Generation Z -- are you ready to clean up the mess?

Millenials and baby boomers are going to leave you with a huge mess. Below are some statements, not facts. You can ignore them or you can take some time to think about what it means. Each statement isn't necessarily that powerful by itself, but when you put them together...

Despite the amazing progress in technology we still have hunger, homelessness, and poverty...even in developed countries. (Is it better? Yes, but it really should no longer be an issue.)

People are going to live longer and there will be more of them. The population will be around 8 billion in roughly 10 years.

47% of jobs will be automated by 2034 (The Economist).

Less jobs, more people, even worse income inequality...

Key resources will only become more scarce and/or more unevenly distributed...UNLESS

You have the resiliency, creativity, wisdom, and courage to ask the right questions, challenge assumptions, learn, and collaborate at levels we haven't even imagined.


Without dramatic and systemic changes in education and the government worldwide, life is going to get a lot tougher. The current education system isn't preparing you for it and the government is even less prepared.


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Should Watchmakers Be Worried? (Part 2 of 3 on the Apple Watch)

Should Swiss watchmakers be worried?

My favorite musings come from two leaders in the (luxury) watch industry, the CEO of the Swatch Group, Nick Hayek, and the head of LMVH’s watch brands (Hublot, Tag Heuer, and Zenith), Jean-Claude Biver. Both see Apple’s entry as an opportunity, not a threat. This seems counter to their interests, but to sum up their thoughts “anything that encourages (young) people to wear watches is good.”  

Basically, Apple’s entry into the industry may take some market share from the industry veterans or it may not, but its impact on the market as a whole may be even more important as it could increase the total size of the market.

How is this possible?

In their eyes the Apple Watch is not a direct competitor as their customers don’t wear watches just to tell time. They are status symbols focused on design, expensive materials, and long-term value, which is essentially what luxury is. Perhaps, scarcity needs to be added as an asterisk to long-term value.

Perhaps, Apple isn’t a luxury brand, but they are a premium brand. No matter what Apple product you are purchasing, you will always pay a premium to the alternative and that premium can be hefty. Now, consider that two editions of the Apple watch will sell for over $10,000. That is not a premium price. That is a luxury price. Add to that the fact that Apple created their own custom blend of gold in order for it to stand up to nicks and wear. Those are things that make you stop and think twice about whether Apple is premium or luxury or something else…maybe luxurium or premuxury. Sorry about that…but think about the luxury points above:

  • Focus on design – check. Apple has always focused on design, so this is a no brainer.
  • Use of expensive materials – check. Now that Apple is using its own patented gold blend, which most likely means it’s going to be part of an ongoing strategy I think we can say they have opened the door and this box can be checked. Gold lovers will protest as Apple has essentially found a way to make technically 18k gold by using less gold, but there’s still gold in it…the box is checked. Wait till they start using graphene.
  • Long-term value – hmmm. This is interesting because it depends on what the people of tomorrow value. Would a first edition Apple Watch sell at an even higher price than it did before?  For the low end the answer is no, but the high end watches beg the question. It will be interesting to see how many are sold. Tim Cook said there would be limited limited? After all, if it’s not scarce, then the chances of long-term value are marginal at best.  

Let’s not forget that my first post on the Apple Watch included the fact that Apples is the world’s number one brand. They also have about $178 billion in cash, so they theoretically have money to burn if they trip up (a closer look according to the Guardian reveals that most of the cash is held overseas, so it's not as simple as just spending it. Some creative accounting needs to take place first unless they're comfortable with Uncle Sam taking a sizable portion of it). In any case the most powerful brand and tons of cash is something that every industry should be wary of, including the auto industry and the search industry.

Contrary to what many believe Apple does not always sell the best product or provide the most value. They are certainly always near the top, but it’s their brand that takes them the rest of the way. It is not as cut and dry as many Apple diehards would make you believe.  

Getting back to the watchmakers’ view, they are making a long-term bet that young people will gravitate toward luxury status symbols as their disposable income rises like previous generations have done. They are also making a bet that they will want to wear anything on their wrist at all. 

These are assumptions. They are very plausible as they maintain the status quo, which is easier for people to process, but...

What happens if they’re wrong? What happens if Generation Z or whatever they’re called don’t care as much about status symbols or wearing anything on their wrist? What if it starts happening sooner with Generation Y aka Millenials?

The world is changing at an increasing rate every day and so are its people and their mindset. The population is rising and so is the consumption of resources. Add to that the belief and likelihood that many jobs will be automated by 2034 without a corresponding increase elsewhere. All of this creates conflict and we have seen this on a small scale, but something on a bigger scale seems to be imminent…barring any future innovations that solve major problems at a reasonable price without creating new problems.

