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The video explores how different entities can resist technological disruption, such as Russia's government, China's regulations, public opinion, and government subsidies. It explains how cost, performance, taste, nutritional content, water intensity, and pesticide/herbicide intensity are used to evaluate products. It discusses Elon Musk's companies and how talent and social coordination are important for disruption. It also examines the strategies used by the Catholic Church, BP, Microsoft, and the auto industry. Finally, it looks at how scope creep, survivorship bias and derailing disruption can be used to contain disruption.

Short Summary

The speaker suggests considering resistance to disruption from the perspectives of an incumbent industry, policymaker, or government. Russia's current government could take action to resist disruptions in transportation, energy and food, while China has accelerated them in order to emerge as a leader. Regulations can be used to slow down or stop certain disruptions, but this can be dangerous to local economies. For example, China has prevented tech companies from the west from establishing a foothold to shield domestic competitors, delaying the disruption timetable of local industries such as newspapers.
Technology disruptions can be driven by both market forces and government forces, such as the development of nuclear weapons after World War II. Public opinion can also stifle development of disruptive technologies, such as nuclear power and GMOs, and can prevent them from becoming cost-competitive. To evaluate products, cost, performance, taste, nutritional content, water intensity, and pesticide/herbicide intensity are all considered to determine if a product is cost-competitive enough to create a disruption in the market.
Public opinion and culture can derail disruption, as individuals make choices based on their beliefs. Government intervention, such as subsidies or bans, can also be used to slow down disruption. Tony's diagram illustrates the two sides of disruption, with increasing demand for the new technology decreasing demand for the old. Taxing the new technology may slow down disruption, but it is unlikely to stop it entirely. Government subsidies can slow down disruption, but not halt it completely, as they may not make the new technology cheap enough for disruption to take hold.
Exponential growth of new technology can be affected by the difficulty of getting a cultural or industry movement going, and further complicated by network effects, infrastructure, social sanction, public opinion and government support. Incumbents can use strategies such as social sanction, investment in infrastructure, network effects, leading platforms and standards, scaling, expansion of supply, and government subsidies or barriers to resist disruption. Talent is a major factor in disruption, as it is needed to coordinate people and capital to develop new technologies, and regulation can be used to favour duopoly or monopoly and prevent disruption.
Elon Musk's companies, Tesla and SpaceX, have an advantage over their competitors due to their ability to attract the world's brightest minds. However, advances in manufacturing and logistics can be incremental, rather than needing a fundamental breakthrough. Technology has become more complex, making it more difficult for disruptive advances to occur independently and leading to an era of relative stagnation in science. To progress further, different institutions, communication mechanisms, norms and culture may be needed in order to enable more advances.
Talent is an important factor in technological advancement, and cultures which foster it, celebrate innovation, and cultivate an educated citizenry are more likely to experience disruptions and progress. Social coordination is a limiting factor, even with information technology, and new ideas such as 'sub-tweeting' and 'sub-boarding' are being used to amplify it. Professional illustrators may also be employed to sketch cartoons and concept maps of what is being discussed, enabling greater understanding and coordination. Overall, information technology is playing a major role in amplifying social coordination and facilitating technological advancement.
Communication is an important tool to prevent disruption, such as buying up adwords and controlling media platforms. The Catholic Church successfully co-opted disruption in response to the Reformation, and BP is attempting to do the same with their marketing. Clayton Christensen's work focuses on disruption in a business sense, rather than a technological sense. Celebrities are also refusing to apologize in the face of cancel culture. These strategies can be used to maintain control, but they do not prevent the destruction.
The auto industry is a prime example of incumbents struggling to align incentives to enable self-disruption. Other institutions, such as religion, may not need to rebrand but instead reinvent themselves to keep up with the times. Companies can use the analogy of a species speciation event to understand how they may need to adapt in order to survive a crisis. Microsoft is one example of a company that has reinvented itself due to disruption, though it is harder to identify those that have managed to slow down or stop it. There is a conspiracy theory that some car companies have bought up electric vehicle technology and buried it.
Big companies are buying and burying startups, such as an email client bought by Gmail, as a way to co-opt disruption. An example of this is the nuclear industry in California, where fossil fuel lobbies funded environmental groups to make regulations so onerous that the nuclear power plants had to close. Banks may use similar strategies to address new challengers such as cryptocurrency and distributed finance. Some banks are adopting cryptocurrency to appear as experts and gain influence in regulation panels, using a strategy of feigning support to gain positional advantage and then working to undermine the change.
There is a familiar pattern of companies trying to co-opt technological disruptions but failing. Resistance to change can be deliberate or unintentional and driven by unthinking dynamics. Innovation in the military industrial complex has been stifled, resulting in a duopoly or small contingent of big aerospace contractors, which may be an accidental outcome due to circumstances. It is difficult to find people who can manage disruptions effectively and not ruin everything, and these people are rare.
Disruption is a miracle when enough people come together to make it successful. It is not only technological determinism that enables disruption, but also social, political and cultural factors. Disruptions can create a golden age, and it is important to study historical cases to gain insight. Scope creep and survivorship bias are two issues when it comes to understanding potential disruptions, and derailing disruption is about moving it from one category to another. Delaying and containing disruption are also important to consider.

Long Summary

The speaker suggests considering what resistance to disruption looks like, and proposes examining it from the perspectives of an incumbent industry, policymaker, or government. Examples of this could include a nation whose economy is dependent on fossil fuels and would be affected by a decrease in demand. Different lenses of analysis, such as individual industries, could also be used to consider how disruption can be resisted.
Russia's current government could be interested in taking action to resist disruptions in transportation, energy and food, in order to delay them. China has taken the opposite approach, accelerating these disruptions in order to emerge as a leader. This could be successful, but other countries may take a different approach. Regulations are often used to slow down or stop certain disruptions, and this can be dangerous to local economies. For example, China has prevented tech companies from the west from establishing a foothold in order to shield domestic competitors, delaying the disruption timetable of local industries such as newspapers.
Technology disruptions can be driven by both market forces and government forces. An example of the latter is the development of nuclear weapons in the period after World War II, which was not market driven but nonetheless had a huge impact on warfare. This suggests that non-market mechanisms can also be powerful drivers of disruption, and we may expect them to have similar effects as market forces.
Public opinion has been a major force in stifling the development of disruptive technologies such as nuclear power and GMOs. Stuart Russell, or someone similar, discussed this in relation to AI development, warning against careless AI systems causing harm and leading to public opinion turning against AI. Nuclear power was originally thought to be too cheap to meter, but it never proved to be cost competitive and so never became a disruptive technology. A technology disruption requires multiple technologies to converge, such as solar plus batteries, to provide a competitive service.
GMOs have been found to be much cheaper and more effective than non-GMO alternatives, yet public resistance has resulted in the technology being largely banned in Europe. Nuclear power has also been hindered by public resistance, though it could potentially have been a cost-competitive disruption if it had been advanced further. When evaluating products, cost, performance, taste, nutritional content, water intensity, and pesticide/herbicide intensity are considered. These metrics are used to determine if a product is cost-competitive enough to create a disruption in the market.
GMOs are a good example of disruption being derailed by public opinion, which can be spread by memes and other cultural phenomena. This can create a phase transition, where the preferred global minimum is changed by increasing the energy of the potential well, stopping the disruption. Culture has a fundamental role in derailing disruptions, as individuals make choices to switch based on their beliefs. Consumers are a source of demand and can influence the success of a disruption.
