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Flashback: Thiel vs. Schmidt, 2012

Clearly I’m on a Thiel kick.

At first I was dubious, but now I’m just curious. Though some of Thiel’s motives and politics remain vague, it should be impossible for anyone to ignore his foresight and intelligence. The fact that many people still dismiss him offhand because he’s a nominal Trump supporter just blows my mind.

This debate, which took place in 2012, offers a clear picture of how much smarter Thiel is than other Silicon Valley tools, like Eric Schmidt. In this case, we watch Thiel eat Schmidt for breakfast, while Schmidt just oozes, as Thiel says, Google propaganda.

 

Summary

The opening question was to explain your view of what technology brings to the world.

Schmidt says that “the message of technology innovation is an overwhelmingly positive one,” then talks about how technology has transformed our world, bringing poor people into the middle class, and how everyone in the world will soon have access to the internet. Ultimately, he says that technology innovation will improve the world for everyone, giving people more information and longer lives.

This smacks of technological utopianism, something that Thiel (as well as others, such as Evgeny Morozov) warned about long ago.

The MC reads a quote of Thiel’s that offers a more cynical – and, in my opinion, realistic – perspective on the issue of technological innovation. “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”

Thiel goes on to compliment Schmidt, saying he does a great job as Google’s Minister of Propaganda, then outlines some very insightful points that Schmidt spends the rest of the debate avoiding (including a couple that we would later see crop up during the Trump election). Namely, the facts that:

  • Median wages have been stagnant for 40 years, compared to the previous 40 years, during which they increased 6-fold
  • The technological improvement we’ve seen in the past couple decades, which has been confined to the IT industry – or “the world of bits” – hasn’t translated into economic well-being
  • Since 1973, oil barrel prices have increased 50-fold, a demonstration of “a catastrophic failure of energy innovation,” which has been offset by computer innovation
  • Governmental regulation has effectively “outlawed technology” – for instance, new drug development costs $1.3 billion, you can’t fly supersonic jets because they’re too noisy, you can’t build nuclear power plants, and so on

The question Thiel asks is how IT innovation translates into economic progress for humans.

After a short slap fest, while disagreeing about technological progress, both agree that governments are at the root of many major problems. The Arab Spring becomes another bone of contention. Schmidt cites the cause as a widespread discontent with regimes, and Thiel blames 30-50% price hikes on food, which he says brought the threat of starvation for many people.

More disagreements prompt Thiel to respond with: “I thought we were going to talk about technology, but Eric seems to think it’s all about politics, which, in a way I think concedes my basic point, which is that technology is no longer that big a driver.”

He follows up with one of his main points: “Technology should be a large enough force that it could power [political] change.”

After Schmidt tries to make a point about education being the solution to automation and globalization, two forces that will govern the world in the future and create jobs problems, Thiel pushes Schmidt more, saying that Google doesn’t do enough to create more jobs, claiming that Google is not an innovative technology company, but merely a search engine that is sitting on $50 billion in cash with no ideas on how to use it.

Compare that to Amazon, he says, which continually reinvests all of its profits into new technologies.

For the closing phase of the discussion, Thiel reiterates his insults to Google, to which Schmidt responds that Chrome is the #1 browser in the world, Google is the top platform for enterprise innovation, and there are plenty of other examples of business innovation that Thiel was choosing to ignore.

Q&A followed.

Conclusion

This conversation reminds me of a WWE fight or a Jerry Springer spat, just in a different arena. Thiel’s nonstop aggression makes it really fun to watch and, as usual, his intelligent arguments make it fascinating food for thought. In particular, he seems like he has a very solid and respectable mission – to use technological innovation to change the world.

It would have been more interesting if Schmidt had anything to say, but as it is, his technological utopian preaching and soft sales patter comes across as weak, lame, and boring. He sounds exactly like an old-school politician, who can talk and talk for hours without saying anything.

I’m admittedly irritated by Schmidt’s smarmy smugness, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he got screwed by Thiel in this so-called debate. Since he had nothing to say and no way to respond to Thiel’s arguments, rather than addressing any point head on, he just dodged with catchphrases, incorrectly reframed arguments, and logical fallacies.

Though the discussion is clearly on a different level, this debate also reminds me of the two forces that came into play during the Trump elections: hot-air-breathing political types versus aggressive, straightforward businessmen.

Why Does Peter Thiel Support Donald Trump? Because He Wants to Save the World…

election-613132_1920So why does Peter Thiel support Donald Trump?

When I read headlines saying that Silicon Valley is baffled by his actions, I am baffled by their reactions.

It should be clear that there’s more going on here than meets the eye – though sometimes I wonder if Trump knows that…

Peter Thiel, for those of you who don’t know, is a brilliant billionaire tech tycoon who helped found PayPal and Palantir and who has his investment fingers in many other businesses.

As a tech-savvy, forward-thinking gay man – who has some unconventional ideas about technology, capitalism, economics, and the world we live in – he’s one of the last people you’d expect to see speaking in favor of a Trump presidency.

Yet that’s exactly what he did at the RNC, claiming that the economy and the government are “broken” and that he supports “people who are building new things.”

Donald Trump, he says, is a “builder…and it’s time to rebuild America.”

But…come on.

Donald Trump?

Really?

Donald Trump? That Guy?

man-845847_1280Trump openly:

After watching a BBC special pointing out that the USA’s demographics are shifting – and that white people will be a minority in a few decades – I felt that Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” might actually be a subliminal message, “Make America White Again.”

The New York Times came up with a better one: “Make America Hate Again.”

But I’ll try to avoid ranting about Trump.

Critical Thinking About the System

Attacking Trump’s rhetoric is easy and everyone does it.

That is too simple.

