Dirk Knemeyer

AI, Big Data & Brand Loyalty, January 13, 2017

The issue is right now it’s dumb data, so Netflix for example, very intelligently can push to us what we’re going to like to watch, and figure out what things to make to determine what we’ll enjoy. Their ownership of that data isn’t that valuable. If I … It’s convenient that I’ve rated a bajillion things on Netflix, and that is all there, but if I left Netflix tomorrow for some new service, I’m not losing that much. The data for me as the consumer, it doesn’t do much. It helps them maintain their business model of getting $12.99 a month out of me, fine, but beyond that, it doesn’t have a more over-arching value. I’ll say the same thing for Amazon. Amazon purchases. Those are even stupider because I don’t think that Amazon, that’s probably really, I’m naïve. I’m sure Amazon is using those things to figure out how to push things towards me that I would be more likely to buy, but it still is dumb.

There’s going to come a time, and it’s decades away, not years, when a machine can interpret that data and can draw conclusions about me as an individual. Conclusions that would draw me to date better people, draw me to pursue a better career. Draw me to spend my time in ways that are better for me. Draw me to … Plans to work around my weaknesses, or to proactively work with my genomic data to have me doing things or buying things, or behaving in context to make it less likely I die at an early age. That’s when it’s smart and that’s when it’s interesting.

Right now it’s being levered for capital gain which is fine and good, but it’s just not that interesting. If I left Amazon or left Netflix, it really matters very, very little. There’s other places to buy products, and certainly there’s other places to watch shows. Now, if anything, that market is overly saturated with Hulu and Amazon and others. The point I want to make is that yeah, in these ways that allow a company to be successful in capitalism, it’s great, but in terms of doing really meaningful things or things that matter to me where I’d be like “oh my God, I’m going to keep my Netflix for the rest of my life, because leaving it would just be too catastrophic”, it’s just nowhere near that. To me, that’s when this data will become really interesting, is the decades down the road when they understand the human animal well enough to use machine power to translate the choices we make into really, really changing our lives.


Truth, Omission, Sovereignty & Capitalism, December 1, 2016

As I’ve grown older and thought about the world a lot from a philosophical perspective, I’m less convinced, than ever that there’s such a thing as truth or objective truth, that it’s all perceptual. It’s all just I am a specific person with very uniquely specific context, you are a person with uniquely specific context and the reality is a consequence of that context and of who and where we are.

The point that I want to make with that is I’ve taken that to also then think about what is lying right? Because if you say there is no truth, lying becomes an interesting concept as well. A lot of the things that are “lying” are what we would say is lying by omission. What’s a good example? Obviously not a real one but I know that I robbed a bank and I don’t tell my wife, right? Most people would say, “Well, you were lying, you didn’t say you robbed a bank?”

Well no, I made a choice not to include that information in the things that I said. What Mark is saying is “Hey, some of the things out there is okay even though there are some things that have been omitted basically and are not available.” I think it depends on what you think about lying and think about the question of, as a person, Jon, as you and I talk, as we have lunch, we had lunch together today, during that lunch I’m going to choose to tell you about certain things and choose to not tell you about other things.

Most of the things I don’t tell you about I’ve made some editorial decision because I think it’s not relevant. You won’t be interested in it you don’t need to hear it. There are some things that perhaps I made a choice not to say because I would be embarrassed or I think you would think badly of me. There’s lots of sort of decision points that get me to these are things that actually came out of my mouth while we were having lunch.

Historically, it’s almost just a gut check thing. When I say, “Hey, I didn’t tell my wife that I robbed a bank.” Somebody says, “Oh Jesus, I mean that’s a lie.” On the other hand, if I say, “Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t tell my wife that um I put ketchup on my hot dog.” Nobody is going to consider that a lie right? Yet, they are really the same thing. They are me making some editorial choice of what I think is relevant to the other person or not.

From my perspective, it’s all lying in the way that we use lying as a filter for editing, right? There are some that are socially acceptable and some that are not, but it’s total gut check. It’s total lick your finger and put it in the air and whatever way you feel that the wind is blowing. This is very roundabout but now bringing it to Mark Zuckerberg’s contention, he’s saying, “Hey, having the platform there and having some amount of information that a big brother of some kind is restricting people from seeing, that, I’m sure for many of us with more liberal sensibilities, that’s going to get us upset. It flies against what we’ve been taught and what we believe.

At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s … I may not like it, I may wish the world wasn’t that way but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal in reality because there’s editing going on all over the place and we’re mad because it’s some apparatus of the Chinese government as opposed to it’s just Bob on Facebook who happened to put this thing up or that thing up. I get why people are conceptually upset by it but I think it’s really philosophically idealistic as opposed to practical.

