Category: trends

The Miracle

it-transform-0-monarch_butterfly_danaus_plexippus_caterpillar_2000pxWe live in miraculous yet challenging times.

Miraculous, in that the world is as peaceful, prosperous, and populous as at any time in history.

Challenging, in that socially, politically, and economically, nations and multinational organizations are competing with each other and emergent groups for future primacy.

On the economic front, it’s a time when every leader of business – large and small – should be going to sleep and waking up thinking about what kind of transformation is on its way (or already underway!) impacting the viability of their company.

it-butterfly-polyommatus_bellis_antiochena_-_hatayin_cokgozlu_guzelmavisi_30Transformation. Not change; not evolution.

But, a thorough and dramatic conversion form one from to another. Like the mutation of a caterpillar to a butterfly.

BEYOND IMAGINATION

Pick up your phone and check your email or voice messages.  What just happened?

They say miracles are the stuff of angels. But, we live in a time where the everyday task of communicating with one another is a miracle of human ingenuity.  And it involves ingenuity on a scale simultaneously so small and so large, that it is nearly beyond imagination.

Take a strand of your hair.

Now, imagine a tiny strand of glass, less than a tenth as thick as your single strand of blond or brunette or black hair.  And each strand of this tiny glass is carrying up to 10 million telephone calls.

Now imagine a fiber-optic cable, made up of 100 or more of these incredibly thin strands of glass or plastic, known as optical fibers. That’s a possible 1 billion telephone calls, traveling that one cable, or enough for 1 out of every nearly 7 people on Earth to be talking on the phone at the same time.

Now feel your pulse.

At rest, the average adult heart rate is one beat per second.  One beat, one second.  With every beat of your heart, AT&T Labs is performing hundreds of checks on every byte of data it handles on its global networks.  These checks are to ensure the data is safe, secure, ‘unbroken,’ and conforming to many other standards and government regulations.

How much data does it handle, you might ask?  AT&T Labs’ former CEO, Keith Cambron, estimates an amount of 80 petabytes (a billion megabytes).

That is a number so large that it represents all of the books, all of the audio recordings, all of the movies, and all of the photographs ever taken.  Every day.

IT IS EARLY

As miraculous as these marvels of human ingenuity are, we are in the early innings of a massive phenomenon that is far greater.

Possibilities coming from an age of computing power and connectivity, available all of the time, everywhere.

In the palm of your hand… in your ear… in every pane of glass surrounding you… under your skin… woven into your clothing… How each of us responds to this miracle will be different. You may revel in it, you may accept it, or you may refuse to embrace it.

But, regardless of your response, as Sheriff Ed Tom’s father says in the great modern crime movie, No Country for Old Men, says “You can’t stop what’s coming.” (Timemark 01:50 in the clip, for the impatient.)

BdyHax 2017 Top of Mind

I was, what we call in Texas, “dog sick” this past weekend. Likely the result of 2 straight weeks of travel + weather changes + being-around-recently-sick-people.

bdyhax-4But that didn’t keep me from getting over to the Austin Convention Center for a 45-minute walk through of the  exhibits at the 2nd Annual Bodyhacking conference, Jan 27-29.

I was intrigued when I heard about the conference a year ago from my Austin tech colleague Christopher Calicott of Trammell Ventures, to the point which I volunteered to serve in a modest capacity on the Advisory Board.

It was an attempt to bring together a range of products, services & technologies which on first blush seemed unrelated or modestly related at best. Things like tattooing, body art, implantable medical devices (think pacemakers),

…AND lifestyle sensors (think Ethereum– or NFC-enabled), 3D printing, machine/human prosthetics, cognitive-targeted nutrition,

bdyhax-1…AND wearable art/haute coutre, AR and VR, all-things-wearable (Fitbits, Apple watches, etc.) and more!

But, the more you think about these categories, and especially extend them into the future, beyond what you know or see today, the more you begin to see how the case can be made for pulling them all together into a single, conference program, unified around the “future self” — what’s inside us, on us, around us, etc.

Here’s what caught my eye, during my walkthrough:

bdyhax-2Fashion: the garments on display seemed to make a big tip of the hat to the iconic work of the Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, which just finished a smashing run in the U.S. at the Grand Rapids Art Museum!

