The Ultimate Interface: Your Brain

The Ultimate Interface: Your BrainThe final frontier of digital technology is integrating into your own brain. DARPA wants to go there. Scientists want to go there. Entrepreneurs want to go there. And increasingly, it looks like it’s possible.

You’ve probably read bits and pieces about brain implants and prostheses. Let me give you the big picture. […]

 

Don’t Grow For Growth’s Sake: Smart Growth For Social Enterprises

Don't Grow For Growth's Sake: Smart Growth For Social Enterprises

“How small can I stay, while still driving big, transformative impact?” It’s an exciting question some social entrepreneurs are now asking themselves as they consider how to turn a good idea into a scalable solution.

This is the second installment in a series—7 Reasons for Social Innovation Optimism—on exciting new developments that have the potential to drive greater impact on our biggest social challenges. […]

 

The Top Five Most Innovative Tech Projects Of 2014 So Far

The Top Five Most Innovative Tech Projects Of 2014 So Far

As the world sits in awe as another smartphone is launched, a gaggle of engineers and bright-eyed entrepreneurs have been quietly innovating behind the scenes. Want a natural alternative to street lighting? Or how about driving – via your iPhone – a free-roaming scalextric toy car that can blast […]

 

It’s messy: Digital health platforms must be high tech and high touch to win

It’s messy: Digital health platforms must be high tech and high touch to win

Apps are out, platforms are in. Investors and entrepreneurs have figured out that not only does it sound better to call your product a platform, you can charge more too.

At the start of June, two new healthcare “platforms” have started to take shape. At its annual developer conference, Apple gave us a few more clues about its Healthkit:  […]

 

An Ideas Exchange For Solving Humanity’s Grand Challenges

An Ideas Exchange For Solving Humanity's Grand Challenges

Mobile is quickly becoming the de facto platform for consuming services and products with 55% of internet traffic in the United States coming from mobile devices. The most remarkable thing about the mobile revolution however is that it is having the same impact all over the world regardless of demographics and income. Its disruptive nature is enabling entrepreneurs to build products and services that cater to some of the poorest people in the world and in the process create significant social impact.   […]

 

Innovation Capital: How To Inspire Entrepreneurship And Creativity In Business

 

Innovation Capital: How To Inspire Entrepreneurship And Creativity In BusinessLike it or not, the odds in business are at some point you’re going to fail. Whether large or small, failure is a natural part of business life. But thanks to a mash-up of several new business methodologies, your failure may actually be a good thing.  […]

 

Welcome To The Purpose Economy

Welcome To The Purpose Economy

This is an excerpt from Aaron Hurst’s new book, The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World I’m not an economist, a sociologist, or a psychologist. I am an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs constantly look for opportunities, hoping to find emerging trends or […]

 

The context is the (Pre) Singularity

Ray Kurzweil.  If you don’t know his name, you soon will. He is one of two individuals who proved to be agents of my ‘landing’ (the second to be revealed in my next post).

As I undertook my scan of techno-trend literature last year, I became aware of a quickening pace of change that was greater than the also astonishing breadth and depth of it.  It was the speed.  Then I remembered a name I kept coming across, and the shoe dropped.

Ray Kurzweil first was seen on Fred Allen’s ‘I’ve Got A Secret‘ TV show in 1965, when at the age of 17, he built a computer that convincingly authored classical music. Within a decade or so he was the inventor/driver/catalyst of the optical character recognition (OCR) and voice recognition suite of technologies – and the inventor of the first music synthesizer able to mimic grand pianos and other instruments.  By the 1980’s Kurzweil was one of America’s most successful inventors/entrepreneurs, and the accolades have since only accelerated (click here for his detailed wiki-bio).  He was also then, and remains today one of the world’s most controversial futurists.

I suspect and intend that through the life of this blog, we will repeatedly explore the detail of Kurzweil’s work.  However, for our purposes today there are 3 points worth illuminating.  The first is that Kurzweil conceived of the Law of Accelerating Returns, a POV that stated that as technological capability doubled every X time increment, its cost halved – and that critically, the time increments kept halving in exponential fashion, from 100 years to fifty, to 25, to 12.5 and so on.  As he is wont to say, if you take 30 linear steps you get 30 steps, if you take 30 exponential steps (2,4,8,16…) you get to a billion.  There is a tremendous amount of substance (and controversy) to consider in this ‘law’ but the bottom line is that information processing speed, bandwidth and storage capacity, all of which have been significant inhibitors to our businesses over the last two decades of the Internet, are about to – for all practical purposes – become free/unlimited.

