Online Reputation: Hot Or Not?

A few years ago, I envisioned an online reputation service like this one – thinking that at some point, for some people, anonymity would be less and less important. That being a known quantity, being someone with an excellent reputation, would have to extend to one’s online presence.

The idea was that someone like an eBay seller, or a sole proprietor retailer would want to maintain a stellar online reputation in order to gain more sales – it would start as an extension of your eBay ratings, be decoupled and platformized so that others could write to it. More of a reputation platform.

Of course, since then, we’ve had a raft of services which thrive on anonymity, and it almost seemed like for a while that we were swinging in the opposite direction. Well, at least the hot, fundable and press worthy stuff was swinging that way.

But I think that there is a real need for a real identity service on the internet. In fact, the lack of a solid, dependable identity platform may be something that is holding back a lot of interesting innovation – I mean imagine all of the interesting products and services which we could provide if we just knew that someone was who they really are?

One of the most interesting ideas we were kicking around a few months ago was something like a Glassdoor, but for your future boss or client. For example, when you interview with someone and are thinking of taking that job, how do you know that the guy isn’t a slave driver who forces you to work long hours and through weekends? Or for freelancers, is that potential client really a good guy – or is he a jerk who is going to stiff you?

This is not an easy problem – in my view, (and Yelp is a good example of this) you only get feedback from two camps, the haters who want to take you down, a much, much smaller group of people who had an over-the-top-awesome experience. There is a whole bunch of people in between who might have had a good experience but can’t be bothered to rate it. This becomes even more interesting when you are talking about individual’s reputations as opposed to businesses. I’m sure that there is some magic crowd/cloud combination that works, we just haven’t figured it out yet – my sense is that it will require some kind of big data approach, with a little crowd flavoring.

Hope these guys get some traction, since I think this space will be heating up quickly…

Traity, an alumni of Europe’s Seedcamp and Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups, has big ambitions. It wants to become the standard for online reputation, an opportunity surely missed by eBay’s reluctance to make its reputation scores transportable back in the Dot Com days. Today the Spain, Madrid-based company is announcing a $4.7 million series A round led by Active Venture Partners to help fuel that mission.

via Online Reputation Startup Traity Raises $4.7M | TechCrunch.

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Google I/O : Quick Hits : Keynote


Google I/O kicked off in San Francisco yesterday, here’s a quick summary of what happened, for those of your who missed it…

Android One

Google announced a new mobile hardware platform for emerging markets (although one could argue that there is no such thing anymore) and beyond, Android One will enable phone manufacturers to create cost-efficient less expensive Android phones in developing markets for a sales price that is under $100. Android One will be launching in India this fall. This initiative is meant to produce high quality affordable smartphones at scale, since only 10% of the worlds population have currently access to smartphones.

My take: great idea. We need to get smartphones to everyone.

Android L & Material Design

The next version of Android (called L for some strange reason – what couldn’t they come up with a candy which starts with the letter L – I mean what about Lollipop or Licorice? My guess: they could find a sponsor like they did with Kit Kat. Why not Laffy Taffy, Lifesavers or Lemonheads?) Should be available in a preview version for developers shortly. Along with the new version of its operating system, Google introduced Material Design, which unifies user interfaces across devices for Android, web, apps, tablets and phones. Features include dynamic shrinking and expanding of elements, a more 3 dimensional look emphasized by shadows and bold colors. (learn more here)

My take: Looks like everyone is feeding off each other in the interface space: Google borrows from both Microsoft (who started the whole “flat design” thing with Metro) and Apple (who did the same). Everyone rips bits off everyone else and in the end, while the interfaces all start looking the same – some would say not innovative – at least transitioning from one OS to the other is effortless. But at least Google is finally trying hard to improve their designs: sometimes they lean towards function over form, which is fine by me – since I’m a techie – but for the mass market, Apple has proven that people will live with less than stellar functionality if the thing looks good. I wonder if that speaks to the superficiality of our current culture? (It’s whats outside that counts – ask any Tinder user ;) )

Android Wear

They officially rolled out Android Wear, demonstrating some of the features. About time. I don’t know about you but I’m loving the look of the Moto 360. They did say that design was huge in wearables, and we are starting to finally see some well designed wearables. I wonder if they’ll ever admit that Google Glass was a flub from a design perspective.

