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October 2015

The Poison Of Protectionism

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Over time I have published a number of ideas that, one day, may come to life – with or without my personal involvement. These were my ideas that I have no protection over in terms of trademark or patents. You may wonder why I so openly published these ideas, especially in an environment where people are so protective over their concepts. As it happens, I worked out that for these ideas to take flight, they would require external help. So I could either:

1. Speak to people I know, in addition to some they recommend, then get a confidentiality agreement signed and create a working group.

2. Keep the ideas to myself and try to execute them myself as the sole owner.

3. Share the ideas openly with others and see whether anyone other than me would like to make them come to life.

The risk of option 1 is that the people I find on my own may not ultimately be the best people for the ideas. Plus, I don’t see a great deal of value in a confidentiality agreement when it is very hard, if not impossible, to prove that someone did or didn’t have an idea first. The approach also assumes that the idea is totally unique, which quite honestly is rarely the case.

The risk of option 2 is that it’s improbable only you can make everything happen. Omnipotence is an equally vicious poison. However hard you try there still isn’t a way of stretching 24 hours into 25 and even if you multi-task your head off, focus is diluted from the moment you start the second most important thing, let alone the third.

The risk of option 3 is that others ‘steal’ the idea and run with it. This is why so many people don’t share with others and produces the worst cases of The Poison Of Protectionism.

However, I’d like to propose a different logic as an antidote to this poison. This is what I call ‘The 4 Attitudinal Principles of Invention’:

1. It is very rare that an idea you come up with is totally unique. The chances are that someone, somewhere, is already working on it and they may have a greater resource than you, let alone some trademark or patent applications in process. This doesn’t mean your idea is less worthy or has less potential, but it does mean you are in good company and maybe the market is already setting its own scene in preparation for your version of the idea to take life.

2. Not everyone is inspired by the same thing. People who happen to hear you speaking about an idea are exceedingly unlikely to stop whatever they were doing and start a whole new project/company/whatever on the basis of hearing you speak. It’s not that your idea isn’t incredible – I’m sure it is – but people are into different things. Most inventions are too nuanced to be replicable.

3. It’s not actually down to the quality of the idea; it’s the execution of it. Sure you need a brilliant concept but when it comes down to it, success isn’t based on an idea itself. Profit isn’t based on the idea itself. Fame isn’t based on the idea itself. The way you execute it determines all those factors – whichever one you prefer as your metric of success. If you look at this in the context of the 1st principle (it is very rare that an idea you come up with is totally unique), you could have numerous people with the same idea but the ultimate winner will still be the one who executes best.

4. Talent creates and genius borrows. As it happens, originality can be a pain. It’s harder to prove a business case. It’s harder to convince people to invest. It’s harder to show people you aren’t crazy and ultimately, it’s harder to know how the hell to execute as nobody has done so before. As it turns out, many of the ideas around today that have turned into established businesses are based on older ideas, but done better. Google wasn’t the first search engine, iTunes wasn’t the first music player and Facebook wasn’t the first social network. Oh and by the way, I would place money on none of them being the last of their kind, despite being market leaders at the time of writing.

Despite these 4 Attitudinal Principles of Invention, there is an extreme level of protectionism in most industries, especially from people who haven’t been in business for a lengthy period. Often, people who are starting up on their own, take a view that the business world is some blood-sucking, evil, idea-grabbing monster which preys upon the young and innocent. Well, from experience, the business world can be like that, but it also exists in the realities of the four principles I outlined above. The truth is that the business world doesn’t normally listen to newcomers, especially those with potentially disruptive ideas. If they did, the reality is they mostly wouldn’t care a great deal.

My advice to those suffering from The Poison Of Protectionism is this:

1. Find something that exists and better it, radically. I’d wager there isn’t anything that cannot be bettered. Plus, this way you can always tell people what you are working on because what you are bettering already exists. One caveat is that it is often counter-productive to follow competition. It is far better to create your own playing field, even if you take the ball (and maybe some of the players) from the old one.

