Critical Thinking, Technology and Magic with Brian Sletten

Forward leaning technologist and critical thinker Brian Sletten

Brian Sletten

Reflecting on UberConf 2016, we dive deep into technology thinking critically about all the implications-both good and bad-of our ever evolving world. A great (and somewhat longer) philosophical discussion with NFJS speaker Brian Sletten.

Full Transcript:

[background music]

Michael Carducci:

Hey everybody. This is your host, Michael Carducci. I just wanted to take a moment, and extend a personal thank you to everyone who attended UberConf 7, last week in Denver.

Not just those who attended my talks, although I really appreciate that, but everybody who was there, added to the wonderful vibe. All the people I got to interact with during the breaks, during the events, and reception that took place. Really enjoyable time.

If you couldn’t make it this year I highly recommend, you check it out next year, or check out some of the other events that are coming up for the second-half of 2016.

The Rich Web Experience is going to be in Florida, in December, we’ve got the G3 summit, we’ve got ArchConf, we’ve got the Angular summit. Definitely worth checking out. We’d love to see you on the road. Check out all of our events and tour dates, at nofluffjuststuff.com.

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Brian Sletten, the man who I respect very much, but also consider a good friend. We sat, and talked at length about the implications of changes in technology, security, and critical thinking.

Thinking in terms of business value, and how magic actually rolls into a lot of this. I hope you enjoy, this was a little bit of a longer one.

Michael:

Hey, everybody, this is Michael Carducci here on the road, at NFJS, Des Moines. I am joined here in the studio, with Brian Sletten.

Brian Sletten:

Hello, how are you?

Michael:

I am well. How are you?

Brian:

Not too bad.

Michael:

Didn’t know if you were talking to me, or the listeners.

Brian:

Both. Everybody. Everybody’s doing well.

Michael:

If you’re listening, yes.

Brian:

You said you wanted to talk about some things, and something that’s been on my mind a lot, particularly, with you as part of the tour and the magic that you do, is this idea, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The intent in the original quotation was just that, if you don’t understand the technology behind something, it appears as if it’s happening magically. If you don’t understand the physics, the engineering, or whatever.

I think, we’re well past the point where as a society we’re engaging in technologies that are beyond the capacity of the average person, and yet they’ve become ubiquitous. I don’t think people are prepared for understanding the implications.

It’s kind of fun in a magic show to suspend disbelief and assume, "Hey. Maybe, this is really happening." Or…

Michael:

We are really cutting someone in half.

Brian:

That’s right. But I think when it comes to technology we’re passing the buck, We’re not thinking critically about technology. We’re not thinking critically about the social, ethical, philosophical implications of some of these things.

At the same time, also in terms of technology adoption, people get very excited about incremental releases or incremental technological changes. Some new MVC framework in JavaScript, not realizing that it’s going to be gone in a year. There’s nothing compelling about it, no great new features. It’s just an incremental step forward.

People spend a lot of time and energy pursuing technologies without thinking critically about them. I don’t know, I’m curious, from a magician’s perspective, what you think about these, in the sense that you’re actively trying to divert attention and pull the wool over somebody’s eyes in order to have them perceive something to be useful.

Obviously, technology companies try to do the same thing. When you see Facebook developing facial recognition software on the premise that it’s about connecting your friends to your pictures and things like that.

Michael:

I’m sure at some level it is, but you mentioned the implications. I think that’s what gets lost as we abdicate all of our data to the "cloud."

Brian:

Yeah, they are diverting our attention away from the big picture, which is advertising, monetizing someone’s identity.

I was listening to another podcast by Gizmodo. I can’t remember what it’s called. It’s something about the future. It was an episode featured specifically on facial recognition and how we are probably less than two years away from you walking into a store and the retailer having the opportunity to connect your face to your social profile, and maybe to your past.

If you as a teenager shoplifted, it could trigger alarms and say, "Now, watch this person" or "Kick them out of the store."

