Miles Jennings

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Kids think clearly about the future

I had one of those great conversations with my kids yesterday. You know, the kind where you talk for an hour and everyone is laughing and drawing sketches, and generally engaged.

We were talking about the major business models of the Internet over the past twenty years (I know, I know, it's just what I like talking about.)

Kids know better than us. Their minds are clear. I'm not sure that they are more logical in general, but sometimes they have an ability to see things as they are in a way that adults can't.

In any case, we were talking about the greatest business model to come out of the Internet age, and maybe ever - Google. Right now, Google holds the cards. If most commerce happens on the Internet now, it's like they control most of the roads leading to the stores; And they have some patents on concrete manufacturing too. 

We talked about how Google organized the Internet, connecting websites from one to another. To again use the road analogy, it's like they created the signs and paved the roads, so now it seems like they own the roads. 

But they don't.

One of my kids immediately asked, "But if you talk to your computer, are you using Google?" They asked that because they grew up talking to computers, while I didn't. That's what I mean about being clear-headed. Their eyes see the present, while ours can't help but look at the past.

Voice, and the AI technology behind it, is much more of an existential threat to Google than Facebook ever could be. Facebook mastered the social graph and this does, in some ways, created a new paradigm for finding services. Meaning, you can ask your friends instead of asking the web. 

But this isn't the real threat. Facebook still plays in the same world of websites and apps, the world of the 1990s. I don't think it represents the paradigm shift that voice and AI represents. These new technologies could destroy computers themselves. They could destroy mobile devices. It doesn't change what we do with computers or browsers - it makes computers and browsers irrelevant. This is why Google is dumping money into AI and voice technology.

For right now, Siri, to use one personified AI assistant, is pretty darn stupid. I tried asking Siri to open "Robot Unicorn Attack Two," and she couldn't do it. She needed to hear the actual name of the app, RUA2; even though it's "her" own app, in her own app store, on her own device. 

The robots have a long way to go before they attack.

The challenge for us thinking about technology, and also how to raise kids that know how to best use technology, is to think clearly about the future. To see the present for what it is and not through a lens of how it was. 




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