June 14, 2021

Covering Industrial Innovation

Covering Industrial Innovation

Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. 

In episode 39 of the podcast, the topic is: Covering Industrial Innovation. Our guest is Amy Feldman, Senior Editor at Forbes.

In this conversation, we talk about whether manufacturing's image problem is going away, the future of industrial innovation post-COVID-19, and when will we see the next $50B ARR industrial scale-up? We also discuss the Future of tech journalism and the art of narrating innovation.

After listening to this episode, check out Amy Feldman's social profile as well as her Forbes column:

Trond's takeaway: "Industrial innovation is hard to narrate but the masters, such as Amy Feldman, make it seems exactly as compelling as it is. Tech journalists get to not only cover, but also uncover and explain industrial trends for a wider audience. There's much to love in industry 4.0 technology adoption and many interesting players in the surrounding ecosystem. It helps not to think just in terms of individual companies but consider what they are connected to and what adjacent fields will be impacted."

Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, subscribe at Augmentedpodcast.co or in your preferred podcast player, and rate us with five stars. If you liked this episode, you might also like episode 21, The Future of Digital in Manufacturing, episode 18, Transforming Foundational Industries or episode 7, Work of the Future

Augmented--industrial conversations.


#39 Covering Industrial Innovation_Amy Feldman

[00:00:00] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:00:00] Augmented reveals the stories behind a new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. In episode 39 of the podcast, the topic is covering industrial innovation. Our guest is Amy Feldman, senior editor at Forbes and this conversation we talk about with our Manufacturing image problem is going away.

[00:00:26] The future of industrial innovation post COVID-19 and when will we see the next 50 billion ARR industrial scale? We also discuss the future of tech journalism and the art of narrating innovation. Augmented is a podcast for leaders posted by futurists Trond Arne Undheim and presented by tulip.co the frontline operations platform and associated with mfg.works the industry upskilling community launched at the world economic forum. Each episode dives deep [00:01:00] into a contemporary topic of concern across the industry and airs at 9:00 AM us Eastern time every Wednesday. Augmented the industry 4.0 podcast. Amy, how are you doing today?

[00:01:13] Amy Feldman: [00:01:13] I'm good Trond, how are you?

[00:01:15] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:01:15] I am splended. I'm so excited to be speaking with you. It's not every day I have a famous journalist on the on the microphone.

[00:01:23] Amy Feldman: [00:01:23] Oh, you're too kind. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

[00:01:27] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:01:27] Yeah, sure. It is exciting maybe it's me, but journalism is very exciting when you can break stories, when you can influence generations of people who are reading about a topic over time. I think it's still is very fascinating and you must as well, right?

[00:01:46] Amy Feldman: [00:01:46] So it's a fun profession you get to talk to people about all kinds of cool stuff. I love it. I'm still excited by it and hope the readers are too.

[00:01:55] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:01:55] Well, but there's more to it because what I've understood is that you grew up [00:02:00] in Pittsburgh.

[00:02:00] So we're going to talk about a specific type of journalism that has something to do with Pittsburgh. Why, what is it about Pittsburgh and where you grew up that tuned you into the particular type of journalism that you do.

[00:02:15]Amy Feldman: [00:02:15] I have to correct you a second. I didn't grow up in Pittsburgh.

[00:02:19] Both of my parents did so it's  the family seat there where everybody was from Pittsburgh, but I grew up elsewhere and spent my childhood driving back and forth to Pittsburgh on many occasions to visit relatives there and Pittsburgh is very much of an industrial town.

[00:02:35] It's the industrial Heartland. I have relatives who worked for the steel companies when steel was the big thing in Pittsburgh. And, maybe it's because of that or just something in my personality. I have always loved going into factories and seeing how things work. It's one of the things that I think is really interesting in my job.

[00:02:54] How do you create physical stuff? How do you do it? What does, what makes it work? What doesn't [00:03:00] it's to me, absolutely fascinating.

[00:03:02]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:03:02] I happy to agree with you and I think both and I'm glad you corrected me because growing up and having that relationship you had is slightly different, but either way, the industrial Heartland is fascinating. And anytime you can get, go into a factory specially these days. And I, that's going to be my question. Have you been in a factory lately? Because there seems to be another problem. We can't go anywhere.

[00:03:27]Amy Feldman: [00:03:27] Oh my God. Not since COVID started and I really miss traveling to see places.

[00:03:34] I finally, I've been vaccinated and I'm now looking forward to getting back to doing more stuff in person and less stuff on zoom.

[00:03:41]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:03:41] Exactly. And I guess this is what I want to talk about is the importance of the physical space in terms of innovation. It's such a, it's a fascinating topic, right? That we are arguably in this digital age yet. In manufacturing we are still, in this hybrid [00:04:00] situation where there are these factories and they're so important, they determine so much of what's going on. I wanted to maybe start with you giving us your overview of your best take of what's happening in industrial innovation right now.

