The Great Energy Transition of Transportation - Futurosity #7

End of summer hiatus. New maps. More future now.

The Futurosity Newsletter is back from its summer vacation. Thank you for waiting.

In order to celebrate the imminent advent of autumn we're introducing a new format that we call Futurosity Observations.

It's simple. In every edition we will depict an ongoing massive shift within different areas of society, and try to do so in a manner that makes it easier to explain and to share. We hope that our way of capturing complex information may be helpful to our community of readers when you yourselves are trying to paint the big picture. So to be clear - do share, remix and use this content if it helps you hold more constructive discussions about possible futures with friends, family, colleagues and strangers on the Internet.

Observation: The great energy transition of all things transportation

BNP Paribas, a renowned asset management firm (and hardly a bunch of tree hugging hippies) just released a report. You should skim through it. The bottom line is this:

We conclude that the economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors.

Boom.

The report makes a few highly interesting points, namely:

  1. If you want to turn raw energy (such as oil, solar, wind, whatever) into actual mobility (as in making vehicles move) it’s between 6-7 times cheaper to use renewable energy (through electric cars) than gasoline to do so. Diesel is a bit more efficient but the pattern is the same.

  2. This does not even go into the environmental benefits or public health improvements that would result from stop burning fossil fuels.

  3. Regardless of the above, the big oil companies have a massive advantage in terms of their ability to produce and deliver vast amounts of energy right now. They’ve had more than a 100 years to build out their infrastructure and renewables just can’t meet the same raw energy demand. Yet.

We created this handy illustration to have in mind, or indeed printed near the proverbial water cooler, when talking about the often politicised and always complex topics of renewable energy, electric cars and whether the Amazon is on fire. Let’s break it down:

As the BNP Paribas reports point out, electric vehicles are just better at turning energy into mobility. On this topic there should be no debate. Pared with the fact that renewable energy is cheaper to produce this means that the rapid electrification of almost all the things that move is inevitable. The fossil fuel industry has had a century without competition, but by the mid-2020s electric cars will be as cheap to buy as their petroleum cousins. And already today these cars are cheaper to run and maintain. That monopoly wall will not stand by 2030.

The report concludes that Big Oil as an industry is facing existential decline. However, its advantage as the dominant producer and distributor of the preferred fuel of the entire global economy is nothing short of gargantuan. Today, tomorrow, next year and then some all belong to the oil companies when it comes to delivering energy in the absolutely vast quantities that the world wants. This is Big Oil’s great opportunity, and its greatest risk.

It’s the industry’s opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels and become harbingers of the new energy paradigm. To write of oil assets that are still in the ground, and deploy their vast capital into building out wind- and solar power across the world. It could happen. It probably won’t, because of the fog.

The business-as-usual fog arises from the fact that the world still depends on oil, and will continue to do so for several more years. Although fewer years than most in the oil industry are willing to believe. So this will allow a convenient untruth to settle over the industry - namely that it’s fine to go on as it has always been done, a little while longer. It can’t, because of the winds.

What the BNP Paribas report does not explain in any meaningful detail is why renewable energy production and electric vehicles have become so cheap, so fast and continue to be ever more so. It is because these technologies are developing at an exponential rate. Check out this awesome presentation (37 minutes, live lecture) by Ramez Naam to learn what that means.

In short, the winds of exponential change means two things. First, it makes the already aggressively disruptive numbers in the report obsolete within just a couple of years. Solar- and wind power will be even more affordable to install and electric vehicles even more efficient. Gasoline and diesel will, at best, be stuck on the same level.

Second, it means that other changes driven by technology disruptions will wreak havoc over the transportation industry in more or less direct ways. Self-driving cars will be a mainstream thing before the end of next decade, and surely that will change who buys what types of vehicles.

And lastly, just like the report, we haven’t even mentioned the public health gains and environmental benefits of switching to an electric fuel economy. Or, indeed, the political wins that may be harnessed from being seen as a leader in this battle during times when Greta Thunberg is demonstrably sailing to North America.

We hope that this illustration may work as a useful and/or somewhat entertaining memento for how to visualise and talk about these complex topics. Should you want it in higher resolution, or just want to chat, do hit reply to this email and we’ll do just that.

