If you want to do something new, start a crisis, not a meeting

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We note with pleasure an article by Alex Hern in the Guardian* about StarshipTechnologies, which is pioneering a new robot food delivery service in Milton Keynes. It’s the first of its kind in the UK. In a completely unscientific way, we cannot help but feel that their choice is shrewd: young demographic, big grids of wide streets, quite a high tech town anyway. Amazon, too, are pioneering their scout robots in Washington State, USA.

It’s interesting how you need a good crisis to bring out an idea whose time has come. The First World War saw enormous advances in aviation and chemicals technologies. The Second gave birth to leaps in information technology (think Turing) antimicrobials(think penicillin and mepacrine) and of course the jet engine. Romantics argue that the demands of the Space Race spawned both anti-stick frying pans and computer miniaturization. Whence cameth mobile phones, laptops, games and the plucky robots of Milton Keynes.

Former inmates of the Civil Service (by which we mean most Government Organisations) will, recall how new initiatives were so often buried in a culture of committees, existing practice and downright obstructionism. And we have sat long hours into the night listening to tales of how able private sector managers saw their ideas buried, burned or lost in the wind. Usually this came down to accountants’ balance sheets, and/or senior executives wishing for a few more years of comfy service in the old way, before they grabbed their pensions and ran.

It seems to take a big crisis, and the presence of a dangerous common enemy, to concentrate enough minds to make real change happen. The economic benefits of that change eventually outweigh the costs many, many times. So, how do we ensure real change is effected in “normal” times, assuming we ever get back to them? It is a theme to which we will return again.

Coda: we strongly suggest that you keep an eye on Alex Hern. We think he’s on to something generally

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/12/robots-deliver-food-milton-keynes-coronavirus-lockdown-starship-technologies

#AlexHern #StarshipTechnologies #Technologicalleap

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