The new(ish) online publication Works in Progress
continues to impress; every issue so far has had multiple fascinating pieces. If you like Thoughts in Between
you will almost certainly like Works in Progress.
I could have written today’s entire newsletter riffing on essays from their new edition, which touch on many favourite TiB topics, from José Luis Ricon’s piece on applying the scientific method to science itself
to Neil Hacker’s discussion of “buyers of first resort
” - that is, the importance of procurement for advancing technology.
Caleb Watney has an excellent essay
in the last edition on innovation clusters (like Silicon Valley) and remote work - a topic we’ve looked at multiple times, most recently last week
. Watney makes two points that merit particular attention. First, that there is a geopolitics of technology clusters, of which the US has been the primary beneficiary for the last half century. It’s a huge strategic advantage to physically house the preeminent clusters of silicon, software or AI talent assets. If remote work erodes this (Watney is more skeptical than I am), the consequences won’t be purely economic.
Second, Watney argues that remote work might change who benefits from innovation. Historically, startups have gained a great deal from the talent and knowledge spillovers from physically local established firms. Remote innovation might be good for intra
-firm innovation, but have fewer spillovers. This echoes our experience at EF
during COVID: if entrepreneurs had even a couple of weeks to build relationships in-person, they could sustain them online. But in programmes that we had to run fully remote, the rate and robustness of team formation was significantly lower. I’m a remote work optimist
, but it’s worth considering that it may be a pro-incumbent force.