Book Recommendation: Whiplash

I don’t do this very often, but I am going to break a rule and recommend a book that I just bought and have not yet read.

My friend Joi Ito, along with Jeff Howe, a professor at Northeastern, have written Whiplash. It comes out tomorrow.

Here’s my edited version of the blurb:

The world is more complex and volatile today than at any other time in our history. The tools of our modern existence are getting faster, cheaper, and smaller at an exponential rate, just as billions of strangers around the world are suddenly just one click or tweet or post away from each other. When these two revolutions joined, an explosive force was unleashed that is transforming every aspect of society, from business to culture and from the public sphere to our most private moments.
Such periods of dramatic change have always produced winners and losers. The future will run on an entirely new operating system. It’s a major upgrade, but it comes with a steep learning curve. The logic of a faster future oversets the received wisdom of the past, and the people who succeed will be the ones who learn to think differently.
In WHIPLASH, Joi Ito and Jeff Howe distill that logic into nine organizing principles for navigating and surviving this tumultuous period. From strategically embracing risks rather than mitigating them (or preferring “risk over safety”) to drawing inspiration and innovative ideas from your existing networks (or supporting “pull over push”), this dynamic blueprint can help you rethink your approach to all facets of your organization.
A nine step program to help us survive this world we have unleashed on ourselves. This could not have been better timed. I am going to read it over the holidays. You might want to as well.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Eliot Pierce

    Whiplash sounds like it addresses similar themes to The Seventh Sense by Joshua Cooper Ramo, an amazing book, though frightening…

    1. Joi Ito

      Joshua is a good friend and he and I have influenced each other quite a bit. Themes are overlapping and similar but Joshua and I have very different background and “playing fields” so I hope you’ll feel that they compliment each other. Seventh Sense describes the world in terms of networks and we talk a lot about systems – very related.

      1. Eliot Pierce

        I look forward to reading Whiplash and trying to determine how best to optimize instantaneous network effects for good in the world…

      2. jason wright

        Have you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

        1. mikenolan99

          Not in a long time… might have to be my next Audible purchase….

          1. jason wright

            it’s uncanny to me that as we move further and further away from the time it was written that book becomes ever more relevant as tech ratchets up the stakes in the game we ‘must’ play.

  2. bfeld


    1. Mario Cantin


  3. Joi Ito

    Thanks Fred! I hope you and your friends enjoy the book. 🙂

    1. Twain Twain

      Does this new OS involve SV techco’s being able to control the OS of our brains themselves via neuro-transplants and nano-bots?So then President-elect Trump will not only be able to game the algorithms and fake news in search, social networks etc but also directly manipulate our brains? Please see attached screenshot.I completely agree with the concerns you shared in the ‘Wired’ interview with President Obama: “I feel like this is the year that artificial intelligence becomes more than just a computer science problem. Everybody needs to understand that how AI behaves is important. In the Media Lab we use the term extended intelligence. Because the question is, how do we build societal values into AI?”According to Peter Diamandis and others, we don’t need to do that. We all just need the silicate brain implants and that will (somehow) control the AI and teach it about language, culture, empathy, social values, ethics etc.It won’t and it can’t, imo. And we should ALL be thinking the AI through and we should all be integral parts of the design and development of AI.Then the AI would actually be more representative and reflective of our collective human intelligence.George Magnus, the former Chief Economist of UBS, makes an important distinction between this Machine Age of Information Revolution from that of the Industrial Revolution.In the Industrial Revolution, the machines were designed to replace our brawn.In this Information Revolution, the machines are designed to replace our brains (but, in fact, only our intelligence as mathematically definable rather than our whole intelligence).If we get this wrong, the language, the ethics, the social and cultural values which our species has built up since Homo Erectus became Homo Sapiens will be negatively affected. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…*…*