Michael:

All new era in profiling.

Brian:

Yeah, absolutely. Hook you to your credit score and decide whether your time is worth it.

It’s interesting because a lot of people think that kind of transparency has positive aspects, and there are positive aspects. It would be harder to commit fraud and identity fraud if you don’t have my face. It would be difficult. It’s sort of the ultimate thing that you have with the thing that you know.

So maybe you don’t need to carry your driver’s license. You don’t need to carry certain kinds of things, because your passphrase is your face. That’s what Microsoft is trying to do in Windows 10.

But at the same time, should your identity be hacked in some other way, you can get a new credit card. Even under extreme conditions, you can get a new social security number. But getting a new face is a slightly different proposal.

Michael:

A little more painful.

Brian:

Yeah. Again, I’m on Facebook. I don’t generally care if people tag pictures of me, unless they’re bad, which they usually are.

Still, it’s one of those things where we’ve already let the genie out of the bottle, and it’s going to be difficult to get it back in. To some extent, I think it’s going to be personal responsibility of the retailers to not do this, to not abuse it or to establish guidelines by which they accept somebody’s permission to use their face for whatever purposes.

To some extent, advertising that’s relevant is not annoying.

Michael:

No, I know I’ve been seeing that emerging for the last few years. A perfect example, UberConf a few weeks ago, I ended up going to UberConference.com at one point by accident, and I’ve been seeing ads for their product ever since, just following me around everywhere I go.

Certainly, this going into the real world Minority Report style, I think is definitely right around the corner.

Brian:

Absolutely.

Michael There’s a big element, I find, of convenience. This is where it all falls apart for me, because on one hand I see these leaks. Here’s Apple. You can go to this site and you can see everywhere you’ve been if you’ve had an iPhone for the last several years. Everywhere you’ve been, plotted on a map.

On the one hand, I’m a little outraged and a little horrified that this is the world we live in. At the same time, it’s so convenient to have location services turned on and all these services.

I don’t feel like there’s any nefarious forces really pushing this. It’s just all these factors working complacently. Our laziness, people being very inventive with these things that are available. It just happens to be NSA’s programs quite nicely.

Brian:

That’s ultimately where it does fall apart. As I was saying, it’s incumbent on the retailers not to abuse this information. But it’s certainly incumbent upon the government not to abuse this situation.

Just this past week, we had another bill going through that’s a rehash of existing attempts to effectively get Apple, Google and these companies off the hook for the legal implications of sharing privacy information if they do so with the government.

It’s an attempt for them to reach into these sorts of systems and networks that we have committed to, because of the convenience, because of the value that we get out of, assuming that there was some amount of privacy.

Ostensibly, Mark Zuckerberg has called anyone who gives him their information a sucker for trusting him.

Michael:

That sounds plausible.

Brian:

Yeah. Whether it’s true or not, the fact that he is rather a private man and doesn’t allow the same kind of access that he demands, expects and changes the policies around for the people that use his system leads me to believe it’s plausible that he took that position.

But, that’s ultimately where the culpability of the person releasing the information or sharing the information intersects with the responsibility of the person asking for it and collecting it.

Given the OPM hacks recently, it seems like the government is not capable of protecting their own data. Given the Snowden releases, if we had better access control policies and authorization models around who had access to what, that wouldn’t have been as impactful as it was.

That was really a follow on to 9/11, because everyone got in trouble for not sharing enough information, and so they went overboard. Now that they’re sharing everything and in that context, somebody with Snowden’s position was able to come in and just hoover it all up, which is what they’re apparently attempting to do for these social networks as well.

Again, I don’t think the intent is necessarily malicious. But I do find…

Michael:

But if you are malicious, it certainly is very convenient.

Brian:

If they’ve done it and they can’t protect it like they couldn’t protect the OPM data, then it doesn’t matter whether their intent is good or not. This kind of stuff is going to get sucked up and used by bad people.

