Notice how some of the biggest industries in the world today were founded by people who understand deep technology, not necessarily business leaders. Talk about Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. All of these megaliths profoundly understand how to leverage the transformative power of technology on their respective business models. What Eric Redmond, the Global Director of Technology Innovation at Nike, does is educate business leaders that you don’t have to be a tech nerd to know how to use technology in scaling up your business. All you need is a little education, creativity, and willingness to experiment. In this episode, Eric discusses with Dr. Diane Hamilton about NFTs, blockchain system, artificial intelligence, and how tying these technologies together have huge potential to radically change the world that we know today.
I’m so glad you joined us because we have Eric Redmond here. He is the author of Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies That Will Revolutionize Everything. We are going to get into some fascinating things and they’re at the level for business people to understand all the technology.
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How Deep Technology Changes The World With Eric Redmond
I am here with Eric Redmond, who is the author of Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies That Will Revolutionize Everything. He’s also a Global Director of Technology to a major sports apparel brand and an interesting guy. I’m interested in having him on the show so it’s nice to have you, Eric.
I appreciate the call.
I was looking forward to this. You’ve done a lot of interesting things. You’ve advised State National Governments, Fortune 100 companies, World Economic Forums, and MIT Media Labs. I am looking at your background and I know you’ve written a lot of technology-based books and even two baby books, which is interesting to me as well. I want to get a little bit of background on you because you’ve got this new book, Deep Tech and I want to know your backstory. What led to this?
You gave a sense of a white background. It’s largely in technology. I’m an engineer at heart, although I’ve been moving more into the strategy space and management leadership space over the last few years, which, unfortunately, keeps me a bit more hands-off than I like to be but it is nice. I get to have great conversations about emerging tech and what’s coming next. What inspired me to write a book was, I’ve written several books about topics before they become big. For example, I wrote a book about big data about years ago before it was called Big Data. Also, artificial intelligence and all of these emerging technologies. I wrote a book on augmented reality with Google Glass which ended up not becoming a thing, but I got to play around with that tech and meet some interesting folks doing interesting things in that space.
I’ve always had a lot of these various technologies in my head. I’m always experimenting and playing things because that’s my job. Years ago, I met a guy named Josh Siegel, who he’s a Professor and the Founder of the MIT Deep Tech Boot Camp. I wasn’t familiar with this term, deep tech until then. I was meeting with him and we were chatting. I was learning from him and realized that there’s this term for all of these emerging technologies that I’ve spent my career learning about.
That comes from the VC space. It’s a stage of technology or a technology company that you invest in and it’s past the R&D phase but it’s not quite ready for primetime. He defined it as, “As it was impossible yesterday, barely feasible now but tomorrow it will become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine life without it.” You think about fundamental re-imaginings of the world and how we interact with smartphones or the internet. Imagine life without them now but years ago, they were deep tech.
I thought that it would be interesting so I said, “Let’s maybe write a book about educating this series of technologies that seemed to be in that deep tech phase this decade but write it not towards technologists but more towards a business, leadership, or an entrepreneurial audience who often have these smart, creative people that come a little late to the game when it comes to tech.” Which is why if you look at the gaff phones Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, a lot of them were founded by technologists, it’s not necessarily business leaders, per se.
They became business leaders but they were so in the right place at the right time, they were able to scale up these trillion-dollar companies. What I’d like to do is help educate leaders in understanding that you don’t have to be a tech nerd. You can understand this tech too and what’s interesting then is you already know your business and you already know your consumer but with a little education on this technology, you can have these creative ideas grounded in reality and the only missing ingredient is your own creativity and willingness to experiment. The blocker shouldn’t be this belief of, “I don’t understand the tech, so this isn’t for me.”
I love that because it ties into my research for curiosity. What I found was one of the things that inhibit curiosity over or underutilization of technology was one of the things it was fear, assumptions, that voice in our head, technology and environment, everybody we’ve been around, basically. The tech part surprised me. I’ve always been a techie person. I sold System/36s in the ‘80s. It’s been a while but I love technology. A lot of people get confused about the different terms. They hear the Internet of things and they think that covers everything or they hear certain terms.
