Thoughts I’m taking into 2018

The best habits often become traditions and create value through the very act of doing them year after year.

This is certainly true for the yearly wrap up post that I’ve been writing since 2009.

This year feels different in some telling ways as usually it’s technology that has shaped my year as that’s the pulse of my life to a large degree and my livelihood. And certainly, the tech shifts this past year have been profound.

But today, the important things are more personal, more internal. More about me and how I manage myself in the face of change rather than change itself.

And more about my relations to my communities of interest and friends and how I can contribute to them more significantly.

These are the five most important takeaways from 2017.

Coming to grips with the State of the Union

Too much of my time this past year has been spent reacting to politics. Wasting so much time being reactive emotionally and angry.

I’ve found a more peaceful and productive way to deal with this.

Not with the status quo certainly but with an acknowledgement of core beliefs that drive my decisions of what is worth my time and where tolerance is warranted.

The first is ‘No end can ever be used as a justification for an unethical means’. And second, ‘those without a moral compass have no place in my world’.

I’m simple done with people who don’t operate within these core tenants. I see nothing lost by cutting ties with aberrant philosophies and apologists that mouth them.

Diversity of thought does not include the morally and ethically bereft. There is nothing to learn from them.

Compartmentalizing my personal focus

Without prioritizing my physical health, my mental balance and personal productivity, nothing else truly matters. Without them, I’m less use to myself or those who matter or depend on me.

In the face of increasing distraction, these are my core blocks of time I give to myself each and every day.

Carving out time for exercise and nutrition, meditation and cognizance of my inner space, and daily productivity is at the top of my everyday list. There are few emergencies that disrupt these buckets of focus and self-improvement.

This is also somehow about the micro/macro dichotomy as well.

The micro—that which I personally do and can control–is a far more productive focus for me to have impact on the broader macro elements of my world. Working on me is my best shot at making a difference to the greater world at large.

Embracing crypto as a fuel for imagining the impossible

I took the plunge into crypto thoroughly this year though the bug hit a few years earlier.

The profit of trading coins aside. The craziness of ICOs aside. The rejiggering of capital markets aside. Those are not why this inspires me so.

It’s more personal.

There is a giddy optimism innate to the gestalt of crypto economics that the impossible is indeed doable. When you open the potential for personal empowerment as a manner of economizing change in a new market economy.

I also harbor a growing excitement that this reimagining of the world will include lionizing the arts and literacy along with the technological and economic shift.

I’m all in on this.

We need fuel to do the impossible and this is working for me.

Coming to grips with our individual market relevance

We all need to deal with our professional relevance regardless of where we are in life.

The hyper accelerated rate of change in the tech world in some ways levels the playing field.

Relevance is something that each of us is challenged to bring to the market each and every day. We are challenged not to be special team experts as much as fitting our true expertise into the context of the shifting paradigms that we all work on.

The contextual relevance of what we contribute is the new acid test.

If everything is in flux except the very nature of our value to each new circumstance, this in actuality democratizes value itself as contextual.

We are just getting started

On one hand, the utterly unimaginable is now a near-term possibility.

Autonomous and flying cars. AI systems self-learning algorithms. Global markets economizing themselves on the blockchain. The actuality that each individual could own and control their own identity and data.

This is sci-fi stuff of less than a decade ago.

On the other hand, it is clear to me that we are just barely scratching the surface and that everything today is prep for the real work ahead.

AI honestly is in its very early infancy, more about computing power than intelligence.

The understanding of the science of our bodies is at the very best case, primitive with the most serious diseases that plague the world, uncured for centuries.

Even nutrition, for all its advances over the last decade, is just starting to be recognized as science.

We are not at the end, we are simply just getting started.

This breeds humility. And opportunity. And possibility. And optimism.

I wish all of my community a great New Year and a terrific start to 2018!

I’m raising a glass to change and opportunity for all of us.

Can we tokenize behavior?

Crypto as an onramp for reimagining our world and reinvigorating our excitement for change is my single most important takeaway from this past year.

It takes you down deep rabbit holes of learning. Stimulates unfettered imagining. And somehow instills a sense that anything is possible.

Some of what crypto promises seems obvious, or at least possible from a market perspective.

Like the inevitability of collective micro-ownership of commodities like real estate, art, storage, even energy. These feel natural to the innate structure of the blockchain itself and more important, the possibilities of crypto economic market evolution.

Social behavior though is something else altogether.

The idea that you can incentivize human behavior, tokenize social communities is something we want badly to be true, yet the hardest to truly visualize.

As we built the current social infrastructures over the last decade, we learned that they platformed existent, often latent behaviors. Giving grease to the niche, the local and the obscure, making them global as communities and memes by their very ease of access and use. Broadening connections cross people and shared beliefs everywhere.

