20 METATRENDS FOR THE ROARING 20S
Everybody it seems likes metatrends, megatrends, any-kind-of-trends, especially at the beginning of a calendar year. I think that many of these are good idea stretchers. Whether or not they serve as accurate predictors does not matter. People are working on many projects and ideas that will yield something in the future.
Peter Diamandis publishes an Abundance newsletter, preaches Abundance thinking, did the X-prize, and many more futuristic stretch-the-mind ideas.
I lifted the following introduction to his latest newsletter “20 Metatrends For the Roaring 20s.” I recommend visiting the website and thinking through these ideas. He is an abundant optimist about technology. I’m afraid that I’ve been around too many MBAs and marketers. So his idea that someday the Alexa’s and Siri’s of the world will be our loyal servants freeing us from advertising influence pushes aside the factor that these technologies are being developed by companies who survive on advertising. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
In the decade ahead, waves of exponential technological advancements are stacking atop one another, eclipsing decades of breakthroughs in scale and impact.
Emerging from these waves are 20 “Metatrends,” likely to revolutionize entire industries (old and new), redefine tomorrow’s generation of businesses and contemporary challenges, and transform our livelihoods from the bottom-up.
Among these metatrends are augmented human longevity, the surging smart economy, AI-human collaboration, urbanized cellular agriculture, and high-bandwidth brain-computer interfaces, just to name a few.
It is here that master entrepreneurs and their teams must see beyond the immediate implications of a given technology, capturing second-order, Google-sized business opportunities on the horizon.
Welcome to a new decade of runaway technological booms, historic watershed moments, and extraordinary abundance.
I get much of my news through RSS feed. That may sound archaic, but it works. Originally I used Google Reader some 20 years ago or so. But that was detracting from Google’s business model, so they killed it. And I went with NetNewsWire. It was great. They sold it. Like almost all cool little startups now part of big companies, the product languished. I switched to Feedly, which I am still using.
The cool thing about RSS is that you get the news feed with just an option of going to the Website. With some feeds, you can see the entire article. With others, you scan and then go to the Website if you want more. I have a few subscriptions, such as The New York Times, where I have access. Many of my feeds are blogs that have no paywall.
The thriving blogosphere of the early 2000s (my blog began in 2003, I’m approaching 16 years) has lost some fervor, but it’s still around.
I started first in the control and automation space. Walt Boyes followed, but soon took it under the cover of Putman Media. The way all the blogs grew in the early years was through linking with each other. I would see a post and link to it with my take. They would link back. But when companies got involved, they didn’t want links to “competitors”. So much for growth for either of us.
Jim Cahill was next with his Emerson Process Experts blog. In the early days we would also cross link, but like everything that faded with marketing. His blog is still going and is still the best example of a corporate blog building a community. I tell people about it on all my trips.
The Apple computer community supports many independent bloggers and podcasters. They cross link and even appear on each other’s podcasts. The net result is that the entire community grows and thrives. So far, I have not found another independent blogger / influencer / analyst to interact with.
I bring this up while listening to The Talk Show with John Gruber of the Daring Fireball blog. He and his guest Brent Simmons (developer of NetNewsWire) are discussing the state of RSS, blogging, podcasting, and media. Brent worked at Userland and its blogging platform Radio which I used from 2003 to about 2007 when I switched to SquareSpace. In 2013 I switched to WordPress.
While commiserating about the state of trying to read articles on the Web, they miss the point of the business. Media is run by sales people. Salespeople think that long term thinking is 60 days out. They really don’t care about user experience. They look for one more idea that will sell one more piece of screen real estate and that maybe is obnoxious and the reader mistakenly clicks the ad instead of the close button and they sell a click. I’m not being cynical about that. It is the natural order of things when sales people (and I was one once) are scrambling to increase income through any non-illegal method they can find.
I still like RSS feeds. I no longer trust Google to uncover the Websites I want. And I’ve never liked the idea of having a list of Websites to methodically go visit just in case something new was added.
Google and Other Misdemeanors
I have noticed that over the past few months, the number of people coming to my site via search engines, principally Google, has dropped by something like 40%. Curious, last weekend I took a little time and searched on about a dozen keywords that would be used in the industry.
Media sites just don’t come up in the searches. But what does come up are a ton of ads. The bulk of the rest of the links are suppliers. This is a big change over this time period.
Then I came across a tweet from Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp. He noticed that when he searched for his company, Basecamp, he came up number 4. The first three were ads from competitors who had worked the words base camp into their URLs or name in some ingenious way. And they had purchased the adwords that placed their ad above the real organic result. He explains all this in a podcast on Rework.
Back to my observation. I appeared seldom, except for my own domain name, and I never saw the major trade journals in the industry. Even ones named IIoT in a search of IIoT. Automation got three hits a couple of pages back on the keyword automation. But it should have had a bunch.