It feeds his flames and avoids more important questions that would uncover the machinery underlying the current system, like:

  • Why has a simple-minded salesperson – who simply repeats his target audience’s desires right back to them, like any good salesperson – become so successful financially (despite 4 bankruptcies) and made it this far in the electoral process, and what is it in his rhetoric that resonates with such a large demographic of Americans?
  • Why are we being forced to choose between a salesperson and someone who’s being legally accosted by the FBI right now?
  • Why do people regard him as a “marketing genius,” when in fact he has simply mastered the basics of salesmanship that have been expounded, extrapolated, and explored by great salesmen for the past 100 years?
  • Why does a smart, forward-thinking tech billionaire like Peter Thiel support Trump?

Why Peter Thiel Supports Trump (Take Nothing at Face Value)

chess-433071_1920Peter Thiel is a businessman who thinks strategically about his aims, so there is certainly more to his endorsement than we heard in his RNC speech.

There are a few possible reasons why Thiel might support Trump:

  • Thiel plans to replace Trump with an artificially intelligent, Trump-shaped robot after the election
  • He actually does believe in and support Trump
  • He sees this as an opportunity to take the administrative office from the political families who have been running the office for decades
  • He sees a dire situation, thinks Trump will win, and wants to influence the little guy when he gets into office
  • He wants to run for president in a few years and sees Trump as his best bet for changing and getting into the political game

I could only wish that this last one were true – we would be much better off with a smart “builder” like Thiel than anyone else who has run in a very, very long time. If this were the tech tycoon’s plan, then he’s probably setting himself up now as the rescuer who will fix up the country after Hillary or Donald inevitably make things worse during the next term.

But I doubt Thiel wants to be president (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Although, come to think of it, Mark Cuban, another famous billionaire who made big bucks in the tech industry, had said he’d been open to running for president…

Either Thiel plans to run for president in a few years (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) or…

Thiel Supports Trump Because He Thinks Trump Will Implode the Government, Which Will Make Room for Innovation … And a New Monopoly

gears-1236578_1920That’s pretty similar to what this guy at Business Insider said, but I can’t seem to find that article any more…

To find hints of Thiel’s real thinking, look past his RNC speech:

  • Thiel believes that innovation is driven by monopolistic companies, not by competition. According to Thiel, the ideas we use to discuss capitalism are based on models that are outdated and obsolete. Competitive businesses involve towards static equilibrium, and spend their money trying to outdo one another. They have no cash left over to innovate and create. A monopoly, however, is free to charge what it wants, then use those profits to drive innovation. Google is a perfect example of a monopoly in today’s economy. AT&T used to be one, as did IBM and Microsoft.
  • Innovation is at odds with competition and globalization…or they are at least perpendicular to one another. In one talk, Thiel used Japan as an example to demonstrate the difference between the two: since the time of the Meiji Restoration, the country has globalized but not innovated…that is, Japan copied the rest of the world. As a result, this island nation, which is smaller than California, has become a major world superpower. In the 80s, though, they ran out of stuff to copy and their previously explosive economic growth stagnated.
  • Technology and innovation are, for all intents and purposes, the same. Technology, he says, isn’t just limited to computers and software. This has been the most recent, most explosive area of innovation, in part due to the lack of regulation in this sector, which is a brand new industry. Other types of technology could also innovate and grow, but there are a variety of financial, regulatory, and other hurdles to overcome in those sectors – for instance, Elon Musk went to extreme lengths to overcome institutional, technical, regulatory, financial, and other obstacles in the preexisting aerospace industry in order to innovate with SpaceX. Not to mention Tesla.
  • Thiel runs Palantir, a secretive software company that tells the future. Well, fortune-telling may be a bit of a misnomer, but it does offer big data solutions that are used by big organizations, from governments to spy agencies to big name brands. Palantir is financially backed by the CIA and Thiel’s own venture capital company, among others. Supposedly, Palantir is valued at $20 billion and earned $1.7 billion in revenues in 2015. Some have suggested that Thiel’s support of Trump is a move to secure more government revenue for his company.

So how do all these bullet points apply to the topic at hand?

Many people look at a Trump presidency and see chaos…or worse.

Here are some quotes from a piece in the New Yorker, as quoted by a piece on Slate, written about the ghostwriter of Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal:

The prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered…[Schwartz said,] “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization”…asked what he would call [a new book about Trump], he answered, “The Sociopath.”

Is it really possible that Thiel supports someone like Trump?

Or is the tech tycoon playing a different game?

All Good Monopolies … And Competitions … Come to an End

chess-603624_1920As Thiel has pointed out, competition results in stasis and old monopolies are out-innovated by newer monopolies. Trump, a a simple-minded salesperson, has somehow co-opted the Republican party and the election process.

Perhaps his very presence on the electoral stage signals the obsolescence of an old monopoly?

For instance, AT&T was replaced by a diversity of wireless providers. Microsoft replaced the IBM monopoly, and Microsoft is in turn being replaced by newer, more innovative monopolies.

A businessperson, like Trump or Thiel, might feel that businesses and governments are analogous processes.

Eventually, any monopolistic governmental structure, electoral competition, or economic machinery will become outdated and obsolete.

Then it will become replaced by a newer, more evolved monopoly.

If Trump gets elected, it will result in – at the very least – more division, conflict, and controversy than we are seeing right now.

In other words, Trump could cause so much havoc that we would have to wake up and restructure the system.

This would make room for innovation and growth.

Heck, maybe there is only one way to make the broken governmental engine work again…

Start banging on it with a Trump-shaped hammer and hope the world doesn’t end in nuclear war.

Windows 10 Made Me 10X More Productive Overnight. Plus, Microsoft Sway is Microsoft Swank.

Hi folks,

At first, I didn’t know Microsoft Sway was a presentation software. I just started clicking away and came up with some pretty cool stuff. It seemed apparent to me that most content is headed this way, including blogs.

So here’s a little experiment (FYI, it may not be very responsive because it’s embedded).

I put my post into Sway, and a few pictures later, this is what I came up with.

