Book: Friedman’s “Thank-you for being late: An optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations”

Friedman TL (2016) Thank-you for being late: An optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations.  NY: Farrae, Stauss, Grioux.
Part I: Reflecting

Chapter 1: Thank-you for being late

“I enjoy taking a complex subject and trying to break it down so that I can understand it and then help readers better understand it – be that subject the Middle East, the environment, globalization, or American politics…  the words of Marie Curie never rang more true to me or felt more relevant: ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.  Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.'” p. 3

“As John E. Kelly III, IBM’s senior vice president for cognitive solutions and IBM Research … ‘the feeling being engendered now among a lot of people is that of always being in this state of acceleration.’  In such a time, opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw, is a necessity.  It is not a luxury or a distraction – it is a way to increase the odds that you’ll better understand, and engage productively with, the world around you.” p. 4

“… DC traffic and subways in the morning are always a crapshoot… On one of those occasions, I realized I didn’t care at all about my guest’s tardiness, so I said, ‘No, no please – don’t apologize.  In fact, you know what, thank you for being late!’  Because he was late, I explained, I had minted time for myself.  I had ‘found’ a few minutes to just sit and think.” p. 5

“… Muller observes how many times people say to him ‘I am so busy.’ ‘We say this to one another with no small degree of pride…’  ‘… to whiz through all obligations without time for a single, mindful breath, this has become a model of a successful life.’ I’d rather learn to pause.  … And it is not just knowledge that is improved by pausing.  So, too, is the ability to build trust…” p. 6

“That is why, I explained to Boija, as a columnist, ‘I am either in the heating business or the lighting business.’  Every column or blog has to either turn on a light in your reader’s head… or stoke an emotion in your reader’s heart.’ …the ideal column does both… involves mixing three basic ingredients: your own values, priorities, and aspirations; how you think the biggest forces, the world’s biggest gears and pulleys, are shaping events; and what you’ve learned about people and culture – how they react or don’t – when the big forces impact them… When I refer to the world’s big gears and pulleys, I am talking about what I call ‘the Machine.’ (Hat tip to Ray Dalio, the renowned hedge fund investor, who describes the economy as ‘a machine.’)… Part II is about how I think the Machine works now…  And Part III is about how these accelerating forces are affecting people and cultures…  Part IV offers the conclusions I draw from it all.  In short, this book is one giant column about the world today.” p. 12-13

Part II: Accelerating

Chapter 2: What the hell happened in 2007?

“… Steve Jobs tool the stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on January 9, 2007, to announce that Apple had reinvented the mobile phone.” p. 19

“… It was also in 2007 that David Ferrucci, who lead the Semantics Analysis and Integration Department at IBM’s Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and his team began building a cognitive computer called Watson.” p 21

“… in 2007, the cost of DNA sequencing began to fall dramatically…” p. 22

“As the graphs on the next two pages display, 2007 was clearly a turning point for many technologies.” p. 22

“‘The Market’ is my shorthand for the acceleration of globalization.” p. 26

“The term ‘Great Acceleration’ was coined in 2005 by these same scientists to capture the holistic, comprehensive, and interlinked nature of all these changes simultaneously sweeping across the globe and reshaping the human and biophysical landscapes of the Earth system.” p. 27

“It is the core argument of this book that these simultaneous accelerations in the Market, Mother Nature, and Moore’s law together constitute the ‘age of accelerations,’ in which we now find ourselves. These are the central gears driving the Machine today.” p. 27

“In other words, if it is true that it now takes us ten to fifteen years to understand a new technology and then build out new laws and regulations to safeguard society, how do we regulate when the technology has come and gone in five to seven years? This is a problem.” p. 33

“Another big problem is the way we educate our population.” p. 33

“All of these are signs ‘that our societal structures are failing to keep pace with the rate of change,’ he said.  Everything feels like it’s in constant catch-up mode. What to do? We certainly don’t want to slow down technological progress or abandon regulation.  The only adequate response, said Teller, ‘is that we try to increase our society’s ability to adapt.” p. 33 [JCS: This is what Doug Engelbart said in ‘Augmenting Human Intellect’ in 1962]

Chapter 3: Moore’s Law

“As he put it in that now famous Electronics article, which appeared on April 19, 1965, entitled ‘Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits’: ‘The complexity for minimum component costs has increase at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year… There is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least ten years.’ The Caltech engineering professor Carver Mead, a friend of Moore’s, latter dubbed this ‘Moore’s Law.'” [This chapter covers a lot of technology ground, including: transistors, integrated circuits, microprocessors, sensors, internet of things, WiFi, storage, memory, DRAM, Hadoop, GitHub, networks, cellphones, smartphones, CDMA, TDMA, 3G,4G,5G, the cloud]

Chapter 4: The Supernova

“All of that, in turn vastly amplifying the power of one.  What one person – one single, solitary person – can now do constructively and destructively is also being multiplied to  a new level…  and, and finally, this same supernova is amplifying the power of many.” p. 87

“As a result, the motto in Silicon Valley today is: everything that is analog is now being digitized, everything that is being digitized is now being stored, everything that is stored is now being analyzed by software on these more powerful computing systems, and all the learning is being immediately applied to old things in fundamentally new ways.  For example, the inventionof Uber taxi service…” p. 94

“Something interesting is happening here… Something sure is, and the rest of this chapter is about how makers big and small are taking advantage of all the new powers coming out of the supernova to do totally new things, and to do really old things faster and smarter.” p. 97

Chapter 5: The Market

“Kavon Beykpour is the cofounder and CEO of Periscope – the live-streaming video app launched in March 2014 that within four months had ten million users.  It was quickly bought by Twitter… ” p. 118

