Thoughtful and thought-provoking speech from Dan Geer at RSA this year. Speaks to the cyber challenges arising from our rapidly growing complexities and dependencies. Long and well worth the read. A few choice quotes:
“But from the point of view of prediction, what matters is the ratio of skill to challenge; as far as I can estimate, we are expanding the society-wide attack surface faster than we are expanding our collection of tools, practices and colleagues…..So it is with cyber risk management: Whether in detection, control, or prevention, we are notching personal bests, but all the while the opposition is setting world records.”
“Above some threshold of system complexity, it is no longer possible to test, it is only possible to react to emergent behavior.”
“For $19B, Facebook has bought a lot of user attention and neutered a potential threat to its social graph. What it hasn’t bought is the future of the consumer internet. That is being built elsewhere.”—Hamish McKenzie in $19B doesn’t make it brilliant.
“Facebook notes that WhatsApp has over 450 million MAUs, with 70 percent of those active each day. In a staggering comparison, Facebook also notes that the messaging volume of WhatsApp approaches the SMS volume of the entire global telecom industry — and that it’s adding 1 million users a day.”—
By combining the IP address of an always-on Google device with information from devices within the home that may or may not be signed into the user’s own Google account, the company finally has a solid method to associate devices that belong to a household — smart TVs, over-the-top devices, tablets, Withings scales or network-attached printers, to name a few — with Google accounts and households.
More evidence that the holy grail of the internet of things lies in the physical graph. Companies that can create the best visibility into that graph stand to win.
“The combination of anonymity and ephemerality has fostered experimentation and creativity rarely seen elsewhere. It’s incredible what people can make when they’re able to fail publicly without fear, since not only will those failures not be attributed to them, but they’ll be washed away by a waterfall of new content. Only ideas that resonate with the broader community persist…”—Chris Poole on anonymity
When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.
The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.
Twitch has big-league audiences watching e-Sports online. They’ve got big advertisers’ attention, too.
In October Twitch attracted over 45 million unique viewers, each watching, on average, 100 minutes of video a day. Those are outrageous numbers for a company that’s just two years old. Six-year-old Internet video service Hulu–backed by Disney, NBCUniversal and 21st Century Fox–attracts just 30 million viewers a month, who watch for 50 minutes per session.
“It is a safe bet that the highest-earning professions in the year 2050 will depend on automations and machines that have not been invented yet. That is, we can’t see these jobs from here, because we can’t yet see the machines and technologies that will make them possible. Robots create jobs that we did not even know we wanted done.”—http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/12/ff-robots-will-take-our-jobs/all/
There is and always has been a dialog between what you use to form a digital identity and what you use to maintain and express that identity. This difference — utility and formation essentially— are the two destinations when setting out to make anything that is “social” through software
"Carlsen won because he is the better athlete and not the better chess player," wrote a commentator after the Chennai match. In drawn positions the Norwegian plays on and on, sitting his opponent out, waiting for errors. That is profoundly misleading: Magnus Carlsen’s success lies in his ability to play "consistently accurate moves that also maximise the chances of inaccuracies from the opponent," writes GM Jonathan Rowson.
In 2014, Every Business Will Be Disrupted By Open Technology
Breathless tone of the article aside, I agree with the following:
Passion and Connections Trump Assets and Capabilities: In the scale economy, bigger was always better. The aim of every entrepreneur was to grow their business in order to acquire greater assets and capabilities. These, in turn, could then be leveraged for more growth, creating a virtuous circle. Success would breed more success.
Now, however, we are operating in a semantic economy where everything is connected and no one is safe. No matter what business you are in, someone can come up with an idea, access the capabilities they need—from logistics to finance, technology to talent—and be competing with you by lunchtime.
The bottom line is that the function of an enterprise is no longer to create efficiency by organizing men and material, but to create value by directing passion and purpose.
In the words of one director, “This industry is changing so rapidly that we cannot rely on what a candidate knows or even has done in their career as a predictor of future success. We need someone who is a ‘learning animal.’ That is someone who is curious, who doesn’t have all the answers, who knows how to elicit alternative perspectives, who can select the most important nuggets of insights from ‘big data,’ and who can keep learning over time as we march into the future.”