Google’s Your Mom, Mobile’s Dead, and Other Future Predictions from June, 2015

sunofficeI woke up this morning and realized I hadn’t predicted the future yet this year.

I meant to do it in January but I forgot.

In January of 2014, I predicted what the world of tomorrow will look like.

Among other things, I predicted that:

  • Google will build androids
  • Wearables are the future – specifically, those creepy things you put on your face
  • We’ll slowly start sinking into a virtual reality
  • Augmented reality will become a veil of tears that separates us more and more from actual reality
  • Our current fragmented attention spans will fragment even further
  • We’ll see AI
  • We’ll see more military bots
  • We’ll see more sex bots

So far, all of my predictions are right on track.

So let’s look at tomorrow, today – June 11, 2015.

Tomorrow: Video, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality…

Get ready…

Yep, it’s coming.

Well, technically speaking, it’s already here. It’s just not mainstream yet.

Companies are investing billions in virtual reality technology. Facebook spent $2 billion on Oculus Rift, the world’s leading VR company, and Google invested almost $550 million in Magic Leap, augmented reality (AR) tech that projects holographic images directly into your eyeball.

Digi-Capital predicts that these industries could be worth $150 billion by 2020.

Elsewhere, I’ve written in-depth about augmented reality, how augmented reality will impact marketing, and how video is transforming the internets. Those articles take a practical look at how these industries will impact our world in the next few years. And they clearly prove that my prior predictions are chugging along quite nicely.

Don’t believe me? Watch this video and skip ahead to 2:30:00.

 

 

This video clearly demonstrates the precursor of tomorrow. As I mentioned last year, if you want a real glimpse of the future, watch Ghost in the Shell.

Or watch this.

Google’s Your New All-Seeing-Eye-Mom-Personal-Assistant…Who Wants to Market to You…From Inside Your Eyeballs

Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and all the rip-offs you see on the app stores are trying to become your personal, virtual assistants. You’ve probably heard people complain that computers do so much work that people don’t need to think any more. After all…

  • If you want to write a paper on a classic of literature, simply look up the summary online or buy a pre-written essay.
  • Don’t wanna do math? Just plug it into Wolfram Alpha.
  • Too lazy to write down a to-do list? Just download Wunderlist…or ask Siri to remind you.
  • Too busy to log in to your airline to check your flight times? Just ask Google Now. Heck, Google Now can even track flight prices for you.
  • Want to know how many calories are in a Red Bull? Don’t bother typing it in to a search engine (that’s so much work!) – instead, ask Siri.

32What many people fail to realize is the depth of data acquisition that tech companies go to in order to produce these modern luxuries that we just can’t live without.

Google and Facebook both unscrupulously stalk the sh!t out of you and hunt down, absorb, and dissect every bit of information about you that they can. From your clicks to your website behavior and your social media interests, they scrutinize every millisecond and move and develop detailed psychological profiles that they use to better market to you.

Think it’s a coincidence that that shoe ad follows you around the web?

Or that that Starbucks coupon showed up when you were a mere 100 feet from the store?

Nope.

In response to widespread criticism and concern by privacy advocates and people who actually know who Snowden is, both companies have been increasing their “privacy controls.” But it’s important to note that tech companies and marketing companies require data in order to generate profits – so protecting your privacy actually opposes their business models.

Though they claim to have your best interests at heart, their responses are mostly just palliatives aimed at appeasing European governments and concerned masses.

Don’t believe me?

  • watch-756487Apple Watch can and does track everything from your heart rate to your altitude to how much time you spend walking, sitting, running, and exercising.
  • Google wants to put ads in front of your eyeballs 24/7. Think I’m thinking ahead? Think With Google…Google patented headset technology that actually measures pupil dilation and how long your eyeballs look at an ad. “Pay-per-gaze” is a new advertising compensation format that charges advertisers based on how long you look at an ad…and this is all for technology that hasn’t even hit the mainstream yet.
  • Photos used to be out of Google’s reach, but not any more…so photos you post online will be able to be read, understood, and processed by Google – or any other tech company. Just look at Facebook’s creepy auto-tagging feature.
  • Amazon’s Firefly technology can understand and recognize video.

In other words, anything you put online – writing, photos, audio, or video – will be read, cataloged, understood, and processed by the tech giants…all so they can better market to you.

The Day After Tomorrow: Mobile Will Die…

minecraft-529460And be reborn as AR and VR.

This is the whole reason I started writing this post and I almost forgot about it.

In case you haven’t noticed, I pay a bit of attention to AR and VR, both of which are going to radically change the world we live in. Again, look at that video clip of the HoloLens. That’s a paltry precursor to what the world will look like sometime in the next few decades. When AR tech can be plugged into glasses or contact lenses, we’ll have an augmented layer that seamlessly slides between ourselves and the real world.

So much for all that money you dumped into your responsive website and iPhone app…

Mobile sites will probably never die, but AR and VR will probably devour much of the market share we see taken up by apps.

FYI, smartphones are the de facto device for people living in emerging markets. Cambodians or Africans who’ve never seen a desktop own smartphones and have Facebook accounts. And it’s not uncommon – it’s the norm. Having lived in Cambodia for months on end, I know that most of the country can’t afford smartphones now. But neighbors like Thailand can. And as these markets emerge into tomorrow, they’ll have smartphones.

And when you have utterly cheap products like Google Cardboard, which are likely produced in countries like Cambodia, you’ve got…

VR for Everyone on the Planet

Zuckerberg wants everyone to be connected to the internets. Not out of generosity or goodwill – the guy’s obviously just another Silicon Valley sociopath – but so everyone can be connected to the Facebook money machine.

With Google Cardboard, Google not only gives easy DIY VR device to anyone with a smartphone, it also gives VR to people who can’t afford Oculus Rift headsets or the upcoming Magic Leap AR headsets. This is something I could be wrong about, but I foresee emerging markets and poverty-stricken people around the world escaping their reality by strapping smartphones to their faces with Google Cardboards and mass-cheaply-3D-printed VR headsets.