[00:04:14] So we are, as you pointed out, some of us getting our vaccines and we are. I don't know if I think that we are at the end we in America have COVID, but we are in the hopefully later stages of this situation. And it has changed us and it has changed industrial innovation for sure. What is your best take on where we are right now in, in this?

[00:04:37] Amy Feldman: [00:04:37] I think that's absolutely the case. And I think it's been really interesting to see that this period of hiatus and really difficult period for a lot of people has also been a period of

[00:04:51] real innovation, both out of necessity. And because of some of the technologies that have sprung up, out of necessity, of course, because for [00:05:00] factories, with social distancing rules and to keep everybody safe, it's accelerated the pace of this digitalization that had been happening before.

[00:05:08] But I think it's accelerated it to the extent that even when we come out of this, it's not like those gains are going to be lost. They're still going to be there and that trend will still be there.

[00:05:20]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:05:20] So the question that I have for you, you've done a lot of pieces lately, that are on this intersection of digitalization and productivity.

[00:05:30]Is it a wave right now? Like you're interviewing a bunch of startup companies and would you say that there is a wave of innovation that is happening over the last few years that'll have to stop, or do you think this just do you, are you getting more and more inbound requests?

[00:05:46] And you're like, th this innovation, the innovation stories, are they multiplying or are they staying?

[00:05:54] Amy Feldman: [00:05:54] I think they're still multiplying. I think there's been a huge amount of [00:06:00] innovation and also a change among the investors being willing to invest in industrial innovation. Don't think that was the case five years ago. And so to me, that's really interesting, but the question though becomes, which of these companies. We'll continue to do well where, some of them will not do well. Some of them will merge, it will get acquired or something else and which of those companies that are starting up now will be the ones to to survive or to become bigger in five or 10 years from now.

[00:06:36] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:06:36] Is that something that goes into your thinking when you are featuring someone or are you assuming that if companies are on an upward track and there's a kind of buzz around it that they will be relevant? I know you and I, in the prep call, we talked about. Your ethos and, w what is a killer story for you?

[00:06:52] And you talk to me about the importance of having at least some pieces in your career that stand out and are like landmark [00:07:00] pieces that will last longer than the weekly news cycle.

[00:07:05] Amy Feldman: [00:07:05] I think, yeah, to me, the killer piece is the piece, sorry, that's my phone, my lid reading. Should I go off and start over?

[00:07:13] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:07:13] No, don't worry. We can I will deal with it. We just kept talk when it's ringing. I guess I'll have to edit that out. Okay. I'm going to just wait for it to stop ringing so that I'm okay. It's fine, my mobile off, but I wasn't, I didn't want to unplug the thing from the wall and turn it off. Who does that wall?

[00:07:35] I'm surprised even calls a two 30. I get calls a dinner time, which they think, people think dinner time is six that's apparently what the marketers think. 

[00:07:45] Amy Feldman: [00:07:45] I get calls all day and I refuse to get rid of my landline because I much prefer to have conversations on it than to have conversations on the mobile, which I find really annoying.

[00:07:56] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:07:56] Yeah, no, I understand. I guess I was asking you at about this [00:08:00] killer piece that you're always ending to ride that lasts longer than the news cycle.

[00:08:05] Amy Feldman: [00:08:05] Yeah, no, to me, the pieces, I come up from a magazine background and so the pieces to me that matter are the ones where. Five years later, or 10 years later, you're still like, oh, that was the definitive piece about X. That said something about that moment in time and where we were and what it meant. One, one piece that I feel like is standing up and I hope will continue to stand up. It's a little bit less industrial though it is manufacturing is they did this story a couple of years back on Gingko Bioworks, which is using biology to manufacture and that whole area has just exploded.

[00:08:44]And they're, they're continuing to do really well. They are one of those startups that took really 10 years to hit, but now has hit.

[00:08:53] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:08:53] Yeah, I have worked with them quite closely. It is an incredible story actually, that a bunch of grad [00:09:00] students and their professor working really hard for a long time.

[00:09:04] And there weren't many that fully understood that the grandness of what the scheme that they have created than the foundries and this whole idea, which I think with you, I think it's going to be a lasting contribution to productizing, synthetic biology in a way that turns it from, like fun, little wet science that takes forever into an engineering mindset.

[00:09:28] Take essentially that whole field into the field of engineering.

[00:09:33] Amy Feldman: [00:09:33] Exactly bass production and to be able to say, okay, we're going to make things with biology at the same scale and in the same amount and with the same speed and efficiency that we do on a petrochemicals. I think that's a lasting ending and more miss change.

[00:09:50] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:09:50] So let's just go back to that piece. I'm curious, how do you find these stories in this case? What's the background story? How did you get alerted to that piece? And it's a while back. [00:10:00] How did you decide this is the moment you wanted to write that piece and not a year later or a year earlier.