I saw on your website that you cover artificial intelligence, machine learning, center reality, the Internet of Things, and those kinds of things. These are all good to get a business that is more simplistic but not too simplistic in a way of looking at it. What’s interesting to me now is what’s going to happen. You mentioned Google Glasses, but I love getting this Quest 2 for Christmas. I was looking at this thing and I had Anurupa Ganguly on my show, who is the CEO of Prisms VR, what she’s doing with teaching people how to do math in school and different things. She’s making math not be an equation but an immersive experience. Where is that technology going?
It’s funny because deep tech is both weirder and more capable than many people will give it credit for, especially in the early days. An example is NFT’s. Everything is about you. People are scratching their heads and being, “What is this whole NFT thing?” In fact, Saturday Night Live did a whole skit making fun of this fact that nobody understands what this is but on the flip side, you’ve got these hedge funds buying a virtual art for $69 million.
They bought the people collection of art. People see that and they’re like, “That’s super weird. It’s probably a bubble. It’s meaningless.” Think about Bitcoin a few years ago and everyone was like, “It’s a bubble. It’s $1,000, $10,000 or $20,000. It’s definitely a bubble,” and it crashed. We had all these people standing on the sidelines being like, “See. I told you it was a bubble.” A few years later, it’s at $60,000. There’s this up and down adoption curve. You don’t know. You can’t know.You can have your creative ideas grounded in reality. The only missing ingredients are your own creativity and willingness to experiment. Click To Tweet
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Non-Fungible Token, NFT, can you describe it for it? Not everybody reading might know what you mean by that.
I always joke about the fact that a lot of crypto folks enjoy the idea of leveraging technical terms for their own amusement. Why don’t we call these unique digital assets? That would make it a whole lot clearer and that’s the whole idea. It’s an address on a blockchain and I’m already getting technical but you own it. It’s yours. You have the keys to it and like any other ownership stake, it’s entirely digital. It’s entirely on this blockchain technology, this ledger technology that powers Bitcoin. The NFT is meant to be Non-Fungible meaning that it’s unique. It’s fungibility being an aspect of the currency. I give you $1 and it’s the same as every other dollar. That’s fungibility. Non-Fungible would mean that there’s something special about this asset that makes it different from any other one.
Is it more for art, audio, video, that thing? What does it cover?
That’s where things are, interesting because you can talk about it. You can be part of this and this is where deep tech is interesting because I leave the creativity up to people who are specialists in their industry. If I may be so bold as to give some ideas, for example, if you work in the mortgage industry, a non-fungible token could represent a mortgage or it can even represent actual real estate. If I want to sell you, my house, all I have to do is transfer you, my non-fungible token that represents my house that has maybe all the contracts and everything associated with title to you and suddenly, you don’t need an escrow. It can be instant, and you don’t need a middleman at all. It was mine, now it’s yours and it’s over, the transactions done.
I have a real estate license and was a mortgage loan officer in the past and it’s been yours for all of that but what does that do to that industry, eventually? That’s interesting to me.
It disrupts it. We talk about disruptive technologies. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it goes away.
It’s like the travel industry. You can get some of the travel agents but you can still have other ways of doing things.
Uber hasn’t exactly destroyed the cab industry. There are still cabs in a lot of cities. Airbnb hasn’t destroyed the hotel industry. It changes the industries, and you grew up with the times. People will always need guides to help them think through a lot of things. I know absolutely nothing about houses, so I need somebody to point out, “There’s a crack of the ceiling,” There’s not going to be a technology that’s going to do that for me in the near term. It’ll change what people do.
It’s interesting because I had met with somebody who was working with Salesforce that I was talking to locally in ASU, here in Arizona, about some of the blockchain keeping track of education, credits and different ways of keeping track of what students are taking. It’s complicated to understand blockchain for a lot of people. Is there any way to make it easier for people to understand what we mean when we say blockchain?
I tell people that it’s a glorified spreadsheet. Think of a spreadsheet that can’t be changed. You hear this word, “It’s an immutable ledger,” is what they say. The value is in the core structure of the blockchain system. It is mathematically impossible to make a change. That’s what it is. If I have let’s say, my Bitcoin or non-fungible token, digital assets, or whatever assets, it can also be represented in US dollars. Imagine my bank account. It’s a line on a ledger that says, “You have this much money.” If I transfer some assets to you, whether it’s money, a non-fungible token, or anything that represents my house, that becomes another line in the ledger that transfer happened.