Government intervention can be used to resist disruption in markets, such as subsidizing older technology or bailing out certain industries. In extreme cases, public opinion can lead to an outright ban, dropping demand for new technology to zero. Tony's diagram illustrates the two sides of disruption, with increasing demand for the new technology decreasing demand for the old. Taxing the new technology may slow down disruption, but it is unlikely to stop it entirely.
Government subsidies can slow down disruption, but not halt it completely. For example, if a new technology has the potential to cost half of the incumbent technology, a subsidy could tip the balance and make the new technology not cheap enough for disruption to take hold. This could be seen in the example of VHS tapes and Betamax, where the difference in quality was small enough that a government subsidy could have tipped the balance. Ultimately, subsidies can slow down disruption, but not completely halt it.
A small change in a multiplicative constant can have a large impact when amplified through a feedback loop. Dan drew a diagram which shows how exponential growth of new technology can be affected by the difficulty of getting a cultural movement or industry movement going. This is further complicated by network effects, infrastructure, social sanction, public opinion and government support. For those threatened by disruption, the best way to protect themselves would be to forestall the disruptive technology with a silver bullet.
Jamie is writing a piece called the Incumbents Playbook to identify how incumbents have responded to disruption in the past and what should be expected in the future. The speaker is exploring ways to resist disruption beyond an outright ban. Social sanction, investment in infrastructure, network effects, leading platforms and standards, scaling, expansion of supply, and government subsidies or barriers are all mentioned as potential strategies.
Talent is a major factor in disruption, as it is needed to coordinate people and capital to develop new technologies. For example, SpaceX could not have been built 40 years ago as there was no way to coordinate the people and capital to make it happen. Large, dumb corporations had swallowed up resources and talent, preventing disruption. Talent is needed in the research and development phase and the deployment and scaling phase, which is when the disruption really takes off. Regulation can be used to favour duopoly or monopoly and prevent disruption, as large companies are sclerotic and slow to innovate.
Elon Musk's companies, Tesla and SpaceX, have an advantage over their competitors due to their ability to attract some of the world's brightest engineering and scientific minds. However, it may be too simplistic to think that only the best minds are needed for the entire process of disruption and scaling. The Industrial Revolution is an example of how advances in manufacturing and logistics can be incremental, rather than needing a fundamental breakthrough. Musk's claim that building one thing is easy and building a thousand is the hard part is true, as it is often the manufacturing and scaling that is the challenge. Disruptions in the past were more dependent on fundamental breakthroughs and insights, but now the challenge is often in manufacturing and scaling.
Technology has become more complex in recent years, making it more difficult for disruptive advances to occur independently from large-scale brain power and talent. This might be due to a shift in the nature of technology, making it more challenging to make advances. We are currently witnessing an era of relative stagnation in science due to the complexity of our social coordination technologies, such as peer review, which have a limit. To progress further, we may need to come up with different institutions, communication mechanisms, norms, culture, and so on. In the future, this could enable us to do much more.
Talent is an underinvested area of technology which can lead to latent disruptions. Cultures which foster talent, celebrate innovation, and cultivate an educated citizenry are more likely to experience disruptions and technological advancement. The opposite can be true if talent is not developed, innovation is not celebrated, and an educated citizenry is not cultivated. Institutions which support these things are necessary to promote technological advancement, while the opposite can lead to a lack of progress.
Social coordination is a limiting factor, even with the powerful tools of information technology. It is possible to see this at a broad scale, encompassing entire societies and subcultures within industries. Matt suggested the idea of 'sub-tweeting' or 'sub-boarding', which involves providing notes on a board while someone is speaking. There is also the idea of having a professional illustrator sketch cartoons of the panelists and concept maps of what they are talking about as they speak, as a job in the future metaverse. Social coordination is being amplified by information technology, allowing us to do more than was possible in the past.
Communication plays an important role in feedback loops, and can be used to derail disruption. For example, a fossil fuel company could buy up all the adwords for solar panels and replace them with links to llama farms. Media is also a powerful lever to influence public opinion, and by controlling media platforms, one can filter out communication about new technology or distort it. Co-opting disruption is a strategy used by the Catholic Church in response to the Reformation; although their authority was permanently eroded, they were able to survive and remain relevant.
The Anglican Church was once powerful in England, but the Catholic Church managed to reassert control largely due to their talent. They opted against apologizing and changing and stuck to their guns, which worked. This is similar to celebrities now refusing to apologize in the face of cancel culture. BP is attempting to co-opt disruption in their marketing. To the extent that they co-opt disruption and go along with it, they have not prevented the destruction, even if they maintain control. Clayton Christensen's work focused on disruption in a business sense, rather than a technological sense.
Incumbents have difficulty aligning incentives to enable self-disruption, as seen in the auto industry. There are two types of disruption: one seen in industry, and another seen in other institutions such as religion. For example, the Catholic Church may not need to rebrand itself as specified by the forces that anticipated the disruption, but instead just reinvent itself in some way. This can be enough to keep up with the times and avoid disruption.
An analogy can be used to explain how a company may need to adapt in order to survive a crisis. This could be likened to a species speciation event, where the old adaptiveness is no longer effective and multiple new ways of surviving must be found. Examples of companies that have reinvented themselves due to disruption can be found, such as Microsoft, though it is harder to identify those that have managed to slow down or stop the disruption. There is a conspiracy theory that some car companies have bought up electric vehicle technology and buried it, though this is not proven.
Big companies that used to be startups are buying new startups and burying them, such as an email client that was bought by Gmail and disappeared. This could be a form of co-opting, where disruption is killed through incumbent status. An example of this is the nuclear industry in California, where fossil fuel lobbies funded environmental groups and made the regulations so onerous that the nuclear power plants had to close. This mechanism of regulation could be a standard way for banks to address new challengers such as cryptocurrency and distributed finance, by arguing that they should be regulated by banks and join industry organizations.
Cryptocurrency is being adopted by some banks, potentially for the purpose of appearing as experts on the technology in order to gain influence in regulation panels. This strategy of feigning support in order to gain positional advantage and then working to undermine the change could be seen in many areas, such as social transformations and industries. It is a competitive strategy, and requires deep pockets to finance. It involves pretending to be an ally or leader and then switching allegiances, with true motives hidden at first.
There is a familiar pattern of trying to undermine a person or prevent social change by pretending to be on their side before working against them in a covert way. IBM is an example of this, where they have tried to co-opt every disruption in the last 50 years and failed, but had the money to at least be involved in disruptive things. Resistance can be deliberate or unintentional and driven by unthinking dynamics, or even purely accidental. This is something worth considering when responding to the threat of a technological adversary.
Innovation in the military industrial complex for rocketry has been stifled, resulting in a duopoly or small contingent of big aerospace contractors. This may not be a conscious, malicious response, but an accidental outcome due to circumstances. It could be that elements within these companies still want to innovate, but are unable to due to a lack of culture. Disruptions may be self-derailing by default, as it requires a steady supply of clever, original people to keep things going, and these people are rare. Additionally, it is difficult to find people who can manage them effectively and not ruin everything.
People can only put together enough people to get something past the s-curve in a few cases. Most of the time, human stupidity and bad management will lead to a disruption succumbing to entropy and bureaucracy. It is a miracle when enough people of the same kind can come together in order to make a successful disruption. The underlying cultural background and norms can quench disruption by default, but there are rare windows in which disruptions can be successful due to social, political and cultural reasons. Technological determinism is not the only factor that can enable disruption.
Disruption is when something tips out of the usual basin and allows for change, which can create a golden age. It is easy to imagine that this may be the case, and it is important to study historical cases to gain insight. Disruptions can be seen as part of a distribution, and it is possible to define them as cases of success only in order to understand them better.
