Beyond Busy


How to Deal With a Fast Changing World with Azeem Azhar

Ep. 129

My guest today is Azeem Azhar. Azeem is a serial entrepreneur, a journalist, startup investor, technologist and is the founder of Exponential View, a weekly email with 200,000 subscribers including many of the leading lights in tech. His new book ‘Exponential’ is a fascinating look at how humans can learn to thrive in an age of accelerating technology.

It really is a must-read for all of us right now. If we want to keep pace with the rapid changes happening right now and perhaps even more importantly, with what's to come. So in this episode, we talk about exponential technologies and it's not all about AI. Azeem talks us through what he calls the exponential gap.

We also talk about the future of work, adapting to shifts in power, and whether he's optimistic or pessimistic for the future. 

We talked about what is the world of startup right now:

Startups are super, super hard and the reason it's challenging is that no one knows the answer because you're building something that hasn't been built before. So not only do you not know what you need to build, you don't know how to build it.

And also you have to bring a bunch of people on that journey with you and you have to motivate them. You have market challenges, you have technical problems and you have people problems. And at the same time, you've got to hit milestones given the funding that you have available. It's really intense.

And the other thing that you know is that you're not special. 

That the fact that you have figured out that this technology could meet this market need and create a new product means that a thousand other people have figured that out too.

Azeem explains why it is so hard to get what is the exponential gap:

So obviously these things are changing so quickly. And they're driven by the technology and by entrepreneurs and scientists who are able to take advantage of it. But the rest of us live in a world that is much more linear, that changes much more slowly and we don't necessarily understand that there are exponential processes, and we don't necessarily understand what the impact of those processes are. 

And one question is, why don't we understand it? And you know, I'm a bit laissez about this, I can explain it in over 20 cases or so, but that is we're really bad at maths. We don't see exponential processes in the real world. Our child goes from one to two to three to four every year. They don't go from one year old, two years old to four years old, to eight years old, to 16 years old. We see linear processes, we experience linear processes. 

And so there are probably evolutionary reasons why it's not in our makeup to naturally understand these very, very fast changes. We don't see how quickly things are all shifting.

And, we found out if there is anything that Azeem do that has the biggest impact on his own work and his own experience:

All the things that I do, they're all connected to the main thing that I do that has the impact. I think we are going through a transition to the exponential age. I think it's gonna need new ideas, new institutions and new businesses. And, what I do in my work with my newsletters and my podcast is I use those to learn and to share my learnings. And then, I work with entrepreneurs by investing in them to help them build those businesses as part of the transition.

So it all hangs together in my head, even if it doesn't necessarily look, you know, maybe it looks a bit disaggregated, it's diffuse from the outside, but they are all meant to sit together and be part of this change that we all kind of privileged to be part of.

✔ Links: 

Exponential book:

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Azeem’s Podcast:

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Edited by Pavel Novikov:

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