We also learned that bolting on social to existent platforms and compensating groups for activities like viewing videos, invariably didn’t work at all.

There is a grounded naturalness inherent in behavioral socialization that simply couldn’t be stimulated no matter how well programmed or marketed.

There are undeniable reasons why we want to believe that the social nets can be rethought within a crypto economic framework.

Blockchain technology as a platform for change simply inspires the possibility of this. And consequently, a large number of the hundreds of white papered ICOs are premised on the inevitability of socially-incentivized networks.

There is obviously as well a techno-cultural backlash against the status quo where the Facebook model monopolizes attention, repurposes personal data, driving corporate profit under the legacy belief that without advertising, there is no way to support the internet.

We collectively want this reimagined.

We want to believe that Facebook can be challenged. We want social democracy along with the financial decentralized possibilities that the very economy and secure identity potential of crypto, in abstract appears to promise us.

This is a tough one to calibrate with reality as both historically and experientially this is counterintuitive to the facts. Certain analog behavioral truths remain sacrosanct regardless of platform dynamics.

Reading scads of ICO white papers which assume this is reality simply because it could be is not enough.

But there’s a kicker here.

We need to step back and rethink how true innovation happens.

If you submerge yourself in the library of everything being written about crypto, you get the sense that we are recreating our transportation, financial, security, credit, marketing and other industries in a better, albeit decentralized fashion. Replumbing with better pipes.

This is the wrong way in.

Crypto envisioning at its best smacks of how the creative community approaches the arts. Where we consciously let ourselves suspend disbelief and in that meditative space of emotional connections, find natural truths and emotions in completely unfamiliar realities and couplings of peoples and ideas.

This idea is emblemized in what my friend Hue Rhodes spoke to me as a game-theory driven world where our emotional nature gets rewired along with the quest for new intellectual possibilities. Where as he put it, this is an audition for human behavioral evolution where we, as actors, perform in uniquely non-obvious ways.

I wonder whether my questions of whether we can tokenize social behavior or communities is the right one.

Why bother to recreate Facebook on a new platform? Why start with efficiency as the first foot forward?

If you look at some of the early but functioning experiments like Steem.it or the prescient writings of Nick Szabo, you realize that thinking differently is not an option, it’s what is required.

Think not of how to replumb or rewire the world, but how to create the environment where interactions can be different, social, within a new economic order.

The creative palate of the crypto economies and communities, may just be the economies themselves and the behaviors that are incubated and normal within them.

Maybe a more useful way to rethink a world without a media model driving social communities and tokenized behavior is not something as primitive as compensation for emotive responses. But a dynamics perhaps where exchange is rethought, value is rejiggered, and socialization finds a different expression where the ‘them’ becomes the ‘us’ and brand ownership and consumer intent are driven by a different script.

Since the beginning of time, artists and humanitarians have created stages and codes of beliefs to act out social experiments to evolve culture past its own restrictions.

In a sense, crypto economies are part of this trend but with the powerful and unique twist of economizing them in collective ways.

That’s a dream I think worth waking up to

Not the mundane presupposition of making emotions transactional, but a contextual shift to make emotions and community dynamics more natural within an economy that supports the individual first, not last.

Food for thought moving into the new year.

The Headspace app

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been searching for a paced way to bring guided meditation into my life for years.

I always had excuses for why I didn’t do it.

Too spiritual. Smacks of too much religiosity.  Too communal and not enough about me.

Then I tried Headspace on a recommendation 22 days ago.

While only just getting started, I’m quite blown away at the possibilities and all in to give this a real shot.

Each and every day I’m finding a value that deeply transcends the 10-minute session I start my day with.

I’ve been cognizant for a long time that compartmentalizing focus is the key to success in the hyper-distracted state of my life and work. It’s an ancient practice actually to carve out short blocks of very focused time on a daily basis to make the remaining hours more productive.

Up to now, the blocks of daily focus have been writing before dawn, exercising while listening to podcasts on topics of learning, and recently, committing to reading offline, giving myself over to someone else’s story or ideas.

Guided meditation was the missing link.

Something that was all about the wellness of me personally was lacking. And while I’m a newbie with Headspace, this feels just right with demonstrable value from every session.

Every morning in hotel rooms when I travel, on my writing chair with samthecat on my lap when home, and always with QC35s on my ears, this is the first thing I do post an expresso.

It starts by letting the voice of founder Andy Puddicombe into my head to kick it off.

The first few days of only 2 minutes sessions were really a struggle, not to focus, but to let myself be guided in that focus. Yet almost a month in, I’m ready to move up to 15 minute sessions.

There are three pieces of this activity that intrigue me.

First–There are very specific and tangible tools that you become more adept at every day. 

