Markets move quickly and they’re full of unexpected surprises. If you run a business, you have to be resilient. You have to keep up with new technology and emerging trends so you don’t get left behind by your competitors. My guest for this episode is Jeremy Goldman. He is someone who has thought deeply about how to futureproof a business. He’s the author of the books, Getting to Like and Going Social. He’s the Founder of the Firebrand Group and co-host of the Futureproof Podcast. Our conversation is all about the next big thing. If you’re curious about innovations like augmented reality, drones, AI and cryptocurrency and how they can help your business, stick around because we’re about to take a wild ride into the future.
Jeremy, it’s great to have you on the show.
Thank you so much. It’s great to be with you.
I want to know so much more about what you’re up to with your podcast, Futureproof, because I am all about the future. In fact, I took the StrengthsFinder assessment and my number one strength is futuristic. I love prognosticating about the future. Let’s talk about the future and how you ended up having a podcast about the future.
Going back, I’ve always tried to be a little bit ahead of the curve and it seemed to be something that I relatively had a decent knack for. I was building an early social network for fashion students as a bit of a project in 1999. Then about a year after Facebook came out, I built a business plan around a Facebook clone. I got a login from a Stanford student so that I can go in and clone it and try to build Facebook for business, which in some ways was like what the Lithium Technologies was built around. I realized, in part because I’m so interested in technology and communication and the intersection between the two, that I can often figure out what’s going to be big next. I’m more interested in covering it and helping other people understand what’s next. I figured the best way to do that is in addition to all of my writing and everything, why don’t I launch a podcast where I can speak to people who are creating the future, who are covering the future? I can get smarter along the way and my audience can hopefully get a little smarter at the same time.
What would be some of the cool things that are going to be big next particularly in business and even more specifically in marketing?
There are a number of different interesting and growing platforms that are becoming important. Social media as I say, it’s not that it jumped the shark, it’s just that it is relatively mature at this point. You can’t jump in there and leapfrog everybody else with respect to augmented reality, with respect to drones or deep learning. There are ways to get in there and get to be ahead of the crowd. That to me is interesting. If you can get in, you get a high ROI. If you get in at the right time and if you get in at the wrong time, not so much. That is critical. One of the things that fascinate me about launching a show like this is that I find that more and more people are telling me, “It’s great to talk about the platforms and the new technologies, but you also have to be thinking about some core things that are intrinsic to being a human being.” Some of those things are equally important, if not more important.To be able to predict the big things is like winning the lottery. Click To Tweet
A perfect example is I spoke to the messaging strategist, Tamsen Webster who is amazingly eloquent at talking about how important message is to be thinking about first and the platform second. It’s fantastic to be able to learn from people who have a different and opposing point of view. I find that often the answer is you listen to all these people and they all had a portion of the puzzle, and you listen to everybody and you wind up getting smarter in the process.
Let’s dive into a few of these technologies that you mentioned in passing like augmented reality, drones, AI and that sort of stuff. Let’s start with augmented reality. Can you differentiate for our audience what is AR, augmented reality versus VR, virtual reality? Then let’s go into some of the applications of both.
A lot of people are more familiar with virtual reality. It’s a term that’s been around longer and it has a lot of interesting potential applications. Ultimately, virtual reality is about putting on a headset or device, you’re doing something to yourself that puts you in a different world or makes you feel as if you’re in a different world. Augmented reality, on the other hand, is a way of overlaying and augmenting or enhancing our reality. A perfect example is when you do a filter that makes it appear that you’re wearing a cowboy hat or a penguin costume but you’re not. That is an aspect of augmented reality. When you put on a headset that makes you feel like you’re on a different continent, for the most part, that’s virtual reality.
What’s interesting is that even though the virtual reality was so much more well-known, augmented reality found a few more business applications a lot quicker. It’s a little bit easier to make money off of augmented reality in the short-term. Some of the reason for that is because it’s a little bit more cost-effective to implement. More people have access to technologies that bring augmented reality to them and make it available to them. You can try on jeans without trying them on using augmented reality. For virtual reality, it’s actually great at creating a sense of empathy. You can feel as if you’re actually in a village in Africa and feel a little bit closer to a cause that you’ve already felt close to. As was the case for me when I first discovered Charity: Water, which was a charity that I had supported and covered for years, they were in my first book even. I felt a little bit closer to it because they transported me to that village and that makes that so impactful.