We’re getting this mixed bag at best of information because there’s individuals and companies that are incentivized to send us whatever will make them the most money. At the end of the day so much comes down to capitalism.

With Facebook, with this example, the whole reason that Facebook exists, whether we like it or not, and honestly, I don’t like it, I’m anti-capitalist big time, but the reason Facebook exists is to maximize shareholder value. In the context of maximizing shareholder value, there’s no question what they should be doing. They should be trying to get into the Chinese market, monetizing that market, and making more money for the people who own those shares of stock.

Do I wish the world was not that way? I do. Is the world that way? It is. As such, Facebook are going to Facebook. If you have a problem, it’s at the level of capitalism. It shouldn’t be at the level of Facebook. Facebook is just participating in this broken freaking system. The other big pillar to look at from the standpoint of Facebook in China, is the notion of national sovereignty and national governments.

We liberal United States may not believe in the censorship, in the things that are going on in China. That may offend our sensibilities but China is a sovereign nation and unless we’re going to send in the troops and the bombs and it’s so important that everyone have the access that we’re going to conquer that nation, we have to respect what’s happening there to some degree.

There’s a lot of things happening there that don’t make me happy, that I wish we were in Utopia. I wish I could go there and wave my finger and have it go away but it doesn’t work that way. We are in a global environment with different nations, each of which have different beliefs. I think a lot of the Chinese beliefs are wrong. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think I am but maybe I’m wrong.

Their nation, they can make their own decisions and rules and set that stuff up and look, do we want to be the policemen of the world or not? Now we’re really getting into … I’m talking about the United States here. We’re really getting into a bigger swath of things. It creates untold issues when we try and go in benevolently and impose our will, impose our values, impose our rule over other people, other nations.

To me this is all a big to-do about nothing. It’s funny, I’m so liberal and yet I’m always hammering liberals but it’s true. Its’ all of this liberal angst for things that we shouldn’t be angsty about. If we’re angsty about anything, it should be freaking capitalism, right? If we’re angsty about anything it should be that there’s not a one-world government that is driven by liberal principles and holistic long-reaching thinking. Those are the things to be mad about, but the fact that some company is working within the system, in the rules of the system the way it’s set up and engaging with a sovereign nation in ways that make me feel a little bit icky, but it’s just the freaking system. If you hate the system, let’s attack the system but for all the liberals to be up in arms about Facebook and standing on their soapboxes, I don’t have much respect for it to be honest.


The Ethics of Designer Babies, Wealth & Power, October 10, 2016

For a long time we’ve taken an egg from a different woman and planted a sperm from a father and put it in the wife of the father as the host mother for an egg that she didn’t produce, or were taking sperm from another man, putting it into an egg of the mother from someone other than her husband. Of course, marriage is not a prerequisite for any of these things. Now, it’s taking essentially the egg and taking part of it out from a genetic perspective and replacing it with something else.

It seems newer, scarier maybe, but it’s really not that different. It’s really making a decision based on the viability of the biological material of one of the parents and making an alteration for the viability or the health of a baby. In and of itself it’s doing it at the genetic level as opposed to the sort of substitution of an egg or a sperm cell, which makes it different, but it’s pretty similar from an outcome perspective. Where this becomes more compelling is the slippery slope problem, because it’s easy to sit back and say, “Oh, yeah, you know, we don’t want to have this child born with this congenital problem. We want it to be born healthy.”

Most people are going to nod their heads with that and say, “Yeah, that makes sense,” making that replacement okay, but the path isn’t that long to the superman, the supermensch model, where you’re not replacing to avoid some disease or some condition. You’re replacing to enhance. You’re replacing to go and not just get healthy, but to healthy superstar. Right? I think that’s where it becomes more interesting. Certainly, this technology is on a path to allow that to happen, even though in the sort of concrete sense that we imagine it probably not able to happen today.

We were having a conversation about Trump’s tax return, and the fact that if you look at over all of human history, there’s always been an elite. Always is too absolute, but by and large, in civilization there’s haves and there’s have-nots.

That’s been the case whether it’s been a democracy, whether it’s been a hereditary monarchy, whether it’s been communism. Regardless of the social structure, there is a small group that has a vast majority of the wealth and power that tends to propagate generation over generation over generation, whether it be because it’s supposedly by divine right or whether it’s because you just have a shit ton of money that you keep passing down to the following generations.

