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Polymathic Monthly - Issue #16: Business Moats, Social Credit and Tsundoku


Polymathic Monthly

January 14 · Issue #16 · View online

A curation of articles, tech, books and innovation strategy to enrich your career and personal lives.

Four themes have been on my mind for the last couple of months (and might be for the rest of this year)
  1. Most startup founders I speak to have some unfounded beliefs about BigCo/Incumbent company they are challenging or trying to disrupt; they believe BigCo has super focused employees who have business clarity, that BigCo is actually putting in work to crush startups competing against them and that BigCo will scoop up their startup to inject some innovation DNA. 99.9% of the time all of these beliefs are untrue. I’ll say more in a subsequent newsletter.
  2. While I do not think innovation is at an all-time low, borrowing the words of a wise man I know ‘What’s happening in tech? Nobody, especially FAMGA (Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple) wants to miss out on the next big wave so they are just competing for everything, everywhere. It’s like throwing pasta on the wall to see what sticks. And they have the money to do it too. It’s pretty boring and it’s a waste of a lot of talent. 
  3. Bias, harassment, and issues in and around tech (and our world). I know people who do not think there is a there here. People who think it’s overblown. That’s a problem.
  4. Tsundoku is a Japanese word for ’the piling of unread books‘. It can also now be applied to newsletters, articles and magazines subscriptions. We all now suffer from multimedia tsundoku. Some of us even wear it as a badge of intellectual superiority (it’s not). I get nice emails from newsletter subscribers thanking me for adding to their never-ending list of unread stuff. A cool solution or product might be one that presents you with a new book or newsletter or article only after you’ve finished the one in your AI-curated queue. It’s probably the solution to the info deluge that we (will) all (continue to) face…
Here are some more good reads for your multimedia tsundoku…
  1. Even as we complain about Experian type personal data breaches we hurtle down the path of social credit. It’s something straight out of an episode of Black Mirror
  2. Are there still business moats that startups can build or have the big tech companies taken all ground? Jerry Chen of Greylock offers some fascinating ideas on where companies might be able to find new competitive edges and moats
  3. AlphaZero might be considered the most significant research advance in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) field last year. Watch for similar research in other fields in 2018. You can also read the original research here in Nature magazine.
  4. The murkiness of the world will require creative solution design. Carissa Carter from the Stanford d-school offers an approach.
  1. The best books draw you into people and their lives in a way that leaves you changed at your core when you put them down. I’m currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and I can safely say it is one of those books. 
  2. The same comment as above could be made about The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver, even though it is more Black Mirror than it is One Hundred Years of Solitude. I laughed, pondered, shook my head and wondered about the characters and situations for days after.
  3. In The Death of Expertise, Tom Nichols suggests that America(ns) now wears ignorance as a cloak and a defense against the reality of inconvenient truths. He suggests that, unless we bring back a healthy respect/ skepticism and position for expertise in our discourse, we might be undoing the fabric of the US. The article that led to the book can be read here.
  4. Damola (a subscriber) recommended Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark. It’s a provocative book on how AI will affect all of us. Thanks, Damola.
Here’s to a fantastic 2018 filled with knowledge, more beautiful questions and less fake news.
ps: if you’d like to be a guest writer of an issue of Polymathic do reach out, I’d love to elevate some other voices this year :)
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