Android Auto

Like Carplay for Apple, Google announced Android Auto, an Android platform for the car. The operating system is completely voice enabled, so that the driver can keep their hands on the wheel and the eyes on the road. Google is also releasing the Android Auto SDK for developers to create apps for the platform. No surprises here, but I noticed zero overlap between the automakers who signed with Apple and those who signed with Google. Be funny if you decide your car make based on if they support your phones OS, but stranger things have happened.

My take: Yes, Google needs to be in the car as well, as Apple was playing there. This is a purely competitive play. The innovation will come from machine control of car systems in order to provide a seamless experience.

Google Fit

Google announced its Google Fit health data platform. Within the next couple of weeks, Google will release a set of Google Fir API’s to developers. Data can be collected from various devices, as well as biometric data.

My take: Again, this is a competitive play. Both Apple and Google are playing catch up in this space. Fitbit has the fitness wearable market locked down for the moment. If they were smart, they’d write the Fit / HealthKit spec in order to keep their market lead. And they are pretty smart over there…

Android TV

Google takes another kick at the TV cat by announcing Android TV almost more of a branding play attempting to tie together features and devices that make consuming content easier. Android TV can be used “just like a Chromecast”.

My take: Another shot at trying to unify the smart TV market – lets see if this one works out…

My final take: not much really new and innovative here, much like WWDC, it seems that they are saving the really good stuff for outside of these kinds of events.


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Amazon’s Fire Phone: See It. Buy It. Ship It!


Amazon is super late to the smartphone game – and what can they do to make it innovative?

  1. Screen size isn’t that big, its 4.7
  2. Looks a LOT like an iPhone. I smell lawsuit wafting in from Cupertino, just west of here.
  3. Gorilla Glass 3 on both front and back. What no back screen?
  4. There’s a hardware photo button, been done on Nokia phones
  5. Unlimited free cloud photo storage, that’s interesting. Sounds like that they might using your images to train their own image processing algorithms. Better check that terms of use!
  6. Mayday – which is an interesting idea for on phone help (its been on Amazon Fire tablets for a while), but can it help with other things as well?
  7. This is cool: Basically, see something, anything, point phone at it, press button, buy. Firefly, a new feature which can see and hear the world around it, a recognize products it sees (like art or a box of candy bars or a song playing in the background) and pull up the Amazon listing of that thing so you can purchase it. Show it to a phone number or a street sign and it will recognize it. This would be cool in a Google Glass format – I foresee millions of people holding up their phones as they walk around. My even though they don’t mention it, I’ll bet it could conceivably translate text for you as well. Imagine reading a foreign language sign in English on your phone. show it art and it will tell you about it. This must have been a big reason for the extra cameras they are talking about – an input mechanism to their database. There’s a dedicated Firefly button. Text, audio, image recognizers and content databases, all available via SDK. They’re trying to verb it, as in “I fireflied that book”. Not sure if it will catch…
  8. A 3D display. Ho hum. For some reason 3D locked in a tiny little screen (or even a big one, like the 3D we’ve been seeing in theaters lately) doesn’t really do it for me. My kids have a 3DS and I just don’t see the coolness. Where’s my truly immersive experience, like Oculus Rift? Where’s my  holodeck?
  9. Tilt the device to scroll left and right, or up and down. My GS4 does that. Again, ho hum.
  10. They call it Dynamic Perspective. All of these cameras on the front of the device track your head movements and redraw the screen so that its pointing right at you. The kind of tech they used in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol to get Tom Cruise into that room in the Kremlin.  Or yeah, also useful for games. Not sure if this is a huge innovation, but cool to see in a mass market device nonetheless. Assume that we’ll see all sorts of really cool 3rd party apps which build out this stuff – there is potential here if they can build a developer ecosystem, Twitter-style, in order to build it all the way out.
  11. AT&T exclusive.
  12. Seems like no Siri, Cortana or Google Now (will Google get that they need a mascot name for this thing – maybe they can call it Eugenia or Gloria or something – Brin or Page’s mom’s name?) type voice commands so far.
  13. Pre-order now! It will be shipping July 25th. I thought the real kicker would be that they’d price it at something like $99, but it looks like its going to be a minimum of $200…they are letting you buy it on installment for $27 a month through the AT&T Next program.
  14. A year of Prime membership comes free with the phone. I see what they did there. If you are already Prime, you get a free year. What’s that $80?
  15. See thing. Buy Thing. Ship Thing. Amazon Wins!

