Drive innovation through storytelling

For an organisation to succeed today, it needs to enable and foster innovation by providing the correct “operating systems”. Operating systems can mean anything palpable that makes an organisation work: technology, budgets, profits, equipment. But can also mean the intangible: its atmosphere, culture, and unique story.

The intangible has always been the main force behind the humanity’s motivation. As Yuval Noah Harari revealed in his critically acclaimed book, Sapiens, money, religion, law and nation are all unseen forces which motivate people to move towards something. These ideas become tangible when they are given meaning and it is from this meaning that people derive inspiration  – a major prerequisite to innovation.

Storytelling then, is the intangible made tangible. Yet it can only be successful when the alignment of the story you tell to your audience is mirrored within. By having every stakeholder on the same page, an organisation is able to clearly identify its purpose, and become a magnet for the right talent, resources and ideas. Such a narrative can weave norms, values, trust, knowledge, and individual responsibility into your organisation at large.

Think of any successful company, most have been capable of adapting their vision and pivoting their narrative in a new direction. Netflix, founded in 1994 as a DVD logistics company, bet on a technology that none of the competition believed would ever prove worthwhile. Since its shift to streaming in 2007, others such as Sky and Amazon have seen the benefits of such technology and launched streaming services of their own. Yet even this was not the only twist in the Netflix tale – and this year the company is looking to invest $8 billion in content production – opening up an entirely new chapter in its company story that is entirely different from its logistical roots.

In each of Netflix’s evolutionary stages, they had to expand their story to incorporate new players. Be it developers in 2007 or directors in 2018, Netflix had to adapt its vision in order to attract suitable protagonists to its changing tale – an impossible feat without compelling storytelling. This change in narrative played a cornerstone role in the (now) content provider’s success.

Many are unable to successfully nuance their narrative in new ways, and remain incapable of convincing others that there is any truth to their tale. Internal culture is key, and rewarding divergent and diverse thought is essential to a happy ending (or beginning). As companies shift their core, not only do they need to adapt or sometimes even re-write their story, but often they will also evolve their organizational structures to the next level.

Indeed, shifting organizational structures  have been documented before. Frederic Laloux, in his work Reinventing Organizations, takes a historical approach. Beginning with the earliest instances of human interaction, Laloux proclaims that every time humanity has shifted to a new stage of consciousness, it has also invented a radically more productive organisational model. The author does this by identifying several different paradigms that have defined organisations over the ages.

Beginning with the predatory style, fear-fuelled, short-term-focused Red Organisation (The Mafia is one example given) Laloux then moves on through the ages to highlight different organisational structures and what characterises them. Orange, for example, is goal and task-oriented (think Multinational companies), whilst Green is more consensus-centred. The pinnacle, and what organisations should aim to be more like today, is the Teal Organisation, wherein distributed leadership together with inner rightness and purpose (a clear story) are the primary drivers behind their success (Patagonia, FAVI, Buurtzorg are the prime examples of this today).

There are inevitable challenges in reaching this stage. Yet there are also four key behaviours that can help overcome the challenges in realising this new organisational structure.


Understand what’s going on outside, and have the capability to integrate what is new into your own organisation. At the same time, understand the potential and power of leveraging new knowledge you have obtained internally and emphasize the importance of the new. Cross-pollination is what gave life to this planet, and the cross-pollination of ideas will do the same for your organisation.


Make sure your organisation stays lean and flexible, so that it keeps its ability to change  over time and become something entirely new. As with Netflix, your story is forever unfolding, and nothing should be set in stone. Amazon went from bookseller to behemoth in just two short decades, and there is little reason others cannot do the same. Cementing your organisation in a certain way will undoubtedly slow progress, but by instilling a culture that is curveball friendly, you will open up new windows of opportunity.


To rephrase Salim Ismail, most organisations are designed to scale efficiency and predictability, create static or at least controlled-growth environments in order to reduce or withstand risk. Too often, they stifle innovative ideas for fear of taking risks. Kodak failed to see the importance of the digital camera that they themselves had invented, for fear it would cannibalise their own sales. As a result, they were confined to become a shadow of their former self. Apple, on the other hand, signed the death warrant of their own iPod with the introduction of the iPhone, and has remained one of the most impressive thought leaders of our time.


With newfound transparency in your ideas, you can ensure that everyone is informed, and therefore more likely to understand your vision. Vision and purpose trump any salary. The right organisation, described by the right story, will allow you to attract the right protagonists for the path you want to walk: no director would have ever imagined working with Netflix as it was in 1994. Today’s workforce is less interested in glorified job titles, and are now instead hungry for meaning and challenge. Challenge your trust in them by delegating responsibility and you will provoke individuals to self-manage both themselves and your organisation to success.

Once you realise that your business plans can pen you into a restrictive box and that your company’s story is ongoing, opportunities that once would have seemed irrelevant will become an integral part of your core business model. All over the world, progressive companies are picking up habits which are facilitating their success. A narrative shared through storytelling will turn your organisation into a living entity, with its own creative potential, full of actors committed to the cause who strive to stay central to the plot.

The Digital Society School

We sat down with members of The Digital Society School, a branch of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences Faculty of Digital Media & Creative Industries. The centre conducts research projects focused on the digital transformation of societies, examining how cities can be shaped by the new needs of what they call “digital citizens”.

