It’s time for digital organics – Algorithms are the MSG of the modern age

Increasingly, our lives are shaped by secrets companies keep. The corporate secret de jour is algorithms.

These secret algorithms are designed to do two things:

  1. Make us like the product more.
  2. Improve the profit of the company via the algorithm.

(Objective 1 is only ever designed to facilitate objective 2.)

No doubt you’ve heard the word ‘algorithms‘ bandied around recently in the media, but unless you’re involved in tech or have had someone explain them to you, it is difficult to know what they are, what they do and why you should care. The definition coming straight at the top of a Google search is a pretty good one:

Algorithm: A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

For the most part, algorithms are a damn convenient tool during an era where the amount of data is literally exploding and we need shortcuts. By the way, an algorithm helped me find that definition too. From the screen print below, you can see the results of Google’s algorithms: a definition inside their search results, hence removing my need to leave Google and go to an online dictionary – aka a competitor.

Rule 101 for Algorithms is pretty simple. They are designed to benefit their creator. If they can serve the end customer too – well, that’s a bonus. The problem of course, is that the customer doesn’t know what they didn’t see and which decisions have been made for them. It’s hard to make an informed choice when the algorithms increasingly make those choices for us via filtered options.

A little over 6 months ago, I wrote about the fact that we will need to open up the black box of algorithms if we want to maintain a democratic society – yes, it’s that important. Before anything physical happens in our world, something informational always happens first.

A recent landmark federal court case in Australia focused on a poker machine called Dolphin Treasure whose manufacturer and casino operator have together been accused of misleading gamblers about their chances of winning. This is essentially algorithms on trial. It’s the start of something much bigger, and we can expect to see our most successful and revered technology companies algorithms on trial very soon. All it takes is a little more understanding by the public, and some front page news of algorithms gone wrong where there is blood on the floor – and sadly, it will happen. In many lower profile cases it has happened already.

Here’s what we can expect to see in the corporations around the world: C-suite level executives to emerge in order to build better algorithms and understand those in the market they need to deal with. Boards will need and put algorithm experts on their roster.

Here’s what we can expect to see from the Ambulance Chasers: Hidden algorithms to be the target of legal cases which deceive and cause financial or physical harm to consumers – a new angle to misleading and deceptive conduct.

Here’s what we ought expect from each other: To educate each other on the good, the bad and the ugly of algorithms so we can help shape a world we want to live in. Like we did with food and other suboptimal corporate behaviour patterns.

Here’s what I’d like to see from entrepreneurs: To launch services that benefits users sans algorithm as a key selling point or algorithmic ingredients on clear display – a new form of Digital Organics… to invent a new market and make the entrepreneurial profits they deserve by doing it.

What we need to remember is that every problem presents a new opportunity for nimble entrepreneurs. For business people who steer technology from its current trajectory to a new path is to say ‘no’, we want and deserve more than what you’ve giving us, and we are going to be the people who do it.

Check out my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – to redesign your own future.

The one word that ties this revolution all together

If I had to use one word to tie together this technology revolution we are living through it would be this:

Mobility.

Once we think about all the tools arriving and what they allows us to do, much of it revolves around geo graphic independence and mobility.

Smart phones – mobile computing in all it’s capacities. Mobile communications.

Driverless cars – increased mobility of people and things, independent of human touch.

Wikipedia / Blogging / Vlogging – Mobility of information and ideas, not locked down the the physical location of books or other data sources.

Social networks – Mobility of connections to people, what we are doing and saying flies across the globe at the click of a button.

Work – Ability to get information work done anywhere in the globe.

Drones – Mobility of things, visual footage and data points, and soon people.

Payments gateways – mobility of finance outside of physical banks.

Crypto Currency – mobility of money and payments, independent of any geography or government.

Blockchain & Smart Contracts – Mobility of promises independent of location, and premised on execution of that promise without parties having to meet physically.

3D printing – Mobility of manufacturing – send a file, make it anywhere.

Crowd Funding – Mobility of innovation outside of funding ecosystems.

e-commerce – Mobility of retail, sell to anyone, anywhere.

Cloud Computing – Mobility of data storage – it follows you around the world

Cloud Manufacturing – Alibaba providing access to the world of manufacturing with a few clicks

Freelance markets – Mobility of labour forces for information work.

Given all of this, we need to ask ourselves a simple question to future proof ourselves and or the company we work for;

How are we increasing the mobility of what we make sell or do. It’s a great place to start.

If you want to increase the mobility of your future join me for my new book launch – The Lessons School Forgot – on Tuesday night in Melbourne. Reserve your seat here for a night of inspiration & ideas with good people.