Some interesting stuff here. Lots of potential in Firefly. I’d be interested in seeing how 3rd parties add value to the first real world sensing phone. Of course, Amazon’s first use case would be to help their customers buy more stuff, but I’m sure that there are all sorts of cool uses we could come up with.


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Facebook’s Slingshot : First Impressions : Fun But What?

p5xiymG0_400x400Just playing around with Facebook’s new snapchat-killer Slingshot.

fun but what?

People can send you pictures or video, which can either be like that (kind of like Vine) or you can doctor them up with text and a drawing tool. Just like Snapchat the images and video are ephemeral, but in a different way – they stay on the screen until you swipe them off, then they are gone.  What’s the rub? Well, you can’t see what someone has sent you UNTIL you send them something back. While this is an interesting factor which will probably force engagement, I wonder how long it will take for people to just get tired of that. I mean, how do you END a conversation? I have no idea…

maybe we’ll have to go back to the good old days of radio “OVER AND OUT”

Other than that – it seems cool – we will have to see how long it lasts. I played around with it for a bit and it looked pretty fun, to start with, especially being able to share short looping videos was cool. There is also a feature called “reaction”, which splits the screen in half, showing your message in the top half (image or video) and the reaction in the bottom half. Like Snapchat, it all goes away, so you can’t save any of it even if you wanted to…so even those moments you want to keep are gone once you’ve swiped.

the log in mechanism is a but weird – I used my phone number – not my Facebook log in – and there seemed to be no way to add any of my Facebook friends directly to my list, you have to SMS them to get them on board, which is laudable for non-Facebook users, but if they really want to leverage virality they should open up the Facebook connectivity ASAP. I’m sure its planned soon, if not already there. Maybe I missed it??

So, so far, fun but we’ll see if it has legs…send me a sling if you like – username thinkfuture

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3 Reasons You Need A Silicon Valley Incubator


Hangry For Innovation?

Hangry for innovation, much? Just read that even McDonalds has an incubator for digital products now – I mean who DOESN’T have a secret (or not so secret lab) around these there parts. And the reasons are usually the same:

  1. The talent is here. We love it here and we don’t want to leave! But seriously, its not just that – we get that all of these companies want to drink deeply of the magic innovation potion which is Silicon Valley, but at the same time, most likely these companies are going to have a tough time recruiting people to join – even the most innovative of the groups? Why you ask? Well, there is no startup style huge upside to working for say a big bank, a big telco, or someone like McDonalds. Where are the massive stock options? Where is the huge pop which will turn me into an internet millionaire (or billionaire nowadays). Its not there. But you and I both know that that kind of success if fleeting and very rare – you’d more likely be struck by lightning than become an overnight billionaire. On the flip side, however, I’ve now worked in two environments like that, and I have to say that not being worried about your next paycheck (or your rent) is a pretty good incentive. You can still do very cool stuff, but you don’t have to worry so much about the whole thing going belly up (you do, however need to worry about cutbacks, especially if your company considers innovation marketing and not true innovation)
  2. Being up to speed on the latest tech is no longer a nice-to-have, but totally essential. There is a growing disconnect between customers and corporates – those corporates are literally aging out of their markets and new startups and other upstarts are eating up that market share. This happens in the tech space (who under 40 uses AOL? who dates on when they can use Tinder?) and is happening regularly in other spaces – why open an account at your parents bank when you can use stuff like Simple? Why go to McDonalds when you can eat cooler things at food trucks? Like it or not (take that, all of those other “Silicons” out there) this is where it all starts. So if you want to know what’s really next, you need to be here.
  3. It’s marketing! All of your advisers, investors and customers will be impressed that you actually have an incubator (or lab, or accelerator) in Silicon Valley, and your stock price will shoot up. In fact, simply announcing that you are planning to launch an incubator in Silicon Valley will probably knock it up by a few percentage points. But then you’ll need to build one!

It’s not easy, but once you have an incubator set up here, you’ll reap the rewards of interesting new ideas and products that you could develop in the digital space, which you may (or may not) have been able to come up with on your own.