Haptics everywhere: back in 2010, I wrote about haptic tech being the “next communications breakthrough” and, to some extent, many of the products I saw told me that my hunch remains on target. Products on display from Somatic Labs, Neosensory, Omius, and Brainport were all examples of processing various sensory (e.g., visual or audio signals), environmental, or other data sources by translating and conveying  them in “touch” on the wrist, on the upper body, etc.

In particular, take a look at the Moment, by Somatic Labs. In addition to experimenting with the initial apps they are releasing, the team plans to provide access to the device via a set of developer-friendly APIs. I think it will be fascinating to see what developers might do, especially when you start thinking about platforms like Slack or IFTTT.

BTW: you can get an additional $20 discount on the Moment with pre-orders by using the promo code: BDYHAX.

bdyhax-3VR and AR inescapability: They (as well as AI and “big data”) are the darling of this decade. At the moment, a lot of experimentation going on — definitely akin to social media 1.0 products from 10+ years ago, with playfulness and creativity remaining a big VR theme.

As a counterpoint, I’m eager to see what VR and AR demos Capital Factory rolls out in its new first floor expansion space, expected around SXSW 2017, two months hence — it should be epic and, I’m betting, more balanced between work and play apps.

So, those are my top-of-mind observations from 2017. Much, much more to come, no doubt, in this fascinating, poly-product tech marketspace.

Ten Favorite Futurists

1137px-van_gogh_-_starry_night_-_google_art_projectThis is a Top Ten list of books, stories, and one documentary film written by or about my all-time, favorite futurists…a label, by the way, that several (most?) of them might have resisted.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932) — I’ve always favored this vision of the future more than Orwell’s dystopian vision in 1984 because it has rung truer. For me, the future is less likely one where we are tortured and frightened into submission, but moreso one in which we are seduced and willingly manipulated into complacency.

On Computable Numbers, Alan Turing (1936) — I’m amazed at the genius of this paper, produced by Turing when he was at university. He literally invented the concept for the modern computer out of pure thought.

The Veldt, Ray Bradbury (1950) — Bradbury is my all-time favorite science fiction writer. This short story of unanticipated consequences of well-intentioned technology (a frequent theme) was a first introduction for me to concepts we see in virtual reality and smart home tech today.

The Cuckoo’s Egg, Clifford Stoll (1989) — Stoll’s book on tracking a cybersecurity break-in, written like a thriller, was my first exposure to the hidden world of hackers, white and black hats, and the global threats & protections that are part of our worldwide networks.

Heavy Weather, Bruce Sterling (1994) — I go see Sterling speak every year at SXSW Interactive. This book was my first exposure to climate change…published a dozen years before Al Gore’s breakthrough documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla, Marc Seifer (1996) — Tesla is the prototypical, 20th century example of a person who struggles all of their life to achieve the level of financial and professional success that, upon historical reflection, they seem due — even when they have both the genius and the work ethic, during their lifetime, that most would say are “all you need.” In certain respects, I think Tesla’s life is one of the great reminders of the career cliché “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

The Cluetrain Manifesto, Rick Levine and others (2000) — the guys nailed the open source and social media waves to come, upon the commercialization of the internet and the world-wide web. They are great examples of modern-day futurists, whose rewards are more reputational than financial.

The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil (2006) — there is no greater, present manifesto supporting the unwavering truth of an AI-dominant future. In other words, this book makes clear “the question isn’t ‘if’ it’s ‘when'” the singularity occurs and how we have prepared for that moment.

You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier (2010) — if Kurzweil is the gas pedal, then I view Lanier as the break pedal. Not a fully fair analogy, because both have thrown fuel and water on the fires of tech hype. But this book and Lanier’s 2013 follow-up, Who Owns the Future, are counterpoint appeals to putting the needs of individual people first — especially the creative class —  ahead of technology.

David Bowie: Five Years, Francis Whately (2013) — this documentary, somewhat like the biography of Tesla, captures the lightning of genius. Watching it provides glimpses, through the stories of others, of what it’s like to be a member of the supporting cast of a one-of-a-kind creator, in real-time, during the most productive and iconic phases of their lives.

