Book Review #3: “The Innovation Ultimatum” By Steve Brown

Even though this book is clearly targeted for business owners and entrepreneurs, The Innovation Ultimatum simplifies with ease the very complicated subject of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and “the internet of things.”

While there are plenty of books dealing with the subject of emerging technologies, this one paints a very clear picture of what these technologies can actually do. After describing all of these technologies that you’ve certainly heard about, it then looks at existing examples of the technology, and imagines a multitude of possibilities from there. It’s really quite incredible.

Some crazy examples include: 5G networks that are so fast, they can allow for tele-surgery (someone on a mountain with a fatal injury could receive a life-saving surgery with a drone-deployed robot operated by a surgeon remotely!); block-chain-based smart contracts that eliminate the need for public notaries; sensor-based analytics that tell Walmart if people will buy berries or steak based on nothing more than the weather (something they’ve already done); and hearables, which depress sounds we don’t want to hear (like babies crying), and amplify sounds we do want to hear (like conversation). And that’s just scratching the surface.

Brown puts it all together with a very stunning story-an imagined scenario in which a woman becomes the CEO of a multi-million dollar company with zero employees. This hypothetical woman invents a talking teddy bear that translates and telecommunicates with a child, among many other features suggested to her by those with whom she goes into business. She creates an inventory-less business using a network of freelance agents that help her with each and every aspect of the product, including design, distribution, marketing, and even legal compliance.

Perhaps the notion of having a CEO for a company of one is problematic to you, but I guarantee that you will get something out of it either way. More than anything, it demonstrates that the jobs these emerging technologies will soon replace are bound to inevitable replacement. I, for one, see technological progress as largely a net positive because of the overwhelmingly positive impact is has on our standard of living, not to mention those that will have better jobs than before. This book also doesn’t really stop to meditate on the philosophical implications of these changes, but merely explains how they will inevitably happen, and how to be ready for the changes to come.

No one could have expected how the internet was going to reshape how we do everything, but if anyone could have, they might have written a book like this. I will very likely read this again in the future because of how much information is packed into this fairly lean book, and in the event I need some inspiration of my own.

Leave a Reply