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        “Then the AI would actually be more representative and reflective of our collective human intelligence.”Isn’t that the problem “collective human intelligence” or the lack there of ?Technology has now brought us to the point of organismic interdependencies so intensely volatile that “collective human intelligence” is now mandatory for our collective survival.The few Borg genes we do have on board are actively resisted with heroic fervour in the name of vestigial social/economic cultural values that cling to “poor distribution of wealth” as a somehow eternally sacrosanct inevitability of the human condition. If “culture is our OS” then that reality is a major road block to social progress/survival!”Collective Human Intelligence” is a tough nut to crack when billions of souls can not even take the bottom few rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for granted. It is hard to co-operate around “collective human ntelligence” when you are desperate !http://www.simplypsychology…It would seem to me that any chance of building a “culture is our OS” capable of supporting a “collective human intelligence” must start with solving that as a prerequisite .Without that “Maslow” baseline social-platform reality in place our new network-effect, organic-information, distributive, App-based reality will simply serve to amplify all that justifiable anger/resentment into discordant collapse.The starving and desperate will have little sympathy/patience/co-operatrion for participating in a “collective human intelligence” imposed from the top down.If “History is a race between education and catastrophe”(H.G Wells) then educating the wealth-class to the factually mandatory redistribution of wealth now being imposed on humanity by informationally organic interdependency technologies is our contemporary instantiation of that historical challenge.Forget right vs left, socialism vs capitalism, that is now all technologically irrelevant framing !Our contemporary technological reality mandates a “collective human intelligence” that pivots around solving the win-win social/economic organizational interdependency problem. That imperative now simply wells up from the underling causal organizational necessity of it all.As regards:”the language, the ethics, the social and cultural values which our species has built up since Homo Erectus”Those too need a major rework around our new technologically immovable reality of universal social interdependency.So there we have it our contemporary “Chicken or Egg” problem.

        1. Twain Twain

          Oh, Maslow’s isn’t a good model for collective intelligence. And I baked culture in. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

          1. SubstrateUndertow

            Not suggesting Maslow is a model for AI just that get everyone up to at least level 2 is a prerequisite to securing mass participation in any form of distributive “collective intelligence” ant hill style.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Rushing or dragging?

  4. Kurt Stangl

    Will definitely check it out!

  5. William Mougayar

    “The future will run on an entirely new operating system.”Isn’t that part of tech normalcy? There is always something new around the corner.Once you get into a given technology, you’ve got to brace yourself for upgrades, updates and new versions. Definitely agree with the book’s assertion that technology has surpassed our ability to assimilate it.

  6. David Fleck

    Tom Friedman’s new book “Thank You for Being Late” addresses some of these same themes. The themes that I think are causing worldwide anxiety, protectionism at massive scale, fear. These same themes should be viewed as massive opportunities to change the world for the better, too, but I realize that’s not evident or agreed to by large swathes of people because they’ve not seen in action how that makes their life better (microeconomics versus macroeconomics).

    1. Tom Labus

      Reading now, very good

    2. Adam Sher

      I get Tom Friedman fatigue; he can be like the Dan Brown of his genre.

      1. David Fleck

        lol. i hear you. i hesitated to even write my comment, but i do like this book and the topics it explores. friedman has become his own cult of personality which means objectively looking at anything he does is much more difficult.

  7. Jess Bachman

    This is an interesting topic, and an important one.Here is another reccomendation of which I am only a few pages in and loving it so far. I suspect it’s an additional tool to dealing with our tech whiplash.”The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” – Mark Manson…

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Love this! Very Buddhist, actually.

      1. Jess Bachman

        Yeah its Stoicism + Buddhism + a big ol’ bag of F-bombs.

  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Bought it. It’s interesting to think about the idea that technology has surpassed our ability to assimilate it and what that might mean for brain development in the youth of the future.

    1. Girish Mehta

      “The Sovereign Individual” written in the late ’90s is pretty interesting. Intersection of Society, the Nation-State and the Information Age. (Note: Somewhat alarmist/exaggerated and I don’t agree/know what to make of a fair bit, but it is quite prescient in parts as you see current events unfolding. Its a book I had dismissed previously, and then went back to reading this year).

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Great recommendation, thank you 🙂

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I saw this one in my Twitter stuffs today but hadn’t read yet. Thanks for sharing. The headline hadn’t quite caught my interest.As a woman, I’ve known to avoid entering just, “girls” into Google for a long time now. 🙁

        1. Twain Twain

          “Google is knowledge.”@joiito:disqus — Are these the societal values we want to teach the machines and the machines to [email protected]:disqus — This is why solving AI’s limitations and failures in understanding our natural language, our values and democratic representativeness is much more important than building another form of database and currency known as Blockchain.https://uploads.disquscdn.c

        2. LE

          Looks like Google adjusted their algorithm (‘are jews’ doesn’t auto complete in the same way when I try) or it’s possible that the results for this particular searcher were tailored in a way that wasn’t as widespread as implied in the article (which is possible).Oh here it is the update (google whack a moled it):

          1. Twain Twain

            Let me share this with AVC community because the problems with the algorithms are pretty deep-rooted.’Whiplash’ reflects the fact that the technologies built are disseminating information FASTER but that doesn’t mean they’re more intelligent than we are nor that they have our human values. https://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.c

          2. Adam Sher

            You’re on fire, today.