If you ARE thinking about setting one up, let me know. I can tell you where you should and shouldn’t put it. Like the article below says, you can get some great tax benefits from setting up in that area of San Francisco. So the city is good. As is Palo Alto. But that’s about it. Anywhere else and people from outside the Bay Area are like “You’re setting up a lab where??”.

Like for example, Colma.

The fast food joint with over 300 billion served just opened shop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. The twist is they’re making digital products, not hamburgers.

via That Time McDonald’s Launched A Digital Incubator in Silicon Valley | TechCrunch.

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3 Things That The Apple iWatch Must Be


Is This The Mother Of All Wearables?

Apparently, Apple is planning to launch the mother of all wearables later this year, something that the rumor mill has dubbed the iWatch (of course it could also be the iBangle or the iWrist or something like that). If you can believe most of the reports, told breathlessly by Apple fanboys and fangirls alike, it will be as innovative, if not even MORE innovative, than the iPod and the iPhone combined.

So I got to thinking – what would Apple have to do with a wearable to make it even more innovative than either of those arguably market making devices?

Well, for me, it would have to be:

  1. Fantastically designed. Some of those curved screen interfaces are cool. If the screen truly did encircle the whole wrist and was able fully change color, chameleon like, that would be interesting. All of the outer surface should be screen. I know that would make many of those fashion conscious users very happy. In fact, that was one of the key issues in wearable adoption that was repeated over and over at the wearables conference that I just attended – it has to be fashionable. It’s no longer fashionable to wear a watch among certain demographic groups, period, so the look of the device has to transcend watch territory and go into fashion accessory land. Apple has proven its design chops, so I’m not too worried about this one, although of late it has trended behind the curve, especially with all these big, beautiful Android based mobile phone screens out there.
  2. Amazingly useful: Unlike a lot of the single function wearables out there, it should be a fully multi-functional device. Not only does it need the fitness sensors as a base level foundation, it also needs security features (such as the ability to unlock things and confirm my identity) and payment features (I should be able to pay for things just by waving my wrist over a sensor, like when I buy my lattes at the Bucks). It should not just give me a raft of data, but it should also help me use that data in order to change my negative behaviors and reinforce my positive behaviors. I know that a lot of that is on the ecosystem around the device, but for the device to be truly as useful as my smartphone, it will need that ecosystem. This one is a little trickier, but it can be done. Some tech, such as heart rate monitors, which is useful for both health and security (see the Nymi) might require a sensor tight up against the skin, which will restrict the design somewhat. But I’m sure that if it won’t look good, those sensors will go.
  3. Standalone. This is the kicker: it needs to be able to operate on its own – without my iPhone. That’s right folks, if Apple really wants this device to be truly revolutionary, it needs to be an out-of-the-box replacement for my iPhone, Galaxy S5 or any other device I might be carrying around in my pocket at the moment. It has to include all of the electronics that are in my iPhone, in a beautiful wearable device. It can’t just be a front end to my phone, like the Pebble Watch or the Samsung Gear. It has to literally and truly be the next iPhone – a standalone wearable device which will make me want to leave all of those clunky, chunky rectangles with rounded corners behind.This of course is not so easy – while the tech is there, things like GPS suck up a ton of battery, so the device will require a lot of charging etc. Be very cool if it was a wireless charger which you could just put on your bedside table which charges it while you wear it, and of course track your sleep.

Now THAT’S innovation. But will we see that? Likely not. My gut tells me that the Apple iWatch will be a beautifully designed accessory to the iPhone. All of the fanboys and girls will buy and use them sight unseen. For the rest of us, is the utility of the iWatch simply being an interface to our phone good enough? I’m not so sure.


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Self Driving Cars From Google

Who needs cars when we have a fleet of these at the ready? Are you ready for seamless travel?

About 10 years from now, the local travel experience could be completely different – for some that is – those that simply see cars as an object which can take them from point A to point B, as opposed to a status symbol. Imagine subscribing to a car service – when you need a car, you simply press a button on your phone. The ETA will appear on your phone and it will buzz when the car has arrived. You get in, it automatically takes you to the store, then goes away. When you are ready to come home, you call another car, which takes you back. You can even send it to pick up your kids from school, pick up your groceries at the store (your order has of course already been placed automatically by the systems which manage your kitchen and your house) or any other errands you might need done.