While it may be too early to say anything about generation z, one thing that can be said is that they are made up of anyone born after 1995. Also called “digital natives” because they have not lived life without the digital comforts of today they are educated, collaborative, and eager to build a better a planet. They are visual, truly global, and entrepreneurial. 

That doesn't sound like the kind of people that are going to make buying a luxury item a priority, but it's definitely too early to tell. Mindsets and priorities shift as people and generations get older. 

So, should Swiss watchmakers be worried?

Yes and no. In the short and mid-term I can see what Hayek and Biver said coming to fruition. While counterintuitive, it makes complete sense. If you’re young and never thought of wearing a watch before, the Apple Watch will at least make you think about it, which is probably more than you ever thought about it before.

But, in the long term I think they should be worried and my 3rd post will explain why, but to sum up: the Apple watch and current wearables market is a precursor to something else.

Side note: Here we are a little over a month from my first post on the Apple Watch and the only thing we know about Swatch’s answer is that “it will connect to the Internet without having to be charged.”

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How do you prepare your kids for a future that's never been less certain?

First, Jeremy Howard does a great job illustrating what machine learning is and what it's capable of.  My only critique of Jeremy Howard's TED talk is that he leaves the big question till the end without pursuing any options of what the future should or may look like. He mentions changes in social and economic structure are necessary, but doesn't explore what kinds of changes these are and what it may look like. Nor does he offer any words of cautions or things to look out for. He leaves it to the audience, perhaps so people like me can speculate.

The only thing that is certain is that the future we imagine and the future that comes to pass are going to be different. 

I take 2 things in particular from his talk.

One, it would seem that the only thing that cannot be automated at this point or in the very near future are disciplines rooted in creativity. While machines can generate text by analyzing images or some other input, it doesn't seem like they can write a poem, story, etc quite yet. This also seems like something that is only a matter of time. If machines can learn and start randomly putting unrelated ideas together, what's to stop them from eventually developing a creative capacity? Especially if they can experiment and iterate quicker than humans? What I mean is maybe it is difficult to try and tackle creativity for machines with a one-prong approach at the front end. What happens when that effort is combined with another learning algorithm that assesses other creative works on the back end? At some point they would learn what makes good writing, art, etc or they could even offer several alternatives based on different tastes and points of view. 

Given that many service industries and functions can and will be automated over the next 2-3 decades, what do you do as a parent? What are considered "secure" industries or functions now, won't be by the time children come of age. And at that point, the current educational system is too rigid and narrow focused. Many may be completely unprepared to adapt. 

Are schools asking these questions?  Are enough parents asking these questions? Are schools even focusing on the right skills for their students in periods of only increasing uncertainty?  Are they working together to design a more flexible approach to education?

We seem to be on the cusp of an educational revolution, at least when it comes to technology, and that is very exciting. This is great for extending the reach of quality education to those who would otherwise be hard pressed to find such an opportunity on their own. Quality courses are available online with absolutely no charge or very little cost in terms of what you receive, I'm thinking Coursera, edX, and NovoEd to name a few.  Even the stakeholders who have the most to gain other than employees are getting involved through platforms like Udacity where companies like facebook and Google are offering courses  directly to students/workers. This approach seems to validate that some thing is missing from higher education. 

But, I wonder, is technology even the biggest problem? 

As a parent of a toddler, these are just some of the questions always running in the back of my mind. 


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Apple to get into cars and search?

Rumors have it that Apple is pursuing entry into the automotive and search engine spaces. Is this a good thing?

Apple maps didn’t start well and one has to wonder if they are reaching too far from their core businesses. The search engine makes some sense to me. Siri seems to have the framework to make a project like that work. Plus, Mozilla changed their default browser to Yahoo recently, so now or soon may make sense to unleash their search engine given the perception that Google's dominant position isn't as impregnable as before.

The car does not make sense at first glance, but it doesn’t have to right now because we have no reliable information on what exactly is in store. I would welcome them to an industry, as I have said in other posts, that should be moving faster.

Is this a bad thing for Tesla?

My gut says no. Apple’s brand will give the electric car more attention which could lead to more acceptance, just like their watch will to luxury watches according to the watchmakers. I’m assuming they’re going to be electric or some special kind of hybrid. Apple and petroleum just don't go together...

They could be doing Tesla a favor if it’s electric and the cars are cross-compatible with charging stations. The infrastructure doesn’t exist in a lot of the US and having even a competitor start adding to it would be good. Nevertheless, what matters most is how Apple would position the car.

Tesla isn’t just an electric car, it’s a luxury performance electric car. The performance has been getting a lot of attention recently, but 0 to 60 in 3.2 silent seconds will do that. It's called insane mode for a reason...

How would Apple position their car? 

Will they pursue another level of performance geared towards something different like driving range, charging time & method, connectivity & interface (cue iPhone or iPad), and something new that people don’t associate with real cars? 