Do you think that the concept of “citizen” is different today than it was before the digital revolution?

We don’t think that the idea of citizen has changed much: what has been evolving, due to the digital revolution, is the concept of “accessibility”. In particular, accessibility to knowledge and services. Going forward, the main challenge is to provide everyone with a way to easily use all of the tools and services a smart city has to offer. As educators, we have to make sure that we not only train people but also that, along with our students, we develop tools that any citizens can have access to. This is the only way in which we can eventually give shape to an inclusive and fully digital society.

Is an inclusive society more possible now than before, thanks to the digital services made available by the development of technology?

It is, but there are some downsides. Today people experience a feeling known as “digital fatigue”, caused by the overload of information we face every day on our devices together with tech corporations who, to a very large extent, constantly invade our privacy. Citizens don’t want to lose complete control of their lives and will eventually reject or stop using some of this technology due to a lack of trust towards multinational companies, governments and any third parties which have access to their personal information. This will happen despite clear benefits some of these tools are bringing into our life. There’s also another phenomenon, triggered by a lack of understanding – people rejecting change because they are not able to understand it, or at least not yet.

Is it just a natural human behaviour, or is there something else behind it?

There’s a saying that goes: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I think it suits perfectly those individuals who are unable to handle the amount of information we’re constantly exposed to. We are now more aware, as educators, that we need to teach our students how to select and assess the information they receive. We will still have in a way “a lost generation” that doesn’t really know how to process data and still bases their judgments on a piece of information without verifying if it is fake or reliable.

Regarding polarization, in the Netherlands we are currently in the middle of a debate: there’s a concern about the role of the elites and most people say that it would be proper if they took a step back. However, there’s a reason why elites – whether they’re cultural, economic or intellectual – have always existed. Lately, they have become less and less accepted because the accessibility to knowledge (both real and fake) has seemingly dismantled their elite status. It is a strange time for societies going through such rapid change.

Your work at the The Digital Society School includes a lot of emphasis on design as a tool and as a way to share knowledge — what is the key to a good design method?

There no such thing as a good or bad design method. Tools and methods can be both good and bad, depending on the context they are applied to. At the The Digital Society School, we offer a huge variety of methods that are meant to be accessible. You could say that one could start using a method of ours without understanding exactly what they’re doing, as learning comes just by using it. At the same time, in order to be accessible and replicable, a method has to be extremely structured. Methodology for us is a language: what matters is that the services and results we create work well with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds.

How do you overcome cultural differences in your work? Does this “one-size-fits-all“ approach mean that cultural differences are disappearing?

We do accept cultural differences and take advantage of them, but we rely on cultural similarities as well. We apply different toolkits which we develop with different contexts in mind as they’re designed for communities rather than for a specific person. We accept that cultural differences and clashes exist, what we try to do is use that tension to generate something positive.

Will a smart city ever be perfect for everyone who lives in it?

It will never be possible to please everyone, but the benefits of public technologies are huge. Here at the Digital Society School we’re using non-malicious and novel innovation technologies to tap into the needs of the individual at different levels. We’re moving from individualized ownership to the individualized use of a particular resource. Here, technology can really be beneficial — just think of all the car-sharing apps that now populate the market, and how public technologies help individuals to connect and build social systems or digital communities. Technology can play a huge role in making our cities more habitable and communal, but it clearly can’t solve all of our problems. Thinking that a smart city can at some point be “perfect” is probably a paradox: the needs of people will change constantly and we will more often than not be working in response to new needs rather than in anticipation of them. I don’t think the aim is to perfect cities, either. The aim is to make an impact and create a positive change. And let’s not forget the cost of this process: to move closer to perfection, we’ll have to share a lot of our personal data. To what extent do we want this?

Yes, the use of data is an issue, both for today and tomorrow. Do you think that we can hope to have a fairer economy in 20 years from now?

We have to step back here and think about what happened during the Industrial Revolution.  Back then, the capitalists that founded new factories were taking advantage of manual labour. The same thing is happening now, with tech giants taking advantage of the users’ data. After the industrial revolution, it took about half a century to figure out how to deal with the unfair competition that was happening. I think that a similar transition will happen with the digital revolution. It is therefore our duty as designers to extend “activists” to facilitate citizen empowerment in a digital society.

What is Design Thinking?

At its core, Design Thinking is about understanding people’s needs and designing solutions which meet those needs. It is a user-centred, co-creative approach that takes into consideration each stakeholder in the process. The cornerstone concepts it rests upon are to Understand, Ideate and Verify.

By understanding the motivations, cultures and context of the stakeholders involved, Design Thinking enables the creation of a new solutions that have yet to be explored. It does this through direct observation and qualitative data, which in turn creates better storytelling that generates more empathy with the consumer. With more empathy, comes greater knowledge of what the problems and challenges faced may be. As with any problem, being able to define it accurately is one of the crucial steps to solving it.

Then comes the ideation phase of the process – delving into the numerous solutions that have been generated thanks to a developed greater understanding. Once these have been iterated time and time again, the refined solutions are rapidly prototyped to test their worth. Rapid prototyping speeds up the innovation process and provides an even greater comprehension of the problems and solutions because, without testing an idea first, it is impossible to know how it will function in the real world.