With staggering consequence.

To illustrate, the cost of processing a gigaflop (a thousand million calculations per second) of data cost (in inflation-adjusted dollars)  $8.3 trillion in 1961 vs. $0.12 in December of 2013 (yes – that’s 12 cents). Likewise, over the last 20 years the speed of our most powerful computers has increased from 124.5 gigaflops in 1993 (124,500 x 1,000,000) to 34 petaflops (34,000 x 1,000,000,000,000).  More to the point, the doubling/having is accelerating, meaning that the application of information processing is expanding into every facet of our life – from ubiquitous instant facial recognition to the Internet of Things.  Indeed, Kurzweil argues that by 2015 we will have a computer that will surpass the ‘brainpower’ of a single mouse, and that by 2023 (eight years later) it will surpass that of a single human, and that by 2045, that of ALL humans of ALL time.

Here’s where it gets ‘odd’.  For when a computer has the capacity to access all human knowledge of all time, Kurzweil argues that transcendence will occur – that is the machine will become sentient and self-aware, and arguably, much more than the sum of our human parts.  This point in time is know as ‘The’ Singularity – the pivot point where Man becomes something much more than Man – very, very, VERY quickly (remember that exponential trillion times a trillion kind of gains?), with the not-unimportant consequence that humans will achieve immortality.  Needless to say, there is fierce debate about the likelihood of such an event or its timing (or of course the ‘rightness’ of it). But curiously, I have not found a pervasive view that argues much against the ‘fact’ of change up to the event.  Certainly, amongst the digerati there are those that argue passionately that X won’t happen until Y, but the delta is very rarely materially different from Kurzweil’s prognosis.

The second point worth noting is who Kurzweil works for (or perhaps more accurately, with).  As of 2012 Kurzweil became Google’s Director of Engineering.  It seems a misnomer because he really seems to be the Director of Singularity for the most powerful company in the world.  It is evident that Kurzweil has at minimum been a catalyst for Google’s acquisitions of late – evidence that Google expects to take a commanding lead in such areas as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and healthcare (focus on ‘longevity’ – remember the immortality thing?) to name a few.  This is not a conspiracy theory. Many very smart and well intentioned people have placed a very big bet on Kurzweil’s vision of the future.  There is even Singularity University, a Kurzweil initiative co-founded with Peter Diamandis, billionaire inventor/entrepreneur in his own right (and founder of the Xprize), and supported by Google, Genentech, Autodesk, Nokia and CISCO, with its campus located on NASA’s Ames Research campus in Silicon Valley.

The question to ask one’s self is – what do they know/suspect/intend that you/we don’t?  I think that a view of the future is forming and is being made real that is quite literally not understood or appreciated by the great, vast majority of the rest of us.  A community is coalescing that see’s the next 20-40 years as being the evolutionary pivot point for Personkind – a period that will thereafter see the course of evolution set possibly forever.  I think though that the debate over The Singularity is a BIG red herring.  I believe its more helpful to focus on the Pre-Singularity – the time leading up to the pivot point that most thoughtful observers more or less agree on.  THAT world promises so much change and disruption that to prepare for just that seems almost impossible beyond our reckoning.  But it must be.  In this very fragmented and rapidly empowered and empowering world, not changing is not an option – especially if  one expects to be at the leading edge of change rather than a consequence of it.

Which takes me to my third and final point.  The discussion guiding the Pre-Singularity age rests almost entirely in the hands of the scientists and engineers who are making it possible.  They are joined by a business elite who for the most part employ a worldview and leadership style that is the result of the post war/cold-war era. An elite who for sure are responsible for much of what we have to be thankful for, but also who must bear responsibility for many of our collective shortcomings.  Just as I am convinced of the inevitability of an Age of Pre-Singularity, I am equally convinced that a new leadership style MUST emerge to both direct and to the extent possible, manage our transit to and through it.  A cohort of leadership who manage to, by example, literally leverage the best that free(r) markets can and should provide, building businesses who are literally enablers of a greater society.  The learning labs for this new mindset are to be found within the millions of businesses seeking to find their North Star for the coming times.

They just need a little help.  I think I know where to find it.

 

I’ve landed (and the how & why of it)

There has been admittedly, a lull in my reporting.  But silence does not speak to inaction or indolence.  Indeed, my neurons have been firing at a particularly active rate of late.  And the point I find myself at in the moment is in fact a landing point.  I have arrived here and have concluded that here marks the beginning of a journey I believe will be profound, remarkable and important – certainly for me and I hope for you.