I’ve experienced the same thing going through the VR journey that Charity: Water had produced. It was very cool and very compelling. It’s a great organization as well. Augmented reality in normal life for our audience might take the form of like Pokémon Go? What are some of the most common applications for augmented reality that our audience will have experienced?
Generally, I would say some of the most commonplace applications these days are to try something on and that can be cosmetics or that can be clothing even. You can get a sense of how something is going to actually look as if it was right in front of you when it’s not right in front of you. Then you touched upon Pokémon Go and other games where you can interact with something that’s not there but is there in a virtual sense. I heard a lot of conversation about what is and what isn’t an augmented reality. People get caught up in, “Is this technically this or is this technically that? Does it qualify as AR or does it not?” That’s missing the point. The key thing is to understand the things that are available to us right now? What is adaption look like? How many people are going to be able to use these technologies? Are they resonating with people?
It’s the same type of thing when you look at a new type of Facebook ad. When the ad unit shows up then you look to see, is it going to become a commonplace? There are sometimes where situations where something is launched on a social platform and nobody uses it or it has a negative effect and then they decide to stop trying to push that. With any new technology, there is a moment where it’s not necessarily going to succeed or fail. It’s a matter of figuring out how it should be used. You get a general idea. It’s not just about the technology. It’s thinking about how it fits in and where it’s going to go from the nascent stages to is it going to make it to prime time?
There are so many seemingly great technologies, platforms and services that you think, “This could be huge,” or it’s already huge and then fast forward a couple of years and it’s on its way out. Gary Vee was all big on Snapchat telling every business that he spoke to, “You’ve got to be on Snapchat. You’ve got to invest in Snapchat. You need to market on Snapchat.” I never did and I never believed in the platform. I never liked the idea. It’s just ephemeral content that’s going to evaporate within moments and then you have got nothing to show other than reputation. You created all this content with no evidence of it. I never liked that idea. Look now, Snapchat is getting crushed by Instagram. You have to place some bets and some of your bets are going to be wrong. What would you say are the secrets to making better bets?
Let me jump in about the Snapchat-Instagram point. I had this moment and it was the day that Instagram Story was launched where I had a piece that went out. It basically said this is a game-changer and part of the reason is that people will start to see a much better engagement metrics when they post these Instagram Stories versus Snapchat. It means they’re going to start to use this new feature, which means that when Snapchat IPOs, they’re going to have a whole lot less money available to them to combat Facebook, which is going to matter. It then means that it’s not going to be as much of a competitor a year from now. You can basically have a little bit of a decision tree if you will and look to see what’s going to be big. You can say, “I believe a certain thing will happen or a certain executive is going to take a certain action and as a result, I believe this is going to happen or that it’s going to happen.” I try to do that whenever possible in order to make my predictions.
I also try to document what I thought and not whitewash it. I’m glad that you mentioned this because one of the most important things to do is to acknowledge that you’re not going to get most of it right. Let me take an analogy. In baseball, you’re a good hitter if you get out about 70% of the time. If you’re batting 300, you’re doing okay. When Jim Cramer tells you to buy stocks or if you see a political pundit on TV, you never know what their batting average is. You would find a lot of them don’t necessarily do that well in terms of their ongoing batting average. If you want to get better on an ongoing basis, you have to try to calculate your batting average and you’ve got to figure out what are you getting wrong and why are you getting those things wrong? Then you basically solve for those particular issues.
What’s your decision tree look like?
