Uncertainty and the Art of the Possible

be radical Briefing | August 29th, 2022

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Dear Friend,

We are stoked (and as Jeffrey likes to remind people — both he and I are allowed to say this as we lived long enough in California) to welcome Vivian Lan to the be radical family. Vivian is an old friend and collaborator based in Mexico City and will be our Spanish-speaking facilitator and speaker. Welcome, Vivian!

Read on for a deep dive into uncertainty, our weekly reading list, and a time-traveling adventure into the world of user interfaces.


Practical Futurism // Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

If you’ve ever spent a few idle moments with children or friends spotting shapes in clouds overhead, you know that the creative fun in the endeavor consists of the fact that the clouds are suggestive but not definitive. There’s a particular joy to be found in discovering that the same cloud can be seen as a face or a kettle, or a rhinoceros. It’s actually the uncertainty of the thing that engages our creativity, whereas a cloud that looked unmistakably like a rhinoceros might be remarkable – but wouldn’t be much fun to interpret and wouldn’t engage creativity in the same way. Moreover, the more definitively the cloud looked like a single, certain thing, the harder it would become to ever see it as anything else at all.

At be radical, we often remind our clients (and ourselves) that uncertainty offers a window onto possibility. Put another way: the more sure we think we are about something, the less likely we are to entertain alternative ways of looking at, thinking about, or doing it. Recognizing uncertainty can allow us to approach that thing anew – perhaps more creatively and more fruitfully, and this, in turn, provides the creative space to develop/exercise mental agility, shake loose of cognitive biases, and potentially reach a breakthrough solution.

I see a powerful recent example of this kind of dynamic in the surprising passage of landmark climate legislation (the Inflation Reduction Act) in the US. One of the most notable things about the bill is actually what it’s not: a rehash of the failed major climate policy initiatives of the 1990s and 2010s that were largely focused on imposing a carbon tax (the strategy widely regarded as the most efficient way to cut carbon dioxide emissions) or cap and trade system.

It might be a virtual certainty that taxing pollution is the optimal policy solution – in a vacuum, but in the complex world of American politics (a particularly messy subset of human systems), abandoning the certainty of the expert consensus created the space to eventually imagine and cobble together a subsidy-focused solution that has already succeeded crucially where previous policy packages had failed. This one actually passed.

If politics, per the old adage, is the art of the possible, then working with uncertainty is an essential part of that art. Recognizing and learning to work with uncertainty allows us to see new possibilities and work to shape the opportunities that might prove to be transformational. (via Jeffrey)


What We Are Reading

🙅 Don’t Let Hierarchy Stifle Innovation Did you know much of the know-how required for innovation comes from the bottom of the organization? However, bottom-up innovation is usually restricted by upper-level bias and hierarchy. Learn three practical steps leaders can take to unleash bottom-up innovation. JaneRead

🧑‍🎨 Algorithms Can Now Mimic Any Artist. Some Artists Hate It Algorithms creating art has been the talk of the town lately, but the final product has many worried about their careers and contemplating lawsuits. MafeRead

🌊 The New Normal: The Coming Tsunami of Fakery The coming super-abundance of AI-generated content might kill the internet and validate the old “Dead Internet Theory,” after all. JeffreyRead

🤝  Restriction as Possibility; Lifestyle as Politics Thoughts on the challenge, but at the same time opportunity, to encourage and guide collective change on the individual level. JulianRead

🧠 Our Brain Is a Prediction Machine That Is Always Active Your brain is on auto-complete all the time. The latest research reveals why. PascalRead


Tidbits

🎨 The future might be so bright, we must wear shades — but the colors disappear from it.

🏎️ How Mercedes and Ferrari win in the electric car age — high-end motors.

🤑 When you’ve got it, you spend it. Softbank’s rather disastrous investment record.

✍️ An AI wrote and illustrated all these stories.

💥 An AI recreated this comic book.

🤖 An AI wrote your viral LinkedIn post.

🕰️ Time-travel to the year 1995 —the best and worst online.


Internet Finds

We all spend a lot (as in A LOT) of time in front of our computers and their user interfaces. Here is an entertaining and fascinating dive into the history of UIs. 💾


In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: On Leaders and Managers

🧨 Disrupt Disruption: We got to speak with Hemali Vyas from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. In our conversation, we explore (no pun!) the future of space exploration and what companies and leaders can learn from NASA.


Radically yours, take good care, friend!

— Pascal, Mafe, Vivian and the three Js (Jane, Jeffrey, and Julian)


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