Michael:

I might have missed this. Give me just a quick recap of what the OPM…

Brian:

The Office of Personnel Management basically tracks, among other things, the applications for clearances of people who are interacting with the government. There’s already not enough people able to get clearances because of policies, because of past experiences, financial difficulties, things like that.

But people who apply to the process are subjected to very invasive investigations into their past, their brushes with laws, their experiences with illegal substances. Even just being heavily in debt, bankrupt or things like that become leverage that somebody could use over you, should you be given clearance.

The process is understandable. But roughly 21 million people’s records have been removed by probably foreign governments, but I don’t know that it’s been established. Now imagine people who were submitting this information to the government equivalent of Facebook, thinking that it was going to be protected. Now, it’s being misused elsewhere. It’s a similar situation.

It largely comes down to, we let a technology in the door, but like a vampire once it was it was in we had no control over what going from it.

I don’t know. It’s kind of gotten off the topic of the magic part of it. I guess to the extent that you as a magician don’t have malicious intent, you want to fool people for entertainment purposes, not for marketing to them.

Michael:

Financial gain.

Brian:

Financial gain, yeah. That’s probably the difference. Certainly, if you could figure out how to turn magic into something else, that would be worth considering.

Michael:

I recently got an email out of the blue — I don’t know if I told you about this — offering me, very vaguely, an overseas gig. When I inquired for more details, because my initial thought this was an old advance fee fraud. Oh, OK, name your price, I’ll send you a cashier’s check for twice that. Oops, would you mind withdrawing that and sending it to the caterer, Western Union. Apparently, that still exists.

When I inquired a little further, I said, "Tell me what you had in mind." He said he was looking for a dealer for a card game, in the Middle East. Of all the bad ideas, this sounds pretty high on the scale. Not quite as high as something like ironing your clothes while you’re wearing them, but in that neighborhood.

Brian:

There’s something to be said for efficiency.

Michael:

It’s really interesting, just the interaction between magic and technology, because it is kind of a race. I read a book years ago called "Carter Beats the Devil" which I believe is a somewhat fictionalized account of Carter the Magician who was active in the early part of the 20th century, based out of California in fact.

One of the circumstances that was told in the book — again I don’t know how accurate this is — was that he had seen a prototype of television. He was trying to convince Philo Farnsworth to let him use that and kind of keep that aside. That’s definitely a bigger and bigger challenge. We live in a culture of information sharing. The sum total of all human knowledge is at our fingertips now. How do you keep that secret?

200 years ago, the French magician Robert-Houdin was hired by the French government to go to Algeria and quell the local resistance. What was happening was the French military were there, but tall the locals would not respect the authority of the rifles. They would respect the authority of the shaman in the group, because you had a rifle, but they have magic.

Brian:

Kind of like C-3PO and the Ewoks.

Michael:

Yes, exactly.

They hired this magician to go out there and show that the French magic was better. What he did, if I were to try to do this now for the group here at NFJS, I wouldn’t fool a single person. But he terrified this group.

He got the biggest native warrior, brought him on to stage, and said, "I will make you as weak as a child, as a little girl." There was a small box on the stage. A little girl was able to pick it up, and he did his incantation to the big warrior, who attempted to pick the box up and could not, for all his might, because he was not aware of the principle of electromagnets.

There’s so much that you can do. We live in an age now that you could watch a magician perform a trick in real life. A lot of magic on TV has the advantage that they have this whole additional dimension to play with to make the magic more convincing. But if you see a live performance, you could probably concoct to Google search with a few keywords and find exactly what it is.

On the downside, that mystery that I think is becoming more and more scarce in our world is becoming more and more scarce in this venue where it was always kind of protected. On the flip side, it does demand creativity. There’s an explosion in creativity and ingenuity in the industry that is driven by the fact the old ways are too well known.

I worry sometimes. I stay up at night thinking about the piece that I perform with the borrowed $100 bill. In a few years, maybe not five, but I would be very willing to bet less than 20, paper currency is going to be completely gone.