2. If you have something you think is totally original and world changing, decide what your ultimate goal is. If your goal is for the world to benefit from the idea being a reality, don’t fear others ‘stealing it’. Share it openly and if someone does ‘steal it’ let’s hope they either make it real, or even see the genius you are and invite you to join in. If your goal is to become super-rich and famous for being such a stunning entrepreneur, then either form a secret team or do it yourself in secret. Personally I believe you could get the same result from sharing openly but that requires a certain level of faith and a specific clarity in what your ultimate goal is.

3. Learn ‘The 4 Attitudinal Principles of Invention’. These will sanity check your thoughts along the way and who knows, maybe it will make the difference between something being great and a non-launched pipe-dream that you never got round to?

Good luck.

Taken as an excerpt from ’Business Poison’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/

Emotion In Artificial Intelligence

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In 1992, Gerald Tesauro created a programme called TD-Gammon at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Centre. The TD part stands for Temporal Difference (which is a type of learning system), and the Gammon part is taken from the game, Backgammon.

TD-Gammon quickly became as competent as the world’s best human players, eventually beating them and showing unforeseen strategies that, to this day, are incorporated by humans in backgammon tournaments. The real innovation was actually within the evaluation process used by the programme.

Basically, the algorithm became more and more consistent with every move, improving the view of the board and probabilities, based on the most recent move (hence temporal-difference learning). The capability to dynamically learn got the Artificial Intelligence (AI) community pretty excited.

A year later, in 1993, a guy called Vernor Vinge a mathematics professor, computer scientist and science fiction writer, wrote a book called ‘The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era’.

This is how the book starts:

“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.

Is such progress avoidable? If not to be avoided, can events be guided so that we may survive? These questions are investigated. Some possible answers (and some further dangers) are presented.

What is The Singularity?

The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence. There are several means by which science may achieve this breakthrough (and this is another reason for having confidence that the event will occur):

• The development of computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent. (To date, most controversy in the area of AI relates to whether we can create human equivalence in a machine. But if the answer is “yes, we can”, then there is little doubt that beings more intelligent can be constructed shortly thereafter)

• Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity

• Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent

• Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural human intellect”

Vinge later writes that “I’ll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.”

It may come as a surprise that Vinge wasn’t the first writer who went to these apparent extremes.

In 1847, R. Thornton, the editor of the Primitive Expounder, wrote (more than half in jest) about the recent invention of a four function mechanical calculator:

“…such machines, by which the scholar may, by turning a crank, grind out the solution of a problem without the fatigue of mental application, would by its introduction into schools, do incalculable injury. But who knows that such machines when brought to greater perfection, may not think of a plan to remedy all their own defects and then grind out ideas beyond the ken of mortal mind!”

And also, a hero of mine Alan Turing stated in 1951 that:

“Once the machine thinking method has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers … At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control.”

More recently (and fashionably), in a 2005 book by Ray Kurzweil ‘The Singularity Is Near’, the first chapter discusses what Kurzweil calls The Six Epochs. The penultimate epoch is called ‘The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence’.

This epoch, giving further emphasis to Vinge, is where technology reaches a level of sophistication and fine-structuring comparable with that of biology, allowing the two to merge to create higher forms of life and intelligence. Kurzweil claims that we are now in the process of entering this epoch, thus giving justification to his claims that The Singularity is near.

So far, so good.

The Singularity is a very popular topic now. Those who are really into proper geek technology, have a field day with imagining what life may look like when computers outstrip human capabilities.

There are detractors of course, however the challenges I find most interesting are lesser found in common reviews and posts about The Singularity or AI in general. The challenge I’m fascinated with is:

Can non-benevolent (i.e. non-well meaning) super-intelligence persist?

To this point there was poignant commentary in a piece in 2011 by Mark Waser. Here’s an excerpt:

“Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers generally define intelligence as the ability to achieve widely-varied goals under widely-varied circumstances. It should be obvious, if an intelligence has (or is given) a malevolent goal or goals, that every increase in its intelligence will only make it more capable of succeeding in that malevolence and equally obvious therefore that mere super-intelligence does not ensure benevolence.”