Scope creep and survivorship bias are two issues when it comes to understanding potential disruptions. Scope creep is the idea of considering every potential form of change, while survivorship bias is only looking at cases that follow a certain pattern. Derailing disruption is about moving it from one category to another, while delaying and containing it are also important to consider. It is possible that derailing disruption is a rare phenomenon, but understanding it is important for understanding potential disruptions.

Raw Transcript

there you go all right so what's on the menu for today um well i sent over a little suggestion by email which is this uh it's something that i've been thinking about since our last conversation which is um uh these these disruptions although you know the ones that we've been talking about and some of the historical ones have had some element of inevitability to them uh my i guess it's an open question as to whether or not these disruptions can be resisted um delayed uh you know prevented that sort of thing um or whether they are sort of truly uh inevitable in some deeper sense and so i thought one thing that we could we could we could sort of uh ponder together is this is this question of what resistance to disruption looks like you know have there been any instances in the past we can think of that maybe we could chat about um and would uh what would it look like today for or in particular for the three disruptions that that my team is is watching closely the energy transportation and food but also the others that are sort of in the offing right now potentially the disruption of human labor by machine labor and via automation and narrow artificial intelligence and perhaps other disruptions that are that are not at the same sort of broad uh sector level but perhaps within individual industries or something some small unit of analysis like that we could think what does what this just does resisting or or trying to derail disruption look like and uh just to kind of kick things off there i think a few different lenses we could look at this through my are um you know what does it look like if you're looking at that from the perspective of an incumbent industry uh what does that look like if you are a policymaker or a government for example um and uh you're interested in for whatever reason slowing things down or resisting preventing these disruptions from occurring say for example you have an economy that is very dependent upon some one of the incumbent industries that's likely to be affected by the disruption and so it's not in your nation's interests and or your government's interest necessarily to have that industry disrupted one that we talk about quite often is russia and what happens when when natural gas uh oil and coal you know fossil fuels are really when demand for them plummets russia is in trouble russia's economy is not totally dependent obviously but has some dependence upon um sale of fossil fuels uh to uh to other countries and so if that demand were to dry up russia would
be that would face a difficult situation and there could be ramifications for that uh you know geopolitical and otherwise so one could imagine uh a country like russia a government like russia's current government being interested in taking some action to to resist these disruptions to delay them to postpone them um and so forth and uh yeah so this this this this topic kind of comes on the tales of uh the last time last week's discussion when we were talking about countries that sort of have the opposite approach and china as being a key example which seems to for the moment to be very focused on accelerating these disruptions and emerging as a first mover and a leader in um and it's of course there's some pretty clear logic to what the advantages of doing so might be and it's certainly a national level so it uh it probably comes as no surprise and i would i would place a large personal bet that they're going to be successful and come out leading in in all three of these uh areas transportation energy and food but i could be wrong but that if if we were if you asked me to gaze and do crystal wall in 2035 and see which nation was furthest along and now with this and leading i would my money would be on china um but there is the other end of the spectrum as well and so that's maybe something to talk about too uh so anyway that's my proposal for what we might might talk about today if that sounds okay sounds good how do you think about uh i guess several examples come to mind of not derailing disruption exactly but kind of the mechanism i mean the market mechanisms of disruption that we've discussed uh are often quite dangerous to local economies right for i mean to take china as an example china famously prevented tech companies from the west from establishing a foothold in major parts of the internet ecosystem there in order to shield and make room for its domestic competitors that's kind of derailing a disruption in a way i mean there would have been local industries i don't i mean take local newspapers i guess for example that probably had their disruption timetable delayed by by that activity to some extent so that's an example in a sense of not sort of postponing a disruption or taking charge of a disruption or something i mean but the mechanism used to uh slow it down seems to be kind of applicable to stopping it also it sounds like a broader mechanism because there's always like regulations that kind of try and put the brakes on certain disruptions and
sometimes hex stylups for example seem to open up in a space where there isn't much regulation but when they uh get a place where there is regulation i think the regulations can act kind of like a bottleneck yeah we we um we've been looking at examples of disruption that are market and and um where market forces are uh and when i say market forces i mean that sort of the narrow sense of there's some uh competitive environment where there are um sources of demand multiple sources of supply and some some sort of competitive or not or you know some sort of zero-sum kind of dynamic where it's in the interest of of one agent to outperform another agent and you get you know dynamics emerging from from that um but we do see examples um in fact my team was talking about this earlier this week we do see examples where we have technology disruptions that are driven primarily by governments and governments either are providing the you know the sole source of demand or they're providing the sole source the supply or both and um so the example we were thinking through was the development of nuclear weapons for example so that occurred uh um you know if the tail end started to tail end of world war ii of course um but 15 years later and this keeps coming up you know this sort of 15 year time frame 15 years later the united states had you know 20 000 nuclear weapons in the early 1960s um 15 years after the end of world war ii but that was not market driven per se right so so but that was an extremely disruptive technology for warfare completely changed everything that we you know about warfare uh for the nuclear-powered country so um uh we we they're yeah so so it may be too narrow of a lens to think of this just through just in terms of markets um because there are other historical examples of uh of um uh of of of forces besides just market forces that can drive disruption and we see the same dynamics so we'll see was that it was an s-curve um in the you know with the build-out of the u.s nuclear arsenal for example um and then and the the soviet arsenal as well a longer um escort about twice as long about 30 years from soviet union but yeah those the same dynamics seems to seem to apply despite the you know the origin of those forces being being quite different so um it may be that with with resistance if it's if it's through non-market mechanisms um maybe those would be you know could be very powerful forces because we've seen those forces drive the disruption so we may well expect that those sorts of
forces could stop or or certainly slowed down tremendously um in some cases a potential disruption so that makes some sense another force that comes to mind is public opinion so um i was trying to look in stuart russell's book human compatible because i thought this was where he discussed it but i might have heard him talk about it on a podcast podcast or something or maybe it was someone else um two examples one of them rather than nuclear weapons nuclear power um and the other one is uh gmo food production um if i'm not mistaken stuart russell or someone like that was explaining these in relation to like ai development and kind of predicting the future of that um i think he would say with nuclear power and gmos they're like all these advantages these would be disruptive technology except uh people are kind of putting a choke hold on them because they're worried about they need a negative consequence and so development is kind of stifled in these areas and he was talking about it because he was saying oh you know maybe we should avoid this happening to ai um through being careless and having ai systems cause harm um that people take notice of and then uh public opinion terms against ai and we don't eventually get to the great benefits that could come from ai um so yeah gmos and nuclear uh power um two examples that i think public opinion is against yeah those are great examples those are fantastic examples um gmos in particular uh so with with nuclear power the potential for disruption [Music] nuclear power doesn't meet all of my team's internal criteria for disruption uh as a technology the main one being it just it never uh uh it never proved to be cost competitive i mean in the early days it was competing with fossil fuels that were very cheap fossil fuels have sort of become a little bit more expensive in some respects you know the chain price of everything has changed in in 70 years so that the you know the direct comparisons are are harder to make not completely straightforward but at any rate you know the original thinking was that nuclear power would be um the proverbial expression was too cheap to meter and that that we did that was not worn out um unfortunately and um uh and that and and one of our criteria my team's internal criteria for a technology disruption is that the new um entrant uh you know technology multiple multiple technologies that converge into providing some competitive service for example um so like solar plus batteries not solar alone
