We’re all looking for shortcuts – ways to reach our destination at lower cost (time or money) and allow us to do more.
But how can we tell whether the shortcut is a ladder (a new way and better way to get our job done) or a hack – a shortcut that saves you time now but that you (or others) pay more for later?
Here are four questions to ask about shortcuts, courtesy of Seth Godin:
1. Is it repeatable? Non-repeatable shortcuts are interesting, but you can’t build a life or a future around them.
2. Is it non-harmful? What are the downstream effects of this shortcut? … I want to know that it’s not going to hurt me or hurt the people I care about it… or break our culture.
3. Is it additive? If I get to do it again, does it better over time?
4. Can it survive the crowd? Does it have to be a secret?
The internet offers all of these short-term hacks, all these things that might make you feel like you’re winning in the short run, but often they don’t hold up to the light of day, they hurt you or other people, you can only do them once, and they’re not aligned with where you’re going and how you’re going to get there…
The long short-cuts are the best possible short-cuts.
Or what about a chip in every Lego brick, or every nail?
You tell your AI what you’re building later, and it crawls your child’s Lego collection or your toolbox to collect the relevant pieces… and tells you what’s missing, and orders the missing piece.
Or you’re struggling to find a piece, or the right size screw, so you ask the Lego box / tool box where it is – and it tells you. Or you scan the heap of tiny pieces through augmented glass and see the ones you need outlined red in the display.
You finish your creation, photograph it, and share it with a friend – not just the photo, but an automatically generated instruction set that they can use to build it themselves (or it could self assemble), modifying it and sending it back to you.
And now you’re playing co-op Minecraft in the real world.
Self-finding, self-assembling Lego seems like the worst kind of dumbing down – but what new types of play does it make possible? Which of the purest parts of playing Lego does it sully – and what does it emphasise and augment?
This is a small example of how technology acts as a lens that forces us to identify and and appraise our values. What we do with it is never neutral, rarely unambiguous, and always a choice – like most interesting problems.
Here are the sorts of things that might happen when there’s a chip in everything, and all the things we own can talk to each other.
You’ll never have to hunt for a lost item of clothing or a piece of paper again. The annoying questions that you used to ask your parents / housemates / spouse will be addressed to the AI that runs your house instead:
“Where’s my orange running shirt?”
Will be answered with something like:
“It’s in your clothes cupboard, but on the wrong shelf, under the green towels**.” or “It’s in the washing machine finishing the rinse cycle, and can be dry in 15 minutes.” or “I last saw it in your gym bag last Thursday… checking your locker at the gym now… I’m sorry to tell you that your orange shirt is lost***. Sending out a Lost and Found notice to your contact list now… It appears that your brother has ‘borrowed’ the shirt again. His AI is arranging for it to be returned later today.”****
Who might this be good news for? School children? The Elderly? You? How could it change the work that you do? How could this go wrong, and what could you do about it?
** Of course, it’s likely that you’ll have a service that will always put your clothes back in the right places.
*** And it’s unlikely that you’ll leave a shirt behind at the gym – your bag will see that it’s been left behind, and ask you if this is deliberate before you leave.
**** Assuming that your brother doesn’t actually want to steal your shirt, in which case his AI might deny knowledge, while arranging to remove the incriminating chip…
Podcast: an initial series of five episodes – starting with with a decent spec***.
A DC redesign.
Pull key threads from posts into a more structured set of how-to articles.
Make connections with people who do my kind of work and/or find some of the ideas here helpful. Experiment with a forum?
Work on these goals in 12 week chunks.
If you’re reading this…
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment (if you’re reading this on the homepage you’ll need to click on the post title above, then leave a comment below the post). What would you like to see more of on DC?
** a post per day, plus a bit *** see also here and here
Seth has written and produced so much helpful stuff centred (increasingly) around doing ‘work that matters for people who care.’ This is his first book for five years or so, and he describes it as a distillation of the most important things he knows about marketing.
There are giants who loom large for us all: the Greats who laid the foundations and those who shook them – men and women who broke through and shaped the world.
In a sense, who made us.
There’s no need to name them – we know who many of them are, and we learn more about them as we go. And besides, there are too many to name and most are far away.
And there are the smaller giants: smaller people who stand tall in our eyes because they stood close. They gave us a boost, helped us see, carried us before we could walk or when we couldn’t walk any further. I won’t name these because I can’t – or rather, I can only name some of my own.
What can you tick off already? Good work on those.
What do you need to quit – stop doing, stop trying to do, draw a line under, declare an amnesty for yourself, admit that it won’t get done, and let die with the old year?
Perhaps most crucially, what are the little things – acts of kindness that you’ve been thinking it might be nice to do, short emails to friends, decisions, bookings, commitments – that you can do, and get into the habit of doing, starting from right now? Today, the day before you make new year’s resolutions, everything you do is a bonus, a gift of the momentum that a frontlog brings that will make tomorrow better or easier for your future self – the self who’s arriving tomorrow.
We all know about compound interest in the world of money. Save £100 a month for thirty years at one percent interest** and you’ll have a little under £42,000 by the end of that time (compared to £36,000 at zero-percent).
Make that investment at 5% and suddenly you’ll hit £83,000.
10%*** makes almost £228,000.
It takes time, and the commitment to building something steadily. No tricks, no promises of outrageous returns, a degree of risk – but not when compared to not investing at all.
What if the interest we seek for our work – attention, respect, partnership, remuneration – could compound in the same way? Often it seems that we’re after a flash in the pan (Viral. Now.), or that we’re not building anything consistently at all.
Starting with almost nothing, drop by drip, brick by brick, little by little, we can build a mountain.
** 1% annually, calculated monthly
*** A reasonable return from a stocks-and-shares index fund