Reflections are only that, reflections, nothing more nothing less. Often these reflections are related to books I read, but occasionally also other things. These are often written very late, very fast,  using notes from my mobile phone, so the grammar and spelling is horrible.

The rainforest The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley, by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt.

I guess the sad truth is that this is another book contributing to “speculation innovation”, i.e. innovation without purpose beyond making money and/or being famous. Still, this is a very good book as it is so weird it is hard to know if they are trying to provoke by ignoring sustainability, and all other important global trends, or if they are just so focused on getting consulting work in old sectors/policy makers that they just sprinkle some trendy words and try to pretend that Silicon Valley is a role model for the 21st century and that they know a lot about innovation.

Already before you start you have an empty page with only “Rainforest™” written on it. Yes it looks like someone tried to trademark the word rainforest… obviously you would expect the trademark to be a brilliant comment on the stupidity in todays financial system, or the tendency among many consultants to think that they invent something by borrowing (and often fundamentally misunderstand) basic concepts and ideas from other fields. But after the book you realise that they might have thought they have a new smart model they want to trademark.

The book is filled with anecdotes that at best are rumours that are half correct and sometimes just wrong. Often not very important things, but enough to give an impression of a book dictated to and from presentations, based on googeling, rather than something that the authors spent time thinking about or actually understand.

I’m actually not sure what kind of book this is. Part of me still think it is so stupid that it must be an way to wake up the financial sector and get people to laugh about it. But looking at their webpage and the comments/reviews about the book I think it is meant to be taken serious.

In a situation where investments and innovation is needed to avoid a global catastrophe by ensuring radically increased resource efficiency a book inspired by the Rainforest sounds like a great idea.

Maybe it is a cultural thing so let’s get the style issues out of the way so we can focus on the content.

Style issues Some people might be impressed when they try to tell us how important they are. I find it amazing how fascinated they are by themselves (where they work, where they travel, who they meet, etc) and how little time they spend on explaining what they mean by innovation, what innovation they have supported/want to support have/can delivered/deliver. The result is a book that is very much about image and very little about content, but many American airport books/bestsellers have such a tone and I can understand that it might be a culture where you have to inflate yourself in order for people to think that you have something to say…. The whole culture of TED presentation and the new “media” fame is very much based on trying to sell yourself as interesting (not based on deliverables and serous research, but more posing and make references to other people/ideas).

Like so many smart consultants they pick up a lot of interesting stuff, from development in brain science (the idea of a isolated self that social scientists have dismissed for more then 100 years is validated by neuroscientists is making it into mainstream now) to macro political changes (the role of emerging economies that too many are still ignoring)... But as many of the consultants they ignore what these issues actually say and the challenges they pose, instead important issues are turned into “toys”/”metaphors” for innovation clusters.

Content Vague analogies without empiric backing might be nice and can be inspiring as poetry. However I really struggle to see what new they bring to the table. It actually feels like this kind of text is part of the dumbing down of society where people do quick googles and try to look smart without actually understanding/caring about the major issues of our time. Then people quote this text in another simple book and we have the equivalent of a speculation economy but with ideas/knowledge.

They might help some theoretical economist and die-hard free market fanatics (such as many advisors for the chambers of commerce and the like) that dislike anything related to governments, so it might help move the agenda forward for that small group.

I’m really surprised why they do not make a stronger case for venture capital in relation to other parts of the financial system that only engage in speculation. But that would require them to focus on reality and have a coherent argument. Now instead they try to present that VCs are as important as the entrepreneurs that have the ideas.

With such an important area (how innovative clusters can be supported) I felt they did not differentiate between the drivers of innovation.

A lot of focus has been on innovation as a very general term, but there might be valuable to look into what the basic drivers are for people to innovate.

I could see at least four different drivers, where two seem to be the focus although I think that three and four are actually more important for those actually innovating. Making money and be given the opportunity to stand on a stage and talking about yourself is however something that our current society seem to see as the most important driver.

  1. Innovation as survival... (homo nutrition)
  2. Innovation as posing (homo social)
  3. Innovation as curiosity (homo ludens)
  4. Innovation as trancendance (homo explore)

The whole aspect of “the dark side of creativity” is also lost in the book.

In some areas it would be great if they took some time to read. For example their idea of a “social contract”.... Not sure if I should smile or just feel sad... The vision of a social contract they present is reduced to level one of game theory, i.e. do not only look at the direct short-term impacts, look at your long-term benefits. I’m not sure how deep does this stupidity/simplicity run (I'm not sure if these consultants are just not educated, or if they are afraid of the more important questions.)

If that is the kind of contract they would like to sign with their friends and close collaborations I hope I will be far away from that network). As all good bad books this obviously require me to draft my own social contract in relation to future generations, other species, knowledge, aesthetics, etc. Then realising that it was my “legacy matrix” in another format…. (Note to self: must find time/resources to develop a “legacy app” where people can track if they become better people according to their own definition)

In order to make sure that the book feels like a disappointment and that they are way over their head the authors chose to name the last heading in the book "Fighting pussies, saving the world”. I guess the “world” that want to save is their “world view”. There is nothing about the problems the world is facing (from poverty to climate change) and the fact that the kind of approach they authors have help accelerate development further overconsumption and monetisation of every aspect of human life/nature.

Maybe this book will be an example of the blind stupidity at the 21st century? As such book it is inspiring, interesting but also very sad.