Of course, like Google Glass, even if this doesn’t end up being the final form factor for most autonomous cars, Google has pushed the envelope once again, and car manufacturers will not only respond, my guess is that a whole new set of companies might spring into being to also build cars like these. Now is the time to start thinking about a world with autonomous cars would look like – how would something like that affect your business?

Google is to start building its own self-driving cars, rather than modifying vehicles built by other manufacturers.

The car will have a stop-go button but no controls, steering wheel or pedals.

Pictures of the Google vehicle show it looks like a city car with a “friendly” face, designed to make it seem non-threatening and help people accept self-driving technology.

via BBC News – Google is to start building its own self-driving cars.

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RIP: Windows XP


I was at COMDEX  in Las Vegas when Bill Gates strode purposefully onto the stage back in 1995 and did a demo of Windows 95. I still remember thinking that I saw beads of sweat on his brow when he was demoing that “brand spanking new Plug and Play technology” (which at the time Apple had already nailed). Bill plugged a drive into the computer and patiently waited for the icon to appear. In front of thousands of people. Just when I thought he was going to flip out from the stress of the moment, the icon appeared and you could see him visibly relax.

He also played a video of “what things were going to be like in 2005″ some of which was pretty prescient (like touch screen tablets) and other’s not so much (the video featured some people driving around in what they called “an old Oldsmobile Aurora” – guess Bill wasn’t prescient enough to realize that Oldsmobile would be gone by then).

Of course, even the touch screen tablet was a bit off, I think they had this in-car system but the screen was giant – kind of like having a 23 inch flat screen attached to your windshield. Yep, Microsoft had predicted something like the iPad, about 15 years early. I wonder if Steve Jobs was in that audience.

But I digress. That was ’95, XP was a different beast. XP was truly the first broad based consumer and business focused OS which wasn’t built on DOS. It really was its own thing, it was the first OS from Microsoft to use the Windows NT kernel (remember NT meant New Technology)

I’m actually surprised that Microsoft supported XP for as long as it did, but I can totally understand why it ended up everywhere – almost like a poor mans embedded system. That thing powers everything from gas pumps to cash registers to that little trolley thing that hospitals use to capture your information when you check in. I think I still have a netbook in the garage which runs XP, that thing was solid as a rock. I bet I can fire that up right now and it would still be a great experience. In many minds, still better than Windows 8. (Full disclosure, I have Windows 8.1, and a touchscreen, and I love it. Seriously. No, I do.)

Things in the tech world progress and change at a crazy rate. If you ask me Moore’s Law is nothing – we are seeing change at a much faster rate than ever before, especially in the software space – where there are really no physical limitations to what you can do. On the one hand, software keeps getting better and better (if you, ahem, forgive, asides like Vista) but on the other hand, for many enterprises, who have to think about huge changes from top to bottom when rolling out a new OS to the organization, its not an easy decision. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Well, it might not be broke now, but at some point, it WILL break. New hardware, new security threats, software companies don’t simply release new versions in order to help their bottom line, they do it to improve the product, release new features, and protect against new threats.

Case in point: the Heartbleed bug, which is making the news this week, exposed a serious vulnerability to OpenSSL, which drives a HUGE chunk of the internet. People everywhere are scrambling to patch for it. This is not something that is going to go away – if anything it gets worse.

So you will, at some point, even if your software manufacturer doesn’t decide to stop supporting your software, still need to upgrade. The whole question is when. Some wait until the last possible moment, others are more proactive, still others wait until something breaks. But in most cases, you can’t wait until something breaks – even though it might cost a lot to upgrade, it also costs a lot to support and maintain an old OS. Probably even more, as the skill set to maintain that OS starts to retire to Hawaii (or Florida). Try looking for someone to program an Altair 8800 nowadays.

So lets have a toast to XP, it was a great OS, and we’ll miss you. Don’t worry though, your spirit (and probably some bits of code) live on in Windows 7+, so even though you’re not around – we still feel your soul. :)

“THIS week sees the last batch of bug fixes and security patches that Microsoft will issue for Windows XP. After April 8th, computers using the 13-year-old operating system will continue to work just fine, but all technical support for XP—whether paid or otherwise—will cease. In a change of heart, Microsoft has at least agreed to continue issuing updates for its Security Essentials malware engine, which runs on XP, until July 2015. Apart from that, users who continue to rely on the thing will be on their own—at the mercy of mischief-makers everywhere.

via Difference Engine: End of the road for Windows XP | The Economist.”