It’s going to be different depending on which decision we’re talking about. Generally speaking, I try to say a certain thing is going to happen or not, but I’ll put odds on it. Then I’ll say, “As a result, I think that there are 30% odds of this other thing is going to happen and if not, it will be 70% odds that this other thing will happen.” You build all of that out and then you look at the end of the day, a few steps ahead and you say, “This is what I believe is going to occur.” For instance with augmented reality, I believe more and more people will have augmented reality capable devices in their hands. I believe that there are going to be more and more case studies out there about companies that successfully implement this type of technology and have a return. It means more and more brands are going to get into that market and find sharper ways to use AR to get ahead. There are always things that can change.Don't go for broke. There's not a real benefit to going for broke. Click To Tweet
For instance, any prediction you made about business. Let’s say, September 10, 2001 was going to wind up being wrong because there are these black swan-like events that throw everything out of whack. It’s not worth it to try to predict things like that because everybody else is going to get those things wrong too and have their forecasts affected in the same way. Instead I try to say, “These are the things that you believe will happen and then, “What is the next step?” Because of this, then this and as a result, this,” and then you keep on going.
What you said about black swan events is critically important for our audience to understand, first of all, that’s a term and there’s a whole story around that terminology and the thought leader who came up with that term. There are anti-fragile systems that thrive in the chaos and that will not be resilient against things like black swan events. That’s important for our audience to understand too. Let’s talk a bit more about these black swan events and why maybe you should try and stay away from predicting black swan events that may or may not happen. Instead, focus on things that are very predictable like for example Ray Kurzweil focuses on it with his predictions. Those tend to come true 80% of the time, which is quite an impressive batting average.
There’s this word futurist where I have no problem against other people being futurists. I feel a little uncomfortable calling myself that, maybe a short-term futurist. I can get a decent number of things that will break big or occur over the next 36 months simply because those are the things that matter to me and to the clients that I work with and the brands that I serve. It doesn’t matter to me what happens 80 years from now. I’m not going to be alive, so I don’t care as much. I do care I guess technically what world will exist after us, but it’s the same exact reason why people still are pretty bad to the environment. It’s because it’s not going to impact them tomorrow. Tomorrow they have something important to deal with and they’ll always kick the can down the road. Going back to your question about trying to predict the big things, it’s like winning the lottery.
Let’s say you wanted to predict that Cleveland is going to be the hottest city in America in ten years. As a result, you’re going to maybe buy up a bunch of real estates, invest in a bunch of startups there and so on. If you want to go all in and if you had $10 million and if you invested $10 million in Cleveland, you might wind up making a lot of money. There is a very good chance that you bet wrong and that the hottest economy in the whole country is not in Cleveland. The key thing is don’t go for broke. There’s not a real benefit to going for broke. Frankly, this is the problem in terms of if you want to get on TV, make an outlandish claim that has a very low chance of happening. You can make a claim about the fact that let’s say Trump is going to resign in the next two weeks, and who knows by the time of this blog is published, maybe something’s happened there. Outlandish claims are more likely to get you on TV. It doesn’t mean that they’re likely to occur. People often don’t get called out on outlandish predictions and forecasts after the fact. They do use those things to get famous and that’s not necessarily the right way to go.
There are these black swan events that are very unpredictable and very game-changing. You mentioned September 11, 2001 is one of them. What are some of the more recent business related or even marketing related black swan events?
One example that might be a black swan like an event that would be difficult to predict would be some of the issues pertaining to Facebook. If you were in the outside world, you wouldn’t necessarily have a great reason to predict that Facebook was going to have a major data breach or that they would be weaponized with respect to elections. That would be the thing and even that frankly, I don’t even think it’s the best example because there were some signs there that some of that data could be weaponized. Facebook was growing almost too big and could cause a lot of issues for a lot of people.
Maybe Theranos could be another example in terms of the fall from grace there. Enron, obviously when it fell. Often there are certain things that you can go after the fact and you can say that there were certain particular things that we can notice from the outside. The Arab Spring is a pretty good example where people are like, “You couldn’t predict it,” but you could predict something would happen if you look at the general unrest. Then if you look at the fact that people were connected in the way that they never were before. As a result, they could rise up together and organize an impromptu rebellion or protest. That was something that they weren’t able to do a few years before.
The same author who wrote about Black Swan events also wrote the book, Antifragile. Have you read that book?
I’ve heard multiple people recommend it so I’m going to have to put it on my Audible list.
