Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

GE startup will test ideas that could lead to a radical restructuring of its manufacturing business

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 13, 2016


General Electric (GE), the largest industrial company in the US, says it has developed processes that more than double the speed of innovation and which have the potential to completely restructure its own business.

GE will next week launch its first business venture, called Fuse that will test a hugely ambitious and radical approach to creating new companies through processes and technologies designed to harness the work of global crowds of experts. 

The GE startup “will usher in what we believe is the future of work,” said Dyan Finkhousen, Director of GE’s Open Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing group.

She was speaking at Brightidea’s Synthesize user conference in San Francisco. Brightidea is an enterprise software platform that helps organizations generate innovative ideas. Finkhousen said the Brightidea platform was important to GE because it supported internal and external teams of people.

It’s the first details of GE’s ambition to be at the forefront of the future of work and a strong measure of its conviction that it already knows what the future of work looks like.

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What race is your AI? Obama discussion adds politics to tech

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 12, 2016



Above photo by Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos for WIRED

Joi Ito, head of the prestigious MIT Media Lab told President Obama he is concerned that the core development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is being built by a “mostly white” and “predominately male gang of kids."

Ito's remarks were made at a recent meeting with Barack Obama and Scott Dadich, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine. They have been published here: Barack Obama on Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Cars, and the Future of Humanity | WIRED

Ito said:

This may upset some of my students at MIT, but one of my concerns is that it's been a predominately male gang of kids, mostly white, who are building the core computer science around AI.

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Intuit Has Big Plans For Small Business With New Quickbooks Platform Initiative

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 25, 2016

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Vinay Pai leads Intuit's developer initiative.

Intuit is planning a major expansion of its online Quickbooks business group into a machine learning advice, data and services platform for creating, managing and operating all types of small businesses.

The expansion of the Quickbooks platform and new partners will be announced at Intuit's Quickbooks Connect conference in late October, in San Jose, California. The event will feature some of the top developers of apps for Quickbooks' users, such as payroll services. 

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Culture Watch: Board Game 'Settlers of Catan' Has A Cult Following In Silicon Valley

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 11, 2016

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Guest Post: By Janet Miller — a board game addict, habit scientist, former Silicon Valley executive and cofounder of Jen Reviews.

Settlers of Catan Settlers of Catan was one of the first European games to gain popularity in the U.S., and has been called “the board game of our time" by the Washington Post

Settlers has gone from being a Monopoly style game set in an island valley to a social, cult-attracting capitalist paradise. If you don't play, you're not going to fit in with the crowd of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

The game is very popular in Silicon Valley — here’s some suggestions why:

Story continues... A Comedian In Every Pocket

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 11, 2016


For fans of stand-up comedy: launched today what is described as a “Pandora for standup comedy” smartphone app. It features 400 comedians such as Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, George Carlin, Aziz Ansari and also - you!

Self-publishing tools provide users with the means to create, publish and distribute their own stand-up act. 

Deals with large media companies such as Comedy Central provide a media library of tens of thousands of comedy routines. 

Cybersecurity Costs - An Unsustainable Tax On Business

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 4, 2016

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The cost of cybersecurity has become a burdensome tax on business and with 1.5 million IT security jobs unfilled, US corporations are losing to sophisticated criminal gangs, said security experts at a recent event in San Francisco.

"Cyber is a tax on business. Jamie Dimon [JP Morgan Chase CEO] has had to double his cybersecurity budget to $500 million. Things can't continue this way forever, we have to get ahead of the problem," said Ray Rothrock (photo), a veteran VC, now chairman and CEO of RedSeal, a startup that measures the effectiveness of enterprise security.

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Survey Warning: Millennials Will Shun Tech-Laggard Workplaces

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 19, 2016

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Millennials will leave jobs that use technologies “not up to their standard” and they prefer to have “high-tech perks” than free food and ping pong, according to a global survey commissioned by Dell and Intel. 

The Future Workforce Study questioned almost 4,000 employees in 10 countries working at various sized businesses. It found:

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Women In Tech: Is It OK To Say "Guys"?