To me, if we’re concerned about it being only elite are going to use this and their children are going to be more powerful, more successful, more set up, it’s already the case. It’s just manifesting in different ways. Now, it’s just they have the millions of dollars that they pass down, which gives the children ginormous advantages that sets them up to more likely to be in charge. This is just a different flavor of that.

Not that that is necessarily to advocate for or excuse it, but I don’t know that it’s such a different state of affairs than we already have in the world. The fact is, there is a power elite in virtually every organized manifestation of civilization as far back as recorded history goes, and that power elite generally tends to stay in place generation over generation. One of the things that’s remarkable about the experience in the United States of America, where we are, is that unlike the European countries, where many of us came from originally, it’s much easier to go from having nothing to make it for yourself and to get into that elite at one level or another.

The question is, would this make it harder? Would the sort of promise of America of, “I have nothing, but I’m going to work hard and be ingenious and make something for myself that starts to move me into a place of power and could move my family into a place of power,” do the hurdles of designer babies and technology create a system that is less penetrable by the lower classes? I think it may, but I think there’s a lot of unknowns, too, so I’m not sure.

Business is always way, way ahead of legislation on this stuff. There’s no question about it. Way ahead. The government’s going to be really slow to catch up. I don’t know that this technology is all that different from things that we take for granted now. What I mean by that is the wealthy now take their children and put them in private schools. They take them and put them in schools that are demonstrably better than the public schools that everyone else is in.

What is more impactful on the outcome of a child as they’re advancing? Is it more impactful that they get the super smart genes, or is it more impactful that they get the private schooling? I think it’s well within the realm of possibility that the environmental and network benefits of the existing old-school infrastructure that the money buys actually is the thing that should be more intimidating and frightening to the have-nots in terms of the advantages that the children are getting.

It’s just that the designer baby aspect of it is the sort of sci-fi. It’s not here yet. It’s a little bit scary. It’s easier to feel fear toward … I suspect that the very analog, very old-school advantages that the money of the power elite provide are really putting in harder-to-overcome obstacles for the rest of us ultimately, at least certainly in the short term until that technology is super-perfected and is creating more holistic uber-people.


Basic Income & The Future of Society, September 15, 2016

People who have been listening to me for a number of years, and for me this goes back to 1993, know that I think the core problem is capitalism. We’re having all of this churn and angst around worker rights and the conflicts of the gig economy, yada, yada, yada. That’s not the problem. The problem is that we have a very lightly regulated free market that incentivizes people to act selfishly and allows the creation of these sociopathic corporations that act destructively, and those are the underpinnings of the system. We shouldn’t be at all surprised that there’s all kinds of waste and human pain and loss coming out of that.

Every citizen in the country should be provided some baseline existence that they don’t have to be part of an ongoing 40 hour, 60 hour week cycle to have, right? I wrote about this a number of years ago, but the idea for the model is, if you’re a citizen and we’re in the United States, let’s call it the United States, if you’re a citizen in the United States there’s a minimum baseline that you should have, and you should need to work for it. That minimum baseline would be something like a certain level of modest housing, a certain level of modest food and beverage. I would have electricity and internet access be part of that baseline. To create all of the things needed in the baseline, that’s quantifiable, like the amount of human effort and human capital required to provide for everyone can be tracked. We should be tracking that, and we should have people having to work their fair share of providing for everyone.

Now, that might sound like just a different type of capitalism, but the trick is to provide this modest baseline for everyone wouldn’t have people working 40 hours a week. It would have people working 8 hours a week or 12 hours a week, right, in order to work their fair share. They would have the rest of their lives to decide for themselves. The example I like to use is the truffles example. If you really want truffles go ahead out there and gather truffles. Start a “business” around gathering truffles. Then other people who want truffles, you can work with them to get other things in a free market structure, but that free market structure needs to be put on top of the baseline, right? So, bring that back into the conversation we’re having now, the problem is right now there’s no baseline. It’s like if you don’t scrape and claw within this capitalist, largely unregulated free market, find some job for you to do, you’re going to be on the street. You’re going to be eating shit, and we have abundance.

We have the ability that if people are contributing a fair share to it, to provide a baseline for everyone. If we did that, all of these problems go away. They all go away, because people don’t need it. It’s not live or die. It’s not on the street or in something that’s comfortable and humane. It’s humane for all, and then building on top of that. I mean, that’s a very specific and prescribed solution for the problem, but I roll it out to really put the spotlight on the issue. Like, it’s just rubbish that we’re talking about, oh, Uber is this service that it makes sense from a convenience perspective, it makes sense from an environmental perspective, it is making the system of transportation smarter. It may not still be perfect, but it represents improvement. Now there’s all this teeth gnashing about it, because it’s costing humans jobs. There’s now the fear of with all of the AI and robotic solutions coming in, the fear of what are going to happen to more and more human jobs. It really shouldn’t matter. Like, these should be conversations about can you have truffles or not. They shouldn’t be conversations about can I have food and shelter or not. Food and shelter should be givens, assuming you’re contributing your modest fair share to your country as a citizen, as a participant in that entity.

