19 minute read
Good morning, my name's Chris Dancy. If you go to Google right now, almost anywhere in the world and you put in two words, most connected, my picture will come right up. Videos about me, news articles, book, I have a show on Netflix, I'm known as the world's most connected person and that might be a little overwhelming.
See, it's not about the number of people I've linked into, or the number of people I know - I'm no super networker. It's literally a story of how I use technology and connections and the networks that they live on and learned about who I was and what I valued. I sometimes call this, human as a service. Because my technology didn't define me, it revealed me and allowed me to make some better choices.
To unpack this concept of human as a service, I'd like you to think about your life today. It might be how you connect to yourself. You might be someone who uses your technology and networks for work. Most of us are virtually networking or using some sort of network to technology to assist us in our jobs. That same connection to yourself, might be how you measure or monitor your sleep, your health, whether it be the calories you intake or the money you spend. All the ways technology help you understand and evaluate how you're doing in the world.
The second way today that these connections reveal this concept of human as a service, is this idea of how we connect to love. For the better half of this past decade we've been using our devices, the networks and the data plans to meet people, to date, to find friends, to book trips, and even start to support the causes and values that we believe in. So many families now connect and monitor and manage each other through their devices. Whether it's the safety and wellbeing of their loved ones that they can't be near, or the safety and wellbeing of their home through the systems they put in their homes to make sure that their family's taken care of.
Furthermore today, technology allows us to focus on our communities, whether it be supporting our neighbors or causes directly related to the things we care about in and around us. And finally today, human as a service is about how we connect to the world whether it be as something as ephemeral and fast moving as the news cycles or supporting the causes and or marginalized communities that surround us every day.
You see, I think in the next 10 years we're going to have more chance to express our humanity than ever before, the internet and the networks that make the internet work we're built for the time we're entering but I'm getting ahead of myself. I still haven't told you about me.
To understand my story, you'd have to go back in time. Back to 2008, which might as well be 50 years ago. In 2008, I was about to turn 40 years old. I was 320 pounds. I was a pretty big guy. I drank anywhere between 20 and 30 diet Cokes a day, I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, Marlboro Light 100s and I was constantly angry at the world. It really started back in the '70s when my parents got me my first computer and I put in all of my cassettes and record purchases into a spreadsheet. And I remember printing off this spreadsheet and my dad looking at it, thinking I was Albert Einstein. He didn't even understand what a spreadsheet was, but from that point in 1978 to 2008, my entire career was about technology. Whether it be local networks, wide area networks, personal area networks, all the things that we've called, the way we connect to each other and ourselves I was there like so many of us.
But like so many of us, it hadn't done much for me personally. So, I had to start thinking about my networks and my connections differently. And this meant fundamentally looking at who I was by extracting what I did from those places. For me, understanding where I went, what I did while I was there, who I was with, and making it visual was the key to unlocking that.
Now today in 2020, unlike 2008, you can pick up your phone, you can launch screen time or digital wellbeing and see how you've spent the last seven hours. Heck, you can just look at your inbox and see all the people who need you or your text messages. But in 2008, it might as well be a world away, it wasn't that simple. So I chose to make every single interaction I made on the internet, visible. And how I did that was using Google Calendar. Yep, the same calendar we all use every day to make appointments for doctors and soccer practice. But for me, it was about logging everything I did. I certainly didn't sit down I make appointments for everything I did all day long. I used a little bit of technological help, basically this small little program that would watch what I did when I was on a browser and copy it over to my calendar. But this allowed me to start seeing in real time how I was spending my time.
So often technology allows us to take our time and make it invisible, hours go, days ago, weeks ago. And we're like, how did all the time change? But what we've done is we've sharpened our focus and we've pulled back on our perspective. What I wanted to do was to zoom in on how I was doing this and what was important.
One of the first things I did, was to take all of those connections and map them to the areas of my life that were important. I created one bucket for social network, another bucket for opinions, another bucket for money, another bucket for health, another bucket for environment, another bucket for travel, and anytime I did anything in any of these buckets, it would pick it up from the internet, put a color on it and put it on my calendar. This allowed me to see my day, where there's thousands of little teeny appointments color-coded, and suddenly I knew whether days were good or bad, as far as what was important to me. Spending all day, binge watching Netflix, posting terrible comments on Yelp and blocking friends, those days were less than pretty if you looked at my calendar. It was a blood splatter of oranges and reds.