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 11, 2016

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Is it OK to use the word “Guys”  when addressing a mixed gender group of colleagues? Should women celebrate their feminine qualities or seek to avoid those stereotypes entirely at work?

These were some of the things discussed at a recent event, “The Gender Gap and How to Defeat It,” organized by Thomson Reuters and hosted by Blurb, a self—publishing startup in San Francisco. It featured a panel of younger and older women working in the tech sector and primarily aimed at an audience of young women students preparing to enter the workplace.  

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Blockchain: Revolutionary Technology Or Over-Hyped Bandwagon?

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 28, 2016


Is blockchain technology the second coming of the Internet? That seems to be the enthusiastic message from many new startups that I meet with and also from top business consultants such as Don Tapscott, who authored with his son Alex Tapscott, the recently published book, "Blockchain Revolution: How the technology behind Bitcoin is changing money, business, and the world."

Blockchain is a globally distributed ledger -- a platform for reliably clearing transactions without the need of a bank or other third-party. I get the concept behind blockchain, that everyone owns the same ledger and thus it can't be easily altered unless you can gain control of the majority of all the computing resources.

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Women & Tech: How To Defeat The Gender Gap

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 27, 2016


Thomson Reuters and Blurb are hosting a special evening Tuesday June 28 in San Francisco, focused on the topic: Empowering women to work in technology.

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Intel's Andy Grove Named Silicon Valley Visionary

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 27, 2016


Visionary Awards: Craig Barrett, center with Tim O’Reilly and Jane Evans-Ryan, Genuity. 

This year’s Silicon Valley Forum Visionary Awards featured a tribute to the late Andy Grove, the legendary leader of Intel, who helped build the company into the world’s most valuable semiconductor company.

Three additional people received a 2016 Visionary Award: Carl Bass, CEO Autodesk; Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Jennifer Pahika, founder and Executive Director of Code for America.

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Awards for French startups in Silicon Valley

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 7, 2016

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US President George W. Bush is reported to have once said, "The problem with the French is that they have no word for 'entrepreneur.'"

The story about President Bush might not be true, but in many ways the story rings true because France certainly has developed an anti-entrepreneurial image abroad over the past few decades.

And maybe this is why I hear French spoken on the streets here all the time lately, far more than at any time prior, in my 30 years in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

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Hennessy Steps Down As Head Of Stanford University - Leaves Huge Silicon Valley Legacy

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 1, 2016

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John Hennessy, one of Silicon Valley’s most connected and successful businessmen, has ended his 16 years as President of Stanford University and nearly 40 years on the faculty.

He greatly expanded endowments and the university’s engineering school, which has spawned companies such as Google and Yahoo.

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NetSuite and iCharts: Enterprise Apps As Data Integration Platforms

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 17, 2016


iCharts founder and CEO Seymour Duncker

The future calls for enterprise apps becoming aggregators of trusted IT micro-services from many sources   — does that mean they can become effective data integration platforms? A low-cost path to Big Data’s promises of profitable business insights?

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Gary Bloom Interview: Big Data Driving Booming MarkLogic Sales

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 17, 2016

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When I first met Gary Bloom more than 15 years ago he was second to Larry Ellison at Oracle, and when he jumped to run Veritas, I was one of the first reporters to interview him. Then came a short stint at Symantec, eMeter, then consulting with private equity firm TPG. With over 30 years in key positions he’s become one of Silicon Valley’s top business leaders.

Since 2012, Bloom has been CEO of MarkLogic, a fast growing Silicon Valley database company riding the hot wave of interest in NoSQL databases such as MongoDB, as large organizations attempt to mine their diverse stores of big data for business insights. 

Relational databases still run at the core of every large business but they are seen as too limited and too structured for the digital business world where there is a need for highly scalable, highly adaptable database architectures that can easily add unstructured data sources, run on clusters, and support complex web sites — without first mapping all the data into the correct rows and columns of a relational database. 

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uHoo: Every Breath You Take -- Collecting Data On Your Personal Pollution

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 10, 2016


Our transition from a rural to an urban lifestyle means we spend far more time inside homes and offices and on the roads connecting them. And that means exposure to a huge number of gases leaking from the walls, carpets, industrial facilities and cars. It would be good to know the locations where the concentration of these gases are harmful to peoples' health.