What’s interesting is the fact that it’s also public, so anybody can verify that the transactions are on the up and up. It’s available to anybody, you don’t need experts. I could show somebody in fifteen minutes, how they can check and validate with all sorts of open tools that when I’ve made a transaction, “Here it is.” That’s what makes it so powerful. In some ways, it removes the darkness around a lot of financial transactions. You can imagine a lot of people welcome this and a lot of people don’t necessarily want that to be the case but it’s fit for use. If you want to use it, there it is.
I had Wolfgang Koester on the show and we talked about blockchain, specifically Bitcoin but when I was researching some for that show, I remember how much I heard that people, especially with getting Bitcoin and that type of thing, to get your money out was hard. Is that still that way? I haven’t talked to anybody who bought cryptocurrency in a while. I’m curious.
It has changed. It’s evolved quite a bit. There are some, I’d say pretty big players now. PayPal is dealing in cryptocurrencies now, Coinbase is the big one that a lot of folks use. The ability to transfer between not only Bitcoin and US dollars or Bitcoin in Yen, but even Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, ripple, or whatever it is. It’s getting trivial now. That’s why you’ve got companies, for example like Elon Musk, declaring, “I will accept Bitcoin to buy a Tesla.” You can buy a Tesla with less than one Bitcoin based on the value of Bitcoin. They are able to take that transaction.
That’s probably a bad example because Tesla would probably keep it in Bitcoin but if you were to make purchases through other companies like Amazon, you can use Bitcoin, in some circumstances, if I’m not mistaken or maybe it was Overstock.com is one of those online retailers but they’re converting it immediately to cash. They’re converting it to US dollars or some other representation there. They’re not holding Bitcoin, because Bitcoin itself is a little too volatile to keep your value and it’s a terrible store value, and currency but what it is it’s an amazing technology that lives as a speculative instrument.
We have everything digital, in some ways anyway. Look at your bank records, you’re not looking at piles of cash you’re looking at a digital balance. That’s why it’s hard for a lot of people to put their minds around like, “How is it any different than using my Apple Pay or something else?” Is the big difference in how secure it is? How do you explain that to somebody?
I’m not exactly what you would call a Bitcoin maximalist and there are people that I would say are true believers that think that Bitcoin is going to take over and own the world.
Etherium or any of them.
I do think that technology is valuable. The idea of having this public ledger and public is a misnomer too because it doesn’t mean that your name is associated with it. It’s a random number that represents you and only you know which random number you are.
How can you prove that’s your thing if you’re having people to look at it?
Other people can see it but no one else can access it is the thing. You have the keys. It’s the same way that only you know bank password.
If you lose that password there’s no one to help you.
That is true and that happened quite a bit. There are tons of stories about that.
Where does that money go? Who gets it? It’s lost.
Nobody doesn’t. This is part of the reason why it’s interesting, the volatility of something like Bitcoin and a lot of these cryptocurrencies. There is a massive amount of this currency that is never transacted and you can’t be sure, but the belief is that somebody lost their keys, the person died, or all sorts of reasons that it’s sitting there and nobody can know. After a certain amount of time, the market assumes that they’ve been lost. It reallocates the count of how many available cryptocurrencies and how many Bitcoins are in the system. It tends to increase the value of all the remaining Bitcoins. That’s one aspect. It’s a highly speculative instrument from that.Deep tech is both weirder and more capable than many people give it credit for. Click To Tweet
What is interesting is the technology itself, because what they’ve done is build a system that is a trusted third party but that trust is based off math and computation, and not necessarily an entity or a body. It’s why some people are so drawn to this idea because they might not necessarily trust a government and now all fiat currencies are backed by the guarantees of the government. If you don’t think that, for example, the Federal Reserve should be manipulating currencies in the way they do, then you’ll probably find something Bitcoin that’s attractive, at least in concept.
It’s an interesting area to research. What fascinates me is where the government gives up control.
