I always say these days: if you don’t disrupt yourself, then something else will. After reading this book, I realize I should rephrase that to: if you’re not disrupting yourself, then you are already being disrupted.
Ready or Not is just another way of saying, “Watch out!”, or maybe, “Here are the things that you should have prepared for yesterday.” It’s a great, easy-to-digest overview of the 6 major disruptions that are already happening in the world today, namely (1) the online marketplace, (2) big data, (3) rapid creation, (4) peer power, (5) internet of things, and (6) robot revolution.
Personally, I’m using it as an outline of the topics that I need to delve deeper into in the coming weeks, specifically blockchain and robots. Also, between reading this and Elon Musk, I’ve decided that I need to be consuming more science fiction.
NOTE: My book notes are not written with an audience in mind – it’s just parts of the book I’ve highlighted, coupled with a hodgepodge of thoughts I’ve written on the sides of its pages.
Digital comes from “digit”, as in numbers. Digital technology stores information in the form of numbers: zeros and ones. Because it’s all numbers, it can be compressed and made smaller and smaller… It can last forever.
Digital Disruption: “interrupts the normal progress or activity” of something and “causes something to be unable to continue in the normal way”.
Fact: Disruption tends to hit the largest companies. The lifespan of a Fortune 500 company in the US has shrunk from 61 years in 1958 to just 18 years in 2012. Traditional companies are dying by the thousands.
- V: In that case, large companies have to disrupt themselves and reborn every X years in order to survive. As I would say: if you don’t disrupt yourself, something else will.
It’s no longer about buying books ‘better’ at Barnes and Noble; it’s changing the way you consume content.
THE ONLINE MARKETPLACE
“The internet levels the playing field and gives everyone – be they big or small – a chance.” – Jack Ma
At the time of the IPO, Alibaba handled $248B USD in transactions per year – more than eBay and Amazon combined.
- Alibaba doesn’t keep its own inventory. It is a platform, not a provider.
- Alibaba has relatively few operating expenses. If they were a mall, they would have to pay to store and display [hundreds of millions of items]. But because they’re an e-commerce platform, the website replaces the need for a physical space.
- Alibaba has harnessed the Internet to shrink physical distance and thus bring the same inventory to a much largest customer base – a borderless setting.
Head vs. Long Tail: Before the digital age, almost all successful businesses focused on the head, the handful of items that were disproportionately popular. You can call this the “Greatest Hits” model. This is because of the economics of physical space. But on the online platform, the cost of adding one more selection to your inventory is basically zero.
The most successful companies will be able to bring together the best of both worlds: being a creator and being a platform.
About 52% of China’s population – more than double the population of the United States – is connected to the internet. Of that, Alibaba serves more than 80%.
- V: And so you should understand why everybody’s talking about China as the next big opportunity.
Did you know that you can actually download and look at all of the private data that Facebook has of you?
- V: I did google this and was amazed with what I found out. You can try it here: https://web.facebook.com/help/302796099745838?_rdc=1&_rdr
The first thing that is not protected by the law is public information. Basically, if I can find it on Google or anywhere in the Internet without needing to put a password or being connected to you, then it’s fair game.
- V: In my case, I just assume that everything I put online is public, and take the risk. I also have a personal rule to never, ever post anything that is negative. Of course “negative” is subjective.
“Data is the new oil.” – Clive Humby, 2006
I keep going back to that vision in my head of Manila without billboards… I think that vision of a clear sky without ads in itself might be reason to hope.
- V: In the book there’s a cartoon of a city without billboards in the future. I would love to see a future world like this. The question is, when this happens, will people actually take time to look up at the sky and appreciate it? Or will people’s eyes practically live on screens? (I mean, look at me now.) Just a thought: I would love to be part of an effort to put eyeballs back to the real world.
“Open source” – Programming that is made available for free, ready to be plucked from online, and modified with your own code. That is, you can write on top of it to make it something new again. Above all, it’s an ethos. It’ an invitation to a different way of doing things.
CHECK: Open Architecture Initiative (formerly Architecture for Humanity), Github
Creation is getting super fast.
- Open source – building off each other’s work
- Cloud computing – on demand storage and infrastructure (i.e. Amazon)
- Platforms and interfaces – shortening the learning curve of creation
- 3D printing – printing layers of different materials to create… anything?
CHECK: Makerlabs or Fablabs, www.thingiverse.com
We’ll be seeing the rise of the platform. The power of the platform is that it gains, rather than falters, as more people create things.
We’ll continue to see a shift from creation to curation.
- V: Though I think some verticals are shifting back to creation too. Think Netflix doing more originals rather acquiring more content.
You’ll stand out by scouting the best stuff that emerges from the community of creators and helping them thrive.
