An entrepreneur comes to a venture capital firm with the design for a game-changing electric vehicle. The VC wants to know: if we give you capital, how many of these great new cars will you produce in 3 years? The entrepreneur does not yet have a factory or workers or suppliers. He does not yet have regulatory approvals or distribution networks. What he has is an innovative design and the belief that, given the chance to launch his EV business, he will be able to build and ship, solving challenges as they arise.

This example presents the fundamental tension between…


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So, you want to build a tech start-up. You have your product idea, your seed capital, and your founding team. Now you just have to hire three engineering teams and build three versions of your product. Surprised?

Let us count them down. A website, obviously, that’s one. An iOS app that works on iPhones, that’s two. And an Android app that works on all the other smartphones, that’s three. …


Technology has continually expanded our horizons over the past hundred years. The radio brought the first instant stream of news, music, and information. The television animated those streams and offered a complete audio-visual experience. The computer and the internet brought the ability to interact with those streams — to create, communicate, and consume. The smartphone empowered us to stick the internet in our pockets and take it anywhere in the world. The virtual assistant provided the ability to speak directly with a digital intelligence and be understood.

Each step in this evolution of revolutions has been characterized by the same…


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Quantum mechanics was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century and was behind such transformative technologies as nuclear power, lasers, particle accelerators, and semiconductor electronics. In many ways, quantum mechanics was the magic door through which society entered the modern age of computer connectivity and smartphone ubiquity.

By the close of the 20th century, scientists learned to manage the very building blocks of quantum systems at the atomic level. In turn, this has given rise to nanotechnology and the possibility of constructing systems made of individual atoms or photons. …


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Since publishing Cowakening: Social Change in a Time of Covid, I have received some truly inspiring feedback and, repeatedly, a question — what can each of us do, on an individual level, to help promote the cause of human rights? Because the cornerstone of human rights is mutual respect and understanding, I do believe that each of us has the power to further that respect and understanding in our respective corners of the world.

Improving the world means finding a way to get positive ideas to take hold. In turn, this requires effective communication because communication is how we transmit…


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What happens when we cannot go outside? Many of us travel inward on journeys of thought and reflection. In the short term, the Covid-19 pandemic has wrinkled the fabric of our lives, but in the long term it may well stitch the canvas of a new social consciousness. We have peered out of our stays-at-home and our shelters-in-place, and we have discovered deep cracks in the glass windows of our society.

The question of human rights stands outside the polarities of politics and the mallet of protest hammering across the country is not being wielded by a Republican or a…


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Over the past two decades, we have heard the same refrain from politicians, pundits, documentarians, and digital experts and it goes something like this: Electronic voting is hackable therefore paper ballots are the only way to avoid rigged elections.

On its surface, the argument sounds reasonable, especially when it is followed by a litany of ways by which electronic voting machines and systems can be hacked. This litany conveniently keeps all the focus on the problem and sidesteps the question of whether the proposed solution is appropriate. Yes, the security of electronic voting is a challenge. …


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You get thirty minutes with a stranger and using that single conversation, you must decide whether to work with that person for the next thirty months, give or take. Seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? A first date is at least twice as long, and the only decision involved is whether to go on a second date.

The traditional job interview process is tailor made for poor decision-making. It’s difficult to get much more than a first impression out of thirty minutes, let alone a deep understanding of a candidate’s ability to perform against the multi-faceted requirements of a…


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The government’s answer to containing the coronavirus pandemic may well lie in the pockets of its citizens. Smartphones have become so ubiquitous that nearly all of us cannot imagine leaving home without them. How many of us have gone sprinting back to our front doors with the panic-stricken thought: “I forgot my phone!”

Today’s smartphones all have built-in GPS, which means they are not only versatile communication gadgets but also perfect tracking devices. …


Jack Plotkin Harvard
Jack Plotkin Harvard
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

As the world’s leading economies move to an unprecedented level of lockdown, we enter uncharted economic territory. Even during wartime and under siege, cities have historically maintained their markets, their transit, their schools, their offices, their nightlife, and their social gatherings. Massive sectors of both national and local economies are predicated on people venturing beyond the confines of their homes. What happens when all this activity stops?

The first casualty is travel and tourism. Getting there becomes irrelevant if nobody is going anywhere. Means of transportation, including airlines, cruise lines, railways, subways, taxis, car rentals, and ridesharing services lose virtually…

Jack Plotkin

I have devoted much of my career to solving complex challenges through innovation across management, technology, and process.

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