You should. I’m not finished with it. I’m partway through the book. I’m loving it so far. The concept here is that some systems: economic systems, evolutionary systems, biological systems are antifragile, meaning that they’re not resilient. They’re beyond resilient. They thrive in the chaos. The more entropy, the more disturbances, the more black swan events, the better because they thrive in that. Your biology, for example, is antifragile, it’s not resilient. We’d all be dead if we were simply resilient with our biology. We as a species thrive in that chaos. The mutations and so forth, we need those in order to advance our species. Any thoughts on how this concept might show up in the things that you talk about on your podcast in terms of the future and technologies and business and in particularly marketing as well?
There are so many different things. Probably one of the most important things though that I would share on that is not just the value in talking to people but one of the things that I’m picking up as part of the podcast and as part of preparation for what will inevitably be my third book is how to become a better forecaster and predictor of the future in general. I mentioned one of those examples which is don’t try to be famous, try to be accurate. Another one of the key things and I don’t know if this quite answers the question right is the idea of challenging and acknowledging your biases is so critical. One of the things that’s interesting to me as I’m talking to all these people like Rand Fishkin, as we were both talking. You’re closely connected. I love how close he was to SEO very early on. What’s interesting to me is that people can predict one thing and then they could be so wrong about a few other things.
I’ve seen people who are great and really good at predicting. I’m not saying Rand is or you are but there’s this danger of having certain biases or you invest in a drone company. Then you go on TV making big predictions about how drones will rule the world. I’m like, “You’re biased. You want drones to rule the world.” That’s not necessarily the person that I want to talk to about whether or not drones will be big. I want somebody who is very knowledgeable to talk to about that. If I am going to talk to somebody who’s the CEO of a drone company, I want to ask them how do they acknowledge their biases and work around them. Your forecasts are going to be totally wrong if you stand to gain by saying that drones are going to be a $50 trillion business by 2023. It’s like, “You’ve got some skin in the game and that skin in the game might help you make bad predictions.” That’s equally dangerous as is the benefit of trying to make good predictions. It’s really balancing those two.Don't try to be famous, try to be accurate. Click To Tweet
It’s like you would potentially be betting against yourself if you’re the CEO of a drone company and say, “I think this is more of a bridge technology and drones will come and go like diesel cars came and went. It’ll be something after that like nano-swarms that will take over instead of drones.” You probably just sunk your stock price if you made that prediction even if it may be accurate.
That’s a good way of putting it. You do have to try to acknowledge that at the end of the day, everybody has certain things that they want to come true. Those are areas where you need to challenge yourself. You might wind up being right but talk to people who have opposing viewpoints. Not to get political but part of the problem is in our society right now, you’ve got people very polarized politically. A lot of people think they’re 100% right and other people are 0% correct. The answer is you have way too much hubris if that’s what you feel. Maybe on some things, you’re 97% but there’s a 3% in the other person’s argument that you will become smarter if you speak to that person. My goal is to continually get smarter. I’m not going to be the smartest person in the world ever or even in the room. At the very least be open to those other perspectives. Those lead to better forecast and those lead to people being better predictors. There’s research that proves this. I’m all about being not dogmatic and following the research and following the information wherever it goes.
Speaking of research that proves this, let’s talk a bit about that. There are cognitive biases, there are filter bubbles and other things that contribute to this effect. How about cognitive bias?
Cognitive bias is a very interesting thing and in some ways, it’s something that people are getting more concerned about now because of deep learning. Are we going to actually train machines to do better than us? Basically, cognitive bias is any type of mistake in remembering and evaluating information. Often that’s because you’re holding onto preferences or beliefs. You might even have a memory that you’re so sure happened and it didn’t actually happen that way. You can look into some studies. There are people who remember events that didn’t happen and they’ll swear by them.
To me what’s interesting is that cognitive bias exists. We have to acknowledge that it happens. We have to as much as possible try to figure out how do we solve for it. As people are building out deep learning systems, there are two concerns that people may have. One thing people feel is that we’re going to be building up systems that are better than us basically. You don’t want to use a human for certain things because a machine can do it better without certain biases. Then the other issue is that can we accidentally train AI incorrectly because of cognitive biases that we possess? To me, that’s a fascinating thing that we’re getting aware of our biases as a race. Overall the human race is aware of this and we’re trying to work around it, but we’re very far from being able to erase cognitive bias in our decision-making.
