Category Archives: tech

Thinking about Industry 4.0

Say the word “industry” and you are not likely to draw a big crowd. Industry is boring!

But is it? In the old days, perhaps it was. Industry was something that happened in dirty, smelly, noisy, polluting factories. But we may be about to change that paradigm. Those factories may be moving closer to where you live. And they will be automated. And they will be pretty cool.

‘Here is a taste of what “Industry 4.0” looks like!

Don’t Look now, but Your Country May Be in Trouble

You might not have been following this story, but nation building has been discredited.

It had been the flavor of the month back when the Soviet Union collapsed back in 1991. And lots of money was invested to help nations transition from Soviet to western orientation. But that was basically a “one off” situation. And many think that the results were not that great. So the words “nation building” are no longer used in polite conversation

Too bad. The reality is that each and every nation will thrive or not based upon a vision of where it is going and how it will get there. This is less a matter of abstract justice and rights. It is more a matter of finding, developing and using human resources in the most creative ways possible. Governance, law, education,, policing, and a host of other services are tools to accomplish that.

Libertarians might argue that this should just happen on its own. Get government out of the way, and rational actors will make the most of the opportunities around them. And the libertarians have a point. Rational actors do and will make the best of the opportunities around them  — for themselves. They will not bother to build a middle class if a middle class would not serve a basic need.

Here is another reason that nation building won’t just happen. Globalization — as we understand it now — is based on trade patterns that exist now. So, low cost labor has helped move lots and lots of manufacturing to low wage locations. This offers something that looks like relative prosperity.  But as Rebecca Keller writes, technology is changing those trade patterns. New strategies to find prosperity are needed. And that means investing in local human resources. That type of investment doesn’t happen int he private sec tor.

This is the start of a thread that I will be tracking on how global trade patterns are shifting and what countries are doing about it.

Stay tuned!You can follow from the “Ideas Tracking” page above.

Disgusted by Data? Me Too!

If you have not noticed, we live in an era called “the information age”. It is so called because we add value more often by information development and exchange. That is confidently called knowledge acquisition. I hear it over and over again, that we are learning faster and faster. It is indeed,a revolution! A quiet one, but a revolution, none the less.

But is it? The truth is that humans do not like learning. We do not in general wake up craving the another go at the classroom. That is not me saying this, it is Dan Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning behavioral psychologist. We learn as little as possible.

And what are we doing instead? We are doing what we have evolved to do. We experience stuff. We shop, we travel, we dine out, we chat with friends, and so on. We are active.

This is interesting because it suggests there is a certain tension between the digital world — pushing more and more information around — and the world that we want — where we are empowered to moronically just do stuff.

Some think that this tension will be resolved in favor of experience.

Twenty-five years after the introduction of the World Wide Web, the Information Age is coming to an end. Thanks to mobile screens and Internet everywhere, we’re now entering what I call the “Experience Age.”

Is it so? My own guess is that we will embrace digital tools that empower more experiences. We have been doing that for as long as tools were being invented. It is no surprise, for example, that the car turned out to be much more than the utilitarian transport machine that Henry Ford imagined it would remain. Al Sloan right. cares were lifestyle enabling.  So too will technology.

Will we be better off for it?  we will if we begin to understand more clearly what it is about experience that is so enthralling. As Kahneman points out, it is not the experience itself. It is the memory that the experience enables. We love the experiences that give us the best memories. Those memories — which btw are not the same thing as what happened — are the stories of our lives.

Information and the information age fall short in facilitating development of great memories. The critique that we spend far too much time staring into computer screens is well founded. But that will not mean less reliance on digital technology.  Wendell Berry and back to reality movements will remain niche players. We will reach out to more powerful versions of digital technologies that empower us to do what we want, whatever that may be.

Onward!

Breaking Out of the Network Prison

There was a time when we all were prisoners. And more and more services tried to make us prisoners. Each operated in its own eco-system and none of them interconnected.

That is changing. We have more tools available that enable us to choose which wireless networks to use.

Let’s hope this keeps evolving. So we can seamlessly access services and products  from whatever platform we are using.  you might be able to do this if you had your own bot.

Apps Suck: And We Could do Better

Apps used to be the “next big thing”, adding functionality to your smartphone and tablet. And they do that. But they are not as exciting as they once seemed to be.

Part of the problems i that there are not that many apps that I look forward to using – that enhance my daily routine.

And we are starting to feel the constraints of the app market. TechCrunch offers a quick survey of two problems that could be corrected.

Especially important – apps should be able to work together rather than act as stand alone buttons.

Any thoughts?

 

Fred Wilson on Trends

Fred has a nice post today on mega-trends that he illustrates with Google trends. This is his conclusion

We are largely moving on from mobile and social in terms of big megatrends, video is being played out now, and its not yet clear what is going to emerge as the next big thing. Google is betting on AI and I tend to agree with them on that. Voice interfaces may be a good proxy for that trend.

I have been writing a lot in this blog about voice interphase and especially about echo. It will be fun to watch how quickly AI can add to voice to make it fun and useful.

Stay tuned on that one!