Our poor planet

Invited to the Coburn Ventures‘ annual gathering as a “thought leader” this week, for the fourth year in a row! – always a fun gathering of the best and most interesting thinkers (thought leaders + investment professionals) from around the globe, pondering the future direction of various technologies on business and humanity.

What to wear…always the question.

So to the intertoobz I go. And it struck me: why am I internet shopping in exactly the same way I have been since, well, pretty much the beginning of ecommerce? Searching based on some key words, ending up on a store’s website with a bunch of thumbnails, mostly on young gazelles who I think I could probably stick two of into one of my dresses…maybe there’s a filter, sometimes even with filtering categories I care about. Ordering 2, 3, 4 alternatives – which will be returned if not right.

Such a waste. Of time, of delivery gasoline…of raw materials. I am imagining the mountains of clothing, made in amounts forecast to be roughly correct – but then it’s 60 degrees in November in New York, and they all waste away in some warehouse, somewhere. Or in stores….some end up in outlet stores…some go back to the manufacturers, only for some to be sent to online clearance sites…or some far away country, dumped on a market that cares less about trend.

Sigh. Our poor planet.

Where’s my 3d printed clothing, made to my (scanned) body size, to my specs? What if I am not a 20 year old gazelle, and I want the skirt to be a few inches longer? Shorter?

Why has there been so little disintermediation in the way we shop and dress ourselves?

I ponder this as I push the “buy” button, and pay and extra $20 for fast delivery, contemplating all the bells, widgets, gizmos and wheels which immediately starting turning in response. And think back to this blog entry, which was based on a lot of thinking I did in 2006. 10 years!!

Our poor planet.

Temporary interactive tattoos

tattoo

The ultimate “wearable”; smart temporary tattoos that have functionality. Seriously I think all the gadgets we currently carry – phones, trackers, health monitoring devices will very soon just be stickers that we attach to ourselves (or be woven into our clothing) – wrote about both of those before (http://lindaricci.com/body-stickers and http://lindaricci.com/quantifying-apparel).

These are fascinating. Coming out of the MIT Media Lab, these temporary tattoos have different configurations: one iteration has an NFC chip embedded in it (allowing for interaction with nearby gadgets), another lets you use your finger to interact with your computer screen…made out of real gold or silver leaf, anyone can make their own design / circuits, and “tattoo” them on their skin.

While it’s early days on how powerful the interaction is, the battery / power needs are limited – and of course, the programming that drives the interaction is a big question mark for me! – it’s a harbinger of the future and has fascinating potential applications.

We are already moving towards being a disposably minded society. From apparel to jewelry, electronics to furniture, we are in the midst of a revolution in attitude about how we acquire and consume goods. Clothing isn’t bought to wear for years, but is increasingly cheaply made and sold, intended to be worn and discarded a few months later…people aren’t buying a “serious” piece of jewelry once every few years, intended to be eventually be handed to children and posterity, instead cheap “fun” mass produced jewelry that scratches a trendy itch prevails. Once, our grandparents bought a sofa when they got married and meant for it to last decades; electronics are traded in for upgrades every six months.

Even music has gone from owning physical albums to streaming, meaning we don’t have to “own” anything, but can stream whatever we want on demand.

So is it any surprise that when the need for a piece of equipment is eliminated because we can have one to do whatever we want at the moment, the desire or need to own an object dedicated to one function will disappear?

 

 

Getting away from it all

Every flight attendant’s dream! Rows of people completely immersed in being somewhere else 🙂

Read more at Tech Crunch

Summoning the Digital Genie

I’ve always wanted to be able to freely summon the internet by voice, and have it respond (in natural language no less) as I go about my daily tasks. Honestly, what would be easier than to just speak up from wherever you are? Which is why I was really interested to hear about Amazon’s new Echo.

For those of you not familiar, it’s a a hybrid speaker with voice recognition to answer certain questions and do certain tasks. It’s an inexpensive speaker and answer genie that responds to you throughout your home. “Echo – read me a recipe for pumpkin pie!” “Echo – add milk to my shopping list!” Things like that. Things that make life easier – no messy hands or actual moving involved.  Here’s the video that explains what it can do and how it works.

 

http://youtu.be/KkOCeAtKHIc

It’s no coincidence, though, that it’s AMAZON’s new product (a shopping retailer). The truth it that it’s an amazing way to learn about your needs, wants, and preferences – all of which can be tied back to recommending products.