For those who have followed me and my musings over the last year or so, you will know that I have been exploring options for my next play – my raison d’être.  Something that caught my imagination, my propensity for big ideas – something that mattered.  It needed to be something that leveraged my 30+ years as an intrapreneur, consultant and entrepreneur AND my newfound understanding of the power of leadership coaching. But as I probed and scoped for things to do, I realized that context was for me, missing.  Here I was trying to find my fit in life for the next x-xx years, and I hadn’t nailed the context for life – for living (both capital ‘L’).  Sounds kind of existential.  It was.

So I started scanning and reading articles about innovation and technology.  Tens of articles became hundreds and hundreds thousands.  And not just about geekspeak developments in the pureplay tech space, but about how such advancements were floating all our boats – advances in material science, nanotechnology, healthcare, robotics/AI and so much more.

While I had always considered myself au courant, I found instead that the breadth, depth and pace of change was at a state far beyond what I understood to be.  It was immeasurably more than what that over-used term ‘disruptive’ allows for.  In fact, I realized that we are approaching a watershed moment in human development and history, a time that has the potential to see Man transcendent in all the ways that can be considered good, and yet with the very real possibility that we will either shrink from that future because of fear and ignorance, and/or we will corrupt the nature and quality of that transcendence to something mean and common – even evil.

So.  A pressing future was revealed to me that was at once awesome and terrifying.  Given the potentially terminal consequence of failure, humanity’s picking the wrong door was not an option.  Which begged the question – is our leadership prepared to lead us through, to and beyond this watershed? Do they have the intellect, values, courage and vision necessary to guide us and inspire us?

You will not be surprised that I concluded in the negative – no, nyet, negatory, definitely not. No.

So. Timing is everything.  Just as I was pondering the inevitable decline/demise of us and our collective – at minimum a descent into mediocrity – I discovered a discipline/POV that had been conceived of and incubated over the last half century in the best business schools in the west.  It is elegant, even beautiful, it is startling intuitive and simple, and it is dense. The academics who laboured away at it for those five decades clearly didn’t want anyone finding out about it. The problem is, I think it may represent a new way of defining leadership and empowering leaders that is unique and vital to the imperative of picking the right door(s) that I noted above.  Rather than provide a one-size-fits-all prescriptive answer (like the million biz-philosophies and guru’s du jour), it provides a new way of understanding oneself, ones family, ones business, ones community – ones environment. This way of thinking provides a new framework for asking questions, that in the answering is far more likely to lead to genuine and helpful enlightenment.

So.  (Likely) Problem identified.  (Likely) Solution identified.  We have something like 25-40 years to get our act together and start acting like a species that can make the earth what it can and should be and shoot for the stars at the same time.

Who then to take the lead? Government? I think not – for not only are they too slow, cumbersome and self-interested, their mandate is by definition driven by narrow local, regional and national perspectives – when the best solutions are more often than not, global.  The answer I’ve concluded, is business.  Not the Bernie Madoff, Wall Street-that-nearly-destroyed-us kind of capitalism, but one that reframes itself by asking the right questions and pursuing thoughtful answers (note I didn’t say the ‘right’ answer – more on that later) that engage and profit all stakeholders. No surprise then, if you’ve managed to follow my logic (gold star for you), I’ve netted out that we must distill and develop this new leadership mindset and insert it into an eco-system of millions of actors so that intellectual Darwinism does its job of testing and refining said mindset as an agnostic alternative to a world made small by orthodoxy.

Now THIS is something I can sink my existential teeth into!  Being party to the cracking of the problem/solution definitely captures my imagination, and it certainly qualifies as a big idea, but most importantly – it matters. For the future that is unfolding demands that we each take what we are and do more with it.  So, for my part, I will roll up my 30+ years of intrapreneurial, consulting, entrepreneurial and coaching experience to start the process of distilling, testing and refining this new POV with those of similar mindset – for business leaders who perceive their corporate success as an exemplar, a tool,  for something greater.

Let the journey begin.

 

 

 

Singularity University and CNBC Partner to Launch Exponential Finance Conference June 10-11 in New York City

download (81)Exponential Finance will take place June 10-11, 2014, in New York City. The event will bring together top business leaders and government officials with the next generation of entrepreneurs to engage in dynamic and forward-thinking discussions on the exponential technologies that are creating the next greatest wave of transition in industry, business and finance.  […]

 
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