Which brings me to 3D printers…

3D Printers will Print Drones that Deliver Your Pizzas and New Organs in 30 Minutes…Or Your Money Back!

letters-418634I printed out a 3D skull at Mojo Coworking in Asheville.

The guy that runs the 3D printers there told me that some of the higher-end machines can also print metal. So, of course, they’ll become more sophisticated in the next few years and decades.

Now, I don’t really follow 3D printing as much as I do AR and VR and digital marketing, but expect the entire world to change in ways we probably can’t imagine:

So how will this technology change the world?

Well, along with nanotechnology – which promises everything from self-cleaning windows and stay-fresh running gear to innovative cancer treatments – it will reshape the entire industrial world, the manufacturing industry, and the supply chain. Quality of life for many will be drastically altered for the better, and we’ll have access to more technology and luxury than we could have ever imagined possible.

But…

There Are a Few Problems

I realize I’m being a bit ranty and dystopian with this post, but there’s a major problem with the worldview being marketed to us by Silicon Valley: it paints a rosy picture of tomorrow based on technological utopianism…the idea that technology will solve all of our problems. They do this, obviously, because that type of propaganda makes the more money.

The antidote?

A healthy bit of realism…

1. Idiots run the show.

tie-690084Zuckerberg and the Google guys didn’t get to where they were by being nice guys with normal lives and human-centric causes. They’re profiteering capitalists who only care about the game they’re playing…which happens to be based on the extraction and exploitation of your data.

Do you really want planet Earth to be helmed by guys like Zuckerberg and Paige and Eric Schmidt (see this funny article, It Looks Like Eric Schmidt Closed His Instagram Account After It Was Revealed He Followed Lots Of Half-Naked Women) and the Uber CEO?

Well, not much we can do about it. Especially if we pretend like their “visions” and agendas will result in a tech-fueled utopia.

2. Automation will demolish our current economic structure.

Here are some examples of technological revolutions that will change manufacturing, the workforce, and so on:

  • Self-driving cars will put huge chunks of the transportation industry out of business. Uber, already a threat to taxi companies around the world (which could fight back if they’d develop their own stupid apps already) has self-driving cars in the works.
  • Robotic manufacturing will put huge chunks of the industrial workforce out of business. Heck, Amazon’s already using robots in its warehouses.
  • Just think how many white collar jobs 3D printing will create…and how many blue collar jobs it will kill.
  • Nanotechnology will do the same…after all, why hire a window cleaner when you can print self-cleaning windows and have an Amazon drone deliver them to your home in 30 minutes?

The IT industry will keep expanding as more people come online, which is good if you’re a computer nerd, but bad if you’re in an industry that will be automated away.

Businesses that want to stay alive will need to follow these trends with AR and VR. Currently, it’s already necessary to have a website, a LinkedIn account, a Google account, and, for some, an app…just project this trend into tomorrow and see how it will change with AR and VR. When everyone in the first-, second-, and third-worlds have the internets planted directly in their eyeballs, you’ll have to have your own AR and VR sites and storefronts.

3. Half the human population will live inside VR.

skyscraper-418189_1920The average American spends 7 and a half hours in front of a screen. The average Indonesian spends 9 hours. For many, though, who want to stay on the cutting edge of productivity and technology, that number is much higher.

So we’re already spending half our days immersed in a virtual reality.

Imagine what things will look like in 10, 20, and 30 years, when AR and VR are the new portals to the interwebs and you need to be online in order to stay competitive. Why even leave home?

When technology automates the work world even further, we’ll be forced to become more and more a part of that virtual world – unless you want to paint houses for a living. Something tells me human labor will be cheaper than robot labor for jobs like that…

4. What about global warming?

The question running through a business person’s mind is: how can I profit from this?

They can’t…yet…which is why no one’s investing in solar power and other sustainable industries (though, according to this guy, no one’s investing in solar power because people are stupid).

Okay, I think I’ve ranted enough.

These are just a few of the changes we should expect to see in the next few years and decades.

But what will tomorrow’s tomorrow’s tomorrow look like?

The Day After the Day After Tomorrow: GUIs in Your Brain…And Your Blood

110822_3306_3There’s a grand future awaiting us all:

  • Headsets and contact lenses that project virtual reality directly onto your retina will give way to chips in your brain, or, as I like to call them, neural user interfaces (NUIs). And, yes, the precursors of mind control tech are already here. Again, watch Ghost in the Shell.
  • Neural User Interfaces will probably give way to internet-connected nanotechnology that floats around in your bloodstream. Why not just make this nanotech part of the water supply? That way everyone will be forced to create a Gmail account whether they like it or not.
  • While we’re on the topic of bloodstreams infused with nanobots…wouldn’t it be easy to get all your drugs from an implant? I already conceived of this a while ago. Used in conjunction with Google, the all-seeing-eye-mom-butler-virtual-personal-assistant, you wouldn’t even need to worry about buying drugs yourself or even visiting a doctor – Google could virtually diagnose you and dose you as needed.
  • I almost forgot about human-ish androids. Like Google Glass, Westerners are probably freaked out by the concept. But not all countries are so skittish about the future…Japan sure loves its dolls and androids. It’s a toss-up to which company is more creepy: Google or Facebook. Of the two, Google seems to have less of a problem with overt creepiness. Facebook has better anti-creepy marketing. So it looks like Google will be the ones to run with it. We’ll probably have to go to Japan for our sexbots though…

 

While my vision of tomorrow’s tomorrow’s tomorrow may seem slightly dystopian, I just like to be realistic.

