Best of the Web: Pivots, robots and the end of sleep

No sleep needed: New technologies are emerging that could radically reduce our need to sleep – if we can bear to use them, writes Jessa Gamble for aeon magazine. 

Imagine a disease that cuts your conscious life by one-third. You would clamour for a cure. We’re talking about sleep. There may be no cure yet for sleep, but the palliatives are getting better.

“Work, friendships, exercise, parenting, eating, reading — there just aren’t enough hours in the day,” Gamble writes.

“To live fully, many of us carve those extra hours out of our sleep time. Then we pay for it the next day. A thirst for life leads many to pine for a drastic reduction, if not elimination, of the human need for sleep. Little wonder: if there were a widespread disease that similarly deprived people of a third of their conscious lives, the search for a cure would be lavishly funded. It’s the Holy Grail of sleep researchers, and they might be closing in.”

Dilbert does startup: When Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams turned himself to entrepreneurship, he wasn’t prepared for some of the weirder ways of Silicon Valley. Describing himself as an “embedded journalist” this week he takes on the pivot. 

“The Internet is no longer a technology,” Adams writes.

“The Internet is a psychology experiment. Building a product for the Internet is the easy part.

“Getting people to understand the product and use it is the hard part. The only way to make the hard part work is by testing one hypothesis after another. Every entrepreneur is a behavioral psychologist with the tools to pull it off.”

And he’s distilled it all down in “the system”, which looks like this:

 

1.      Form a team

2.      Slap together an idea and put it on the Internet.

3.      Collect data on user behavior

4.      Adjust, pivot, and try again

 

What the gospel of innovation gets wrong: “In the last years of the nineteen-eighties, I worked not at startups but at what might be called finish-downs,” write Jill Lepore in a piece titled ‘The Disruption Machine’ in The New Yorker.

Lepore’s thesis is that Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruption, accepted across American industry as “the gospel of innovation”, is wobbly at best because it rests on a group of handpicked case studies that prove little or nothing.

“Most of the entrant firms celebrated by Christensen as triumphant disrupters no longer exist, their success having been in some cases brief and in others illusory,” writes Lepore.

Anyone who has anything to do with the startup industry will relate to this point:

“Ever since “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” everyone is either disrupting or being disrupted,” she writes.

“There are disruption consultants, disruption conferences, and disruption seminars. This fall, the University of Southern California is opening a new program: “The degree is in disruption,” the university announced. “Disrupt or be disrupted,” the venture capitalist Josh Linkner warns in a new book, “The Road to Reinvention,” in which he argues that “fickle consumer trends, friction-free markets, and political unrest,” along with “dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and mind-numbing technology advances,” mean that the time has come to panic as you’ve never panicked before.”

Don’t worry about the robots: Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen does not believe that robots will eat jobs.

 “Robots and AI are not nearly as powerful and sophisticated as people are starting to fear, writes Andreessen,

“With my venture capital hat on I wish they were, but they’re not. There are enormous gaps between what we want them to do, and what they can do. There is still an enormous gap between what many people do in jobs today, and what robots and AI can replace. There will be for decades.”

 Image credit: Flickr/wintermute2600

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