Thanks to the flexible nature of design thinking, each part of the iteration sequence can be revisited. From here, the differentiating element can then be identified. As this process is repeated regularly early on, it is much easier to ensure that mistakes are made quickly, cheaply and ultimately, successfully.

The beauty of design thinking is that it is a methodology. A methodology which can be replicated repeated within any field. This increases creativity, stimulates the cross-pollination of ideas and guarantees the best solution for every stakeholder involved.

Anyone can be Design Thinker, not only professional designers. The most important thing is to have the right mindset that embraces diversity, thinks outside of the box, works visually, stays focussed and understands that much of the time when designing a solution, done is better than perfect.

Design has always impacted how we experience the world around us, today, design is beginning to effect how we work. That is Design Thinking.

Bringing neuroscience to the masses

EMOTIV, the world leader in personalized neuroinformatics, has changed this by introducing innovative affordable, scalable and portable hardware neurotechnology. The technology, combined with softwares and translational algorithms, has a specific mission in mind: to leverage deep learning to better understand how the human brain works during our everyday lives, accelerate brain research globally and democratize access to brain healthcare.

Simply put, electro-encephalography (EEG) is a non-invasive neuroimaging method that records the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex. Electrodes are placed along the scalp of an individual to measure and monitor brain waves. The first EEG recording performed on a human brain dates back almost a century. Since then, it has mainly been used for scientific and clinical applications, to understand cognitive processes and identify dysfunctions of the brain for example.

One of the key advantages of EEG is that its temporal resolution makes it one of the only ways to image the very rapid way information is exchanged in the brain, as opposed to a neurotechnology like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which has great spatial resolution but is slower than EEG. However, there are a lot of shortcomings on traditional EEG systems. First, most EEG equipment used in scientific and medical facilities is very expensive, we are talking tens of thousands of euros here. Second, clinical EEG generally requires a facility that is shielded against electromagnetic interferences. Third, it is a very long and fastidious process to equip participants, who are required to remain still during the data collection, therefore limiting the duration and repertoire of tasks that could be investigated during EEG experiments.

Tan Le had a vision for a portable, affordable, yet scientifically rigorous system, that would not only disrupt the EEG market but, more importantly, the way neuroscience participates in and improves our daily lives. This is what led her to found EMOTIV and assemble a team of leading neuroscientists, engineers and data scientists to create what has become the world leader in portable EGG and personalized neuroinformatics. Our brainwear is portable, wireless, scalable and affordable. To date, more than 80,000 people in approximately 120 countries own one of our devices. The affordability – we are talking about a pricing that is similar to gaming consoles – might be one of the reasons. But the effort to make the combination of EMOTIV hardware and software super user-friendly, accessible and diversified so that it can be used in various aspects of people’s lives is also key to our success. EMOTIV is not selling devices, it is offering a true ecosystem. We are very proud that an independent analysis revealed that more than 4,000 publications reference EMOTIV solutions, with several other independent studies reporting that the quality of our brain data is as good as what systems 50 times more costly than ours can provide.

Our neuroinformatics solutions consist in an interface composed of brainwear equipped with sensors that are placed on the head of people. Neurodata that is collected through the sensors is sent wirelessly to a computer or a phone. EMOTIV’s proprietary cloud-based machine and deep learning translational algorithms process and identify patterns of brain activity and deliver metrics back to the user. The portability of our systems is helping neuroscience to “break free” from labs and allows researchers to observe the brain activity of people in their natural habitat performing their normal routines. This allows us to have unprecedented insights on how the healthy brain functions and to better understand our daily activities. The data collected feeds into our repository of brain data – arguably the world’s biggest collection outside of medical and scientific facilities. Our insights and solutions have a track record of concretely improving a broad variety of fields including road safety, design, defense, healthcare, mobility, education, wellness and performance at work.

In addition to monitoring brain activity and better understanding attention or stress, we are also working on interfacing the human brain directly with connected objects. This is what is called brain-computer interfaces (BCI), or human-machine interfaces (HMI). In a nutshell, it means allowing people to control objects (physical or digital) with their minds – just like Jedi in Star Wars movies. One of the high-impact applications we have worked on with EMOTIV’s BCI solutions is helping people suffering from physical disabilities regain not only mobility but autonomy. Recently, our neurotechnology was used to allow our friend Rodrigo Hübner Mendes, who became quadriplegic after being shot, to drive a Formula 1 car on a race track with his mind only. The learnings from that experience are transferred to day-to-day solutions for disabled people to mind control wheelchairs and smart home systems. This is not a theoretical application: it’s already happening. We made a point to develop a user friendly interface that does not require to be an engineer to control devices with our brainwear. If a disabled person thinks about the direction they want to steer their wheelchair, EMOTIV’s machine learning will recognize the pattern, associate it with the action of physically moving in that direction and there they go!

The repertoire of possible applications for brain-computer interfaces keeps growing. Our brainwear can interact with every connected object: a television, a mobile phone, a drone, a car, your home. We recently gave a demonstration at the World Economic Forum’s San Francisco Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Global executives, using our BCI solution, learned to control the take-off and the landing of a flying drone with their minds in less than a minute.

