How the Profile of the Richest People Has Changed Over History

This interesting infographics ‘the richest people in history‘ reminds us that throughout most of our human history, the Agricultural Age, the richest people have been the kings, emperors and rulers of vast areas of land. Then, in the 15th century onwards (the start of the Industrial Age) came the time of bankers and merchants.

Detail from the Catalan Atlas, 1375 (vellum)

The infographic does not go as far, but of course from the 15th century, accelerating into the 19th century, the richest people started to be industrialists and bankers financing new machines and infrastructures. And now, they are industrialists of the economy. Still their wealth is much less than the historical rulers mentioned in the infographic whose wealth could be up to 20% of world GDP – which shows that in a certain measure richer people are now much less proportionally rich than historical figures.

The other interesting transformation to note is that up to the 15th century, wealth was derived regionally and mostly within one’s borders. Then trade spread and fortunes were made on this basis. In the 20th century it started to become truly global, and now it is definitely mostly global for the richest people on earth. Thus the geographical basis of wealth has also significantly changed.

It is often interesting to take such as historical perspective to remind ourselves that what we observe today is the result of a long evolution. Wealth is now not an exclusive property of tyrannical rulers, or industrialists but the domain of businesspeople with global interests that move resolutely into the Collaborative Age.


How We Need to Have a Threshold Space for Transformation

Charlene Li in her post ‘Why You Need Liminal Space for Seamless Change‘ reminds us that we need to have a threshold, or some kind of intermediate space, when changing.

In her case, “[her] son just graduated from college, and we wanted to create liminal space for him to celebrate what he accomplished and to prepare himself for the future.” To do that they took a long drive across the US.

“Liminal” comes from the Latin word meaning “threshold,” and it’s an unavoidable part of change. Unfortunately, many organizations view change as something to go through as fast as possible. But […] a more effective and disruptive way to change is to slow down and actually create the liminal space of in between. This also creates space mentally and emotionally to expand on possibilities and opportunities.”

I love this idea of the need of having such a threshold and take it a bit slow when going through a transformation, taking the time to achieve it in a safe and sound manner.


How the Next Big Idea Doesn’t Need to Be Original or in a New Market

I love this blog post by Seth Godin ‘The next big idea‘ that reminds us that it does not need to be new not have no competition.

There are two confusions. The first is that the next big idea must be fully original. The second is that it have no competition. This is almost never the case.”

It is true that many thriving enterprises have just reinvented a small part of a business model, or have built on existing industrial practices just changing one parameter. At the end of the day it depends on the client: “The future of all of these types of organizations isn’t based on a lack of customer choice. It’s based on customer traction.”

Seth Goding reminds us that “The hard part is showing up to lead.”, leading through to get perfect execution in the market that is being addressed.

Looking for an idea to create your company? Don’t necessarily look for original or to create a new market: that’s often too hard. Just execute better than others and get customers to love what you are doing.


How Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs Can Both Spark Innovation

This article ‘Leaving the cult of entrepreneurship: Intrapreneurs are the true drivers of innovation‘ takes position in the debate between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs as sources of innovation. I don’t think it is as simple: it all depends what kind of innovation we address and we should not oppose the two categories.

Intrapreneurs have the advantage of being able to mobilize considerables resources from their company to get their idea developed, once it is approved and recognized. Those means will dwarf those of the start-up entrepreneur, however one has to overcome the hurdles of internal approval and politics, and recognize the inevitable longer delays in getting things done in large organisations.

Independent entrepreneurs on their side will be more nimble, able to start on ideas without waiting for more approval than their friends and families’ dime. They can thus start on ideas that may be considered ridiculous by corporate committees. They can also often pivot more easily.

I thus think that intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are both potential contributors to breakthrough innovation, and that frustrated intrapreneurs can also easily become entrepreneurs. They should not be opposed and both can certainly change the world.


How Bionic Gloves Support a Professional Pianist to Play Again

This excellent article ‘How the Maestro Got His Hands Back‘ explain how world-renowned pianist João Carlos Martins got back the ability to play thanks to special gloves.

He was a prodigy and celebrated as a great pianist until he could not use his hands properly any more. He reinvented himself as a conductor at that stage. But still expecting to play piano, an admirer found a way by getting people to build special gloves for him.

