Google Inc recently changed its name and structure to Alphabet Inc. The company’s mission as Google Inc was to organise all the information on the planet, and while that’s still true of Google the search company, the Alphabet mission is about “getting more ambitious things done.”
This shift is a major turning point in the world-changing business that was Google Inc. It’s a widening of purpose around the idea of realising ambitious projects. It’s symbolic of this first major revolution, this major technological revolution; the shift from information to implementation. Things like self-driving cars and aircraft, improving transportation efficiency, gaining greater understanding of health and disease, extending lifespans, creating environmentally friendly distributed energy grids.
Larry Page says this in his letter to the stockmarket around the restructure from Google Inc to Alphabet Inc: “We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.”
Eric Schmidt from Google in his thorough tomb of a book How Google Works outlines that the internet has been built by two billion people like you and I – well educated, somewhat privileged individuals living in a developed nation. He and his co-author Jonathan Roseberg predict that over the next few years a further four billion users will come online and start to reshape the internet as we know it. These four billion users will have new demands and potentially stronger drives to engage with the internet in a new way.
It’s symbolic of this first major revolution, the shift from information to implementation.
The origin of the internet can be taken back to universities, the particle accelerator at CERN and the need for researchers to share large amounts of information quickly. It quickly got away from its creators, going from ‘significant and available to a few’ to ‘shallow and available to the masses’ (well at least the privileged masses), all so we could share memes like cappuccino art and cat videos. Possibly its most out-of-control use is as a source of pornography distribution.
So what’s next? Is social media the new internet? Will we end up with internet 2.0? What will it look like, what will it enable? The internet is only one technology but the shift we are experiencing there and in other domains is one from information warehousing to one that enables things to happen. From ideas to implementation.
This is the key; it’s about getting stuff done. Meaningful stuff.
This is the key; it’s about getting stuff done. Meaningful stuff.
We see three big technologies shifting and colliding and the impact of these shifts will be felt across industry, beyond borders and into the lives of all of us.
The Internet of Things is a term for the connectivity of devices. Big data is the mining of behaviour so we can build profiles on what people do and at some level predict what they want to do next. The third big technology coming our way is Artificial intelligence. Think robots!
Consider the intersection of the Internet of Things and Big Data. Everything around us knowing everything about us will make marketing more relevant and meaningful. Think traffic lights that slow down cars and reroute commuter traffic when accidents appear. Think customised television ads based on internet search history. Of course, it’s hard to keep skeletons hidden in the closet, or have secrets from society, when this is the level of data sharing and retention. Are secrets a good thing or a bad thing? That’s a complicated discussion that we’ll save for another time.
Consider the intersection of the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. A robot that’s connected to our house should make our life easier, though we might lose the independence and freedom of choice. You might like your coffee brewing ritual in the morning and having this mundane task taken off you could lead to a lowered sense of satisfaction. There are both benefits and consequences to going down these pathways that we cannot even imagine now.
Consider the intersection of the Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. A robot that knows our preferences could make decisions for us that we like. Self-driving cars that can negotiate the best routes through traffic, communicate with the other vehicles on the road, and park themselves while you’re in your meeting.
The driver behind these trends’ impact is the positive aspiration of increasing freedom for humans.
The driver behind these trends’ impact is the positive aspiration of increasing freedom for humans. The risk will be a potential loss of liberty. Conversations in this space quickly degenerate into bad sci fi movies with a dystopian view of the world of robots. Whether it’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator vibe with Skynet pushing humans underground like roaches or the Spike Jones epic robot love fest ‘She’, we see views of a future world where the very technology we developed to set us free imprisons us somehow. As easy as it may be to dismiss these views as cheap Hollywood entertainment, some serious players are exploring with some paranoia the risks we take as these new technologies collide and change the very fabric of how we live and work.
In this Ted talk Nick Bostrom, articulates the AI future challenge really well
Elon Musk, the revolutionary entrepreneur, founder of Tesla, and champion of Space X, last year founded Open AI a not for profit on a mission. Its mission statement is “OpenAI is a non-profit artificial intelligence research company. Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” Essentially, he has gathered some of the world’s leading artificial intelligence engineers and set them the mission of driving advancement in artificial intelligence. Doing so in an open-source, give-it-all-away culture. The hope is that rather than shying away from the evolutions in this space, the solution lies in running towards it in an above-ground, crowd-sourced fashion. His sense is this is something too big to leave in the hands of a profit-oriented company structure.
Larry Page and Serge Brin, in pursuing transparency with the structure of Alphabet Inc, and Elon Musk with the formation of OpenAI, are showing a leadership towards future structures that have accountability, and a higher level of intent than simply returning value to shareholders.
What does all this mean for your career, your projects and your businesses? The movement from information to implementation is creating some forces for change:
Wisdom, knowledge and insight are not the same thing. Royale Scuderie is a contributing author at Lifehack and the president of Productive Life Concepts. She defines these three terms beautifully:
Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data that you have learned about or experienced. It’s being aware of something, and having information. Knowledge is really about facts and ideas that we acquire through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience.
Wisdom is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to your life. It’s the ability to apply that knowledge to the greater scheme of life. It’s also deeper; knowing the meaning or reason; about knowing why something is, and what it means to your life.
Insight is the deepest level of knowing and the most meaningful to your life. Insight is a deeper and clearer perception of life, of knowledge, of wisdom. It’s grasping the underlying nature of knowledge, and the essence of wisdom. Insight is a truer understanding of your life and the bigger picture of how things intertwine.
In a nutshell: If knowledge is information, wisdom is the understanding and application of that knowledge and insight is the awareness of the underlying essence of a truth.
If knowledge is information, wisdom is the understanding and application of that knowledge and insight is the awareness of the underlying essence of a truth.
This shift from knowing something, to discerning the useful bits, to ultimately applying that knowledge and judgement to a particular benefit, is absolutely key.
This is essentially a process, not just a language distinction. The process is one of answering three questions when looking at any idea or project:
- What’s going on? (knowledge)
- What does it mean? (wisdom)
- How can we use that to make something happen? (insight)
Technology is changing our lives, and it’s not going to be through the colour or size of your iPhone. It’s not even going to be a watch that tells more than the time. What it’s really about is what happens with all that connectivity, tracking, and information, as we continue intertwining technology more and more in our lives.
Technology is changing our lives, and it’s not going to be through the colour or size of your iPhone.
- Some say its merely a play to stave off Apple’s capital dominance on the stockmarket.
- This seismic increase in users is partly a function of first-generation smart phones being recycled into India and Africa coinciding with the natural expansion of the BRIC economies as they emerge as world players.
- Skeptics will point out the gains to be had by Page and Brin in market capitalisation are personal gains, and of course Musk enterprises will be the first to benefit from any advances made in OpenAI. But who ever said generosity and correct intent were mutually exclusive ideas?