There’s two problems with basic income. One is people don’t have to contribute to make it happen. It’s just money from heaven, right? Part of being healthy humans as well as being healthy societies is participation. It’s participating and having some reciprocity there going both ways. The second thing with the basic income is at the end of the day, people can spend it on whatever the hell that they want, and we know enough about the human animal to know that some non-significant percentage of those people are going to spend it on things that result in their, again, being on the outside without proper food and shelter. To have a healthy society, to build a productive civilization, we need to have people with food and shelter and some other basic things, I think, bottom line, brass tacks, no matter what. I think the basic income misses on a few key implementation points, although I do applaud it philosophically.

 

 


Future of Home, June 30, 2016

You know, I’ve lived in big cities. I’ve lived in the country. I’ve lived in suburbs. I’ve lived in many different orientations. You really lose something in high-density environments. You just do. There’s a higher level of stress. It’s tough, and now having just moved from a high density environment into a really nice wilderness type environment. In a suburb, but on an acre of wooded land in a low density area. The quality of life is night and day. The stress level on a daily basis is lower. The appreciation of nature and feeling part of a bigger ecosystem of the world. You know, being able to make choices about noise and light, and not have other people imposed upon those, because you happen to be close to each other.

I think the migration into big cities that’s happening as the world changes is one that’s really bad for the human animal. The time horizon’s longer. It’s decades, not years, but probably not centuries either, where I think that’s going to flow the other way. There’s lots of land that nobody’s living in. You know, 90 percent of Canada, 90 percent of Russia.


Government Response to Corporate Malfeasance, October 1, 2015

The companies that violated will get a slap on the wrist. Everything will just keep rolling on. It would be interesting to see if, when there’s massive corporate malfeasance like this, with some of the things going on in Wall Street before the recession or during the recession happened, things like this, to see some companies killed. Kill them, what the hell.

There’s a point where what that thing is doing is just like jail, right. We’ll throw people in jail for their whole lives, but companies, boy, oh boy, they can get away with whatever they want and just keep going on even though it has the potential to harm billions or in this case perhaps even trillions of people, so it’s also broken. I’m not going to predict what the government’s going to do. What I will predict is say that the government either will do nothing or will do something that’s horrible and wrong, but there is near zero chance that they both do something and they do something that is appropriate and helpful to the situation and round and round we go.


The Future of Personal Computing Ecosystems, August 20, 2015

Look at the history of corporations, they all die, they all go away. None of them make it. If you look at the biggest companies, like an Andrew Carnegie, they don’t exist anymore. They die, despite being, at certain points, the biggest and most successful companies in the world. That’s because they’re born of a certain time and place, with a certain vision, carving out a certain space in the world. As time passes, the impact of that space, the degree to which people desire that space waxes and wanes. The more time that passes, the more it’s on the wane side.

Apple is a company that I don’t remember their initial mission statement, but it boiled down to putting computers in everyones living room. Taking these giant machines for processing and make them a personal and part of peoples everyday lives, that’s a mission that’s been addressed a long time ago. Whereas Google, their mission of organizing the worlds information … information applies to DNA, information applies to all kinds of different things. Even though Google’s first manifestation was in the context of a search engine, from the very beginning their vision for what they were trying to achieve in the world was much bigger.

I think there are still exciting things for Apple to do. It would be great if Apple could solve the personal computing ecosystem. There’s a gap right now where we’ve got the watch, we’ve got the iPhone, we’ve got the iPad, we’ve got the laptop or desktop computer, we’ve got the devices in our cars and in other places, wearables that are all part of this. It’s really clumsy. There’s too many devices, they don’t work that well together. There’s still a lot to be done in that space, and I do think Apple’s the right company to do it. The question is, do they have the leadership vision present to do that? I think the Jony Ive fan boys would say yes. I’m not so sure though. I’d like to see them do it because I own Apple devices, I’ve invested a lot of money in the iTunes store. I’d like this ecosystem to continue. There’s a big opportunity for it to really up level. I hope Apple does it.