“Mathematics is a way to break the barriers of the conventional, an expression of unbounded imagination in the search for truth. Georg Cantor, creator of the theory of infinity, wrote: “The essence of mathematics lies in its freedom.” Mathematics teaches us to rigorously analyze reality, study the facts, follow them wherever they lead. It liberates us from dogmas and prejudice, nurtures the capacity for innovation.”—Love and Math, The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel
In startups, as in chess, the unexciting moves often make the difference
Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand have been battling it out in Chennai the last week for the 2013 FIDE World Chess Championship. After 4 straight draws, Carlsen’s opened it up with two straight decisive wins.
If you follow the games, particularly yesterday’s Game 6 (and you canhere and here), you can’t attribute Carlsen’s wins to any individual move or set of moves. At least I can’t, but I’m no grandmaster, so who knows. But it sure seems like there haven’t been any bold exchanges, daring sacrifices or cunning gambits that have carried the day for him. He’s played sound, methodical chess, building solid positions that slowly press his opponent. He’s won the last two games largely on the back of quiet moves.
Quiet moves are those that neither capture nor threaten a piece. In a sense, they’re boring. They don’t attract a lot of attention and they don’t demand a direct response. But they’re critical as they create strong positional value by deploying pieces to important squares where they can best exert influence over the course of the game.
Startups often think they need loud moves to succeed. They feel they need to make a splash, generate buzz, command attention, crush a demo day presentation, make a noise in the market, etc. That stuff does help in some cases, but it hurts in others, particularly when those companies aren’t in a position to capitalize on the attention. This is why Ken Lerer feels that most startups should just “shut up.”… I bet that in most cases it’s the quiet moves that really led to success.
Quiet startup moves are that can’t be written about in breathless headlines, blog posts or press releases. Things like building and reinforcing an internal culture that enables you to hire and retain a high-performing team. Deep and critical thinking about customer pain. Generating insightful hypotheses then creating relevant market experiments and meaningful KPIs to test those hypotheses. Success is built on these important and quiet foundations.
Like how Carlsen’s quiet moves build successful chess positions, these quiet startup moves help founders build successful companies best positioned to capture market opportunities. Ultimately, startups need to deliver products that delight users, and it’s often the quiet moves that best help them to do this.
I heard a professor once say of all the young, highly-credentialed students that cycled through the top MBA program where he taught that they have “tremendous CPUs but such little RAM.”
While the analogy doesn’t exactly hold, what he meant is that these folks could process huge amounts of information in short order but didn’t have any experience to put it into context. Basically, they were super smart but knew nothing. At least nothing as to how actual businesses were run, how ideas were conceived and turned into viable products, hows deals get done — basically how the real business world works. So much intellectual horsepower, he called it, but so little wisdom.
Related to intellectual horsepower is its sometimes misunderstood cousin, intellectual curiosity. Most folks equate curiosity with having broad interests or eclectic pursuits, as though the defining aspect of curiosity lies in diversity. Others view curiosity as always asking what-if questions and exploring the boundaries of what is possible. Both those are true to an extent, but for me it’s something deeper.
At the core, I believe intellectual curiosity is a heady mix of tenacity and lateral thinking. It’s the indomitable drive to understand why things are the way they are and not accepting them at face value. Mixed with this is the inclination to combine existing systems of thought in novel and unexpected ways to probe what’s possible, learn new things and create new ideas.
First principles type thinking (like that attributed to Elon Musk) tends to be a trait of the intellectually curious. Once you have reduced something to its most elemental conceptual building blocks, it’s so much easier then to discover new angles for attacking seemingly intractable problems or to find application in new domains. First principles thinking is a powerful intellectual design pattern and a hallmark of the curious.