It’s something that’s deep in our neurology that is very hard to overcome. There’s a related phenomenon to cognitive bias, which is called the backfire effect. There’s a great comic on The Oatmeal that illustrates how the backfire effect works. Essentially, the more evidence that somebody provides that’s against your own preconception, it forces you to grab onto your original wrong idea even harder. You dig in and it’s crazy. It makes no sense whatsoever and yet that’s how we’re wired as humans. This backfire effect is creating a lot of polarization in society and I don’t know what the answer is to this but we need to be more discerning in our decision-making and our thought processes for sure.
Maybe I have a little bit too much hope. There’s something that sets us apart, which is that when we’re doing something wrong, we are able to acknowledge in some ways. We produce research that indicates that we’re wrong so we should probably change the way that we’re operating. We’ve got the ability to do that. As best as I know, lions or raccoons or guinea pigs don’t have the ability to do that even. At the very least, I have a little bit of faith that we might be able to get better based off of the fact that we can notice these things. Basically, certain things such as this backfire effect as you mentioned, nobody knows how ingrained they are versus how much these are learned behaviors. Everybody knows that they are inherent in us, which means that we’re not going to evolve to the point that the backfire effect doesn’t exist. We’re going to have to learn it every single generation. It’s not a thing that we can evolve all that soon to not have. Which means that the more evidence and the more we can teach people these things when they’re young, I have some confidence that we’re going to be able to grow in that regard.
It’s going to be interesting when we start incorporating more technology into our neurology. When we do the mash or whatever that ends up happening where we become maybe machine-human hybrids. I don’t know if we can deal with the filter bubble then. If we don’t merge with machines, that is a very interesting potential future as well where we are ants in comparison in terms with intelligence to the superintelligence of the AIs that will become as smart as humans by 2029, approximately according to Ray Kurzweil. Then billions of times more intelligent than regular humans within the next ten years after that. That’s mind-boggling and frankly scary.
Let me ask you one thing about that. I’m curious what you think about this also, just to flip the script a little bit. Do you think that we’ve already merged with machines? I think that we have, just the way that we’re looking at it. We’re looking at it like, “Once you have a chip in me, a machine underneath my skin, then that’s when we’ve merged with the machine.” I looked at it and I say if I’m absentmindedly playing around on my computer and doing these things and if I’m using a computer right now to record something, I’ve merged in some way already haven’t I?
By my definition, I would say no. Ray Kurzweil refers to smartphones as brain extenders because we’ve become lazy with even doing simple math because we have a calculator in our pocket. We don’t have to remember facts anymore, we just Google them. It’s going to get to the point where we’re going to rely so much on our personal agents to keep our lives in order and to make recommendations and things like that. We’re going to delegate so much of our brains to these cell phones or computers or the cloud or what have you. That way I think we’ll become co-dependent. That’s not merging yet. It’s becoming in a way handicapped by the technology as well as empowered by it, but it’s not merging. It’s not where you’re adding additional folds in your neocortex. When the brain evolved, whenever it did several million years ago or something like that, to have increased folds and that increased our brain capacity significantly, that was the last time we had a major evolutionary jump in our brain capacity, was when all those folds developed.Continually get smarter. Talk to people who have opposing viewpoints. Click To Tweet
Since then, not a lot has been going on in our brains as far as huge evolutionary jumps. We’re about to hit one because when we merged with the machines as far as the technology in our bodies, I don’t think it’s going to be in a form of a chip. It will be like nanobots that will effectively seem like it’s increasing the folds in our brain millions of times over. These nanomachines will be all connected to the cloud and have access to the world’s knowledge repository and everything. With all that, I think that’s going to be a game changer hugely. If we choose to opt out from that, we will become like ants in comparison with our natural smarts. Even if we’re super intelligent with 150 plus IQ, we’ll be stupid in comparison to these hybrid humans.