it has to be cost competitive it has to be in in order for a full disruption of cares to be almost overwhelmingly cost repetitive we don't have sort of a threshold we see disruptions driven by new technologies they're half the price and some that are a tenth of the price but very few that are that are only only like 50 cheaper um yeah it tends to need a big bigger margin so nuclear powers may not if it doesn't quite fit all of the criteria although maybe potentially i mean if it if it hadn't been hadn't had um some of the public resistance we're we're we're sort of you know like fallout no pun in well i guess it's a good time but pun intended to fall out from the you know nuclear disasters that then dissuaded the public from having having proper investment advance the technology further um gmos though seems fairly unequivocal i mean the the um they have they at least some species are well over twice as half as expensive twice as cheap um and they're just there's they're much better in many many respects than um non-gmo uh crops and well not just crops i mean you know gmo um fish and other organisms but um i i think gmo is a superb example because in many ways in most ways it those you have to take out a product by product basis but the technology certainly um uh for if you look at a species by species case-by-case basis you can certainly see examples where the gmo product is just superior in every respect especially cost to the um to the non-gmo alternative and yet you know we have gmo foods are effectively banned in europe and yeah that's really has prevented that disrupt that disruption from that particular technology this is a very very good example um you said every respect but i guess uh that's maybe quite a narrow like you're talking about the technical kind of efficiency aspects and everything um the one the one aspect in which is obviously not competitive is in public opinion um yes you're right of course you're right of course i i yeah i would that yes exactly um quite quite so the the the metrics i was thinking of are the ones that my team typically would would imagine so these would be uh cost um uh performance as so if you were if you were a a um if you were evaluating these the criteria that are on um uh that are these products are marketed under for example so with food products it would be taste nutrition nutritional content um and that sort of thing on the production side with food it would be things like water intensity and uh pesticide and herbicide intensity and
that kind of thing um there are you know there are gmos that just outperform in virtually all of those dimensions um so it's it's but you're right of course you know it doesn't no that means anything it's public if the public's not willing to buy it because of uh concerns and in gmos you know some of those concerns are are warranted and many of them are not warranted many of them are quite irrational concerns irrational fears about risks that are not really uh legitimately evidenced yeah i think the gmo one is a good example because it illustrates i think what is maybe a sort of generic mechanism of derailing disruption so if any disruption is a kind of exponential phenomenon right and we we know from fighting viruses and so on that typically if you want to fight an exponential you need another exponential of some kind a good exponential is kind of a meme or a piece of culture that spreads with gmos that's clearly the case right so you might have exponentials on one side decreasing cost increasing yield but the competitive force is also exponential it's the spread of the idea that you know gmos will turn you into a soybean or whatever um and that that acts the kind of uh there's a i put a cartoon on the board that illustrates the the phase transition that's happening when one local minima is lower than another right so on the left hand side there's the blue local minima which is the the configuration the technology whatever which by some by some means has become the preferred global minimum and then everybody's shifting to it but by some act you can increase the energy or sort of make that potential well less deep and then you stop the disruption uh if you can at least keep it at the same level or higher than the old equilibrium so that's there's sort of two factors there right i mean you have to somehow engineer that you have to change that potential uh and that's a distributed thing it's in the heads of the people at least in the market example that's in the heads of the people that are making the individual choices to switch so it does seem that culture must have a pretty fundamental role in derailing disruptions yeah i think that's a really good way of thinking about it um it's a very very powerful way of thinking about it um and i wonder if you have so so you have this interface in it at so the the the scale in which which these um what am i trying to say here so you have individuals who uh are consumers and they are a source of demand and they so they exert
some sort of force or influence over the quantity of demand for uh x whatever it is just say it's a gmo salmon or something like that and um uh and then at a different level you have sort of government which is able to step in and um intervene in the markets in a variety of different ways i mean you know governments can decide to subsidize something um you know so we're talking about resisting the disruption government could do can do that by subsidizing older technology bailing out you know bailouts are one thing that we're quite concerned about for the old energy industry and for the old auto industry for example we're kind of expecting that some bailouts of some sort will will occur um so you could that would be a government intervention uh that would that would prop up the the incumbency for for a time um you could you know go further than that of course as in the case of gmos and have government just create outright ban something to just bring the hammer down and drop demand right down to zero and so you can imagine some sort of some sort of threshold where if public opinion turns enough that it could be instituted you know uh in um and reflected in regulation and in the extreme case in an outright ban then you could you know cut cut off that the exponential growth of demand for that new technology completely and so i think this is a yeah this is a very very interesting way to think about that what's the diagram that tony draws with these i mean you're referring here to one of the mechanisms in that schema for disruption right where the increasing demand for the new technology decreases demand for the old one and there's i mean it's kind of a the disruption always in a sense has two sides right it's two interacting processes so the government intervention you see that as happening primarily by propping up the new thing i mean i guess you can tax the new thing but attacks if it's linear can't really i mean it might slow down a disruption but it's like at least at a theoretical level unless the tax is like a ban uh seems like it can only delay it or i mean of course these things are complicated but at some abstract level maybe a tax you wouldn't expect it to stop a disruption i don't know what do you think i agree i think that that that this is it's unlikely for it's unlikely that um that taxes or penalties or um uh uh so attacks are in a pedal and a tax or other penalties um cost of doing business anything that makes the new technology more expensive than it ought
to be would be a way of protecting the incumbency and on the flip side of that anything that sort of subsidizes the incumbency those those things one could probably expect that they would uh they would only slow down disruption as opposed to halting it completely now you you i i i mean i i mean you can always imagine edge cases where that's not true um where you know um the technology might be its potential might be just enough such that it could be disruptive but it's not but but so so here i'm just going to make up some numbers um just for purposes of illustration but let's say a technology had the potential in in you know after scaling to approach a a cost that was half of that of the incumbent technology the older technology and other everything else is equal so there's no no other um potential difference for public opinion or you know there are differences in environmental externalities or anything like that basically just the same technology new process um you know but and you've got maybe this thing is twice or half half the price right then you come along and you um uh you subsidize the incumbent technology how much do you have to subsidize it before you pass some threshold where yeah that's just it's just the new technology is no longer cheap enough [Music] um uh less expensive enough than the older one for a disruption to really take hold and happen and i one could imagine you know that that um uh you could tip over that threshold with with um with subsidies or other market interventions that were not outright bans but that had the effect of achieving something similar um you could imagine a scenario like that now i can't think of any real world scenarios where that's been the case but one one could imagine that those sorts of things are possible um i have a question so the yeah i mean sorry go ahead yeah but what i was going to say i mean what you could imagine if for some reason some government in the 1970s and 80s have decided that it wanted to subsidize um vhs uh tapes you know take cassette recorders um even though betamax was a basically a better technology at least my understanding is it was slightly better technology but the difference was fairly small between the two i mean it wasn't like betamax was ten times better or something like that you know one could imagine anyway you could imagine a scenario where the two technologies are competing they're cheap they're comfortable enough or similar enough that it wouldn't take very much you know
to forestall the one disrupting the other um so i think we can imagine scenarios like that where that might be the case yeah you were going to say something that yeah i think there might be a problem with the exponential versus exponential um conceptual idea because it just seems like when you have this kind of feedback loop um a small change in the constant like the multiplicative constant surely that can make a difference when you then amplify it through a feedback loop so for example um there are one some of those cycles are like people piling onto development and research in the new technology um and that could be affected by um how hard it is to kind of get a cultural movement or like an industry movement going around a new technology um and so there's an exponential element coming in from the cultural um aspect also i'm not sure if it's formally exponential i'm just kind of thinking quite vaguely here yeah i think that's a good point well let's why don't we expand on that and let if you guys don't mind can we sort of dig in there in the context of the diagram that dan has drawn on this on the right hand side and i i we do have a more elaborate version of exactly what dan has drawn here that has a few more loops in it um that includes things like um uh uh network effects that that emerge around uh platforms so you know that whatever becomes popular first gets a network of users and then that becomes a feedback loop you have things like infrastructure so if there's if the technology requires a supporting infrastructure and that ball gets rolling and that burns the feedback loop you've got sort of the social sanction in public opinion that forms feedback loops on both sides of the you know um on both sides so you can have public opinions swell for the new technology or you could have it swell against the new technology or you can have it swell against the the old technology and you know effectively a loss of social license for the old technology as we're now seeing with fossil fuels to some extent so um we've got and then they have government support direct and indirect uh subsidies taxes you know regulatory uh strictures and standards that must be achieved and so forth so you've got all these these these these pieces um and perhaps the clearest way that you could you know if if you were if you were if you were if you were in a business or an industry or if you were a country that would threaten by uh disruption you could imagine that you know your best silver bullet would be
