All posts by Richard Gayle

The end of Liberalism is the beginning

Classic liberalism has taken us a long ways, allowing much more complex societies than before. But it cannot pull us much further by itself. The endpoint of the focus on the individual is beginning to pull us a part. As social animals, we cannot survive as individuals.

“Why Liberalism Failed” — the title suggests an abstract and academic treatise, and author Patrick Deneen does not disappoint. The Notre Dame professor discourses on modernity’s prevailing political philosophy and loftily pronounces it dead. His critique spans countries, centuries and fields of study from economics to the humanities. It’s not a small topic, when you think about it.


But we can use our liberal gifts to bootstrap ourselves to a new way of organizing ourselves, one with a little more balance, by adding more distributed systems of interacting rather than hierarchical.

We are already in the process and early examples are seeing tremendous success. We can do this now because we have tools to accomplish  this change, something lacking before.

This is the fundamental cause of our troubles today – advancing to a new level of social organization. One that provides a selective advantage in the new cultural environment we inhabit

Liberalism got us up several flights of stairs but to continue we need new principles.

Image: Skara kommun

Diamandis details 21st century entrepreneurship

Peter hits the nail squarely here. Humans have a hard time understanding exponentials. And the exponential economy seems like a mystery to them. But if you do not organize your community to deal with exponentials, you will likely fail.

Being an entrepreneur today is vastly different than it was 20 years ago.

Today, each of us has access to more capital, more technological tools, more information, more talent, and more computational power than the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies did just two decades ago.

As I think about what it takes to succeed in a world of Abundance and a world of accelerating returns, I focus on six mindsets and tools that every exponential entrepreneur needs to master.

Here’s a quick look:

1. You Must Understand Exponentials

We’re local and linear thinkers in an exponential world.

Our brains haven’t had a significant upgrade in over a million years, whereas our technology is doubling in power every 18 to 24 months.

Exponential technology is transforming products and services and disrupting industries. That’s why Ray Kurzweil and I cofounded Singularity University.

I often talk about my “6 D’s” framework – it’s a lens through which I contextualize all technological change and opportunities:

The 6 Ds Progression:

  • Digitized: Turning every product or service into “1’s and 0’s.”
  • Deceptive: The doubling of small numbers is deceptive. Start doubling 0.1 to 0.2… 0.4… 0.8… and at this phase, it all looks like “zero.”
  • Disruptive: After we reach “1,” just 30 doublings later, we’re at 1 billion.
  • Dematerialized: Exponential technology turns tangible “things” into digital apps. I no longer carry around GPS equipment – it’s an app on my phone.
  • Demonetized: The cost of duplicating and sending an app is essentially zero.
  • Democratized: Once products and services are digital, they go global and can become ubiquitous.

Exponential entrepreneurs use the 6 D’s as a technological road map to predict where technologies are going and when to capitalize on the opportunities. This framework gives them an unfair advantage over competitors.

2. You See the World as Abundant (vs. Scarce)

Exponential entrepreneurs understand that technology is a force that transforms things from scarcity to abundance.

Technology is creating a world of abundance in almost every major arena, including energy, knowledge, transportation, computation, access to education and access to healthcare.

Once these industries transform from scarcity to abundance, their products and services become cheap (or free) and their quality goes through the roof.

Exponential entrepreneurs understand that despite the constant barrage of negative news from the Crisis News Network (my joking term for CNN) and its ilk, the world is becoming better at an extraordinary rate on almost every possible measure, including food, energy, education, poverty and health. (Note: I collect detailed charts on “Evidence of Abundance here.”)

Exponential entrepreneurs also know that scarcity-minded, closed business models ultimately fail, and open platforms ultimately win.

3. You Leverage Exponential Technologies


4. You Have an MTP and a Moonshot


5. You Tap the Crowd for Expertise, Solutions & Capital


6. You Launch Your Vision, Experiment & Disrupt Yourself



So many good points. Read and execute them all.

Image: luk.s

Moving Adobe into the Special category

Adobe’s Record Revenue Proves Successful Business Transformation Is Possible
[Via Daring Fireball]

Ron Miller, writing for TechCrunch:

As we watch organizations like IBM, HP and EMC struggle to transform, Adobe is an interesting contrasting case. It went from selling boxed software to a cloud subscription model in shorter order, and judging from its financial report that came out last week, it’s done quite well making that leap.