Brian:

You’re already seeing it hard to find people carrying cash to do these kinds of things.

Michael:

Absolutely. To the point that now I have to say, "Hey, would you mind having $100?" I put that in my contract. "Would you have $100 bill on your person, please?" Because people already don’t carry cash.

I’m of the generation, I barely remember when you had to get cash at the bank. If the bank was closed, you weren’t going shopping tonight. Well, we had checkbooks, but it was difficult. I remember the frustration of my parents. You get to the bank and just 5:05, and you’re just out of luck.

But my whole cash carrying life, I’ve had a debit card.

Brian:

It’s interesting that this lack of privacy, this lack of mystery, sort of coincide with the ubiquity of information. As they say, knowledge is power. It’s a question of who has access to the knowledge and who has access to knowledge about you.

I’m finishing up David Eggers’ book "The Circle" which is very, very thinly about a mash-up between Google and Facebook. This company called The Circle, and their goal is ultimately to be completely transparent. There’s similar data collection mechanisms. They want nothing to be lost. They want nothing to ever disappear. They want to know everything about you.

On some levels, they again couch it in the language of responsibility. You are responsible to people who are not having the experiences that you’re having, to share your experiences. Somebody who is confined to a wheelchair and can’t go bungee jumping or skydiving, or somebody who’s not economically able to go Maui or some kind of beautiful Pacific Island.

The proponents in the book for this position advocate that you’re being selfish if you’re not sharing these videos, pictures and things. That thinking is very typical of the sort of black and white moronity of a lot of Silicon Valley thinking, where just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. There’s much more grey in the world than that.

Ultimately, as the book progresses, without giving too much away, the thinking is the more ubiquitous is this complete knowledge is and shared, the better people behave. The idea that if you think you’re being watched, if you think you could be caught stealing a bike or something like that, because there’s cameras everywhere, then you just won’t.

I think there’s a certain amount of psychology around that, the whole need a penny, take a penny thing. Generally people assume they’re being watched, so they behave responsibly around this.

Michael:

It all falls apart, though, when we go beyond just common decency societal expectations, don’t steal money from the charity jar to the totalitarian regime. I mean, there’s parts of the world where if you’re expressing dissent, the definition of being on good behavior changes drastically.

Brian:

Yeah, absolutely. Both in terms of malicious state level actors like that or even just different cultural actors. One of the huge fights in the intellectual property world is the enforcement of intellectual property rights in Asia. They’re somewhat lax in terms copyright violations, movie violations and things like that.

Even if a localized culture has one set of values around how to behave and whatnot, we don’t have localized culture anymore. We have global culture. We have malicious actors at the individual level, at the malicious organization level, at the state level.

Again, people are sort of passing the buck into thinking encryption is a magic technology. It’s a magic technology to save us from prying eyes, until you realize the ways that these can be attacked in terms of either implementation bugs, in 2014, every single major encryption engine that we use on the web had zero-days associated with them to leak details.

We’ve got fairly strong evidence of government level intervention in the design of these things to induce back doors. This whole notion of golden keys that only the good guys will use is complete nonsense.

You’ve got bad designs in the protocols that are subvertable, to the point we’ve got direct influence. We’ve got commercial retailers taking money to make these back door predictable random number generators be the default. We’ve got hardware vendors encouraging open source kernel developers to use un-auditable sources of randomness at the chip level.

If don’t actually stop and think about the implications of a technology as well as the implementation of a technology like encryption, then it will seem like magic. People will be happy to pass the buck and assume that it works.

Or assume that somebody knows what they are doing, or that it’s just going to happen, and not realize that if this is a security feature that you’re using to induce a property in your system like privacy or confidentiality, that you may not be doing what you think you’re doing. You may be making your customer’s data available.

Even if you’re trying to do the right thing with the data that you’ve captured and want to share, if you treat it like magic and not actually understand it and not think critically about it, then it’s like you’re just giving away the data as well.