It’s great to be back. Looking forward to your feedback. These are and remain the most exciting of times.

-Sebastian & Fredrik

How to believe in exponential change

Fully Charged Live : Exponential Transformation : Learning by doing

It’s been quite a week. First three days at the intersection of electric mobility, renewable energy and ever better batteries at the Fully Charged Live conference in Silversone, UK.

Then two days of CogX at King’s Cross in London, where 17,500 people gathered (in the rain, we might add) to poke at all things related to Artificial Intelligence. We will tackle that in another newsletter.

Last but certainly not least we attended the book launch of ‘Exponential Transformation’ together with OpenExO and the London chapter of Singularity University. Then we went back to the lab.

Fully Charged Live

Robert Llewellyn, founder and host of Fully Charged, is trying to remember what to say.

We recommend that you subscribe to Fully Charged both on Youtube and to their podcast. All the 30+ panel discussions from last weekend’s conference can soon be found there. Below are our three primary observations:

1. Renewables are the cheapest sources of energy

Do you remember hearing that solar and/or wind power were expensive, and dependent on obscene government incentives for their existence? Not anymore. At all. Emma Pinchbeck of Renewable UK declared with unequivocal certainty that the economic argument for renewables has been won. What remains are practical questions, and ideological arguments. Two weeks ago we delved into how to counter that.

Emma Pinchbeck, worth your follow.

Renewable UK - non-profit trade organisation for renewables.

2. Batteries are becoming cheap, recyclable and sustainable

Batteries, yay!

Similarly, you may have heard that batteries are forbiddingly expensive, impossible to recycle and are basically worse for the environment than diesel. If this was ever true, that’s no longer the case.

We’ve talked about the increasing price efficacy of batteries before. Simon Moores from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence made it plain: we are in the midst of a global battery arms race, in which China is winning. 18 months ago there were 17 battery mega factories being built around the world. As of right now, that number has grown to over 70.

17 mega factories would have equalled 289 gigawatts of capacity, whereas 70+ factories mean that the annual global production soon will be close to 1600 gigawatts. That’s enough batteries for roughly 22 million electric cars, made far more affordable through highly increased mass production.

This, we argue, are great news for kicking our global fossil fuel habit. It also has far-reaching economical and political consequences.

Simon Morres telling it like it is - 4 minute Youtube video

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence blog post - worth digging into

3. 10 000 people = not niche anymore

The Fully Charged community has been around for nine years, and is almost half a million people strong in terms of Youtube subscribers. Last year, at the first live show, about 5000 people showed up. This year, that amount had doubled and several of the big car brands were now present.

Apart from the temptation of stating that ‘we were here before it was cool’, it’s worth noting the moment when something goes from being niche to becoming mainstream. Sure, there were still dreadlocked eco warriors present who built their own electric car out of scrap a decade ago. But they are now the minority. Instead, the bulk of the Fully Charged audience are now eco worriers as well as generally EV-curious people who are not in it for the sustainability. Have you noticed a similar shift, in your circles? Are we close the ‘iPhone moment’ for electric vehicles, hmm?

The ‘Exponential Transformation’ book launch

The founding thesis behind 10X Labs is that the rate of change in the world is increasing exponentially, mainly due to digitisation. We did not formulate this hypothesis, we’ve merely tried to applied it. Last Tuesday we got the opportunity to meet Salim Ismael, author of Exponential Organizations (2014) and one of the foremost thought leaders in this space. The occasion was the launch of a new book, Exponential Transformation, which is really a practical guide for how to apply the theory laid out in the original text.

Your humble correspondents and the author himself, City of London.

We strongly urge you to watch the video below where Salim Ismael in less than an hour reveals the evidence for the fact that exponential change is the new norm. He also explains why this is so hard to grasp, and why so few companies/governments/people are acting on it.

Salim Ismael lets it rip at a conference hosted by Gartner - 54 minutes.

Basically, you and I are both biologically programmed to survive in a world that no longer exists. A society where humans were nomadic hunters and gatherers, with an average life span of 23 years during which our society did not change suffer sudden and massive technological change.

