🤖 Beware of the apostles of the future
As we are approaching the end of the year and our 1,000th blog article (🤯), I wanted to focus more on how we perceive and use the future as innovators.
Given the news these last years about high-profile innovators, it's worth asking if the future is becoming bleaker or just a grift? I know that the Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs of yore weren't choirboys, but still... For what it's worth, there are a few lessons to learn from the misadventures of these dreadful apostles of the future.
They are a sign of the tremendous pressure building up on finding the next big wave of innovation. Investment funds like Softbank Vision Fund have been pushing money into anything that could look like the next Facebook for years. Blame Qatari money, wishful thinking, and a culture of considering innovation and tech as a casino. Still, the reality is that not a single major investor on the planet understands what could be the next "big wave." Why do you think everyone has been so excited by blockchain and whatever web3 is deemed to be? Not because of the problem they are solving (they aren't any, really) but because of the possible financial uptake these investments could represent.
The other lesson here is that most investors end up just looking for this. Scale. Not impact or value; scale. Anything too complicated or not aiming for consumerist network effects doesn't check the box.
On the other hand, the media, which should be, in principle, some sort of balancing power, are mostly still uneducated about innovation and consider it "tech." A new Samsung mobile phone is in the same bucket as an iPhone, as journalists, on average, still don't really get what a product is versus a platform (not that we don't have amazing tech journalists, but they are essentially treats for people like me too often working in their own bubble).
Not only that, but the relationship between the media and investors has also gently evolved into a toxic feedback loop. The top tech news is always about how much money has been raised. Is London, Berlin, or Amsterdam currently topping the charts for seed investment? To which I'd like to answer, as a dire-hard innovation professional, who gives a flying f**ck? If in doubt, check where are the startups that won any grand innovation prize in 2018 (may they rest in peace).
This worship of the money raised doesn't trickle down to the economy, doesn't really create jobs, and rarely (if ever) builds meaningful innovation beyond consumer gadgets and funny videos selling ads for the aforementioned gadgets. Too bad it also mostly drives how Europe spends money on tech and innovation.
The infamous apostles of the future that end up making the cover of magazines are just a symptom. They are the end product of how innovation has been weaponized in a meaningless investment vehicle for too long.
Should we shake this up?