It’s absolutely true. I don’t think you’re wrong. In fact, that’s why I’m more bullish about it. In my book, I talked about blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The cryptocurrency part is in passing and the less interesting part of the story. It’s a big headline-grabber because people are like, “$60,000 a Bitcoin.” Here’s a story. I’ve been involved in Bitcoin for more than a decade. In 2013, I bought a cup of coffee and paging for half a Bitcoin that in nowaday’s value that’s a $30,000 cup of coffee. I could have bought a Tesla with it.
That wasn’t good. You should have saved it. I’m teasing. That hurt.
You try it out to think about it. It’s not the worst of this. There’s a joke. There’s this thing called Bitcoin Pizza. The first purchase made by Bitcoin was they bought a pizza. It was so in the early days, it had almost no value. They get 10,000 Bitcoins for two pizzas. Those pizzas are valued at $500 million. I’m definitely not the worst at this because I always think about that if I ever feel sad at least that was to me.
The whole beginning of it was interesting with the guy from Japan. They don’t even know who it is and who started it. I don’t want to get into all that but the whole Bitcoin part was fascinating. The cryptocurrency thing is fascinating, but blockchain, in general, is going to be a big topic and I know you talked about different technologies that we should pay particular attention to. I know that we’re giving that one some time. What other technologies do you think you want to address because it’s important to see what’s coming up?
I’ll cover them. It’s briefly worth it before I start rattling off, this list to the book isn’t about the technologies per se. I don’t think that’s what’s interesting. It’s important to understand and it’s important to understand how they’re being used now and how people are experimenting potentially using them for the benefits. It’s good to have a general understanding of how the technology functions itself as well as some of the weaknesses. That’s the structure of all the chapters. It’s an introduction to, “Here’s what it is. Here’s how people use it. Here’s how the tech works and here are some of the downsides that you might not be thinking about.”
The downsides aren’t necessarily the downsides in the sense that they’re blockers to the adoption. A lot of these technologies are going to happen whether or not we want them to. I see them as opportunities for where someone can come in and make a positive impact as the adoption. There are all these technologies, but what is interesting is how they’re used in concert with each other. Part of the reason I downplay cryptocurrency by itself is the blockchain and built on top of that smart contracts are much more interesting, because you start pairing that with the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and autonomous vehicles. Suddenly, you’ve got some interesting ideas there tying these technologies together but they require a general understanding of what they are. The list of tech that it covers is artificial intelligence, which you touched on and those are machines doing thinking tasks. That’s what it comes down to.
When we hear machine learning, how is it different from artificial intelligence?
Machine learning and deep neural networks are implementation details. It’s how you bring about artificial intelligence. There’s a lot of ways to do it. There’s a fantastic book by a researcher. It’s in my book. I’m going to have to dig it up. He covers the five different types of artificial intelligence machine learning, being one of them. There’s extended reality. It’s number two. Extended reality is a catch all term that includes virtual reality and augmented reality like Google Glass. Includes mixed reality and mixed reality is the Microsoft HoloLens. Mixed reality is a subset of augmented reality that is focused on mixing the physical world with the digital world. “I’ve got a digital coffee cup sitting on my desk.”
What would Quest fall into? Virtual or artificial?
Definitely virtual. The reason I talked about this as extended reality and a full thing is because they are starting to converge together. There’s not going to be in a few years a big distinction between the three.
It’s stunning to me how realistic it is to be able to put this headset on. I don’t know what I was expecting, because I haven’t done this in years. I remember doing it years ago when my kids were little. It was terrible. It was all pixelated and things. You’re watching these movies, and there are lions coming at you and they’re real-looking. You’re right in the middle of it. I feel like I’m in the Holodeck in Star Trek. Maybe it is like that, isn’t it?
It is and, and it gets even crazier. I was at CES in the before times. I was lucky enough to try out this 8K virtual reality headset. It was 8K and super high definition. They went a step further and made it even crazier. They use this thing called Foveated Rendering which basically tracks your eyeball and it renders super-specific ultra-high detail only where you’re looking because there’s a computing power requirement.
It’s a focus on camera.
It’s cool. As you look around, everywhere you look, it is super high detailed and high rated and realistic. It looks real. If that wasn’t enough, they would sit you inside this artificial cockpit, that would move around and it was a flight simulator, but you would move the joystick and you would grab onto it but you would see it in virtual reality, but you were also holding it in real reality. All of the instrument panels were virtual but it was real, in the sense that you could reach out and touch all of the parts. It was the craziest experience. It was like flying around.