Lethal danger was pervasive, and it really was an evolutionary advantage to be afraid of new and unknown things. As a species we survived that phase in our history, and built a new world instead. One that is unrecognisable from the setting where our ‘biological operating system’ was last updated. However, we are running on the same settings as when we ran from hungry lions on the savannah.

This is what makes it counter-intuitive at best and upsettingly provocative at worst to contemplate that the rate of change is increasing at an exponential rate. And it does. Salim Ismael showed the growth curve of solar energy over the past few decades, and it is the quintessential hockey stick.

The implication of this is that in merely 12 years time there will be enough solar panels installed to cover the entire global energy demand. Furthermore, it also means that in 14 years time we will have double the energy than what the world consumes. Because that is how exponential growth works, once it gets up to speed.

You may say that you’ll believe in the above once pigs fly, and that is the point. If you read up on the data and plot the curves, the evidence clearly confirm that we’re living in exponential times. If you choose to look, it’s even possible to observe in the world around you.

The black arrow is the actual growth of solar energy. The coloured horisontal lines are the yearly predictions for the continued growth of the industry, made by the International Energy Agency, that refuse to recognise the exponential nature of the technology.

And yet, people and their organisations tend to dismiss these notions and instead insist that the technological development is linear and predictable like it used to be. Unhindered exponential growth is unnatural to us, and it challenges the basic principle of every organisation that was founded in the last century or before. It creates a blind spot, and an opportunity.

Can you ride on a flying pig? Only one way to find out

The only way to truly absorb a counter-intuitive truth is to experience it first hand. To learn by doing. That is what the new Exponential Transformation handbook is all about, free for anyone to use and deploy. It is the process that has been developed by Salim Ismael and his larger team at ExO Works and OpenExO, and it enables a team to change their organisational mindset through concrete action in merely 10 weeks. We shall put it to the test this very autumn.

Exponential Transformation, the book.

ExO Works - enterprise-grade exponential coaching.

OpenExO - the global transformation ecosystem.

Do you believe that the technological development is advancing at an exponential rate, and forces society to do the same? If not, what do you believe instead? How do you manage change, professionally and/or personally?

The feeling of Artificial Intelligence

CogX conference : Tesla Model 3 : No buttons

No hands

This magnificent beast belongs to Tomas Sareklint

Recently, the two writers of this newsletter have both had thrilling experiences of autonomy. What we mean to say is that we've driven Tesla Model 3s, without steering said cars. We want to thank the Tesla store in Täby, Stockholm, and Tomas Sareklint of All Binary for letting us into their respective electric chariots.

We imagine that most of our esteemed readers have yet to sit behind the wheel of a car that can literally drive itself. Some of you have sampled this now available slice of future, that we know. Yet, it's safe to say that this is something entirely new that we as a society and culture have yet to figure out.

This week's newsletter is all about the human interface to Artificial Intelligence, in its many forms. At the time of writing this, Sebastian and Fredrik are less than patiently awaiting their flight to London (please do reply to this email with your favourite methods of climate compensation, we're looking for new options).

Living the life

While in the UK, we will not only attend Fully Charged Live (famously known as the Coacella of renewable energy and electric transport) but also the CogX conference - or AI Festival, judging by the headline.

When less is worse

We are all familiar with how car dashboards are designed. There are buttons, gears, knobs and dials for a great number of different functions. In order to allow a driver to operate these controls without taking his or her eyes of the road they are made tactile and easy to feel.

This is the new electric Audi e-Tron. Lots of buttons

Every feature - heat, music, windows etc - are usually awarded its own separate physical space. This is how it's always been because it works.

This is it

A Tesla Model 3 has essentially no physical input mechanisms whatsoever apart from the steering wheel. Every function of this car, of which there are many, is exclusively available through the giant touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard. As you can imagine, this is in practical terms a worse experience than in a normal car.

While driving, it’s now significantly more difficult to adjust settings than it ought to be. The Tesla Model 3, meant to be an affordable-ish vehicle for the masses, is a worse car in terms of user experience than a conventional alternative in terms of how you interface with the interior.

Until it becomes everything

The anticipant face of a bearded man (Sebastian) that is about to let a car steer him for the first time

That is, until you stop driving and let the car take over. This was frightening at first, and then seductively easy. The Model 3 is the latest offering from Tesla Motors, and it's unrivalled in its capacity for self-driving. During our limited time with the vehicles, the autonomous driving (called Auto Pilot by company) was flawless.

