Yes, we are all in the technology business

A few weeks ago the surfing world was astounded when Kelly Slater released a video of his new wave pool.

The launch of his 10 year long project to KS Wave Co, and OMG did surfers loose their minds. The reason it matters for this here blog has little to do with surfing. It has to do with technology. I would never have believed a wave this good could come from a pool. That waves I spend thousands of dollars each year chasing, could happen all day, every day. And so you now, this picture below is typically how terrible wave pools are for Surfing – A wave pool from 1985 where they once held a Pro Surfing event.

Tom Carroll in wave pool

And the reason it is now possible is not to do with machinery, it’s because of what software can do. It’s because of what we can model it before we turn soil. We are entering a phase in life where possibilities confound expectations. Where dreams from our childhood and coming to life in all manner of entertainment and industry. The future has finally arrived.

If the worlds most nature driven zen sport, surfing, can enter an artificial arena, then it’s fair to say we are all in the technology business now. It might even be time to ask yourself if that ‘thing’ you dreamed about is possible now.

And Kelly, if you’re reading – I’d be happy too buy the rights for Melbourne.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

 

Podcasts are a University on wheels

podcast head

After a false start in the mid 2000’s podcasting is back killing radio. For anyone who spends a fair amount of time driving, exercising, travelling or just existing as a human, it is the ultimate short cut to ‘get learned’ by some of the worlds best thinkers – University on Wheels say some.

So here are some great podcasts I literally rub my ear balls in whenever I am on the move.

My top 7 Podcasts:

  1. EconTalk with Russ Roberts – Not as highbrow as it sounds. An incredible array of topics related to business, culture and sociology. The most insightful look into our economic lives you’ll ever listen to.
  2. The James Alticher show – Mostly about entrepreneurship, technology and financial independence. He interrupts the guests a bit much, but with good thoughts & questions. Has great guests on the show.
  3. Crap Hound with Cory Doctorow – Mostly about cyber security, IoT, income disparity, privacy & surveilance, Gov policy regarding digital rights, and other important digital issues around control and the world you’re about to live in. Eye opening view of the future. One the globes sharpest minds.
  4. HBR Idea cast – Podcasts of around 20 mins. Perfect for short trips. Covers topical issues in business and management. Gets to the critical issues quickly.
  5. The Long Now with Stuart Brand – Seminars about long terms thinking. Generally a long 1 hour plus podcasts which are from Keynote speeches from the Long Now Foundation. Has the world best thinkers on key topics regarding the long term survival of humanity. Kinda heavy I know – but the topics are more ‘human and now’ than you’d expect. Everything from why stories last to can we live on Mars to the long arc of moral progress.
  6. Planet Money NPR – Great stories about all things money and finance. Super interesting stories with insights you’d never expect. Totally entertaining on the usually boring topic finance. Short podcasts too around 20 mins.
  7. Here’s the thing with Alec Baldwin – Has a great range of guests with entertaining content regarding creative and business pursuits. Lots of laughs and relaxing.

If you like hearing me rabbit on, then you can always check out the #BBB podcast (Beers Blokes and Business) which I appear on and I recent recording I did for the newly launched Future Sandwich podcast.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why podcasting has made such a massive comeback in the past couple of years, there’s probably a myriad of reasons. But here are two that spring to mind. (1) We’ve had a couple of super ‘hit’ podcasts to put it on the agenda like ‘Serial‘ and (2) I think the increased data most people now get on their phones these days removes the download it now and listen barrier. No need to plan and download at home.

Startup blog says – let your ears do the reading.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why predicting the future is more about sociology than technology

Technologies arriving by 2025

This chart above is from a new World Economic Forum report, Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact, predicts 21 dates in the future when previously unimaginable innovations will enter our daily lives, transforming the way we live and the way communities and governments function. And after perusing the report, I couldn’t help but think that the results focused too deeply on technological capabilities rather than social and economic incentive. It seems that while predicting the future is always a difficult task, every time I read such predictions, human behaviour is not considered at a deep enough level.