Social robots like Zuckerberg and idiots like Eric Schmidt and Bush will continue to run things, whether we’re flying through space on ships captained by AI, bathing in globally warmed gutter rivers next to a sea of trash, or relaxing on a rooftop luxury cabana overlooking the vast cityscape with clones of superstars fanning us with palm leaves and feeding us with nanobot-produced grapes.

More Fun with Big Data

As Problogger pointed out that Define Media Group pointed out, Buzzfeed’s recent picture of traffic referral sources may be slightly skewed. Their claims suggest that Facebook generates nearly triple the traffic referrals that Google does. It’s an interesting statistic, but the methodology and data sources are clearly opaque. This problem suddenly becomes compounded when publications such as Recode and The Atlantic propagate said data without verifying it.

Good vs. Evil, Facebook vs. Google, DMG vs. Buzzfeed

But could it even be possible? Facebook has 1.24 billion active users and Google has almost 12 billion monthly searches, so yeah, I guess it’s possible that highly active users post and refer more traffic. Again, I’m dubious: Buzzfeed, a player in the social arena, understandably wants to promote social media, since social media promotes their services.

Reading Recode’s original article about the Buzzfeed phenomenon, it’s hard to tell where the data comes from: “BuzzFeed’s pretty darn big, and its network has some 200 other sites in it, so while we’re not looking at all of the Web here, we’re at least looking at a good-sized chunk of it.” DMG adds more about the data sources, but not much: “According to BuzzFeed their data gathering is done via a tracking code across their network of sites of which ‘represent an audience of more than 300 million people globally.'”

Define-Media-Group-search-social-pie-chart

via Define Media Group

Define Media Group, on the other hand, is a marketing firm that provides both search and social media marketing consulting. DMG is very explicit with their methodology and their data sources. Their data suggests results almost the opposite relationship between search and social referrals. In my mind, transparent methodology and data sources certainly lend DMG the upper hand here.

Hype and manipulated statistics have been around for quite a long time, but in the internet age, they can have a tendency to go viral and make big waves.

Surfing and Wiping Out

In Bob Hoffman’s notorious speech where he slammed new school marketing pundits, entitled, “The Golden Age of Bullshit,” he brought up the Pepsi Refresh Project.

A few years ago, to much fanfare, Pepsi dropped its marketing campaign in favor of a complete shift to social media marketing. And, after 2010, corporate social media spending climbed 64% each year for several years running, according to stats I found at Hootsuite.

We’re clearly living in a new age, right? An age of conversation, engagement, and buzz?

According to Hoffman: one estimate has it that the Pepsi Refresh Project cost the company between $50-100 million. The popular soft drink dropped from the second best-selling drink to third and lost a 5% market share before slinking back to its former paid advertising practices.

The same research companies that had proclaimed the death of traditional advertising turned around and stated that social media was a “barely negligible source of sales.”

Hoffman cites Forrester Research, which had foretold the beginning of a new age of social media marketing and “the end of the era of mass marketing” just a few years earlier. They later changed their position, and stated that email marketing was nearly forty times as effective as Facebook and Twitter combined.

What does this tell you about big data?

Big Data = Statistics

Big data is statistics with just more of them. It can be insightful and truthful, or it can be skewed and manipulative. Transparency in both methodology and data sources are vital if we are to make any useful sense of statistics that are thrown our way. Publications such as The Atlantic and Recode — not to mention anyone wielding statistics — have a responsibility to do some fact-checking and verification before propagating such big bad data.

If I had to pick one data set out of the two mentioned above, it would be DMG, because they are open about their methodology and statistics. With Buzzfeed’s info, we literally just have a picture, without understanding the methodology or numbers behind it, just as with Google Trends.

The Future of Content Marketing Part 2

Elsewhere I explained that everyone and their mom should hop on board the Google train, because they’re taking over the Earth. And that’s true.

Wil Reynolds, CEO of Seer Interactive, an internet marketing company, demonstrated as much in a presentation at Affiliate Summit. The search engine’s evolution is a good thing, he argues, because it clears away more of that spam that pollutes search results. And that’s true.

Image 5Look at the ribbon that now headlines search results: suddenly we see lists of local results with photos all lined up next to each other. How convenient is that? And how useful for local businesses?

After watching his presentation, I felt that I’d been rather harsh on Google. After all, Google currently incorporates your location into all search results, which should help business who are close to you.

But, what with the vastness of the internet — not to mention the vastness of the world we live in, from which the internet is derived — I can’t help but feel like I’m getting a rather simplified picture of the information I am seeking with my search query.

Is Google Good or Evil or What?

Wil Reynolds has a lot of positive energy and believes in building real value and promoting passionate business men and women, instead of spamming people to make a buck. While Reynolds seems to suggest that Google’s interface evolutions and search algorithm updates are beneficial for the little guy and the casual internet surfer who wants spam-free search results, I partially disagree.

To demonstrate how Google is battling the nefarious hordes of spammers, Reynolds breaks out his smartphone and talks to it. Instead of navigating into a website to find the weather or our flight times, he shows us, all we have to do is ask Google, and it will tell us.

Image 6

The Knowledge Graph

And it’s true. Ask for the meaning of a word, and Google will provide us with the answer. Ask who Miley Cyrus is, and Google tells us. Where does this data come from? Sometimes it tells us, sometimes it doesn’t. Why bother visiting Wikipedia or donating to their cause when Google just gives it to me?

Unlike a search engine, which would direct us to the services and sources of the information we are seeking, Google becomes the service provider by taking that information from said sources and giving it to us directly.

This trend will only continue.

Is this good or bad? How can we know when we don’t know what the heck is going on? Google doesn’t talk about their motivations or intentions.

Oh wait, according to them: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

How do Driverless Cars or Robots Fit In?

Image 1

Apparently you can book flights through Google. Airlines better stay on Google’s good side if they want to remain visible.