But suppliers are the most prone to buy adwords from Google.
If you think that searches are not biased and show you the most relevant to you, then you are years behind times.
I have noticed a similar effect in Facebook. Of course, its ad strategy came from Google in the person of Sheryl Sandberg. I did marketing for a small retail startup coffee house in Sidney, Ohio. Being local, I went to Facebook. I also spent a few dollars a month on ads.
When I ended the ad campaign, I was pestered with several notices per day about boosting a post for only $10, then for only $5. And our reach started dropping. Suddenly not everyone saw all the posts. The algorithm ensured that. When you’re in a small town with only about 1,000 person reach, you get pretty quick feedback.
Once upon a time, I mostly trusted Google search results. I use it for research constantly. Now, I’m not so sure about where to go for better results. Everyone is in such a rush to maximize ad dollars that they manipulate anything, including us, in the quest for eyes on ads.
In this era of magazine and media transitions, here is an automation magazine that has published its 400th issue, which translates in its case to more than 36 years. In Italian, it’s Automazione Oggi. In English, Automation Today.
When I was yet the editor of Automation World and I was trying to put the “world” in the magazine, I swung deals with writers in Asia, Germany, and Italy. I wrote a column from Automation World for their publications and they wrote a column for me. Well, I’ve been gone for four years, and the Asian and German partnerships went away. I am still writing a column in Automazione Oggi, though.
The link goes to information about the 400th issue. You can find my column on the site. I didn’t realize it, but they translate it to Italian. I don’t speak or read Italian. I have no idea what I said—just kidding. I’m sure the article I wrote in English is rendered in excellent Italian.
I’ve also begun writing a column in Maintenance Technology magazine beginning with the October issue. My automation column there ran for several years before it stopped maybe three years ago. I’ll be looking at automation and other technology from a point of view of not only maintenance and reliability but also about how that group along with the other key plant groups such as operations, engineering, and IT need to come together to improve plant profitability.
For me it’s all about improving plant performance through the intelligent application of technology. Remember, not all problems require technology, but when they do we need to do it correctly.
Looks like there are some technology changes coming that established technology suppliers won’t like. But that has been the way of the world for centuries.
One of the goals of the Open Process Automation Forum includes the idea of decoupling control hardware and software. With that in the back of my mind, this news item from one of my new favorite news sources, The Information, stood out.
Looks like the AT&T CTO is trying to do what ExxonMobil is attempting—the decoupling of hardware and software to drive down initial costs plus the costs of maintenance and upgrade. Following are excerpts from the interview of Kevin McLaughlin of The Information with AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch. (The Information is a subscription based new media site. I don’t know if I’ve unlocked it or not.)
For big enterprise hardware companies like Cisco Systems and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, AT&T has long been a valuable customer. The telecom behemoth spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year buying devices like switches and routers that transmit data around its network. But it recently began shifting toward cheaper, less-known—or “white-box”—switches from Taiwanese manufacturers that run open-source software.
In doing so, AT&T is following the playbook of companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, which run software they have written on no-name hardware. This trend has forced Cisco and other networking companies like Arista Networks and Juniper Networks to re-evaluate the way they package products. For instance, instead of selling switch hardware with software together, networking companies may have to consider selling just the software, which would hurt profit margins.
Why is AT&T making the move to white box switches instead of those made by firms like Cisco Systems?
AT&T has always had the networking expertise and capacity to do this, but we were just using [that expertise] to pick the right suppliers. We started seeing the big margins the [original equipment manufacturers] had, and how simple it was to build these boxes, and so we decided to build our own.
This has really woken up the traditional OEMs. Now they’re saying, ‘Maybe we should be in the business of not just selling a complete black box solution, but also selling our software and our hardware decoupled from each other.’
How does this decision affect longstanding relationships with suppliers like Cisco Systems?
I’m not going to comment on any specific vendor. But in general, I think it’s a really big wake-up call, and frankly, it’s going to cause vendors to change their model.
A big part of your focus these days is on “software-defined” networking (SDN), which separates high-end networking functions from hardware so they can run on cheaper hardware. At Stanford, you studied under Professor Nick McKeown, who co-founded SDN startup Nicira. What kind of impact has SDN had on the networking industry compared to what it could be in the future?
SDN has not only made networking cheaper but also more flexible—meaning you can do more things with the network, and do them more quickly.
Now the impact is getting cheaper solutions. We’ve also seen more flexibility and cycle time improvement when we develop new services. One example is mobile call recording, an application we developed for trading firms to handle Securities and Exchange Commission requirements. When you call your stockbroker and say you want to trade a stock, that voice communication has to be recorded. Before that meant the stock broker would have to take the call on their office phone. Now they can do it on mobile phones and have the recording sent back to their office recording system.
This kind of service would previously have taken us 12 to 18 months to build. But because all the network components have been turned into software, we were able to build the service in 12 weeks.