Personal

2021

I don’t write recaps, reflections, or predictions. At least not normally. (Mind you, my book was all three of those things, but I digress)

But then I got this picture. An exquisite photo from my daughter Jennifer for Christmas. On its face, it is the quintessential father/daughter capture: Pure love and emotion. Perfectly freeze-framed at her wedding by a wonderful photographer and friend.

The picture has stayed deep in my brain. That front part, ticking and twitching at three in the morning.

I’ve been wondering why.

I realized it embodied my entire experience of 2021. My face is one of pure joy for sure. But it is reflecting the stress of a year the likes of which I have never experienced in all of my 61 years.

Cynthia’s cancer and surgeries; a partnership gone south; a job that remained elusively out of reach from its original and obvious potential; of three vacations canceled; a teenager “plane landing” with an engine or two on fire – pre-uni.

A world gone quite mad.

It is a face of profound paradox. I hated 2021.

But my beautiful eldest (by 8 minutes over her twin) married an awesome human named Eli. I watched her dance the most difficult and magical role – the stuff of 8-year-old ballerinas everywhere – in Swan Lake. I saw her twin sister Alexandra dance – the other dream role –  Sugar Plum Fairy in their final performance of Nutcracker. My son and his incredible wife made the huge effort to come west and see us in a rare and scary window of life as a 4th-year Neurology resident – waiting to return on call – with both of them hopping back day the day after Christmas to provide essential services inside a COVID-ravaged Ontario health and education systems. And Alicia! That apple does not fall far from the proverbial tree? She successfully navigated all of the challenges that first-year university throws at you with a side helping of pandemic and COVID thrown hard at her!

Yet my face tells the story of too many brushes with challenges not of my making and stresses beyond my playbook. I saw the public health system so very much up close. I drove to my wife’s post-surgery through the gauntlet of protestors moronically shouting against the essence of shared responsibility and the collective good.

I was appalled.

But in these daily visits, I saw the extraordinary nurses, doctors, and caregivers providing daily, subtle, and extraordinary care within a system so clearly on razors’ edge. I daily held hands with and looked into the eyes of a woman who was faced with the staggering unknown of surgeries and percentages. Doubt and hope were her constant companions. Wine gums and Earl Grey Latte’s her salve. Through her, I understood that what ails us today is often the unearthing of sedimentary layers from decades past.

The picture showed the face of a man balancing love and worry on a fulcrum and for too long.

Looking again, I see the face of relief meeting worry. The joy that my eldest could – finally – fulfill her dream. Worry that disease, pain, and suffering had become a visitor in our sanctuary – creating possibilities ahead in life never before imagined.

Shock and a profound disappointment as we witnessed our world peeling back the veneer of civility to expose selfishness, fear, and tribalism. Realizing it had been there as smoldering coals – waiting for the fan of the unrelenting technology of the gods.

I felt the weight of a year that so many more had suffered so much more. Unheard and unspeakable tragedies of families and ways of life shredded.

I looked again and realized I think I was holding on for dear life.

And perhaps I am. Perhaps not.

On this New Year’s Eve, I do like I always do. I remind myself of the sheer blessedness of my family’s good fortune. And am reminded that the only response to something like 2021 is to do what all good soldiers do:  Reduce the surface area, take cover, find the high ground and then – when the time is right – come out swinging.

In a year I will look back on that beautiful black and white and recognize it for what it is:  A joyful moment, forever captured with the love of a father so clearly behind closed and tear-filled eyes.

Personal, Strategy

A Referendum on Vision

I have been listening to the discussion on the Calgary 2026 Olympic bid for the past few months with some concern. As someone who has participated in the grassroots discussion on the future of our city along with hundreds of others, I am struck by the struggle we seem to be having as a city as we try to move the discussion forward.

Now, before we go off on a pro/con rant on the Olympics, this is not about this project specifically.

What the Olympic discussion is really reflective of is our capacity and ability to make generational, game-changing decisions as a community. Make no mistake: since the 21st-century “bus” missed the stop in Alberta as we were all enjoying $120 oil, the only way to get back in the game – let alone change the game – is to be making really big, bold decisions. And quickly.

This is a referendum on that change process. The projects we need to do are audacious, possibly frightening to some and will – like the Olympics – be divisive and not unanimous. But they are essential. We need to announce to the world that Calgary is able to confront its future with a new regenerative spirit that weaves in a new social contract of openness, pay it forward and diversity; that our community of all stripes is able to have difficult discussions and is able to frame the debates recognizing that in order to raise the tide, we have to lean in together. Not in unanimity and harmony but with respect and urgency.

