Technology Must Disappear in 2017

Almost a year ago, I wrote these words, "Technology has reached the tipping point for me, it moved from a help to a hindrance."  The plethora of adrenaline and endorphin inducing mobile apps, 24x7 news, notifications, alerts and updates, drip fed my brain and hindered my "deep work and deep thoughts."  In Cal Newport's new book titled, "Deep Work" he posits that most knowledge workers need concentration and substantial time, dedicated and uninterrupted, to produce their best work. He argues that a lot of technologies and open office layouts today inhibit creativity, "deep work" and "deep thoughts," and are the very things that are most highly valued, and one of the key differentiators between humans and robots.
Newport argues that we must understand and optimize the conditions that enable our brains to work best.  To sum up his argument, constant drip feeding technologies serve to prevent deep thoughts and deep work, our most valuable assets.  He recommends that we restructure our working environments, schedules, times, activities and technology uses to provide substantial "deep thought" times so we can maximize our brain's thinking.
A phrase I like to use is, "Just because technology can do it, doesn't make it useful."  Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of technology and have dedicated my career to understanding, teaching and using it, but we must all realize that technology has not been designed to maximize our brain's potential.  Often technology is designed to replace or degrade our brain's function, or to appeal to our addictive vulnerabilities.  Have any of you, like me, lost themselves in a computer game, and then realized it was 4 AM?  I did that when Doom first came out decades ago.  I realized early on my brain was vulnerable to these games, and banished them from our home ever since, at least until Angry Birds came out on my iPhone and I welcomed back 4 AM.
In our professional life, it is so easy to let our email inbox and calendar invites become our boss and dictate our day's focus.  Do any of us really believe this is the most productive behavior?  Does our inbox recognize our priorities, goals, focus, deliverables and ambitions?  I don't think so, so then why let it boss us around?
If we added up all of the mobile apps we have on our phones, then list all the possible alerts and notifications they each can provide, plus add in how many emails, messages and updates we see, and then add our social media and news feeds, it will literally be hundreds or even thousands of distractions daily.  Do these distractions make us more productive or efficient?  I don't think so.
In 2017, we need to reevaluate technology and take back our brains and purpose.  We should be guiding our technologies, not the other way around.  Technology needs to disappear into the background, while productivity and purpose should be our siren's call. We have approximately 700,000 hours between our birth and our death. About 350,000 of those hours are spent in our careers. How many of those hours do we want to waste on technology enabled distractions? I first published some of the following list nearly a year ago, but I needed the reminder, and perhaps it would be helpful for you as well.  I propose the following: 
  1. Our schedules and activities must reflect our purpose and goals, not our inbox and social media feeds.
  2. We must recognize what activities offer value, and what activities do not.
  3. We shouldn’t have to read through hundreds of useless email messages to find the three necessary to complete our job. Communications need to change and email must disappear behind a veil of utility and productivity.
  4. Someone emailing us, does not mean we need to respond.  
  5. We shouldn’t have to check dozens of different locations, apps and websites to communicate with our work colleagues and friends. All of these various collaboration and communication platforms need to disappear into a consolidated and efficient aggregated solution like Slack.
  6. Communication technologies should disappear into the background, and the quality and utility of the message improved by technologies.
  7. Email and meeting driven schedules must disappear, in favor of schedules that honor purpose and deliverables.
  8. Prioritizing thinking time and mental productivity and dedicate the time they deserve.
  9. Scientists agree that the creative parts of our minds work better at different times of the day. Those times need to be reserved, blocked and honored on schedules, to optimize productivity.
  10. The requirement to develop, store and retrieve dozens of different passwords and user names must disappear. The ability to accurately authenticate a user must become more efficient and secure.
  11. Trivial messages and alerts from hundreds of different sources arriving 24 hours a day must disappear. Trivial messages and an urge to immediately respond must not be allowed to intrude on our thinking, creating, planning, sleeping, loving, relationship building, driving and the handling of dangerous equipment.
  12. On-premise IT solutions, hardware and apps that serve to distract from the business, and offer no additional business value, competitive advantages or market agility must disappear into the cloud.
  13. The 200+ mobile applications on my iPhone must disappear into an artificial intelligence engine that will access their functionality and assist me even before I ask.
  14. Mobile applications that are not personalized, and are not contextually relevant should disappear. I don’t care what you sell, if I am not interested, or it is not relevant to me, I don't want to see it.
  15. The routine process work I do on my computer must go away. Intelligent process automation should be pushed down to individuals. An AMX mobile app should process my expenses without me. It should only alert me to exceptions, not the routine.
  16. Technologies and the use of technologies that hinder creativity, productivity and innovation must disappear.
In the lifecycle of any technology, there is a time when we should be enamored and distracted by how it works, but these times must quickly pass and the technology should disappear into the background. I propose that digital technologies should improve and optimize our brain power, and make the human experience richer, deeper and more purposeful than ever before.  This year, I am more committed than ever to making technology work for me, not against me, by being less intrusive and distracting.  What do you think? Message me.

