Monday, June 23, 2014

Beyond Hype - Internet of Things to Enhance our World

My friend and colleague, Steve Lewis, posted a thoughtful piece on LinkedIn.  As I'm not yet able to post as lengthy a comment as I wrote, I thought I'd blog about it here...and steal Steve's title... :-)

Steve, great set of thoughts!  I think you're spot on in your observations, but I might offer that you're overlooking a much more foundational truth, which underlies both consumerism and the implementation and regeneration of strategic infrastructure.  In fact, I'd argue that both of these are examples, and only just two examples, of what results from this foundational truth.  I don't know if I can do it justice, but here goes.  The mass consumerization of IT, brought to life by the stunning proliferation of mobility (devices, as well as networks), has changed forever the relationship between technology and business (wrought in the broadest possible sense).  I've become a big fan of Mary Meeker's (Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers) annual presentation on Internet Trends (worth an investment of a couple of hours to read through it here: 

For most of our careers (mine, yours, and others our age), technology has been a supporter of business imperatives.  What I mean by that is we've always taken a business-driven approach, and then endeavored to figure out new and innovative ways to leverage available technology to support what we were trying to accomplish in whatever business we were in.  Some have lived on the bleeding edge of technology, and so have been more innovative than those who've not lived there.  But the fundamental calculus has always been "how do I leverage technology to support business objectives."  What this mass consumerization of IT has done is to flip that on its ear, I'd argue outstripping our ability to be hyperbolic about it.  For the first time in my lifetime, technology is actually driving business strategy and imperatives, rather than the other way around.

If you put together the advances in cloud-based infrastructure, with the explosion in mobile and social computing (any teenager can build more sophisticated applications on an iPhone more quickly and elegantly than people like us used to do with mainframes or servers or desktops or all three just a scant decade ago), and a shift in focus from IT to platforms (enabled more than anything else I've seen by APIs and how they're being used to expose, externalize, and combine in heretofore unthought of and unheard of ways information that used to remain jealously guarded within the walls of individual businesses), what we have today that we never had before is both a world of data, and the technology that makes it possible to combine and recombine data from myriad sources into applications that were never possible before.  And, equally, if not more importantly, the explosive growth and ubiquity of that data just begs for analysis and insight, of which your example is but one of countless possibilities. 

True, many of the stories that make people froth at the mouth about this shift tend to be consumer-focused, and I might argue that that is true because those kinds of innovative applications of technology are the low-hanging, supremely easy to conceptualize, fruit, whereas examples like yours are a bit more esoteric, and maybe need some deeper thought, as you've obviously done.  But the basic point remains:  the number of possibilities is virtually limitless, and hyperbolic as it may sound, it also has the virtue of being true, which is something new in the world of technology, at least the one in which you and I cut our teeth. 

Two things, I think, are true, and make this the most exciting time in my career:  As we begin to wrap our brains around this massive proliferation and ubiquity and approachability of technology, more and more smart people will come up with more and more ways of leveraging all of it in ways that we don't dream of today, and the curve from early adoption to mainstream adoption will flatten and compress far more quickly than at any time in the past.  And those two things will feed on each other, further flattening and compressing the curve.  As a behavioral scientist, among other things, I'm intensely curious about where the point is where that cycle reaches maximum velocity, that is, how quickly do we get to the point where change happens far more quickly than our ability to absorb it, and what happens then?  Thirty years ago, I could hardly imagine that world, much less believe that I'd live long enough to observe it.  Today, I'm positively giddy about being a part of it, and observing it firsthand!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reflections...on life, love, death, and other things

Once again, I find that it has been some time since I've written.  A good blogger, I suppose, is one who blogs, regularly, and by that measure, if no other, I'm not much of a blogger.  I don't often feel as though I have much to say that merits sharing here.  As I look back over the things I've written, I see a me whom I recognize, but don't really identify with much these days.

Since last I wrote, so very many things have happened in my life.  After twenty-two years of marriage, I am just a few weeks away from being divorced. How that happened is still something of a surprise and a shock to me, not because it was something that happened to me, but because it was I who blew things up, in a most unkind and unexpected way...unexpected to me as much as it was to my wife, my children, my family. Reflecting back on it, I know now (though I was asleep about it until the moment that I blew things up), that I had spent perhaps half of my marriage suppressing and sublimating my needs, my wants, my desires, myself. I did the things that I thought a good husband and father should do.  I provided. I sought to serve the needs of my wife, my children, my family, without acknowledging my own. Those rare times when I sought fulfillment for myself, when I reached out for a connection and got none, I rationalized...told myself that it was OK, that my wife wasn't in a place to give me what I needed, and, after all, a marriage is about going the extra mile when your partner cannot, and so I could wait until another day.

Awakening came in the form of another woman (how cliche!). She was a lightning bolt, an intellectual and emotional stimulation like I hadn't felt in years (or maybe ever), a personality that just lit me up in every way. Perhaps it was my own desolation, the void in my own life that made her look to me like something which she was not. Perhaps it was me seeking fulfillment in another, rather than in myself.  Regardless, I looked outside myself for all of the things that I should have sought within myself.

Also, during these months, another friend lost a daughter, to cancer.  However much I feel my own pain and sorrow, I find myself...ashamed?...that I feel so badly for myself, when my life is, by many measures, so much better.  My children are all alive, happy (mostly), intact.  How can I feel that any of my troubles are so bad when I still have them available to me?

So I sit alone in my apartment (Jesus, I haven't lived alone in nearly thirty years!), lamenting my state, and yet grateful for the opportunity to recreate myself, to step into the void that stretches out in front of me and...create...a life that I want to have.  While it feels overwhelming, sometimes hopeless, now, I know that life will go on, whether I will it or not, and so the opportunity is to seize it, to drive it, rather than being driven by the past...