“‘The principal factor promoting historically significant social change is contact with strangers possessing new and unfamiliar skills.” p. 147

Chapter 6: Mother Nature

“This is what I mean by ‘the power of many.’ We as a species are now a force of, in, and on nature. That has never been said of humans before the twentieth century…” p. 164

“‘The Great Acceleration marks the phenomenal growth of the global socio-economic system, the human part of the Earth System. It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In little over two generations – or a single lifetime – humanity (or until recently a small fraction of it) has become a planetary-scale geological force. Hitherto human activities were insignificant compared with biophysical Earth System, and the two could operate independently.  However, it is now impossible to view one as separate from the other.” p. 165

Part III: Innovating

Chapter 7: Just too damned fast

“Now that we have defined the age of accelerations, two questions come to mind – one primal, and one intellectual.  The primal one is this: Are things just getting too damned fast? The intellectual one is: Since the technological forces driving this change in the pace of change are not likely to slow down, how do we adapt?” p. 187

“The only way to thrive is by maintaining dynamic stability… It’s innovation in everything other than technology.  It is reimagining and redesigning your society’s workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and communities – in ways that will enable more citizens on more days in more ways to keep pace with how these accelerations are reshaping their lives and generate more stability… ” p. 199

Chapter 8:  Turning AI into IA

“Let’s get one thing straight: The robots are not destined to take all the jobs.  That happens only if we let them …if we don’t accelerate innovation in the labor/education/startup realms, if we don’t reimagine the whole conveyor belt from primary education to work to lifelong learning.” p.  203

“… you need to work harder, regularly reinvent yourself, obtain at least some form of postsecondary education, make sure you are engaged in lifelong learning, and play by the new rules while also reinventing some of them.  Then you can be in the middle class.” p. 2015

“The New Social Contract: But can everyone keep up? … we need to rethink three key social contracts – those between workers and employers, students and educational institutions, and citizens and governments.  That is the only way to create an environment in which every person is able to realize their full talent potential and human capital becomes a universal, inalienable right.” p. 207

“Fortunately, new technology tools will aid in this endeavor.  The new social contracts we need between government, business, the social sector, and workers will be far more feasible if we find creative ways … to turn ‘AI into IA.’  In my rendering, that would be to turn artificial intelligence into intelligent assistance, intelligent assistants, and intelligent algorithms.” p. 212

“‘When you have a compounding problem, you need a compounding solution.’  Turning more forms of AI into more forms of IA is that solution.” p. 213

“‘The role of the engineer we envision is that of ‘systems architect’ of complex technical, social, economic, and political systems capable of addressing the global challenges we face,’ said Miller.” p. 222-223 [Richard Miller, President of Olin Engineering College;  STEEP = Social, Technical, Economic, Environmental, Political” – these are what service scientists call service systems.]

“The Brilliant Janitor: … Hint: thanks to intelligent assistants, it’s become a knowledge worker job.” p. 230

“…what I would call stempathy jobs . These are jobs that require and reward the ability to leverage technical and interpersonal skills… ” p. 239 [This is what many service scientists call T-shaped professionals, with depth for problem solving and breadth for communications across many disciplines, systems, and cultures. see]

Chapter 9: Control vs Kaos

“‘… the main focus of American foreign policy shifted from war to governance, and from what other governments did beyond their borders to what they did and how they organized within them.'” p. 245

“The Inequality of Freedom: The accelerations in the Markets, Mother Nature, and Moore’s Law are stressing frail states not only from the outside but also from below. That is, both technology and globalization today, are empowering ‘political makers’ … ” p. 270

Chapter 10: Mother Nature as political mentor

“‘If we are evolving to be more like nature, we better damn well get good at it,” observed the physicist and environmentalist Amory Lovins.  I agree.  So let’s first try to understand the basic strategies that Mother Nature employs to build resilient ecosystems…” p. 301

Chapter 11: Is God in cyberspace?

“If there is ever a time to pause for moral reflection it is now… To put it bluntly, we have created a world in which human beings have become more godlike than ever before.” p. 340

“That is why I insist that as a species, we have never before stood at this moral fork in the road – where one of us can kill all of us and all of us could ix everything if we really decided to do so.” p. 342

Chapter 12: Always looking for Minnesota

“The closest political analogue for the eye of a hurricane that I can think of is a healthy community.  When people feel embedded in a community, they feel ‘protected, respected, and connected”” p. 339

“Something in the Water: Whenever I look back on the impact of growing up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, had on me, I can’t help but recall…. ” p. 365 [what follows is really touching and amazing – and I will not try to summarize it, other than to say this was probably my favorite part of the book – even more than AI for IA, believe it or not. So get the book and read it yourself. Trust me, you will be glad you did.  Just think about the minority that you were part of when you grew up.]

Chapter 13: You can go back home again (and you should!)

“But the question tugged at me, and I asked over and over was: What was that ‘it’ that was being sustained? I needed to know because I wanted to bottle ‘it’ and share ‘it.’  Nothing, it seemed to me, would be more useful in the age of accelerations.” p. 411

“‘There is not an undercurrent, but an overcurrent, of acceptance that everyone has the right to pursue their goals and dreams.;” p. 429  [FYI: In service science community, some of us talk about transformation > experience > data > software > hardware — what changes and what stays the same, is important.]

Part IV: Anchoring

Chapter 14: From Minnesota to the world and back

“But it is impossible for me to believe that with so many more people now empowered to invent, compete, create, and collaborate, with so many more cheap and powerful tools enabling us to optimize social and commercial and government interactions, that we won’t develop the capability to solve the big social and healthy problems in the world and that, in the process, we won’t be able to find ways for humans to become even more resilient, productive, prosperous as they are reinforced by intelligent machines.” p. 451