2016 - The Digital Year in Review - Six Key Themes Chart the Path to the Future

So, as turkeys across America are read their last rites, it’s that time of the year when we take stock of what’s happened in the last 12 months - what we’ve learnt, what we’re grateful for, and what we can expect for the year ahead. 2016 has been one for the history books; in January few people would have bet on Leicester winning the English Premier League, Brexit, Andy Murray being the world’s number one tennis player, and Donald Trump winning the Presidency. Upsets have been in the air and the unpredictable has become almost predictable. The End of History indeed ...

In our wonderful world of technology things haven’t been quite as exciting ... but almost.

Here are the six most important things that have happened during the digital year that tell us a lot about what the future of your work is going to look like in 2017 and beyond.

1 AI everywhere – the Terminator versus Alexa, Siri, Amy, and Viv

What started as a trickle of stories and articles about artificial intelligence in January ends as a raging torrent of news and opinion pieces as we approach December. Fear, panic, excitement, optimism, and uncertainty about the rise of the new machines have found their way into the office of every commissioning editor in every media outlet around the world. For good reason - the pace of AI development is now accelerating at exponential pace. But those looking for the Terminator (i.e. all those commissioning editors) are looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. The real AI story is literally under our noses – in our phones and devices – as Alexa, Siri, Amy, and Viv (and a host of other charmingly named bots) pop up trying to help, not kill, us. AI is the story of our time. 2016 was the year it got real. Get comfy. Get a snack. This is going to be incredible.

2 Voice - the new run time

2016 will probably come in time to be seen as “Peak Digit” – i.e. the high water mark of typing. The future will be controlled by our voices. NLP (Natural Language Processing) will the dominant UI on top of AI in short order. As Microsoft’s Satya Nadella puts it, voice is the new “run time”. Of course talking to computers has been the dream of science fiction writers since the times of Shelley, Verne, and Wells (incidentally, the best midfield trio West Ham never had). Now it’s coming true. Soon talking to the wall won’t be a sign of incipient madness; you’ll just be asking it to display the photo of you and Auntie Maud in the three-legged race at school sports day in 1974. New parents are going to have to veer away from using old-fashioned Victorian girls names for their bundles of joy, lest house guests mix up talking to the Tabitha the Toaster with Tabitha the 18 month old in the onesie.

3 Microsoft and LinkedIn – (real, not fool’s) gold in the code mines

Microsoft’s $26bn acquisition of LinkedIn proved beyond doubt that there’s gold in them thar code. Of course, if you’ve read Code Halos you never doubted that in the first place. The direct monetization of data exhaust is still a work in progress (the bank’s not yet taking my “like” of the news of an upcoming Phoenix record as a mortgage payment but Microsoft’s move (in a head to head battle with shows that personal data and metadata is going to be extremely valuable in a world of “social selling”. 15 years ago the idea of ad-supported “free” software was a curio that raised sniggers on the shores of Lake Washington. Then Google showed up. Fast forward to today and data-supported “free” software has drained a quarter of Mr. Nadella’s spending money. LinkedIn has become the cloud based company directory for pretty much every modern business. Microsoft will be digging out nuggets for years to come.

4 Pokémon Go – reality is overrated

If you’ve not got teenage children you may have blinked and missed the craze of summer ’16. One moment Pokémon was something you could barely remember from your own teen years, the next, Manhattan’s Central Park was full of people (not just kids) looking for “balls” and “gyms” and Ivysaur’s. Then, seemingly a week later, “normality” (if such a thing exists nowadays) was restored - Pokémon Go was lame, and the kids had gone back to playing their violins and reading again (not). Though at first glance a Tulip-like bout of hot-weather driven hysteria, the Pokémon Go phenomena actually presages a world in which we overlay the reality we want onto the reality we’re presented with (by the real world). If you want your world to teem with Japanese amine characters, fine, it’s your world. I’d like to walk down Fifth Avenue with an architecture history overlay telling me who built the building in front of me and what other nearby buildings that architect built. Download the app, put on your Snap Glasses and Bob’s Your Uncle, we’re both living in the world we want to live in. Augmented overlays are already ten-a-penny in the real-time live streaming world our kids are growing up in; the future literally will look different for all of us, even more now that we all live in our own “post-truth” filtered info-bubbles.