[00:10:06] Amy Feldman: [00:10:06] That was a piece that came out of a conversation with an editor. I'm lucky that I have very good editors at Forbes and we were just talking about this area of synthetic biology. And I didn't really know much about it, but my editor knew a little bit more about it. We were talking about it and he sent me off and said, come back and tell me which company should we write about.

[00:10:26] And  he's looked into it and realize that they're the one that's furthest along there. The one I have to write about and back that, that was back when we could travel. And I spent, I think, three days up in Boston spending time with them and seeing what they're doing and really talking with them and was just blown away and then spent a lot of time talking with other people in the field and trying to put it into this context of what does this mean?

[00:10:51]What does this mean for the average person? Not just for the really geeky people who were into it, but for people who are going to buy things, people who think about how you make things,

[00:10:59]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:10:59] But they [00:11:00] own the essence of our red rose.

[00:11:03] Amy Feldman: [00:11:03] Yes. It's pretty crazy. Yeah. They've done some really wild stuff and not just the the manufacturing stuff, but they've also had some really interesting things that cross over into  art or into other areas.

[00:11:18]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:11:18] Sure. They have a big push into textiles and they,  can make pretty much anything with these foundries these days. It's it is a fascinating story indeed. I wanted you maybe to unbundle some other types of companies and tech areas that you find the most fascinating, at the moment, because there's a big, a story around in the U S I guess it's called smart manufacturing elsewhere. It's called industry 4.0 in this sequence of industrial revolutions. And we're arguably at least up to number four. But what are you seeing as, and maybe it's not the technologies that fascinate you, I'm guessing, you're a storyteller, but it's a bundle of, technology, fascinating [00:12:00] founders, fascinating changes in industry.

[00:12:02] What exactly would you say? Where are we right now  with that whole. Problem set of which technologies. So synthetic biology clearly interests you.

[00:12:12]Amy Feldman: [00:12:12] I've written a lot about 3d printing. I find it really interesting how it is going from what we used to think of as these, desktop machines that did little dudettes to serious industrial industrialization of 3d printing. And I've written a bunch about that. I feel like there's. It's always two steps forward one step back, I think, but we really are moving forward in that. And there's some really interesting stuff happening there.

[00:12:38]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:12:38] And I think that's the case, right? With many technologies is that, Gartner has this hype cycle, when it at the it's at the top of the hype, people with printers, they were buying these printers and they're expensive and then sometimes they gather dust because you also need some skill and if they break down, you need to fix them. So this is like any technology it's complicated. You've got to have a plan. You can't  just introduce 3d printing you [00:13:00] got to know how to use it, and then there's even been 3d printing. You need scale, and that's expensive. You can't do much as a, if you are GE and you got yourself, one 3d printer, you can't launch a product, if your 3m or something, and you said, all right, we're going to get a couple of 3d printers. You can't launch a worldwide product line that way.

[00:13:18]Amy Feldman: [00:13:18] You need scale and you also need design because to just 3d print something, the way that it was produced previously, doesn't give you that much, but to come up with a new way to 3d print something where, for example, if you're Boeing and you can make parts that are much lighter and therefore your airplanes take less fuel, that then becomes something very interesting.

[00:13:40]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:13:40] It is fascinating to me how 3d printing is at once both touted as like the everyday man's home, fun hobby project. And, you can, everyone can be a maker, but also it is equally producing, parts for the international space station and airplanes. The range [00:14:00] there is enormous.

[00:14:02] Amy Feldman: [00:14:02] Yes, it absolutely is.

[00:14:05]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:14:05] So it's one of those technologies, which I guess who knows where it's going, it goes up in size, you can start printing. Some people have printing houses, right?

[00:14:13]Amy Feldman: [00:14:13] There's a couple of companies now doing houses. And I think not even just houses, but whole communities that are being 3d printed, which is really pretty, pretty amazing.

[00:14:23] And we have the potential to create houses much cheaper and it scale which could be super helpful for the world.

[00:14:29]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:14:29] I'm tempted to talk about one of your last stories, which was in vaccinations because it, it wasn't a vaccinations as much as it was on the industrialization of vaccines, which goes a little bit back to our discussion on Cynthia synthetic biology.

[00:14:46] They are very related actually. Is it possible to rethink the way that life science works? You did it, this story very recently on that. It's fascinating to me, that manufacturing, you think of it as a [00:15:00] slow moving industry. And maybe if you do think of it that way, and you think all the problems and there are many.

[00:15:05]Of course then everything is incremental, but then you have ever, so often these breakout folks and you've interviewed many of them, they refuse to think in that mold that don't have this sense that. These may be foundational industries, right? Going back to another of your stories from construct capital but they're not necessarily static or they don't have to be static now.

[00:15:27] How do you see that, that evolving? Are we, are you seeing stories, which, we'll Manufacturing be able to change. Periodically as fast as they are now

[00:15:38]Amy Feldman: [00:15:38] the piece that you mentioned on vaccines was really interesting to do the company that was doing it, it's called resilience and it was started by this very top biotech venture capitalist named Bob Nelson.