Was it like those roller coasters that they do now, you’re jiggling, the handsets are moving in your hand and you’re moving too?
Yes. Absolutely and but then they took even a step further. The chair you were in had robotics. It was moving around. It was the craziest and most realistic experience for something that wasn’t real.
Think of the things that would do for people who are disabled. My dad was born blind and he could see a little bit but I’m thinking about all the self-driving cars and all the things that he could do. It’s the autonomous nature of making you feel you’re doing more.
That’s a good point. I bring that up in the Autonomous Vehicles chapter. It’s about self-driving cars, but also other autonomous transport robots too like logistics, transport, and things like that.
You got to think about the fact that every town and every municipality in the country in the world has its own special traffic lock works. You think about all of that and you think about the fact is if you ever drive. I live in Oregon, I live near Portland and you start driving out into the rural areas. There will be towns that have a gas station, a muffler shop, and some other auto-related stores. I think about what the world’s going to be like without autonomous vehicles and we get away from car ownership. Why even own a car if you can just call them up?
Garages and houses are different. Those parking lots and everything else.
How is it going to change the texture of towns? Think about a lot of these small towns. They make all their money off of us speed traps and parking tickets and all that. All that goes away. The reason I list that is people ask, “Why did you pick that as a disruptive technology of the next decade rather than robots in general?” Robots are going to have a place but it’s how those vehicles that are going to change the texture of so much of what we do, even in how we work and how we live. I’m sitting in a car, suddenly, I don’t care about my community. I can work during my commute. It’s door-to-door and that’s the thing. A lot of folks are like, “I’m already near at the train,” but, I have to go to the train. I have to live near a train.It's good to have a general understanding of how technology functions and to be aware of its weaknesses. Click To Tweet
This is anywhere to anywhere so suddenly, “Why would I necessarily need to live in the city core when I could live way outside. I don’t care that it’s an hour-long commute because I’m working anyway. How is it going to change back to the real estate and market in the value of the place?” You’re talking about garages. “Why would I need a garage anymore?” I’d rather have a home gym. I’ll re-output that maybe they’ll be a spike in Pelotons. I don’t know. It’s hard to wrap your head around all these changes.
I know you cover 3D printing and some of that stuff and I remember going to a Forbes event years ago, and one of the girls on stage had a 3D printed dress that she was wearing. You can print your clothes and makeup. When is that coming? What does that do to that market? A lot of this stuff, I thought the virtual reality was in years ago but it didn’t do much for a long time and now all of a sudden coming back strong. The ones you think are coming around the corner don’t necessarily make it right away is what I’m guessing.
That’s true. People always ask, “What technology should I be looking at next?” I’m like, “The best advice I have, if you’re not a specialist, look at the Gartner Hype Cycle and look at what’s known as the Trough of Disillusionment.”
You have to explain to people if they don’t know what that is.
Imagine this curve that starts off steep, so every time there’s new tech out there, it gets overhyped. It’s like, “This is going to change the world.” Everybody’s going to be wearing Google Glass on their face next year and on and on. That hype gets so super high then people realize that they got a little exuberant. This is the nature of people. It’s new and exciting and they have those great ideas and it doesn’t do anything because it turns out that making new tech and bringing it to market is hard. It falls, people stop writing stories about it, it’s boring, and it’ll drop off.
The hype drops all the way back down to the bottom. It is in an area called the Trough of Disillusionment. The hype is low and this is where the interesting work happens because this is where all of the folks who care about the hype go away and the true believers stay. They roll up their sleeves and get to the work of making this good, functional, it leverages in interesting ways and creates the ecosystem, the education, and all of these materials.
In the hype cycle curve, it starts slowly going up this ramp called The Slope of Enlightenment. Eventually, it pops back up to where it was at the near the peak of the hype cycle because now it’s a real thing and now it’s an actual usable thing. I tell people, “Don’t look at the left hand side of the hype and definitely avoid anything that’s peak because it is going to fall.” Every single new technology follows this pattern. What is interesting, deep tech is this area that’s a little bit past the hype. It’s going through the trough. Everybody’s been rolling up their sleeves and getting through the hard work and now it’s about ready for primetime.