See you then, Steve.

We’re all trapped – The dark side of the APPOCALYPSE

Today Apple started it’s WWDC17 with a parody of what our modern world might be like if the app store went down. They called it the APPOCALYPSE – It’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet. It had a lot of detractors, many for good reason. I’m not even sure if Apple are laughing at us, or haven’t realised the gravity of their proposition? But I think most people missed the dark side of our reality.

We are living deep inside a technology trap. 

In 1978 technology historian James Bourke explained this vital concept with this video. For much of the industrial age we’ve all been living in a world we know little about. We’re all eking out a living via micro specialised gigs which have little to do with sustaining life. If the lights went out, few of us would be able to survive very long on our own. Once the stores are empty, where would we get our food, water, medicine, heating, cooling and other essentials from? Even if we had the skills of a renaissance person, there wouldn’t be enough time to gather the resources needed for mere survival.

But today, we are much deeper in the hole than that. We could, as a pre internet society probably muster up enough people with enough physical skills and knowledge to rebuild a bootstrapped society. But today, much of our critical infrastructure is buried deep inside a technological grid few people understand, and no one understands entirely. We are trapped. In the pre-internet based technology trap, the system wasn’t singular, the traps were at least geographically isolated. Today, they are all inextricably linked.

The most warped thing about this, is that it resides in the hands of a few private global internet giants. Their primary interest is to serve their shareholders, not society or end users. Users being the operative word here, we rely on them like a dealer, we show up for our digital high, just to be able to function on any given day. I’m not sure if calling us users is by design or coincidence, but I’m sure they’ve got the gear and we’ve got little choice but to take it.

This is another reminder that we need greater distribution of wealth and critical digital infrastructure. But the truth is we can’t control this. There is little we can do about it the foibles of the system. But what we can do is invest in ourselves so that we de-risk our own economic future. We can acquire the skills and resources of self reliance. Now more than ever, we can spread our personal financial risk beyond the hands of a single financial overlord – otherwise known as a boss.

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. 

Why you shouldn’t fear a robot version of you

Some robots are getting so ridiculously good – you can literally code, or should I say ‘train‘ them, by moving their arms and legs. You show them what to do like you would a child. The Baxter robot by Rethink Robotics is an example of this pictured above. In addition to this Natural Language Processing is getting so good, the Google AI, can understand 95 percent of verbal requests and process accurate search results as if it was typed. Within 10 years, we’ll be able to talk and communicated with A.I.’s, the same way we could with humans on many tasks.

The obvious next step is to add the 2 together more deliberately – the physical Robot, and the Artificial Intelligence. We’ll have human like devices with both the physical dexterity and mental capacity of their flesh and blood creators. This is causing a lot of concern around the world for employment. Personally I think there is a lot of upside would should be exploring as well.

Imagine, there was a robot that could copy our skills exactly, down to the minute detail. Match our physical behaviours and our human interactions. Learn from us, and literally match the way we would talk, interact, move and decide what to do next. Even match our physical style and processes on the job (without the mishaps!) An artificial version of us. Well, to me this could be a great economic opportunity for many people. Say you work in aged care, or phone sales, and you are of course, a gun at what you do. All of a sudden you could go out and train robots to operate in your personal style – teach the robot your human touch and skills which you have become renowned for within your organisation. All of a sudden you could entrepreneurially replicate yourself for revenue. A human style robot who behaves just like the awesome Lisa has done to be employee of the month a zillion times. All that hard work you’ve done over the years to hone your skills and build your reputation in your job, becomes your opportunity. You can replicate yourself and what makes you special and good at your gig, and become the beneficiary of all your years of hard work.

“I’ve trained and sold 36 Lisa robots this year” 

A revenue source someone waiting tables never thought they’d have. If you think about it, there was a time when musicians and actors never thought they’d be able to replicate their work for revenue either. They too once had to be in the room to earn money doing what they did. Technology it turns out, can be a great equalizer of opportunity.

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.

Planning – Make it fun

No surprise that we do a better job at stuff we enjoy. So why not make planning your day,  week or goals a bit of fun? Given our plans are so important we’ve got to give them the attention they deserve. Make them worth revisiting, worth re-looking at, more visual. Here’s a sample of my daily plans from the past couple of weeks.

plans-3

They’re certainly more interesting than looking at a typed up plan page or some corporate power point presentation. I actually enjoy scribbling my ideas. And I don’t get lost, as each day is simply a new page (not the mess you see above!)- which I try and do the night before to let it sink in.

When startup stuff is boring – make it fun.

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