So, think of the Olympic bid as a referendum on our ability as a city to debate with urgency, to be able to rationally recognize the trade-offs inherent in boldness, and to understand facts through a lens of critical thinking and informed discussion making.

Whatever we decide as a community for 2026, I believe if it is done through these lenses we will be able to say, “ok team, what’s next on the list?” and move on – regardless if the decision went your way or not. Because all of us need to get onboard a new bus and to stop wasting time and energy calling names and being beholden to the narrowing view of a social media timeline.

Because this is just the first of many, team Calgary! Wait until we get to the HyperLoop discussion!

New Work, Personal

A New Social Contract

A funny thing happened on the way to 2017.

2016.

Clearly, 2016 is in the pole position for the worst year ever.  From dying legends to dying democracies to the rise of fear-based populism and individual distrust.

But with my glass half full, I saw something else emerge. Like the proverbial weed in the rainforest, in the last half of the year, I saw something emerge that gives my old-ish bones hope.

One of the smartest and most creative people I know – Laura Haynes, the indomitable Chair of Appetite UK, called it the great “re-boot”.

I call it the new social contract.

Without going all social engineering on you (because there are some ‘nasty’ uses of this term in history), it simply is making explicit the way we want to treat and be treated by other human beings. Pushing all the noise away, the relationships that govern two people are the atomic structures of the compounds that make families, communities, countries and societies work.

The new social contract talks about things like giving trust before demanding it. It is grounded in a pay-it-forward thinking that plants acorns instead of cutting down trees; it speaks to diversity as the DNA of all things we do.

In short, in 2017 we need to re-build a culture of trust. And it starts with a new social contract. Look for it in a relationship, rainforest or company near you.  And it is the last part of Tip of the Spear.

Mark my words.

Personal, Tech

Tip of the Spear: Part 4 – A Shot Across the Bow

This final blog post before the book Tip of the Spear is finished, stems from my worries about some of the global scenarios that are starting to play out right before our eyes.

As anyone who knows me will attest, my glass is usually three-quarters full.  So to go dark for me is hard and not the norm.

In this section of the book, however, I felt it was extremely important to remind my readers just how dangerous the upcoming period of time could be – and I am not talking about the next decade or five years.  I am talking about 2016 to 2017.  Right now. This minute.

So, given the US elections and the Brexit realities, I thought I might take a drive through worst case scenario hell and remind ourselves that the world is – as many of our media pundits remind us – a very dangerous place.

Warning:  The following gets depressing really fast.

There are three stages to this dangerous journey.  The first is a phenomenon that is all too real and immediate to most of us who spend any time online:  The Death of Discourse.

Stage 1:  The Death of Discourse

It really has snuck up on us hasn’t it?  While unruly behavior is not dependent on whether the conversation is online or offline (after all humankind is a tribal and warring species), the conversation tone has changed dramatically in recent years.  The causes are  multiple and inter-connected.

Individuals in our human collective are suffering from a full decade or more of digital-media inspired A.D.D. Many of us have forgotten how to listen and are slowly forgetting how to critically think. We fight each other for face time, space time and air time. Worse, we allow the tools to amplify the bullies who use our gloriously connected digital medium to lower discourse to unprecedented depths of biliousness and broadcast the basest traits of our species.

In a typical encounter it doesn’t start out that way, does it?  Watching the reaction to the devastating fires in Fort McMurray here in the province of Alberta in 2015 (as well as other traumatic and very public events) what occurs to anyone with a modicum of humanity is that what ALWAYS rises to the top – at least initially – is the extraordinary compassion for our fellow man/woman/child.  “How can I help NOW in the basics of human needs – food, shelter, warmth?”

What then happens – inevitably and most unfortunately – is that the discourse gets hijacked. When the conversation moves online – as it always does – commentary and passive aggressive trolling pushes the discussion off the rails. Base-level human behaviours inevitably show up and things devolve astonishingly quickly. What begins as a collective response to human need – spreading exponentially and positively – became a vitriol of the trolls.

In the case of Fort McMurray, online newspaper and Facebook discussion threads saw the deniers of climate change met head-on by the shouts of “karma” by the radical environmentalists.  The poor souls who happen to be in Fort McMurray in the spring of 2016 simply needed shelter, food and water.

In the face of this, the best of our humanness disappears, “I am out of here…” the best respond.   Worse, it puts another shadow on our belief and faith in the collective human experience. We start to back away from the very tools that give us access to the best and the brightest.

The reasons for this are complex but the cause and effect chain is fairly obvious: When large groups of humans remain far down the classic Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a long time – especially when observing – often in real time – a small but entitled group who are not –  they get grumpy. It takes time, but like all things exponential, it’s very, very slow at first and then boom!