As a driver you are required to leave a hand on the wheel so as to let car know you're still paying attention. For legal reasons you must be ready to take over manual control at any moment. However, you are perfectly able to lean back with only a light touch on the wheel and enjoy being chauffeured by a robot whose ability to safely drive a vehicle vastly exceeds yours.

Watch the Tesla Autopilot save lives including that of a wild boar - 4 minutes of video

When you let the computer take over, the minimalist dashboard and huge touchscreen not only makes sense but become better than any system of physical gears and knobs. As soon as you are able to take your attention away from the road, you do want your settings presented to you digitally.

Makes sense as long as you’re not driving. But then it makes so much sense

Every function now has unlimited space on the screen, no longer being confined into an on-off button or a mechanical slider. You can fiddle with details and get things just right, because spending time doing so no longer makes you an unsafe driver.

Removing complexity

What we mean to say is this: When the technology of Artificial Intelligence, here in the form of a self-driving car, takes practical form in our world it leads to simplification of previously complex systems. It removes the need for advanced manual controls by letting humans direct machines (including both hard- and software) in a more abstract sense.

Instead of controlling every movement of your car, you tell it where to go and help it adjust if need be. In fact, you and your car becomes a highly capable team. You have the strategic vision (where you're going) and understanding of highly improbable situations (a renegade goat jumps onto the highway from a circus wagon) and the car does the mechanical driving. Together, you outperform both human and machine.

When you get a chance to drive or sit in a Tesla Model 3, do so. It is, we argue, the closest thing now available to experiencing the human-machine interface that will become how we navigate an increasingly automated world. At the CogX conference in London, the topic of what AI means will be discussed from every angle imaginable.

We're going there to listen, learn and if possible add to that conversation - but one thing is clear: Machines and humans are intuitively good at very different things, and it’s when these two types of intelligences work together that the impact becomes exponential.


Trying to blend in

Finishing this newsletter with excitement from a genuinely English pub in the quaint village of Silverstone during a roaring football match, your humble correspondents Sebastian & Fredrik.

Next week we will write about Fully Charged Live and CogX.

Futurosity #4

Australia is in love with coal : A different way to tackle climate change : Propaganda posters

Australia + coal = remains true

Two weeks ago, Australia held a national referendum. All the professional guesstimators were convinced that the conservative coalition block that had governed for the past five years would lose.

Bill Shorten, leader of the left-centrist opposition, was the likely winner, which would have meant a turnaround for Australian politics in terms of pro-climate action and policies for decreasing income inequality.

That so did not happen. Instead, the sitting prime minister Scott Morrison not only won but secured a whopping victory. This is the person who won international infamy a few years ago for holding up a (laquered) piece of coal in the Australian parliament as a proof of how non-dangerous the substance is.

Click here to enjoy the spectacle, from 2017

Morrison’s winning rhetoric was not incomparable to the one that Donald Trump used to claim the White House in 2016. His voters were the older generation and those living in the countryside with limited employment opportunities. The message was that of fear and a return to a perceived better past.

He attacked his opponents by claiming that the ‘alleged’ climate change frenzy of the urban elite would destroy the Australian coal mining industry and with it thousands of jobs. They in turn tried to win the election by appealing to people’s senses about climate change and investments in public welfare.

That didn’t work. On a wave of populist currents Scott Morrison surfed past the opposition and is now re-installed as the prime minister of Australia.

Balanced article about what caused the election result, from The Guardian. 4-5 minutes read.

The end of coal is here - 4 minute Youtube video by Energy Analyst.

More on the same topic, Carbon Tracker podcast. 38 minutes.

So here’s an idea for an experiment

What if, during the next election, the politicians in your country/region/municipality did something different. What if they went on tour with the most populistic and conservative arguments for why we need to invest heavily into renewable energy and electric transport?

What if - instead of trying to sell notions of climate change prevention - the message was all about autonomy from the state, national security and affordable living? As a prototype we created three old school political posters to visualise this concept, see below. Judge how well we managed by hitting reply to this email.