Is this necessarily bad? I’m not sure. Ideally of course this just enhances your life: instead of being barraged with irrelevant things, you’re targeted with much more personalized suggestions. Many find this creepy though; that’s up to the user to decide. Forbes magazine did a nice roundup of all the type of information Echo *could* eventually glean from responding to your requests and surroundings here.

What’s less obvious is the impact of “always on” listening, as Sean and I have wrangled over in the last few days. The potential for future misuse is indeed, huge. Although Echo isn’t reporting on your conversations (pinging the internet), as it currently is only listening for the “wake” word, Amazon has been very noncommittal in their privacy statement about future use of the data gathered. and indeed – whether future versions of Echo won’t be recording *everything* that’s being said as a default.

But always on listening – whether it’s Echo or another future version (and there will be others) – is going to happen, and eventually become so “normal” (as cell phones have) that most people will dive in head first, without always stopping to think of the implications. After all, it’s so *intuitive* and easy to use, and makes life so much easier, why wouldn’t you? It does have some serious “Big Brother” potential though.

We scream about privacy, yet hand it over so easily when enticed by a bright shiny new toy. To whom are we selling our souls? Digital genie, or digital Pandora’s Box?

I have no answers. My guess is that privacy concerns will disappear as the “always on” generation swims like fish in the water they’ve always lived in, and dinosaurs (like me) die out.

Pandora’s box: Facebook, Google+, and the future of social networking

I’ve been watching the discussions around the launch of Google+ with interest. In the press there’s a definite “Coke vs Pepsi”, “Microsoft vs Apple” flavor to the discussion…I don’t think this is relevant, as much as the press seems to like to hype, speculate and crow over every blow-by-blow “win” or “lose” as if it were a football game.

For me the relevant paradigm shift is that Facebook’s monopoly has been broken; Google has opened Pandora’s box, and I think social networking will be revolutionized by it.

Because it won’t be about choosing which one you use, and then convincing all your friends to migrate. Everyone will just sign up for both – as it’s free (more on that later) there’s no need to choose.

But my friends are all on ABC.com!” you say. (Ok, Facebook).

A hurdle, initially, as you need two apps, browsers, or however you interact with your social networking site. A royal pain indeed (and really very Web 1.0, if I do say so myself).

And let’s not forget, Facebook and Google+ are only one flavor of current social networking sites. Everything from Linkedin to YouTube, Tumblr to Delicious, Twitter to StumbleUpon etc is a form of social networking – and we currently use each of these alone, with nary an integration in sight. Which is contributing to why it seems – well, overwhelming. Even to those of us who live and breathe this industry.

Until there’s an app developed that eliminates the need to interact on those sites / apps only. It will pull the relevant data you specify in the manner you want it delivered, when you want it delivered, and in the format you want to interact with it. In other words, someone will develop an uber app which will let you personalize how you interact with other people digitally.

Because (imposed) walled gardens and dictated formats ultimately don’t work in the digital world.

I always did like Rosseti

Concurrently, I predict that as people find faults with Google+ (the lack of anonymity being one that annoys me personally, and how insidiously it is integrated with the rest of the data Google has on you) just as they did with Facebook’s privacy issues, personalized modular type social networking “networks” will emerge, where you can tailor your own features and functionality and roll it out to your own network. A more drastic version of Google+’s circles – where you pull various desired modules together into a customized interface, and network with people across not just computer/phone based interaction points, but across all channels.

Because increasingly communication will not be typing based, there is also voice, video, and a plethora of other ways to communicate your thoughts, verbally, aurally, visually.

Which leads to the subject of another blog post, about how human/computer interface is changing – but I leave that for another day.

I also think people will start paying a subscription-based fee to engage in social networking that gives them the opportunity to control how they interact; the current “free because of advertising” model is only one option, but I believe as people will increasingly demand control over their privacy, actually paying for the privilege of keeping their information personal will outweigh the cost.

So – like Pandora’s box, which also included Hope (and which Pandora left inside the box after snapping the lid shut and letting all the evils escape), there is a potential upside to all this. Currently the giants of the industry are controlling how we use social networking – and we have little to say. But ultimately increased fragmentation will lead to more consumer control. The box hasn’t been snapped shut yet.