Futurosity # 0
Better batteries : Field research : Gamification : How to be farsighted: Heavy Metal AI
This is the premiere issue of Futurosity, a weekly newsletter for those that want to be more curious about the future. It's written by Sebastian and Fredrik from 10X Labs, but you already know that because this first edition was sent to you personally from us. That's because we know you, and value your feedback. Below you will find the latest observations we’ve made from the field, what inspires us, a book recommendation and something cool that happened during the week.
This is really a prototype newsletter, a way of figuring out who we can best serve through our content. Maybe that is you, or someone you know. Perhaps this newsletter offers little to no value at all. That is what we're trying to understand. Thank you for your time.
Renewable Energy: three telltale signs of a better tomorrow
People are sources not just of consumption but of innovation.
- Ramez Naam, author of The Infinite Resource
1. Ten times better batteries, and without kobolt
NASA and Honda have announced a joint research effort to invent a new type of battery. They predict that it'll be able to carry ten times the amount of energy as today's batteries, within the same size. Instead of kobolt, they will use fluoride. That's a groundbreaking discovery, although far from ready. Still, you'd be wrong to dismiss NASA and Honda as flimsy upstarts. Interesting:
2. Titanic windpower
Outside Rotterdam, the Hailade X prototype wind turbine is under construction. This behemoth of a tower is the largest of its kind, and will be able to produce up to 12 megawatts of energy. Extremely cheaply. It even has an elevator inside it:
3. How to power the grid with your own electric car
If we want to, and we do, switch the entire electric grid away from burning fuels to being powered by renewables - we'll need a lot of batteries! The good thing is that we already do, in the form of parked electric vehicles. And that's what's happening:
What inspire us right now: Gamification, field research & relentless journalism
Sure, I am funny and have a good sense of humor. Mostly, though, I just tell the truth. The internal dialogue people have in their heads - I just write it.
1. Understanding complexity through gamification
We believe that, due in large part to digitisation, the challenges that face our society are complex in nature. Regrettably, we as a culture have become very adept at solving complicated problems - not complex ones. We are exploring further how to build gamified tools that enable groups of people to learn this skill. Here's a work-in-progress photo of a scenario that helps you work out how to topple your (least) favourite monopoly. Hello Facebook:
2. How to run international field research, Stockholm on May 6th
At 10X Labs all our work is based on ethnographic field studies. The subtle art of asking the right questions and understanding the answers we get is how we get things done, and make sure that they stick. In this craft, the unrivaled authority is Jan Chipchase and his team at Studio D, and we are giggly with excitement over attending their workshop in Stockholm. Anyone want to tag along?
3. Kara Swisher
Her enemies (FOX News) call her 'the handmaiden of Silicon Valley billionaires'. We call her awesome, and enjoy her reports from both the San Francisco tech scene as well as the Washington DC political arena. No one is spared, when Kara Swisher demands the truth. You should listen to her podcast:
Book recommendation: Farsighted by Steven Johnson from 2018
If you look at history, innovation doesn't come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.
- Steven Johnson
The work we do at 10X Labs is based on enabling our students to create a common understanding of complex scenarios, so that they can make better and more daring decisions. We can't predict the future, but we can help you map out the different forces and considerations that will impact your tomorrow.
In Farsighted, Steven Johnson provides two things. Firstly, an accessible introduction to the history of prediction and decision making. How and on what basis did our ancestors go about deciding what to do? Which tools did they have available to them, and how can pivotal historic moments be explained by limited means of overviewing complex information? In summary, Johnson proves how much better we as a society now are at making far reaching decisions. It may not feel like it, but we really have become more farsighted.
The old Prussians used a game to perform better military decision making. Who would have thunk it?
Secondly, Johnson shares his list of mental and practical tools for overcoming information overload and creating clarity ahead of making a decision. We found this to be immediately helpful in our work, and also in our lives. We think you might feel similar:
Cool thing of the week: Heavy Metal AI & Intelligence Augmentation
Researchers at Cornell University are running an experiment with machine-created heavy metal. Yeah. It can be enjoyed, or at least experienced, via a Youtube live stream:
This is a somewhat exotic example of how an artificial intelligence (or, to be precise, a neural network) can be trained on existing data in order to create original content on its own. Similar to how an algorithm can be trained to drive a vehicle more safely than a human, it is possible for a machine to recognise what makes an appropriate heavy metal riff. More or less.
This may be a sign of robots taking away the jobs of musicians, but we would like to offer a different view. While the AI above is able to deduce the musical patterns of this particular genre, it does not understand them. Not like a human with an attuned ear for heavy metal would understand. If these two intelligences worked together, the creative force would be extreme. In that sense, this heavy metal AI would become something akin to a bicycle for the mind for a human that wants to create music but does not master all the instruments with the precision of a machine. Rather than replacing humans with Artificial Intelligence, this technology augments the intelligence of humans. That future is already here, albeit not in the form of heavy metal but rather to the tunes of Johann Sebastian Bach. Check it out and make some music:
A personal note
I've always wanted to write a newsletter, for an audience that valued my perspective and ability to curate information into insights that inspire and motivate. But I've never tried, because I don't know who you are. Lately though, spurred on both by what 10X Labs has become as well as the birth of my son Otto, I've decided that the only way to learn is to make. So I'm writing this first fledgling issue with exactly ten people in mind, persons that I deeply respect and would cherish to have as readers. There's a risk you won't like it, but I know you'll tell me why and that's worth it.
These are exciting times, my friends.
- Sebastian Sjöberg,
writing from Karlskrona, Sweden