I don’t know about you…but frankly, it’s easy to fall into a funk and be depressed about today’s so-called Hi-Tech. So-called, because while there is a lot of real Hi-Tech out there somewhere, what we call and overvalue as such is really data sales, media, retail and transportation…with occasionally fraudulent biotech thrown in for good measure.
Although I have been beating this drum forever (and my lonely soapbox has occasionally made me feel like one of those crazies in Hyde Park or Times Square), I am happy to say that the tide seems to finally be turning.
Knee-Jerk Alert! This doesn’t mean many of those tech companies aren’t really great users of today’s technology in ways that others aren’t—or weren’t. But let’s be clear: Nobel Prize winners they are not.
Authors Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan articulated the issue well back in 2016 in an article called, “The Internet of Stuff Your Mom Won’t Do for You Anymore” in The Harvard Business Review. Their thesis was simple and to the point:
“Every startup in Silicon Valley wants to be the next Facebook.”
So as we struggle with data theft, fake news, echo chambers, cyber bullying, social addiction, and annoying targeting masquerading as helpful and important information…it’s easy to become a Luddite (see my last post).
Or as Aziz Shamim put it:
“SF tech culture is focused on solving one problem: what is my mother no longer doing for me?”
But do not despair. I repeat, do not lose hope!!!!!!
We have more than hope. Real people doing real things are using today’s technology to help save the world…not just to sell another pair of purple whale pants no one really wants.
What got me excited this week was a story about data sharing of the sort the Internet was created for. It began over a fence in a backyard, as reported by Joanna Klein for The New York Times in “How Do You Count Endangered Species? Look to the Stars.” Klein writes:
“The conversation started over a fence dividing two backyards. On one side, an ecologist remarked that surveying animals is a pain. His neighbor, an astronomer, said he could see objects in space billions of light years away.
And so began an unusual partnership to adapt tools originally developed to detect stars in the sky to monitor animals on the ground.”
I will let you read the full story and hope that you get as excited and inspired as I was, but here is the summary:
“The scientists developed a system of drones and special cameras that can record rare and endangered species on the ground, day or night. Computer-vision and machine-learning techniques that help researchers study the universe’s oldest and most distant galaxies can now be used to find animals in video footage.”
And of course, there are more applications:
“These astro-ecologists are also working with search and rescue groups to help find people lost at sea or in fog.”
And there you have it. Nothing of interest to the so called Hi-Tech community, no big bucks or astronomical valuation, and they won’t lose enough money to make them really interesting or “disruptive”. Besides, if the drones can’t deliver pizza, who cares?
I have begun combing the web for stories like these just to renew my faith. And I’m happy to report that I’m born again. Check for yourself, be inspired, and share them around!
Technology can change the world—not just in the disruptive way of Wall Street and Digibabblers, but in profound and meaningful ways as articulated above. But that kind of change, that kind of transformation, comes only when we take a People First approach to solve societal problems that affect the future of our world, our planet…and humanity.
Albert Einstein was a man lightyears ahead (no pun intended) even without today’s technology. Can you imagine him today?
Einstein said it best. Listen:
“The human spirit must prevail over technology”
The man was no Luddite, and he certainly “disrupted” in his day. His point and his whole philosophy of life was always People and humanity before all else…because from there, all else comes.
Thanks for listening. I’ve just shared my first Twitter post of the day, and I’m off in an Uber to the Amazon store. As I said, all of this technology is great. It’s just can’t be equated to saving the world.
What do you think?