My favourite quote from Mark is at the end of his post:

“A path of non-benevolence is likely to come back and haunt any entity who is not or does not wish to be forever alone in the universe.”

And this brings me to a point of view still under development in my mind… and to be honest, I’m shocked there is such low volume of writing and apparent thought in this area.

I’m concerned that the people most involved with AI are primarily technologists.

In the same way as Mark Zuckerberg defines privacy, identity, and human rights in a totally different way than I do, I’m concerned that the proponents of AI are considering a different definition of benevolence.

The intelligence spoken of is the type necessary to win at backgammon, or chess – activities that have ultimate scenarios and finite variables. The machine intelligence involved in developments of The Singularity and AI is contextually logical and mathematical.

There is little talk of the illogical and emotional, because the machinery being developed, albeit of exponential capability, is fundamentally hierarchical, not democratic like the human brain. We seem to overlook there is a reason why even the smartest computers cannot beat the best players at poker.

I fear that the intelligence involved is only one part of the intelligence that powers humankind. I struggle to believe that the emotional intelligence has been featured strongly enough in AI computations.

Whilst my personal hope is for benevolent super-intelligence, I’m hard pressed to find enough proof that the AI developments are considering the soft science elements as an equal priority.

And let’s not forget, the estimation of our own emotional intelligence is at best embryonic. It is only in recent times that we have started to realise the deep cognitive patterns that power our thoughts, decisions and behaviours.

Ultimately I’m concerned that we haven’t even scratched the surface of our own emotional intelligence, so how prepared are we to ensure optimal artificial emotional intelligence, if indeed that is even a priority?

Taken as an excerpt from ’28 Thoughts On Digital Revolution’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle:http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/

1. Verner Vinge http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernor_Vinge

2. The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era by Vernor Vinge (1993) http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/vinge/misc/singularity.html

3. Primitive Expounder, Devoted to Theoretical and Practical Religion, Expounded in Its Primitive Purity, Excellence and Loveliness by R. Thornton & J. Billings (1845) http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=-sXhAAAAMAAJ

4. Alan Turing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing

5. The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil (2005) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Singularity_Is_Near

6. “Superintelligence Does Not Imply Benevolence” by Mark Waser (2011): http://becominggaia.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/superintelligence-does-not-imply-benevolence-intelligence-vs-wisdom-1/

The Poison Of Technology That Can

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When I was younger, the ‘cool’ stuff was created by large, faceless organisations with brilliant logos and jingles. I imagined they sat in massive offices, smoking cigars, drinking whiskey and dreaming up incredible solutions to problems we hadn’t realised we had. Growing up, I found this wasn’t too far from the truth – although the non-smoking policy in many buildings diluted the reality.

Let me place down my cards straight away: I love new technology, I’m a geek, and I will pretty much buy anything with some form of wireless transmitter, or trial pretty much any software that increases my productivity.

But equally, I will only keep using stuff that makes my life easier or better… and this is why I have drawers full of useless crap that probably seemed like a good idea at the time. But that’s what eBay is for, right?

When speaking with numerous inventors or creators (of whom most were technologists), I realised a while ago, there is a distinct divide in motivation that leads to invention. Without meaning to be too binary, and purely for illustrative purposes, the divide I see is:

  1. Those who create or invent due to an existing problem that needs to be solved
  2. Those who create or invent due to a technological capability, without addressing an existing problem

The justification of the second type tends to be that the technological capability will address a future problem that, maybe, people haven’t even realised yet. Actually, most people retrospectively state they are in the first camp – the key word here being retrospectively.

If we look closely at the genesis of ideas, there are multitudes of instances where “doing something really clever with technology” is actually the driver, rather than “doing something that will help or add fundamental value to the end user”.

I see it time and time again – the ‘adding value’ part is appended to the end of a ream of technological wizardry and often, people accept the rhetoric if the powerpoint presentation is cool enough.

In reality I see these as solutions looking for a problem, and, whilst we’re on the catchphrases; when you’re a hammer, everything looks like nail.