When I list the technologies in this book, you’ve got artificial intelligence, extended reality, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, 3D printing, as you mentioned, and I end with quantum computers, although that was a bit of an outlier. They’ve all had their hype. We heard about all these technologies years ago of how they’re going to change the world. Now is the time where they’re starting to change the world, it’s the time that if you want to make a big impact, dive in.
I’m thinking like Elon things and what he works on. What happened to the tubes where we’re going to get places? The Concorde when I was young was you could go faster a little bit. In general, they went away. Nothing is making travel any quicker. I want the transporter devices. Why is anybody making travel better and faster?
A lot of folks are trying. This is why, for me, autonomous vehicles are quite possibly the best and most disruptive transportation mechanism that’s out there. What you bring up is a good point. The Hyperloop idea that you’ve talked about with Elon Musk.
It’s like they shove that tube in.
It’s like those old pneumatic tubes that existed since the late 1800s all throughout New York. It’s old tech and we’ve known it for a long time. You create this vacuum, and things can move through it at high speeds. There’s a lot of reasons that tech hasn’t matured yet but those are the things that require more public investment. You need to convince people to do it because the tech is there, we just need to build it.
I’d like to go to Mars, of course, and all the things that they’re working on. First, I’d like to get to Europe in a quicker time. I like to see more of that.
I did hear of that. I did hear a rumor that they were going to bring Concorde back but I don’t know what came with it maybe after the pandemic.
It makes a noise that may break the sound barrier or something. I’m trying to remember when I was a kid. It made the Sonic boom.
You get from New York to London in 2.5 to 3 hours.
How great was that but it wasn’t financially feasible. What was the reason that went away? Do you even know? I don’t even know.
I believe that’s exactly what it was. It financially wasn’t feasible. It got to the point where why pay $50,000 to go in three hours when you could get a commercial plane for under $1000 and go in 6 or 7.
I wonder if you’ll see more individual carriers doing things instead of going to big American airlines like Southwest. It’s interesting what’s going to happen in travel now. I don’t think it’s in the near future, a lot of the things you’re talking about. I teach in some technology schools, one of them in particular Moore’s Law was such a big discussion when I first started teaching there years ago. Didn’t that change? That doesn’t double? What’s Moore’s Law again? Do you remember?
Moore’s Law was named after an early IBM or maybe it was an Intel researcher who proclaimed that transistor density was going to double every 18 months to 2 years. It’s interesting because it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. After a while, once they realized that Moore’s Law was relatively accurate, a lot of the transistor companies started pegging their deployments to make that work to some extent. Moore’s Law is dead in the sense that specific technical definition isn’t true. It’s true in a sense that computation is still doubling to some aspect. It’s being shuffled around now. The batteries are getting slightly better, electronics are getting considerably smaller and they’re using less power.
A lot of computation is being built on purpose-built chips. If you have a new iPhone it has an AI chip. It was designed for doing this specific AI work along with GPUs, which are graphics processing units that have been in these things for years that are specific about rendering graphics. There are more of these custom-built things, so you can say that the computation is still getting better year over year. It’s taken a different form.
What is more interesting than Moore’s Law, which is this exponential growth and this is why quantum computing to the chat is an analog in quantum computing called Neven’s Law. Neven’s Law says that, “Quantum computers, by their structure, are doubly exponential every year.” What’s super crazy about it is, in a classical computer, if you want to double the power of that computer, you have to basically double everything. You have to double the number of transistors, the bus, and the RAM. There’s a lot of doubling you’ve got to do to get this double capacity. That’s what supercomputers are.
They take this and they build a giant collection of them. Quantum computers are interesting, and this is what starts blowing people’s minds. If you want to double the capacity of a quantum computer, you add one more qubit. It doesn’t work in the sense that you don’t need to go from 5 to 10. You need to go from 5 to 6 and you’ve now doubled what you had with five. You go 6 to 7, you doubled what you had with six. It quickly gets insanely astronomical, so when you talk about a 300 qubit quantum computer and by the way, IBM says that by 2025 they’re going to have a 1,000 qubit computer, but let’s say it’s 300.