I disagree with most of the predictions above, but mostly for two reasons:

  1. The flawed and simplistic definitions from the past. (This is how companies get disrupted by the way, but more on that later)
  2. The lack of consideration given to how incentives shape behaviour.

Simplistic Definitions:

Report Claim: 10% of people wearing clothes connected to the internet. Reality: We are already wearing technology. Our phone is a device we have been wearing as clothing for nearly 10 years. The definition given in the report doesn’t serve the function of why you’d wear technology – it’s too limited. It’s a yesterday definition.

Report Claim: Over 50% of internet traffic to homes to be for appliances & devices. Reality: The internet of things (IoT) in the home will be at least 10 times the size of humans connected, current estimates are for 50 billion items. So in pure connections it will be way bigger than their estimate. But as a portion of traffic and bandwidth it will still be small compared to human generated internet traffic. Most IoT devices will have simple sensors and awareness functions through connected nodes, which in real terms generate very little traffic as long as we maintain Net Neutrality. I’d also add that we are already generating more than 50% of web traffic through home connected devices – aren’t TV’s, smart phones and laptops in the home ‘devices’? Again the way things are defined mislead.

Report Claim: First city of over 50,000 people with no traffic lights. Reality: We already have hundreds of cities around the world of more than 50,000 people without a road rule in sight, let alone traffic lights. Seriously, have any of these people behind the report ever been outside of the confines of Davos or their Ivy League Learning Institute? China, India, Indonesia, Africa, Eastern Europe and South America all have cities that fit this definition today. Another example that the world view of the economically fortunate is often myopic and first world centric.

Report Claim: 1st 3D printed production car by 2025 Reality: At volume this will not make sense, but it also depends on what they mean by ‘Production’. If less than 10,000 units then this is a clear ‘No’ as the industrial production line has advantages 3D printing will never have, an undisputed fact among 3D printing experts. While many parts of cars will come from printers, the entire production process will not. In fact, they key benefit of 3D printing is the exact opposite of ‘production efficiency’, it’s about customisation. They’re missing the reason.

Ironically, the reason many companies get disrupted through technology is how they define their business. They define things in terms of what they sell, and not the problems they solve. Technology often unveils new ways to solve old problems, which renders yesterdays logistics and infrastructure outdated. 

Incentives & Social Considerations

Report Claim: First Robotic Pharmacist will arrive by 2025. Reality: We already don’t need pharmacists and it is largely the strength of their government lobby that keeps them putting little labels on little bottles. There is no economic incentive for the pharmacists to replace themselves, and so I doubt they’ll let it happen. If this incentive existed, they’d already be selling medicine in grocery stores. If however, the report is referring to 3D printed medicine, well the FDA approved that in August this year.

Report Claim: 5% of consumer products printed in 3D by 2025. Reality: While I think 3D printers will be in a majority of homes, it’s still like 1975 was for personal computers. An entire infrastructure of software, materials and socialisation around the industry needs to be created. The opportunity is really in platforms to support the potential of 3D printing – read here, selling shovels, not finding gold nuggets. But let’s add the social reality to the mix. We are more than 20 years into the World Wide Web and e-commerce is still only 7% of US retail sales. And this is more evolutionary and easier to adjust to socially than 3D printing items is. This tells us the truth more than any predictions will.

Report Claim: First AI machine on a corporate board of Directors by 2025. Reality: As per the pharmacists being a Board Member is not a question of need and decision making ability, it’s a question of power, influence & gettin’ paid. The incentive for board members to replace themselves, is really not there. If someone does it, and they will, it will be a mainly be about company PR.