Worse still, if we work for a company or organisation with a strong technological bias, we may well be pre-programmed to dream up a ‘use case’ or ‘user journey’ after the technology has already been created (or, at least conceived).

However we arrive at it, these circumstances are symptoms of an exceedingly popular poison known as The Poison Of Technology That Can.

The problem is that the technology around us presents so many opportunities to do ‘stuff’; it’s very tempting just to go ahead and do it.

We can be driven by the desire for money, the desire for fame, or the desire to fulfil a mandate from our bosses. We can invent stories of demand, which actually are based on an assumption that we represent the mass market.

Rooms of people in corporate suits, earning big money, carrying three smartphones, assuming that the girl on the reception desk truly cares about the latest 3.542v processor that enables something that only those in corporate suits can pronounce, but none are brave enough to describe, in case they get it wrong.

“No, you’ve misjudged us Jonathan,” they say. “The 3.542v isn’t for people like her, we are going for the biggest market opportunity, and that is people just like us.”

Then I say, “…but, with respect, you may not actually be representative of the biggest market.”

Then they say, “No, we are! Everyone I know is like me.”

Then I say, “So why are you putting out an advertising campaign aimed at people like the girl on reception?”

Then they say, “Because people like that aspire to be just like us!”

Then I shut my big mouth.

The Poison Of Technology That Can is a terrible virus. It’s everywhere you look. Want to test it? Ask someone who has created something, how they came up with the idea. Here are some potential answers:

“We noticed our competitors getting into the space of…”

“We read a report that this market was going to…”

“We were instructed by our CEO that we had to use our tech capability to…”

If the answer starts with phrases like these, it is quite likely they have been infected by The Poison Of Technology That Can.

The evil beauty of this poison is that you can hide it really easily with key messages and marketing communications.

In fact, even people within organisations can believe they are making real people’s lives better, simply because they have been told they are.

The poison is so damn clever, it sometimes results in successes, thus justifying future creations based on the same approach of technology first, external purpose second. The poison is also intelligent. It is the big brother of post-rationalisation that continues the viral mutation. So – what’s the antidote?

It’s as easy and as hard as having the vision, ethical merit and bravery to continually question “how can we make people’s lives better?” or “how can we add more value to people’s experiences?”

Then, having the courage to invest in fulfilling the external purpose rather than a) following competitors, or b) taking the easy road of doing what’s possible, rather than what’s valuable.

Sounds easy to say, doesn’t it?

Sadly, it really isn’t…

However – if you ever wanted a competitive edge, if you ever wanted to tear apart the marketplace you’re in, or, most importantly, if you ever wanted to attract loyal and loving fans, my advice is to avoid The Poison Of Technology That Can like the plague.

In fact, Technology That Can will almost guarantee you will be left with a Bank Manager That Can’t… and People Who Ignore.

What could be worse?

Taken as an excerpt from ’Business Poison’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/

It Is Within

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I remember once walking off stage in Kiev where I had spoken in some detail about the necessity of courage when attempting to succeed. Someone approached me and asked whether I thought courage could be learned or whether you have to be born with it.

That is a good question.

My short answer was: “I think the challenge is less about learning courage and more about addressing the fears that create obstacles to what we desire to achieve.”

Here is my longer answer:

Around 2500 years ago the Orphics had one of the first recognised religions to support the concept of personal heaven and hell. Damnation, redemption and salvation. Within.

Unlike earlier Greek religions that suggested a wide gulf between humans and Gods, the Orphics considered any believer to be able to find Godliness within their soul. Homer’s humanised Gods, in contrast, were absolutely unattainable.

The Orphics said bodies were “the tomb of the soul” which successively imprisoned the soul through numerous birth cycles until final purification. It was thought that when a soul achieved full redemption it could dwell with the Gods evermore. Incurable souls were condemned to lie in the “Slough” forever.

As it happens, I’ve visited Slough in the South of England and I can confirm it’s a truly horrible place.

Anyway, despite the scarcity of historical evidence, (a few gold plates with writing on, buried in Italy and Crete with the remains of believers), Orphicism had a significant effect on all subsequent religions, including those that seem furthest removed from it.