And here’s the killer:  Combining this societal bitterness with the cold, passive aggressiveness of faceless and consequence-free technology! You don’t get punched in the face for calling someone a ______ in an online comment section – (fill-in the blank with a word or phrase never spoken out loud in public except by a drunk 19-year-old college boy). And that is the online bully, troll and thug.

And they are everywhere.

Here’s a scarier thought:  What will happen when the next 2 billion come online?  Will they witness the utter mess of discourse and run away or will they simple ignore and revel in their new found freedom of expression? I wonder and worry about this.

While the death of discourse is really nasty and depressing and it makes us want to stop reading crap online because we’d rather talk to our neighbours civilly over a pint (or punch them in the nose when you find out their online pseudonyms), it may frighten away the next generation of net users. But this is not the real problem.

Not by a long shot.

Welcome to Stage 2:  The Geopolitical Slide

History shows us that the human species requires a good kick in the pants every once in a while.  Or more accurately gives itself one. The past century saw three major wars. We solved the second one by dropping two atomic bombs that changed our view of technology, and war forever.  Further back as a species it appears we needed to beat the crap out of each other – religiously, militarily, ideologically every so often. We evolve our technology and advance our species but our true nature hasn’t changed very much.

We say, “Never again” – both to the bombs and to the gas chambers that created the conditions of one terrible war. What caused it?  Historians will disagree on all of the exact reasons but one of the most often cited explanation is the territorial and ideological expansions of nations lead by tyrannical leaders – and I am including the US in that category as it sought to exterminate the scourge of communism through the use of power and military in Vietnam and South East Asia.

Those of us born after 1970 have not had a world war to contend with in the traditional sense.  Except 9/11 changed everything, even the very nature of warfare, combat and the use of technology to deliver weapons of war – munitions as well as mass ideological influence on those most susceptible.  The very same conditions that spawned ISIS/Al-Qaeda have in turn spawned an ignorant, inward looking, nationalism in the West – closed thinking and lack of education make fertile ground for ideologues and propagandists.

This cycle repeats.

And if one starts to really look closely at 2016, we can see the potential for a daunting sequence of events that could lead to unthinkable aggression around the world or -worse – an escalation of the insidious terror from faceless and stateless terrorists.

But it starts innocently.  It always does.

Over the next 24 months:

  • Britain, fueled by anti-immigrant rhetoric and a population fed up with being ignored, votes to leave the EU.
  • The US, fueled by similar divides and a unique political system, elects Donald Trump, thereby solidifying in the world’s two oldest democracies a minimum of a decade of nationalistic, ‘post-fact’, angry democracies.
  • EU begins a natural slide into irrelevancy following Germany’s decision to exit in 2018; then Italy and the rest shortly thereafter.
  • The emboldened Alternative-right forces find their foothold in the rest of European democracies.
  • China, sensing the void and lack of coherent checks and balances in the West, begins to assert the vacuum left by a nationalistic US, pushes harder into Southeast Asia dramatically raising tensions with a trigger happy US leader.
  • Pakistan and India struggling always to get along, begin to bicker – diplomatically and commercially first, then militarily in the Kashmir region. India, sensing its increased stature and importance in the region (i.e. about to become the world’s largest country by population) – decides to test it.
  • North Korea fires another short range missile into disputed territory while satellites confirm the testing of a long-range missiles capable of reaching the US; Trump orders a naïve and jingoistic military attack on the region.
  • Russia begins running out of cash reserves as oil & natural gas prices continue to stay stubbornly low. Putin – still in power – presses aggressively into neighboring regions including China.
  • Meanwhile, the protectionist trade policies of the US set off the inevitable decline in global trade leading to job losses.
  • Meanwhile, the nascent middle class boom in the emerging economies incomes begins to spiral down, causing significant unrest– especially in Africa – as fragile democracies and more open government falls to the opportunistic dictators and strongmen fueled by the acceptance and tolerance of Trump and others.
  • The Alt-Right – emboldened by their new voice online begins to open up the cesspool of the Dark Net – creating the way for the emergence and production of new weapons of mass destruction with simple to use instructions and suppliers.
  • ISIS moves fully online now – a generation of dislocated, nation-less and disaffected Net users generates a mass cyber-attack on the global financial systems of the world causing chaos and crippling online commerce.
  • The Open Internet becomes a wasteland as brands, organizations and ultimately individuals retreat to private communication channels and the inevitable technology innovation decline begins.

Eek.

Not all of these will happen nor necessarily in the order presented but far too many can and will.  The best case is that we have a pissed off majority and a geopolitical tinder box fueled by a transparent and increasingly negative online world.  At worst, we have the beginning of our latest and likely last World War.

