Mary Meeker’s yearly “Future of Internet” PowerPoint

Posted: May 29th, 2015 under Design, Digital Migration. Tags: , , , , ,

Shorter: Mobile is still undervalued. Hackers suck. China is about over; India is next. Professional content producers still doomed. But good design still matters.

Every year, Mary Meeker produces a massive presentation that quickly makes the rounds on Teh Interwebz and gets name-checked by all the digerati. This year is no different; everything has changed, is changing, will change. So what does the Oracle of KPCB tell us this year? Well, for one thing, she’s down from the “Death by PowerPoint” presentations of years past, that clocked in at 350+ slides (and a whole lotta Visine for anyone plowing through the dense bar charts & bullet points).

Anyway, check it out:

So what’s my analysis of her analysis? Glad you asked.

First off, I was surprised to see that Gen-X is now seen by managers to be “good team players.” Heh. We used to be the surly underachievers, the slackers that sat under a permanent dark & cynical cloud. Now, we’re about as optimistic as the sunny “What me worry?” millennials.

But more importantly for my students pondering what the years ahead hold for them, about slide #126, we start diving into what work itself is going to look like. Spoiler alert: all that stuff I’ve been talking about, how the future is going to require all of you to think entrepreneurially, because we are headed into the “gig economy”?

Yeah. That’s about the size of it.

There’s also some intriguing bit at the outset about the way that the “disruptors” in Silicon Valley are taking over & doing all the scut-work that large corporations used to hate & avoid. Training employees & giving them the handbook. Managing their benefits. Doing background checks. Recruiting them in the first place.

The biggest thing to me (and maybe this is my inner nerd prism at work) is the quote from Billy Bosworth, of DataStax “Ten years from now, when we look back at how this era of Big Data evolved – we will be stunned at how uninformed we used to be when we made decisions.”

If this is to hold true – then what Billy is seeing is a huge, as in FRICKIN’ LOGARITHMIC, upgrade in the performance of filters & interpreters. And oh sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster, do I ever hope that this turns out to be true.

What do I mean by this?

Well, what Billy and other digital – well, not Pollyannas, but certainly optimists – are saying is that in the future, we are going to harness all this Big Data that is rolling in at us, and be able to use it to make much more informed, logical decisions.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Do you want to talk about Kit-Kats? Because we could. We totally could. Don’t believe me? Fine. Next image…

Of course, out here in the really real world, I don’t see that. Not right now, at any rate. I see decision-makers in education, government, industry, health care – shit, the shoppers walking down the aisles, bugging their eyes out at all the varieties of Oreos available … everyone is drowning in data, facts, reviews, spreadsheets, KPIs, etc. And yet – how many of you actually think that the process of actually making a meaningful decision has gotten easier in the past five years? Ten? Email me and tell me your success story. I’ll flog it to every major media outlet I know, I promise.

‘Cause for the rest of us? The explosion of options – and the sneaking suspicion that something Way Better is just about to hit the market and give us an epic case of Buyer’s Remorse is giving us all nervous breakdowns.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Google “Japan Kit-Kat flavors” and be prepared to have you tongue curl up in virtual sympathy. Or maybe not. Maybe you *like* chocolate & fish elbow flavor…

There’s an over-reliance, IMHO, on the promise of Big Data to help us make sense out of the complex & interrelated world we live in, where the choices we have to make are crazy-complex and we have no real guideposts to help us. Yes, yes, I know. There are success stories all around about using Big Data to find Actionable Insights. I’ve written a few case studies along those lines myself.

But I see there being a fundamental disconnect between the amount of data being shipped out … and the way we arrive at a conclusion. If you ask teachers/professors what function they see as most lacking in the latest generation of students we’ve unleashed on the world, you hear over and over again: “critical thinking.”

That may not be a failure of our students, so much as it is a failure of our times. Gen-Y/Millennials/snake people have grown up in a world where every choice has multiplied exponentially; and yet the consequences of making a bad decision seem more dire than ever before.

We all walk a tightrope, in the dark, no net, but rather a carpet of daggers beneath us. Small wonder the students who lack the life experience & context to make a more informed decision, tend to take steps that are short and trembling.

So now, circling back to Meeker and her take: the idea that there is some magic Big Data fairy that is going to show up and resolve things – that some combination of data collection and Google Fusion tables is going to result in a box in the grid jumping off the page and kissing us on the mouth – that assumes facts not yet in evidence, as the trial lawyers say.

Of course, if it does show up, that would pretty much make this blog totally redundant.

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