Those enjoyable dinner party guests who have studied c.5th century B.C. enlightenment will confirm the main point being from Hippocrates in his treatise entitled ‘On Airs, Waters and Places’: “Nothing is more divine or more human than anything else, but all things are alike and all divine.”

When I meet people around the world I sometimes drop in a few questions that tell me a great deal about them. These questions are exactly the same as I ask myself daily:

“What do you truly believe in?”

“Why do you do what you do?”

“What would you actually like to do?”

“What stops you from doing what you wish?”

It would seem these questions are about careers but actually they are about courage.

I like finding out what obstacles people perceive and whether they are capable of overcoming their fears to remove the obstacles in the way of success. You can tell a lot about people from whether they feel they are achieving what they desire.

Dan Gardner writes in the book ‘Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear’ that our level of perceived risk is inversely proportional to our level of knowledge. In other words, when we know less about something our perceived risk is greater than when we know more.

The logic is that understanding means we can be rational and properly assess whether it is actually valid to be afraid of something. Unfortunately though, some of our deepest fears are irrational and not necessarily addressed with increased knowledge.

For instance, I recently had to hold the hand of a 60-year-old Turkish man on a flight to Istanbul because he was petrified of flying. Or at least that’s what he said… I still have no idea why he wanted his leg rubbed.

When it comes down to it, our fear-based obstacles limit us from achieving our full potential. Whilst one can learn whether the other side of an obstacle is attractive and safe, the root of our obstacle placement is based on our feeling of security.

The popular quote “feel the fear and do it anyway” is essentially a summary of the need to feel comfortable with the feeling of insecurity. This is not to say that feeling insecure is good. This is to say that feeling at ease with a lower level of security often opens the door to higher achievement.

I have found this to be true.

In my life I have felt extremely secure and extremely insecure at different times. Oddly, the most insecure I have felt was when I had the most traditional security. For example, when I had a ‘proper’ job, I always felt at high risk of everything being removed by a faceless board of directors. As I am monumentally unemployable this was a realistic fear to have.

Personally I have no real idea of what my life will look like in 12 months and I embrace that feeling. This is because, ultimately, I have belief.

I believe in what I am doing to such an extent that nothing seems impossible. I am far beyond driven.

I have an extreme focus on what it is I would like to achieve and I am pretty sure I know how to get there.
If the road map is wrong, that’s fine too. In fact if my aspirations change I will then have extreme focus on the new set.

As I have an ‘open-arms’ approach to changes in circumstance I am not remotely concerned if circumstances change.

Just as the Orphics said that (literally) every body contained the access path to divinity, I believe that (literally) every body contains the access path to achieving whatever is desired.

This is how I live, accountable and in control of my destiny.

From being given up at birth to experiencing times of hardship, loss, and constraint, I am living testament to the fact that anything you commit to and focus on is achievable.

Whilst the others wait to receive what they think they deserve, you have the absolute power to go out and get what it is you believe in.

It is within.

Taken as an excerpt from ’28 Thoughts On Digital Revolution’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/

1. On Airs, Waters and Places by Hippocrates (400 B.C.E) http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/airwatpl.html

2. Risk by Dan Gardner (2008) http://www.amazon.com/Risk-The-Science-Politics-Fear/dp/1905264151

Quantifying BioCrime

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The Nike Fuelband was just one of many examples within a movement known as ‘Quantified Self’. In simple terms this is basically a process of being aware of what we do and how it affects us. For instance, knowing that by running two miles you burn a certain number of calories, or that in a day you’ve walked a certain number of steps.

Moving forward we’ll see more tools appearing that enable us to access the data we’re producing and at the time of writing in the middle of 2013, the vast majority of comment is about the positive opportunities data recording brings. For Nike, last year’s profits rose by 18% in their equipment division due to the launch of the Fuelband, and for the public, it would appear we like recording and observing a lot of what we’re doing and, at times, sharing it with others.

This habit of recording, observing and sharing may seem fairly trivial when it only involves calories burned but we’re on the brink of unlocking a new level in our personal information. The game is already in play and it involves the most advanced storage system in the universe that holds the most detailed personal information on each and every one of us.

