An excellent question from Tom Goodwin Director of the Tomorrow Group & Marketing Writer and Speaker.
I also contemplate the “dominance of the frivolous, a culture of trivia/frivolity” as I sit in non-moving traffic on superhighways, dreaming of riding the open road with a Harley Davidson…….The understanding component of education, determining the direction and uses to which our creation shall be put, is largely missing due to an extremely shallow grasp of Energy, and its equation E=MC2. Opening the energy door, self understanding pours in. One of the better historical analogies of describing this type of group behavioral stage of development is represented in the story of the tablets thrown down the mountain. Energy fundamentals vital to sustainable evolution
Repost from Linkedin New technology is changing everything, abundance and excitement is everywhere and these are boom times, but what if all the sky high valuations, the confidence and the positivity were based on the fundamental misapplication of technology?
We are living in amazing times. It feels like technology is sweeping through every aspect of our lives, and for the better. Our daily newsfeed is awash with realities we never dreamt possible; technology is a relentless, optimistic and transformative force, creating paradigm shifts in our expectations.
It seems so overwhelmingly positive that we never question ourselves and think: What if we were using it wrong?
Plugged into the technology press, the daily list of new apps, startups that get funding and pioneering products, it has come to mind that pretty much everything new is no longer solving a problem or quenching a human need, but being driven only by excitement about what can be done.
I like to imagine a spectrum, from possibilities to solutions and visualize where most of our efforts are focused.
Exploring possibilities is great
Don’t get me wrong, not everything transformative is a solution. Amazing things have come from creating wondrous things that we never craved & never needed. The tablet doesn’t really solve a problem; neither did any person think the horse drawn carriage was inept; Instagram didn’t finally quench our wildest dreams to see each other’s dinners.
When we don’t know what is possible, we need dreamers; we need invention. We need leaps in humanity driven by wild dreams and the serendipitous discoveries in the factory. But perhaps this should be secondary.
What strikes me is in these optimistic and well funded times, is that we’re seeing an abundance of energy spent on what’s possible, not what is needed, or what problems need to be solved.
- Is the existence of “yo”and an app merely to send the word “yo”to each other really helping humanity?
- Are the people working away on iBeacons in the grocery store really expecting that the result will satisfy a need for more stimuli in the shopping aisle?
- Has augmented reality made any improvements to anyone’s life?
- When using my mouth to order a coffee, do I look to my phone for a better way?
Yet the gaze of the technology press, the VC money and the hedge funds is fixated on these trivialities.
Let’s solve problems
It’s not like we suffer for a lack of problems in the world; where are the sky high valuations for the companies that help people recycle? Those that make kids eat more healthily? Those that make it easier to cycle to work? The ones that reduce the effect of corruption or help cure diseases? We have really profound problems in the world that need addressing, but instead we’ve made the quantified fork or the cup that tells you what you put in it
Even if we come down from those lofty goals and focus on the day to day, are there not things that cause daily pain that we can’t solve? Is solving problems too boring for press?
- Our media owners are losing money, resorting to cheap viral content to make money from ads, and we suffer massively for it. Please, can someone find a way to help decent writers get paid?
- We waste hours each month waiting for parcels or engineers at home; if my phone can track a taxi, can’t it track a truck and give me a delivery time?
- Passwords for websites still don’t really work. They are not safe, they are rarely saved, you forget them, and resetting is a pain.
- If my doctor is running late, could I be told before I leave work?
- Phone calls are increasingly a bad way to do things, how about a better way to communicate richly in real time, but where contextual information is shared before committing to speak?
- I have to turn my wi-fi on an off about 5 times a day, when stationary I have to sign back in 5 times per hour.
- And don’t get me started on the amount of time in our lives we are stressed and looking for power outlets.
I made this matrix to help understand where the funding is, where the excitement is and where it should be.
The horizontal access is from solving problems to what is possible. It’s clear, although it’s hard because problems tend to be personal; to some, finding a way to get laundry picked up easily is a problem, and for others it’s finding clean drinking water. But it works.
The vertical axis is harder, as it’s a blend of the level of effort required, but also the impact of the change. I’d like to hear comments on a better way to sort this axis. The idea was a way to allow the highly exciting, transformative, high effort projects that led to the creation of the car, that didn’t really solve a problem to stick out. It’s created 4 sectors:
Inspirational – High effort, high impact projects that are not essential, but highly beneficial.
Transformative – High effort, high impact projects that solve huge problems we face.
Frivolous – Low impact, easily done tasks that don’t reflect a need.
Ingenious – Almost the definition of a hack: a simple, low energy, high impact project that solves a problem.
You would imagine the best projects would be the transformative or the ingenious, and you’d expect funding, given its need, to focus on quick results to concentrate in the bottom right and move to the top left. But reading the tech press every day, I can’t help but see a dominance of the frivolous.
I think what we see in Silicon Valley is a group of young, spoiled, awkward tech guys, unable to see that the problems to solve are not finding a way to talk to girls, or reinventing laundry. We have now somehow created a culture of frivolity. It’s everywhere; in commerce it’s KLM allowing me book a flight by twitter, in advertising it’s one off vending machines that reward smiles with cans of drink, in technology it’s curved screen TV’s, in design it’s Austrians reinventing doors.
I’d love to see people in industries plotting what is new on this chart, or making a better version and using it to prioritize.
Perhaps in a culture of applying technology to problems, we can do a lot more.