something like an outright ban on the new technology okay you know ban gmos okay problem solve as long as you you know your government can maintain that that that regulation but short of that are there any other places in there that would be extremely high leverage points as matt was pointing out um where you could effectively like like you know um halt one of these feedback loops and really uh you know derail things a bit and and and that's what i'm hoping to spot here is you know where so i should i should sorry and and before you know um let me example more thoughts now um i'm particularly interested in understanding this because one of my bosses jamie is um his project right now is he's writing a piece um which he is calling the incumbents playbook which is uh uh it it it's sort of it's it's it's the idea is to point out all the ways in which incumbents have responded in the past in their attempts to resist uh disruptions and what we should expect going forward so that we can be you know forewarned is forearmed right so that we can you know share that insight and and um uh policymakers decision makers investors can sort of see these these tactics coming in advance rather than be surprised by them so i actually have an agenda as i always do sorry to be selfish here but for um why i'm interested in picking your brains on this topic my boss is actually working on this and if we could identify you know some something other than just the these outright bands that could be very effective ways to resist disruption you know that would be a very very valuable insight um what were the other all the other things on this list before social sanction i didn't get a chance to write them down that appear in this diagram that we haven't drawn oh um so other things are in investment in infrastructure um uh you have um uh network effects and the emergence of uh leading platforms and standards um trying to think what else there are um the other the other things are mostly to do with costs scaling um expansion of supply because of attraction and investment um uh yeah those those are the those are the other pieces that you know oh a government um just general you know subsidies uh or um so you have social sanction and then you basically have government uh sanction slash regulatory um support or or um uh or whatever the opposite of support is um uh barriers or encumbrance or something like that where i wonder where on this diagram would fit the following strategy so if i was going to prevent disruption without
it seeming like i was doing that what i would do is i would through regulation that only big companies can follow and by changing like workplace regulation doubling the amount of paperwork you need to do around any activity with human resources or whatever i would favor duopoly or a monopoly in whatever area it was and just rely on the fact that large companies are sclerotic and stupid and won't actually try anything new but that's and if they swallow up all the resources then and the talent i mean i guess that's the other major thing right it's it's also a factor of i mean maybe spacex could have been built 40 years ago it's not that we didn't have the metal or the resources or the technology it's just that there was no way of coordinating the people to put them in one place and give them the capital to do it and the reason for that was that all the people in capital had been swallowed up by large dumb corporations so you could almost say that nasa and the us government conspired to derail the disruption that we now see in the space industry and they succeeded right for you know 50 years that's fantastic i absolutely love that let me write that down so yeah i guess talent is kind of the the other ingredient here in disruption that maybe isn't so prominent in your modelling right where do you see that in the disruption cycle i mean i guess you tend to think of the technology as sort of i mean you see a disruption is starting when the technology is in some sense worked out and it's just a matter of getting it to scale and deploying it and finding its market and refining it or is like well it's a very good question i mean the the the um if you if if it weren't for tesla's the examples of tesla and spacex um my answer would in the past have been that that the the talent seems to be something that's front-ended a lot in the research and development and then disruptions really you know the disruption portion of a technology life cycle is is you know um uh is something in the you know from like five or ten percent of market to eighty to ninety percent of market that's when the disruption happens for practical purposes and the lead up to that is where you have research and development um and if you if you asked me in the past you know where do you really need brains where do you really need great people where do you really need good engineers and and so forth um i would say well in the r d phase and then in the deployment and scaling phase which is when the disruption really blows up
well and you've done most of the hard work and most deployment and scaling is a matter of economies of scale you know manufacturing efficiencies logistics you know that sort of thing that those the the improvements are incremental from that point on and you don't need the you know the absolute best of the best of the best brilliant minds working on that piece you've already sold the hard thing so that would have been my intuition but i i don't know for seeing that now i mean tesla and spacex seem to have this enormous advantage enormous advantage over their competitors by virtue of the fact that they have a cult of um attraction to the world's brightest or some of the world's certainly brightest engineering and scientific minds you know i mean it's it's it's there's no question that they're still tapping into an incredible resource there that's fueling all of their explosive growth and success and so i mean it maybe that's just maybe it's just dumb um to think that you don't need really smart people all the right all the way through until you're really approaching the end of the disruption and saturation at whatever level you're you're turning towards you know i mean it i don't know it it seems like a strange situation um that seems a bit like too valuing too highly the scientists in that story i mean i think that the history of the industrial revolution for example seems i mean what didn't invent the steam engine right uh he made many advances of a not fundamental nature but like in trying to bring it to scale uh and actually be able to build things at the manufacturing tolerances of the time and that's clearly where spacex i mean i don't know the history of like uh self-guided rocketry and returning to the launch pad or whatever but if i dug into it i would i would be pretty sure i would find that you know 20 years before spacex did it it was more or less well understood the main challenge is just manufacturing devices that do it one after another and you know not doing it as a one-off kind of thing so it seems like there's i guess elon musk likes to say this right that building one thing is easy and building a thousand of them is the hard part i do think that that's an important part of disruption right that figuring out like the underlying science is not necessarily the hard part one other possibility here is that is that disruptions early and earlier in human history were more dependent upon sort of fundamental breakthroughs and insights just a new way of thinking or doing
something at a quite a basic level compared to today where um in order for a new in order for technology to be disruptive in this in you know by the criteria that we've talked about um it has to uh in order for it to be that much better um it has to be in some sense more sophisticated you know complicated or or or something and it is simply more difficult today to do the the deployment and scaling i mean if if if you had the fundamental insight um uh 400 years ago to change some process um on a farm for example or something like that maybe that maybe it was just the insight that really mattered and uh and then that insight could spread like a contagion and anybody can pick it up and put into practice whereas maybe today is just it's just more difficult just more difficult to make advances like that um there's no more perhaps low-hanging fruit in that sense and and so it's just it's just it's not not possible for disruptions to to occur uh in you know independently from massive uh uh brain power and talent involved in a way that they perhaps could have been centuries past and so it might be part of that maybe just you know um uh some some there's some some way in which technology itself uh is is the character and nature of it is now you know shifting um uh and making making that you see what i mean i'm blathering a bit but yeah i think that's right i i was thinking a bit about your question the other day about what are the ultimate limits to disruption or whatever and i do think the complexity of our social coordination technologies is the obvious one right so i would say that actually we're witnessing an era of relative stagnation in science for precisely this reason i mean we perceive it in moral terms like we say there's a replication crisis because people are lazy and corrupt and they cheat to advance their careers etc etc but we tend to overlay too much moral interpretation on things it's simpler just to say that the mechanisms we came up with for wide scale distributed progress in science like peer review etc etc which are kind of social coordination technologies just have a limit and we're at it and we don't perceive it really because we don't see outside of our little bubble but you know from the point of view of the future maybe there's a next thing you know science version 2.0 which has a different set of institutions and communication mechanisms and norms and culture and you know in 50 years we'll be there and i think it's very normal and we'll see that actually you can do a lot more