Our DNA.

In terms of ‘self’ there is no purer version and the moves toward quantifying it are rapidly taking shape, a subject well covered in Wired Magazine in recent times, inspiring this piece in many ways.

Scientists have been onto this for ages too. The first human genome sequence cost £2billion to complete in the year 2000, today it’s less than £2500 and by the end of the decade it will cost less than a pound. As you read this, genetic engineers are programming living things directly all over the world. To aid this effort, thousands of people have proactively shared their complete genetic codes and other biometrics to the Public Genome Project. On the good side we can envisage new possibilities in ‘life betterment’ such as medicines and disease control, on the downside there’s a high chance we are moving into an era of BioCrime.

If you view living organisms as computers, the hardware is the cell and the operating system software is our personal DNA. In short, what we currently know as computer hacking will likely be mirrored in DNA hacking.

After all, if genetic engineering becomes as common as software engineering, there will be millions of new developers in the field and it’s extremely likely (if not inevitable) that sociopaths and terrorists will be involved.

If we look at the range of digital hacks and ask what the BioCrime versions would be, there are some pretty bleak outcomes that could well be round the corner. For now, I’ll resist talking about mass genocide and vicious denial of service attacks of entire cities but instead focus in on four BioCrime scenarios that would appear to be waiting in the wings.

BioSpam

As with computer spam, it’s all about volume. It isn’t targeted very much; it’s just a numbers game.

Bringing the methodology across to BioCrime you could envisage the creation of synthetic bacteria that can easily be distributed to a small group and realistically could spread like a common cold. This could blanket the world in months.

It so happens that pattern formation is already supported in synthetic creations so people could suddenly develop rashes on their skin with logos or other imagery on. Even by writing that I imagine the media industry dreaming up a new terminology. Rash Marketing or some such… Rash is the new Reach… oh boy.

Seriously though, one could imagine new industry verticals opening up with companies distributing anti-spam technologies from synthetic vaccines to body-covering equipment to avoid contact with the spreading BioSpam bacteria. If you are in an anti-virus company today, this may be your next market opportunity.

BioSpoofing

Taking DNA and placing it somewhere else could quite easily frame someone at the scene of a crime they were nowhere near.

In an article published by the Journal of Forensic Sciences International, researchers demonstrated it is possible to isolate DNA from a tissue or glass and mass-produce it. For instance a piece of skin could be grown or in-vitro sperm produced that frames someone for sexual assault.

Can you imagine the level of policing this would require and the advancement in biotechnology to counteract it? And what type of tools could individuals use to protect themselves from being ‘BioSpoofed’?

BioPhishing

500 million times a day an official looking email requests a recipient to open links that then steal information.

In the digital world it is more possible to not leave a ‘signature’ but biologically we leave parts of us everywhere. Signatures with extraordinary volumes of data inside that are way more detailed than any digital interaction we carry out. We may be paranoid about technology companies seeing our passwords but that’s nothing in comparison to what we’re already leaving behind.

We’re always shedding skin cells for a start. Then there’s the saliva left on every cup or item of cutlery, and taxis and plane seats covered in our hair. Hotel bathrooms and beds provide an ideal location for BioPhishing with various fluids left around, all providing material to be used in the same way as our passwords are used when our email accounts are hacked.

Hairstylists and waiters may not seem so innocent in the future and your sewage system could easily be tapped for more private information than you’ve ever even told anyone. ‘Knowing your shit’ takes on a whole new meaning.

The DNA of unborn children doesn’t even escape the threat as baby cells can be automatically sorted out of a mother’s blood sample unwillingly left on a toothbrush.

One could imagine the types of organisations that may combat this. Maybe clothing companies or furniture manufacturers could innovate in areas that show what you’re leaving behind in terms of DNA?

Spear BioPhishing

This is a more personalised version of mass BioPhishing.

Spear BioPhishing is a personalised biological attack where viruses, cells or other nanoparticles are engineered to become activated only when in contact with a particular organism or individual(s).

