Innovation

“An established industry full of existing winners running on greed is like the highest layer of trees in a crowded rainforest. They’ll push upward only as needed, elbowing each other for little gains and victories as they vie for sunlight, mostly just trying to keep their spot in the canopy. Greed just wants sunlight—it doesn’t care how high up it is when it gets it.

But below, the hungry underdog burns for sunlight and will spend 100 hours a week trying to figure out how to get it. When the breakthrough comes, the underdog bursts up through the canopy into the open sky and spreads its leaves out wide. Suddenly, the trees that had been on top are blocked from the sun. Greed is then replaced by the much more powerful drive of survival, and innovation kicks into high gear as they scramble upwards for their life. The environment has changed—it’s been disrupted—and in this new world, created by the underdog disruptor, companies have to innovate in order to re-optimize. Some end up back on top, others die—and at the end of it all, technology has jolted forward. We all witnessed an example of this when Apple rocketed through the mobile phone canopy in 2007 and forced all of the other companies to make a smartphone or die. Samsung managed to get itself back into the sun. Nokia did not.”

Tim Urban

“Our intuition tells us that technology, social norms, movements and ideas just move forward through time, as if forward progress is a river and those things are on a raft gliding through. We so associate the passage of time with progress that we use the term “the future” to refer to a better, more advanced version of our present world.

In reality, if a more advanced future does happen, it’s because that future was willed into our lives by a few brave people. The present isn’t welcoming of an advanced future because the present is run by a thick canopy made up of the ideas, norms, and technologies of the past. There’ll be incremental tweaks and slight iterations on proven-to-work concepts, which may seem to us like moving into the future, but it’s really just a polishing up of the past.”

Tim Urban

Role of government

According to Tim Urban, a divided democracy is too paralyzed by conflicting interests to be the main driver of a technological revolution.

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