Getting Hooked On Products

I recently swept through the book Hooked, by Nir Eyal. It was an easy read, presenting in clear, simple language mostly repackaged concepts from prior work of others.

I have no quarrel with that, btw, as I’d assert nearly every new best-selling book is a repackaging of prior work. The business book marketplace is built upon the premise of an endless appetite people have for insights, methods, and other promises of some slight advantage.

Who isn’t seeking knowledge that will “get you a step ahead” of your competition? But, back to Hooked

I jotted down a few of the more noteworthy take-aways, that I’ve shared below. If you are further intrigued by persuasion, reputation, and other topics of involving the intersection of technology and human behavior, read one of my posts from a few years ago and seek out the book Persuasive Technology.

So, without further delay, my Hooked excerpts:

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img_9715_srgbWhen it comes to shaking consumers’ old habits, naïve entrepreneurs often find that better products don’t always win — especially if a large number of users have already adopted a competing product.

A classic paper by John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, stipulates that “many business innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”

Gourville claims that for new entrants to stand a chance, they can’t just be better; they must be nine times better. Why such a high bar? Because old habits die hard and new products or services need to offer dramatic improvements to displace the old routines.

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img_9717_srgbWhile user habits are a boon to companies fortunate enough to engender them, their existence inherently males success less likely for new innovations and startups trying to disrupt the status quo. The fact is that successfully changing long-term user habits is exceptionally rare.

Altering behavior requires not only an understanding of how to persuade people to act — for example, the first time they land on a web page — but also necessitates getting them to repeat behaviors for long periods, ideally for the rest of their lives.

Companies that succeed in building a habit-forming business are often associated with game-changing, wildly successful innovation. But like any discipline, habit design has rules and caveats that define and explain why some products change lives while others do not.

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img_9719_srgbIn his book “Something Really New: Three Simple Steps to Creating Truly Innovative Products,” author Denis J. Hauptly deconstructs the process of innovation into its most fundamental steps.

First, Hauptly states, understand the reason people use a product or service.

Next, lay out the steps the customer must take to get the job done.

Finally, once the series of tasks from intention to outcome is understood, simply start removing steps until you reach the simplest possible process.

Consequently, any technology or product that significantly reduces the steps to complete a task will enjoy high adoption rates by the people it assists.

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img_9721_srgbExperiences with finite variability become less engaging because they eventually become predictable.

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END

Two quick End-Notes:

  1. You probably noticed, but the figures lacked any correlation to the content. They just happened to be the more interesting ones to me in the book
  2. If you are interested in my most highly recommended books from the past 20+ years, then browse my Amazon bookstore — enjoy!

Ebook to Softback: The Digest for Students of Entrepreneurship

SBF 2016-2I’m excited to announce that a revised and updated 2016 edition of the Naturally Caffeinated ebook is now available for download.

Further, the ebook is now a “pbook” — a “physical” book, printed as a softback, that you can buy for $10.

For an author-signed copy, send me an email using my Contact page. I’ll send you a link to a secure Paypal page.

A lot has happened since the 1st edition of the ebook was published a year ago.

May 2015

The ebook, sub-titled “Addicted to Entrepreneurship,” was first made available for download, with a new, dedicated Naturally Caffeinated blog for communicating updates, events and more.

We were grateful for the early support and reviews like these:

“I’m flattered to be included. I do wish Steve tremendous success with both the book and the Community!” -Guy Kawasaki, Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Evangelist 

“Your Ebook is now in my iBooks! Awesome pieces of advice!! So many are hard learned.” -Dr. Steve Elmore, Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and Head of Customer Success, Convo, Inc.

“…very well written and seems to hit all the high points of the subject. I applaud your effort and am sure this will be useful to many, many readers.” -Ben Dyer, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, The University of Texas at Austin, Cockrell School of Engineering

“A refreshing and effective guide to help jump-start your new venture.” -Dr. Lynette Reed, Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) and Author, Researcher, Consultant

June 2015

The Community Edition of the ebook was launched, in collaboration with the online publisher, Weeva.