CHECK: Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System – a whitepaper by Sasoshi Nakamoto (2008)
A currency without a bank. A completely paperless system that people around the world could use to buy and sell things without having to worry about things like bank fees or the government printing out too much money and causing inflation.
Blockchain – a protocol where a network of computers around the world can process transactions in batches known as “blocks”.
The largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, lost track of almost a million Bitcoins – then worth $450M USD – and declared bankruptcy. (2014)
Blockchain is a system that allows individuals to unplug from big companies or governments, and connect directly with other individuals around the world to exchange value.
- V: Very interesting, and I think there is much for me to learn still about this.
Blockchain basically crowdsources trust. It is a distributed ledger. It records a transaction between parties, and distributes that record across a network of thousands and thousands of people who witness the transaction and write it down. So everyone in the network has access to all the necessary pieces – but it’s all encrypted and anonymous.
Sharing economy – Uber and Airbnb, Firechat
CHECK: rebit.ph – Filipino startup allowing bitcoin to send money internationally without fees.
Blockchain is actually a form of sharing economy. It’s leveraging computers that are already in use and hard drive space that already exists so that you don’t have to create massive data centers to do new things. So emerging countries like the Philippines that don’t have the capability to manage really large systems can now take advantage of the fact that the whole world will lend a piece of their computing time, a piece of their storage, to help us store and access our information.
Blockchain not only shifts power from institutions to individuals. It changes the idea of power itself – from something held by a few, to something co-created by many.
CHECK: Jeremy Haimans – the guy who gave blockchain the name “new power”. In which new power behaves more like a current. “New power is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges.”
The traditional roles of giant institutions are disappearing fast. All kinds of institutions will have to tear themselves apart from within. This metamorphosis is not a pretty one. In fact, it’s an ugly, brutal thing.
- V: Why, don’t I understand this all too well.
INTERNET OF THINGS
IOT is the network of devices that connect, talk to one another, and coordinate through the Internet. Our machines having a secret life of their own.
When you add artificial intelligence or AI into the mix, these devices can learn, make decisions, and do things together, separate of human input.
- V: In Reid Hoffman’s podcast, Masters of Scale, he asks tech leaders, does AI give you hope or fear? I remember listening closely when he asked Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. Of course both of them said hope. I’m not surprised. But from a personal perspective, I’m a little bit torn between the two.
For many companies, the major opportunity that comes with IOT is the massive surge in user data that comes out of it. If data is made of digital footprints, then IOT is the digital eyes and ears and limbs that can make or process that feedback.
We have consistently found new mountains to climb and new frontiers to discover. Space is still unexplored; new diseases still need to be cured. With our day-to-day lives more in the hands of our living devices, I think that we’ll find ourselves more time to really push the envelope of the world we live in.
- V: Hope.
Hospitals will have to transform from just repair shops to genuine wellness ecosystems. The process of self-care will get almost gamified.
Roadblocks of IOT: Security, Internet, and Culture.
Fourth Industrial Revolution – Klaus Scwab
The first industrial revolution was triggered by steam power; the second by electricity; the third by computer technology. We are living in #4: a groundswell of new technologies interacting with one another, from a blockchain to 3D printing to robots.
“There has never been a time of greater promise or one of greater potential peril.”
- V: Back to the theme of hope vs. fear.
It is either a future where humanity is “robotized” and “deprived of our heart and soul” or a future where technology instead acts as a “complement to the best parts of human nature – creativity, empathy, stewardship”.
- V: More than anything, what scares me is not the flaws of technology, but the flaws of human beings.
CHECK: A book called “Our Final Invention”
They’re doing what humans do, but faster, better and cheaper – disrupting the concept of humanity itself.
Robots start to become powerful is when they start being able to essentially program themselves. Machine learning – when the robot writes and improves on its own code. This is the same way humans learn from their experiences and their mistakes.
This is artificial intelligence: the digital manifestation of how humans think and learn. The only difference is machines have the ability to process things faster and experience things without getting fatigued.
The closest we’ve come to it is with deep learning, a subset of machine learning that’s inspired by the human brain and its densely layered network of neurons.
Example: You can crunch vast numbers of raw input – like the billions of photos uploaded on Facebook – in order to find patterns and relationships between them… You can just feed the photos as they are and let the neural network – literally a computer system patterned after the human brain – do its work. This is a lot like how human intuition works.
Because of their intense processing power, robots can now use deep learning to learn not only through experience, but through simulation.
My (Winston’s) opinion: Robots will help us trade up. It will move the future of professions towards the direction of creativity, social intelligence, complex problem solving, and innovation. More dreaming and doing.
WATCH: Star Trek – humans stayed relevant because of the uniquely human gift to empathize, to be bold beyond reason, and to lead across boundaries.
- V: This also reminds me of a recent 3D cartoon movie… What was that… Hold that thought.
Oh look, I found that National Bookstore actually has an online store and you can buy the book here.