[00:15:50] And the idea is that vaccines and drugs more generally, the way that manufacturing is brought into the process very [00:16:00] late leads, a lot of drugs of vaccines to be done almost in a lab based way, rather than an industrial way. And that by doing it by thinking about manufacturing early and setting it up differently and using more technology, you could change the way that this happens and make a huge difference in the way that drugs and vaccines are produced. One of the things they have going for them is that they raised $800 million because this is an extremely capital intensive area and so that in itself is interesting.

[00:16:33] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:16:33] Sure. We live in a fascinating age. Another topic I know you've written about and care about, generally is automation and especially robotics, right? This is a topic that divides, it's very easy to write a story about scary automation, or you can write it about technology optimism. These robots are so fascinating.

[00:16:52] What do you think about when you write a robotic story? Because it can be framed in so many different ways.

[00:17:01] [00:17:00] Amy Feldman: [00:17:01] Interesting. There ends up being this black and white view of robotics, either robotics, good or robotics bad. And it tend to think like other technologies that robotics is a technology and it can be used for good or for bad, depending on how it's rolled out and how it's integrated with the way that workers are currently working.

[00:17:24] You could either say. Okay, we're going to take these robots and we're going to get rid of all the people, which is the fear that people have, or you can give the, the sort of white washing thing of saying, we're going to take these robots and it's nothing is going to change.

[00:17:37] Everything's going to be fine. But the reality is somewhere in between that, like with all technologies, they are going to change the way that people work and that's, There's no way around that, but there's also, I think they can be used for good. And I edited this story last year that a colleague wrote on a company that was using robotics for recycling.

[00:17:59] And [00:18:00] I thought that was really interesting. Especially during the pandemic there, weren't a lot of people that wanted to be in recycling facilities, touching needles and touching old crap from people's houses. These are not jobs that people really want to do. They're not very good jobs, but robots in that situation can, in theory, at least increase the amount of recycling that we do, which is overall a good environmentally.

[00:18:26] And they're filling jobs that currently we're going unfilled because they're not jobs that are good jobs.

[00:18:32]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:18:32] It's been easy if it's that right? Because there is this dull, dirty, dangerous discussion that all the roboticists and indeed all the companies in the robotics space they immediately quit back to you and say All of these jobs are bad jobs and you were saying that, but I wonder sometimes I also think that becomes an excuse because you're just trying to get away from the discussion, which also needs to be had, which is some jobs will be gone.

[00:19:00] [00:19:00] And what's in its place is gonna be two things mainly in it. There's just a postulation that you can agree with or not, but there clearly will be very advanced jobs that demand high cognitive skills. And that's a challenge of its own. How are we as a society going to start producing more people with very high cognitive skill. It's typically something that takes college education, 4, 6, 8, 10 years at top colleges, very expensive, very time consuming and very inefficient, but then maybe there's something in the middle. There's a big discussion. I think on, I think they call it middle jobs, like somewhere in between, like more than high school, less than college.

[00:19:39]But it's very unclear to me what those jobs really  should, In the future to be a good industrial worker. And, the presumption being industry is going to be a good thing in the future because all of those really bad jobs, hopefully, will be taken over by machines.

[00:19:55]What do you see?

[00:19:56]Amy Feldman: [00:19:56] I think you're right that having robots will mean [00:20:00] that there's the need for people who are more educated, who have more skills, I don't know, more educated and have more skills. Those don't, those are somewhat different things. They don't necessarily have to go together.

[00:20:12]But that manufacturing jobs are not going to be just jobs about Brian, but I don't think that they necessarily are right now. I think let's give people who work in factories, a little credit for. Being smart, having ideas, knowing what they're doing. And hopefully there's a way to, to have technology and people work together rather than technology overcoming people.

[00:20:39]I know people point to people who are pro automation will point to what happened when in TMS rolled out and ATM's didn't end up getting rid of the need for bank tellers. They've worked side by side, and now we can't imagine not having ATM's or even not being able to deposit our checks on our phones because it's so much easier.

[00:20:59]I think we don't [00:21:00] know entirely how this is going to play out yet. And the not knowing the ambiguity leads to a lot of fear because there is this ambiguity and there may be jobs that disappear or there may be people who have jobs that are going to change dramatically. And some people are going to be better at change at some are not going to be as good at change.

[00:21:20] And how do we as a society then help and support the people who are not good at change to continue to have a good life and to not get priced how it pushed aside because that as a society, we can't do.

[00:21:37]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:21:37] I agree with that. I think that is a big issue, but you're you are, of course, there are an enormous amount of jobs that are unfilled in America today in the industrial space. And I guess they're unfilled because there are qualifications that people are not willing to get in sufficient numbers, whether it is going to a six month [00:22:00] course in some very specialized machine operation. Field to operate a type of industrial machinery, or it is maybe a job that is so niche that people don't even know that there are openings in those fields.

