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Indistinguishable from Magic

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This week in fintech

September 27 · Issue #116 · View online

A weekly summary of the latest news in our world of finance, design, and technology.


Vipps in your mailbox
Vipps has their target on advertisements hitting your mailbox. They challenge advertisers to use scan & Vipps, their QR-code payment solution, directly in the leaflets overflowing your mailbox. It sure makes the buying process more accessible, but maybe Vipps should challenge the companies to reduce unnecessary use of resources, paper, and emissions instead of using their payment solution.
Speaking of physical marketing: Does it work? Some economists tried to research this but were giving up because no company was willing to see what happened to sales if they dropped it. Fortunately, they found a company that had outsourced sending out advertisements to a summer intern who had forgotten to do so. Even though sales had not decreased at all that summer, they were equally unwilling to stop sending out advertisement papers.
We’ve previously written about QR codes turning out to be useful has to be the greatest upset of all time, but do you know how QR codes actually work? Here is a fascinating breakdown:
Dan Hollick 🇿🇦
Ever wondered how a QR code works?
No, me neither but it's low-key fascinating.

(Warning, there is some extremely nerdy shit here.👇 ) https://t.co/SgQJVvhu0q
Bustad Q&A
Last week I read the whitepaper on Horde’s new cryptocurrency solution, Bustad coin, that will help homeowners pay off debt faster and free up liquidity by becoming co-owners of homes. I had a lot of questions that the whitepaper didn’t answer, but this week Alf Gunnar Andersen, CEO of Horde, answered all my questions in this blog post. It will be interesting to follow this project in the years to come!
Indistinguishable from Magic
Packy McCormick has written an excellent piece around the quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” based on Adobe’s acquisition of Figma. Figma was certainly magical when it came out. I remember the magic feeling of multiple arrows drawing shapes together in Figma 6 years ago, which certainly felt indistinguishable from magic. McCormick also writes about the same feeling when Spotify launched, where you suddenly could stream music.
He also argues that the magic of Figma would have degraded anyway, no matter if Adobe bought Figma or not:
It’s the Magical Startup Circle of Life. A startup, if it’s lucky, creates magic, turns that magic into dollars, and transitions to life as a successful Big Muggle Company, capable of enormous profits and power but no longer able to conjure magic. Then a new Magician comes along, using sufficiently advanced technology to build something indistinguishable from magic, and uses that magic as a wedge to challenge the Big Muggle Company.
But where is the new magic? Unsurprisingly, many of the answers he got when he questioned his readers were AI products. It is the closest I’ve been to experience the magic in the last few years. The ability to write out a text and get generated images out from that is mindblowing and will change the work of designers in the years to come. It might also change banking: Provided with enough data AI chatbots might actually become helpful and halve the number of jobs in customer service. Based on your previous transaction history, AI could invest according to your specified wishes and help keep you to your budget.
Many people are afraid that AIs will take our jobs away, but they can also be a potent tool for creativity. Just imagine the time it would take to sketch something like the graphs below (you should see the whole thread)
Ethan Mollick
Data visualization inspiration thanks to DALL-E: how Rothko, Basquiat, Picasso, and Monet would create an academic chart. https://t.co/HM5U2f2E8g
Swoop-and-Poop
I’ve gotten a new favorite term this week: “swoop-and-poop”. It refers to when you’re nearing the end of a project or task, and at the last minute, a vital stakeholder swoops in and lets you know that you’re on the wrong track. Paul Herbert has written an excellent post on how you can adapt your process to collaborate closely with project stakeholders:
Avoiding the Dreaded “Swoop-and-Poop”
That's it for this week 👋
Btw, here is me writing this newsletter illustrated by Stable Diffusion:
Remember, if you’re enjoying this content, please tell all your (fintech) friends to hit the subscribe button! If you have some feedback, you can always just hit reply!
Marius Hauken, partner Stacc X
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