It’s better than the System/36s that I sold.If you want to be a relevant CEO, you have to understand technology. Click To Tweet
You have a 300 qubit quantum computer. You can now represent more states than there are atoms in the universe.
I’ve talked to a lot of these students because I teach them business, but they’re still super techie people and taking these classes. From being an MBA program chair and different things that I’ve done, I’d look at education as, “What’s going to happen?” How do you predict what to teach people? It seems like cybersecurity is going to be huge for a while because everybody’s getting hacked and doing all that. Where do you think the future is for education? What would you be going into? You’re in sports apparel, which is an interesting twist. You’re not at Google or someplace else. I’m curious, what’s the education background? Where did it go?
One comment about the, “You’re in this company that’s not necessarily Google,” I try to make the point to get that out of your mind. Everyone gets that out of your mind, this idea that there are tech companies and non-tech companies that everyone is a tech company. The division is between companies that leverage tech well and those that don’t. That’s where I put the line. Every company is, should be, and needs to be a tech company or not even a tech company, but the fact is there are few actual tech companies either. You give the example of Google. You could call Google a tech company but that’s not how they make their money.
They’re the world’s largest and most prolific advertiser. That’s what they are. They’re an advertising company that leverages tech well. I’ve always heard, “Amazon’s a tech company,” but they’re not. It’s a market. They’ve got amazing logistics like a supply chain but they leverage technology so well, in fact, that they “sold their sawdust.” They built their own technology infrastructure and they resold that infrastructure. That’s called Amazon Web Services, AWS.
That’s a multibillion-dollar business cloud computing system but that’s not what they were in business for. They were in business to have a website and sell books. We seem to forget that’s what they were. They had a website and they started on the web, but every company has a website, so what does that mean that Amazon is somehow more of a tech company than you are? You have to go down the list. Facebook, despite their apparent protests, is a media company. They are down to the individual level rather than sort of mass media of videos. It’s personalized. There’s that.
Once you understand that everyone needs to leverage technology and that you can either leverage it well or poorly. I make the second case too, that if you want to be a leader and you want to be relevant in the ‘90s, for example, there were a lot of things you needed to know. If you’re a CEO, it wasn’t just enough to know, say your sales funnel, which you needed to know but you also needed to understand finance. Finance sort of the language of business. Show me a single CEO that’s successful and knows nothing about finance and I will probably show you a company that’s in for a rough ride.
There’s this understanding that they need to understand financing, marketing, and all these things. I would say that in modern times if you want to be a relevant CEO you have to understand technology, not necessarily the deep technical level. It’s the same way that as a CEO, you don’t need to be an accountant. You just need to understand in general how these things work. You can’t offload your brain to someone else. That’s what a lot of companies are wrestling with because they say, “We’re not a tech company, so we’re going to hire Deloitte or Gartner to tell us what to do.”
I think about Seth Godin, for example, he talks about marketing. You can’t offload your marketing brain. You can’t offload your messaging to someone else. It’s your problem. It’s your opportunity. It’s your culture. It’s your relationship with the consumer that you want to have. That’s your marketing. They can help you but they can’t do it for you. That’s the way I position technology in this day and age. You can get help but ultimately, it’s going to be you that’s driving. “Which of these tech technologies do we get into,” and the only way you can do that is by having at least a high-level understanding of what they are.
I talked to so many companies because I go to companies like Verizon, Novartis, and different places where I’ve helped them build curiosity. You don’t recognize that everybody’s trying to be innovative, whether it’s making sports apparel or selling books. You want to have the next big thing, the next greatest idea. To me, it’s all about allowing people to explore, ask questions, and have their opinion or have some insights into things. Do you think companies are getting better at that? To have this type of technology, where does curiosity have a play in there?
Curiosity is everything. There are two sides to this in this particular space of tech. One is the curiosity of what’s possible and feasible. The only way to be able to answer that is to be curious about what exists now and what could exist in the future. There’s that side of it. There’s also that curiosity of, “Who am I trying to serve? What do your consumers need? What do your customers need?” Be laser-focused on the outcomes that they want. Understand the tech, put that aside. Put that in a box, forget about the tech now, focus on what outcomes they want. This always ends up yielding the optimal approach.