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Innovation Is Not Marketing


Too often, the whole concept of innovation, and I mean, real, true innovation, is kind of a foreign thing to many companies. They treat their whole innovation function as simply a marketing play, not even an R&D play. They spend a ton of money, time and resources to develop cool new things, only to kill them before they can get into the development pipeline.

The reasons for this are numerous:

  1. The established order within the company sees innovation as a fun toy to be played with, but not a serious business
  2. The established order is aware that the innovation is the next true path of the company, but is afraid to admit it (hubris)
  3. The established order is unaware that the innovation that they are building internally will eventually replace their business
  4. The established order figures that business is doing fine, and any innovation from outside is not a real serious threat
  5. The established order thinks that innovation efforts establish the companies “coolness” but little else
  6. All of, or a combination of, the above.

I’ve run innovation programs at some pretty big firms and I can tell you that the surest way to kill innovation is to have a program which extracts it, then does nothing with it. Your innovators may release one or two ideas to you, but if those don’t go anywhere, then they usually keep the rest to themselves, maybe to start their own startup with that idea. That kind of stuff is rampant here in the Bay Area.

Innovation is not marketing. Innovation can be fun, but it is serious. Innovation is the future of your business. It is corporate strategy. Interesting how calling something “corporate strategy” makes it sounds essential, and something that is core to your business and must never, ever be cut due to lack of funding, and innovation, which some like, oh, some fun things that we do on the side which we can easily do without when the times are tight.

That is the exact opposite of what should be happening. Your innovation groups ARE (or should be, if they aren’t) your corporate strategy. Its where you are going as a company. Or at least it should be.

So I say unto you – examine the innovation function within your organization, then go big or go home. Is innovation simply a marketing play, or is it producing serious, badass thought leadership which is steering your company?

How can you tell? Simple. Look at your innovation program, not by number of ideas generated, or number of prototypes built, or even numbers of white papers or blog posts written. Look at it from a single data point “How many of these ideas are in use by our customers, internal or external, today?”

If you have generated 2000 ideas, and built 100 prototypes and not a single idea has found its way into production, your innovation program is marketing.

If that’s the case, I’d say, shut down your program and give the money to marketing instead. Or pad your compensation programs because your company will not be around for much longer, and you may as well have a decent exit strategy.

Your innovation program is your child. It is your future. It is the future of your company. If it isn’t, then your company has no future.


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Humanity Cannot Progress Without Heaps


Bill Gates seems to be in the news a lot lately – just a few days ago he said that its OK if half of the startups which comes out of Silicon Valley are “silly”, and just yesterday he came out with a statement saying that its preposterous that there has been a “pause” in innovation – that innovation is slowing down.

Well, Mr. Gates, I beg to differ. If you ask me, not only has innovation slowed down, in some areas, its been completely immobilized. And its not the technology which has slowed us down – if you ask me, that rocks on even better than ever. No, what’s changed is our appetite for innovation. We’ve lost the fire in the belly.

By now you’re probably saying, Chris, what are you talking about? Things are moving faster than they have ever moved before – the power of electronic devices has doubled and quadrupled every year or so, and we could never have predicted that we now hold in our hands and pockets roughly the same amount of computing horsepower as supercomputers of old. Even something a piece of electronics as minute as the camera on a smartphone has virtually rendered actual cameras obsolete – even digital ones. When you can get better resolution from a $500 smartphone than a $1500 Nikon, why wouldn’t you?

But I digress. Sure, those things have progressed. But what are we doing with all that firepower in our hands? We’re playing flappy bird, and sending snapshots to our friends that disappear in a few seconds. Whoa, that’s innovation!

Back in the olden days, say around before the turn of the last century, can you believe that we didn’t know how to fly? That we couldn’t travel enormous distances around the globe in a few hours? That we depended on real horses – yep, a one or two horsepower carriage, to get around? Around that time there was such a huge spurt of innovation that within a few short decades, we invented the car and the airplane and the jet engine. That’s when innovation was truly ripping through the world. It all sort of petered out by the end of the sixties, though.

Since then, innovation in many things slowed to a crawl. It wasn’t because the technology didn’t get better and better.