The new jobs are in renewables

Did you know what’s the fastest growing job category in the United States? It’s solar panel installer. Yeah. This industry is employing thousands of people and will continue to grow, while the coal industry is in rapid decline.

Bureau of Labour Statistics on the job growth of solar panel installer.

Do you think that voters that are underexposed to the message of climate change but are suffering from lack of employment opportunities would be appealed by such a message?

Electric cars are quiet/clean/fast/cheaper to run/don’t break down

What if we switched the argument for why you should buy an electric car away from helping the environment to one of the other virtues that these vehicles uniquely possess?

They do not make noise, and nor do they pollute. The instant acceleration of electric vehicles is like marmalade on toast for any speed fanatic. And although these cars are still more expensive to buy than their fossil fuel siblings they are sooo much more affordable to own - both in terms of fuel costs and savings on maintenance.

Herein lies a lot of strong and non-politicised facts about why to drive an electric vehicle, whether you think that climate change is a hoax or not. What do you think?

Batteries will set you free

In order to stave of climate change we need to rid ourselves of fossil fuels by storing the energy generated from the sun and wind in giant batteries. However, the very same technology also has other virtues.

If you install solar panels and a big enough battery in your house you can make yourself independent of the national grid. You save money. You are resilient against blackouts. You are free.

If your country invested in sufficient renewable energy production and storage, it would not have to import electricity from abroad. Nor coal or uranium. We’d save money. We’d be resilient against international dilemmas. And the EU. We’d increase our national security. We would be free. Think about it.

We must de-politicise the conversation around climate action

At 10X Labs we pride ourselves on being pragmatic optimists. By that we mean that high-minded ideals are a good starting point, but in order to make big impact happen at scale, we need to all sides to meet in the middle and get our hands dirty.

Right now is a tough time for public debate, in large part due to social media. Facts are turned into political arguments and become transformed into ideology. Climate change, vaccines and even whether the world is round or flat (great Netflix documentary, truly) have become features of political tribes. You believe in certain facts, or you don’t. Is the tendency.

We’re hoping to spark a conversation with you, dear reader, about this topic by proposing the ideas above through our perhaps slightly provocative posters. Is it arrogant and/or a betrayal to the cause to paint the normally green arguments for these questions in other colours?

How do we bridge the gap between the tree huggers and the diesel patriots? What is the halfway point between Greta Thunberg and Mad Max? On that spot we can build truly better things, we think.

Thank you for reading. These are exciting times. Let’s talk about it.

-Sebastian and Fredrik

Futorosity #3

Facebook's perfect storm - the animated (gif) story

Maps, analysis and 50 shades of bad weather

This week we’re testing a brand new concept for the newsletter, and we’d very much appreciate your dead honest feedback. We got inspired by the weather report. It can happen.

Some of our beta readers have appreciated the longer in-depth pieces of previous letters. Others have said that they prefer the shorter nuggets more, as they rarely have the time to absorb a short essay. So we’ve tried to combine the two, using our How to Map the Future framework. This letter therefore contains a lot less text than last week, but does require more scrolling. Let’s see how it goes.

A storm is brewing around Facebook, the grand social network monopoly

Facebook is an empire. Apart from the core product (the one with the Newsfeed), the company owns Messenger and was allowed to buy both Instagram and Whatsapp. Additionally, they own Oculus - one of the few Virtual Reality hardware companies that exist. In total, that means that 2,6 billion people or so live their digital lives inside either Facebook or one of its subservient platforms. That’s more than what the Pope got.

Weaponised algorithms

The 2016 presidential election in the US was meaningfully impacted by Russian intelligence agencies using Facebook. They did not hack the system, they used it as intended but with a hitherto unseen intention, and arguably successfully so.

Russia is a threat to American democracy, with or without collusion, by Vox. Medium-long read, dealing with the recent Mueller report.

The outcome of the Brexit referendum was a similar instance where the Leave-side figured out how to trigger the Facebook algorithms to best serve their agenda. As it turns out, if you use the most surgical marketing tool ever created to sell not products but inflammatory opinions you can indeed change what people feel on a massive scale. They even made a film about it, with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Brexit: the Uncivil War (2019) on IMDB.