Those with high horsepower, like the ones our professor was referring to, will ace their exams, get good grades and easily deliver on assignments — basically excel at whatever you ask them to do. Where the high horsepower crowd excels at answering questions, the intellectually curious excel at asking penetrating and important questions. Questions that, if answered, open up all sorts of new possibilities. Folks with high horsepower tend to exceed expectations. But the intellectually curious can truly surprise you.
The world needs more curious people. Being classically “smart” is no longer enough to meet the innovation challenges most companies now face. Horsepower alone isn’t going to identify that next category defining product. Superior analysis skills shine a light a bit further down the track, but they don’t disrupt existing markets or create new ones unless they are combined with the tenacity and lateral thinking of intellectual curiosity.
Now’s a great time for the truly curious. Never have so many powerful tools and so much information been so readily available. The curious have never been more empowered than they are today. Given a minimum threshold of capability, I will always value curiosity over horsepower. These are the folks I want to work with and invest in.
“Overall, I think it’s a good time to have a girl in the 21st century because things are changing, with more opportunities for women. But girls are still the underdog, which means they’ll work harder, and everybody loves an underdog. The next Steve Jobs will totally be a chick, because girls are No. 2—and No. 2 always wins in America.”—Louis C.K. from this piece in Fast Company
“Technology is a continuum — it is constantly getting lower-cost and easier to use. The role of the C.E.O. is to ride that continuum. The trick is to always respond to the better and cheaper thing that is coming along.”—Marc Benioff in NYT’s Young Tech Sees Itself in Microsoft’s Ballmer
…it is exactly at the edge that the need to get better faster has the most urgency. Incumbents at the core - which is the place where most of the resources, especially people and money, are concentrated, and where old ways of thinking and acting still hold sway - have many fewer incentives to figure out the world, or to discover new ways of doing things, or to find new information. They’re on top, and they’re ready to keep doing what got them there. But simply accessing or attracting static resources no longer cuts it. Accessing and attracting have little value unless they are coupled with a third set of practices that focus on driving participation in, and sometimes orchestration of, someone we call “creation spaces” - environments that effectively integrate teams within a broader learning ecology so that performance improvement accelerates as more participants join.
Like crazy football moms who bring the drinks and snacks, do chain duty, act as spotters for the coach and scout the competition, venture capitalists are crazy fans on the sideline who hopefully contribute a lot more than money. But at the end of the day, we don’t run the companies. We are active board members who provide guidance and add value through our networks, but the team has to walk through every door we open, and execute on the plan. We do yell and scream loudly from the sidelines though.
This rant on the future of interaction was excellent. Lamented the sense that most “future visions” being touted in concept videos today are neither very futuristic nor visionary. Instead, they just expand on the current ‘pictures under glass’ metaphor for interaction.
Senseq offers a new technology to bring tactile feel front and center, and by doing so breaks through the dominant pictures under glass concept. Check it out. Fascinating with tons of applications.
Creates another dimension of interaction and experience.
A ‘Cambrian Explosion’ needs more than just sheer numbers - it needs tremendous diversity and variety. While there are certainly signs of diversification, the more remarkable aspect of today’s environment seems to have more to do with how many startups there are and not how many different startups there are.
The sheer number of new startups forming and getting funded these days is dizzying. It’s never been easier to start a company to harness new technologies and turn them into products. Traditional venture capital may not even be able to keep up with it. We are at the beginnings of what may very well become a Cambrian Explosion of startups, which will have implications well beyond the technology industry to the entire economy.
Tuned into a cyber security discussion today with Richard Clarke who shared insights into what he calls the CHEW (Crime Hacktivisim Espionage and War) of cyber security. The talk was hosted by Veracode where Mr. Clarke is a recent addition to their Board. Some highlights below:
Someone needs to declare war on latency. Latency of all kinds, not just network delays but app switching, page rendering, UI element activation, etc. Both Fire and iPad2 have 1GHz dual-core processors and ample RAM. They should be able to achieve a much higher level of responsiveness. I had high hopes for Silk and thought a browser with optimized server-side elements could lead to a lightening fast user experience. Such a shame to match advanced network-side tech with crummy device/software performance. Defeats the purpose.
“Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger. Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or “wait” indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery”