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.

Why we need to stop using the word Job

Today the federal budget is being released in Australia. And before any of the policies emerge, I can tell you what the proposed objective of every single one of them will be:

Jobs & Growth.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 12.27.31 PM

For me, it is heartbreaking to hear this mantra still being chanted as some kind of plan for the future, especially given the industrial age is officially over. We don’t need to provide people with jobs – we need to provide them with the tools and skills of adaptation, because increasingly, jobs will have shorter and shorter life cycles.

The era of lifelong jobs, lifelong careers or life long anything is over. Quite frankly, jobs are not the solution. We are very quickly evolving into an economy driven by independent actors, attracting revenue from multiple sources. In the future, everyone will become ‘Projecteers’. We are already starting to shift inside and outside of companies, providing skills for projects. The best way to de-risk anything financial is to have many sources of revenue – not just one, which is what a job is. Having a job is the riskiest financial strategy anyone can have. Anyone who wants to thrive in the new economy needs to be totally self-reliant.

The good news? It has never been a better time in history to get on the path to independence. To learn and to reinvent ourselves. The first thing we need to do in every industrialised economy is remove the word ‘job’ from our collective parlance. This word is responsible for limiting the possibilities of millions of people – it steals from the breadth of possibility. It says: be subservient to someone else. It says:

  • Let someone else provide opportunities for you.
  • Let someone else decide what you’re worth.
  • Let someone else decide if you’re qualified.
  • Let someone else decide if they need you.
  • Let someone else decide when to replace you with Artificial Intelligence.

The list is endless, but the point is that it outsources responsibility to an economic machine we have no control over. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the government came out and said, “We are going to make it easier than ever to start a business”?

A better approach to life is to think in terms of Revenue – how much do I need, where can I get it and what value can I create for others so I can get my fair share. Everyone’s economic future is not based on the job they have, but the revenue they create for themselves. And the government…well, they just want tax payers and centralised simplicity where they give large corporations what they want so long as they provide jobs for tax payers. We all deserve more than that. We deserve an independent future where the government provides resources for people to invent new industries and revenue streams for a modern economy. We deserve new systems that enable nimble skill providers to adapt to what the economy and businesses need. Jobs are something people had when Henry Ford ran the show, and the last time I looked… Ford wasn’t a company anyone revered.

If you like this kind of thinking about the future, then I’d highly recommend reading my new book – The Lessons School Forgot. You can download the first chapter here free. It’s out in June and is a manifesto on how to financially future-proof your life in a rapidly changing world.

Why we should worry less about the robots, and more about ourselves

As if concocted by some kind of Industrial Séance, the past 100 years has turned people in the developed world into a cohort of economic outpatients. We’ve abdicated our entire financial responsibility to institutions who must now provide us with a stable job, a career for life, increasing wages, and skills that are relevant in perpetuity without the requirement of an upgrade. A strange desire given that this has never happened before.

A close look at history any time before the 1950’s, and we can see we’ve never had any of those things as a certainty of life, quite the opposite in fact. The level of stability, of economic growth and the increase in living standards we’ve experience in the past 70 years is unparalleled in recorded history. For all we know it could be a fortuitous anomaly, a once off that we’ve been lucky enough to experience first hand. But we’re not thankful, instead those who’ve been the major beneficiaries are demanding in advance that the good life not be taken away. That the life we live is some kind of right, a standard we are now entitled to, without any heavy lifting required on our behalf. While very few indeed are asking the resources needed so they can get to work on personal transformation.

Automation & robots

This kind of upheaval isn’t new either. Every period of humanity which found itself in the middle of a technological shift, had those who were disenfranchised and displaced. Some even had entire their civilizations destroyed based on technological lag. Given our current global and economic interdependence this is an unlikely outcome, but yes, the technological shift is big, the biggest in many generations, and yes, it’s happening much quicker than all the others have. The challenge with technological shifts, is that there isn’t any lessons on how to deal with them. It’s not in the text book. We instead must rely on those old school skills of ingenuity and adaptability.