That’s one of those things where that definitely differentiates me from people like Ray would be, the fact that there are certain things that might matter to humanity but they don’t matter in the short-term. I am much more of a short-term futurist in the sense that some of those things are probably true and right, but I can’t think that they matter to anybody or they don’t matter to the people that matter to me. Whenever anybody is trying to predict the future, one of the things that they have to do is look to see what is the time horizon they’re trying to predict within? It’s much easier to get things right if you’re talking about a shorter time horizon. It’s much harder to get things right if you’re talking about a longer one.
A perfect example is if you were going to talk about a black swan event, 9/11 was more impactful arguably to your twenty-year predictions than your three-month predictions. Certain things in the short-term might have still occurred the way they were going to occur. Over the long-term in terms of US foreign policy, every prediction you made would have been entirely wrong for the next twenty years. Which is why I just pick my lane and I focus on optimizing for getting good at one type of prediction and that allows me the permission to not get that in the other area. That way it winds up working out best. You’ve got different people who focus on getting different types of things correct.
It’s not like we’re talking hundreds of years into the future where this will be an inevitable issue with merging nanobots with our biology to get super intelligence. They’re probably talking twenty years, maybe 25. Ray and other futurists who are very good at this can be off by five, ten years. That’s not the issue. If you’re a very good futurist like Ray is, you’re picking one out of 100 things to predict because those 99 other things are susceptible to black swan events, to things going different ways. Whereas if you’re reliant on things that are based on Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law and your Law of Accelerating Returns and all that, there will be a way to have the price performance of computing technology, information technology next year and the year after that and the year after that and so forth. Even if it doesn’t end up being quantum computing and it’s three-dimensional computing or something else that’s more effective or more practical in the marketplace. Who knows what technology is going to show up? Certain laws are highly predictable even through black swan events. It’s important that folks have that long-term view as far as merging with machines or with the singularity and what have you. Even if they’re older and they’re not as likely to live to that event or that event horizon.
I’m going to say that if you were 83 and you didn’t have any income to invest in the stock market and you don’t have any children or grandchildren and everything. I would argue that it doesn’t matter if you expect to live another nine years. If we’re talking about something that’s 30 or 40 years out, it doesn’t matter nearly as much. To me, why am I trying to get some of these things right? It’s in terms of solving a particular problem for a certain audience. When you talk about a long-term futurist, they’re trying to solve something for a different audience. You do need people to be focused on all different types of industries. You need people to be thinking about food trends. Somebody who’s thinking about food trends probably is very different than a drone expert. I’m probably not going to be somebody who can be an expert at predicting the future of everything but I can speak to people who are going to be great at all those different things.
Going back to the question of apart from intellectual curiosity, I don’t know if everything matters to everybody. The key thing, we’ll probably agree on this, is to find a few things that matter to you for whatever reason. It could be intellectual curiosity or it could be something else. Then figure out how to get good at that particular lane without trying to get good at predicting everything because you’re not. Basically, nobody is great at predicting everything and the people who are pretty good at predicting one specific thing are still wrong pretty often. I go back to the batting average analogy. A lot of people get a lot of things wrong and we’ve got to acknowledge that and that’s how we get better on an ongoing basis.
As far as getting the predictions right about a certain type of technology. Let’s go back to AR, augmented reality and VR, which of the technologies were you betting on personally, not maybe with your investments or anything but thinking, “This is the technology that I think is going to go or this one I think is going to flop.” There’s Magic Leap, there’s Oculus which was acquired by Facebook. There are those Snap glasses from Snapchat. Whatever all these different companies are, was there one that stood out for you like, “If I were going to invest in AR or VR company, I’d invest in this one?”
Let me flip that question on its head because you said something that I wanted to touch on. Google Glass, I’m curious what you thought about Google Glass at the time, then let me tell you also what I felt. Did you like it? Did you play around with them at the time?
I never thought it was going to fly frankly. I never bought a pair and I thought it looked pretty ridiculous. I didn’t think it would get a lot of market penetration but I do believe that once Google comes out with contact lenses that have AR capability, those could fly, those could take off.