Report Claim: Driverless cars will represent 10% of all cars on US roads. Reality: This number will be significantly higher, maybe even higher than 50%. This is true for a few reasons. Firstly, the cost of self driving cars will be a lot lower than people expect. Because cars are now rolling computers, the same pricing dynamics now apply. Costs decline while performance increases exponentially. I’ve already written about why every car on the road will be electric in 10 years, and when we add things like; the ability to watch movies or sleep while travelling; having an extra drink after work on a Friday night, putting your car to work to earn money while you’re not using it (if indeed you own one); and not having to pay insurance for a self driver, then the incentives for self drive put this in the smart phone category – we curve jump to it as soon as it’s available.

The problem with the report, was in my view, that it was done by asking opinions and averaging them out. A bit like designing something by committee. You end up with well, average results which probably don’t reflect the real views of any individual who was asked.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Future Lab – Q & A

Future Lab

I was recently asked by the super clever Future Lab team of LS:N Global to do an interview on a few topics including: The New Australian Consumer, Crowd Finishing or Pre- Hacking (a theme in my book) The Sharing Economy (A former startup I had rentoid.com was early in this space), Reverse Retail, and Innovation via Skunk Works.

While writing up some thoughts in my note pad, I thought it would make a good blog entry. And then I wrote ‘blog this’ on the first page of my notes. And that is exactly what I have done – literally. It will take some interpretation (hand writing, typos, order) as it is just a mind stream of half sentences, but often the unfinished nature of things is what makes them valuable.

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 New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

4 mind blowing presentations on the future

I’ve recently watched a few presentations which really below my mind. Re-shaped my thinking on the next iterations of the technology revolution. Most interestingly, they all focus on independent systems, peer to peer and the end of the middle.

  1. Jeremy Rivkin – The zero marginal cost society.
  2. Mike Hearn – The trade net.
  3. Albert Wenger – World in Transition. (Why GDP decline is inevitable)
  4. Philip Evans – How data will transform business.

These talks aren’t short, but there aren’t any shortcuts in understanding what our future world might look like. I say, watch these instead of TV – you’ve got the time, it’s really all about how you allocate it.

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Yesterday

It’s not that difficult to be an expert on yesterday. The way it was done. The story of who won and why, or even the implementation of the known formula that works (worked?). Experts on yesterday have the rational and believable viewpoint. They can support their position on that pesky little thing called evidence. Of course evidence is always historical. We tend to find experts on yesterday in senior positions in organisations and they tend to proliferate and thrive in legacy industries. Places where protecting revenue is more important than growing it.

Ironically there is no such thing as an expert on tomorrow. There can only be viewpoints on possibilities and the willingness to experiment with those possibilities. What this means, is that the ideas presented by the tomorrow guy are often met with doubt and even derision. I guess we should expect this because most of what they predict simply wont happen. Statistically the tomorrow crew will be wrong more times than they are right. But within those ten crazy ideas they present one of them is usually what eventuates. And this is the time when what works quickly becomes what worked. Just ask Kodak management.

One thing I know for sure, is that experts on yesterday rarely invent tomorrow, and in times of significant change it pays to have a couple of tomorrow guys in your corner.

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The future is less

You’ve heard this:

If all you ever do, is all you’ve every done. Then you can only expect all you’ve ever got.

It’s changed slightly, actually it has changed radically:

If all you ever do, is all you’ve ever done. Then you can expect much much less than you used to get.

This is because there are a nearly 2 billion people in the BRIC nations who are prepared to do what you do for around 10% of your price. And in a ‘web everywhere’ world people can find them. Yes this includes nearly all of us – Architects, Engineers, Accountants, Lawyers, Graphic Designers, Coders, Developers, Journalists  – every single task that can be done remotely, and even some that can’t be.

For them 10% of your pay is a 50% pay rise. A pretty good deal from where they sit.

What to do – do more with the stuff that lives around the edges. Make meaning from the seemingly disparate. Add a creative edge by mashing things up in a new and interesting way.  And demand the people near you take notice of your ideas. If they don’t, then find a better place to share your creativity.

The trick to the future is to organise the factors of production, not be them.

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