“Pandemic calls for reset; time to innovate” J Arbib, co-founder RethinkX & Oliver Oram, Chainvine

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Post #78: Conversations with experts

To try and better understand the future your author spent part of last week in conversation with two people at the forefront of innovative thinking: James Arbib, the co-founder of RethinkX; and Oliver Oram, the CEO and Founder of Chainvine. If there were common ground between these two individuals, then it would simply be that the current pandemic calls for a reset; a time to innovate, try new ideas or even, in the words of James, “rethink humanity.”

 For those unaware, RethinkX is an independent think tank that analyses and forecasts the speed and scale of technology-driven disruption and its implications across society. We have followed their work for some time but we’re intrigued to read their recent report, ‘Rethinking Humanity.’ In it, the authors contend that “we are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest [and] most consequential transformation in human civilisation.” Put simply, the convergence of multiple technologies will magnify their respective powers triggering a major decrease in costs and corresponding increase in efficiency. When applied to sectors as diverse as food, energy, and transformation, the consequences could be significant. 

We are naturally sympathetic to such a take on the world and have made similar assertions in our own work. When speaking with James, he emphasised that the view outlined was “just one future scenario.” Change would, however, “emerge” in his opinion; technology should be seen as a necessary but not sufficient condition for enabling such change. However, it would need to be supported by a robust organising system. States and cities will have a crucial role to play, as perhaps the current pandemic is illustrating. If there were a call to arms from the report, then it would be “don’t crush innovation.”

A similar view was espoused when we caught up Oliver Oram, the founder of Chainvine, a business that creates intelligent databases and ledgers. Chainvine has found that both businesses and governments are more receptive to new ideas than ever before; they are “soaking them up like a sponge.” Thought of differently, the debate has moved on from being “less about AI or blockchain… and more about what technology can do.” Such solutions can clearly help reduce costs and have substantial applicability; from the introduction of health passports to the reduction of paperwork associated with imports and exports at borders. In the new world envisaged by both Oliver and James there would be a fundamental reassessment of compliance, regulation, and bureaucracy. Change can be good. It’s happening too; driven, according to Oliver by “fear of missing out.”

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