That’s the farce of the government trying to mandate these back doors, when they can’t keep their own data safe.

Michael:

They can’t keep their own data safe, and there just isn’t an understanding in the Senate. There isn’t an understanding in Congress. That concerns me a little bit.

Brian:

This is exactly my point, right? As a society, these things are at play, but the average person doesn’t understand, and they just treat the whole thing as magic. They’re willing to abdicate responsibility for thinking critically about technology, both in terms of its implications and its implementations.

Specifically, I think our industry needs to step up. People need to stop being as passive as they are in terms of accepting nonsense like SOAP for 10 years, because industry people tell us that this is the way to go, without thinking that these are people who want to sell you tools and consulting services to manage the complexity that they’ve induced into the system.

As opposed to taking more sensible approaches, like the RESTful architectural style. I’m not trying to get into a REST versus SOAP war here. They’re different things. But it was clear to me 10 years ago what the right way to go for most cases was.

There’s still places where SOAP is a better solution for certain kinds of systems. But because I thought critically about what is was these things did and they properties they induced, rather than treating it like a brand or religion or something…

Michael:

Yeah, there’s too much of that as it is.

Brian:

We’re tribalized around technologies, because we like Apple products, because we like Android products, without thinking again about the implications.

One of the examples there, the nature of the market around the Android market I’ve found very interesting, in the sense that from a market share perspective it’s been very successful. But from bigger pictures perspectives it’s much less successful in the sense that very few manufacturers in the Android space make any money.

They have their hands tied. They’re competing with a company that can do whatever it wants, and yet the platform specified is by Google. The price model is specified by Google. So they have to find ways to innovate and they take shortcuts around what kind of memory do they use behind the scenes or whether they optimized hardware for things like encryption.

Then the move to TLS everywhere forces more and more sites to use encryption, which forces the devices we’re using to do more encryption. If you don’t have hardware accelerated support for that, then you’re going to do it on the CPU, which is a power hungry device.

The battery life of Android phones goes down, because they don’t have the same kind of mechanism that, again, Apple clearly has designed into their systems for hardware accelerated video and hardware accelerated encryption.

Google’s now pursuing cipher suites that will be energy efficient in these spaces, and yet still provide the protection. None of these things exist in isolation. I think it’s high time people really started paying attention to the more than just surface level details about the technologies. It’s not an easy game. Everyone already feels overwhelmed trying to keep track of things.

But that’s one of the reasons why I tend towards longer term, bigger picture thinking. It’s because if you get that right, there’s less localized vacillation.

The number of JavaScript frameworks that I have not had to worry about because I just did not worry about them is enormous. But at the same time, I’ve had to unlearn or forget more technologies that have been crucial to my past than I really care to admit.

My book collection, every once in a while I go back to it and think, OK, well, that’s an entire shelf I can get rid of. I don’t need that anymore. Not that I’m going to fill it up with new books, because they’re all in my Kindle now.

Michael:

Yeah. I think you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head, because the challenge that we’re facing, the new technologies and new application are coming out so fast, there’s not even an opportunity to think critically anymore. It’s just, this is what’s everybody’s doing, so I better be doing this, otherwise I’m going to be irrelevant.

I think that fear is a big driver.

Brian:

It really comes down to an idea that I think was credited to Nicholas Carr, whether you think about information technology as a competitive advantage, or whether you think about it as a cost center.

If you think about it as a competitive advantage, then you will innovate. You will create the kinds of NoSQL systems that startups that had issue of scale needed to solve, rather than relying on writing ever larger checks to Larry Ellison.

Those are clearly companies that innovate, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook. All these companies had real problems, and they didn’t stop and think about, oh gee, wouldn’t it be nice? They ran with it. To everyone else, some of these things seem like magic. How do you scale up to big data kinds of levels?

If you get into it, you understand the architectural implications. You understand the tradeoffs that are being made. But that doesn’t mean those same systems are going to be required for your enterprise level department thing.