But this time, there is one important difference.  For the first time we have a choice on whether or not we adapt. Every other time if we didn’t have the resources at our disposal, coping in the new system wasn’t just difficult, it was nigh on impossible. This time we’ve been given the dignity of choice. We can prepare, we can up-skill, and we can participate in the shift to the greatest period of entrepreneurship we’ve ever known. We can relearn the art of self reliance. We can do all these things, mostly for free.

Hence there are two approaches we can take to sure up our uncertain futures.

The common approach: We can wait for the Government to fix things, hope for a universal basic income, regulate against technology which destroys our industry’s business model, support populist and protectionist policy makers, and pretend inevitable technologies can be stopped to maintain our status quo.

or

The better approach: We can start today, firstly by admitting what might change in our industry, our economy and our future. Then, we can quickly start working with our communities to create an infrastructure (Physical and Informational) which provides all of us access to the tools and skills we’ll need to help shape the future economy. We can lead others and inspire them to believe they can adapt by sharing what we learn. We can meet with like minds creating income producing ideas, and expanding industries we couldn’t even imagine yesterday. We can decide that hoping everything will be Ok, isn’t a plan, and remember that we aren’t the first generation to face a challenge which might effect how we work and live. But mostly, we can sleep better at night knowing we aren’t helpless outpatients, but the architects of the future we want to live in.

Coming Soon – The Lessons School Forgot – click here for free advance chapter

“What’s exercise?” a question about the future of work

Let’s imagine you somehow got your hands on a working DeLorean – and took a trip back to the not-too-distant past of the pre-industrialised world. And when you arrived, you sat down with someone and asked them this simple question over a semi-dirty glass of water at their kitchen table.

Future Human: Did you exercise today?

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s exercise?

Future Human: It’s when you move your body around and lift things to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, you mean work – is exercise a new word for work? Yeah, sure, I worked today. All day, in fact. All of the daylight hours. I’m very tired.

Future Human: No no, not work…I mean extra movement of your body before or after you’ve finished work.

Pre-Industrial Human: Why would I do that? I’m exhausted. I already did that all day.

Future Human: The reason is that you want to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s staying fit?

Future Human: It means you keep your body in good shape – like ‘thin’, and you remain strong.

Pre-Industrial Human: But my work already does that, and everyone I know is very thin, although I’ve heard stories about the King having a big belly.

Future Human: Well, in the future people do exercise, because they mostly sit down while working, and get fat from eating too much food.

Pre- Industrial Human: Wow, they sit down at work! How much food do they have?

Future Human: As much as they want, all kinds from all over the world…. but let’s focus here…

Pre-Industrial Human: So where do they do this…exercise thing?

Future Human: In gyms, mostly, or running or swimming. Or play sports.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s a gym? 

Future Human: A place with weights, where you lift them, or do classes like spin or aerobics. 

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, where do they put these heavy things they lift? Who are they lifting them for?

Future Human: Oh, the weights are specially made, only for lifting. People just lift them up and down. And the classes teach people how to move their bodies…

Pre-Industrial Human: Wow, this sure sounds strange…

Future Human: Strange, well you should see how they look in their spandex…

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s spandex…

Pre Industrial revolution dirty water

Of course this conversation could go on forever, in many directions and fill the void of the Middle Ages pre-industrial mind with all kinds of physical automation and wizardry of tomorrow. The Exercise Industry, and any flow of money, work and exchange of value associated with it, is of course a pertinent example. The positive energy balance (Read here excess food intake) many humans face would not exist without the invention of machinery to remove human labour in farming and food manufacture. The consequences of outsourcing of gathering our food are not limited only to the gym, weights and spandex. We could add to the list the birth of refrigeration, packaged foods, powered transport, television, the diet industry, Jane Fonda aerobics, education, sporting brands and all manner of things which are the result of us, the first generation in human history to have more people to die from over eating than malnutrition.