EMOTIV’s solutions can also be used to study other brain mechanisms, such as attention or stress. Our analyses are being employed to better understand the attentional behaviour of students in classrooms, consumers (e.g. what do they pay attention to), a patient (e.g. what are the mental blocks that hinder a patient’s ability to comply to a treatment) or even fans during a concert like in our recent #EnjoyTheScience project during a Depeche Mode concert. To date the biggest demand we receive comes from organizations that employ people whose jobs require full concentration and where lives are at stake. Cutting-edge monitoring of attention thanks to neuroinformatics constitutes a key asset for pilots, nuclear or energy plant operators, drivers, airline controllers, nurses, surgeons, etc. Our translational algorithms can detect, and somehow anticipate, when the attention of an individual is going to drop as well as when people stress. This allows to tailor the working patterns of people. We do contribute to improving not only efficiency at work but also wellness in the workplace.

Currently, we are conducting work and applied research with several key stakeholders in the automotive industry, airline companies, and HR departments of big organizations on wellness in the workplace. In Davos this year, we launched #Tech4RoadSafety: a partnership with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris to leverage neuroinformatics to save lives on the road. We are also working with insurance companies to assess the level of distractions that the design, dashboard and intelligent embarked assistance in new cars can provide. Our research on road safety is driven by a concern that complex dashboards in recent cars can lead to higher distraction and new risks on the road. The transition from traditional driving methods to using new automated driver assistance tools carries a different level of stress for the driver and leads to new behaviours that must be investigated.

Looking at the way humans have interfaced with technology throughout human history: people have always been developing tools that extended their own body and allowed them to do things they could not do before. The hammer is an extension of the hands that gave humans possibilities to build. The paint brush allowed humans to transfer what they had in mind onto a canvas. I see brain-computer interfaces as the current technological evolution that allows a new channel for humans to interact with their environments: physical, social and digital.

At EMOTIV, we are on a mission to democratize and scale access to neurotechnologies and neuroinformatics. With ethics and privacy as priorities, we aim to give people new abilities, open up new opportunities and, ultimately, empower each and everyone of us to make the best use of the most powerful innovation in history, so far: the human brain. For everyone to have a healthier and happier life. Never forget #BrainMatters.

2021: the electric car revolution starts here

It was 1886 when Karl Benz patented the first gas motor car in human history. More than 130 years have passed from that defining moment, and until a decade ago very little had changed. This trend slowly began to shift a decade ago, when the interest and the investments in electric cars started to gain momentum.

After years of research, we’re now reaching another milestone in the history of human mobility. The year 2021 will be the year when electric cars finally supersede what has come before and take over the industry. This day has been long awaited by many, as well as feared by many others but had until this point existed only as a kind of abstract, unfulfilled prophecy. However, the day has come, and advancements in innovation are now disrupting our concept of transport, and reinventing how we get from A to B.

Tesla Motors were the first company to effectively apply electric automobile research in the current century. The Tesla Roadster, the first model ever produced by the company, was initially delivered to customers a decade ago in 2008. In the following years, many more players accepted the challenge and started making investments however the hope of mass adoption forever remained a distant one.

In fact, nobody seemed to be able to overcome the flaws that made it unappealing to the average customer: it was more expensive than a traditional car, the performance results weren’t great and the battery left a lot to be desired. This all changed in the last year, when research took giant leaps and finally made its way out of stagnation and irrelevance. Three years from now, the selling price of an electric car will equal that of a traditional one and in many cases, buying diesel or gasoline-powered car will no longer be an option.

In this short time frame the cost of batteries is predicted to go below $100 kWh and their energy density is set to double today’s levels. Also, the cost of generating and storing energy for renewables – primarily thanks to solar and wind energy – will go below $0,05 kWh. This means that it will be cheaper to buy or change a battery then fill up a tank of petrol. Not only will this be more sustainable and inexpensive, but, ultimately, make it more accessible for anyone to fuel an electric car in one of the many Fast Charge Points that are currently being built. Furthermore, the cost of sensors and LiDAR processors (laser and radar combined) are going to be cut down, this will not only make cars completely automated — it will also be easier to share the data along with a Cloud Based Data Sharing systems.

The new electric company Fisker is also fuelling the rapid change we are seeing inside the industry. Their supercar “EMotion”, presented at CES 2018, is already being produced at a Level 3 driving capability — by 2021, it will reach Level 5. This means that EMotion will feature completely autonomous driving capabilities: no steering wheel, no pedals, no controls. It’s a revolution: it implies that we will be able to have a car drive us the entire journey from a San Francisco parking lot to a New York deli without pressing down once on a single pedal. And I’ll say it again: despite the selling costs being already significantly reduced, they will decrease a lot more over the next three years, until the point it will equal the price of a traditional car.

But it’s not just about the price: it’s also the way in which we produce cars that will be disrupted as well. The old-fashioned automotive manufacturers employ a great amount of human and natural resources and have greatly damaged our suburban landscapes. When 3D printing is implemented into the sector en masse, we will have decentralized manufacturing systems which will not only need very little space, but also use organic and compostable materials, producing so-called “Edible” or “Organic” vehicles.