          3. Twain Twain

            :*).The whole “How can data, AI and business models be more representative of us?” really matters.

          4. Twain Twain

            Google has problems understanding us. Their senior people are predominantly mathematicians and computer scientists, so their mental models are that intelligence and language are just about mathematics.The idea that language is probabilistic makes no sense.The reason is simple. Probability is a man-made invention from 1654 to model the random behavior of unbiased dice. Dice which has no consciousness (construct of internal self and relationship with external others), no language, no culture and no thinking abilities.Moreover, language PRECEDED probability and, likely, even mathematics itself.John Von Neumann: “When we talk mathematics, we may be discussing a secondary language built on the primary language of the nervous system.”So that’s why Google is stuck and can’t solve the problem. Language understanding is not about frequency counts of clicks or probabilistic correlations of links.https://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.c

          5. Lawrence Brass

            Maybe it is that we are modelling artificial intelligence with the wrong tools.As powerful and cost effective as hardware has got, I think we still lack the proper languages to build the models to express AI. Its also possible that the way our tools work is contaminating our view of the models and even the problem itself.…P.S.: I agree with what it is said in the article about how far are we from understanding every interaction going on inside the brain which combined produces our individual intelligence. But I think that we can produce convincing, comfortable, and useful enough versions of AI before that, the milestone of total understanding of our mind.And also, this ‘collective mind’ social phenomena as expressed in our time, is something *completely new*. Turning this into a form of ‘proactive and collective intelligence’ may beat AI, as a tool, during it first steps.

          6. Twain Twain

            There are inconsistencies and incoherencies aplenty in various competing “theories of the mind, cognitive sciences vs psychology vs neuroscience and machines are more intelligent than us because they can do maths faster and everything’s a nail” world of Big Data, AI and natural language understanding.https://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.c

          7. Lawrence Brass

            Do you think decision/speech trees for AI could be handcrafted or trained collectively, as they fold proteins in ?Or we have to start saving for a nvidia DGX-1? 🙂

          8. Twain Twain

            Mmmn …(1.) Intelligence and information processing are defined as “the reduction of risk” by computer scientists.If we ask artists to define intelligence, they’d describe it as the “appreciation of beauty and culture.”(2.) I disagree with Descartes+Bayes’ trees approach but do agree with crowdsourcing the training of AI.(3.) Nvidia DGX-1 is not true Quantum Computing enough, IMO.

          9. Lawrence Brass

            Definitely not quantum. I am thinking of lesser AI, or perhaps the illusion of higher AI by carefully coding and pre training those parts that we see that fail in mainstream AI… just random thoughts. Thanks for your valued opinions.

          10. Twain Twain

            Ah, it is possible for us to get to stronger, more general AI instead of today’s weak, narrow AI that can’t understand our language or values and that’s bound by mathematical objective functions, :*).Marvin Minsky and Noam Chomsky disagreed with Google for years about whether language is probabilistic and follows logic trees. Minsky created a lot of the principles of symbolic computing as a contrast to the connectionist (probabilistic) approach to language.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Google was able to apply Graph Theory, borrowing from Euler, to connect links faster. The whole beef between SQL and NonSQL databases is about which one allows for more efficient data extraction and linking.More recently (over last decade), AI researchers (from Google to FB to MS) have tried to teach the machines “common sense” by connecting and contextualizing entity concepts like so:https://uploads.disquscdn.c…That’s the attempt to combine symbolic with connectionist. Facts and figures with probability of correlation. However, as we saw with fake news problem & bots (Tay and Trump), it’s still not adequate for teaching the machines to understand our language and meanings.There are missing tools (in maths and other disciplines from cognitive science to economics) for solving the intelligence puzzle.And, the only person in the world who knows how to create and code those missing tools would be …. me.LOL!My friend, Eric, who worked in UBS’s CTO Office and led the build of the largest Cloud in the banking sector, said: “You’ve made it so easy to use, people will wonder, “Why didn’t we think of that?! It’s not rocket science! It’s not NASA! But, actually, … it is.”The challenge has been to build a technical team now I’ve invented the system, :*).