I increasingly think it’s more likely that it’s going to be some kind of disruptor. I don’t necessarily think Google’s the one to do it, because Google’s excellence is not in design ecosystems, Google’s excellence is in engineering. On the design side, more simple, straightforward, not from a design perspective, but from an overall business model prospective, in ways that are more open but don’t necessarily result in a great user experience. It may be another company entirely. Going back to Amazon, it might be Amazon, although I don’t think it will be them either. I don’t know who it will be. There’s a big opportunity here, and it is one Apple can take advantage of. The question is will they? Your guess is as good as mine.


The future of capitalism, October 11, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

All of those lovely devices we covet and treasure come at a cost that we don’t often see but most certainly is there. What is the point of diminishing returns for evaluating material progress and gain against human and planetary loss?

[…] it comes back to capitalism. If you incentivize people and collections of people (companies) to get their greatest rewards for being sociopathic, it should surprise absolutely no one when they choose to be precisely that.

[…]What does my “post-capitalism” look like? Very simple and straightforward:

1. We determine what constitutes a “baseline for decent living.”
Some sort of shelter; some degree of healthy nutrition; presumably electricity and some of the technologies it affords; fresh water; waste disposal; police and fire; a judicial system. Whatever the totality of those things are, they are things the current society deems as the baseline, and we provide them for every last citizen.

2. We determine the totality of effort necessary to provide that “baseline” for all citizens. It is determined down the last (wo)man hour. Nothing else is necessary. Entire industries that simply prop up capitalism but are not essential to the human condition – banking, insurance – disappear overnight, freeing up incredible amounts of human capital.

3. Each citizen is responsible for an exactly equal share of completing the tasks required to provide the “baseline” for all. This is determined by…wait for it…a free market system. Each week? month? every single one of us is responsible for providing our proportion. We can bid to spend very few hours and clean out the sewers, thus fulfill our quota quickly with terrible work. Or we can bid to spend more hours and be a night watchman, fulfilling our obligation slowly with more relaxing work. This type of jobs market is trivial to handle in an organized way thanks to cloud computing and handheld computing devices. The system rewards you for doing harder/less desirable things. Yet, everyone contributes.

4. Anything you do over and above that is how you get more credits. Credits to be able to do less later. Credits to be able to trade up for desires, for “luxury” things that are beyond the bounds of the “baseline for decent living”. In reality, the amount of time it would take to perform all of the tasks to enable our “baseline” would be far, far, far less than what we currently work in a given workweek. We’re going to some time on our hands. Time to do things we are interested in. Time to pursue our desires. We can even pursue those things and trade them for credits, so we don’t have to do the “baseline” work because people doing that work are happy to work in our place, to give us those credits in exchange for our fulfilling their desires with out other work.

5. The government would regulate away the ability for those pursuing their desires to do so at the expense of others and the planet. We might be free, but that does not give us the right to exercise that freedom at the expense of other people today or tomorrow. This is an essential component to ensuring our continuity as a species and our continuing to operate with humanity.
The result? We are required to work much less – our hitting the “baseline” would be easy – yet EVERY citizen would be able to live with dignity, place and purpose. We still have the opportunity to pursue our desires, and certainly those who work hard would – through accruing credit – buy themselves more opportunity in the system.

That sounds like a much better world to live in than the one we inhabit. And, functionally, there really are not barriers to getting from here to there beyond our will to do so.


Employee tracking technology, August 3, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

The people who most need the space to breathe, to not simply optimize every moment and find pockets of self and humanity, are being increasingly prevented from doing it by new technology. Now, the fault is not the technology; it is the companies that continue to run as they always have, grinding out every penny and focusing on the short-term ledger sheet as opposed to the long-term organization. Now with access to modern tracking technology they track cars, block websites, track computer usage and otherwise stamp out individual’s efforts to create equilibrium in their lives.


Super-stores and pop-up shops, April 19, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Responding to macro trends in their specific business indicators, Best Buy is shifting their strategy away from towards smaller mobile-centric footprints. Many of us are buying more and more things online, a reality that continues to buffet brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy. We’ve seen this trend manifest in various different ways such as mobile modular health clinics our company has been asked to design as replacements for a large chunk of the diagnostic and clinical interactions we traditionally have with physicians and technicians. Indeed, formidable brick-and-mortar institutions for the fat middle of business will continue to shrink, similar to the way a healthy, prosperous middle class has shrunk here in the United States as well. The future will have more large mega institutions like super-stores and super-hospitals bookend with very small and hyper-local boutiques and carts and micro businesses. But the world those of us in the United States have become accustomed to with myriad stores and shops of all size for every imaginable thing is going to keep on shrinking. Best Buy’s projected evolution should serve as a bell-weather to us all and give us insight into what our metropolitans of the near-future will look like.