A quick rant before diving into the first day of #SXSW. O sweet Jesus. We all know them. The very often well-dressed, well-groomed, but slightly under CPU-ed pseudo intellectuals that kill off all future scoping thoughts with the “yes, but”. Teenagers use social media to bond and band together to protest against global warming: “Yes, but do they know that they are polluting with their cellphones?” Bill and Melinda Gates funding the battle against malaria: “Yes, but are we sure that they are not colluding with the big pharma bros”. The crucial importance of safety of and ethical rules for personal data: “Yes, but most people don’t care that much.”
The yes but is a future killer. It allows for throwing that je-ne-sais-quoi shade over the conversation at hand. Around SXSW it manifestates itself in an even more vicious version: the chicken or the egg. On the development of autonomous cars: “won’t work, the legal red tape is not cut yet.”
Let’s throttle back here a little: autonomous cars are doomed to fail, because legislators, insurance companies and courts failed to keep pace? That is a chicken or egg thought bug: “what needs to come first”, is not clear, ergo (and much to Plato’s chagrin) it can’t happen.
The clean car energy impasse
Best example at hand, prominently being discussed in press and social networks uncomfortably close to you: clean energy.
While a lot of the conversation at this year’s edition of SXSW is (again) about the future of transportation, critics with great corporate hair are quick to add their grain of salt: “Yes but, have you calculated the impact of batteries? The mining of cobalt and lithium?” Etc, ad nauseam.
As if you cannot simultaneously develop an all-electric car, and work on clean production tracks, and sustainable energy solutions, and more intelligent battery break-through’s.
“People won’t use electric cars. Charging is complicated. It is against their habit. They do not see the need.” Let’s get back to reality: look at the picture below. In a decade the face of the earth changed, pushing horse-and-carriages and its whole sustaining economy into oblivion. In a decade. There was no habit for cars. No habit of fueling up. No paperwork or laws were ready at hand. It happened, because it had to. Horses were simply too polluting
“Electric cars are doomed, there is no nationwide network of chargers and superchargers. That needs to be fixed first”. Really? There were no gas stations in the 1900’s. No movie theaters either. No fast-food retail. No shopping malls. No….
Never in history (based on the empirical evidence of a 5 minute internet search) has the non-availability of a network refrained progress. On the contrary, most of the things we value today were developed as an ecosystem around an invention: cars, movie theatres, electric appliances, fast-food…
So there is no chicken or egg dilemma. If more and more electric cars hit the road, more chargers will pop up. More chargers will incite more people considering going electric. It’s a vortex, not a dilemma.
“The batteries are weak. Not up to spec. Polluting. Too heavy, that needs to be fixed first”. The first combustion engines were made in really robust and heavy metal, and generated single digit horsepower. Still, cars were built around them, and people happily used them. 120 years later a combustion engine delivers potentially over 950 horsepower for a tenth of the 4 HP motor of 1922.
Blockers and drivers
The success of corporations, households and nations thrive on their capacity to tackle everything that blocks their process, and take advantage of every tiny bit that drives success. Yes but, and chicken or egg thinking do not very well in that chapter.
So, what comes first? The Chicken? Or the Egg?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating… I ordered a chicken and an egg on Amazon. I will keep you posted.