First, let’s have a look at the numbers. Adobe reported a record $1.31 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 22 percent year over year increase. It disclosed record annual revenue of $4.8 billion. Mind you these are significant, but the big number to me is that recurring revenue from subscriptions now represents 74 percent of Adobe’s business. What’s more, just under $3 billion in revenue in 2015 came from digital media-related annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Adobe is making this switch to subscription pricing look easy. It’s not.


Apple has been a great example of a 21st century company, transitioning from a mass producer of  millions of things to a personal producer of things for millions of people.

This is the key transition to the new economy being created. It requires a changing balance between the hierarchical authority so useful in the Age of Mass Production and the distributed democracy driving the Age of Personal Production.

Adobe no longer sells millions of boxes of the same thing to people for them to consume. It has a personal connection to millions of subscribers who use the offerings of Adobe.

This is not easy today but I expect that more will appear over the next decade,

It is all personal.

Image: Valerie Everett


Disagreement, Yes. Disrespect, No.

Amazon Is Right That Disagreement Results in Better Decisions
[Via Harvard Business Review]

When I worked in the federal government, I was amazed at the large numbers of factual errors in widely-read stories, even in the best newspapers. As a colleague of mine, a staunch Democrat, observed in 2009, “I now think that at least half of the things I most disliked about the Bush Administration . . . never happened.”

I tell this little tale because the lengthy New York Times story, detailing some apparently brutal features of the culture at Amazon, should be taken with many grains of salt. But even if the story is full of inaccuracies, and if we put the company’s alleged harshness to one side, Amazon’s approach offers indispensable guidance for companies both large and small when they are deciding how to make group decisions.


Disagreement does not mean disrespect. Finding the right balance will help companies become successful and wise.

The disagreement must be based on and argued using logical rhetoric. Allowing logucal fallacies to be raised in a disagreement will result in a failed process and little wisdom.

As Brook’s law suggests, projects cannot be made successful by spending more time or throwing more people at them. What can make the projects successful is effective information flow, lowering the friction for important information to traverse the group. 

One way that works to do this is to have open discussions, including open disagreement. These prevents groupthink will enhancng the inflow of novel information.

But, logical fallacies or lawyerly tactics (ie belittling, bullying, anger, intimidation) will destroy the benefits of this process and eventually cause the company to fail.

Because the dissenters, the disruptors who disagree, will either leave for better pastures or be forced out. Leaving the company full of easy going, hard working drones who simply follow the easiest path rather than the wise one.

Image: Carsten Tolkmit

The Space Trade Association Experiment

I thought I’d bring everyone up to date with what happened regarding the Space Trade Association. It is currently on hiatus.

The three of us started it about a year ago. We wanted to catalyze the creation of a full economy in space and drive the formation of a NewSpace hub in the Seattle area. We had met as part of a group that came together to support Planetary Resourcescrowdfunding efforts.

We had a wonderful time helping them raise  over $1.5 million. We wanted to find a way to continue our work and thus the Space Trade Association come into being. 

Each of us brought something important to the mix, with a balance of expertise that was really exciting.

Now the experiment part came from the fact that the three of us were located in different parts of the country – New Mexico, Illinois and Washington. I was curious to see how well we could work to drive our initiative.

The experiment lasted until this summer. It was quite successful to my mind because of what was learned. We were able to make some great contacts, get our message out there and begin the changes we saw were needed.

But, using a space metaphor, when it reached the end of the first stage burn, we found we could not really ignite the second stage and make it to a successful orbit.

it ultimately could not continue for several reasons. For me, the main one was that we could not really move as fast as was needed in this rapidly changing area with such a distributed management structure.

Not too surprised but that is what experiments are for. We actually came closer than I think would have been possible a few years ago.

We decided to put the group on hiatus as we each explored other arenas, shutting down the STA  engines and seeing it contining on a ballistic path until either splashdown or we can reignite the 2nd stage.

My focus now is on using the scientific models that exist and the expertise I have gained  to enhance and stimulate the changes that are occurring in the area. To facilitate the coming space economy by helping more organizations succeed and less fail.