A “pay it forward” project from the beginning, the book’s goal was always two-fold:

  1. to provide lessons learned and stories of inspiration by experienced entrepreneurs for students of entrepreneurship and first-time founders
  2. to donate any proceeds from books sales and other fund-raising raised to programs providing entrepreneurial experiences and education among teenagers

nc-authorsBy soliciting men and women founders from around Austin and the world, we were able to capture the experiences and stories of more than 70 entrepreneurs, with insights in every aspect of new ventures.

July 2015

We agreed to publish two version of a hard back edition of Naturally Caffeinated, combining the original ebook content and the contributions from guest entrepreneurs like Jimmy Treybig, Jan Ryan, Admiral Bobby Inman, Kerry Tate, and many many more!

This edition is available for purchase on Amazon and at the Weeva online book store, where you can also download an excerpt from the hard back edition.

August

We announced that TEDxYouth@Austin – the country’s largest licensed TEDx event focused on young people – would be the first recipient of proceeds raised with the book.

September

PwC, Bridgepoint Consulting, Concepture, and Powershift Group hosted the Naturally Caffeinated: Community Edition launch party at Powershift’s offices, two blocks west of the Capital.

Q4 2015

NC-suzi sosa LinkedIN postLots of promotion and sales of the hard back book, including a great series written by Weeva, highlighting a variety of contributors’ posts, like this one by Suzi Sosa – Are There Gender Differences Holding Women Entrepreneurs Back? and this one – Would You Trade Places with Me? by Greg Businelle.

January 2016

Presentation of funds raised through Naturally Caffeinated to TEDxYouth, from on-stage at the Paramount Theater, during The Austin Forum’s January monthly meeting.

February

TEDxYouth@Austin 2016 was held at Westlake High School in Austin.

March

We began discussing plans for revisions to the ebook edition of Naturally Caffeinated, along with a limited run of printed, softback copies of the book for sale.

April

WIT kidsWe announced that WIT – short for “Doing Whatever It Takes” – would be the second recipient of proceeds raised with the book.

May

We debut the revised and updated ebook, as well as The Digest, at a series of events, including the Small Business Festival, featured in the photo at the beginning of this post.

All Good Things: SXSW Will Die Someday and So Will You

iris plans home page

Let’s talk about dying. Like being born, we all die.

I, for one, don’t expect this fact will change anytime soon, despite what Ray Kurzweil and others hope.

That’s why I’m eager to tell you about Iris Plans, a new startup that is officially launching at SXSW Interactive 2016, although it’s founding team have been working on the venture since late 2015. I’m an active advisor for the company.

The team has developed a way to combine a variety of technologies and services to make a highly tailored form of personalized medicine — known as Advance Care Planning (ACP) — to nearly everyone in the US who would want it, no matter where they are located or when they are available.

The best way to understand a real life situation for ACP may be to watch the video (produced and directed by my son, Andrew Guengerich).

 

UT-Austin CAET Gives Us Some STEAM

UT Ctr for Art and Ent Tech (CAET)I attended the launch event for UT-Austin’s Center for Arts & Entertainment Technology this evening. The Center (or CAET) is a new program of the College of Fine Arts.

As Dean of Fine Arts, Doug Dempster explained, it’s been a few years in the making. But, now that it’s here, the CAET figures to quickly become a significant magnet for UT-Austin’s Fine Arts school.

Why? Because, the CAET’s new Bachelor of Science degree in Arts & Entertainment is the quintessential Gen Z major.

It is the true expression of STEAM – Science Technology Engineering & Math (or STEM) education, with the fundamental integration of Arts, be it performing, visual, digital, or more.

Congratulations to Dean Dempster, Bruce Pennycook (the CAET Director), long-time Austin colleague Paul Toprac (Assoc Dir of Game Design & Dev at UT-Austin), and all of the other faculty and staff for the program.

I, for one, look forward to vetting some of the first crop of BS in AET students, in 2017 and 2018, for internships with our new ventures…the CAET program is fine-tuned to produce future great product, tech strategy, and creative directors, ready to unleash some innovation on the world – can’t wait!