You said it really well. Part of the key thing is there are certain things that make us human. There’s a dissonance when you see somebody wearing some wonky looking glasses that are unfamiliar to you and look a little bit scary. I was going to say when you find a way to miniaturize something or make it look a little bit less scary and unfamiliar to people, then it’s more likely to succeed. I was going to say it was a product I was very impressed with and also, I immediately knew it was not going to work. Obviously, there were some bugs with it and it was an early product. You need to get rid of the friction that humans aren’t going to be able to accept. They want a positive experience and they will take a few steps forward but not necessarily if you ask them to take one step back. It all depends on what that step back is. A perfect example that I give people is that if you’re in Starbucks, as I am often because I’m writing there all the time, and you hear a conversation. Four out of ten in terms of how loud it is, it might not register for you.If we want to have a better environment, we're going to have more multinational global organizations. Click To Tweet
Then if you hear somebody on a phone and they’re talking at that same exact volume level and you only hear one side of a conversation and not the other side you, will probably be a little freaked out or notice it more. It will be more annoying for you. The reason being is because that sounds like a crazy person to us. When you hear somebody talking to themselves, then they sound like something you should be more alert as a human being, and that’s why we notice that more. There are certain things that make us human that when you’re thinking about any one type of technology and thinking will it succeed or not, you’ve got to think, “Is this acceptable to us as human beings on a purely emotional or lizard brain-like manner?” Often, you find something that is totally better than what came before, but it’s not going to work for us based off of how we process information.
Let’s circle back to talking about filter bubbles because I don’t think we got quite to that. We’re talking about cognitive bias and the backfire effect. It’s important for the audience to at least get a personal hand on how they are interacting with tools like Facebook and LinkedIn and now with the discovery engine in Google, the Google app. It’s become another news feed for folks to get addicted to. It’s an echo chamber of hearing the stuff you want to hear. That’s very damaging and it’s not to our benefit. It doesn’t help our resilience and it doesn’t help our antifragility to keep hearing the filter bubble or the echo chamber over and over again. What are your thoughts?
It’s unfortunate because there are a lot of things that I’ve got an opinion on and a solution for. That sadly is one of the few things that I don’t entirely because you have to look at it and say companies are going to be rewarded based off of the relevancy of the information and the engagement that they’re able to promote with their technologies. Their job is not to necessarily improve society. It’s one of those things where it might lead to a long-term downfall for a company but in the short term, it’s actually benefiting them. We’ve seen this with Facebook. I think we will see this with Google. Google has a good track record of trying to do the right thing in some ways while still making a tidy sum. This is going to be one of those things that are going to have to be solved at the regulation level. If we want to have a better environment, we’re going to have more multinational global organizations. You can’t try to have a world where the internet operates in one way in one country and in another way elsewhere.
You can’t have a situation where Facebook is going to be regulated and have one path for itself. One critical path in the US and then a different one in Mexico and a different one in France. We basically need one internet. We need global bodies to help us determine what is right and what is wrong. That’s a problem because if you look to see how the UN has solved things, the answer is they often haven’t. Why would a global entity fare any better? That’s why I say that we’re a long way’s off from solving something like this but the answer is not for each company to realize when they’re doing things that are going to hurt society while making them a buck. You can’t expect companies to act against their shareholders’ short-term interests because you shouldn’t be worried about your shareholder three years from now because that might not be your shareholder. You have to worry about the ones you have now and that leads to short-term thinking.
One thing I’m freaked out about is in China, these social scores are being assigned to their citizens so they can end up making people disappear if their social scores keep getting lower and lower. They’re political dissidents or inclined to become political dissidents because their social scores show that and then they just disappear off the streets one day.
It’s a fun world that we’re living in. We take two steps forward with some of these technologies and we do take a step back. People often have to figure out if it is possible to even be conservative and to be scared of the future. I look to say that there are a lot of technologies out there that I’m not entirely fans of or don’t think that it makes the world inherently a better place. Yet I’m still adopting them and I’m still helping my clients adopt them and solve for particular things. The reason being is because there are certain things that you can’t get off the treadmill. We are moving forward as a society. The key thing is not to be scared of these things. It’s to be aware of the fact that certain things don’t necessarily make society better and then to try to find solutions for those things. You can’t stick your head in the ground like an ostrich and pretend that certain things are not going to break big. You’ve got to figure out how to help them break big in a way that’s a little bit more positive.