It will be exciting.

Image: kind permission of Pat Rawings

The road to Hell really is paved with good intentions

Nice People Are More Likely to Follow Orders that Hurt Others
[Via Big Think]

A new psychology study published this month in the Journal of Personality has revealed a dark truth about the nicest and friendliest people in our society — they are probably more capable of doing the most horrific things if ordered to.


The title of the paper tells all: Personality Predicts Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm.

Communities of nice people can be made to do awful things. If everyone is nice, no one will be impolite enough to tell the community it is doing wrong.

We all need to find ways to value the rude, contrarian and disagreeable people in our communities. They may be the ones who prevent the community from doing great harm.

Nice people are usually the ones that follow the social norms best. They get along with everyone because they follow the rules. That is why they are seen as nice. No disruptive behavior for them.

It is easy to be seen as agreeable if you never question others or their behavior. 

As the researchers state:

Those who are described as ‘agreeable, conscientious personalities’ are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while more contrarian, less agreeable personalities are more likely to refuse to hurt others.

It is easy to be seen as disagreeable if you question others or  their behavior.

Amazingly, those who are seen as less agreeable  are less likely to harm others. They dug their heels in and refused to submit to authority or social norms.

I expect part of the reason they are seen as less agreeable is that they are rude enough to shirk social norms, the same social norms the agreeable people follow so storngly.

A community with only nice people can suffer from epistemic closure,where all those nice people can be made to do really awful things

Because they do not want to appear rude and thus be less likable by telling everyone else they are doing something harmful. It will never realize that the Emperor has no clothes.

It may be that rude people are the most important ones in a community, needed to keep it on an ethical path.

Yet they are often the ones cast out first, because they are so ‘rude.’

If this research holds up, it would suggest that trying to create a community where everyone is nice and no one is rude could well produce a community capable of doing great harm.

So value and support a few disagreeable people in your organization – the ones that upset some people – in order to have a well-balanced community that will not do something harmful or stupid.

Try to determine why they are disagreeing and engage with that, rather than dismiss them because they act contrary to social norms.

Some rude people are purely disruptive and disrespectful because the attention makes them feel important. But many are actually trying to help the group see where the danger lies, to prevent the group from doing harm.

It takes more work to deal with disagreeable people – it is part of what makes them disagreeable – but they may be critical for the community’s success.

Value those committed yet disagreeable people. They will help the community best in the long run.

Image: Paul Downey

The latest fraud shows science working as expected

A glass-half-full view of academic fraud in political science
[Via Monkey Cage]

Wednesday was interesting for political scientists. Our social media feeds were full of angst in response to the news that a very influential member of our discipline had requested a retraction of a very widely reported finding published by a very prestigious journal on which he had been a co-author. The data upon which the finding rested appear to have been fraudulently produced. Thus, a process of shaming has begun. It is a necessary process. Yet it misses a very important part of the story: science actually worked.

Not much political science research gets major coverage in outlets like Bloomberg, The Washington Post and “This American Life.” The now retracted finding did (here, here, and here), and that is partly because it was published in a journal that all scientists — not just social scientists — read. A retraction of an article published in such an outlet is major scientific news, and to the best of my knowledge, no political science article has ever been retracted from such a publication. And because some U.S. lawmakers oppose funding for political science research, people are particularly concerned that this “black eye” will contribute to such critiques.

“Do not fudge the data” is, of course, an important scientific norm. Public confidence in science rests in no small part upon our upholding it. So the news that the authors of one of the most widely disseminated findings our discipline has produced of late had violated that norm was met with consternation and concern. A political science study had joined the pantheon of famous academic frauds, including the 1989 cold fusion fraud, the 2011 retraction of the vaccine-autism study, and the 2013 case of serial fraud in social psychology.

The reaction to all of these cases is publish shaming. Shaming is the standard process by which human societies reproduce norms. Norms are most readily apparent when they are being violated, and if we want the norm to persist, large groups of us must raise the alarm and call out the violators for their poor behavior.


This is how the system is supposed to work. The fraud was revealed by other researchers and in pretty swift fashion. And social norms are used to make sure everyone in the community knows the penalty for fraud.