Again, not thinking critically about technologies. People overindulge when a relational database probably would have been just perfectly fine.

Michael:

You know, that reminds me of a very biting article by Ted Dziuba. He summed it up that scalability is not your problem. Getting people to give a shit is your problem.

Brian:

Yeah, absolutely.

Michael:

I think I can mute that out.

Brian:

Why bother?

The saying, people spend too much time worrying about their millionth customers without thinking about their first customer. If you don’t have a strategy for incrementally moving in that direction but also being able to sufficiently roll out new features and manage new directions as people pivot, then it doesn’t matter how scalable your system is.

But then again, that’s where having architectural styles like the REST architectural style give you the capacity to think small, but give yourself room to scale up. This is our definition of scale. The web is our definition of scale.

Obviously, there are architectural implications around the setup costs of TCP/IP connections and things like that, so it may not work for every situation. It clearly has worked for lots of situations. There’s a lot of pushback by developers to don’t want to think abstractly, who don’t want to think long term. We just want to bang stuff out.

Michael:

With the coolest, shiniest toys.

Brian:

With the coolest, shiniest toys. That’s understandable, but if your job is to solve problems, then sometimes solving problems is a very pedestrian thing to do. I think not enough people have been put into situations where they’ve had to be creative. Again, you’re saying the world of magic is changing because of technology, which is forcing you to be creative.

The answer technologically isn’t always, well, I have to throw everything away and start from scratch. It’s, I have to think critically about this problem. How can I solve this problem given the constraints that I have?

You have to think, OK, what’s the goal? What’s the thing that I want the audience to perceive? Like, I can read their minds, or I can make things move, or whatever. Then you have to deal with the constraints in front of you and be creative in terms of solving the problem of making that thing actually happen.

Michael:

That comes into some of the really interesting stuff. I’ve become less interested over the years in the cutting, cutting edge magic technology because it uses technologies that are ubiquitous now.

It’s entirely possible, and I think I can say this, it’s entirely possible to have a device where you write something down and it appears on a screen somewhere else. This is technology that we use. 10 years ago, that was largely unknown to the populace.

But now, I’m pushing myself more to go low tech for that exact reason, that that’s the first place people go. I had somebody write something down on a piece of paper, and I knew it. The first thing they would do is go through looking for sensors and batteries.

Brian:

Or some wireless pen that tracks motion and detects characters.

Michael:

Which can be bought at Walmart.

Most of my studies have been done now, I’m going back and reading books from the late 19th, early 20th century, because we’ve almost gone full circle. I think technology is almost going the same way, in terms of just going back to what you’re talking about a moment ago, that the solution is not to throw everything away and get the latest shiniest thing.

Maybe the solution is to stop and say, look, this problem has been solved. This is the huge advantage that we have right now in our industry, in the technology industry, is that we’re almost exclusively dealing with solved problems.

If you want to be valuable, maybe the best thing you can do, the most valuable step forward is to not say, "Oh, what’s this? What’s the new hotness?" Stop and say, "How has this problem been solved? What can I learn from these implementations of it?"

Brian:

One of favorite things, you have an interview question that you like. I hope I’m not stacking the deck against anyone that you ever interview to cheat.

But you said you want to ask somebody how to do something, some kind of sorting algorithm or whatever. There are good answers. There’s range of good answers. But the one you would sort of most respond to is, I’ll find a library that already does that and not spend time solving a problem that doesn’t need to be solved.

I think that is an important point. It’s not just about the mental stimulation. Everybody wants that. Everybody wants to be challenged.

Michael:

That’s why we’re drawn to these industries and these tasks.

Brian:

But thinking less in terms of your resume and more in terms of the business value that you add to your organization, I think thinking in terms of how I can solve this problem long term, efficiently, that’s where critical thinking about the solution is crucial.

I spent some time working with a large player in the hospitality industry around the protection of their credit cards. We needed another consulting group within the organization to change one of their systems. Effectively, it involved one extra function call that they would have to do in their results.