Recently, Facebook banned a number of right wing-oriented demagogs from their platform. These individuals had risen to prominence and gathered great followings by using the Facebook algorithms to great effect. In order to serve the most ads to the highest amount of people, Facebook seeks to retain the attention of its users above all other metrics. Content that a given individual finds provocative works wonders for keeping people not only logged on but also engaged in (often furious) conversation. This mechanic is apparently not difficult at all to master, and has led to the rise of many populist influencers. Facebook have now banned the most prominent, and we shall see if they remain vigilant about keeping them out.

Instagram and Facebook Ban Far-Right Extremists, by The Atlantic. A longish good read, no paywall.

Break it up!

Two weeks ago we mentioned how senator Elizabeth Warren is paving her way to the White House with declarations about how and why to break up the big tech companies on the grounds of them having too much monopoly power.

Break ‘ em up. Article by The Verge, short.

Last week, and to much fanfare, a co-founder and former Harvard room mate with Zuckerberg published a letter in the New York Times. Chris Hughes, who certainly has benefited greatly from the vast amounts of money he received for his stocks in Facebook, added his voice to the break-it-up choir. It is a long and well formulated text that you should make the time to read if this topic interests you at all. At its essence, Hughes declares that it’s simply not right that one person should wield that much power over so many people. Apparently, it’s even un-American. Very little new is said here, but it has a novel ring to it when it’s the co-founder of the empire that speaks. Winter just might be coming.

It’s time to break up Facebook, by Chris Hughes in New York Times. Long and paywalled.

Podcast interview by Kara Swisher with Chris Hughes. About an hour, free and worth listening to. Search for ‘Recode decode’ in your podcasting app.

Social media ban

We have written about why the government of Sri Lanka banned a number of social media platforms after recent suicide bombing incidents in their country. The authorities did this to halt the spread of misinformation that was making a bad situation worse. Whether it was an effective measure remains to be seen. However, it was the first time a country that isn’t China decided to use their biggest hammer when dealing with a tech giant that is at least indirectly responsible for what people do with and on their platforms.

Sri Lanka blocks social media again, by Al Jazeera. Short read.

It’s of course very likely that more tragedies like the ones in Sri Lanka and New Zealand will occur, and sadly so. These events will then go viral on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and elsewhere. We believe that more countries will follow the Sri Lankian example and decide to barr social media from their borders, temporarily at first and maybe less so in the long run. This would be a crude way of dealing with a complex problem, and not one we would recommend. However, we still think it highly likely. What do you believe?

The perfect storm

In summary, we guess you could say that it must be lonely at the top. From multiple directions and in different shapes, forces are tearing at the digital empire that has monopolised social networking. Its leadership are hard at work selling a vision of them having learned their lesson and are fixing it as we speak. That may be true, but will it be enough? Will we see the world’s largest melting pot of people, ideas, culture and advertisement revenue be broken up - either from within or by outside forces? What are the potential bad outcomes of this, and what new opportunities would this allow for? Hit reply to this email and let’s have a conversation.

How to Map the Future

10X Labs is a laboratory for experimenting with education. Specifically, how to enable eventually millions of people to thrive in these times of exponential change. That means providing the tools, and the mindset, for examining complex patterns of information where the outcome is uncertain at best. In order to help with that, we use the recognisable metaphor of maps to depict different of forces of change within a landscape. In an unapologetically analog fashion. Here are some past examples:

This one we made for Volvo Cars:
A strategic overview of the changes in the energy market, for the benefit of our local energy company Affärsverken:
This highly gamified map was created as a decision making tool for the benefit of logistics company Schenker:

We believe in letting information breathe, and allowing it to be touched and tinkered with as opposed to being locked down on paper or inside a screen. When dealing with complex challenges, simply getting everyone to share the same view of the problem may often prove impossible. Having a metaphor, with some simple rules of engagement, can greatly help with this by providing a more intuitive interface to the same information.

That is what the How to Map the Future framework is, and it powers most of our workshops and educational content. This week we decided to bring it into the newsletter, and see if we could add the additional metaphor of stormy weather to it in a meaningful way. Let us know if we did, and how we can make it better.

We live in complex, and equally exciting, times. See you all next week

- Sebastian & Fredrik

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