with that and go further but i do think that's an under invested in the area of technology which feeds into everything else right and maybe i mean that's the kind of flip side of my comment about earlier about capturing the talent and wasting it right if if the only social coordination mechanisms you have effectively max out at a certain number of people and if you put more resources in them they just waste it then in a sense i mean you could do that deliberately in order to derail a disruption but you could also say that there's like a million latent disruptions sitting there right now that are in a sense permanently derailed until we get our act together and figure out you know how not to have everything be made up of monopolies and duopolies and wasting talent left right and center yeah i i think you you you can even look at this from you know the other you sort of flip it around and look at it look at it from another perspective which is that um societies that for whatever reason um for or for whatever reason but for various different reasons chose to foster both the the you know the talent in their citizenry um to cultivate that and then to celebrate you know innovation and entrepreneurial success and enterprising you know these things the cultures that that had that adopted or or developed those values they um you know we've we've seen a lot of disruptions out of those cultures emerge out of those cultures right and so you know you can kind of you can kind of look at talent as a deeper phenomenon like that and in societies where that sort of thinking and the cultivation of literacy um and an educated citizenry and the cultivation of um uh you know um this sort of heroic uh uh mythos around um enter being enterprising and entrepreneurial which you know the united states is certified for a long time for example um and and other countries of course as well uh maybe that's sort of uh a way that you you accelerate disruption or technological advancement across the board and of course that encompasses whatever disturbances that occur and of course to the extent that you don't do that if you do the opposite of that that you know if you limit your your your development of your citizenry's potential and then you don't um celebrate or honor or reward uh innovation and entrepreneurialism and and so forth then um we have mechanisms you know a variety of different institutions to support those things uh then you're not going to get technological advance in the same sort
of way and you can see that at the broadest scale entire society or you probably as we're talking you sort of see that within the subcultures of particular industries or sectors of the economy or you know um or narrower and uh yeah so i think it's super super keen insight um and then i think the other thing you said dan is very very uh important which is the social you know the social coordination now is it's it's almost certainly a limiting factor right um even though you know a lot of that coordination is being amplified by very powerful information technology tools you know i think we take for granted how how we are sort of all sort of juiced on the steroids of you know social steroids of um information technologies in terms of how we can coordinate communicate and and plan together you know we take it all for granted but we do so much more today than most possible two or three generations ago um you know worldwide globally especially so um that absolutely has to be a limiting factor actually sorry guys hang on you guys carry on i think i hear my my young daughter out of bed wandering around upstairs so i stole this culture of sub tweeting uh or sub boarding from you matt you like to ride on the boards behind people this is such a good idea do i i noticed you're doing it i hadn't thought of doing it somehow i don't know i was i never ever speak as in up there i sort of uh never would have thought of writing on the board but but you were providing some notes for maybe it was adam one day then that occurred to me that's a if it's done well quite a generous activity somehow right oh yeah i remember that um i actually i've been to a presentation where they had it was like a panel talk and they had an illustrator who was on the screen sketching she was just sketching like the panelists and then like a mind map like a concept map of what they were talking about as they were talking about it um kind of like what you're doing um but she was like a professional illustrator and doing it with cool cartoons and everything not that your cartoons aren't cool down that's all right yeah that's that's actually that's that's definitely a job that's that's a cool idea um what were you saying i still got okay sorry guys thanks for being patient man okay what did i miss oh we were just uh discussing the the future job of being a live cartoonist for meetings in the metaverse people are talking you can actually do good cartoons behind their heads to illustrate what they're talking
about that's that's neat uh yeah what's the what's the general role of communication in these feedback loops i mean it's involved in every step in some sense but uh this is an old cybernetics idea right a control and communication um but one way to derail a disruption is to if you think about the communication which affects control and disruption as kind of being the information about the new product or the lower price or the information which tells producers that a new technology is available to be adopted there's a definitely a role for i mean even just making advertising less effective probably slows down the disruption and maybe that's one place if you want to derail disruption you can tell people that solar panels are for commies or something which is a kind of manipulation of the culture but you could also just i don't know if you have a fossil fuel company just just buy up all the adwords for solar panels and replace them by links to llama farms or something yeah i was going to say um that if you're talking about the ways that public opinion and also government can kind of influence these processes these are not the only levers of power in society there's also obviously um the media as in the the group of um mediums through which information flows and um that's to tie it back to this idea of communication um and so i think in general media is like a powerful influential um lever on public opinion and other other things in society but if you if you for example systematically um like dan was suggesting some specific strategies but then imagine um how you're not going to see ads for an alternative social network on facebook um anyone who has this kind of control over um media platforms and or you know whatever media platform people are using to see their um to get their information you're going to be able to kind of filter it in a way that could completely prevent communication about new technology or distort it or whatever what about co-opting disruption i mean i'm thinking about the way that the catholic church responded to the reformation which was very successful right i mean well very bloody and took a long time right okay so that many churches i mean many protestant churches and others split off after after the bible was published in native languages and the catholic church was sort of under siege for a long time and felt its authority eroded and it was eroded sort of permanently but many at the time foresaw that the catholic church would become basically nothing and reduced to
a rump of its former self and that you know the anglican church would be all powerful in england and then there would be other protestant churches in germany and elsewhere and you know lutherans and all the rest but the catholic church really managed to subvert a lot of those processes and reassert control largely i think because they had a lot of talent but you could say i mean i wouldn't i wouldn't say that they succeeded in derailing the disruption but they certainly co-opted many of the trends that made people switch to other religions which were i mean for example they actually to some extent tackled corruption in the catholic church which was mainly what luther was complaining about there was i forget the name uh there was a major meeting uh so lame i can't remember the name it's a famous convocation or something where they discussed what to do in reaction to the reformation and they didn't do very much so they could have it's a bit like celebrities now refusing to apologize in the front of the you know in front of canceled culture the catholic church basically decided to opt against apologizing and changing and stuck to its guns to some extent and it worked so you could i mean maybe there's cases where you can't really come up to disruption like with fossil fuels versus well okay take bp for example certainly in their marketing they're attempting such a co-option uh are they can you think of any successful examples of co-opting a disruption adam i was just gonna suggest that um to the extent that they um co-opt the disruption and go along with the disruption and the disruption still kind of happens they're just the one in charge of it then they haven't really prevented the destruction right even if they maintain their control but maybe that's not what you're talking about so i was a little confused by the story whether or not in the end corruption was reduced or not and i um i'm not sure about cp i haven't seen advertising but for example if for example vp became a promoter and developer of renewable energy that would seem like the destruction going forward in this case that would be a good thing because of the kind of normative context of this particular disruption well it's it's it's those are those are two distinct uh phenomena um the the latter one the one that you are describing is um uh that was really the focus of um clayton christensen's work on uh and where the word disruption came from in in a sort of a business sense um not not so much a technological sense