Just when we need the best of a collective, kind human response, the best have left the building and only squatters remaining.

But it gets worse:

Let’s add all of three of Gibson’s Laws of Disruption together and imagine the human species all woke up on the wrong side of the bed one day?  Remember what they were:

  1. The slope of the technology disruption curve is dramatically increasing.
  2. The technology “genie” never goes back in the bottle.
  3. Our linear systems of human organization are unprepared.

Stage 3:  Technology Fuels a Bitter Fire

Our venture fueled, exponential growth focused cabals have been spending several decades building technology for its own sake. Some technology is fueled by Open Source visions of greater good for all.

So Rule # 1 really begins to pick up speed – especially in non-information science such as biology and sensors and new devices.  We start using the combinations imagined by Diamandis and others and create unimaginable technologies and use our smart machines to create even smarter machines.  All of the Innovation of Things that we discussed earlier create all of the toys and more.

Now comes rule # 2 combined with rule # 3.  Because the technology genies are out and we never can put them back and because our traditional sources of checks and balances are completely incapable of managing, leading, legislating or frankly influencing, things get out of control.

Our broken capitalist system simply calls it ”progress” and blindly turns its eyes because frankly it’s not the nation state’s problem – that is, the “market” will look after it – remember we’ve just elected global ”less-is-more governments”!

We now put have poured jet fuel on a raging fire.  Because of the shrinking cost curve, we have technology-enabled a world that is now dominated by very pissed-off people with the same democratized access to the all of this technology. Individuals now try to understand and react to a world gone a little crazy – friends and colleagues start turning inwards and away from others – at the dinner table, the community hall, in our cities and around the world.

A pissed off majority, incapable of having sane, human conversation online or offline, meets a geopolitical tsunami and is fueled by technology that we are unable to control.

And guess what? We’re inviting two billion more people to this party ­–  many of whom have just risen to the earliest ranks of subsistence, more educated than before but still with a long way to go!  The slide back down their precarious and slippery slope is quick when things get ugly.

I told you this was going to be depressing – but it is precisely why I am writing the book.

So how the hell do we turn this around?  Stay tuned.  After I finish my scotch and the rest of the work, you’ll see. 

It {should} end well.

jag

 

New Work, Personal, Tech

Welcome!


Welcome to my new company, website and forthcoming book, The Tip of the Spear.  It has been a very exciting journey.  Thank you to my pal Stephen King for his great work in making all of the pieces come alive, the irascible and amazing Geoff Moore for the ongoing writing expertise and editorial and to Cynthia van Sundert for the clear eye and ESL language skills.  It is all very much appreciated.

To read the full Tip of the Spear release, visit PRWEB: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/06/prweb13517531.htm

I have been slowly releasing my thinking and research over the past year in my personal blog jagyyc.com. As some of you will have read in these posts (culminating in my three-part series, The Tip of the Spear), I am very passionate about the subject of technology and digital disruption.

Discussion is everywhere on the implications and potentials – both good and bad – for a world that will be soon inundated with exponential technology changes.

I have been a part of this world for 30 years and I can assure you of two things: 1) no one knows where we are going to end up in 5 years let alone 10 or 30 years, and 2) we have to start having real conversations soon.

The genie is out of the bottle and it’s called: A.I., Robotics, Synthetic Biology, and several other disruptive technologies.

The Tip of the Spear is about three things:
people, change and how linear organizations have to become exponential

Our use of the technologies we have invented are now poised on a blade’s edge. Either the Tip of the Spear levels the playing field in areas such as Governance, Finance, and Education, or we use these extraordinary technologies to create further concentrations of wealth and increased inequality.  Either we use our newly connected planet to have real conversations or we let it devolve into a rabble at the gate.

The rabble is increasingly making our citizens, companies and governments nervous.  We see it in the Brexit vote, the rise of the American disenfranchised via Donald Trump, and the persistent unlevelled playing field across the world of finance, education and opportunity. I also see it in my city as it struggles with a new economic order and model. Finally, I see it the eyes of the newly unemployed.

It seems a cruel joke to me that just as we finish wiring up the planet to be able to connect the best of us – our ideas, hopes and innovation – the gaps start to show.  Slowly at first, but inevitably in an exponential shift. Our linear minds and linear institutions cannot keep up.

The Tip of the Spear is about three things.  Firstly, helping colleagues, companies, individuals and institutions really understand the scope and speed of change that is coming.  Secondly, about preparing them for a change that recognizes that the technology genies are not going back in the bottle. Finally, how our linear organizations have an incredible new opportunity – likely an imperative – to think exponentially and act differently.

My work is to take one individual, one company, one institution, one linear model at a time and help make the change happen.

Thank you for coming along on this journey.