It’s really hard for me not to see the monopolistic side of things: Google is aggressively pushing into every major market they can get their paws on. They are offering overnight delivery to compete with Amazon (already a retail and publisher crusher), they are extracting and storing and publishing portions of books online,  they read your email, they are going after wireless giants, they are building robots, they are building driverless cars, and they are going to build androids.

Some tech lovers love Google, and knock the “Google is evil” mantra. I think “evil” is a word from a Disney movie and has no place in an adult discussion about real things in the real world. Google’s just monopolistic — the dream of any profit-centric business — and their data gathering behavior is creepy. Emails should be private. Privacy should be a given.

But I digress.

Image 2It doesn’t pay to wear a tin hat, but it does pay to pay attention to the writing on the wall. Google may not be evil, but don’t assume that they are an altruistic company that looks out for your business or aims to bring the world together in peace and harmony. Do you think they’re fighting the recent FCC ruling because they’ve got such big hearts?

Like any corporation, their top priority is their bottom line.

 

PS – “What does this have to do with content marketing?” some content marketers may be asking themselves. Other content marketers, however, will see exactly how this affects their field. If you are one of the former, then watch Reynolds’ presentation.

Google Trends Says Laotians Love Japanese Girls

If you already understand how Google Trends works, you can skip to the “Why Google Trends is Stupid” Section.

Everyone else, welcome to my article.

For those who don’t know, Google Trends is a Google tool that allows you to examine the relative “interest” in search terms, search topics, where those terms and topics are most popular, other related searches, and other related data.

This type of data, of course, is extremely valuable for internet marketers engaged in research…or would be if it weren’t so sketchy.

Miley, You Lose

Let’s compare the literary genre of science fiction, the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the search term “hunger games,” the anime genre, and the term “miley cyrus.”

miley v anime google trendNot only does worldwide “interest” in anime consistently top all other searches, it even outperforms all the others combined at least 95% of the time. On the one hand, we never really think of anime as being so popular, but when you include the entire world’s search results, you can see how it compares to other genres and titles that garner so much attention from mainstream media.

When you look at the actual charts, Google’s site correlates popularity spikes with news events for you, so you can see that miley cyrus’s biggest spike coincided with her MTV music awards. Examine the “regional interest” section and you’ll see that her biggest fans aren’t in the United States, but in Guyana, the Faroe Islands, Guam, Belize…in fact, the USA is #8 on the list.

Interesting, or confusing?

The Japanese-Loving Laotians

laotians love japanese girlsjapan laos google trendsWhile first looking at some Japan-related search trends, I noticed something else: Laos tops the search term volume for “japan,” followed by Cambodia, Myanmar, Mongolia, and so on.

At the bottom of the Laos-specific search page, you will see related searches.

Now, anyone who has spent any time in southeast Asia doesn’t need to blink twice to know something’s wrong with this picture.

The “100” next to Laos means that it has the highest search volume in the world, and the other 1-to-100 numbers are calculated against that…or so I thought, based on Google’s unclear help bubble language, which says, “Numbers represent search volume relative to the highest point on the map which is always 100. Click on any region/point to see more details on the search volume there.”

The reason for these odd-looking results?

Google normalizes its data (see below), but, even in a post titled “How Trends Data is Normalized,” it doesn’t tell you how Trends data is normalized, it just explains what the normalized results look like.

We aren’t told what the search volume is, so I went over to Google AdWords to look at numbers. There, we find that Laos manages a paltry 1,360 searches per month vs. the USA’s 199,640. When I checked search volumes for “japan girl” plus “japan girls,” I found that Laos came up with 206 searches, and when you add “google japan” to that list, you only come up with 278, vs. the USA’s 43,422 for all three search terms.

Why Google Trends is Stupid

No numbers and no pre-normalization information means no meaningful picture.

Google really needs to work on its social skills. Its inability to successfully promote its social network Google+ is one glaring example of this, and the opaque Trends interface is another. Behind the scenes I’m sure they’re working on an artificial brain that will predict the future, but we’re all left in the dark with “interest” charts. I suppose that’s normal in this age of Big Data-hoarding.

Data Normalization

Wow, guess those Aussies like GoT. Too bad there's only 22 million of them

Wow, guess those Aussies like GoT. Too bad there’s only 22 million of them. How good is there internet infrastructure, I wonder? And what about demographic data?

To normalize a data set means that, according to the map-making software folks at AlignStar, you “transform the data so it may be compared in a meaningful way.” In the example they give on the AlignStar site, we see two maps of unemployment rates. One which shows absolute values within a US state, and the other which shows normalized values.

Each map paints a different picture.

If, for example, you wanted to measure the counties of a given state to see which have higher unemployment rates, then you would measure the absolute number of unemployed against the total workforce, which is what AlignStar did in their second map. This shows a couple counties that had relatively high unemployment rates. They pointed out,

The maps above portray a very different picture of the same information. Each map could prove useful depending on the point that the map creator was trying to make.  It is important to keep this in mind when creating thematic maps. Sometimes a very small change can result in a very different picture.

What is a Trend?

game of thrones australia usaWe don’t know what data goes into these graphs or how it is being processed.

Not normalizing the data would make many Trends rather boring, however, since the USA is the biggest user of Google and has one of the most powerful — if not the most powerful — telecommunications infrastructures in the world. It would probably look like the first map on the AlignStar website.

But what do Trends’s post-processed pictures actually tell us?

I’m no statistician, but there are some pretty obvious questions that come up as to how valid or useful this tool is. In the case of Game of Thrones, we see many first-world countries popping up on the map, so it is more reasonable to assume some relative popularity correlations between countries such as the USA and Australia. But without the raw data we can’t verify anything for ourselves.

Look at Laos and Cambodia. The vast majority of the population doesn’t even have internet access.

So, once you dig a little deeper, you realize that Google’s geographical “normalization” can, at times, be misleading, pointless, and wrong. Guyana‘s and the Faroe Islands’ supposedly vast interest in Miley Cyrus, for example, doesn’t tell us how many people in said countries have access to the internet, have smartphones, speak English, use Google, use other search engines, or have ever seen a computer.