Then along came these bionic gloves, created by an industrial designer named Ubiratan Bizarro Costa, who became familiar with Martins’s problems after he saw the maestro on a Brazilian television show in 2019. There is nothing high-tech about the gloves Costa invented, which is how he prefers it. […] The gloves are both deceptively complicated looking and incredibly precise. The hand slips into a neoprene sleeve outfitted with a 3D-printed frame and stainless steel bars on the fingers. Costa, a fan of Formula One racing, was inspired by the cars’ rear suspension mechanism: When weight bears down on it, it springs back up. Without the gloves, when Martins’s fingers hit a key, they stay depressed; the steel bars pop them back up.

Watch this moving extract on YouTube about his happiness to be able to play again.

Modern technology can improve significantly lives and overcome disabilities. The potential is limitless, even without excessive technological complication.


How to Explain the Trend Toward Sovereign Individuals and Entities

Have you heard about sovereign individuals announcing themselves to be above any state or country law? See for example this Forbes article ‘What is a Sovereign Citizen?‘, and a latest example at municipal level: ‘A California city council voted to make itself a ‘Constitutional Republic City’ to skirt state and federal orders it doesn’t want to enforce‘.

It has become a trend, inspired by individualism and often by anarchism thought about the fact that government is superfluous. “The short answer: a sovereign citizen is someone who believes that he or she is above all laws.” The longer answer: finding some basis to avoid applying some law or regulation you don’t like. People involved are often close to conspiracy theory and anarchistic movements.

Still, in the US, “The sovereign citizen movement is big and is growing fast, thanks to the Internet. There are an estimated 300,000 people in the movement, and approximately one third of these are what I would call hard-core believers – people willing to act on their beliefs rather than simply walk away.” It has become a concern and a trend, because it is so easy to declare oneself no obeying to certain laws you don’t like!

You can’t pick and choose the laws you are willing to obey and those you don’t. We all participate in a social construct and much of our wealth and peace is based on the addition of laws and regulations over the year. We also all belong to a country, a municipality. If we want to change something, in our democratic societies we can campaign for it. It is a bit easy to declare oneself a sovereign citizen to do as you like.


How Glossolalia Is Related to Transe Proto-Language

Experiencing trance (see for example ‘How Trance Has Become a Scientific Experiment‘) leads to the experience of proto-language, supposedly some form of earlier language. During trance, we express ourselves in this way. I found out this is actually glossolalia, an age-old concept that has been observed in many situations since greek antiquity, and is also mentioned in Neal Stephenson’s excellent book ‘Snow Crash’ in the form of a virus infecting brains originating from the Sumerians.

Glossolalia is a practice in which people utter words or speech-like sounds, often thought by believers to be languages unknown to the speaker. One definition used by linguists is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning, in some cases as part of religious practice in which some believe it to be a divine language unknown to the speaker

The interesting part is how widespread this practice is amongst religions and spiritual practices. It can be practiced. It has great benefits in that it can be used to convey feeling without saying awful words that are then remembered by other people, thus great to use in situations where you are angry and unhappy.

The fact that glossolalia is recognized across shamanism, Christianity and many other religions and situations shows that it is a constant capability of the human mind to speak a language, which could be an early or proto-language.


How the Metaverse Term and Concept Was Created in a Novel in 1992

The metaverse term was invented by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book ‘Snow Crash‘. I just read the book -highly recommended- and was astonished at how prescient it was, taking into account the fact it was published in 1992 and thus probably written in 1990 or 1991. At that time, the internet was quite in an infant stage.

In the book we are propelled into some dreary future where the government authority has vanished and where people live both in reality and a virtual world called the metaverse. The hero is a hacker that participated to setting it up and can manage some of the deeper programs, providing him with an advantage in the metaverse. It is worth reading the book so I won’t tell the story.

Still, the amazing part is how the description of the metaverse is actual as per our current view (as is the description of glass-fiber and remote connections to the internet, together with the usage of googles to view the virtual world). Kudos to the author because I remember that time as discovering as I went to university, the capabilities of ftp to connect to an overseas computer, the very beginning of email and no idea of internet at all.

Snow Crash‘ is indeed a highly recommended read, not only because it is an excellent thriller, but also to appreciate how authors can be prescient about future concepts and services. In this case, up to inventing the term ‘metaverse’.