What could the something new be?

It’s an intriguing question. One I will be thinking about over the couple weeks. 

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An award you don't want to win

The 2014 Luddite Award Winners - the states of Arizona, Michigan, Texas, and NJ (see here for the post) for blocking Tesla's attempts to sell directly to its customers. The award essentially calls out those who are opposed to new technologies. 

The NRA took second place for their opposition to smart guns. 

In both cases this is a matter of continuing the status quo. I have another musing on Tesla that very briefly explores both sides, here.

I will probably tackle the NRA issue in a later musing or blog post. Some research needs to be done on what the arguments are for the NRA's stance, but some questions that people, including myself, are asking include:

  • how many school/public shootings need to occur before we do anything? 
  • what does the rest of the world think when they hear about these stories? 
  • what is it going to take to for change to happen?
  • if smart guns (and diligent background checks) aren't part of the answer, then what is? 
  • is it possible to design a system that prevents the tragedies from ever occurring...without smart guns and background checks?

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Dish brings live streaming with Sling TV

With Dish's Sling TV, which released today, have we finally started to see some real progress with TV? Up to this point live TV was primarily only available through illegal means or entering your log in info from your subscription. Live TV have been the main drawback from cord cutting for many sports, such as myself. With ESPN included among the channels this marks a step in the right direction, but even mighty ESPN only broadcasts so much content. Hopefully, the next steps are taken soon.  

More importantly and perhaps optimistically will this effect local monopolies? Will we finally see better service and more competitive rates in an industry that isn't known for either?  

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Cyber-bullying, youth suicide, and the 14 year old dedicated to stopping it

I originally intended for these daily musings to be short, but…sometimes the topic warrants more.

Over the weekend I saw yet another saddening headline about a youth suicide. I will spare the details, but like so many others in recent times there was cyber-bullying involved.

Cyber or not, bullying of any kind has always bothered me. That’s not to say that I have never been guilty of bullying another person. I like to think that it wasn’t a big part of who I was during my youth, since I was so busy trying to get better at soccer, school, and video games. If anyone from my grade school days would like to comment otherwise, I invite you to leave a comment or get in contact with me.

I have been on the other side as well. Luckily, that was in the early to mid-90’s, so the internet was painfully slow and bullying was limited to analog. Since the bully was older and in a different class, it was also limited to recess. As I reflect on it, I was even luckier in that the bully was more of a 1-on-1 kind of bully rather than one who gets others to participate. I don’t know a whole lot about cyber-bullying, but I know a fair amount about social media and this is where I imagine cyber bullying can be dangerous.

Side-question: I’m curious if the cyber-bullying is an extension of in-person efforts or limited to the internet.

Once a post is out there, it must be very easy for others to jump in. Even more concerning, with the ubiquity of technology and social networking it’s probably very hard for the victim to ignore. It was this thought and my recent entrepreneurial awakening that made me wonder if there are any efforts to thwart cyber-bullying, particularly on a preventive scale.

This led to something amazing.

Given my affinity for the show @midnight on comedy central, I started my google search with the simple query, “anti-troll.”

Side-note: Before this post I thought trolls and bullies are one and same. However, I think there is a slight difference, not that it really matters since both behaviors are off-putting. Trolling is when one “makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” Bullying on the other hand I think is more targeted and can stretch over an extended period of time.

Back to the matter at hand…one of the first results you will see is that a 13 year old, Trisha Prabhu, has developed an effective and preventive software for cyber-bullying. Her thought process, the scope of her research and testing, and execution is impressive. Prabhu determined that current solutions don’t address the issue until the damage has already been done, a particularly keen observation.

Here’s a link to her project, Rethink. It should come as no surprise that she’s interested in neuroscience and the brain.

To sum up, Prabhu developed a “Rethink” system that triggers an alert mechanism that gives the poster a second chance by offering an opportunity to re-think their words and the potential effects. Her research sourced from explains that this process hasn't been fully developed in adolescent brains.

Her abilities don’t stop there. She recently gave a TEDxTeen talk this past October.


Well done Prabhu. 

Hopefully, we see her efforts soon. Look out for her Chrome plug-in extension, app, and whatever else she comes up with. 

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Wow, completely forgot to post yesterday. The blog has not become second nature yet. I'll get there. Moving on!

Yesterday my google alert sent some results for Tesla and I noticed yet another state, Texas, has their dealerships fighting Tesla over direct selling (click here for the post). What was interesting was the dealer's take on monopolies, "Tesla itself is seeking a monopoly, since no other company could sell Tesla Motors’ product."