An example I like to give is that there’s that old trope that says, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” The fact of the matter is the world doesn’t want a better mousetrap. What they want is an outcome. The outcome is they want an environment that has no pests in it. That’s what they want. Who wants to deal with a dead mouse, a mousetrap, and all of that. If you think broadly about, “That’s the outcome they want.” Also, you understand this toolkit of technologies, maybe you could create a high-frequency emitter that has a high pitch squeal and humans can’t hear it but mice hate it, so they stay away. You’ve now solved the problem. You’ve gotten the outcome that people want, but you haven’t constrained yourself to thinking, “I have to build a better physical mousetrap.” That’s not what’s important.
You bring up so many important potential ideas and things. I love having people on my show from Sony and different places. When I’ve talked to them, they’ll say, “Write down, every day the things that bother you.” Jay Samit said this from Sony. Eventually, you’ll come up with an idea you can solve and create a company. It’s keeping track of, “Why can’t we do this better? Why can’t we do that better?” I love anything technology-based and I was excited to have you on the show to talk about all this stuff because this is so much fun for me. A lot of people need to learn more about this and appreciate your book, Deep Tech. How can they find you? How can they get the book? Do you have some kind of link or something you want to share?
I can share a link. I’ve got a website. It’s DeepTechBook.com. It’s out on April 13th, 2021. It’s digital, paperback and hardcover. There’s also an audiobook that’s coming out. I don’t have a timeline but it should be pretty soon, which is pretty exciting. The funny thing is I don’t read physical books most of the time. I only listen to audiobooks, so it was nice to hear them.
Did you do your own?
No. I can’t imagine.
I didn’t do mine, either. I heard it’s horrible.
The voice actor is like a Juilliard trained actor who incidentally was an extra in the Iron Man movie. The only reason that’s relevant is because in the intro chapter I talked about the Iron Man movie as an interesting case study of deep tech. A couple of years ago, when that movie came out, everything was science fiction. You had this Iron Man laboratory, you had AI, robotic arms, you had virtual reality and it had a ton of 3D printing of devices. All this was happening in that movie. Fast forward a couple of years, I built a prototype Iron Man Lab for under $1,000. In the early days of the pandemic, use that laboratory to build a respirator and emergency ventilator.
Look at you, Tony Stark. You need to get some blue glasses.
That’s the whole point. I don’t have any specific specialty in any of this. I don’t know anything about fabrication, robotics, or anything. That is the best example I give. It’s how quickly this stuff moves into science fiction to science facts to reality for consumers. Give it a few more years and your grandma will be able to do this.
This was so much fun, Eric. Thank you so much for being on the show. I couldn’t talk to you all day about the stuff. I hope everybody takes some time to check out your book.
I appreciate it. The conversation is amazing.
I’d like to thank Eric for being my guest. He was so wonderful. I learn many things about technology. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at DrDianeHamilton.com. It’s fun to have so many interesting guests on the show. If you look throughout the site you can find out more about my speaking, consulting, and all that. You can take the Curiosity Code Index and the Perception Power Index.
There’s so much content. Look at the drop-down menus at the top. If you want to see some testimonials and even more things, you can look down at the bottom of the pages because there are so many great guests who’ve said such wonderful things. I’d love to showcase them. To some extent, you can find out more about them because there are links to their sites there as well. It’s been fun having so many interesting people on the show. I know this show is more than four years since we’ve been doing the show.
I don’t even know how many but I know we went well past 11,000 to 12,000 people and I stopped counting after that. Everybody has been so fascinating and I learned something from every show. It’s a lot of fun to go back and listen to some of the predictions and some of the things that people have said in the past. I’m interested in the technology of things. Take some time to explore Eric’s site. He’s got some great content. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I look forward to the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies That Will Revolutionize Everything
- MIT Deep Tech Boot Camp
- Prisms VR
- Wolfgang Koester – Past Episode
- Curiosity Code Index
- Perception Power Index
- Show – A Sneak Peek At The Future Of Autonomous Vehicles With Jeffrey Bleich
- Gartner Hype Cycle
About Eric Redmond
Eric Redmond is the author of Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies That Will Revolutionize Everything and Global Director of Technology at a major sports apparel brand.
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