It was because we stopped taking risks. We got cautious. We got careful. We went all “bubble wrap mommy” on innovation.

I think that, even though we had gone all cautious in most ways and many areas already, I think the big final defining moment was the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. It blew up 73 seconds into the flight and took with it seven souls, one of which was a teacher. In that moment, the space program was over, even though it had sort of lost its way after the moon landing anyways.

Prior to this time, humans took huge risks, hoping for huge rewards. Inventors were perfectly willing to die in order to discover some new thing. From the Renaissance to oh, around 1970, humankind was in this massive explosion of exploration and discovery, and damn the torpedoes. We grew and learnt so much as a species during that period that the mind is dazzled by all we did.

But since then, all we’ve ever done is been incremental. We’ve improved things, but have we really come out with anything new? Even the internet was born near the end of that period, maybe the last really massive innovation.

So what happened? Who knows. Maybe we got all fat and happy. Maybe we decided that it wasn’t worth being killed or maimed in the name of science.

But this is exactly why innovation has slowed, and in some ways stopped. We are holding ourselves back. We are being too careful, too cautious. and as a result, we even passed hundreds of laws to force others to also be careful and cautious. God forbid you take any risks which may injure someone, or the environment, even if it means curing cancer or discovering the secret to living to a 1000.

Some people might argue that this is better – that we should always look before we leap. But some of the most amazing discoveries of the human race were made by those who purposely didn’t look before they leapt, thus unknowingly discovered some incredible innovation we are still using today.

But I say, if we want to return to the days of incredibly rapid discovery, we need to loosen the apron strings a bit. We need to take more risks, we need to stop holding ourselves back – we need to say damn the torpedoes more often.

  • How do we know if we can clone replacement body parts if we don’t try?
  • How do we know if we can cure cancer or AIDS if we can’t genetically manipulate cells?
  • How many people die waiting for drugs due a decades long review process?

We need to stop ourselves from asking “should we”. We should just do.

One of my favorite quotes from Futurama was from Professor Farnsworth in the episode The Prisoner Of Benda. Here is the dialog between Amy and the Professor:

Amy: Good, I’m sick of cleaning up those heaps of dead monkeys. But why would you want your mind in a new body?
Farnsworth: Well, as a man enters his 18th decade, he thinks back on the mistakes he’s made in life.
Amy: Like the heaps of dead monkeys?
Farnsworth: Science cannot move forward without heaps! No, what I regret is the youth I wasted playing it safe.

“Science cannot move forward without heaps” – its a joke for sure, but it has the ring of truth. We are so worried about ending up on that heap, that we don’t even try – we don’t even take the risk.

True innovation requires risk. And almost everything that we do today attempts to iron the risk out of everything – from cars, to food, to education. We are all trying to play it as safe as possible – to not end up on the heap. But then nothing progresses. Nothing moves forward. No innovation occurs.

By now, we should have flying cars, tiny nuclear reactors powering that supercomputer in your pocket, a just-in-time education system which teaches humans exactly what they need to know, exactly when they need it, food enough for the population of the world many times over, and the end of tyranny through fully open communications between any human on the planet and every other human on the planet.

So here is my call to action: we need to take risks. We need to do new things. Even if they are uncomfortable. Even if people are hurt, figuratively or literally.

If you ask me – the human race cannot progress without heaps.

Gates also disagreed forcefully with economists and analysts who say the pace of technological innovation is slowing, and no longer driving productivity and economic growth. “I think the idea that innovation is slowing down is one of the stupidest things anybody ever said,” he said. “Innovation is moving at a scarily fast pace.””I want to meet this guy who sees a pause in innovation and ask them where have they been.””Take the potential of how we generate energy, the potential of how we design materials, the potential of how we create medicines, the potential of how we educate people, the way we use virtual reality to make it so you don’t have to travel as much or you get fun experiences,” he noted. Innovation doesn’t always work the way we think it might, he pointed out. For example, when innovation is happening fast enough, it sometimes shrinks GDP by disrupting industries e.g. the damage the Internet has had on the newspaper industry or increasing costs e.g. the proliferation of medical technology.”I want to meet this guy who sees a pause in innovation and ask them where have they been,” he said.

via Bill Gates: ‘The Idea That Innovation Is Slowing Down Is … Stupid’ – Uri Friedman – The Atlantic.

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by hellofuture llc