Retail and Technology

A Christmas message: Reflecting on two books

December 25, 2015
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I am fascinated by the relentless march of technology and all the productivity and enhancements it brings to life.

As we approach the end of the year, I always reflect on the past year and become resolute about improvements or changes for the New Year. Yes, many know that I am a goal-oriented guy who has to be dragged into “enjoying the journey.”

This year I’m reflecting on two interesting books: The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, and The Singularity is Near, by Ray Kurzweil.

Kurzweil, a visionary futurist whose name you may recognize from Kurzweil keyboards at concerts, wrote the “Singularity” tome a decade ago. In it, he says, “… pace of technological change will be so rapid … that human life will be irreversibly transformed.” He goes on to state, “… the acceleration of the rate of evolution, with technological evolution as a continuation of biological evolution …”

Huh? We are evolving into android combinations of man and machine?

We know and understand these concepts — that technology is transforming our lives. But to suggest that man is evolving into android-morphed technology is the stuff of sci-fi movies. We all know that the Internet of Things is the “next big thing.” Essentially, that is happening right now and will amp up as your Fitbit or Smartwatch starts informing you of biological changes. Of course, we know that internal insulin pumps and pacemakers are already wirelessly connected to the Internet, so we’re not talking about giant leaps here. We are talking about the here and now.

If you’re like me, and you have close to a decade of historical pictures and memories on your smartphone (dated, tagged, narrated) along with email, text messaging, and calendar reminders, which make the phone indispensable to life, then you are evolving into an android — which is exactly what Kurzweil predicted. IBM’s “Watson” supercomputer represents the third era of computing, not just counting or “if-then” programming, but now learning itself.

We already know that your Fitbit or Smartwatch can collect your health information real time and send it to the cloud for analysis. In the very near future, that data will be analyzed against millions of health records, and come back with specific recommendations to your unique physical condition. This work is in process right now through the IBM Watson Health Group.

Kurzweil further states in “The Singularity is Near” that this “… epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives…”

And this leads us to Rick Warren’s purpose-driven question, “What on earth am I here for?” Contrast the inexorable march of technology and its seeming ability to consume our lives with the great contemplative question, “what is the meaning of life?” Warren pastors the eighth-largest church in America and sold 30 million books shining a light on man’s search for meaning and purpose.  So this is my holiday question to you: What are we trying to do personally and in business? What direction, what objective, to what end is this technology, in which our lives are immersed?

As we enjoy this season of celebrating and commemorating giving and selfless service, let’s pause a moment, step back from our technology, reflect on the past year, and resolve to align our technology to our personal purpose and direction in life.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!