5 It was Twitter wot won it

Back in the pre-information superhighway days of 1992, the controlling heights of the media landscape in the UK (where I grew up) were dominated by tabloid newspapers, Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun in particularly. In the general election of that year the Conservative party unexpectedly won power after The Sun ran an unrelenting campaign to paint the Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, as unelectable. Never shy at coming forward The Sun’s front page headline a few days after the vote was “It’s The Sun Wot Won It”. Nobody disagreed. Fast forward to 2016, and though the controlling heights of the US media landscape are far less concentrated than they were in England 25 years ago, there is a (newish) media platform that shaped the unexpected outcome of the American general election; Twitter. 140 key strokes at a time, President-Elect Trump took down fellow contenders, commentators, grieving parents, beauty queens, and finally his main opponent, using the ne plus ultra medium of the moment. Credit where credit’s due; a 70 year billionaire, in a gold encrusted skyscraper, saw the power of Twitter more clearly than anybody closer to earth. Though to his critics an antisocial media master, Prez #45 used Twitter to connect in a way that everyone and every organization trying to connect could learn a thing or two from. [For better or worse].

6 Massive Attacks – waiting for the end of the (digital) world

A coordinated attempt to undermine the digital infrastructure at the heart of modern day America – or a diabolically clever marketing tactic to drum up interest in the new season of Black Mirror - the off-the-chart DDoS attacks of October 2016 showed us (yet again) how vulnerable the modern world is to bad people doing bad things. Everything we are building in the Fourth Industrial Revolution rests – it feels like - on systems that we don’t understand, run by people who it’s questionable we can trust, with motivations that are hard to fathom. Barbarians are probably already inside the gate and, if you’re like me, you probably have a horrid feeling that it’s not a matter of if you wake up one day to find your bank account emptied, but when. The questions du jour therefore are What can be done? How can we ensure the White Hats prevail? How can we have the delights of digital without the dread? Is that even possible? Are we sitting ducks just waiting for our Digital Pearl Harbor? I dunno ... do you? No? Thought not. Scary.


AI, voice-driven software, Code Halos, augmented reality, social media, hacking – the story of 2016 in a nutshell (btw; one of the best books of 2016 Expect a lot more of the same in 2017. More on that in another post before Christmas, when I’ll look ahead to the New Digital Year.

For the moment, give thanks, eat well, and think big.

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The Day Analytics Lost

Insights are found in data, without data analytics is meaningless.
The Huffington Post gave Donald Trump a 2% chance of winning, The New York Times 15%.  The best polls, prediction markets and analytics predicted a Hillary Clinton victory in the days before the election, yet they were all wrong.  The national media’s predictive analytic systems failed catastrophically.  Why?
Analytic systems require timely data on all the variables that impact a system and measure its performance. Analytics requires support from an optimized information logistics system (OILS), a system that manages the full lifecycle of data from collection, transmission, processing, analysis, reporting, data driven decision-making, action and archiving.  An OILS is only as good as the data.  It can only function correctly if it is collecting the necessary data inputs.  For example the sensors in an Internet of Things (IoT) system must be attached to the right “things” that impact operations, to provide full system visibility and insight. The pre-election big data analytics systems used by pundits, media and prediction markets used incomplete data that resulted in operational blindness, a massive failure for those responsible.
A simple phone poll may not measure the degree of sentiment, neither does it measure those not on the phone.  It appears from reports this morning that large numbers of folks whom rarely if ever vote - voted.  This unmeasured, invisible group, that was an important data input, was not measured and analyzed in the OILS.
When I meet with business and IT strategy leaders and discuss data analytics and OILS, I always ask them, "What data are you NOT collecting that potentially could be important to your plans and operations?"  Many have never considered this simple question.  They look at their available data, but not their data gaps.  Today in a world of hyper-connectivity, bots, real-time operational tempos and decision-making, having the right data at the right time is critical.  What data are you not collecting?
  1. Merging Humans with AI and Machine Learning Systems
  2. In Defense of the Human Experience in a Digital World
  3. Profits that Kill in the Age of Digital Transformation
  4. Competing in Future Time and Digital Transformation
  5. Digital Hope and Redemption in the Digital Age
  6. Digital Transformation and the Role of Faster
  7. Digital Transformation and the Law of Thermodynamics
  8. Jettison the Heavy Baggage and Digitally Tranform
  9. Digital Transformation - The Dark Side
  10. Business is Not as Usual in Digital Transformation
  11. 15 Rules for Winning in Digital Transformation
  12. The End Goal of Digital Transformation
  13. Digital Transformation and the Ignorance Penalty
  14. Surviving the Three Ages of Digital Transformation
  15. From Digital to Hyper-Transformation
  16. Believers, Non-Believers and Digital Transformation
  17. Forces Driving the Digital Transformation Era
  18. Digital Transformation Requires Agility and Energy Measurement
  19. A Doctrine for Digital Transformation is Required
  20. The Advantages of Advantage in Digital Transformation
  21. Digital Transformation and Its Role in Mobility and Competition
  22. Digital Transformation - A Revolution in Precision Through IoT, Analytics and Mobility
  23. Competing in Digital Transformation and Mobility
  24. Ambiguity and Digital Transformation
  25. Digital Transformation and Mobility - Macro-Forces and Timing
  26. Mobile and IoT Technologies are Inside the Curve of Human Time