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.

How technology weirdly solves the problems it creates

The erudite Kevin Kelly says that the solution to problems caused by technology is more technology. And I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to think that regression might be the solution, but once we realise that technology is literally its own organism, with its own agenda, then we can pretty quickly come to the conclusion that the best way to fix things is to work with the world and its natural trajectory. And technology, given it was invented by natural beings, is simply a force of nature.

I was thinking about what something like the Pokemon Go phenomenon could do if such gaming mechanics where put to positive use. Then weirdly I asked the barista in my local cafe what he did on the weekend and he said he did a fair bit of walking – 50km’s to be exact.. I said, oh cool, do you go up to the mountains or along the river. To which he replied just around the suburbs, no where specific. I said that’s interesting…. and then he finally admitted he was chasing Pokemon.

It got me thinking about digital technology being partially blamed for the obesity epidemic, especially in children… and most likely that digital technology is the solution too. Pokemon Go is one way to get kids moving, but maybe the new Lilly Drone (seen below) or some other kind of Dronian Angel could be used to watch over and follow kids as they move around town. Maybe they can walk or ride to school again as it may alleviate some safety concerns? Who knows?

The point is, we need to open our mind to real problems emerging technology can solve. How it can bring back some positive patterns of the past (walking to school) and invent entirely new possibilities. I think it is exciting.

If you want to read the best book in recent years on this topic, then be sure to get onto KK’s latest effort – the Inevitable. I savoured every word.

What your garage & spare room can teach you about the future

There’s a pretty good chance your spare room and garage is full of yesterday. The equipment, events, life stages, projects and stuff, but mostly ideas of what mattered then. Unless you clean it out (and I know you’ve been planing too for some time) it will be pretty hard to fit anything else in there. In fact, you might have been planning to clean it out to make space for that new project…. some clean floor space to get that idea underway…. some space to let the new come into.

Garage full of junk

Our brains are like that too. They need a spring clean. I’ll go even further and say we need to unlearn some of our outdated ideas from our past. Make room for the new truths of the world we are about to enter. The future will arrive regardless, best we make room for it mentally.

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A simple Amazon strategy every business can implement

Jeff Bezos Genius

The future is a pesky little thing to predict. Much of it will surprise us no matter how well versed we are in emerging technology. A lot will change 10 years from now in ways we just couldn’t imagine. But, some things won’t change, and it is easy to know what these things are. So much so that this is a key question Amazon leader Jeff Bezos bases large parts of business strategy on:

“What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?…. You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time…. In our retail business, we know that our customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want a vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says; ‘Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible.”

And it is clear to see that while they use technology to make these things possible, the future is predictable and something Amazon or any business can build their strategy and infrastructure around. Jeff said this 4 years ago at the Amazon Web Services forum. With 40% of that 10 year window expired, and I’d say it’s all still true. Seems he has predicted the future, just by flipping the question.

So the only question remaining for your business or startup is this: What things can you be working on that just won’t change?

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A business model for every startup

Flying Dog

Here’s a simple business model which should be built into every startup.

Ways to make money using technology which is not available today.

The possibilities of connection are changing so rapidly these days it is quite possible that the way we make money in a few years, is not even technically possible today. The startup may invent the technical possibility, or leverage an emerging possibility for the community they are building. Either way, the path is simple – startups need to ensure that their future revenue streams consider a future possibility, not just the reality of today.

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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.