[00:22:15] There seems to be an unusual communication challenge in the field of industry, you and I seemed pretty convinced it's a fascinating field to be in, but it hasn't always been that way. How do you explain this sort of time lag and what will it take for people to realize that what they knew as their uncles lost job at the shipyard? Or their grandfathers, tragic destiny. We are in a different time now, and it's not just outsourcing and, costs squeezes and, seventies and eighties were traumatic, in, for manufactories cross the world. It is a different time. Now, why does that take so long to sink in?

[00:22:59] Amy Feldman: [00:22:59] That's a [00:23:00] really good question. I don't really know, but I think you're right. That people think of manufacturing they think of industry and factories, like what they looked like many years ago. And how do you bring that perception into the modern era? I'm not sure. What do you think.

[00:23:18]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:23:18] I think it's going to be it's partly just reframing the entire discussion.

[00:23:22] Some of it is plain old information. Like you just have to point out that, if you like AI and all of those technologies that we have been talking about, robotics and 3d printing and sensor technology, and internet of things, all of these fascinating words that people say they're interested in that does not need to mean that you want to work at a social media company. You can actually do all of that in industry and better. So someone has to start saying that in a sustained manner and reach the right people with the [00:24:00] message. I think high school that's where this starts, earlier, but definitely if you don't reach the high school population with these messages, then I think we're in trouble.

[00:24:08]Amy Feldman: [00:24:08] I think you're right. At least by high school, if not earlier.

[00:24:11] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:24:11] Yeah. Thinking about trends in, this sort of industry, you are watching a lot of startups and you cover a lot of startups. What, when are we going to see the next startups turn into industrial powerhouses will there be a as EMN synergy and in our era coming from your stories.

[00:24:33]Amy Feldman: [00:24:33] I think there will be, but you and I had talked about this earlier and I don't think we're seeing that breakout yet. We're starting to see the companies that are, billion dollar companies or at least. Billion dollar and multi-billion dollar valuation companies, but we're not hitting the scale yet of the old industrial companies.

[00:24:53] And it's not entirely clear how many of these companies will end up standing on their [00:25:00] own versus being acquired by the existing industrial behemoths. So I think that's going to be something that's really interesting as it continues to play out because there's not yet these clear winners.

[00:25:15] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:25:15] What about this issue of whoever it is, whether it is a new behemoths or an old one, what do you see these enormous industrial companies?

[00:25:25] What kinds of roles should they take on in a future society? Right there, there's clearly with the tech with power comes great responsibility. And nowadays it's not just. The sheer size of them as employers, because we've had massive employers before, like in the U S a Walmart or in other countries like the national post-service and things we have had gigantic ginormous employers before.

[00:25:51] But the new thing is it's coupled with this very powerful technology together. So it's not just, where will they be coming [00:26:00] from? I'm just curious if you're thinking when you're interviewing these entrepreneurs that,  have these aspirations, do you see them as have they thought about what they actually want to do if they get there?

[00:26:11] Because it let's say you have a new industrial behemoths they are growing up in a society where suddenly their actions are going to matter. The olden days they built railroads and did things, but we are arguably, I guess in a time and age where the big companies of this decade, they will determine where this planet is going.

[00:26:34]If you just think about the sustainability or resource constraints that we're facing, it's an interesting time what do you say?

[00:26:41]Amy Feldman: [00:26:41] I think it's absolutely an interesting time, especially with the sustainability issues and the questions on it. And the extent to which industrial companies can either become better environmental stewards or wreck the planet, depending which direction we go.

[00:26:59] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:26:59] Yeah. So  [00:27:00] what about these? So you and I talked a little bit about Tesla, I just, as an example of perhaps a breakout, right? Arguably it is, it was a startup and it did. Get to a size that is significant. The ecosystems around those companies are also interesting. And to me, this is familiar just because I grew up in Scandinavian and Nokia at some point was hoping to become well, they're they were an important company, but they were building this massive ecosystem around it. That then has spawned a bunch of startups in Finland, which kind of explains their startup festivals and a lot of stuff that, that happened after that. But Yeah, I'm just curious.

[00:27:42] So is that where you go searching for stories in these industrial ecosystems around the great players? Is that where around universities and the round, these great players. There's a lot of dynamics.

[00:27:55] Amy Feldman: [00:27:55] Yeah.  A colleague of mine covers transportation  it's its own world, [00:28:00] but there has been this Tesla mafia, which is fascinating where it's  has spawned, as you were talking about with Nokia. And I hadn't made that analogy until you just mentioned it, there's been like Fisker and lucid motors and a bunch of other autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles companies that have spun out of entrepreneurs who got their start at Tesla.

[00:28:20] And it is, I was thinking of it more as it's similar to the PayPal mafia, where they all went off and started other companies. And it'll be interesting to see if there's other larger companies that can spawned something similar I think Tesla is in almost a unique position in that.

