorts in the 60's where there was a lot of emphasis on 'Limits'. And supposedly, how limits had to be imposed on the continued advancement and development of society, if we were to continue living on this planet in a sustainable way. This was precisely the time when creative and intelligent engineers like like O'Neill and Drexler had decided to tackle these challenge head on. Their ideas and designs could help potentially help the human race leap frog these limits and such a movement could also (potentially and theoretically) help usher in a new age of abundance.
Now, some 50 ++ years later, the human race finds itself confronting a somewhat similar scenario. Where, among a host of other problems, we also have the looming threat of climate change. Luckily, for us, the debate this time around is not so much around the imposition of limits. There isn't much of a debate, the way I see it. But the one good movement I have noticed is the very nascent framework that is beginning to develop around space exploration, manufacturing and mining.
Hence, the vision as it was conceived by Gerard O'Neill and Eric K. Drexler, is still alive. It was dormant for a while and now it is slowly beginning to materialize. These individuals performed all this intelligent work decades ago, sometimes in the face of resistance, so that one day humanity could benefit from it. That era is getting closer with the passage of each day.
Overall, great read. Backed by a lot of research. Great work by Patrick McCray!
'Lords of Strategy' chronicles the evolution of the concept of 'Strategy'. Most of the content within this book is focused around key and influential figures like Bruce Henderson, Bill Bain, Frederick Gluck (McKinsey), Michael Porter and the pioneering work that these individuals performed. First at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and then with Bill Bain branching off and starting a venture of his own. Bain Capital, as you would have probaby guessed.
There is even mention of individuals like Clay Christensen and C K Prahalad. Hence, it was enlightening to know that a lot of these really intelligent individuals, share the same common background.
I randomly picked up this book during my trip to our local library and a couple of chapters in, I was thoroughly engrossed. So much so, that all the items in my existing queue (reading) were put on hold.
To start with, it was shocking to find out that there was no concept of 'Strategy' prior to the 60's. And while the book does is not a written record of the entire history of Strategy. It does manage to go into a fair bit of detail of what it was like to be the consultants, who would fundamentally end-up redefining the essence of Strategy.
The first part of this book is focused on the consultants themselves. The individuals and the groups that made BCG, well BCG. It goes into a fair bit of detail into the methods and processes that BCG employed. It's full of interesting examples that this consulting company employed. The very heavy focus on the power of ideas, which literally defined the core philosophy of BCG.
The second part of the book focuses on the history of the evolution of thinking on corporate strategy. It's really interesting to see how Strategy, has evolved as a subject. It's one thing to listen to or read what Michael Porter has to say on HBR. But only after going through this book, did I begin to understand where all of this started. That's not to say that the entire second part of the book focuses on the work that Michael Porter has performed.
I enjoyed going through this book and I believe it serves as a good framework for anyone who is interested in the history of Strategy throughout the recent past. And I say that in-spite of the fact that a lot of topics mentioned in the book were alien to me. So I found myself stopping from time to time to Google what these terms actually meant.
Although, I wish there was a workbook that came along with the text. Kind of like the workbook they had for the Fifth Discipline. That would have been beneficial for a newbie (to Strategy) like me. And it would have allowed me to retain the information and understand the concepts a bit better.
I went through this book last month, almost as if by chance . This month I got the results for my Strengths Finder test , scoring decently under the 'Strategic Thinking' theme. Interesting co-incidence.
Just finished reading "Screw It, Let's Do It". A collection of tips and lessons that have helped Sir Richard Branson through his personal and business life.
Considering how much respect and admiration I have for Sir Branson. I was surprised that I have never really read a book written by or about him. So, once I started going through the book, I just kept going and managed to finish it in record time.
Two things in this book really managed to capture my attention.
1- The dire warning of the threat of climate change and how carbon capture and balancing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is/will be the most pressing need of our times.
2- Henry Ford and how he constructed a vehicle made from biodegradable cellulose fibers derived from hemp, sisal, and wheat straw. The car was even fueled by hemp ethanol. Yes, a full scale automobile that was made from hemp. I had no idea that these fibers could sustain a significant amount of weight. There's even mention of using certain bio-fuels and using them as a replacement for gasoline. But I think the book is a couple of years old and some of the new research indicates that ethanol is almost as bad for the environment, as compared to gasoline.
Overall, great book, full of simple yet powerful tips.
Based on a recommendation, I picked up "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who was imprisoned by the Nazis during WWII.
Not only is the book a detailed description of what it was like living in the concentration camps. The extremely cruel and evil conditions that the Nazis had created. The book also details how Frankl found the courage and will to keep himself going during such times. How he persevered. How he survived, emotionally and psychologically, by trying to find meaning in the suffering.
There's also a short description of Frankl's work related to logo therapy. As well as Frankl's universal message and warning for mankind.
I found this to be one of the most remarkable written materials that I have ever experienced. I went through such a wide range of emotions. For almost 3/4 of the text, you keep asking yourself. How could this ever happen? How can man be so cruel. But Frankl also leaves us with some really powerful advise. It's just that neither Frankl, nor anyone else should have ever suffered this much.
Some quotes from Victor Frankl:
"Is this to say that suffering is indispensable to the discovery of meaning? In no way. I only insist meaning is available in spite of--nay, even through suffering, provided . . . that the suffering is unavoidable. If it is avoidable, the meaningful thing to do is to remove its cause, for unnecessary suffering is masochistic rather than heroic. If, on the other hand, one cannot change a situation that causes his suffering, he can still choose his attitude. Long had not . . . chosen to break his neck, but he did decide not to let himself be broken by what had happened to him."
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.”
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”
“So, let us be alert in a twofold sense: Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.”