The start of the end of the screen – Google Home

Why is no one talking about the things that really matter with Google Home? Like how it changes the economy, and how it might have the kind of impact mobile apps did on our web habits. I’ve read a number of articles about the Google Home device being launched in Australia this week. Lots of them discuss the effectiveness of the natural language processing and which apps it works best with. Like this article and this article. None of them seem to cover the issues that really matter on the topic. So here they are.

Ambient Computing: This is a shift away from typing to talking. We are now entering the age of ambient computing. The killer apps on interacting with artificial intelligence have just shifted from eyes and fingers, to mouths and ears. This is the start of a permanent change in the way humans interact with intelligent machines. The shift is as big as the smart phone was. The only difference is that this will take a little longer to establish itself. The reason it will take longer than the smart phone did is that there isn’t a direct substitute for such home devices. The smart phone had the advantage of replacing a tool we all already used – a feature phone. Most of which had a 12-24 month replacement cycle – like items under contracts typically do. Therefore, we can put this device in the Amara’s law category – a bit slower to take hold, but once they do arrive en masse, the impact will be greater than most people suspect.

The smart home killer app: Every new regime in technology requires a centre piece technology to augment and co-ordinate disparate devices. The graphical browser ushered in the era of the World Wide Web. Google home and friends, namely Echo and Homepod are the devices that will usher in the era of the smart home. A home where everything functional, mechanical, and electrical will interact with web. This is where we can expect to move to renewable energy faster than most predict. Currently just under half the energy we consumer in home is wasted. We don’t need more efficient PV Solar panels and larger batteries, what we need is homes that know how to efficiently allocated energy and resources to the devices inside it.

So what does a smart home look like? It’s a place where most everything has computational capacity, it knows everything that’s in it and it efficiently allocates energy and activities based on what it learns. We can expect energy usage in the home to decrease by at least 30% in a truly smart home. When technology makes our homes more efficient, the value equation and ability for renewables to create an off-grid solution increases exponentially. A positive cycle of both demand and supply side efficiency may change how we power our homes ahead of schedule due to the arrival of complimentary technologies. We can expect the centre piece AI to be a party to the dismantling of the coal and fossil fuel industries. Disruption is horizontal – it is usually a juxtaposed technology which changes things unexpectedly.

The end of SEO: Once people start talking to their devices and asking for and expecting verbal responses, being on the homepage of Google becomes irrelevant. There wont be a page at all. In a world of ambient computing, we need be the first recommendation which gets returned audibly. Which means any brand, product or service hoping to be recommended by a search engine needs to be asked for by brand, or be the best in category. Even worse, companies like Amazon and Google might not care what’s most relevant, and instead start recommending what is most profitable. So long as it ‘solves the problem’ of the end user it’s most likely to give them the highest margin option, for them. Remember, Google promises not to be evil – to it’s share holders at least. SEO, will become VPO – Voice Pod Optimization, a game where only a single option is mooted to the end user.

Privacy on steroids: This is the time when we allow multinational corporations with backdoor pipes to governments hear every word in our homes and learn every habit. All of which is permanently recorded. And if you think this only matters for people committing crimes, then never forget that the most extreme externalities are those we can’t plan for, or even predict. If this isn’t enough to convince you to think twice about privacy, this little post might at least open the mind a little. Privacy and secrecy are not the same thing.

Given these changes aren’t in the maybe category, best we start acting on them now.

This year the internet arrives in Australia

We don’t really have the internet in Australia. I mean, sure we are connected to it, but we aren’t even in the top 50 countries for internet speeds. That’s a total travesty for our economic future. Some of the countries with faster internet include Kenya, Lithuania, Slovenia, Moldova and many developing economies. This is the modern day equivalent of having unpaved roads, no electricity or running water. Outside of the three S’s – Search, Social & Streaming, we barely have web services which can turn industries upside down. But some of that is about to change.

Later this year Amazon arrive in Australia and with their cheap capital (free shareholder money they don’t pay dividends on) and serious intent to dominate this new market. We will finally get, at least one part of the internet, other markets have had for years. If you think you’ve seen disruption to industry in Australia, buckle your seat belt, because we are about to see what they other half of the world already have.  We’ll get to know not only what same day delivery feels like, but 2 hour delivery. We’ll get to know how great it feels for that delivery to be free and we’ll get to pay prices which will make our local retailers seem like robber barrens. It will change our consumer and business landscape because it will be an example of possibility.

I was a guest of the award winning podcast Future Sandwich episode aptly titled, Surviving Amazon. Have a listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Also be sure to check my media page for weekly interviews I’m doing on Tv & radio on all things future.

Don’t forget to join me for to celebrate my new book launch The Lessons School Forgot, on June 20th. Free tickets here, see you there! Steve.