Eventually, we will have more space at our disposal in our suburbs, as well as in our cities. The sharing economy, which is already a big player in any metropolitan area, will increase along with the spread of electric vehicles. Thanks to this and to integrated and open-source data sharing systems, the number of private cars will decrease, as nobody will necessarily need to own one.

Currently, we produce 100 million vehicles which are left unused 95% of the time. In the next decade, this number is predicted to drop to 30 million. Studies foresee that, in major cities, personal rides with private vehicles will drop under 40% of total rides and 60% will be done by fleet-owned vehicles (such as Uber or Lyft). Apply this scenario to a city like Los Angeles, and you could free a surface one or two times the size of San Francisco. Now, what could we do with all that free space? Additional housing, renewable energy production, recreation space and food production are just a few ideas which would make the cities of the future 100% self-sustained.

Of course, we are often initially skeptical of change, and adoption takes time. The introduction of the electric car won’t happen everywhere at once – probably China will experience it first, followed by U.S. and Europe. It also won’t happen evenly across territories: the first electric cars will be seen in major cities first, and it’ll take a few years for them to spread through villages and faraway provinces. It may even take up to 20 years to see a total adoption of this technology.

There’s another very interesting fact that needs to be mentioned: almost no traditional automotive company is taking part in this revolution. Among the main players, other than Fisker, we can quote Next, Tesla and Dyson (all companies who believe in change and in the disruptive power of new technologies). This is fascinating and dumbfounding at the same time, as in five years from now, nobody will buy an electric car for the sake of the environment: they will for the sake of their pocket.

This is ground control to Major Tom

The recent launch of Heavy Falcon rocket accompanied by a Tesla Roadster piloted by a dummy astronaut to the tune of Space Oddity, stirred in us once more feelings not experienced since the Apollo lunar landing touch down. At the time, a young David Bowie had just re-released Space Oddity, which had been published three years prior with little success, and was benefiting from the euphoria generated by the mission. It was July 1969. The moon was reached and a star was born. Back then, the space race was in full swing: a two-horse race between USA and USSR, but this is not the case today.

In 1965, counting all its satellite activities, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) employed more than 400,000 people and absorbed 4.31% of the American budget, around $41.5 billion in today’s money. In 2018 it has become more streamlined – with limited personnel and a smaller budget, 0.47% of the Federal budget to be exact – slightly less than 20 billion dollars in 2017. Its ambitions, however, didn’t lower. The moon landing was a milestone moment but space is so vast that there is so much more needed in answering perhaps the most fundamental question of all: are we alone? Is there any form of intelligent life out there? Lost in one of the two trillion galaxies composing cosmos?

As its site says, NASA has a very long to-do list for 2018. Between May 5th and June 28th it will launch InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) and a Discovery Program Mission whose goal is placing a lander on the Red Planet to study its surface and its deep interior, thus allowing scientists to learn more about the formation of planets of the inner solar. Furthermore, in August spacecraft OSIRIS-Rex, launched in September 2016, will reach Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid. If all goes to plan, by 2023 OSIRIS-Rex will bring back sample of its surface to be studied. Next June, it will be the turn of Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to go out in space in search of exoplanets: planets outside our Solar System which orbit stars. According to NASA, TESS “will survey 200,000 brightest stars the sun to search for transiting exoplanets”. “Transiting” refers to an event that occurs when the light of the host star is partly blocked. The satellite, its creators confide, will likely find around 2,000 planets that could support life, 300 of which are the same size as the Earth or even bigger.

There is a sort of joyful tinge in this challenge to solve some of the deepest mysteries of the universe – contrasting with the egotistical and warmongering purpose behind the Cold War’ space race. “In the event that this Fantastic Voyage would turn to erosion and we never get old”, the Thin White Duke sung in 1979. For both the Soviets and the Americans there were extremely concrete reasons to put their flags in the lunar crust and they were tantamount to Mélièsian dreams. The two superpowers wanted to show the world how powerful they were and wanted to scare each other with the range of the carrier missiles: if we can reach the moon, just figure it out how easily they could reach anywhere in the world.

More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the mood is different. Although new rising powers such as China and India are using their progresses in the space tech field (also) to prove their new status, there is an associate spirit that was completely absent in the Sixties and Seventies. This spirit is embodied by the International Space Station (ISS), which is the result of a joint effort of NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (European Union) and CSA (Canada), an artificial satellite built in space between 1998 and 2011 and inhabited by a crew of astronauts from different countries.

NASA will also spend 2018 by developing and testing its Orion Space Launch System to send a crew to the moon. In another jettison from the norm – their site states that NASA will launch astronauts from US soil alongside NewSpace companies: the term used to indicate the emerging private spaceflight industry. This new, fruitful partnership between governmental agencies and private companies is the result of an array of factors overlapping and boosting one another.

As mentioned before, NASA has seen its budget grow nominally over the past decades. Driven mainly by inflation with cuts made under the Obama administration, NewSpace companies have breathed some life into the industry and helped reduce cost. An internal document, published by American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and quoted in Ars Technica remarks that: through its Commercial and Cargo Crew Program NASA “is investing financial and technical resources to stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate safe, reliable, and cost-effective space transportation capabilities”[ix]. This has already saved the US government billions of dollars. In 2006 it was decided to turn to private companies to send supplies to ISS instead of using NASA’s own rockets. The difference has been striking: those operated by SpaceX or Orbital ATK for example “cost two to three times less” than those operated by governmental firms.

