International science and business conferences often involve flying large numbers of people across the world, but what about the solution of online only or hybrid online/in-person events? Last week I attended a sustainable research conference that was offered as a hybrid, with physical presence as well as online offered. A great idea at first sight.
A hybrid conference is not as organizationally simple as one might think as they are technically complex. Fully online conferences are easier to organize, but they run into time-zone problems, and the hybrid solution risks building a two-tear scientific community: those who travel, network and socialize in person, and those who attend from their own homes or offices.
This may have implications, as those attending in person benefit from knowledge exchange and networking to a greater extent, which may be not only advantageous for their scientific development but also for their careers.
On the other hand, those travelling for work (through no choice of their own) may feel that they should not be, which could bring personal and psychological problems.
As part of ongoing research into the environmental consequences of conference-going, last week’s attendees were all asked to complete a questionnaire so that the environmental implications of their in-person attendance could be measured. Questions addressed how they had travelled, were they staying overnight and which food choices they had made, all of which can be used to generate data.
And here lies the difficult question.
I learned a lot from attending, I grew my network and I enjoyed myself. I left rejuvenated! If I had the choice, I would not give up on attending conferences, because I believe that at the end of the day there is more to gain from attending in person than from following online, even at such a well-organized and participatory event that even included desk yoga.
Learning Includes the fact that attending led me to interrogate myself and my own actions and choices when presented the possibility of presenting or attending a conference either online or in person, and discuss these contradictory feelings with others who face the same conundrum, in a relaxed social setting.
But how much gain is there from personal attendance in relation to the environmental impact. Flying is unavoidable for many, but we all know that CO2 emissions are enormous from such trips.
In my experience conferences have often been the starting points for projects and even books. It is very difficult to imagine how calculations could be made that took gain (or possible gain) into account in relation to pollution though. What is the value of publishing a book or participating in a project?
The EU stopped funding travel during COVID, so we were all in some way forced to attend conferences virtually. But now that conferences are once again appearing in person, how can we make decisions about whether to attend or not?
This is going to sound nuts, but I believe the most important company of this decade will be a “car” company. Specifically Tesla.
Here are my thoughts.
“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
That’s a direct quote from Tesla’s website. It’s what their founder, CEO and Technoking (yes, that really is his title! 😂) Elon Musk believes, so much so, that Tesla’s patents are open-source – the goal being so others can benefit from the advancements Tesla have made.
Elon believes that even with access to Tesla’s intellectual property, competitors still won’t be able to compete, thanks to the companies software and manufacturing excellence.
The first step to becoming a great organisation is having a mission people truly care about and believe in. In my book, there aren’t many missions stronger than trying to make the world a better place to live.
Tesla’s diverse business(es)
It’s a great misconception to believe that Tesla is a “car company”.
It’s in the servicing industry, providing the parts and labour required to maintain all Tesla products 🛠️
It’s a rapid-charging network, with more than 25,000 Supercharging stalls globally ⚡
It’s an insurance provider, providing cover for those driving it’s cars 📄
It’s a software company, designing it’s own mobile apps and the in-car interface ⚙️
It’s an AI robotics firm, developing the code for Full Self-Driving (Level 5 Autonomy) and the Tesla Robot 🤖
It’s a supercomputer manufacturer, building the most powerful computer of all time, to support it’s AI 🖥️
It’s a currency trader, holding Bitcoin and selling in multiple currencies around the world 💱
All-in-all, Tesla has a huge number of areas of speciality, and is vertically integrated to the extreme!
Tesla aims for the moon, in EVERYTHING it does
Tesla has a culture of being the absolute best in class at everything they do. Tesla doesn’t settle for second best, if they commit to something, they’re aiming to be the best.
They didn’t just aim to make a fast electric car, they aimed to make the fastest production car in the world – and they did!
They wanted to build safe cars, and they really did – when released, the Model 3 was the safest car the NHTSA had ever tested! The Model Y received top marks too.
They aren’t satisfied with a Gigafactory, they’re aiming to be able to produce 10 terawatt-hours of battery capacity by 2030. VW is a leader in electrification among the legacy automakers, “boldly” aiming for 240 gigawatt-hours of capacity by 2030. Tesla is aiming to produce that (and another 10gWh) from their new Berlin factory alone… in the next few years!
They aren’t aiming for gold standard driver assistance aids, they’re working on fully autonomous vehicles, which are already 10 times safer driving than a person. Entertainment centres on wheels, with Netflix built-in, and no need for steering wheels.
