Crossing The Chasm — Building Bridges To Close The Gap

Yes­ter­day over lunch, we dis­cussed the lib­er­tar­i­an notion of essen­tial­ly get­ting rid of lega­cy com­plex­i­ty, such as leg­is­la­tion, reg­u­la­tion, etc. Some of the early pro­po­nents and cre­ators of cryp­tocur­ren­cies have expressed lib­er­tar­i­an world views by try­ing to leave the mon­e­tary sys­tem of cen­tral banks and hand over the power of money cre­ation to the peo­ple. Extreme views like this might seem promis­ing, but I pre­fer cross­ing the chasm and build­ing bridges to close the gap.

I don’t want to assess the lib­er­tar­i­an par­a­digm here, but what strikes me when­ev­er I lis­ten to peo­ple draw­ing a big­ger pic­ture, is a miss­ing link between their view of the future and the now. Often, this gap between what peo­ple envi­sion and what actu­al­ly exists and is real takes place in in the realm of tech­nol­o­gy: pro­po­nents of tech­nol­o­gy (tech­nol­o­gists as they name them­selves in their extreme ver­sion) like to paint a pic­ture of a technology-enabled future, but with­out tak­ing care of the inte­gra­tion of this into exist­ing leg­is­la­tion, reg­u­la­tion, or a human being’s abil­i­ty to cope with these tech­nolo­gies. In the fields of AI, robot­ics, and blockchain, it’s obvi­ous that there is a huge gap that has to be filled with edu­ca­tion, and much more time for adap­tion than all of us imagine.

Geof­frey A. Moore coined the term Cross­ing the Chasm in 1991, focus­ing on the specifics of mar­ket­ing high-tech prod­ucts dur­ing the early peri­od of a com­pa­ny. The chal­lenge every start­up faces to explain and then sell its inno­v­a­tive prod­uct to the mar­ket rep­re­sents the broad­er chal­lenge of the tech­nol­o­gy indus­try to explain and sell their new tech­nolo­gies to the peo­ple. When we invent AI, we then should be pre­pared to answer the ques­tion of how to cope with machines that define their actions them­selves and behave dif­fer­ent­ly than we orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed them to behave. We have to make sure that the future behav­ior of autonomous machines is reflect­ed in our leg­is­la­tion and law enforce­ment sys­tems. We have to make sure that we cre­ate the legal, reg­u­la­to­ry and social infra­struc­ture for a sys­tem of par­tic­i­pants that don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly obey to a cen­tral author­i­ty — a chal­lenge which itself sounds like an intractable prob­lem, itself.

Accept the Now

Of course, it is not help­ful to cre­ate a never-ending list of chal­lenges and ToDos that tech­no­log­i­cal progress alone entails. What makes much sense, how­ev­er, is to first accept that there is a super-fast tech­no­log­i­cal change hap­pen­ing and that we some­how have to cope with it in order not to destroy our plan­et — by dam­ag­ing our envi­ron­ment or cre­at­ing buggy algo­rithms — you choose. After hav­ing accept­ed this real­i­ty, we should start build­ing bridges from where we are now to where we want to be or to where we most prob­a­bly will be in the future. 

Hard And Soft Bridges

Bridg­ing the gaps between now and then is in my opin­ion the noblest and press­ing task of today. Bridges may be under­stood in a ‘hard­ware way’: we have to cre­ate and use tools that enable us to make our future worth liv­ing. Bridges may also be under­stood as ‘soft­ware’: we have to edu­cate and to sup­port peo­ple in learn­ing about and using new tech­nolo­gies and we have to allow for ade­quate amounts of time to adapt to new technologies.

Cross­ing The Chasm — Build­ing Bridges To Close The Gap

In my opin­ion, Bridg­ing the Gap is an ele­men­tary aspect of any seri­ous vision of the future. With­out it, tech­nol­o­gists should think twice before they enlight­en the world with their yet detached sin­gle­tons. The com­plex­i­ty of our today’s world requires that we take the respon­si­bil­i­ty of bridg­ing the gaps. And, per­haps the most inspir­ing aspect of this is, that every­body can start with build­ing bridges: by sim­ply help­ing oth­ers to under­stand what they don’t, by behav­ing in a pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive way and help­ing other peo­ple to solve their prob­lems. Even small bridges can help to over­come deep gaps. 

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