Whiplash cover

WhiplashHow to Survive Our Faster Future

by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe

published in 

first published in 2016


✔ Available to borrow

312 pages

published by Grand Central Publishing

published in New York, NY

owned in Printed Book format

Honestly pretty bland on its predictions. Skip it, and just read the chapter titles I'll list as the "big ideas" if you want catchy branded terms for ideas you've probably already learned from better books.

Just-in-time supply chains and SaaS provisioning by Amazon are lauded in Chapter 2 "Pull over Push" with no sense of caution for how JIT supply chains would cause a global market pileup at the slightest disturbance by 2022, which Donella Meadows—a former MIT professor!—predicted in Thinking in Systems when she stated that delays in feedback are often the source of oscillations and collapse within a system. The importance of the climate and equity in this "fast future" are mentions in the final chapter, 9 "Systems over Objects".

I'm a little spiteful because I read this wanting to attend the Media Lab, then learned that Joi had a working relationship with Jeff Epstein to get donations, so it's pretty hard to take any sort of idealistic advice from him or that institution. For being such a "radical" institution they sure can't seem to divorce themselves from a venture capitalist framing of the world.

"big" ideas

These are the chapters of the book:

  1. Emergence over Authority
  2. Pull over Push: tech capital hagiography that is incoherent with other stated principles
  3. Compasses over Maps
  4. Risk over Safety: 🙄
  5. Disobedience over Compliance: 🙄x2
  6. Practice over Theory: 🙄x3 these are all the worst kind of scientific populism lip service
  7. Diversity over Ability
  8. Resilience over Strength: read braiding-sweetgrass for better thoughts on this
  9. System over Objects: read Thinking in Systems or The Death and Life of Great American Cities for better thoughts on this

Here is one valuable passage from the introduction. The intro discusses the current socio-technical landscape, and identifies the themes of asymmetry, uncertainty, and complexity as part of the zeitgeist today. I agree with that identification of the pillars. And furthermore, I like their wording in this passage that follows:

And here's where our book pivots from merely observing the conditions of asymmetry, uncertainty, and complexity to prescribing something to do about them. Not knowing is okay. In fact, we've entered an age where the admission of ignorance offers strategic advantages over expending resources—subcommittees and think tanks and sales forecasts—toward the increasingly futile goal of forecasting future events.

Even in this passage you can feel the business-centric perspective that makes the grandly generic book and chapter titles ring very hollow. But in there is a valuable and timely lesson. Embrace the daunting position of this age, the unknowing. It is better to understand that you don't understand a system than to continue to delude yourself into thinking it's less complex than it really is.


Joi Ito and Jeff Howe. Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2016. Printed Book.