The interesting thing about the technology business is that, most of the time, it’s not the technology that are important. What interests is how people react to it, and what brand-new social norms they words. This is especially true in today’s era, well past the midpoint of the deployment age of smartphones and the Internet.
People — smart, attentive beings, with related backgrounds and domain insight — thought that Airbnb and Uber were doomed to failure, because certainly no one would want to stay in a stranger’s home or ride in a stranger’s automobile. People contemplated the iPhone would flop because users would” detest the touch screen interface .” People belief initiative software-as-a-service would never fly because managers would insist on keeping servers in-house at all costs.
Thees parties was just so, so, so mistaken; but should be pointed out that they weren’t wrong about the technology.( Nobody certainly debated about the technology .) Instead they were dead mistaken about other parties, and how their own society and culture would respond to this new stimulus. they were anthropologically incorrect.
This, of course, is why every major VC firm, and every large tech company, stops a crack unit of privileged anthropologists on call at all times, with big-hearted budgets and carte blanche, reporting directly to the leadership team, right?( Looks around .) Oh. Instead they’re doing focus groups and user interviews, questioning people in deeply artificial settings to project their habit of an foreigner engineering in an unknown context, and announcing that their anthropological, I’m sorry, their market research? Oh.
I kid, I kid. Sort of, at least, in that I’m not sure a crack team of elite anthropologists would be all that much more effective. It’s hard enough getting an accurate reaction of how a person would use a new information technologies when that’s the only variable. When they live in a incessantly changing and evolving world of other new technologies, when the ones which take root and spread have a positive-feedback-loop effect on different cultures and mindset towards new information technologies, and when each of your first twenty interactions with new tech deepens your feelings about it … it’s basically impossible.
And so: painful trial and error, on all sides. Uber and Lyft didn’t think beings would gaily go in strangers’ cars either; that’s why Uber started as what is now Uber Black, mostly a phone-summoned limo busines, and Lyft used to have that painfully cringeworthy” ride in the front seat, fist-bump your motorist” program. Those are the success stories. The graveyard of business whose anthropological guessworks were just too wrong to rotate to rightness, or who couldn’t/ wouldn’t do so fast enough, is full to bursting with tombstones.
That’s why VCs and Y Combinator have been much more secure transactions than startups; they get to run dozens or hundreds of anthropological experimentations in latitude, while startups get to run one, perhaps two, three if they’re really fast and flexible, and then they die.
This applies to enterprise businesses too, of course. Zoom was anthropological bet that corporate cultures could prepare video conferencing big-hearted and successful if it actually wielded reliably. It’s easy to imagine the climate among CEOs instead being” we need in-person fulfills to encourage those Moments of Serendipity ,” which you’ll notice is the same argument that biased so many big companies against remote job and in favor of huge corporate campuses … an attitude which examines quaint, old-fashioned, and outmoded , now.
This doesn’t precisely apply to the deployment phase to new technologies. The irruption phase has its own anthropology. But irruption feigns smaller sectors of the economy, whose participates are mostly technologists themselves, so it’s more anthropologically reasonable for techies to extrapolate from their own views and project how that society will change.
The meta-anthropological theory held by numerous is that what the highly technical do today, the less technological will do tomorrow. That’s a ideology supported throughout the tiny, wildly non-representative cryptocurrency community, for instance. But even if it was true formerly, is it still? Or is a shift away from that pattern that another, big social deepen? I don’t know, but I can tell you how we’re going to find out: unpleasant trial and error.
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