It reminds of skiing or strength training as every little bit better you get, the more powerful the experience becomes and the greater the drive to come back and learn more.

Second–This is all about me.

The genius of Headspace is understanding that it is not about their journey, it’s about yours. They let you discover that a softening of your focus, that the act of riding your breath like a wave, and giving yourself over to movements of awareness and its connection to your body, is not otherworldly, it is worldly in the most personal sense possible.

And lastly–That this daily session impacts your day in real ways.

Like a doorway that you step in and step out a bit differently.

I thank wellness guru Lianna Sugarman for the referral to Headspace and am paying it forward to my community.

It’s a free download, though I jumped to upgrade to a subscription almost immediately.

The company was founded in 2012 by Rich Pierson and Andy Puddicombe, who is the voice of the app. He was formally trained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk but the true magic behind Headspace is his simple secularization of what he studied.

There are some 14 million or so users, 17,568 using it right at this moment as I push Publish on this post, but the most important user honestly is me.

Those who know me personally may find this surprising. If that curiosity provides enough motivation to try it for yourself that’s a good thing.

For me this daily exercise simply works and is making a tangible difference. I’m in for the long haul.

 

Katzenberg’s $2B bet to redefine mobile TV

Andrew Sorkin wrote a smart piece in the NY Times this week on Jeffrey Katzenberg’s stumping for a $2B raise on his vision for NewTV.

Per the post, NewTV is just barely an idea, albeit a very big one, more transformative than disruptive in the normal tech sense.

Katzenberg believes there is both a platform and corresponding content chasm for short-form video storytelling that no one is thinking about in bold enough terms.

Amazon and Apple are in effect trying to fit new content to existent platforms rather than step back and create a brand-new art form and corresponding platform built for this market from the ground up.

Some 72% of all video is consumed on our phones. One and a half billion people consume 45 minutes or more of video on their phones each and every day.

Huge. Almost everyone everywhere.

Katzenberg’s idea—and per Sorkin it is just that– is that platform not content alone is king. The real opportunity is to build both for a new small-time slot, most likely 10-minute piece of content, produced at Game of Thrones production values at costs of up to $100,000 a minute.

Using A-list stars at full-length production rates, pushing both production values and a platform built to fit the story format, not the other way around.

Miniaturizing Hollywood into short-form mobile storytelling segments that can be consumed by people on the go. Your favorite segment of a mobile only episodic NewTV show viewable in its entirety on a ride to TriBeCa from 14th street for example.

I’ve sat in the room with Katzenberg back in my days moving 3D into the theaters and am aware of his presence and chops.

And honestly this is how movies get pitched and funded. If you happen to be him with a recent $3.8B sale of DreamWorks, people will listen. And they are.

I’m not at all certain that this is a crazy idea nor potentially a crazy investment, no matter how large. No matter how inchoate.

If we have learned anything from episodic TV changing the landscape of media and storytelling, it is that the impossible becomes reality damn fast when it touches the hearts of audiences for stories on their terms that fit into a rhythm of their lives.

Someone is going to do this.

Maybe it won’t be a platform but a studio which will force a platform change or get swallowed up by Apple or Amazon.

This is a game changing bet on a medium that doesn’t exist as yet.

Like Elon Musk conceptualizing an electric grid from solar roof panels to subterranean boring tunnels without the hardest pieces of tech defined, let alone solved.

There are so many hard parts to this, changing formats, platforms, business models, pay scales for actors and on and on.

I think it is meant to be.

Maybe a bit early but the redefinition of storytelling with Hollywood production values to every mobile device on the globe, will in effect redefine TV. It is already out of the living room, with long-form stories squished into short-attention-span consumer cycles.

Cracking the format means nothing less that changing how you and I and billions of others will engage with characters and emotions and plots on the move.

A massive library of content that rivals Netflix or Amazon out of the gate to an already captured market is the plan. Inherit the planet and the attention span of the mass global market is the upside.

Equally as powerful as owning the spice trade from Dune.

There are really four questions being raised here.

Does this idea really make sense as a new, subscription-based medium for a mass-market mobile audience?

To me yes—uncover the format and you are the storyline for the world.

Do you need to be a platform ala HBO to do this or can you simply fund the content?

I’m unsure, this is the bigger bet as if you are the platform then everyone can be your partner, even the competition.

Is Katzenberg the person to do this?

Two billion is a huge raise. It’s going take someone like him to pull it off and maybe have the chops to lead it. This is not a change that will iterate up. This is hyper mega-studio model reminiscent of traditional old school Hollywood where they owned the theater chains as well as the stars and the production studios.

Is this a bat shit crazy investment with little but scratches on a napkin?

Who knows really but let me sum it up this way.

I won’t personally have an opportunity to play in this as an investor though it will touch much of what I do professionally and personally as a consumer.