Why we need to start before we finish

There’s something interesting entrepreneurs and technologists can take from rock bands. When playing live of stage and someone in the band makes a mistake, they don’t stop, they just keep on playing. When rehearsing, it’s important to play the song right through to the end, regardless of mistakes. The only way to practice, is to do it as if you’re on stage. The only way to get good on stage, is to have the courage to get on it before you are ready. The only way to get good on stage is to improve on stage, not in the backyard, rehearsal room or garage. Successful bands take gigs where no one might show up and they all start with exactly zero fans. In other words, we need to start before we are finished. We finish the work live, in market. In fact, the work never finishes, but it only really starts when once we have shipped a product.

The band Guns n Roses has a great story about their most famous song Sweet Child o’ Mine. They had the riff and the first part of the song down, it was sounding good and then they got to a part of the song for which there was no other music written, and no lyrics either. The it happened – Axle started singing:

‘Where do we go – Where do we go…. Oh, Where do we go now?’

He was literally talking to the band, saying geez, what’s next for this song. And through the process of doing, and making and asking, the solution was inside the question itself. That moment became the bridge, the missing part of the song. It worked with the other lyrics without him realizing it at first and lead its way nicely into what I think is the best guitar solo of all time. But of course, unless they started playing it before it was complete, it might never have been finished.

The startups we found, the technology we invent, and our own futures are a lot like that. Searching for perfection instead of progress is what stops us most. Some times all we really need to do is start, and believe that we’ll find the path of ‘where we go next’ once we start moving.

If you’re wondering where to go next, come join me in Melbourne on June 20th for my book launch of  ‘The Lessons School Forgot’. l’ll be doing a talk on the future, and answer all the questions you might have. It’s going to be a great night.

Click here to reserve your Free seat. 

See you then, Steve. 

Get ready for ambient computing

The best sign of technology maturity is this – it becomes invisible. It’s there in our everyday lives, but fades into the background, it requires less attention and it forms part of our everyday ambient environment. Like electricity does. It’s just there, in the background waiting and acting on our behalf with the minimum of attention required.

The announcement of the Apple HomePod is more significant than a music player, or a competitor to Alexa and Google Home. It’s the start of the shift to ambient computing. A world where computers and the internet are no longer a thing that we go to, or attend to, or dig out a device to access, but something we literally live inside of.

  • We talk to it, and it serves up answers.
  • We talk in general and it listens and learns our language and desires.
  • We do things and it observes our behaviours and interacts to our advantage.
  • It’s just there, in every room.
  • It becomes the operating system of our lives, without us having to caress a screen or ignore the people around us.

It might seem that Apple haven’t really given us an innovation. I mean lets face it their HomePod is late to the market and is mostly about playing music in the home. But I think they’ve just dealt a stealth move doing less. I think they’ve got a better chance at getting in more homes than Amazon and Google. A harmless little music player which looks nice, and allays the fear of big brother. That my friend is the big trick. Get in the house first, widen the scope later.

This is the start of a wider shift to the ears and mouth replacing the eyes and fingers as the killer interface. It might mean the world around us gets a littler noisier, but it might also mean we can start to look each other in the eye again.

Here’s a closing thought for businesses who rely on SEO as part of their strategy. Once we start asking the computers in our life for a recommendation, we better hope they ask by brand, or we’re the first verbal answer the device gives back. We are very quickly going to move to a world where being on the first page was good, to one where being the first, and only recommendation is vital.

If you’re interested in making yourself future proof, come join me in Melbourne on June 20th and get your mind around ‘The Lessons School Forgot’. 

I’ll be doing a talk on how to hack your way to a radical future, and answer all the questions you might have about finding a path to independence. It’s going to be a great night.

Click here to reserve your Free seat. 

See you then, Steve. 

 

How to future proof your kids

There’s lots of things we can do to future proof our kids. On the top of my list would be this: Don’t condition them to into thinking they’ll get a job when they grow up.

The reason is simple – A job is only one source of potential revenue to sustain life.

This isn’t to say that jobs are bad, just that while they are young we should be introducing the concept of economics. The first concept is that we need revenue when we grow up, and a job is just one source. Imagine asking your kids this:

What will your major revenue source be when you grow up?

Their first question will be, your guessed it – What in the heck is revenue? And this invites an important conversation that opens their minds for the rest of their life. A decent answer might be this: Well, revenue is a word that describes all of the different ways we can get money for helping people. A job is just one of those ways, but there are many more. And some are more rewarding, some easier, some harder. Here are some examples Johnny and Mary:

  • Profits from selling things, or owning a business
  • Commission which can be from selling something for someone else
  • Fees for doing projects
  • Freelancing selling your skills one task at a time
  • Rents for people using things you own – like a building
  • Dividends which is money when you own a portion of a company, Like the toy shops we go to – Did you know you can own part of that toyshop!?!
  • Royalties from letting someone use your idea, like if you drew the first picture of a cartoon character
  • Licensing which is when people pay you to use something you own in another country

The list is endless, unlike the number of jobs which are about to be replaced by AI, Automation and offshoring.

You could explain all the examples above, using just one of their toys, say Lego. Shops make profit selling it. Professional Lego builders work as freelancers. The shop the Lego is sold in is rented by the person that owns  the building. Lego pay licensing fees to Star Wars to make Darth Vader. Shareholders in the Lego company share in profits from people buying lego. You get the pattern.