But the testing implications were so strong that when we asked them how long it would take to do this, they came back and quite un-ironically said three person years.

Michael:

Wow.

Brian:

I just laughed. In a meeting filled with 30 people, with executive vice-presidents, I was just like, "Never mind." We ended up solving the problem. My brother worked for me at the time. I tasked him to think critically about it. He wrote 100 lines of code and solved the problem.

Good choices have huge, huge, huge economic implications. If you hear about a shiny new technology and you go to your boss and you say, "I would like to start from scratch." If you think in terms of business value, what you’re saying is, I’m going to spend the next 10 months, assuming this is a valid approach, assuming there aren’t bugs that we’re not aware of or mismatches of technology to the problem or the project itself doesn’t fork and move in different directions.

For that 10 months, you will get back…

Michael:

You’re also assuming going to be 10 months.

Brian:

Yeah. Assuming it’s 10 months, assuming you’re successful, what you’re going to get out of that is maybe what you already have today. Maybe less, if any of those assumptions were false. It’s hard to make that claim from a business perspective.

That being said, I’m not advocating not moving forward. I’m absolutely advocating people be bold.

Michael:

But I think at the same time, what you’re really advocating is critical thinking.

Brian:

Critical thinking and good risk analysis skills. It’s risky to pick new technologies, but also risky to not pick new technologies.

We need to understand the engineering implications of choices, the operational choices, the business impact of choices. I read a book recently, and I can’t remember what it was. I love this idea that the technology industry does not look backwards. It’s sort of teleologically forward orientated into looking to the future.

I’ve been involved in the technology space for a long time now at different levels, architecture, software development, 3D graphics, user interfaces, security. I’ve dealt with it from so many perspectives. Every once in a while, I’ll just stop and look at the world around me.

When I first started with the No Fluff tour, we used to print out Google Map directions, prior to parachuting into Des Moines, Iowa or something, needing to get from the airport to the hotel. I would read the directions at the airport and try not to drive at night with the light on, reading paper, getting my way to the hotel.

I was reminding of that last year when I went to Chicago show in Itasca. I had recently gotten a new iPhone that was much larger than my iPhone 4. So, I was able to put a lot more music on it. My music collection is huge. I was shuffling through music. Bluetooth connected to the rental car that I was in, while the intelligent assistant Siri was giving me directions, pulling from GPS satellites, invent information to direct me to the hotel.

A song came on that I wasn’t familiar with it. And so I interrupted her with speech synthesis. I asked her a question, "Hey, what is this song that you’re playing?" She told me the artist and the name of the song, before she went back to directing me through satellite traffic to the hotel.

These things had come in incrementally, but I had this magically experience. I understand the details of a lot of it, but when combined it was a magical experience.

I’m not advocating not feeling the magic, not understanding the positive impacts of technology. But just don’t give up the critical thinking and the implications of the technologies that we’re adopting as well.

Michael:

I think you summed it up really well as well, when you said that we have a responsibility to step up. We’re building this future, and if we’re not doing so deliberately and thinking critically about it, we’re going to build the next disaster.

Brian:

And get steamrolled by the people who do think critically about it and understand risk, and treat information technology as competitive advantage.

If all you ever do is ask is, "Who’s using this?", because you don’t have the risk analysis skills to decide whether something makes sense or not, then you will always be trailing. You will always be on the trail end, and you will always be the first target in our industry to get steamrolled.

It’s difficult to stay on top of things, but I don’t know what the alternative is.

Michael:

That’s some great insight. Thank you very much, Brian.

Brian:

Thank you.

Michael:

We’ll see you next time, on the road with NFJS.

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Michael:

On No Fluff, Just Stuff, we bring the best technologist on a roadshow format. Early bird discounts are available for the 2016 season. Check out the entire show line up and show dates at nofluffjuststuff.com.

I’m your host, Michael Carducci. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

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