Charlotte Street Partners



Towards a brave new world?

Written by Kevin Pringle, partner
3 October 2020

Good morning,

The (very) broad theme of this week’s Read on the Street is technology and innovation. Having gone through university and started working life at a time when the internet and email were still several years away (how did we actually function?) I’ve been struck by how tech has helped us adapt to life under Covid-19 and combat the virus. From creating virtual offices via Zoom and Teams, to downloading the Protect Scotland app, there are things we can do now and ways we can connect that were unimaginable a generation or so ago.

It’s tough now, but would have been much tougher – for individuals, the economy and society as a whole – in the past.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic is acting act as a spur to further developments and discoveries. I think the pieces below provide some grounds for optimism that we can build not just a brave new world, but also a better one.

1. Playing music together, apart

Symbiotic by nature, orchestras may not be the first thing to spring to mind when you think of social distancing. But distance they must if they are to survive. In this piece, Izzy Price speaks to musicians and conductors about the challenges, opportunities and ultimately the hope brought on by technological advances that have allowed the show to go on.

Read in The Telegraph

2. The foundation of trust

Despite its proximity to ‘ground zero’ of Covid-19, Taiwan has only recorded a total of 514 cases of infection and seven deaths. In an interview with WIRED, Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s youngest-ever digital minister, explains how the nation used open data and transparent governance to empower its citizens to code their own way out of a pandemic. It’s a mind-blowing listen.

Listen to it on: WIRED.

3. It’s all about the crowd

An industry highly dependent on the physical presence of a crowd, fashion, is also part of a digital experiment. Turning to the new phenomenon in the fashion world, a ‘digital fashion week’, Luke Leitch raises a crucial question. Now that we all have front row seats but experience nothing close to the fun that ensues from the real-life encounters, could it be that the spectacle is, in fact, more about the spectators?

Read in The Economist.

4. Meal with an AI twist

From manufacturing to back of house cooking elements, robots are already integrated in many aspects of food service. As is often the case these days, the pandemic and its distancing measures have only accelerated the trend, moving robots from behind the scenes to more customer-facing roles. But while robot waiters may offer a smart solution to one of the challenges facing the industry, there is one aspect in which humanity still holds sway…

Read in Forbes.

5. Some are already vaccinated

It’s getting harder to know what to believe, but this article in the impeccably researched New Yorker brings word from China that a vaccination against Covid-19 is already being distributed, despite not yet having completed its phase 3 trials. Does it work? Who knows. If so, for how long? Again, no answers here. But the claim that China sharing a functioning Covid-19 vaccine could also help its diplomacy is worth knowing about.

Read in the New Yorker.

And finally: Making this (virtual) reality

Has working from home made you Zoom-weary and in desperate need of physical interaction? Are you missing the chance to hang out in the kitchen with your colleagues? The solution is simple – virtual reality. In this article, Joanna Stern writes about her positive experience of using VR to remotely connect with her teammate. Has the pandemic – coupled with innovative technology – created the next phase of digital correspondence? Will FaceTime one day become 3-D?

Read in The Wall Street Journal.

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