Of course, NewSpace enterprises saw the possibility to find new market niches and business occasions and thus a new market was born. By 2015 funding for these endeavours had reached $4 billion and deals had risen to 400%. The overlapping factors multiplying each other’s effect are basically threefold: governments provided funds which strengthened private R&D; this money renewed interest in a field which had always been unattractive to companies that couldn’t afford to await such periods of time for returns on their initial investment. This reinvigorated competition reduced the operative costs, thus making the race even more tantalizing to investment. Finally, in the last two decades’ technological progress multiplied the means and the possibilities to extract value from space exploration in what is now a very promising market.

According to a recent note by Morgan Stanley quoted by Business Insider, the space industry could reach $1.1 trillion by 2040. Bank of America/Merril Lynch is even more optimistic, since it forecasts $2.7 trillion by the same year ­­– a big step away from today’s $350 billion dollars. The 20 companies best placed to profit from the ongoing revolution is interesting, since along with predictable names such as Lockheed Martin, Immarsat, Softbank, Boeing and Qualcomm, there are those of Amazon, Facebook and Google (Alphabet). Why? The answer is in another report released by Morgan Stanley, which cites internet bandwidth as the most valuable segment of the space industry market: “The demand for data is growing at an exponential rate, while the cost of access to space is falling by orders of magnitude”. It also provided precise figures: “Currently, the cost to launch a satellite has declined to about 60 million from 200 million dollars via the use of reusable rockets, with the potential to fall to as low as 5 million. And satellite mass production could decrease that cost from 500 million dollars per satellite to 500,000 dollars.

No government had ever succeeded in using the same rocket and it wasn’t until it was tested first by Amazon, with Tesla following soon after that this game-changing technology took flight. This will be a crucial year to Virgin Galactic too. Richard Branson’s spaceline company which promises to operate orbital and suborbital spaceflights with spacecraft manufactured by The Spaceship Company (a partnership between Virgin Group and Scaled Composites). By April 2019, space tourists will have one more options to choose, since Amazon’s Blue Origin will begin operation of its spaceflights.

Behind companies of this kind, there usually is a visionary and charismatic founder. Among them, Tesla’s Elon Musk stands out: the recent launch of Heavy Falcon rocket was a proof of his ever-growing ambition and marketing skills. The rocket, “the most powerful rocket” ever made, brought a Tesla car to space, in one of the the most eye-catching, memorable and displays of human ingenuity ever seen. SpaceX’s plans are ambitious: to bring tourists to the moon by the end of this year and, by 2024, to Mars – the colonization of which was the company’s main goal from its inception in 2002.

The Red Planet is the ultimate goal of this new space race, just as the moon was during the Cold War. There are some logical reasons for this fixation. Mars One, an organization led by Dutch businessman Das Lansdorp, whose mission is that of establishing a human colony by 2032, lists some of them. Firstly, it’s the most habitable planet in our solar system, since its soil is in reach of water. It also has the right temperature to host life, a gravity human being could feasibly adapt too and is protected by cosmic radiations by its atmosphere. “Mars is the stepping stone of the human race on its voyage into the universe. Human settlement on Mars will aid our understanding of the origins of the Solar System, the origins of life and our place in the universe”, its site claims.

This planet has always exerted a mysterious attraction to us and our culture reveals it. Just consider where aliens who want to invade the Earth in The War of the Worlds come from? Mars, of course. This science fiction novel by Herbert George Wells was firstly released in 1897 and it is just a part of our ever-growing “obsession” which dates back over a century at least. So many are the authors who wrote about the Red Planet: famous writers such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut. Hollywood exploited the planet’s evocative power even more intensely with tens of movies involving Mars in one way or another, the last one being The Martian (2015), directed by Ridley Scott.

In 1976, the Viking lander delivered the first images of the planet’s surface, but – as technology improved and clearer pictures were sent to Earth – things only got more confusing: they were not clear enough to help us decipher constructions resembling pyramids, a human face impressed upon the landscape or even what looked like streams of water. Astrobiologists, scientists and ordinary people have been discussing ever since. In 2015, NASA announced an astonishing discovery: that flowing water existed within Mars’ crust. But was it really water or was it simply sand? Mar is still untouched but mankind is closer than ever to solving its mysteries. Finally, we might be able to answer Bowie’s question: is there life on Mars?

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR uses infrared light sensors to gauge distance between objects and is a method which can be extrapolated onto measuring anything from underwater landscapes to man-made buildings.

As sonar uses sound and radar uses radio, LiDAR uses light. With the system sending out pulses of infrared rays and waiting for the pulse to return to the sensor – allowing it to gauge the distance between the two. Most of these pulses are sent out at an angle, with the angle determining the laser spot size and thus the resolution of the information.

These pulses of light are sent out millions of times a second, and the results are then gathered inside a point cloud – a 3D rendering of the sensor’s surroundings mapped in real-time. This information can be used to not only interpret where an object is in space, but also identify what that object is too.