For every solution technology invents, it presents two more problems to be solved. It’s a less than a zero sum game where two new revenue streams arrive for every one it takes away. New unintended problems arise and new entrepreneurial solutions can be brought to market. Everything outside of the most basic physical needs are human inventions and the result of some previous invention. But ask me what the jobs in the distant future will be and I can’t tell you, just like a pre industrial human couldn’t fathom the need for ‘exercise’. And while AI will take away the need for many forms of intellectual labour in the near term, we will find new tasks for idle humans. Of this, I have zero doubt. Yes, there will be pain for the unimaginative, unprepared and stagnant humans during the transition, but it’s not the first time this has happened and our personal future depends on our personal actions.

Who knows, perhaps an entire industry might emerge to keep our brains in shape as we outsource left brain logic to the micro chip?

Get secret free chapters of my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – out in May.

The coming changes to your house

It’s easy to forget that the places we live in are a direct reflection of our current technology. We’ve all come a long way since we lived in cave 76 (That was for all the Mel Brookes fans), and we generally are living in houses built on top of the shoulders of giants. Great entrepreneurial, scientific and engineering minds which make the modern world very comfortable indeed. We are currently on the cusp of a quite a few physical changes appearing in our homes. Before we explore what they might be, let’s think about how long some of the currently technologies in our homes have been around:

  • Letter Boxes – mail services started encouraging these to be installed in houses for deliveries in the mid 1800’s
  • Indoor Plumbing – In the 1860’s only 5% of American houses had running water, flush toilets were very uncommon until the mid 1900’s
  • Driveways – much less than 80 years old as a standard inclusion
  • Electricity – uncommon in suburban homes until the 1930’s
  • White goods – (we needed electricity for) rare in modern economies until post WW2
  • Televisions – 1956 in Australia
  • VCR’s – the early 1980s
  • Home Computers – the mid 1980s
  • Internet – the mid 1990’s

There’s many more examples, but you get the picture – where we live changes based on the technological possibilities, and their facilitation requirements of the day. So let’s run a thought experiment on what will begin appearing in homes, based on the technologies about to arrive, and those already here and functioning.

Drone delivery landing pads: With deliveries already happening they need to land somewhere. Apartment buildings are already being designed with them on rooftops, and your house will be no different. Maybe it will have an auto opening lid which closes over after the drop off has been made?

drone landing pads

Smart Toilet: I’ve written about this before – but we can expect it to be our health partner in life, and since Alaphabet had a patent approved on the smart bathroom last year, this is one of those realities which will surprise with its speed of arrival.

Smart shower: One that takes a photo of you everyday… not to invade your privacy, but to ensure it knows you have a dangerous sun spot long before you do.

All glass becomes web enabled screens: If you’ve always wanted a house with a view, well it’s about to come a lot cheaper than anyone expects. All the glass in our homes will become web enabled screens. The resolution of our windows will be indistinguishable from an actual view into the real world. All of a sudden anyone can have a real time, harbour view, which changes perspective on different windows in the house to give perfect perception in real time. Maybe those rich people with actual harbour mansions will make money selling their views via a live feed cam?

Charging stations in all driveways: Our driving future is all electric as is out entire economy. Expect every place cars stop and rest will have a charging facility on hand. If they ever stop – I’ll probably send mine out to work for me when I’m not using it.

Virtual Reality Room: It will be a bit like the home office was, or maybe part of it. We’ll conduct meetings with work that feel so real, we’ll wonder why going to the office is even necessary. We’ll also use our VR rig to shop online for things we want to touch and experience. Our haptic gloves and suits will assist in the purchase process. We’ll also use it to choose hotel rooms, holidays, and even do exercise. In the latter case we’ll have a treadmill which keeps us stationary while we seemingly move around and explore other worlds

Of course the list of ‘new fixtures’ in the home will be longer as many forms of technology will change our habitat. And quite frankly that is the key – not that the technology makes it possible, but that entrepreneurs and emerging startups shine a path on what is possible and make us want it. This is where tomorrows economy will be made up from. Just like Bill Gates promised to put a computer on every desk in every home, and Jobs put one in your pocket, you can put something in our house as well – and you need not invent the thing in question. Exciting times ahead.