but in a business sense and um what you're talking about is what he termed um self disruption and he showed uh uh pretty good work good theoretical work and um good empirical work that uh businesses really have have um a whole bunch of forces and incentives aligned against them as far as um uh self disruption goes and so it's so incumbents have it's very difficult for them to align the incentives so that they can be self-disruptive and we're sort of seeing the that play out right now in the auto industry the legacy auto industry detroit's big three like you know automakers and then the jury car companies and the japanese car companies they are struggling to um to reinvent themselves in knowing that this electric vehicle and autonomous driving revolution is coming and they know that the disruption is coming none of the there are no illusions really inside among the executives there's a few holdouts but most of these companies see the writing on the wall they just don't know how to execute a self-disruption that allows them to survive um there's a lot of things that they're working against so that's one particular phenomenon and that is um and i think that's i think that's that's maybe one type i don't know if it's completely separate from it perhaps it's one type of co-opting the dynamics of a of a disruption the other kind would be what i think dan is talking about which is maybe maybe not so much something we might see in industry but that we might see in other other flavors of disruption so social um ones of governance uh ones of you know in other institutions like religions like dan mentioned and in that sense you could imagine for example that um i mean you could you could even imagine the content of disruption standing somewhat separate or free from the um just the the the fact of disruption itself so so let me give an example you could imagine that that um uh in order to sort of um keep pace with the times an old institution would need to reinvent itself but it may it may be enough just to reinvent itself in some way not in some particular way in other words it might not you know it may have been enough for the catholic church to just rebrand itself as something new and different not necessarily re brand itself as precisely what was specified in in you know um uh ahead of time in in you know um uh by the forces that anticipated or and fueled the destruct you know um a disruption of some kind and so you can you you i guess i'm not kind of being a bit vague here wait
there are concrete concrete examples some other concrete examples might be um um so it may be this maybe analogy is a good thing to think about here maybe maybe if you have if you're at some sort of crisis and circumstances change around you you have to adapt you have to change or perish and that you could think of it as by analogy as sort of like a species speciation event sort of ecologically or biologically you might be in some situation in which your old um adaptiveness fails because conditions have changed and there may be multiple new ways to emerge uh successfully you know some new new set of adaptations some new model that would work might be more than one of those but none of the old ones were and so you could you could you could imagine that being some kind of you know situation in which you know an incumbent um uh transforms and reinvents itself but doesn't necessarily do it in exactly or a single way um uh we might be able to think about that you know instead of switching and so switching back from analogy to something more literal we might be able to look at examples of you know are there companies that completely reinvented themselves um because they just you know the because of a disruption and they came out of it not as the disruptors and not companies that self-disrupted and then you know became whatever the the leaders in the in whatever technology was but just pivoted to something completely different and then continued to be successful i bet we could find examples of that dan is that a line at all with what you were thinking about i guess you could say i mean there are plenty of examples i guess of companies doing something like that even within tech i would say microsoft is a pretty good example very little of its revenue comes from windows licenses anymore but what i had in mind was a transformation like that that actually succeeded in slowing down for a long time or stopping the disruption which triggered it in the first place i see i see i see oh that's very different okay okay and i i don't i can't think of any off the top of my head um i mean maybe maybe that's because it's hard to perceive things that didn't happen but uh i mean i there's always there's a long-running conspiracy theory about um normal car companies buying up promising ev tech and just burying it right i don't know if that ever was true uh i mean that's yeah there's i mean they're not that they mean they're good i was just gonna say um if you switch from cars to facebook i don't think it's a conspiracy
theory no sorry not just facebook but these big companies that used to be startups buying new startups and um well i mean it seems like they get buried because they don't end up um they're effectively killed so i used to have an email client that i was really happy with called sparrow or something like that oh yeah and then suddenly it was bought by gmail and just gone and gmail is still awful so that was i don't know there might be examples like this where a disruption is killed and maybe it's a little bit less speculative than in the auto industry right yeah that's that's right but i guess i'm i'm actually deviating from my my earlier i mean if it's co-opting then just burying it is not really co-opting it well i mean it's maybe in a sense co-opting it but it's more akin to just killing it and being successful yeah yeah sorry yeah so i don't exactly know what i'm even getting at but it does seem like there might be a way of seeming to go along with the disruption and through incumbent status being able to shape it and through shaping it actually arranged for it to die um there must be examples like that well actually i think the nuclear industry is probably a good example i mean if you read the history of how the regulation worked in california the fossil fuel lobbies like directly arranged for i mean they funded environmental groups or i think that's not a conspiracy theory i think there's evidence of that they you know through various means funded environmental groups and gave them help to raise specific objections to was it the diablo canyon or the other ones in california and succeeded in making the regulations so onerous that uh that these these plants well i forget the exact story but i do think that it was a clear effort by the fossil fuel industry through lobbying organizations which the foster few you know the nuclear power plants had to belong to uh through membership in those bodies somehow shaped the outcome of that that potentially disruptive technology um maybe that's an example and it does seem like if if a new challenger yeah that mechanism for regulation does seem like a must be a standard thing to try right you've got a new challenger okay cryptocurrency okay take distributed finance right so the the banks don't have to defeat on their merits some neo bank which is based on a blockchain they just have to make the very s you know sane argument that well you know these things should be regulated by like banks and they should join our industry organizations
and the commonwealth bank in australia allows you to transfer cryptocurrency in its app or you was trialing that i i don't know whether that's because they actually want people to use cryptocurrency or whether they want to be able to tell the government we're the experts on cryptocurrency when you're writing your regulation you know you should take this guy and this guy from our berry cryptocurrency task force and put them on your government panel i'm pretty sure that's kind of the purpose of putting cryptocurrency into their app maybe that's cynical but being able to represent your company as kind of on the cutting edge in the new tech and thereby getting your people onto the regulation panels because you know how to schmooze with the politicians and you're already lobbying them that that's i guess what i mean by co-opting sorry i'm just typing um yeah i think that's a very i think that's a great point that there are um you know there must be examples many examples in the past certainly ones in in the present um and maybe examples that aren't just technological and we could imagine we could imagine this general strategy of of feigning support in order to to gain uh positional advantage and then once positional advantage has been obtained to them to then work either explicitly or implicitly or maybe maybe both in different at different stages um to actually undermine the the the um either the forces of change that were that are at work or the change or or to undermine that you know the the whatever change in itself from occurring i mean one could imagine that this would be an effective way for politicking right to prevent you know um social transformations to to prevent you know to force all revolutions to one could imagine this in in in industries um uh it's sort of a competitive strategy i think that that you know there's probably some game theoretics about that like pretending to be an ally or even a leader and then switching um you know and having you know true motives or allegiance is our allegiance is hidden at first and then and then only becomes apparent afterwards um i think that's this is almost certainly part of the general playbook right um and uh there may be some you know maybe maybe there's certain conditions that enable this or allow this to occur like like um uh i think it's particularly relevant in that context you need to have deep pockets so the deeper pockets that you have the longer you could finance sort of a a a uh what was the right word a sort of a
campaign like that or a you know a faint or um some some some strategy of deception like that you probably have to be quite you know quite a bit of capital that you can sort of sink into that that i would imagine it could be a fairly costly venture but um uh but it's got it i mean there i i can't think of specific examples off the top of my head but that that just that just feels like a very um uh familiar pattern or formula right yeah i mean even in individual relationships like among you know person to person this is a familiar pattern you know if you want to really uh undermine a person um or or prevent some social change or something like that some relationship change or something you can pretend to be on someone's side for a while you can pretend to embrace the things that they embrace and then you can sort of quietly work against that in a covert way until you know you you've gotten far enough secured enough of an advantage that you can then become uh overt about it but um that's a very familiar pattern and so that must be part of the the general strategy for responding to disruptions you know the threat of a technological um adversary as it were right yeah i guess actually ibm's a good example of that i mean probably they've tried to co-opt every disruption in the last 50 years and failed but they had or still have some money so they can they can afford to set up a lab on x y and z um right i guess they're not necessarily trying to bury it uh it doesn't seem to me like watson or their quantum computing efforts uh are actually like secret attempts to bury those technologies so maybe it's not a good example but the mechanism of we have a bunch of cash but we're no longer able to really do anything useful so but at least we can you know hire people and sit them somewhere and seem to be involved in disruptive things that's definitely going on everywhere yeah for sure um you know it's i guess it brings up a point here maybe this is worth considering dan but they're sort of they're sort of deliberate resistance resistance has a valency to it right it has it has this this it carries this connotation of conscious intent like i'm going to resist this change but it could be that it could be that there could that it could you know there could be unintentional resistance to um disruption things that are not you know that no individuals are conscious of and that are just driven purely by unthinking uh dynamics and then you know there could be things that are um uh that are sort of purely accidental or