For smart-cars, this is obviously useful. Once a smart-car can identify how far away an object is, and what exactly the object’s nature might be, it can react accordingly. LiDAR trumps a self-driving car’s other notable sensors (radar and cameras) for the simple reason that it translates the information into computer-friendly, easily digestible, exact data. Cameras, on the other hand, require significant machine learning capabilities to transform the information into something computable to the computers driving the self-driving vehicle.

It wasn’t until 2005 that LiDAR began to be applied to automobiles. Before then, it had been used for decades (NASA’s Apollo 15 even used the laser sensing technique to map the moon). Even so, today, LiDAR systems remain underdeveloped and have consistently proven themselves to be extremely expensive pieces of hardware – made even more-so by the realities of applying any technology to a vehicle.

In the future, applying only one piece of this technology to fleets of autonomous vehicles could lower costs. There has also been speculation that we may be on the verge of a dramatic lowering of the cost of this technology soon, once we figure out how to reduce the technology’s reliance on mechanical mechanisms (currently the laser physically spins around 360 degrees, several times per second). This, together with the boom in startups and continued interest in this technology, means that affordable LiDAR is becoming more plausible by the day.

In the meantime, it’s good to understand what this technology is and where it will drive us toward in the future. So what is LiDAR? It is the super-charged eyes and ears of autonomous vehicles – one of the foundations to the new world of mobility.

From materiality to immateriality

If you look at Maslow’s famous motivational theory of the “hierarchy of needs”, you’ll notice that the pyramid can be split roughly in two: there’s a material component (the so-called ‘basic needs’) and an immaterial one (the “psychological” and “self-fulfillment needs”). The first one can be found at the bottom, while the second is on the top. By applying Maslow’s theory to the world’s economy, it’s easy to notice how business has throughout the ages focused on solving the material problems and fulfilling the material needs.

However in the last few decades human needs have been shifting towards the immaterial: rather than needing more “stuff”, we have started craving more happiness, emotions, creativity, sense of belonging, — all of which are not tangible. At the same time, competition in business has become more global, leading companies to look for new ways to create competitive advantage from the intangible aspects such as branding or customer relations. Alongside this, the disruption caused by technology has blurred the line between the tangible and intangible, leading to new ways of making business. Just think of how Facebook has made our emotions more perceptible and profitable than ever: the “heart” emoji is not just a cute way to express a feeling, it’s a gatherer of data — data which can now be collected and monetized in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in the past.

We believe that the future of business lies within the immaterial, and that the tangible-to-intangible needs-shift that we’re experiencing in our daily life, thanks to technological advances, are deeply disrupting the way global business works. Ghost, our innovation company, was founded a year ago with the aim of helping companies get through this transformation process and be successful in the business of the future: the immaterial and digital market, which is where the real value lies now.

This also serves our bigger purpose. Companies are one of the strongest forces this planet has ever conceived after nature — and shifting their focus to more immaterial is crucial for our well-being and even survival.

How to do this? The first challenge when approaching a company is to take these concepts to a practical level. Typically it is impossible to take giant leaps to the immaterial future. But often even a small nudge in the mindset can set the company apart from its rivals.

If the company has a product-centric business model we’ll begin the shift journey towards the immaterial, for example by proposing the building of a digital service on top of a product that they already sold successfully.

If the company has a service-oriented business model, we discuss the core of their future – data. Firstly, a company needs to figure out what kind of data they can get from their processes and clients and and how it obtains it. This typically requires creating new service components that offer something valuable for the clients in exchange for the data. Then, we have to understand how this data can be converted into new services and business models.

In order to challenge the existing and traditional view that companies have, they need to understand that around every product and service, in addition to the material data sources, there are immense immaterial flows (i.e. a client’s emotions and competences). These flows can’t be owned, so the company needs to figure out how to gently guide and combine them to create new business opportunities.

One of the main issues involves the concept of ownership, which is central to our vision. If something’s immaterial, it’s inherently abundant and constantly evolving. These qualities make immaterial elements virtually impossible to own: you can easily own a product, but how can you own an intangible element? Due to their material legacy, companies intrinsically have difficulties in understanding this.

A company, for example, can never “own” the feelings of a social media platforms community — the issue is how can it then make a profit out of something it doesn’t own. It seems complicated, but as people start “seeing” these data flows it’s as easy as making profit out of a piece of furniture.

Resistance to change is nothing new, especially when it comes to old and traditional businesses. In order to help our clients reach a shared vision and strategy, we rely on the power of visualization to make the material-immaterial journey more tangible. This is done by creating new internal tools and processes to make the transformation more ground-level and self-evolving.

As a company foresees the high costs for change, it is important to concentrate on its growth and upcoming profits in order to understand that the projects are future-oriented. We don’t immediately talk about the necessity of transforming the business into the immaterial: we prefer to move them in the right direction incrementally, step by step, with trainings and workshops.

There is no silver bullet which works for every company — hence, the processes are tailored depending on our client’s history. Big changes take time and patience: before digitalizing their business, the management needs to deeply understand why it is necessary and what is the bigger picture. Ultimately, we empower the employees to take on a proactive role in the process: because without them, no genuine change can happen.