They aren’t even satisfied with the cars as they are when they sell them, so they’re constantly tweaking, enhancing and upgrading them with free, over-the-air software updates. Extras include: entertainment upgrades like the YouTube app and Fallout Shelter game; Sentry mode, a security camera recording system; power boosts and range improvements; faster charging speeds; mapping upgrades and charge station updates; and much, much more.
The entire fleet provides data to Tesla and their neural nets are constantly learning and improving features, be that airbag deployment safety, automatic wipers sensitivity or full self-driving accuracy.
They weren’t happy welding individual parts together, and now use a Gigapress/gigastamp, which speeds up production and improves quality – stamping car bodies out like toy cars! This helps them to produce a car every 2 minutes!
They have Elon Musk
Whatever your opinion of the man, he’s a visionary, with extraordinary determination, and the ability to galvanise a cult-like following. He’s had huge success in the past with Zip2 and X.com (which became PayPal), and his current companies are doing pretty well too!
In September, SpaceX sent four regular people into space. They orbited the Earth for 3 days, higher than the ISS and higher than any human has been since we went to the moon. The Starlink satellites are rolling out rapidly, offering high-speed, low latency internet globally.
Having multiple companies which can integrate and share knowledge is a huge bonus. For example, what other car manufacturer is able to send a car into space – like Elon did with Starman in his Tesla Roadster.
His approach to a problem is to make the product ten-times cheaper through relentless efficiency and looking at the problem in a new way. One example can be seen at SpaceX, the view there was that throwing a rocket away after each launch was a big contributing factor to its cost. Elon often likens it to throwing away an aeroplane after each flight, it’s madness! So SpaceX engineered self-landing rockets, a phenomenal idea, cost saver and huge achievement!
Musk also owns The Boring Company, which is creating tunnels under major cities to enable significantly faster transportation – another service Tesla cars could benefit from.
The knowledge sharing across his companies is a huge advantage, Tesla’s competitors just don’t have.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few months now, and started working on it in September. This was before Tesla’s huge Q3 deliveries and financial results, and the massive stock growth which followed – making them the 6th biggest company (by market capitalisation) in the world! It seems like these developments further support the thinking that Tesla will be the biggest company in the world this decade.
Many of you may have seen the Kite Mark symbol above on various things you have bought but maybe not thought about what it is or how it is awarded, so here I offer a bit of insider information.
The British Standards Institute has published a draft of a standard on responsible innovation and await (your) comments, which can be made (after free registration) until 29 October 2019 as part of a typical timeline for the development of a published Standard. The draft document is published through the BSI website linked above with a view to amendments on the draft and publication in 2020.
What are Standards?
Taken from the BSI website, Standards are described as:
an agreed way of doing something. It
could be about making a product, managing a process, delivering a service or
supplying materials – standards can cover a huge range of activities undertaken
by organizations and used by their customers.
The distilled wisdom of people with
expertise in their subject matter and who know the needs of the organizations
they represent – people such as manufacturers, sellers, buyers, customers,
trade associations, users or regulators.
They are designed for voluntary use,
you’re not forced to follow a set of rules that make life harder for you,
you’re offered ways to do your work better.
Standards are knowledge. They are
powerful tools that can help drive innovation and increase productivity. They
can make organizations more successful and people’s everyday lives easier,
safer and healthier.
The British Standards Institution
The role of the BSI is described on the website as:
the UK’s National Standards Body (NSB), representing UK economic and social interests across all European and international standards organizations. Working with many different industries, businesses, governments and consumers to develop British, European and international standards, that are developed by dedicated panels of experts, within technical committees.
A standard undergoes various stages of development, beginning with the
Proposal stage, which is aimed at affirming the market need for a standard.
Once a proposal for a standard is approved, the relevant panel of experts in
the area is tasked with drafting the standard, as per internationally agreed
principles of standards development.
As soon as a draft is mature enough, it undergoes public consultation
when it is made available for anyone to view and comment (Public comment stage,
the stage that this draft is now in). Every public comment BSI receives on a
draft standard is considered by the relevant panel of experts and BSI staff and
the final published standard is updated as appropriate.
Following public consultation and before a draft can become a published
standard, it undergoes further edits until the panel is satisfied with its
quality and only when consensus has been reached.
The standard is a specification, working practices are described that the business can aim to work towards. It is a sort of tutoring system to help businesses work towards a set of goals, in this case a responsible innovation approach.
So if you have time why not have a look at what they are proposing? And maybe comment. It might help its development and even work towards making the world a more responsible place.