InnoKOL | Jeffrey Funk: Much of Augmentation Will Continue to Succeed While Moonshots Will Fail

2022/12/23 Innoverview Read

On Dec.22nd, InnoKOL has a fascinating conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Funk, the Technology Consultant, talking about his unique work experience and profound insights on how new technologies emerge and diffuse.


Jokia: How would you describe yourself in three words?


Creative, diligent, curious.


Jokia: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to emerging technology domain.


B.S. Physics, M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and PhD in Engineering & Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon


After working in a semiconductor factory for two years and receiving my PhD from Carnegie Mellon, I was one of the first to recognize the potential for smart phones during the late 1990s and early 2000s in Japan, and I worked with several Western companies (e.g., Bougyues Telecom and Nokia). I was also recommending to mobile service providers as early as 2004 that they should focus on apps long before the iPhone was released in 2007. The research done as part of this consulting earned me the NTT DoCoMo mobile science award in 2004.


Jokia: You have developed two unique courses on innovation at National University of Singapore. What inspired that move and what role did you play during the process?


Japan had become less competitive and I wanted to live in a more international country. Japan had become too insular. My experience with the Japanese mobile internet, however, had inspired me to better understand where new industries come from. I had interviewed hundreds of Japanese companies working in the mobile internet and some described to me in lots of detail how better phones (displays, memory, processors, and network speeds) enabled new content and thus my theory of technology change was born where I focused on the incremental changes. This became the focus of my course on the economics of new technologies. I also taught a more conventional course on business models. My SlideShare accounts have the slides for both courses.


Jokia: From your experience and perspective, why cool technologies sometimes flop?


The mobile internet flopped in Western countries in the early 2000s because companies were unable to agree on standards and they would not introduce mail services because they didn’t want to cannibalize their SMS services. Both had been essential to Japan and Korea’s success in the mobile internet. Apple’s iPhone solved both problems.


More recently, however, there are many technologies that do not have the levels of performance and cost necessary for users to pay for services. VR, AR, smart homes, IoT, drone delivery and others are languishing, and they aren’t getting better very fast. These technologies might do better if the suppliers found some customers who would pay more money or accept lower performance

Other technologies such as ride sharing and food delivery were never good enough. Nevertheless, they would do better if startups would focus on different designs. See my slides on my SlideShare account.


Jokia: What is the future of data science & AI?


Much of augmentation will continue to succeed while moonshots will fail. Generative AI may be less successful than other forms of augmentation. My article for the Yuan (coming out Friday Dec 23) describes my forecast for 2023.


Jokia: How AR and VR are transforming the future of businesses?


Very slowly. It is much more difficult to make these products smaller than many think because their size is driven by optics and not electronics. And in optics, there is a tradeoff between size and field of view and thus reusing size causes the field of view to get very small. I expect the progress to be very slow.


Jokia: Is web3 really the future of the internet? And why?


It depends on how you define Web3, but blockchain requires too much computing power and thus there are very few applications. See my article in American Affairs with Lee Vinsel and Patrick McConnell.


Jokia: The global satellite internet market size is expected to reach $10.5 billion by 2028, what are the opportunities and challenges of satellite internet development?


Satellites have been great for telecommunications and satellite TV. Satellite Internet services are much harder because the satellites must be placed much closer to earth to have reasonable downloading times. But putting them close means there must be many of them because they move too fast across the sky. Only a few are needed for satellite TV but tens of thousands are needed for satellite Internet. NASA is worried about collisions so it won’t approve satellite launches.


Jokia: How CIOs can drive environmental sustainability from your point of view?


I think this will be very expensive. Most of the ESG movement is green washing. Reducing carbon emissions is proving to be much more expensive than people thought. Despite hundreds of billions already spent, carbon emissions keep climbing.