An abundant world requires abundant “money”

“Money” for lack of a better word was created to solve two basic problems; dissimilarity of wants, and indivisibility of goods.  Money as a “good” has evolved from various physical representations that were difficult to transport and secure, into encrypted “bits” that lack any physical representation other than a graphical representation within a mobile wallet or on a web page.

The exchange of money has transformed from hand-to-hand transactions into complex contractual representations, banking systems and financial markets that have enabled the rapid expansion of a global economy. But, as technology and human endeavors are making the world more abundant, “money” remains a concept rooted in scarcity. Even the most modern versions, crypto-currencies, all tote “Scarcity” as an essential quality of their token system.

My argument is that there exists evidence that the world currently functions, albeit unwittingly, within an abundance-based money system and that these mechanisms need to be enhanced and incorporated into the coming new digital money systems.


Consider a poker game. There are ten players and a dealer. The dealer takes a small amount of money from each hand and thus if the game was played to its ultimate conclusion, the dealer ends up with all the money. But let’s add a real world twist to the game.

Suppose that one of the players is 10X better than all the other players. This fictional poker game is similar to the way the real world operates. Initially, all ten players have the same amount of chips and betting is vigorous. But as the game goes on, the dealer has removed some chips from the game and the best player has amassed the vast majority of what is left.

Betting slows as the weaker players seek to conserve their remaining chips. The dealer gets compensated less and the better player hoards the chips they have amassed. In order to keep the game going, more chips must be introduced into the game or it will end and betting activity will halt. Further, as the better player becomes even more adept at the game, chips must be reintroduced with increasing frequency.

Money is created, it flows via taxes and central banking discounts back to institutions and the more successful firms amass and hoard profits, which provide little or no return. As technology advances and disposable income increases, this cycle shortens. Witness the current distribution of wealth, its rate of change, and current interest rates offered for the many billions hoarded by companies in tax-favored localities where these rates approach, and even surpass, zero.

As a result, central banks increasingly print more money and introduce it into the economy in order to stimulate human activity (employment). As the speed of this cycle increases, more and more money must be printed to stimulate activity, but eventually, the labor force is slower at assimilating the new money and an activity gap begins to be created.

Governments do this under increasingly outmoded economic principles and short-term political strategies, but in the end, employment (human activity) is the real basis of value creation, social stability and human development. This activity is the desired outcome. Money has no inherent value other than as an instigator of human activity. If so, it is very similar to life’s other great instigator of human activity, Love.


One of the more interesting aspects of Love is that you don’t need to possess any in order to give it to someone else. And the giving of love increases the well being of both the giver and recipient. Contrast this with Money, where it is an absolute requirement to possess it, before you are allowed to give it.

Institutions as large as the World Economic Forum recognize that money-based statistical measures no longer correlate to human activity and have even gone so far as to propose “happiness” (a variant of love) as a new measure.

What if love/happiness were found to be the true drivers of human growth? Would this be a way to remove the twin requirements of scarcity and possession? If not entirely, at present, then at least partially; does there exist a current mechanism to accomplish this?


I have previously not been a big fan of UBI because I felt it was rooted in the scarcity/possession system and for other reasons. But I have been rethinking it lately as perhaps a way to solve, or perhaps bridge, the gap between current scarcity thinking and future abundance thinking.

Most discussions I have heard surrounding the tests of UBI begin with small amounts of money. When compared to common studies regarding “how much money do you need (per area) to be ‘happy’”, the UBI amounts seem terribly unsubstantial versus needs. But what if UBI fulfilled the entire portion of the amount of money required a family needed in order to be “happy”?

Say, in the United States, that amount is $150,000 per year. What if UBI per household was indeed $150,000 per year? In the short term human nature would probably cause a collapse of confidence in the money system. But introduced and incrementally increased over time, it could perhaps work.


People often remark that these ideas, which are fairly old, are inherently inflationary.Maybe true, but I ask two questions:Is growth in money supply really bad? If so, is there a way to remediate it?

I’m not convinced, if the poker game example is accurate, that “excess” money is a bad thing, due the nature of it being hoarded. It’s effectively out of circulation. If it’s consumed, is stimulates activity, if it’s invested, it likewise stimulates activity. If it’s used to acquire certain assets, like land, it’s inflationary to land costs, but as a scarce good it has a natural maxima. And, it’s the Use of the asset, rather than the Ownership of the asset that matters as to its societal good. So regulation works there.

As to possible remediation methods, I have wondered if “expiring” money is a useful idea. What if the best poker player was not allowed to hoard his/her money indefinitely? Let’s say that any money not returned to the game after X period of time was simply expired and useless. That would increase the velocity of play and the learning opportunity of the other players, perhaps naturally resulting in the redistribution of resources.

In conclusion, I truly believe that the Scarcity System no longer serves mankind. I truly believe that there exists, currently, mechanisms at our disposal to begin to shift belief systems as well as money systems. I truly believe that digitizing money will bring enormous new opportunities to create, distribute and recycle new impetus for human growth, activity and prosperity. And that this digital system, has as a foundation, Abundance.

My goal is to reach as many thinkers, influencers and administrators as possible to expand this dialogue and perhaps devise some current experiments to test new theories.