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Where Are the Drones and Self-Driving Cars? The Problem With Tech Predictions

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Nate Nead


As early as 2010, journalists have been predicting that self-driving cars were about to “take over the world,” or some variation of that phrase. Google’s first self-driving car model, a Toyota Prius, had more than 150,000 successful miles logged in 2010. Since then, there’s been a rotating series of claims that “the year of the self-driving car” would be 2013. Then 2014. Then 2015. And so on. 

And of course, self-driving cars aren’t the only example of a technology being heralded a bit too much and a bit too early. We’ve also heard about the limitless potential of drone delivery—for the last five years or so, despite little progress actually being made. We hear about how smart homes are about to replace traditional homes entirely. And every once in a while, we hear about a promising new breakthrough in a technology that has the power to connect our brains directly to the internet. 

Let’s not hold our breath for that one. 

So why is it that so many bold technology predictions turn out to be overly ambitious? Are we that bad at predicting the course of technological development? Or is there something else at play here? 

Turns out, there are several factors intersecting to produce this effect. 

“Me First” Marketing 

First, we have to consider the power of marketing and the power of competition. In the tech world, it’s not enough to make a great new technology—it pays to be first. If you’re the first company to achieve success in a new area of tech, you’ll instantly achieve a permanent advantage over your competitors. If Google perfects a robot butler before Apple does, they’ll immediately and forever be associated with butler robots—which could eventually add up to billions of dollars in additional market share. 

Because of this competitive pressure, companies are inclined to overstate their progress. A corporate representative might imply that their self-driving cars are almost ready to go, when in reality they may need a few more years of refinement; but getting to say “we’re close” gives you an edge over your competitors. 

This isn’t to say that all tech companies are lying about their progress, of course. But they’re certainly all pressing to advance as quickly as possible, and they’re all eager to be seen as the frontrunner in their respective industry. Accordingly, they may be inclined to overstate or exaggerate things—even if it’s just a little bit. 

The Sensationalism of Modern Journalism 

Next, we need to think about the sensationalism of modern journalism. If tech company representatives overstate their progress slightly, journalists have the power to exaggerate the claim even further. 

In the modern era, journalism is all about clicks. For most publications, it’s much more valuable to go viral on social media than it is to produce a reputable, fact-based story. Instead of relying on consistent paying subscribers, most news outlets make money through onsite ads—and those ads can only generate revenue if their stories get clicks. 

Guess which kinds of stories get clicks? The sensational ones. The ones that evoke strong emotions. The ones that inspire heated debates. The controversial ones that make bold claims. 

Because of this, media publications are highly likely to publish a story that claims some kind of futuristic technology is almost here—even if that’s far from the truth. There are no real repercussions to posting a story that “2013 is the year of the self-driving car,” because it will be forgotten quickly—and you can just write a story that “2014 is the year of the self-driving car” next year. 

There’s also an illusion that occurs, distorting our sense of how sensationalist the media truly is, and it all depends on survivorship bias. 

For example, let’s say five publishers produce stories on a new technology; three of them boldly claim that it’s nearly here, while the other two are more modest in their reporting. The three bold claimers get a ton of comments, likes, and shares, and their headlines are seen all over social media. The two modest claimers get buried. To the casual observer, it seems like every story you see is sensationalist and overblown—when in reality, 40 percent of stories are accurate, despite going unseen. 

Slow Adaptation and Adoption 

Tech accessibility depends on acceptance and adoption. Consumers must fully buy into a technology for it to begin circulating, and in many cases, government regulators and politicians have to be on board as well. Society can be slow to adapt; many technologies are risky, intimidating, or simply hard to understand. And some people don’t like change in general. 

If politicians or consumers make it difficult, even a fully polished new technology can remain in tech purgatory for years. 

Unforeseeable Developmental Issues 

Of course, some technologies end up stagnating because of unforeseen developmental issues. There’s a critical hurdle that can’t be easily overcome, like a safety issue that hasn’t been resolved, or a lack of viable power. In some cases, major technologies are held up because of insufficient advancements in other areas—like new kinds of batteries or more durable materials. 

The Death of Moore’s Law

For much of the modern technological era, we’ve been benefitting from Moore’s Law, an informal argument that we can practically double our computing power every 18 months or so. Tech innovation has been remarkably fast, exponentially taking us to new heights. 

But now, Moore’s Law is… dead. Innovation has slowed. Our progress isn’t nearly as fast as it used to be, we fail more frequently and we’re coming up on some major physical barriers—limits to the paths of growth we’ve relied on for decades. It’s getting harder and harder to innovate, but at the same time, we expect lightning-fast innovation. It’s a recipe for bold claims and disappointing results. 

Consumer Hype

We also need to acknowledge the role of consumer hype in this equation. Consumers tend to be crazy about new technology, overestimating its utility and overvaluing the companies creating those technologies. Companies like Tesla, on the forefront of tech innovation for their respective niches, are trading at price-to-earning (P/E) ratios that far exceed the rest of the market. And people are talking about them nonstop. 

People are paying close attention to game-changing technologies, and they’re constantly hungry for optimistic news. So why not give it to them? 

The Retrospective Effect

Finally, we should consider the retrospective bias that tends to affect technological development. Usually, when a new technology is introduced, it’s clunky, ineffective, and/or inaccessible to the broader public. Over time, it gradually evolves, inching its way into our daily lives. Only years later does it become fully integrated, at which point we falsely remember using that technology for years, saying something like, “oh, that’s always been there.” 

Voice search, for example, has been around since 2011, but its early iterations were unreliable and hard to use. It wasn’t until 2016 or so that it truly became a powerful and universally used tool—but people still feel like voice search has been around for a decade. 

Right now, game-changing technologies are being developed. Self-driving cars are being tested on the streets. Delivery drones are being manufactured. We’re just a few steps away from full integration. Maybe in a few years, we’ll look back and say “that’s been around since 2013!”

I bet you won’t have to look far to find an article that claims 2021 to be the year that self-driving cars or autonomous drone fleet deliveries finally take hold. And for all we know, they may be right. But looking back, it seems like most of our bold tech predictions end up embarrassingly wrong. And we should consider that whenever reading about some sexy new technology that has the power to save the world in just a few months. 

Nate Nead

Nate Nead is the CEO & Managing Member of Nead, LLC, a consulting company that provides strategic advisory services across multiple disciplines including finance, marketing and software development. For over a decade Nate had provided strategic guidance on M&A, capital procurement, technology and marketing solutions for some of the most well-known online brands. He and his team advise Fortune 500 and SMB clients alike. The team is based in Seattle, Washington; El Paso, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Politics

Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending

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Google eyed for $2 billion Anthropic deal after major Amazon play


London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.

According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.

The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:

“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”

The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:

“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”

The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.

The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.

Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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Politics

Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs

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Deanna Ritchie


As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.

Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI

In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.

According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.

One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.

To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.

Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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Politics

UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations

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Deanna Ritchie


As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.

Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation

To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.

The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.

Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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