The NBN is bigger than the internet as we know it

The number of people who want slower internet in Australia is exactly zero. The speed we need data transfers to occur at is much fast than our politicians think. The reason for that is simple, we haven’t even invented the technology or industries which will be underpinned by the required connectivity. This is merely the start of the revolution, we are only 20 years into the digital age, and thinking we can even conceptualise how data will be used in the future, and how much of it we’ll need is at best ignorant and in all probability conceited.

Consider this, when oil was first discovered bubbling out of a creek in Pennsylvania in 1859, we had no idea how this material might be used. Maybe for lanterns or heating or maybe even in some machines could use it instead of steam? But the airline industry? That was impossible to conceive as a use case for oil, as was personal locomotion and the plastics industry. Today the airline industry employs over 12 million people directly, and is an important conduit to global commerce.

The NBN is a non-polluting oil well of the future. It should be the conduit to the data economy in Australia. Transfer of data is core to any economy wishing to participate in modernity. Yet, in Australia the NBN has become a political football which is literally risking the financial future of every Australian. I’m flummoxed to hear that the CEO Bill Morrow has claimed that the average Australian (what is average anyway?) wouldn’t require download speeds of greater than 25 Mbps! Either he is deluded, he lacks understanding of exponential technology or he’s towing a political line. Data isn’t about being a techie or young, it’s akin to running water or electricity – In fact, it will probably become a vital remote health care ingredient for our ageing society. Here’s a few things we ought consider, and then start screaming loudly about relating the future of our economy and the technological infrastructure we ought be provided with:

  1. The Governments job isn’t to make a profit out of infrastructure. They should realise that they will profit from new industries built atop of it. They seem to forget the tax we pay (30% min for business) is a quasi joint venture they are the beneficiaries of. They benefit from innovation on platforms, but only when they have the quality the future requires. Besides, it is our money they are already investing on our behalf. Profit centricity is a flawed approach.
  2. Rich Countries are built on rich infrastructure. In less developed nations, the common element is crumbling or barely existent infrastructure. Low quality roads, tangled electrical grids, insufficient education, marginal hospitals. We are squandering the shift as developing nations take their chance and ensure they use connectivity to redefine their economies. Just Google internet speeds by country and see where we rank and some of the surprising speeds of developing markets.
  3. We’ve opened the door to Curve Jumps. There’s a chance that 5G mobile networks will be faster than the jumbled mix of FTTP, FTTN and FTTC NBN Co is now building. The network may obsolete before it’s completed, or even worse, a national infrastructure play could end up being served by global technology conglomerates: Google, Facebook and Space X with their various internet service projects. It’s also possible that 5G mobile networks will circumvent the NBN in cost & speed. By trying to save money, the entire project is at risk.
  4. The future economy lives on the meta-structure. The amount of data we are creating is already doubling every 18 months and we are at the start of the start. All the important innovations of the future will depend on the robustness of technological infrastructure, and will create a new meta -structure of virtual business models which live at a meta level a above the concrete and steel. The trillion sensor economy of the IoT, Desktop manufacturing and 3D printing, Drone based logistics and Virtual Roadways in the sky. All these things require faster than we imagine internet access, unlimited imagination and an ‘over investment’ in the infrastructure.

If we want equal economic opportunity around our big land, then it requires a strong national network, where our regional areas have the opportunity to build a location independent future. Everything humans and governments have ever built that mattered involved taking leaps of faith and investing more than we need now, so we can all benefit tomorrow.

You can listen to my thoughts on the NBN here. And be sure to tune in to 3AW every Monday at 4.30pm as I take on a topic that matters for our future with Tom Elliot.

If you liked this post – you’ll dig my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – a manifesto to survive the tech revolution. 

Why other industries need to call out Facebook’s advertising policy

Let’s for a minute imagine these as Corporate Policies:

Car Manufacturer: We’ll take a car off the road if an unsafe model gets out of the factory and is sold, but we can’t promise all our cars are safe until you start driving them. If you see an unsafe car out there, please let us know. 

Fast Food Outlet: If our pizza has salmonella or listeria, you can return it, but we can’t promise all our food is safe to eat. If you get sick or know someone who did, please let us know and we’ll take the pizza back. 

Packaged Goods Manufacturer: If our shampoo has chemicals that are unsafe and burn your head, we’ll change the formula, but we’re not sure until we sell it if it’s OK. If you see anyone with a burned head, ask them what shampoo they used, and if it’s our brand, we’ll happily take it off the shelf.