If this was an ICO, would I invest let’s say 2% of my net investing dollars in this crazy idea on the back of brilliant creative’s envelope?

On a NewTV coin rather than put my dollars into one of thousands of 60-page white papers floating out in space from people I don’t know and can’t really vet?

In a heartbeat.

Black Mountain College–a visionary paradigm of learning

I’m not an educator, nor do I have kids in school.

But throughout a long career in tech, I’ve consistently been the liberal arts major in a room of technologists tasked with understanding how new platforms of tech touched people’s behaviors in ever-evolving cultures of work and play.

My advantage was not literacy, it was literacy grounded in an eclectic multidisciplinary approach to learning as a framework for creative thinking and problem solving.

I had the good fortune to participate in an experimental undergrad experiment at Ohio University that was built on the Black Mountain College curriculum and educational ideals.

A belief that the arts exists as the expression of our behavioral and cultural uniqueness represented through an intermixing of human expression. An idea that in art and life, you needed diversity of thought and form.

It was an experimental, short-lived program built on this then bold idea.

I didn’t just study Hart Crane, but also Antonin Artaud to understand the gestalt of the theatre as a reflection of a parallel world of expression through poetry.

I didn’t just learn to appreciate the creation of new forms of movement in Merce Cunningham’s approach to dance, but also its connection to Philip Glass’s restructuring of sound in his hearing of what music could be.

I was challenged to find the connection between Buckminster Fuller and his livable shapes and the crazed brilliance of Charles Olson as a philosopher poet and his offshoot of disciples like Ed Dorn, Robert Creeley and Jack Spicer.

Today, we are obviously at the cusp of a completely shifting world. Literally everything is in flux and every discipline is being leveraged and catapulted to fluid new forms.

Community itself is finding a rebirth as a new type of market reality on the blockchain. Token economies are being built as a tangible representation of social value expressed through transactional gestures. Nutrigenomics as a codable baseline of our health itself is redefining aging and the very nature of work. Smart cities are reconceptualizing how the culture of hyper density can be both the cause and the answer to our ecological dilemmas.

And wellness, mindfulness and transformative technologies are being understood as something that is equally as disruptive as drone delivery systems or autonomous transportation.

This is truly it—the time– I think.

The largest opportunity in my lifetime. Larger certainly than the virtual revolution we all worked on bringing our world online two decades ago.

This is change where tech and science will literally recode our world on the very streets we walk on and in each of our body’s genetic maps.

Black Mountain College was a bold idea on a napkin in a coffee shop that had a brief blip of existence.

It was short lived, burned bright and went away. Pundits see it as part of an interesting but failed experimental educational moment. They are wrong.

The vision of cross pollination, the instinct that to build better buildings we need to understand the soul of the community that live in them is exactly right.

To create art that naturally expresses our need to harness freedom of movement from dance, resonance of sound from music and unshackled thinking where concrete philosophies can be encapsulated in a phrase that can resonate cross a world flattened in time and space.

The reality of today is that it has already happened.

Or maybe the limits of tech and science are begging for this human factor with not only arts but architecture, open space planning and community building to surface as needed missing links.

To incorporate driverless cars into our urban areas, we need to rethink the grid of how the very cities we live in are structured and experienced by the people that live there.

To incorporate new platforms of work, we need to compartmentalize our psyches, being equally able to design and control machines to do our bidding while embracing expression and diversity in all of us.

We need to re-up  our support of a redefinition and broadening of what arts are at the same levels that we have lionized our business and tech gurus. We need heroes in all of these areas on the same dais, together as the epitome of who we can be collectively.

We have all grown up in the entrepreneurial world stripping away distractions to learn focus as a prerequisite to drive success.  This makes sense as that is how you move mountains and reroute our lives.

But now, with the possibilities of new platforms for work, for currency, for transportation, we need to reengage with this idea that interdisciplinary is simply an acknowledgement of needed interdependence. A needed building block in a more varied stack of capabilities.

A coworking, codependent amalgamation that incorporates all of these elements to make a better and more workable whole.

That today, unlike back then at Black Mountain, tech through software and community and new forms of connections are part and parcel of who we are culturally.

The circle here is not closing, it’s opening. A Mobius Strip of sorts, maybe exploding rather than reconnecting.

I’m all in on this.

All in where tech makes possible the leisure time and the tools to entertain and plumb the emotional depths of who we are.

When I travel around, I am blown away by the expressiveness of what we are beginning to build.

I am also aware that tech or even science alone is only part of a true solution.

We have a model or maybe an inspirational ideal in what Black Mountain College was about at its multidisciplinary core.

It isn’t a working blueprint certainly, but it is true that what those early visionaries could only imagine, we have simply inherited as the status quo of possibilities that is here to be made our own.

I’d like to be part of this in some way.