A few weeks back we had a bunch of friends over for an outdoor dinner. The weather forecast said: perfect.
I’m the DJ in our house (although I feel my title is under attack these days).
Option 1: fire up songza on the sonos, choose the “right” activity, hit play and be done.
Option 2: create a playlist that the folks attending our party would particularly enjoy like a song from our college days sprinkled in with tunes our kids love and some songs that we all love to sing out loud.
The first choice is crazy simple and would work fine but I picked option 2.
I heard a few of the guests singing along to a few tunes which made me smile inside — but it’s likely the playlist spoon fed by Songza would have done the trick as well, right? But creating something was far more rewarding.
Thinking through all the goodies that Google has in store for us (n.b. Google acquired Songza) there is an ambitios emphasis on making life easier. Nest thermostats control your temperature beautifully and automatically. Google maps means you are never lost again. Google’s autonomous cars means we don’t even need to touch the steering wheel anymore. Google Now means I don’t have to check my phone. It will tell me what’s important and when it’s important. Google robots will likely do a number of things in my house for me.
I’m not just picking on Google. Honest.
There are plenty of other examples where our intention and choices are being challenged.
Take even the venture capital business. Series B meetings all over the planet are being over run by data. Is the company breaking out, what is the churn rate, what is the DAU/MAU, downloads per day, sessions per day, did the clear their Kickstarter campaign, revenue per day, and the beat goes on.
What about instinct, team quality, vision, ambition, aspiration? Where do those fit in?
There are alternatives to the algorithmic/programmatic/automatic Google approach. Tumblr is a useful contrast. One of favorite things about Tumblr is I decide almost everything.
I choose my theme or I can make it from scratch. I decide who I’m following (vs an algorithm or an editor). I decide to express myself with my own content or reblog (share) something that inspires me. I decide to tap the heart icon and let the creator know that I love it (vs showing up in a google analytics or mixpanel dashboard). Tumblr is a reflection of my own intentions and choices.
To be clear I’m not against the advancement of technology. In fact it is one of the reasons I get up every morning. But I’m drawn to places where technology enables intention, creativity and choice.
(ps: besides getting lost once in awhile isn’t the worst thing in the world :)