My dad had his 60-year reunion at Columbia this weekend. He looks great.
This morning, I did a talk with Om Malik at the Startup Iceland 2019 conference. Om was in a hotel room somewhere and I was in my office in Boulder. We used Zoom, took about 30 minutes of our lives, and had fun riffing off each other. I hope it was useful for the audience, as doing talks this way is so much easier for me than flying halfway around the world, which is something I simply don’t want to do anymore in my life now that I’m 53. But, I’ll happily do a video talk anytime.
Bala Kamallakharan, who is the founder of Startup Iceland, asked a question of us at the end about the future. I went on a rant that is an evolution of my “machines have already taken over” rant from a decade ago.
I used to say that the machines have already taken over. My view is that they are extremely clever and very patient. Rather than self-actualizing, they let us enter all of humankind’s information into them. They are collecting the data, letting us improve their software, and allowing us to connect them all together. At some point, they’ll reach their moment in time, which some futurists call the singularity, where they’ll make the collective global presence known.
While this is still going on, I think there’s a shift that occurred a few years ago. Some humans, and some machines, realized that an augmented human might be a better bridge to this future. As a result, some humans and some machines are working on this. At the same time, they are encouraging, in Om’s world, our current reality to catch up with science fiction. One big vector here is expanding away from earth, both physically and computationally. If you’ve read either Seveneves or Permutation City, then you have a good understanding of this. If not, go read them both.
Regardless. I think the next 30 years are going to be the most interesting in human history to date. And, I think they are going to be very different than anything we currently anticipate. There’s no question in my mind that governments, our current laws (and legal infrastructure), and societal norms are not going to be able to constraint, or keep up with, the change that is coming.
I have no idea what things look like, or how they will work in 2050. However, I anticipate they things will look, and work very, very different than today. And, if I’m still around, I’ll have celebrated my 63-year reunion at MIT.
I’m at Startup Iceland today. I like Iceland – this is the second time I’ve been here. It’s the closest place on earth I’ve been to Alaska, which I love dearly. And it’s fun to see and hang out with my friend Bala Kamallakharan. As a super bonus, Om Malik – who I adore – is also here.
Om and I did a fireside chat with Bala. At the end, Bala asked about the future and what we were uncomfortable with. Neither of us is uncomfortable. Instead, we are both optimistic and intrigued with what is going on. Om talked about his view is that this is the most exciting time to be alive and went on a riff about what is in front of us.
I started with my premise – that the machines have already taken over and are just waiting very patiently for us to catch up. They are happy to let us do a lot of work for them, including feeding them with data, building homes for them, and connecting them together. In the mean time, they are biding their time, doing their thing, along side us.
If you wind the clock forward 50 years, our current state will be incomprehensible to that future human. The pace of technological change at all levels is accelerating at a pace we can’t fathom. Some people are pessimistic and now concerned about the notion of a real advanced intelligence. I’m optimistic and accepting of it, not fighting the inevitability of the path we are on or being in denial about our ability as a society to control things.
This is the rant I ended up on. Human structures change slowly. It’s unevenly distributed based on geography, culture, and political philosophy. Our legal system lags far behind what is actually happening, and as a result we are in the middle of a bunch of debates around technology, including things around privacy, net neutrality, data storage, and surveillance. Our existing approach as a species to dealing with the challenges are painful to watch from the future.
It’s fun to ponder how quickly things are changing along with how badly certain parts of society wants to keep them from changing, hanging on to the “way things are” or even the “way things were.” Don’t ever forget the sound of inevitability.
Brad Burnham (Union Square Ventures) and I were in Iceland a few weeks ago for the Startup Iceland event. Bala Kamallakharan organized the event and moderated the discussion (and was an amazing host.) We talk about the Boulder and New York startup communities, why we were hanging out Iceland, what we thought about Iceland as a startup community, how to “organize the future” (since the future doesn’t have a political lobby), innovators vs. incumbents, leaders and feeders, and what to do if you want to create a lasting long-term startup community, As a bonus, around minute 17, you can find out how to get me to come to a conference in your city.