          11. Lawrence Brass

            I believe that long and trans-formative deep work journeys can take people to new and unique levels of thinking and understanding applied to a specific problem or art. So I actually understand what do you mean by that simple, complex and unique at the same time thing, most brilliant solutions have that attribute!

          12. Lawrence Brass

            Nice shades! ;-)Sorry about your Dad too..

          13. Twain Twain

            Thanks, Lawrence.If my Dad hadn’t passed away like that, I wouldn’t have got the bees in my bonnet to invent a better data, AI and economics system.Sitting beside him in the hospital, it became painfully clear that fMRIs of electron movements reduce the model of our brains to:0 = no electrical activity = brain dead = unconscious1 = electrical activity = brain alive = consciousI just KNEW that we are more than the sum of those binary electron registers, so ended up showing the neurosurgeons in coroner’s court that the tools we currently have to model consciousness and intelligence inside the brain are woefully inadequate.I showed my Dad was conscious — just not in ways measurable by existing tools. Existing tools were about his external physiological behaviors (e.g. if he could raise his limbs = Yes = 1) and the 1,0 of electrical activity.[That’s partly why I take issues with [1,0] I/O designs and also behavioral and biometric measurements as the sum of us, our language and our values too. They’re useful, partial data but incapable of measuring other internal functions within the brain.]Anyway, it occurred to me whilst sitting in hospital that the signal:noise problem in my Dad’s brain was similar to the signal:noise problem in the Global Brain that is the http://WWW.And that I have unique knowhow and experiences to invent tools to help solve that.

          14. Twain Twain

            The Aeon writer is amiss in this: “Forgive me for this introduction to computing, but I need to be clear: computers really do operate on symbolic representations of the world. They really store and retrieve. They really process. They really have physical memories. They really are guided in everything they do, without exception, by algorithms.Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will.”Symbolic representations are simply associations of one thing with another (contextualization) and our brains do do that.The human brain does have a hippocampus where memories are stored and retrieved.Where the difference between the human brain and the AI brain differs is that neuroscientists discovered that, unlike a classical computer that codes information as 0s and 1s, a brain cell uses 26 different ways to code its “bits.” They calculated that the brain could store 1 petabyte (or a quadrillion bytes) of information which is about the whole Internet.Yet it uses a fraction of the processing power that the big databases like Google’s do. A computer with the same memory and processing power would require 1 gigawatt of power, or “basically a whole nuclear power station to run one computer that does what our ‘computer’ does with 20 watts,” said study co-author Tom Bartol, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute.Now, why is the brain more intelligent and efficient?Computers are using electrons to do the calculations and electrons flowing in a wire make a lot of heat, and that heat is wasted energy,” Bartol said. Biochemical pathways may simply be much more efficient, he added.Well, it’s a great thing I based my system on art and biochemistry rather than on binary maths and physics, LOL![Actually, my degree is in maths: 99% in probability & statistics, summa cum laude in linear algebra — the basis of all data science and Deep Learning. After my maths degree, I worked in a hedge fund for a Research Director who was a Professor of Neural Networks, Cambridge University.So I have fairly well-developed views on what maths can/can’t do to model our intelligence, language and values.]

          15. Lawrence Brass

            I trust your views on AI Twain (!) and I am not very comfortable with his view either, because I actually believe that we are machines sculpted by evolution and nature (I usually say that in a very low voice and never at the table). But, his contrarian view has its points.While the mysteries of the brain are fully discovered and understood, we can do simulating the outputs which is, in my opinion, a viable and competitive option.

          16. SubstrateUndertow

            Collective intelligence vs AI, maybe AI is for now best applied as support plumbing for “collective intelligence” via social interaction tools ? Ant hill style.

          17. Lawrence Brass

            I see computers and networking as enhancing tools, but it is true that they have become part of us in so many ways. This worldwide collective is enabled by it, wouldn’t exist otherwise. Machines are us, AI too.

          18. Twain Twain

            From Tim Tyler of HP Vertica, writing on LinkedIn:Artificial Intelligence Makes Strides, but Has a Long Way to Go – WSJAI, says Ms. Bassa, requires three things that most companies don’t have in sufficient quantities. The first is enough data…The second is problems where making a small difference can justify the expense of creating an AI system…That leads to the third scarcity: People to build systems. The war for AI talent is driving up the cost. “There are maybe 5,000 people in the world who can put together one of these machine-learning systems in a way that saves money, even if only incrementally,” says Ms. Bassa.…The major techcos have acqui-hired lots of the AI startups since 2011:*…Jan 2014, Google acquired DeepMind’s 75 person team for a reported $600 million. It works out to around $10 million per AI person, once we’ve accounted for the non-AI people in marketing etc.June 2016, Twitter acquired Magic Pony’s 11-person team for $150 million.All of their algorithms are based on the classical model approach to data and AI.