This is essentially what Facebook Inc. have just announced as their Global Policy for Advertising. All I’ve done is paraphrase their policy, and changed the product and industry. Here it is below for your reference:

Joel Kaplan – Global Policy VP

“We try to catch content that shouldn’t be on Facebook before it’s even posted, but because this is not always possible, we also take action when people report ads that violate our policy”

Facebook claim it isn’t possible for 2 simple reasons:

  1. Because it isn’t profitable for them to check every advertisement before it goes out.
  2. Because they haven’t been regulated in the same way other media organisations are.

While I understand 2 billion peoples comments can’t be moderated before they’re published, maybe paid advertising on Facebook should be. Facebook at least ought to be held to account financially when their ‘platform’ creates problems for society. Their current MO when anything outside their policy happens is ‘oops, sorry about that’ . They get away with it because society and regulators let them. A good starting point to fix this is to start calling out Facebook for what it actually is – a media company, not a technology business. There is a certain responsibility that goes with being a media company and its resultant influence, yet Facebook continues to flout the responsibility that is incumbent upon such power.  To call it a technology company is ridiculous. All companies employ technology – Boeing and Ford have a far greater breadth and use of technology than Facebook, but at least they admit they sell airplanes and cars. Facebook sells advertisements to their audience, not technology – seems like a media company to me.

It’s also worth noting that the update from Facebook policy resulting from controversy surrounding fake ads and alleged Russian influence on the US election didn’t address the problems of false information, only ‘transparency’ of what was published, promoted and who did it. The extreme targeting possible on Facebook is itself one of the problems. Those likely to spot a misleading advertisement are unlikely to see it. In this sense the promise of transparency is a moot point. A further quote from the statement in relation to advertising via Russian accounts below is quite telling:

” All of these ads violated our policies because they came from inauthentic accounts” 

Not because the information was misleading? And further on…

“Our ad policies already prohibit shocking content, direct threats and the promotion of the sale or use of weapons.”

Apparently advertising false information is OK? No mention of it anywhere… You can read it for yourself here. 

While Facebook promises to create a more open and connected society, it is in reality creating a more silo-ed and disconnected society. When governments first gave out spectrum at the birth of the TV era, it came with the responsibility of providing unbiased news and balanced data on issues affecting society. We didn’t let the idea of innovation or new technology interfere with creating the kind of society we all want to live in.

I think social media is one of the most amazing things to evolve in my lifetime. The power provided through connection and sharing thought has helped me re-invent my career, find like-minds and gain knowledge that just wasn’t available in the mainstream media era. For that I’m grateful.

But it is time that we took its power more seriously. It’s time to add seat belts and brakes to the data vehicles driving our lives and admit that no technology out of control or without failsafes ever benefits society.

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If you liked this post – you’ll dig my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – a manifesto to survive the tech revolution. 

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.

Why energy will be free in under 10 years

It’s easy to forget how many things we used to pay for that we now get to use and consume for free.
Energy is very close to becoming one of them. The global economy is very quickly transforming to an all electric economy. Yes, for both your house and your car. Very soon we’ll only have to pay a one off set up fee to go entirely off grid and generate all the energy (electricity) we need, for free. It will come from the worlds most powerful energy source, the original fossil fuel called the sun. I hear you saying a one off set up free isn’t free, and that’s true, but this is where the economy is changing and catching many existing industrial companies off guard.

 

In the past the factors of production were all centralised: Factories, Retail Stores, Power Plants, Media Channels, Computers. Sector by sector, they are being decentralised as technological advances allow these tools to be cheap enough for us to access them or own them for a very low cost. The super computer in your pocket comes to mind, or the factory you don’t have to own as you access manufacturing capacity via Alibaba. They way it will work is in 3 simple steps:
     

  1. Set up solar panels + Battery storage  = Price X
  2. When Energy bill > 20% of Price X
  3. Finance will fund the off grid set up. (cost of money around 7% for unsecured loans + principal repayment)

It will be much like what happened with our shift from the dumb phone to the smart phone. We have a contract to pay off the hardware (which actually includes hidden interest costs), but in this case, the hardware is paid for by the money we’d normally be paying the electricity company with a quarterly bill. But now it will go to the companies setting up a mini power plants in our homes.

So where are we today with the cost of going ‘off grid’ and having enough energy to power our homes?

The average home in Melbourne, Australia (where I live) uses 16 kwH per day. In order to set up a solar PV, inverter and battery system which can provide this level of energy on a daily basis, in all weather, it currently costs around $25,000 – just google “off grid solar 16kwH” to see the various options. The current average energy bill in Australia is $550 per month. Already the cost is very close to the switch covering the cost of finance and repayment in 3-5 years – the typical length of unsecured loans. The switch will happen very quickly when we consider the rapidly declining cost of both solar panels and batteries. Currently the cost of Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries is falling by 40% every 2 years driven by large scale production efficiencies. Based on the current price trend, within 5 years the cross over will start to occur.