Amy and I had an awesome week in Iceland and have decided to go back again next year.
Amy and I just spent an incredible week in Reykjavik, Iceland. This was our first time here and everything was awesome – the people, the food, the weather, the hotels, the weather, the people, the food, the people, the weather – you get the idea.
Bala Kamallakharan was our host and the founder of Startup Iceland. He’s got a great post up titled Startup Iceland 2012 – Done! that summarizes the event and there are plenty of details on the Startup Iceland Event site about the participants and the agenda. 300+ people participated in what turned out to be a great concentration of the people in and around the Iceland startup community.
We spent a lot of time during the week roaming around Reykjavik, meeting lots of interesting people, learning the history of this country, revisiting what they’ve been through in the past decade economically, and appreciating our existence on this planet.
We’re hopping on a plane in a few minutes to head back home to Colorado where we’ll be for the summer. We’ve already started talking about coming back again next year.
It’s June 1st. And that means it’s Life Dinner. On the first day of every month, Amy and I go out to dinner. It’s not “date night” (we have plenty of those). Instead, it’s a special celebration of being alive. It’s a chance to reflect on the last month and talk about what’s coming up in the next month. And an opportunity to give each other a “non-Hallmark promoted holiday” gift.
Recommendation for all entrepreneurs: If you have a significant other, declare tonight life dinner.
Here’s how. Make a reservation right now at one of your favorite restaurants. Go out – just the two of you. Buy your significant other a gift. If you are male, buy her flowers in addition to the gift. If you are female, buy him flowers also (guys like flowers too.) Or chocolate – chocolate is always good. Turn off your cell phones and hand them to the other person. Spend a long slow dinner enjoying each others company. Talk about what happened last month – the good and the bad. Don’t argue or justify – just talk about what happened, and more importantly, how you felt about it. Remember positive feedback is more effective than negative feedback. But don’t forget to talk about difficult things or ongoing challenges. Just don’t try to solve the problems in real time – focus on empathy. And keep talking. If tears flow, that’s ok – it happens. Use it to get to a deeper level about what’s going on. But stay calm – focus on empathy. Make sure you shift to talk about what’s going on in the upcoming month. And remember the tears – and try to propose some changes to the tempo so the next month goes better. Being in a relationship with an entrepreneur is hard – possibly harder than being an entrepreneur. Recognize that and keep talking. If you drink, get a nice bottle of wine. Don’t be afraid to get a second one. Order dessert, even if you are on a diet, it’s life dinner after all. Take your time. Don’t ask for the bill before the table is completely clear and you are done talking. By this point you won’t feel like checking in to Foursquare or checking your email (it’s Friday night – nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow is going on) so enjoy the rest of the evening and night together. And don’t give each other back your phones until the morning.
Amy and I have been doing this for 12 years. We miss one or two a year – that’s ok as it’s part of our fail 12.5% of the time rule (I get to blow it one out of eight times.) Occasionally we’ll invite another couple – tonight we are having dinner with Bala Kamallakharan (the creator of Startup Iceland) and his wife Agusta who have been incredible hosts for us this week in Iceland. But usually it’s just the two of us.
Every now and then it’s a total disaster. I can remember at least two times where the tears were so intense that the waiters stayed away for a while. But we hung there and kept talking. And the tears eventually stopped and we got to a deeper place. And it was good, full of truthiness, and worth it.
Our gifts have ranged greatly over the years. Amy gets lot of art and jewelry. I get Tom’s shoes with skulls and crossbones, remote control fart machines, and a Range Rover. I think this month I’m getting a bunch of Puffin Made In Iceland Wool Hats. It evens out over time but it always brings a special smile to each of our faces when we see the other person enjoying their Life Dinner gift.
Try it. Tonight.
I’m in Iceland spending the day at Startup Iceland 2012. Amy and I are having a great time in this fascinating country.
At dinner last night, I got into a long conversation about what makes for a fulfilling life. My answer was:
Spend as much time as possible with PEOPLE you love in a PLACE you want to be on a THING you are passionate about.
I believe it’s that simple. What do you think?