Singapore based uHoo today announced a digital device that can detect a large number of harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, ozone, and volatile organic solvents in the air along with sensor data on air pressure, humidity, dust and temperature. 

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The Future of Media: Can Publishers Become Media Platforms?

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 28, 2016

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From left: Vivian Schiller, Christina Farr, Charlene Li, Stephanie Losee.

Social media platforms Facebook, Medium, LinkedIn, Twitter, Apple are competing for traditional media publishers to use them as distribution platforms and in some cases are offering 100% of advertising revenues. Certain publications now rely on the majority of their traffic from these media platforms. But is this an equitable partnership?

Vivian Schiller, a veteran news executive at, NPR, Twitter, CNN and now Executive Editor-in-Residence at PR firm Weber Shandwick, introduced these and other questions as moderator at Weber’s second Future of Media panel series.  

The San Francisco event featured five additional women and one man: Christina Farr, reporter for Fast Company; Charlene Li principal analyst at Altimeter Group; Stephanie Losee, head of content at Visa; Jillian D’Onfro reporting for Business Insider; and Karen Wickre, content strategist, and Simon Rogers, a Data Editor at Google. 

Here’s some of my notes from the evening:

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Thursday Event: San Francisco City Execs Talk Social Media Strategy

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 27, 2016

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The Social Media Club meeting this Thursday eve (April 28) looks fascinating. It will feature two San Francisco City and County communications executives: Kathleen Clark, social media manager and Lauren Jones, Digital Comms Manager. They will discuss the role of social media, strategy and future plans. 

More than 50 departments of the City and County of San Francisco publish social media pages. 

As part of Silicon Valley’s innovation communities, San Francisco city government could set a leadership position in how cities can use social media, and powerful publishing platforms such as Instagram, LinkedIn and Medium to communicate important news and engage communities on key city programs.

 More details and tickets here: Increasing Public Awareness: A Social Strategy for a Social City

The Limits On Big Data On Dating In Building Diversity At Work

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 6, 2016

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Romantic relationships, and a person's relationship with their work, would seem to be too distant and the experience too different to be comparable, yet eHarmony believes its success with the lonely can be put to use to make happier workplaces, and match people with jobs they love.

And if eHarmony's algorithms could also help build more diversity in the workplace, there are many Silicon Valley companies that would love to place an order because this has become a very hot topic and there's no quick solution.

I spoke with Dr. Steve Carter who heads the recently launched eHarmony venture: Elevated Careers. He says the same data science, derived from eHarmony's many years in the dating and mating scene, are applicable to our relationship with work.

Carter says the same methods for predicting romantic bliss can predict compatibility between worker and workplace.

Over the years, eHarmony's analysis of its Big Data on dating, has been honed to such a degree that it can claim a very precise, "438 marriages per day on eHarmony."

If it can bring a fraction of that accuracy to predict a person's job satisfaction,  Elevated Careers will have made a start on its mission of repairing, "A broken recruitment model that costs US businesses $11 billion a year."

Could the same data science be used to help employers make their workplaces more diverse? Could Elevated Careers match people's diversity with compatibility in the workplace? Many Silicon Valley companies are searching for ways to add more diversity by increasing numbers of women, minorities, etc.

"Oh no, we stay away from that type of protected information," says Carter. "We focus on helping each person find a workplace with a high level of compatibility with the company's culture, the hiring manager, and shared attitude towards work."

Elevated Careers can't help build diverse workplaces because it is illegal for a company, or its agents, to discriminate in its hiring practices, based on a candidate's qualities of diversity, rather than job qualifications.

But on a dating site, it is perfectly legal to filter candidates based on ethnicity, gender, size, shape, religion, sexual orientation, looks, color of hair, color of eyes, height and age. It is not racist or sexist when it's used for dating because all these individual preferences are essential in predicting relationship success.

Because eHarmony says that what works in dating also works in predicting success in professional relationships, the best analysis of workplace compatibility would be with all available measurable traits of a person's diversity incorporated into the Elevated Careers algorithm. But that would be illegal.