I have to admit my initial reaction was, "wait, what?!" Obviously, my gut is biased towards Tesla, but as I have become more aware of these preconceptions I try to keep an open mind and consider the other side. I read on and eventually understood how the dealerships may think this. They brought up a valid point about manufacturers being more concerned about shareholders and the dealerships' support of local schools and hospitals. However, I think this only has merit if other manufacturers follow suit. Otherwise, Tesla isn't really a huge threat...yet.

I totally get why Tesla wants to sell direct. I'm sure there's more going on, but to me the main thing they're trying to accomplish is controlling the Tesla experience from start to finish. If it was almost any other industry, there would be no story as most companies have the option to sell direct. 

For an industry that I think could be moving much faster than it is, Tesla ruffling some feathers is good for both the industry and its customers. A new and unique (to the industry) business model was long overdue. Will the other companies get creative with theirs? 

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Apple Watch Rundown (Part 1 of 3 on the Apple Watch)

This will be a 3 part series on the Apple Watch. The first part will serve as an intro and provide some context to what follows...for those of you already salivating at the prospect of procuring an Apple Watch it may not be useful, but there may be a wrinkle you didn't expect or you took for granted. As Alfredo Linguini proclaimed, "so, let's do this thing!"

What You Need to Know

The Apple Watch will be available in the late March to April time frame. Since the watch’s announcement back in September, every pundit in the tech and fashion world has offered their opinion and many have speculated on its success. Below is a brief summary of thoughts from the meh, the lovers, and other.

The Meh

Fred Wilson, Venture Capitalist (click here for his controversial post, see #5) - to be fair the media has done what it typically does and dramatized it. Wilson said it wouldn't be a home-run like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. He never used the term "flop." I am actually inclined to agree with him, but perhaps for another reason depending on what he means exactly by personal mesh. This will be the whole subject of the third part of this series.

Why they're meh:

  • Shortcomings are glaring, hard to ignore, and the product hasn't even been released yet, but it's not unique to Apple Watch. It's a problem that plagues most of the wearables category. 
    • Battery life - for details see this great take on why it's not a big deal from macworld. Here is a summary according to rumors:
      • 2.5 - 4 hours for active use
      • 19 hours for combined use - this should be the baseline as the watch has a built-in feature that "knows" when you're looking at the watch, so it turns the display on. Then, it goes to sleep or standby when you're not using it. 
      • 3 days for standby  
      • 4 days in sleep mode
    • Since the watch will be in sleep or standby most of the time, it's a blank black screen may look odd on a person's wrist
    • Pairing - to get the most out of the watch it needs to be paired to an iPhone
  • Bug aversion - willing to wait for the 2nd generation, so the bugs can be worked out.
  • Something bigger is coming later.
  • Some people are simply anti-Apple. 

The Lovers

Chris Slate, Techradar (click here for his post) - he offers 5 reasons, some I detail below

Trip Chowdhry, Global Equities Research (click here for a nice summary of his thoughts from MarketWatch ) - his main point is to not bet against a product that can cause or influence a behavioral shift.

Why they love

  • It's Apple! Their brand power cannot ignored. According to Interbrand, Apple's brand is worth more than any other company and they were number one in 2013 too (click here for the full list for 2014). Just how much is it worth? Approx $119 billion.
    • Google is #2 at $107 billion. However, I think when you hear Google, you think search, not hardware. Maybe this is one reason why the Motorola experiment ended early? Android is strong, but Google's brand gets diluted since Samsung, HTC, or whoever else is actually making the hardware and they put their spin on it. Samsung has a strong brand too (#7 in 2014), but the fragmentation seems hard to overcome.   
  • The iOS ecosystem is already preferred by developers in terms of priority and investment
  • Features and experience
    •  Apple's selling hard on personalization, its design and easy to use interface (digital crown plus state of the art touch screen).
    • The options and personalization are unprecedented even for Apple. Check out this post for all of the options (2 sizes, 3 editions, 6 strap types, 6 different finishes, and several color options for couple of the strap types)
  • Behavior shift - don't have to pull out your phone and making health conscious living easier
  • The potential plus spearing attention and acceptance to the wearable category


With all this hullabaloo over the Apple Watch one has to wonder if the watch industry stalwarts are concerned. Here is one good take on it:

  • Teresa Novellino, Upstart Business Journal Entrepreneurs & Enterprises Editor (click here for her post). Her main reasons for watchmakers not being concerned:

    1. The Apple Watch will get people, particularly the whippersnappers, thinking about watches again (this will be the subject of part 2)
    2. The watch industry has survived worse
    3. Swiss watch exports are up despite smartphones
    4. High end watches (at least for Rolex, Tag Heuer, etc.) are status symbols
    5. Because of #4 watches can be an investment

The next post will focus on #1 from Novellino with more detail on what the watchmakers said and if they should be concerned or perhaps even worried. Yesterday Swatch announced their intention to release their own smartwatch (see here), so we know there is some level of concern. Can't wait to see what their response is. 



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