This could manifest like wiping the short-term memory of a particular group of people (like a shift of factory workers for example), or to ensure a particular politician loses his or her ability to speak…Maybe the monitoring technologies could be used to monitor our relative sanity to check and alert us if any unusual activity is taking place? I’ll resist the obvious punchlines here.

So while the Quantified Self movement is certainly full of funky ways to find out about our fitness and meaningful ways to find out about our core health:

– We must move forward with awareness that the other side of the coin will be growing just as fast if not quicker. Don’t only seek out the information that supports your preference or what suits your particular job, company or industry.

– We must only build the future we want to live in. Everything you do has an impact on what is next. Question everything you are building today and check you’re morally okay with the consequences of how things may play out if extended from today’s version.

If you’re a company looking for the next white space of opportunity, the area of BioCrime is one you may not want to miss out on. In a positive way I hope. Start from considering the above four scenarios in terms of what the human need would be and how you could add extreme value.

Taken as an excerpt from ’28 Thoughts On Digital Revolution’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/

Change Is The Enemy Of The Competent

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A long time ago when I started helping companies interpret how to use the Internet I was met with a significant level of negativity.

During my tenure as the Chairman of the retail side of the British Music Industry, one particular retailer who thought that I was “representing the Internet” said that he would make sure I was “shut down”.

Years later I was laughed at in boardrooms when explaining to supermarkets they could sell groceries online.

After this I was kicked out of meetings for talking about the virtualisation of physical products and services.

Within the last six years I’ve been taken aside and quietly told that I have no right to talk about “digital black magic” to serious businessmen. Told instead to “bring back proof and case studies to show how markets had been re-defined online”.

At the time though, no case studies existed and the only proof we had was from Cern, considered to be unrelated to commerciality by many organisations.

As I cut my teeth as a private adviser I was invited by the Government to discuss how the effect of the web could be “slowed down”.

In February 2006, when I announced the forthcoming trend in permission mobile marketing, I was cornered in a corridor by two very angry traditional advertising guys who were absolutely furious that I was “rocking the boat”. Over my entire career I’ve faced these reactions. I’m used to it.

You can’t win against them by arguing back. You can’t win by entering into long debates. To some people the existence of absolute indisputable evidence is the only thing they will accept – but actually that’s not it. I’ve realised that their issue is not the actual issue.

The fact is, change is the enemy of the competent as it re-defines the safe place within which the competent dwell.

The competent cannot stand change. Ultimately it makes them scared as what they think they know is being challenged.

If anything changes, the only way they feel comfortable is if they can pragmatically re-design the walls of their safe place, at their speed and within their level of understanding, without rocking any boats.

However change doesn’t wait for that, hence being so unattractive. Change is persistent and unrelenting in the face of those who resist.

As the Chinese proverb says: “When the winds of change are blowing, some build a shelter, others build a windmill.”

I’m in the windmill business. Are you?

Taken as an excerpt from ’28 Thoughts On Digital Revolution’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/

The Poison Of Certainty

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The more I look for it, the more I seem to find instances of people stating, with absolute certainty, what will or won’t ‘ever’ happen.

Look at TV companies stating that there will “always be TV” or music companies stating that there will “always be record labels”. How about that there will “always be vinyl records” or that people will “always read paper books”?

These statements assume total knowledge of all future scenarios.

Actually I suspect the correct interpretation is, “I cannot imagine a time when…” or “I have no reason to believe that…” But people like certainties, explanations and tangibles.

People like to speak and listen to assured advice. It’s far easier to accept things if they are compartmentalised and well presented. The unpredictable is often seen as dangerous and threatening although I believe the main danger and threat is any level of assumptive certainty. That’s the killer – that’s the risk.

The next time you hear someone state that something will always exist, or never change; ask yourself how on earth they could know the future with such certainty? The past and the present have nothing to do with it. So what can you go on? Intuition? Luck? Guesswork? Yes, it’s awkward to do business without assured futures, so keeping sensory agility is critical.

I’m certain it always will be.

Taken as an excerpt from ’Business Poison’ available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/