From Pittsburgh to Palo Alto, with Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward ringing in my ears.
A recent visit to Pittsburgh (NewCo partnered with the Thrival Innovation + Music Festival) reminded me that to understand our future, in particular when that future seems threatened and deeply uncertain, it is often wise to look to our past.
At the bar of the overly hip Ace Hotel Pittsburgh, fellow traveler Marc Ruxin and I were discussing the rather improbable rise of Pittsburgh as a verifiable city of the future. Ruxin, an entrepreneur in the music, marketing and cannabis industries, was marveling at the fact that the city was once the wealthiest place in America, the center of western industrial capitalism. It was Pittsburgh’s then-nascent forges which drove the Union’s dominance over the South in the Civil War, and it was in Pittsburgh that some of America’s greatest industrial entrepreneurs — Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, and Westinghouse — created the nation’s first truly generation-spanning wealth.
Noted urbanist Richard Florida has some challenging ideas on the income inequality that is killing our nation’s cities.
Richard Florida is an academic, author, and leading voice on all things urban studies. His Rise of the Creative Class, first published in 2002, predicted a resurgence in city centers due to a new class of creative “knowledge workers.” His insights helped to catalyze scores of major city redevelopment efforts. Hailed as a far-reaching seer for predicting the tech and arts-driven boom in American cities, Florida’s work has recently been called into question for the unexpected consequences of urban renewal, in particular gentrification and its attendant income inequality, which has pushed lower income and diverse populations from cities throughout the United States.
But instead of ducking those consequences, Florida embraces them in his most recent work, The New Urban Crisis. In our conversation, Florida has some choice words for the tech industry, and posits a new approach to local government that he admits would be challenging to implement. We spoke to Florida earlier this week, below is a transcript of the conversation, edited for length and clarity.
NewCo Shift: First of all let’s talk about your latest book. It seems like it’s a departure — maybe a bit of a look back on your previous work. Some of the reviews said it was a mea culpa — but I’d call it a “rethinking” of some of your earlier work. Can you contextualize it in light of that?
Our economic models are outdated. We can do better.
That individuals will always act rationally, in their own self-interest, was once a basic economic assumption. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky ruptured that cozy notion,utilizing psychological insights to enrich the economic understanding of human behavior. Kahneman and Tversky cast a new light on Adam Smith’s invisible hand, portraying it not as a mechanism that aggregates mass self-interest into social utility, but as a bundle of subconscious cognitive biases to which we are all victims.
But just as economics was revolutionized only when the budding claims of psychology gained enough steam to overturn the antiquated economic model of rationality, a new field may now be nearing the threshold to disrupt the very notion of self-interest altogether.
Launch Forth represents a new approach to product development
You’ve probably seen Local Motors’ unique and arresting automobiles around the Internet (the company is credited with creating the first 3D printed car), but what you may not know is that Local Motors has birthed a maker community and platform, Launch Forth, that engages more than 70,000 “solvers” who engage with projects from companies as diverse as GE, Boeing, and many more. In this short talk at the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, Elle Shelley, lead at Launch Forth, walks us through an entirely new kind of innovation platform.
John Battelle: The next speaker, Elle Shelley from Launch Forth, a division of Local Motors. If you haven’t heard of Local Motors, you just got to go Google it because the cars that they make are insane.
At the Shift Forum earlier this year, five short, superb talks challenged the audience’s thinking. Here they are, all in one place.
One of my favorite parts of this year’s Shift Forum as “Ignite at Shift,” a series of five-minute talks give in rapid succession. If you’ve never heard of Ignite, you’re in for a treat, they’ve spread to hundreds of cities around the world and range across a heady set of topics. They’ve been called “TED Talks on speed,” and feature a unique creative box: each presenter gets 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds. The result is a fast and impactful experience. We’ve now published each one of them, and curated them here for your viewing pleasure. Special thanks to Ignite founder Brady Forrest for curating these extraordinary talks.
We Don’t Need to Wait For Driverless Cars
Rose Broome makes the case for a universal basic income.
No one ever said that this business of doing business the right way was going to be easy. The “shareholder value uber alles” philosophy of management that took hold in the 1980s remains powerful even as we’ve seen the rise of alternative visions that add other stakeholders’ interests to the equation.
Now there’s a wave of setbacks for idealistic firms like Juno, the ride-hailing platform that scaled back its profit-sharing plans after being acquired, and Etsy, the handmade-goods marketplace that fired its CEO and laid off workers to try to boost its share price.
The Shift Ignite series, curated by Brady Forrest at the NewCo Shift Forum, featured five minute talks from a diverse set of leaders, including Rose Broome, CEO of HandUp. In this talk (transcript and video below), Broome makes the case for a basic income in the United States.
Rose Broome: Hi everyone. By now, most of you have probably heard about Universal Basic Income. It’s a social safety net that gives everyone a payment that covers their basic cost of living. The basic income has had support on the left and the right. Martin Luther King believed that it would help end poverty.
A conversation with workers on the front lines of the on demand economy
What happens when millions of jobs are automated? This question was a major theme of the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, and to insure we heard from all sides, we gathered three representatives from the on demand workforce to hear about their experiences first hand. Read on to hear their insights into the future of work.
John Battelle: Concern about the future of jobs, and the impact of automation and AI is a major theme of this event. As we were putting together the program, it struck me that we can sit here and talk about all this and wave our hands. But shouldn’t we have the people whose jobs are actually being impacted be on the stage to talk about it?
Economists divide the world they study into “private sector” and “public sector” for a reason: The government is huge, and the government works differently from business. You could argue that the economic history of the modern world is one long series of pendulum swings between government and business.
In fact, that’s exactly what Dutch economist Paul De Grauwe argues in a new book, The Limits of the Market (Quartz). De Grauwe says the most recent era of business domination failed to handle market failures in two important realms — climate change and inequality — and that failure has pushed the pendulum back in government’s direction.
What do a hundred American leaders find when they compare different possibilities for the effect of technology on work’s future?
The future of work is already here in the present.
After a year of imagining the future of work 10–20 years from now, led by (national think tank) New America and (technology company) Bloomberg, and powered by discussions with more than 100 leaders across all walks of American life, a survey of American workers, conversations about automated trucks with truckers, discussions with people who provide eldercare to their families, and lots of background research… we are honored to present our findings.
We took (a different take) on this issue than many others: The future is impossible to predict, so we compared four scenarios along two dimensions — with more work and less, more “taskification” of jobs and less — and we believe these are four possible futures of work in America.