There are strong negative feedback loops to deal with fraud. I wish they were as strong in other arenas of our society.

Science worked because the research was openly published, the fraud was revealed by attempted replication and now, the most important part, shunning will be used to enforce social norms.

Not only is the career of the graduate student who made up the data destroyed (for example, he will likely never be able to get a Federal research grant) but the career of the senior researcher, who does not appear to be involved in the fraud, may well be damaged.

In fact the senior researcher may only escape universal opprobrium by having the paper retracted so swiftly. This is a plus in his favor. It was a paper in Science, something that does not happen often for anyone. He knows what the impact of the retraction will be on his career yet he swiftly did the right thing.


Richard Feynman talked about how the system is supposed to work in his commencement address Cargo Cult Science. Scientists are people, with their own faults, just like everyone else.

We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work.

Science creates models of the world based on data. The better the data, the more likely a good model describing the world will be supported.

If those data are wrong, it will be revealed as the model is simply not capable of accurately describing Nature. A model based on bad data will never be a good model and will eventually fall to models that are closer to reality.

“The truth will come out.”  And what is fascinating is that what Feynman described in 1974 regarding things he had seen in the 40s still occur today. 

Because scientists are people, with all the greatness and faults of everyone else. But science works because of the process, one that is social in nature.

We want good reputations. We fear being shunned. It is in our genes and in our communities, because those two approaches provided tremendous selective advantages to a new type of primate.

Most times, the data are wrong because the researchers allowed themselves to be fooled – confirmation bias. Feynman again:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that.

We see this in many communities, not just in science. Wishful thinking is a human trait and one that Feynman suggested researchers work hard to remove.

Now when this sort of foolishness does happen – and it always will because we are all human – everyone can recognize that good people can be led astray. In the case of cold fusion, for example, the equipment was not fully calibrated properly. Better equipment revealed the lack of the reaction.

But that can still damage the careers of anyone associated with the wrong data. They gain a reputation of not being a ‘good’ scientist. Thus the lesson for everyone is to be vigilant before the work is published.

Sometimes, though, outright fraud occurs. Here there is usually swift and harsh punishment. Not criminal – no one is unlikely to go to jail. But social – commit outright fraud and be kicked out of the community of researchers.

The negative implications of such shunning goes to the heart of being human. Being thrown out of a community they want to be a part is the greatest punishment for any researcher.

This is why science works, and why it is different from alchemy. Openness allows social norms to be applied to control maladaptive behavior, acts that harm the integrity of the community.

While scientific works are openly published for all to see and to replicate, it is the negative social aspects of being wrong that controls most aberrant behavior.

Social norms are powerful.

The science community uses the same social norms that every successful community should use to punish those who would game the system to hurt the community. 

It has always been easy to fudge the data. Researchers have used all sorts of tricks to try and make their work more important  or fit their personal theory.

That is human nature. Gain an edge by cheating.

But, just as with a baseball player caught using steroids, there has to be rapid and universal consequences of anyone cheating. Cheating in science goes to the core of the success we have seen over the last 400 years.

Researchers are human and some will try to seek advantage hoping no one notices. But the whole process of science requires that people notice.

Because if that fraud presents any important model for the world, it will be examined. And, in almost all cases, others will publish the real data, revealing the fraud.

Then. as here, everyone will see tremendous discordance with reality and the jig is up.

Heck, we still see discussion of possible fraud from research that is almost 200 years old. No important research will ever escape examination. 

So the fraudster has to make a deadly calculus. Gain prestige from their fraudulent work  – the reason to commit the fraud in the first place. But not make the work important enough for anyone to examine it and discover the fraud. 

That is a balance seldom achieved. and why science works.

And an example of what makes humans such a successful species.

Image: Thomas Fisher Rare Book

Whole Foods does not realize the supermarket is dying

Whole Foods’ Misguided Play for Millennials

The news that Whole Foods will open a separate chain of stores designed to appeal to millennials stopped me mid-aisle. According to Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb, these future stores will feature “modern, streamlined design, innovative technology, and a curated selection” of lower-priced organic and natural foods.

As millennials would write—facepalm.

My dismay is not about the concept. After all, who wouldn’t love to shop for lower-priced, organic, and natural foods in a store that boasts a clean and modern design?  My dismay is about how this new chain is being communicated to the public and designed to win in the marketplace.