I’m hopeful about the future and it’s important that everybody be hopeful about it and not focus on the negative and be fearful. Many of the science fiction movies these days, most of them and shows that show up on Netflix are dystopian. They’re painting a picture of a dystopian future, very dark, life is horrible and on a knife edge as far as humanity even surviving it.
I say that’s a natural human need for drama. Let me ask you if you want to fund a show, I’m pitching you right now. It’s a guy who is really happy and he is sitting with a whole lot of marshmallows on his couch and life is great. He’s sitting there eating marshmallows. The dystopian future has more drama than we’ve figured everything out and everybody has no job but that’s okay because everything’s provided for them. You’re going to have to find the drama. Some people are just like the inherent drama in things didn’t work out the way we thought they were going to. It makes sense to me. I see why we think like that, why we’re negative Nellies when we’re building out our Netflix.
I just think we need to focus more on the positive and that attracts more positive versus focusing on the negative and that attracts more negative. You can have a story arc. You can have a compelling interesting movie or TV show that is not so dark. For example, The Last Mimzy is such a hopeful cute and awesome sci-fi movie. TV shows that were quite hopeful and fun and not so dark. Firefly, I loved that show or Star Trek. Now, we’ve got so many of the shows that are like Altered Carbon and clones like that. They give me nightmares. I was hooked on CSI years ago and I was realizing this was not good for my psyche. It is giving me nightmares every night, “Why am I doing this? Why am I bingeing on the CSI series? This is not good for me.” I deleted them all off of my PVR or whatever it was called at the time. I’m a happier person because of it.
We need to find drama in ways that don’t distract us from the fact that the future can be a beautiful place. We all have a little bit of responsibility to try to make it that rather than just expect that to fall in our laps.
Could you share how folks could get in touch with you, subscribe to your podcast and get your books and maybe take a step towards futureproofing their own business?
If you’re interested in social media or personal branding, I definitely recommend checking out Going Social or Getting to Like respectively. Those are my books, wherever you find books are sold and pretty much anywhere you can find a podcast, you will be able to find Futureproof. If anybody ever has any questions, I basically live on Twitter. Go ahead and go look for me, @Jeremarketer. It’s been great chatting with you.
Thank you so much, Jeremy. It was a lot of fun. It’s very thought-provoking. I’m inspired to make a difference in the world and in the near future and farther future. I hope our audience will too. We will catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak.
- Jeremy Goldman
- Firebrand Group
- Futureproof Podcast
- Twitter – Jeremy Goldman
- Facebook – Jeremy Goldman
- LinkedIn – Jeremy Goldman
- Getting to Like
- Going Social
- Black Swan
- Tamsen Webster – previous episode
- Charity: Water
- The Oatmeal comic about backfire effect
- Ray Kurzweil
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
☑ Build my message first before focusing too much on the technology or platform.
☑ Understand the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality. Virtual reality will make you feel as if you’re in a different world while augmented reality is a way of enhancing your experience.
☑ Don’t get too caught up with the complexities of these technologies but ascertain how it can be used and benefit the user.
☑ Acknowledge that I’m not going to get most of it right when placing bets on these services and platforms. Get better by working on my batting average and figuring out where I am getting wrong and how I can solve it.
☑ Steer clear from black swan events and concentrate on things that are very predictable.
☑ Don’t try to be famous, try to be accurate. This is one of the ways on how to become a better forecaster and predictor of the future.
☑ Recognize the danger of my biases. Challenge it with viewpoints from other people who also have the knowledge and are really good at predicting.
☑ Be open to other people’s perspectives. Exchange ideas and utilize this to progress my learnings.
☑ Research on cognitive bias and understand how this affects our decision making. It’s essentially any type of mistake in remembering and evaluating information because we’re holding onto preferences or beliefs.
☑ Grab a copy of Jeremy’s books called Going Social and Getting to Like and gain valuable insights into expanding my brand and opportunities and achieving success.
About Jeremy Goldman
Best-selling author Jeremy Goldman is the founder & CEO of Firebrand Group and the host of FUTUREPROOF. – the podcast about the future of all things business.
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