[00:28:36]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:28:36] I wanted to take a different tack and go back to what we talked about in journalism, that the future of tech journalism is interesting to me. You told me something when we were sort of prep talking, you said aren't we all tech journalists these days, because I don't know exactly what you meant by that, but I think something about At least this is something I'm thinking about for a while here.

[00:28:55]I call myself a bit of a futurist. And one of, one of the challenges that futurist has [00:29:00] is I think, similar to your challenge and you are a futurist also  because when you write about technology for some time, and luckily I think that times over when people thought they knew the future it was almost like, yeah.

[00:29:12] Okay. So you think you're a tech journalist? That's nice. I know the future I have an apple device, right? I know the future. My kids have apple devices look at them like we know the future, this, there was this like zeitgeists like 10 years ago, at least where everyone thought they knew the future.

[00:29:27] It must've been very frustrating to be you. You're like writing these stories and then people are like yeah, of course. I know Tesla. Yeah. I know. I know these things like you can't tell me anything. Cause I, there was this little attitude. Like no one can surprise us anymore. We have consumer technology at, at our fingertips.

[00:29:44] There are no more surprises. And then COVID, and then I don't know, quantum that th they're just guess what? There still are surprises.

[00:29:53] Amy Feldman: [00:29:53] There's always surprises. Yeah, there's always surprises. And this past year, obviously this has taught us that in [00:30:00] spades, but I think also in terms of, everybody has a tech journalist, I think of something a little bit different too, in that 10 years ago, we used to think of tech journalism as being a very specific thing. It was covering the tech companies. There were these top companies that did tech and then there were companies that didn't do tech. And now you think, okay if you cover, if you're covering agriculture, you're covering, you might be covering robotics companies that are in agriculture where you're covering retail, but the backbone of all retail companies right now is data mining and AI. So whether you think of yourself as a tech journalist or not, if you're writing about business, you're in some way, writing about tech.

[00:30:41]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:30:41] That's fantastic. I think that's, that rings true for me as well but is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

[00:30:47] Because in some sense, a tech journalist was slightly myopic. If you think about this, they're proverbial, wired journalists who are like, always writing about the latest gadgets and things. Maybe not so much gadgets with wired but anyway, a tech [00:31:00] journalist is also a bit of a stigma cause you have a one track mind, isn't it liberating that you can actually just be a journalist.

[00:31:08] Amy Feldman: [00:31:08] I think I come at it from the other perspective in that I've only considered my, I've never particularly considered myself a tech journalist since I've covered many things in my career, but I do now cover tech. So I think of myself on the other side of oh, tech isn't this alternate universe tech isn't tech is everything it's everywhere.

[00:31:26] It's it underpins stories in the same way that all business stories or tech stories, all business stories are also human stories.

[00:31:33]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:31:33] You're speaking to me I wrote a book about future tech and one of my points in that book is that a lot of tech development is driven by anything about technology, or at least it should be. So if you get into this one track mind, and all is tech, that's not a healthy perspective.

[00:31:51] Amy Feldman: [00:31:51] Exactly. Then you have, cool tech, but it's not about what the, it's not about the tech itself being cool. It's about what does it do,

[00:31:59]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:31:59] but what does it [00:32:00] do? And did you like what it's doing? Because if not, you better change to trajectory, and do something. Make sure that you can shape it and I feel like this is an area where people take this fatalistic attitude that, oh, it's just going to happen. It's bound to go this way. But if you study technology, it goes any number of ways, depending on what people wanted to do.

[00:32:22]Amy Feldman: [00:32:22] Depending on what people want it to do and depending on who the people are that are making the decisions as well.

[00:32:27]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:32:27] You've met a lot of these people. Are you optimistic about the future based on the founder stories and business stories that you write these days?

[00:32:36] Amy Feldman: [00:32:36] I think I'm optimistic in some ways and pessimistic and others.

[00:32:40] I'm optimistic in that I feel like I've met some absolutely brilliant people who are making really interesting businesses that are going to change the world. I feel pessimistic in that in tech businesses and in businesses that are tech businesses, especially that are funded by Silicon [00:33:00] valley, the founders are still overwhelmingly white and male.

[00:33:04] And that is

[00:33:08] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:33:08] Yes. And why for you is it a problem? Because what they develop is what's in their head and they are having necessarily limited perspective because of their background or is it, do you specifically have things in mind that, would have turned out different and better in society? If there had been a more diverse.

[00:33:28] I'm just trying to understand, how do you frame it? Cause it's a very interesting discussion and I definitely think, I agree with your general tenant. I just, I'm just curious what your rationale is.

[00:33:40] Amy Feldman: [00:33:40] There's things where you don't know what companies you would have if your universe of people, founding companies was speaker all you can know for sure.