Here’s a little radio interview I did on this topic yesterday.

New Book – The Lessons School Forgot coming soon.

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.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I owned a phone

I still have a device which I can use to make calls, but it’s not a phone. I and most other people these days have a globally interconnected super computer. It so happens to have a feature which can make calls. Simple evidence resides in the number of times we interact with it daily, versus the number of calls – they are almost insignificant. We touch our phone hundreds of times a day and we might make a few calls. (Count for the next few hours if you don’t believe me). Here‘s a picture of the last phone I owned below.

Nokia Brick

It’s hard to believe it has nearly been 10 years since the iPhone disrupted the economic time continuum – for a total of 3363 days we have literally have NASA in our pockets. A personal super computer that 20 years ago it would’ve literally cost several millions dollars. And today, it is free. We get the mobile phone for the same price of around $50 a month, but with the super computer as the free prize inside. And while we all know it has impacted some obvious industries like news, media, music, mapping and photography to name a few, it is much more than that. It’s a bit like a new Neo Cortex which is why we feel so uncomfortable leaving home without it. I personally believe it is the start of technology merging with our biology. I’m certain it will enter our body, we can already see the trajectory of the technology getting smaller and smaller and closer and closer to our bodies. We already have wires coming out of it, and directly into us, eventually they’ll be attached permanently, and soon after the tech will aside inside us.

While this phone super computer has numerous life benefits that come with it – it isn’t without it’s own set of externalities.

The Privacy Fallacy

“If you don’t do anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about with privacy.”

We’ve all heard that before and there are many problems associated with this proposition.

Firstly, it has attached to it a basic assumption that only illegal or immoral activities can be used against us. Secondly, many people are forgetting that our phone super computer tracks many activities without us inputting or extracting any data at all. It has a number of sensors which (Ironically like a human senses never stop working) – they are constantly listening in the background to our environment and sending back information to big brother. Accelerometers, Gyrometers, GPS locators, Altimeters, Light sensors, Cameras, Sound receptors. The GPS even works when the phone is off the grid. And here is my personal favourite; Siri records everything we’re saying, all the time, if we agreed to its terms, and most of us do without even reading them. Some of the stuff it knows outside of our web surfing, data input and info requested can be of the most value to governments and corporations.

The problem with the privacy issue, is that data can be converted into discrimination. For example, an innocent person could be put on a watch list because unbekowns to them they associate with say a hacktavist. Just by their phones super computers being in close proximity to each other frequently, a person could be falsely targeted. It’s also easy to see how various forms of insurance could be refused based on private data collected. But we won’t know what the limits of these discriminations until they have already happened. No one has read the back of the cereal box…. (The Terms & Conditions). We are literally playing a game we don’t know the rules to, and this is a very dangerous proposition indeed.

We can’t stop it, but we need to civilise it

We can never stop data tracking. No technology in history, regardless of its externalities has been able to be stopped once released. Especially if short term benefits are greater than long term complications. So we need to civilise the internet – like we civilised cities and factories in the industrial era. We need the equivalent of workplace health & safety, car design road rules and environmental protections, but for peoples data. And we cannot leave that up to the corporate owners of the platforms we use – like all companies their basic incentive is to maximise short term shareholder wealth. What we have now, is each company setting its own laws of usage which is as crazy as it sounds. Especially when participating in the modern economy requires us to use the platforms.

We need a macro generic set of Terms & Conditions for all digital services – where companies only report exceptions. They need to be written in language everyone can understand with consequences laid out. it needs to be taught in schools and in society. If we as the collective users of the internet have the wisdom to force this, then the utopian dream of the web can recommence.