And here is where it gets interesting. It will happen quicker than we think based on other non-battery based system efficiencies:

Solar Panels (PV cells) cost performance improvement 20% per doubling of manufacturing capacity – otherwise know as Swanson’s Law. This too will continue. Within 5 years their cost will be 75% less than they are today, and they will be more efficient at capturing energy, due to energy capture improvements. Since 2011 the average PV panel went from only capturing 11% of available joules of energy to 19% currently. Add to this the potential of a curve jump to better technology and we could surpass even our current optimistic estimates. A report just this week from the Journal of Material Science revealed a way to recharge Zinc Air batteries which could be 5 times more efficient than Lithium Ion. 

And finally, lets not forget that the amount of electricity / and energy we use in the home currently has wastage rates of up to 30%. New devices and IoT functional smart homes will significantly reduce the energy wastage in our homes. Once our houses become IoT enabled, not only will the efficiency and capture of an off grid system be much better, there is a highly likelihood we will not require as much energy as we do today. This is because most devices requiring energy in our homes will essentially become computers. This is where Koomey’s Law comes in. Koomey’s Law states that at a fixed computing load, the amount of battery you need will fall by a factor of two every year and a half. This will  have a more dramatic impact on the energy industry as most machines we use computerise.

When we add this up, all these pieces from different previously isolated sectors, it is clear to see we’ll have all the energy we need from the sun and other sustainable sources. Which means, that unless you sell oil or burn coal for a living, the future is certainly bright.

Check out my new book – The Lessons School Forgot –  thrive in the technology era.

The inevitable merger of our species with machines

It is said that we become the thing we are immersed in. I feel like we are starting to merge with the technology we have become so reliant on. From the world’s most connected human, to a gentleman named Mr Meow Meow who recently had an NFC chip installed in his body to make catching public transport more convenient in Sydney.

For a long time we have been augmenting our bodies with technology – hip replacements, heart valves, contraceptive devices, but until now, most of the technology has been static and does not interact with anything outside the body. We may be on precipice of radical change.

This week I had a discussion with ABC radio on the issue and even a potential split in our species – organic humans and augmented humans, or cyborgs… These here are interesting times. Click here to have a listen.

Be sure to follow my instagram page – @sammartino with regular posts on the evolution of technology, and making sure you too, are future proof.

Stay rad, Steve. 

Expertise during a data explosion

No one really knows how much data is being created in the world. We know that most of the data that exists was created in the past couple of years. Some people say it is doubling every year. The reason that this is even possible comes back to lower barriers of entry. Until we had low cost computing, internet connectivity, and more recently the smart phone, data was isolated, segmented and verified by institutions who were given the authority to create, curate and store it. Authority in this instance was a function of finance. The cost of creating permanent information was expensive – print materials, broadcast hardware, costs of distribution all limited the ability for information to be created and shared. It meant there was far less data, but it also meant we knew where to look to find what was available.

Data has moved from being something which was structured, in know-able places, to something which is unstructured, distributed and without authority. It’s now organic, alive and rapidly evolving. Authority and tools go hand in hand. Now that the tools of creating and storing data are omnipresent and almost free, their is no authority governing it. This means two important things:

  • It will continue to increase exponentially
  • Knowledge no longer has a boundary

So how can anyone be an expert on anything?

In this environment expertise has no choice but to change. No one can know everything, even in the most niche of subjects. If we add to this the idea that the major factors of production are shared – that being 1’s and 0’s – then the potential for cross fertilisation of ideas is infinite. What is true today might be kiboshed tomorrow by new inventions, ideas and collaborations.

The new art of expertise has to become this – knowing where to look and who to rely on.

While we’ll never know everything that has ‘just happened’ and we’ll never be able to predict exactly what is next, we can study the trajectory. Pattern recognition, is quickly becoming more important than knowing. What experts will need to be able to determine in the future is how likely something is, how to assess the sentiment of future behaviour and how to be able to verify what just happened. Expertise is becoming a weird kind of reverse archaeology.

Increasingly what we need to know is how to work with the tools to uncover knowledge as it is created.  The age of memorising things for future reference is quickly becoming obsolete.

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Come join me Tuesday Night in Melbourne to dig into your future and some of The Lessons School Forgot – register here. See you then, Steve.

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.