[00:33:50] Is that you would have different companies, you might have the companies that we have now, but you would have other companies that we're not seeing. And you also see this with, [00:34:00] the discussions over AI and how AI can be used in ways that turn out to be racist or turn out to be sexist.

[00:34:10] And I think if you had more women and people of color working on AI, it would do different things that the technology itself is reflective of the people who are creating the technology.

[00:34:25] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:34:25] Look with that I definitely agree with you.  Remind me to introduce you if you don't know her already, Tanya Misra is a friend of mine who runs a very new education startup called sure.

[00:34:36] Start where they're trying to change the face of AI. And there, she's coming out of an MIT startup background, but decided to basically quit that and dedicate her skills to teaching people of diverse backgrounds about AI, whatever background they come from, she takes them in and does a coaching training sessions with them and then churns them out as employable [00:35:00] people in the tech industry.

[00:35:02] It's a, it's an amazing initiative. And I think it goes to the heart of what you're saying. She sees it as well. She was involved with building algorithms for emotion, AI ´That's going to go into cars and she realizes that we need a very broad set of skills because otherwise the, even the algorithmic level, you're gonna build something into that technology that reproduces who you are and now to the world is so

[00:35:33] Amy Feldman: [00:35:33] very well said and I would love to meet her. It sounds like she's doing just amazing stuff.

[00:35:37]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:35:37] I think she has dedicated herself to one of the more interesting and important problem of this era. So I, it's just trying to support that type of endeavor is important. I wanted to ask you a little bit about a different tack.

[00:35:52] You are a journalist and Forbes has now put up a pay wall. That is [00:36:00] great for journalism potentially, but it's bad for people who don't pay. Are we, should we pay for good content?

[00:36:10]Amy Feldman: [00:36:10] That's a long conversation, but I do think generally, yes. I think other industries have found that you can't do everything for free.

[00:36:21] And I think journalism is also realizing that you can't do everything for free.

[00:36:29] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:36:29] Yeah. I am sympathetic to that, but I also think that we've had 40 years now of internet, maybe 35 and arguably that has been a good thing for awhile. And then maybe the last decade hasn't been so good, but there's been a lot of content generated and created and consumed, and it's been a good thing.

[00:36:55] What's going to happen to all of that content when [00:37:00] all of the good content increasingly is behind paywalls, what is going to happen to the free content? Cause it was, w when free wasn't a distinguisher between quality, then it was a little easier. I guess to start out.

[00:37:15]Amy Feldman: [00:37:15] I think nobody is doing a hundred percent paid.

[00:37:19] Most places will have, you can read a few stories before you have to be paid of, and then there's also, we're I know a number of newspapers are also doing like the COVID stories where COVID is so important to people that coverage will be free. We're not going to say the coverage that you really need.

[00:37:38] We're going to put it behind a pay wall because that isn't, in some way, I guess isn't fair. But I do think that this idea of payrolls and of charging for things that are not free to produce is Is the right way to go.

[00:37:56] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:37:56] Yeah, no, I'm not claiming it's unethical or anything. I think, [00:38:00] people who work should get what they they should get compensated for what they're doing.

[00:38:03] And I think hopefully it leads to better journalism because it becomes more sustainable business model again. And it's possible to indeed, because that was where I was going to take this. I was going to ask you, what does it take to write a great investigative business story. Like even just to the point where how much time and resource does it take you?

[00:38:27] Cause it's surely quite different from me writing a blog post this morning.

[00:38:31]Amy Feldman: [00:38:31] It's all over the map. A story can take not long at all and a story can take months. It just depends on the story.

[00:38:40] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:38:40] So some stories that you have out in Forbes this year took you months to write or to compose

[00:38:47] Amy Feldman: [00:38:47] Yes.. That you're spending months on one story and not doing anything else in the meantime, but yes.

[00:38:58] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:38:58] No. I understand that. Look, [00:39:00] I want to ask you just to round up as you're looking into the longer term future, whether it's this decade or beyond that, it's always interesting to just hear what people think.

[00:39:12]What do you see for industry and industrial innovation? Is it like we started out with, the universe is expanding or do you see that we're now platform building? And after that things will somehow not stagnate, but they will be on a different level. And then things will have to settle before before anything else happens.

[00:39:33] Amy Feldman: [00:39:33] I think that's an interesting question, because I think it gets back to this, the question that we were talking about earlier about what does it look like when we come out of this COVID period, whether that's, starts to be later this year or next year, or however long it takes, but so many things have happened during this period that it really feels very hard to foresee what the world is going to look like as [00:40:00] we come out of it, with industry certainly and more broadly as well.

[00:40:05] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:40:05] Yeah, it is hard to predict. But one thing that seems to be happening is that we're all a bit more aware of our surroundings. And I guess people are a lot more aware of this should be of the importance of manufacturing it, if it is one lasting impact of this crisis, is that we're aware that Manufacturing to a certain sense is who we are.