just more like more like more like quirks or bugs in a particular uh situation as opposed to sort of sort of consistent features that are in the dynamics across lots and lots of different cases so even you know a specific example that comes to mind is what you said about spacex right maybe nasa and the you know the sort of quasi-military um uh industrial space uh technology complex that's um or i guess it's not quasi but actually military industrial um for rocketry of course uh uh maybe maybe the stifling of disruption there by sort of locking in the talent and um supporting just you know a duopoly or or a small contingent of big aerospace contractors that that lost their you know their hunger to innovate in uh long ago um maybe that was not was never really conscious or intentional it's just just a dynamic that emerges because uh um these in other words it could be just more of a more of a an accidental outcome as opposed to a malicious deliberately resistive response to percept perceived threats and it may well be that you could have elements within these companies that really do want to you know don't they really do want to self-disrupt right you can you could have a whole bunch of engineers inside a company and all of them are in sort of a dilbert you know um dystopian sort of scenario where they would just desperately wish they could they had a different culture there but they're you know for whatever reason the company can't get it together and you know they're but but no it's not really anybody's fault you know what i mean do you see what i'm do you see what i mean by that it's not like it's conspiracy perspective conscious it's just you know um you know circumstances that it emerges as the complexity your gears kind of grind to a halt and lock in a lot and and seize up and lock in um yeah talented people yeah would do anybody's fault even yeah maybe maybe it's actually uh the framing is a little bit wrong uh maybe disruptions are self-derailing by default so in a sense right so maybe since it's since since it's new like you need a steady supply of clever original people to keep a thing going right i mean and those people are relatively rare and even more rare are the people who can manage them and not wreck everything so it's kind of like you have these imagine a board game where you've got five or six super managers who can actually manage such people and get something done but you can only put them in five or six places but you've got a hundred things
you could do and maybe there's a disruption available in all of them but you can only put those people in five or six and the other ones will just succumb to entropy and bureaucracy and bad management and careerism and just fade into nothing so it's it's more like yeah maybe it's wrong to think about it as like people maliciously going out to co-op disruptions or something that's like standard human stupidity that'll just happen on its own and it's more that you know kind of a miracle that you can collect enough people of that kind together for long enough to get something past the s-curve i think that's a really really interesting insight i bet i bet there's a healthy dosage of truth to that for sure and it may be that um going back to what i said earlier you know you you you can have a you could have a a cultural context an entire you know underlying uh cultural background set of values and norms and so forth that that just create an overall atmosphere that quenches disruption by default and you could one could imagine that most most of the space of you know possible um you know see governance structures uh architectures um are basically like that and it's only you know perhaps a rare fried uh handful that you know um uh succeed in in creating a conditions that run against that what you you said that against that entropy as it were right um that actually foster um uh disruption and and give it the oxygen and i'm mixing metaphors all over but anyway you know you don't i mean they actually that actually support it rather than um then stifle it and uh so you you again there's probably things happening in different levels of analysis you can imagine that um uh the you you maybe maybe you have sort of the the entire context default is one of of um uh oppression and stifling and limitation and uh just you know all of the all of the things that we we've mentioned that that contribute to that and that you only perhaps have these have uh rare windows that open up in which disruptions can really um uh destruction is even really possible and maybe they open up periodically for for not for technological reasons but for you know perhaps for social and political and cultural reasons as well um it could be that these the the the folks who say that you know yeah be careful of technological determinism there's these other factors that really provide all the you know other important enabling conditions that you know that could really be valid um and you know you you you for example you might think well maybe
if you look back at different civilizations golden ages throughout history maybe they you know part of what made those things golden age is that the something about the architecture or the way the system in general was organized um uh uh tipped out of the usual basin and allowed uh you know uh disruption to occur for different reasons and and then the golden age ends and tips back into the into the default and you know you're you're stuck you're more you're much more stifled you've got you know uh status quo is defended much more than changes encouraged kind of thing and um yeah it's easy i think to imagine that that that may be the case um we'll have to think pretty carefully about that i'll i will definitely take that idea to the team and see what if we look through the the historical cases that we've got and the different especially the ones that create the industrial uh revolution and are outside of western civilization um i think we may find that that is really really a powerful insight for sure and then of course that carries over to this in the unit of analysis within an industry for example or um uh you know this is some some smaller um unit than at the national scale here's a question i've written on the board behind you uh like i mean i guess my question in a sense is is a little naive because you only call it a disruption if it kind of i mean maybe you could say disruptions are being born every five minutes and most of them die but you kind of only call it a disruption if it succeeds and survives up until the point it stabilizes at a large market share or something and those other people right brad and i have been internally we've been calling this the survivorship bias right so i wonder what the distribution of aborted disruptions looks like like what a i mean i guess that you don't remember them historically but where are these in the records and i mean you can't probably really understand this disruption unless you understand it in the context of i mean it's part of a distribution right and maybe you can't actually understand disruption unless you study the whole distribution yeah yep um i guess that's hard now one one thing that you that one thing that we might do here is we may in order to kind of cheat around this problem we could define disruption as those cases of success only and the and we could say you know maybe that what you were calling an aborted disruption weren't maybe there was something some criteria that meant that they could not at least
maybe in advance couldn't in principle have been disruptions i do wonder if if that's uh uh if that would be a a a way to cheat around the problem or whether you know we we um uh or in other words sometimes you can sometimes you can narrow the scope of uh what you're focusing on um with definitions and um and then and then you know it is it is a little bit of a cheating but but it just keeps things manageable and i'm wondering if because we the thing with this is that you would then open up a big kettle of fish to every every potential form of change that humanity experience not just technological but you know social and political and cultural and and everything yeah um that's fair and uh and all of the different patterns of change that exist and um all of them you know or not all of them but but i mean perhaps many of those could you know at some stage have been potentially uh you know become uh disruptions and then some might not and so anyway i i i i see a scope creep here that that intimidates me but having said that um yeah is it very difficult to argue with we need to see we need to see the example we need to see examples of these sorts of um uh patterns that you've drawn up here and uh or we're gonna not see them but we need to look at them and if we find them we need to understand them um because you know yeah uh otherwise we are just guilty of of as i said what brad and i have been calling survivorship bias which is we're only we're only looking at the cases that followed the pattern that we were looking for and that's you know that's that's uh you can really fool yourself pretty badly that way so yeah i think that's right with scope creep on the other end it does suggest it's pretty hard to really understand derailing disruption because that's fundamentally about moving it from one category to the other on this diagram right yeah it may be that the derailing is is is and i don't know maybe there just aren't very many examples of this it's possible that you know we're we're imagining a phenomenon that's that's rare enough um that it doesn't completely undermine the rest of the you know the sort of the uh the the the inquiry um but one thing that i i'm also interested in in addition to derailing is the delaying slowing it down like stretching that skirt out over time um and uh uh i guess one thing maybe perhaps also is is containing it like limiting where the uh or or or um what would be the right way to say that um uh constraining this lowering the ceiling like lowering the