How Geopolitical Competition Give Rise to Grey War

In a new book ‘The Wires of War: Technology and the Global Struggle for Power‘ the author Jacob Helberg describes some geostrategic drivers in the modern world, as explained in detail in this post ‘The Wires of War: Technology and the Global Struggle for Power‘.

Those are:

  1. The Gray War is redefining international politics.
  2. The new weapons of war are everyday technologies.
  3. The face of censorship has fundamentally changed.
  4. Old conceptions of sovereignty no longer apply.
  5. In the Gray War, de-industrialization is disarmament.

What I find interesting here is the concept of ‘grey war’ and the fact that industrialization is the key to remain at an essential place in the world order. “Gray zone competition conflicts are now a pervasive and predominant feature of international politics. I use the term “Gray War” to describe the systemic global tech-fueled struggle between U.S.-led democracies and China-led autocracies. The stakes of this war are ultimately about political power and influence over every meaningful aspect of our everyday lives, our economy, our infrastructure, our ability to compete and innovate, our personal privacy, and subtle decisions we make based on information we interact with every single day.”

Interconnection of our economies and our technologies has changed significantly the face of geopolitical competition. Conflict takes a different face, with grey war and more permanent threats and attacks.


How to Identify What Will Change and What Won’t in the Future

In this thoughtful post ‘Seeing The Bigger Future‘, we are called to reflect on what is actually change and what isn’t. Basic human needs don’t change irrespective of what technology we deploy, and there are some constants that will remain true, and even if AI develops beyond our wildest dreams.

While many things are changing around us, the secret is that some things never change. […] You don’t have to focus on the technological details to predict its progress. Anticipating what people will need is a great predictor of what will get built. Because while technology changes, human nature doesn’t. That means predicting “what” is often easier than predicting “how’. Why? Because technology doesn’t often look for a problem; rather, it is the response to one. A medium is just a tool. And the tool is just a way to accomplish something more efficiently.”

We should be careful not to be overwhelmed by changes in our tools. The basic needs we try to respond to are still the same. And focusing on those is what is really important.


How AI Can Support Creative Scientific Research

This provoking Scientific American article ‘AI Generates Hypotheses Human Scientists Have Not Thought Of‘ actually provides an excellent example of how AI can supplement human thought and together create a more productive and creative ecosystem.


Creating hypotheses has long been a purely human domain. Now, though, scientists are beginning to ask machine learning to produce original insights. They are designing neural networks (a type of machine-learning setup with a structure inspired by the human brain) that suggest new hypotheses based on patterns the networks find in data instead of relying on human assumptions. Many fields may soon turn to the muse of machine learning in an attempt to speed up the scientific process and reduce human biases.

The interesting part here is around reducing human biases, a topic which comes back several times in the article: avoiding preconceived ideas and theories and probably the burden of the institutional view on things. AI can provide an independent view and the combination can spark creative and innovative outputs.

I am convinced that we will find AI to be a great help rather than a competitor in all creative endeavors, like scientific research. And this is just the beginning!


How To Regulate Essential Services Like Residential Real Estate

This interesting post ‘Housing, money laundry, speculation and precarity‘ addresses the issue of speculation in real estate. It revolves around the re-regulation of real estate and the limits of deregulation in that area.

Confronted to a meteoritic rise of rents in Berlin the decision was taken to propose to renationalise a part of the real-estate A referendum supported this decision in September, however it still needs to be put in effect.

Real estate was privatized and financialized as bonds and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) focusing on profitability without taking into account the usage of the underlying assets. Moreover, “REITs are private equity, and they’re a devastatingly effective tool for money-laundering. REITs are typically backed by anonymous shell companies from financial secrecy havens and onshore-offshore zones like Delaware, Nevada and Wyoming.

According to the author the situation is worse in the US where homeowning has been transferred to opaque companies with unknown beneficiaries, which may create substantial issues in the medium and long term. All sorts of unhealthy practices seem to develop in particular in distressed communities. This raises the question of how to put some limits on the financialization of such essential services like personal accommodation real estate.

I am convinced that some essential parts of the economy require proper regulation, however the market principles still need to be at play. What is absolutely important is to make that abusive or fraud behavior is avoided, and that certain financial mechanisms are not a conduit to money laundering.