This will show them many possibilities. Kids are super curious about the world, and they’ll never see money in the same way again. They’ll start to see economics and different ways they can participate. More importantly though, they’ll be thinking about systems, and how to position themselves into owning the factors of production, and not being them. If we do this, we give them a chance at being the architects of their own future, and not a bricklayer in someone else’s.

Blog readers in Melbourne – I’m inviting you as a reader to The Lessons School Forgot – Live – to celebrate the launch of my new book. 

Hope to see you there, Steve. 

Why it's never been a better time to start a business

Lift off!

It’s ironic that governments around the world are clamouring to support large companies via the promise of jobs given that this is the greatest time in human history to start a business.

Anyone who has a had a crack at starting a venture knows the idea is the easy bit. Ideas are bit like water, absolutely vital, but there is no shortage. The hard part has always been gathering access to resources, and then compiling the resources into a system of revenue. Just think through what we needed in the past to make a business a reality:

Finance – without rich parents, friends or some security for the bank it was over before we started.

Manufacturing – how the heck would you build a facility to make stuff? There was no ‘open factories’ just a little while ago.

Retail – other than opening a store, it was difficult to get on the shelves. Especially in small volumes. Stores wanted mass market products, support by advertising.

Promotion – advertising was barely affordable other than bills posted on local walls. Newspapers, radio and TV – all too expensive for a startup.

It’s no wonder we got told to get a good education, go to university and get a stable job with a multinational corporation. Which, is still an option…. but personally, I think we are all capable of more than that. I think the gift of access we’ve all been given via technology is too precious to waste. Just look at all the barriers to entry which have now crumbled in less than a generation:

Alibaba has more than 4 million factories we can access to get a our dreams made into a physical reality.

E-commerce stores have never been easier to set up, no tech skills required.

We can connect with customers on a zillion platforms – Ebay / Etsy / App store / Facebook / Instagram / Youtube and endless others

We can get funded based on the strength of our work, passion and ideas, not how rich our contacts are.

We can access freelance workers easy on line, work from home or anywhere, and we can start part time, an hour a day instead of wasting the night watching TV shows which teach us how to make a better soufflé .

Why this matters: A.I. is coming and it WILL remove many jobs including white collar work – so we need a rebooted entrepreneurial ethic to invent our own financial futures and create new industries.

If you want more inspiration on your possible future – then check out the first chapter of my upcoming book – The Lessons School Forgot –  you’ll totally dig it.

We need to open up the digital black box

Imagine for a moment you bought something at the supermarket, a packaged food you intend to eat and it didn’t have an ingredient list, let alone a nutrition panel. You’d think twice about consuming it wouldn’t you? In the early days of packaged foods this was the way things were. It was exactly as explained – we had no ideas what was in the box. Before the early 20th century food and medicine we consumed was a total crap shoot. There were literally no regulations, or information as to what we were all consuming if it wasn’t in its raw form. Eventually, we collectively decided this wasn’t good enough.

Boxes filled with secret ingredients, sometimes dangerous ones, developed by the manufacturers so they could sell more and keep it shelf stable longer, were marketed as natural and safe. Quite often the labelling on food and medicines was down right dangerous. The changes didn’t come easy though, manufacturers (Coca Cola, Kelloggs, Phillip Morris, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Nestle to name a few) not only sought to mislead to sell more, but often claimed the ingredients in the box were some kind of trade secret that, were valid in a capitalist society. A black box of secrets? –  Sounds a little like something that is going on today doesn’t it?

mind control

Everything we consume in digital form today comes with its own secret set of ingredients. We are ingesting information into our minds that might shape our lives as much as food does. Yet, for some reason we don’t question the opacity of the digital black box. We need to also to be smart enough to realise that shaping peoples minds could well be more dangerous than addictive and unhealthy ingredients are. They don’t just shape us, but they can reshape geo-politics as well, maybe even democracy. The lessons of history are easy to forget, especially when others fought the battles for us before we were born. It’s possible to take for granted the toil undertaken for the civility we bask in today.

A new revolution has arrived with a new set of corporations designing our consumption patterns, and just like before, the behaviour is the same – the large companies at the front line, call ‘competitive secret’ in order to profit seek against an unaware public. We instead need to push back and ensure that the society being built, with a meta structure on top of it, is one we want to live in.

It’s time we exposed the ingredients in the algorithms that shape our digital existence. We need this in the same way we know ingredients in packaged food. Algorithmic Nutrition Panels might just be the start of a more informed society. People might finally understand why they’re addicted to Facebook or Buzzfeed and why they see what they do on the screens in in their lives. It might just start a movement, one in which people realise what they’re actually giving away and why it matters.

What goes in our mind, is at least as important as what enters our mouths. It’s worth mentioning here that we are only on the precipice of the data deluge. The pending trillion sensor economy made possible the internet of things will mean every human interaction involves an algorithm. Algorithms as trade secrets, will increasingly shape our world and our lives, for as long as we tolerate it.