Elevated Careers can't use eHarmony's vast archives of relationship data; and it can't use the lessons learned in compatibility between people.  Its algorithms would be attacked as racist and sexist if used to measure job compatibility.  This means Elevated Careers begins life with a big job ahead in collecting all the people and workplace data it needs to prove its approach will work.

For example, to predict job compatibility, Elevated Careers needs to survey a significant number of each company's workers independently of the employer, so that a true and honest assessment of culture and job satisfaction can be made, and then matched. 

It's going to take a while for it to build a large enough dataset, adjust its predictive algorithms, and start helping people find a happier relationship with work.

Elevated Careers has a worthwhile mission, and it might improve some workplaces just from the jump in self-awareness that each company will experience when considering questions about its culture, and why it has such a high staff turnover.  

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Enterprise Security: The Easiest Hacks Are The Toughest To Stop With Technology

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 24, 2016

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The challenge of protecting the enterprise from simple email phishing scams.

There’s no need to use advanced Black Hat technologies to get access to sensitive corporate data if you have a copy of a staff directory — as more than 21,000 employees of Sprouts supermarket chain found out recently. All had their social security numbers and other personal details exposed after an employee in the payroll department responded to an email from what looked like a senior executive asking for a copy of every employee’s W2. 

All of the Sprouts employees now face many years of anxiety over hackers patiently waiting to use and abuse their illicit data haul of taxpayer identities.

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Intel's Andy Grove Is Dead - Silicon Valley Loses Top Business Leader And A Champion Of Diversity

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 22, 2016

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1978: Andy Grove, left, with Intel colleagues Robert Noyce (center) and Gordon Moore.

Intel yesterday announced that Andrew Grove, its former CEO and Chairman, had died aged 79.

Present at Intel’s 1968 founding with Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, Andy Grove became Intel’s President in 1979 and CEO in 1987. He served as Chairman of the Board from 1997 to 2005. Both during his time at Intel and in retirement, Grove was one of the most influential figures in technology and business, writing best-selling books and widely cited articles, and speaking out on an array of prominent public issues.

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Data Masking Saves CIO Jobs And Makes IT Heroes

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 10, 2016

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Working at Delphix, a virtual technologies startup in the heart of Silicon Valley, I've been learning a lot about enterprise software and the challenges facing global corporations as business becomes ever more digital. 

Data security is critical and its importance was underscored by the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco -- the world's largest gathering of computer security experts. About 40,000 people -- a jump of nearly 20% compared with last year -- attended its awards ceremonies, hundreds of presentations, and demonstrations from thousands of vendors of data protection technologies.

But if you bought everything at RSA would your organization be completely secure? 

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#IN2Summit: Is Content Marketing Failing Us? 3 Ex-Journalists Say 'No'

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 16, 2016


From right: Michael Kanellos, (standing) SanDisk; Scott Lowe, Activision; Stephanie Losee, Politico; moderator Henk Campher Allison+ Partners.

The Holmes Report's Innovation Summit in San Francisco featured a panel of former journalists, now engaged on producing a broad range of editorial content for large brands, speaking on the topic of Content Marketing.

The first question was should the average person know anything about Content Marketing? They all nodded vigorously: No, because it is all about great content, and since the goal of Content Marketing is publish editorial content of substantial value then it is no different from the goals of independently produced content.

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Pioneering Silicon Valley PR & Media Research Group SNCR Merges With The Conference Board

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 10, 2016

Around ten years ago I happened to be in the right place at the right time — meeting Jen McClure as she was setting up an extraordinary organization: The Society for New Communications Research (SNCR).

I was honored to be invited as a Founding Fellow and it has led to many wonderful friendships. I’m glad that Jen’s hard work has paid off as she announces a merger with The Conference Board, which has the resources to take the important work of SNCR further and farther afield with its offices in 60 countries. 

Here is Jen McClure to explain:

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Crunchies Awards: Diversity Ruled The Stage But Silicon Valley Stars Absent

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 9, 2016


I was excited to be at The Crunchies Awards Monday evening. I was right behind two seats reserved for Mike Arrington (founder of TechCrunch) and my old buddy Om Malik founder of GigaOm.