[00:40:29]Because it's not just empty consumption. This is we need this stuff.

[00:40:34] Amy Feldman: [00:40:34] Yes. People now know about manufacturing and people also know about supply chains, which two years ago, people would have just rolled their eyes. If you want to have a conversation about supply chains and now it's a cocktail conversation.

[00:40:47] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:40:47] I know that is that's completely crazy. That is really different. It's really different. It's funny how the conversation can shift that way because there's nothing, [00:41:00] it reminds me actually about the technology discussion. It's not like technology is so complicated that no one can talk about it.

[00:41:07] It's just that you got to find the right way to frame it. And once a good number of people are interested, you can plenty talk about supply chains there's nothing. And there's nothing even like dead worrying about it if you're just, if you care enough.

[00:41:20]Amy Feldman: [00:41:20] And I think after that, a whole shift stuck in the Suez. Now everybody wants to talk about supply chains. You can't ignore it after that.

[00:41:28] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:41:28] Yeah. That's certainly something of a lasting change our cocktail conversations. I don't know if cocktails does exist anymore, but we will certainly be having different discussions for awhile

[00:41:38] Amy Feldman: [00:41:38] For sure on our assume cocktails for awhile.

[00:41:41] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:41:41] That is, yeah, maybe not the optimal format for me, but look, it's been, it's a pleasure to dive into, to the mindset of a business journalist and you've done so many great pieces, I think is an unfair question, but what kind of Things are you working on?

[00:42:00] [00:41:59] Just give us a broad idea. Are you working on some exciting entrepreneurs? Do you have some what's cooking?

[00:42:07] Amy Feldman: [00:42:07] I don't like to talk about stories in advance. It always feels a bit like The word we used growing up was like, it's a kind of Hora. It's gonna bring down the wrath of the gods to right.

[00:42:16] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:42:16] Let me reframe the question then to get us out of trouble. What stories would you be looking for? What have you not found yet that you would love to discover?

[00:42:26] Amy Feldman: [00:42:26] I'd like to, I always want to find the companies that are going to break out. I feel we talked about sort of robotics companies, but I don't feel like we've figure it out, which one is really the breakout bond. There's tons of startups doing tons of interesting things. But which one is the one that's going to become the multi-billion dollar company going forward. So that's what I'm looking at.

[00:42:51]Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:42:51] Call you. If I think I have a candidate.

[00:42:53] Amy Feldman: [00:42:53] Yeah, absolutely.

[00:42:56] We'll continue the conversation without the recording.

[00:43:02] [00:43:00] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:43:02] It wouldn't necessarily be my company, but I'm just saying if I think I have the not unicorn, but the, and not DECA corny, if I think I have the next GE of robotics. I will let you know when you can interview them.

[00:43:14] Amy Feldman: [00:43:14] Absolutely

[00:43:15] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:43:15] well, that's that's a good way to end. I think there will always be good stories for you. Amy, you seem to have a knack for finding them and they are very enjoyable once they are in print. So thank you so much for being on the podcast.

[00:43:28] Amy Feldman: [00:43:28] Thank you trond it's been a real pleasure to be here.

[00:43:32] Trond Arne Undheim, host: [00:43:32] Likewise, you have just listened to Episode 39 of the Augmented podcast with hosts Trond Arne Undheim the topic was covering industrial innovation. Our guest was Amy Feldman, senior editor at Forbes. In this conversation, we talked about whether Manufacturing image problem is going away. The future of industrial innovation post COVID 19.

[00:43:55] And when will we see the next it's 50 billion err, industrial scale. [00:44:00] We also the future of tech journalism and the art of narrative innovation. My takeaway is that industrial innovation is hard to married,  but the masters such as Amy Feldman make it seem exactly as compelling as it is tech journalists get to not only cover, but also uncover and explain industrial trends for a wider audience.

[00:44:23] There's much to love in industry 4.0 technology adoption and many interesting players in the surrounding ecosystem. It helps not to think just in terms of individual companies, but consider what they are connected to and what adjacent fields we'll be impacted. Thanks for listening. If you'd like to show subscribe at Augmented podcast.co or in your preferred podcast player and rate us with five stars.

[00:44:49] If you like this episode, you might also like episode 21 on the future of digital in manufacturing episode, 18 transforming foundational industries or [00:45:00] episode seven, work of the future. Augmented industrial conversations.


Amy Feldman Profile Photo

Amy Feldman

Senior Editor at Forbes

Amy Feldman is a senior editor at Forbes, where she heads up their coverage of manufacturing and industrial innovation. Before rejoining Forbes in 2016, she was a senior writer or staff writer at BusinessWeek, Money and the New York Daily News. She has a master's in international affairs from Columbia and a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern. She also edits the Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Her work has also appeared in Barron's, Inc., the New York Times and numerous other publications. She is based in New York, but her family is from Pittsburgh—and she loves stories that gets her out into the industrial heartland.