By describing this new concept as “geared toward millennial shoppers,” Whole Foods is essentially saying one (or both) of the following:

  1. Gen X and Baby Boomer shoppers are fine with or even prefer old, cluttered stores that sell a confusing array of stuff at high prices.
  2. We (Whole Foods) need to create new stores because our current ones are old and cluttered and sell all sorts of poorly organized stuff at high prices.


Supermarkets as we know them are going to disappear.We will not need one stop shopping for all our staples and other food products.

At least not one we traverse ourselves in person. When we do go out, it will be to smaller, more personal stores.

How do I know? I’ve been using Amazon Fresh for the last few months. It is a well stocked grocery store that can deliver my goods to the front door almost anytime I want.

Like before I wake up.

It remembers previous purchases, so I can easily select the things I want. Delivery is free with at least $50 purchase. Instead of making one large trip to the supermarket each week, I can order a couple of times a week from Amazon Fresh.

All while I am at home and can see just what I need. And the prices are the same or cheaper on almost every thing I checked. The selection is good and getting better.

I find I really only need to go to the supermarket occasionally to get fresh produce – Amazon Fresh has them but I still like picking out my own. And fresh meats.

I’ve tried ordering things like chicken breasts from Amazon Fresh but when it comes to something like this, I;d rather see the entire selection and make my choice.

So really all I need is a good farmers market and a good butcher.

What happens to Whole Foods’ great idea when Amazon simply includes the wonderful organic foods at Amazon Fresh?

Amazon Fresh is not everywhere yet. But I expect Amazon is working on that.

And Amazon has made some missteps with membership pricing that may hamper its acceptance.

But someone will get this right. Or supermarkets themselves will get into the act.

I expect that the major way people will get their groceries in a few years will be home delivery. Large boutique stores would seem to a relic.

Especially if the home delivery service can also access the same organic markets.

Give me access to a good butcher or fresh produce and I would not need a supermarket.

Image: Sean Gregor

It’s all personal

Personal. And easy to see.

Ask ten people who runs Apple or Tesla. You will get a large number who get the answer correct. Then ask them who runs GM or Boeing. Only rarely to you get a correct answer.

21st century companies create a personal connection with everyone, including their customers. This signals a very different way of organizing their efforts, one that indicates an underlying understanding that moving information around rapidly is critical.

One of the emerging aspects of corporations making the transition to new structures that allow them to rapidly adapt to change is a personal connection – with their employees, suppliers and customers.

Companies of the last century were faceless multinationals who had users and consumers, not customers. They employed hierarchical structures to control the flow of information to allow them to mass produce identical items for sale.

They were barely above the Henry Ford dictum that you could have any color of car you wanted, as long as it was black. Everyone was a cog in the wheel of process, even the CEO. Strength came from presenting a monolithic edifice of tremendous power.

The hierarchical structure worked for simple processes but, as only the person at the top knew everything, the organizations were not very adaptable.

Companies for the 21st century operate differently. We know who runs the company, not only who is at the top but also their close executives. They make things for individual customers. While they can make hundreds of millions of things, these can be easily personalized by those who purchase them.

Strength comes from presenting a kind face hoping to make an individual’s life better. It’s personal.

So we have Apple, whose CEO is not only known to many by name but also puts the signatures of everyone who worked on the original Macintosh inside the first Macs. In fact, at the famous Apple Keynotes, the VPs and even lower level executives are introduced on stage to discuss new developments.

In contrast, few can really name who was involved in the development of the Windows OS. Or the designers of the new Boeing airplane. Or any new car.

These 21st century companies create a community that really appreciates what the company provides. They stay in constant contact with each other on a personal level.

Steve Jobs provided apparently personal responses to many emails people sent him. Not with corporate speak but with real personality – sometimes a LOT of personality.

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, told the world about the failure of their latest efforts by tweeting it, not by hiding it.

The ability to move information around, to engage in a large community, provides tremendous advantages when it comes to succeeding at complex efforts.

It enlarges not only the pool of people excited by the things being produced but also provides tremendous abilities for rapid feedback in positive ways.

We will see more of these sorts of organizations coming soon.

Image: NASA