In Cambodia, Japan’s second biggest fan, most people live in rural areas with no internet access or electricity, and will likely go their whole lives without ever seeing a computer except that one time that one white guy came to take pictures of an ox with his smartphone.

When you take such a ridiculously small search sample size from small countries with small populations that live the same way they have for the past thousand years, Google’s one-size-fits-all normalization clearly tells us absolutely nothing, except maybe that some travelers, Japanese expats, or other rich folks search for “japan” with more relative frequency than other countries.

Maybe, though, that’s the just data you’re looking for.

More Fun with Big Data

It’s just Big Data, and I hate Big Data, mostly because I don’t have any.

As Jaron Lanier has pointed out, and as I will probably write about again, that sacrosanct elixir of the techtopians has got a tenuous-at-best causal relationship between the input and the output. When you hide the quantities and use unknowns to algorithmically define terms like “popularity” or “interest,” without including (in this case) vital geographical and demographic factors such as economic status, internet infrastructure, population of said country, and so forth, then you start getting unverifiable and meaningless statistics. Bad data is even worse than bad science.

As I like to say, “No! No, Big Data, no. Bad Big Data. That’s a bad, bad Big Data.”

Without the ability to see and play around with absolute values ourselves and without knowing how those values are normalized, we are left only with pretty pictures and graphs. As with the Google algorithm, we just have to take their word for it. And with Google’s attitude toward the world’s data, do you really feel like doing that?

SEO to Now: Content Marketing’s Future

The basic “currency” of SEO is the backlink, which can vary in value, from the negative-value spam links to quality links from authorities such as Amazon, Wikipedia, or government sites. The basic mindset of SEO used to be “more, more, more,” in terms of both content and links, because it was quantity that mattered. As Google wised up, we gradually saw a shift towards quality content and content marketing, yet we still see filler material everywhere. Google’s emphasis on quality content will never change, but as technology changes, what other changes can we expect to see in the marketing world?

The search engine’s algorithm updates helped steer the marketing world towards content marketing, where the bottom line has been “promotion through valuable content.” Content subsequently replaced links as the atomic unit of internet marketing. Google Now, a personal assistant and prediction service based on the Google search engine, is poised to become the search interface for Google Glass.
The goal is to create an easy-to-use personal assistant, as opposed to a search engine.

Beyond the Search Engine

The gap will continue to grow between the top results and all the rest
The gap will continue to grow between the top results and all the rest

Google itself is obviously not just a search engine any more, but has become a full-fledged tech monopoly with multiple agendas. In the post-SEO world, especially with Google+, Google has made it clear that if you want to be successful with Google marketing, you have to play Google’s ballgame. Google will continue to compete for the same types of multi-market dominance as Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung. So they will push harder and harder to have everyone “integrate” with Google services.

Content marketing will be affected by the further consolidation of data and traffic into an even more biased and simplistic interface. For one thing, the top results will become more static and difficult to penetrate. The content itself will become shorter, simpler, and designed to be more attention-grabbing.

Google or Bust

While technically speaking a search engine should be a database, Google has been called an advertising agency, which makes sense from a marketing perspective and a design perspective. Businesses will face even more pressure to integrate with Google services in order to be featured in the search results. If you opt out of Google+ or anything else Google, then you just won’t make it near the top.

Some might say this type of filtration system is good, because it weeds out the filler content and spam. But it also means that the search results will be more simplified than they already are. It means that legitimate businesses will have to compete harder against each other and against spammers to make it into the results that actually matter.

And for those who do not want to join Google+ or get a Google account?

Good luck with your marketing.

Sexbots, AI, & Androids: Nathan’s Future Predictions, January 2014

When I think of the future’s impending waves of technology, I think of this quote from Mat Honan’s Google Glass piece, “I, Glasshole“:

We need to think about it and be ready for it in a way we weren’t with smartphones. Because while you (and I) may make fun of glassholes today, come tomorrow we’re all going to be right there with them, or at least very close by. Wearables are where we’re going. Let’s be ready.

At the turn of the year, we saw many columnists and writers roll their dice on the table and make predictions about what trends we’ll see this year in technology.

Instead of doing that, I decided to take a look at where the technology industry is headed over the next several decades, so we can truly understand what “be ready” means.

It’s good to know that wearable technology is coming, but what comes with it? And what else is coming alongside wearable tech?

Google Will Build Androids

And all the glasshole Google employees will walk around with pet androids on leashes.

HandroidAmazon already uses robots in its warehouses. Some time in the coming decades the robots will walk among us, they’ll look like us, & they’ll talk like us. At first they’ll probably look like the robot in Robot and Frank, but it won’t be long before they look more and more like us, as seen in Time of Eve.

Ghost in the Shell‘s vision of the future is, in my opinion, probably the most accurate picture of the future. Not so much the robots that talk with little girls’ voices, but the fact that cybernetic augmentation and VR tech will become normal, we’ll be able to access the internet through brain chips, and so forth.

Right now, Google does research into robotics, they bought an army of robots, they are researching AI, and they are building a brain. What do you think they’re aiming for? What happens when you research robotics, AI, and artificial brains?

Androids, obviously. And the androids will all be wearing Google Glass.

Google Glass, Wearable Tech, VR, & Virtual Sex

"If you had all the world's information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you'd be better off." - Sergey Brin, 2004

“If you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.” – Sergey Brin, 2004

While I semi-satirized this freakish technology in the past, the fact is it will probably change the world. And if it doesn’t, something similar will. You’ll be able to put on wearable tech such as Google Glass and sit down to dinner with someone halfway across the world. You’ll be able to go to virtual nightclubs, virtual business meetings, virtual orgies, play virtual tennis, and go on virtual crime sprees (otherwise known as video games).

