Never Say Never. Again.

I just returned from Google’s Zeitgeist conference and my head is still spinning.

What I took away from this “event” or “experience” (conference really doesn’t do it justice) was – ala the movie, “As Good as it Gets”: it made me want to be a better man.

I want to do better.

I can do better.

I need to do better.

One of the events I was looking forward to coming into Zeitgeist was to test “drive” Google’s Self-Driving Car. I actually shared a car to the hotel along with Esther Dyson, who was similarly looking forward to the event…and she has seen it all!

Coming into Zeitgeist, I was telling all of my friends and family about the test drive and I was surprised that their reactions were all pretty much the same as you’d get in the boardroom of a corporation or the corner office of a senior executive: concerns, skepticism and doubt.



As a sidebar, whenever I talk to someone who, right off the bat, starts with, “my concern is…”, I want to throttle them. It’s like finger nails on a chalkboard. I almost want to say to them, “why don’t you tell me what you like about this idea, before you pile into what you don’t….”

The concerns raised were about machine failure, man vs machine (for example, will the self driving car be able to plan for human error or unpredictable human actions) or insurance (whose fault is it if the car is involved in an accident?)

I suppose they’re all legit, but honestly all of this went out the window (pun not intended) when I sat in the back of the car and witnessed history. As one executive put it, “I forgot to be nervous.” Brilliantly articulated. I honestly never was nervous for a second. I was too enamored with the coolness of the opportunity, smoothness of the ride and the unobtrusiveness of the technology inside the car itself…although there was one big giant red button that I was told was the manual override, but I suspect it could have been an ejector seat for a rider that asked too many questions…

The real light bulb moment for me came somewhere in the middle of the ride. The real story was not about machines replacing man. It wasn’t about self-driving cars versus human drivers. It was about the blind; the handicapped; the elderly; the youth; the inexperienced.

(On a less profound note as someone pointed out to me, this will also revolutionize foreign travel and the entire car rental industry.)

The doors that were being opened up were ones that didn’t exist before…and now they weren’t just being opened, they were being blown apart!

This is the real story here.

It’s about reframing the conversation entirely. It’s about transformation. It’s about reserving judgment on ANYTHING (and I mean ANYTHING) until you’ve tried it out yourself and formed your own opinion.

I challenge each and every one of you to eliminate the word “concern” from your business and even personal lexicon and instead, roll up your sleeves and experience a new technology, platform, partnership or idea for yourself before forming a judgment.
5 comments about "Never Say Never. Again.".
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  1. Donn Friedman from albuquerque journal, September 19, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.

    You ride in a car with Esther Dyson and all you can talk about is a car without a human driver?

    It seems the car isn't the only thing lacking a human brain.

  2. Joseph Jaffe from Alpha Collective, September 19, 2013 at 2:23 p.m.

    @Donn - we spoke about other things as well. Many other things.The whole point of the article is *not* to be skeptical about something new, until you've experienced it yourself. Both Esther and I were equally enamored with the prospect of "test driving"; both Esther and I were excited about the prospects of opening up new possibilities, such as the blind, impaired, elderly etc. Both Esther and I were not disappointed. I'm sorry you were.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 19, 2013 at 3:31 p.m.

    How about self driving trucks ? Talk about industrial changes. How does vehicle maintenance fit into the picture ?

  4. Christopher Sanders from The Ingredients Group, September 20, 2013 at 1:42 p.m.

    "My concern is . . ." perhaps you drank too much Google-aid at the event. :) I jest.

    I think it noble to push the boundaries of conventional thinking. We should always look at the liberating aspect of a technology first or its contributions to the collective good. But, healthy skepticism and a bit of paranoia (Andy Groves "Only the Paranoid Survive") are good and have its place in analysis/observation.

    I am elated at the idea of a self-driving car. But, a little skeptical that teens/youth or the visually impaired will suddenly have new freedoms next year or perhaps even in 10 years, nor should they ever perhaps. It should be evaluated seriously. Airplanes have amazing self-piloting technology. Do you want a blind pilot on your next flight?

    And here'd another "door opening" question: Do car commuters riding in self-driven cars make more search queries or use Android OS/Maps less or more? I am not posing this questions as a comment on whether the tech is good or bad. Just weather there is more to the Google investment in this tech than opening up doors or revolutionizing industries.

    Thanks for giving us a peak into the future and Google Zeitgeist.

  5. Joseph Jaffe from Alpha Collective, September 23, 2013 at 8:27 a.m.

    @christopher - all good and fair observations. I guess the happy medium is somewhere inbetween.

    Also, one thing I never considered was congestion. Self driving cars could end up creating additional lanes (narrower) on a highway for example.

    Of course another angle on the perspective is the "concern" or "skepticism" as to why Google is doing all of this. Is it to sell more Adwords? Is it possible that "don't be evil" is authentic?

    I'd certainly like to believe that Google is motivated by a) profit, b) innovation and c) altruism. Ultimately, I think they all reinforce one another; the interdependent relationship is one which makes a win-win-win possible.

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