          19. Lawrence Brass

            5,000 people in 7bn, that is why when we say “we” speaking as humanity, we might be wrong. Most of us are just observers. The nice thing is that anyone resilient and patient enough can give it a shot!Will you be happy being acquired by a big tech company?

          20. Twain Twain

            We observe, we learn, we exchange know-how.Some of the big techcos are great.

      2. LE

        I saw that as well (posted on techmeme) and was going to post it here. However it seemed to take the position that the election results (for Brexit/US Pres) were not fair because things were gamed in what (speculatively on the writer’s part) was an unfair way. Doesn’t mention that social media played a huge role in the election of 2008 which could be viewed in the same way. In other words what you read as being truth.To wit:In February 2007, a friend called Marc Andreessen, a founder of Netscape and a board member of Facebook, and asked if he wanted to meet with a man with an idea that sounded preposterous on its face…..He wondered if social networking, with its tremendous communication capabilities and aggressive database development, might help him beat the overwhelming odds facing him.

        1. Twain Twain

          How do the algorithms do search, social networks and language understanding? Probability & statistical analysis.Let’s recall Disraeli, the British Prime Minister.Regardless of who won the US elections, I’d still have a beef with existing data and algorithm structures for the simple reason that they’re not representative of our intelligence, our language and our values. And they need to be. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

        2. jason wright

          Gaming the gamed game.Let us not forget that the glory of Athens was built on mass slavery.

      3. Lawrence Brass

        Thanks for the link, a must read!

    2. panterosa,

      Did you see the Friedman graphs that were being made fun of?

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        No! What are these graphs of which you speak?

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Ha! That’s hilarious 😀

  9. Adam Sher

    Great fiction is at least as instructive because one is forced to generalize its allegories. Gary Shteyngart and Isaac Asimov are torch bearers of applicable fiction.

  10. Mario Cantin

    That is what we call a must-read without it being an exaggeration.

  11. Pointsandfigures

    If you read the blurb and the reframe Bitcoin/Blockchain as a distributed ledger of trust and proof of work the technology gets really really huge. Naysayers take note

  12. Mario Cantin

    “….to help us survive this world we have unleashed on ourselves,” I shall borrow this line in a fiction story I’m currently writing.”

  13. Pointsandfigures

    Re-read 1998 book The Capital Markets Revolution and apply today’s themes/tech. I also think it might behoove people to read America 3.0

  14. Joe Lazarus

    AVC book club?

    1. jason wright

      OK, If that’s the new gig here then I’ll go for Piketty’s Capital.

  15. creative group

    Fred:Your recommending a book you haven’t read? Really excited to purchase it now.The sleep walkers will not say a peep.The movie Whiplash based upon Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite music conservatory. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons-Farmers Insurance commercials), an instructor known for his terrifying teaching methods, discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into the top jazz ensemble, forever changing the young man’s life was amazing.

  16. scottythebody

    Oh Wow! Bam! Bought it.

  17. JamesHRH

    Maybe it is because I grew up surrounded by farming and I live with an energy operations executive……these types of books don’t excite me much.The fundamentals of life – food, water, heat – don’t give a f*ck about how fast the bytes move. And the fundamentals seems like a larger constraint than the opportunity provided by tech, from here forward.

  18. jason wright

    Whiplash? Really?So a social, cultural, political, and economic car crash is coming. Merry Christmas everyone, and remember to buckle up.

  19. jason wright

    Human OS is resilient.

  20. Pete Griffiths

    While you are at it read this:”The Age of Enlightenment” 2 volumes by Peter GayI think you’ll find it relevant to today’s world.

  21. jason wright

    “Such periods of dramatic change have always produced winners and losers.”I’m sorry, but i’m having another one of my brain fade moments. Are the authors saying in this book that i have not yet read that this new epoch of dramatically accelerating change will again be producing winners and losers? Do we really still have to play that game? Isn’t it time to play another game with a different set of rules where the score is not kept to decide a winner and a loser? It’s so tediously binary, and disheartening.p.s. why is the paperback listed on Amazon at $47.85?

  22. Jake Brukhman