Neither came to occupy their seats and neither did Silicon Valley's star CEOs and VCs as had been common in prior years. Arrington and Malik turned up on stage later to present an award for Angel of the year but there was no Silicon Valley royalty: no Zuckerberg, no Marissa Mayer, no Travis Kalanick, Elon Musk, Marc Benioff, Marc Andreessen...

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Geoffrey Moore: Does IT Matter? Are Apps Important?

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 4, 2016


Geoffrey Moore's 1991 book "Crossing the Chasm" was incredibly influential in the tech sector with more than one million copies sold and it gave birth to the Chasm Consulting Group.

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Silicon Valley Gets On The Same Bus Every Day...

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 18, 2016


Silicon Valley's pursuit of diversity is skin-tone distracted and gender confused. Diversity is more than a ratio...

Silicon Valley's leadership in sourcing innovative ideas is slipping and its feeble pursuit of diversity isn't helping.

Original ideas come from original experiences -- an environment that brims with a diversity of genders, skin colors, ages, economic backgrounds, national cultures, and artistic expression.

A tree grows in Brooklyn...

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On Blogging And Bragging: Being Named By LinkedIn As A Top Media Writer And The Unbearable Awkwardness Of Self-Promotion...

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 8, 2016


I feel very honored to be ranked #4 by LinkedIn as one of the "top 10 media writers of the year" in the debut of its "Top Voices of the year" list that named 80 writers across eight industry sectors.

I also feel a little uncomfortable about drawing attention to such accolades as do the majority of former newspaper reporters. We don't mind if someone else blows our horn but it feels crass doing it yourself. In today's media world that attitude is a handicap because if you can't handle a certain level of self-promotion no one will see your work.

The early Blogosphere...

When I left the Financial Times more than ten years ago to become a "journalist blogger" I suddenly fell into a very small, very strange community of writers I hardly knew before. It felt great to be part of this tiny and very feisty band of bloggers with Robert Scoble, Om Malik, Renee Blodgett, Dan Farber, Anil Dash, Doc Searls, Craig Newmark, Andy Lark, Dennis Howlett, Nick Denton, David Galbraith, Dan and Steve Gillmor, Jeff Clavier, etc (please see: Original Thinkers list).

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The Software Defined Megacorporation - Why IT matters

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 17, 2015

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There's a new business reality that few companies know about. If you want to be a player in global markets you will need a top-notch IT department. It won't be the same as the current one but whatever you do, don't buy the hype that you can just use off-the-shelf technologies and that the cloud makes IT departments obsolete.

Business edge will be defined by IT edge. IT matters and the performance of your IT department matters a lot.

The following is from my ZDNet column: IMHO:

The IT department will be transformed from a slow changing cost center and into a vibrant, creative organization essential to every business competing on a global scale.

More than ten years have passed since the publication of the book, "Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage" by Nicholas Carr, the former Executive Editor of the Harvard Business Review.

Few people disagreed with Carr's argument. In a world where every large company has the same IT systems, the same ERP apps, the same IT infrastructure, the same commodity hardware, no one has a strategic advantage.

Carr was right but that was then...

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Computer Pioneer Alan Kay Says Tech Industry Ignores The Future

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 4, 2015



I was at SAP in Palo Alto earlier this week to see computer pioneer Alan Kay give a talk and also to meet with him for an exclusive interview.

I’ll have more on the interview coming up. I just uploaded the video of his talk here: Alan Kay @ SAP - YouTube

Alan Kay is a computer pioneer, he was part of the the Xerox PARC team of about 30 researchers who developed many of the key concepts of the PC and notebook. Here he talks about the lack of forward thinking in technology design and innovation.

He advocates designing products for how we expect to use technologies decades from now instead of trying to replicate old technologies.

He also talks about system thinking rather than discrete products such as apps and hardware, the goal is integration and collaboration among our technologies because that’s what’s important for humans: more collaboration.

He also mentions that Steve Jobs missed a lot when he visited Xerox PARC and replicated the graphical user interface and mouse — he didn’t see the computers were all connected, used Ethernet, and they connected to the nascent Internet then called ARPAnet. Steve Jobs missed half of it and didn't see that the computers were all networked "because he's a visual guy."


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