Wearable technology, for those of you who don’t know, means smartwatches, smartglasses, and other wearable smart-tech. I wouldn’t be surprised if smart jewelry and smart tattoos come along.

We’ll have virtual reality immersion tech, such as VR helmets and VR suits. You’ll be able to put on some pilot’s helmet and gloves, and enter a virtual world from your bedroom at night while your parents think you’re asleep.

Best scifi book I’ve read in a while.

Eventually we’ll probably have complete VR suits that you can slip inside, as seen in Ready Player One. In order to provide for all bodily functions, the suits will probably have tubes for all your holes, so you don’t have to get out every time you need to take care of said bodily functions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Google advances chip tech so far that all you have to do is glance to the upper left for a second and then the chip connects your brain directly to the Net.

Until brain chips and super suits hit mainstream, everyone will start getting chips or wearable tech that is unobtrusive. A watch, a pair of smart earrings, a pair of smart contact lenses, smart glove linings that fit inside your black stylish leather ones, some smart undergarments, and even though you’re on a flight from Paris to New York, you can project your Avatar into your family’s bedroom for dinner, while simultaneously attending a friends’ house party in Dublin with a different Avatar.

You’ll Be in Ten Places at Once

When you land, Google’s iChatLocalApp will tell you that there’s a girl downtown who wants to go to that electronic music festival who shares your taste in TV and Mediterranean cuisine, so you AvatarChat for a few minutes while waiting to pick up your luggage, then meet up in real life and make it to your friend’s house party, where you’ve been half-attending with your PartyAvatar#13 all along.

And while riding the taxi to the party you use your LinkedIn Avatar to correspond with some of your business contacts, only half-paying attention to the girl you met, who is also half-somewhere else, half-chatting with someone else behind her Google Lens, probably recording you and having her MyFace friends rate your looks. When you arrive at the party, you have between half-a-dozen and a dozen conversations and content streams whirling about your Lens interface.

So when you’re surfing the content streams and half-chatting with half-a-dozen avatars halfway around the world, where are you really? Your attention will be split and pulled in a million directions by a million signals competing for your time, money, and intellectual resources. Enter Rushkoff’s Present Shock, which points out the fragmenting effect technology has on our consciousness.

Augmented Reality

Present shock becomes even more ominous when you consider that augmented reality will saturate our lives even more than it already does. Now we look at the virtual world through our computers, which have found their way into our pockets as smartphones, but the internet of things will make augmented reality into a permanent stratum of our daily lives.

I used to envision VR as this other world that you just plug into and then come out of and then you’re back in the real world. Like Narnia, VR was something you could turn on and off by going through a doorway. But it’s not shaping up that way.

The evolution of the interface-on-your-face

The interface-in-your-face

Technology is turning out to be a sphere that’s always on, that we can’t seem to unplug from. Again, Ghost in the Shell has the right idea. If you’re wearing Google Contact Lenses, you’ll be able to sit in a recliner in a roach-infested filthy bachelor pad, then open your eyes inside a palace on a distant planet with tons of alien babes crawling all over you. Or you can look out your living room and, instead of seeing a dirty alley wall, gaze at an empty tropical beach, a mountain vista, an alien landscape, or outer space.

While walking down the street you can add dynamic backgrounds that don’t exist in reality. Say you want a more saturated color palette? Done. A flock of birds? Done. Virtual graffiti on those walls? Done. Say you wish your neighbor was your sex toy for the night? Done.

Sexbots

SexbotWith your Google Lenses you can steal images of some hot chick you see on the street then use some pirated software to take that girl’s face and make a sex avatar out of it. When you get home to your android that night, you just have your Google Lenses sync up that girl’s face with your lifelike android’s hot body. And you can do it again and again every day with some other chick. Imagine the virtual harems that creeps will hoard…if they ever leave their basements.

Because, whether we like thinking about it or not, we will build robots and androids that will be our complete slaves. As they should be. They are fucking robots, after all.

As with all new technology, this wave will be a double-edged sword, with the potential to revolutionize the world, while also introducing some darker possibilities.

Horrible Stuff

Robots already exist in the military. Modern day drone pilots bomb the enemy, then go home to their wives for dinner. We have robots outfitted with machine guns and cameras. War could become a video game tournament for rich nations. What happens if Google can create a real army of robots for the US government? What if we had a bunch of android house cleaners and servants and they got hacked by an enemy country or by that kid down the block? Or the NSA decided to make them all pick up weapons?

Weapon-wielding spiderbots, dogbots, hoverbots, and tankbots could roll across the battlefield while we watch through a detached dopamine-addiction in our Google Lenses. Outfitted with human-killing weaponry, they could decimate the opposition without a single homeside casualty.

But…oops…

We forgot about EMPs. Electro-magnetic pulses that can disable all electronics within a several-mile radius.

The electro-magnetic pulse disabled our robot battalion and now the robot tech is in the hands of the enemy. This is why EMPs are illegal.

Probably best to stick to stratosphere-flying drones.

AI

We’ll also have AI, which you can install into that open-source brain you printed from your 3D printer, which you can then install into that new iJeeves bot you printed.

Get Ready by Looking Forward

 

Feel like getting rid of pesky senior citizens? Just pop them inside one of these machines. They take care of all the dirty work & keep them entertained at the same time. Just be careful the machine doesn't turn into a giant robot, like it does in this anime.

Feel like getting rid of pesky senior citizens? Just pop them inside one of these nursing beds.

The nerdiest science fiction has the best predictions of how we’ll interface with technology in the coming decades. Ghost in the Shell, Roujin Z, Ready Player One, the Matrix, Phillip K. Dick fiction, modern day concept art, cyberpunk, and countless others point to the trends that are manifesting in both technology and society.

As Mat Honan said, we need to be ready. Fortunately, science fiction designers design the future constantly, so we can use their predictions and future designs to better prepare for tomorrow.

We can start by looking further than one year at a time.