What we need: more social innovation

The reality is that no one is more concerned about the impact of AI on society than the people who are building it. Almost always, the more someone knows, the higher his or her concern level is.

Some might ask, “Isn’t it their fault? Aren’t they the ones building the technology that is going to replace workers?” But technologists, VCs, and entrepreneurs are simply doing all they can to push their companies and products forward. It is not their fault that the gains are being concentrated in the hands of a very few, and it’s nearly impossible for them to know and account for the downstream social and economic impacts. It’s OUR job—that is, it’s the responsibility of our government and leaders to account for the impact of innovation on human well-being.

Unfortunately, we are decades behind. And we need to speed up fast.

One investor said something to me on Tuesday that struck me as profound. “At this point, we don’t even need much more technological innovation. We could be busy for a long time just applying the tech we already have. What we really need is much more social innovation.” He’s on to something. He’s a good man who is supporting my campaign. And there are many others like him.

Andrew Yang – Yang 2020

Amazon’s Achilles heel

Brand. Brand is the key differentiating factor when it comes to influencing purchase decisions in a mature market. And Amazon's marketplace is a race to the bottom cesspool that's antithetical to customer loyalty.

Consider this search for "tablet arm":

Which of these should I choose?

  • Three of the four have relatively similar ratings.
  • All of them are within the same price point.
  • None of them are from a name brand I know I can trust.

Such indecision! I could spend 20 minutes scouring through the reviews, but who knows which are real and which are fake these days. Or, I could buy them all and return the ones I don't want. But packaging stuff back up and taking to UPS is a hassle.

For exactly this reason, I went to Best Buy yesterday (for the first time in decades), looked at video cameras, and bought a nice Canon for a cheaper price than it was listed on Amazon.

I like brands. Brands mean I can form trusting, long-term customer relationships with companies. The Amazon marketplace is overrun with knock-off products from generic drop shippers — bad and getting worse.

STEAM in Oregon

Variety of assorted programs:

Seeking hard problems

It's that time of year again (where my schedule empties out), so I find myself in search of a really hard problem to work on. Some problems that have piqued my interest:

  • Affordable housing. Did you know that affordable housing is defined as paying 30% of income or less on housing? And did you know that Washington County, where Tualatin is located, has a gap of ~14,500 houses and growing? I didn't either until about five months ago. Even if you can still afford your housing, this is a problem the entire socio-economic spectrum should be working on.
  • Government technology. The USDS is really cool and having an amazing impact. You should listen to Jennifer Pahlka's SALT talk, "Fixing Government: Bottom Up and Outside In". I wish there was a similar initiative in Oregon. Is there one?
  • Landing Gutenberg in WordPress 5.0. Gutenberg is a revolutionary editing interface. So revolutionary, in fact, that it's one of the worst-rated plugins in the WordPress.org directory. Getting from where we are now to happily shipped in core is going to be a challenging, multi-faceted initiative.

Let me know if you have any input on these problems, or whether there are others I should be considering!

You Are Not Late

Looking back now it seems as if waves of settlers have since bulldozed and developed every possible venue, leaving only the most difficult and gnarly specks for today’s newcomers. Thirty years later the internet feels saturated, bloated, overstuffed with apps, platforms, devices, and more than enough content to demand our attention for the next million years. Even if you could manage to squeeze in another tiny innovation, who would notice it?


But, but…here is the thing. In terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. If we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014. People in the future will look at their holodecks, and wearable virtual reality contact lenses, and downloadable avatars, and AI interfaces, and say, oh, you didn’t really have the internet (or whatever they’ll call it) back then.

Kevin Kelly — You Are Not Late