But slowly as I learned the types of behaviors I wanted to see visualized, those things changed. It wasn't about counting my steps, it was about taking them. And this was a big shift for me because we all wonder sometimes what can we do to make our lives fundamentally better? And I believe the answer is in our technology. Unlike a lot of pundits today, who would tell you to unplug or disconnect or run from the network, I'm telling you to step in and connect more. And this might sound like unwise advice - but give me a chance.
Because slowly, between 2008 and 2012, by just looking at who I was chatting with on social networks, what I was listening to, through streaming services like music and television, the places I was leaving my opinion, the content I was creating and putting all over the internet, how I was spending my time at work, the emails I sent, documents, or even the money that I was spending those things visible allowed me to start to take control of my health, make better choices and the friends I have and the places I went. But more than that, they allowed me to start to think about things beyond me like the environments I was in.
Something as simple as connecting to a WiFi network at a public restaurant seems pretty uninspired. But oftentimes, those restaurants are loud or bright or overwhelming. And that diminishes our ability to focus and to really be with ourselves. So as I moved up through my technology and kept looking at more and more ways, I was expressing myself - from environments, to the places I went, to how I meditated, prayed, spoke to myself and eventually dated.
See, today, dating, getting married, having families all involves technology. When you meet someone, you also meet their entire network. How many of us have wondered, is it too soon to say that I'm in a relationship on Facebook? How many of you wondered at what point do you friend your mother-in-law? At what point do you have to follow your new boss on Twitter? And is it too soon to link into someone that you might want to work with in the future?
Our technology today, as I learned over the last 12 years, expressed what I valued, who I valued, and who got my attention. Abraham Maslow has his famous Maslow hierarchy of needs. And he has this pyramid, everything from physiological needs to safety and security, to love and belonging, all the way up through emotional wellbeing to hope and healing and inspiration.
For me, it was really about looking at my apps through that pyramid. Was I spending all my time and apps that really exemplified my best life or apps that really exemplified my safety and security, my wellbeing, how I loved and cared for myself. And reorganizing them in a way that allowed me to see them as an expression of who I was and what I valued.
Between 2008 and 2018, my life radically changed. The people I knew, how I talked to myself, but more importantly, what I was capable of doing and how I was capable of loving. 'Cause I went from someone who'd been single my entire life to meeting someone in 2016 on an app and getting married in 2018 and creating a home. Today, our home is full of technology. That technology talks to us, each other, ourselves and the world around us. And I'm sure many of you are starting to see this too, because the networks of today are about harnessing technology. Fundamentally make us more human.
And I think if we look forward to the future we'll see that it's just going to keep exemplifying these deep connections of what we believe in and how we care for each other. Today, whether you're a young adult or someone who's getting ready to retire - tracking your health, is as simple as picking up your phone or putting on a watch, watching how you spend your time and behavior, it's as simple as getting an email with a report of what you did last week, to having your phone remind you not to text and drive or having preset spending limits on your credit card that alert you in real time when you go over budget.
Today, monitoring your home, making sure your kids are safe or your connections and friends are well during a pandemic, all are simple. But we forget that these easily expressible ways to see our values are just there. We see our problems because our values have become second nature. And I want us to go back to this idea of our values because up until this point, the last 50 years has really been about valuing our tools. But I believe the next 50 years of our technology will be about tooling our values. Harnessing these systems are fundamentally making us better humans to each other in the world.
By the time I met my spouse and got married in 2018, it was hard. I was going from a world of just me and all of my data and tracking and ways that I cared for myself to having to integrate that. And if you've ever gotten married in the last 10 years, met or dated or had children, you know that technology is a big part of that.
So I had to relook at the system that I had built and had to think about how the connections that I would make with my spouse over networks would exemplify our values. And that meant starting by defining our values. Values of health, home, family, work and service. These values had to be expressed early and the link to every part of our network. So we didn't pay the mortgage, we paid for home. We didn't buy groceries, we bought health. And see, the network is allowing us, and our technology is allowing us, to express this.
Where 4G allowed you to walk in and buy a cup of coffee from your mobile phone, 5G will allow you to think about and explore where that coffee came from, what type of life the farmer leads. You'll be able to make better decisions but there's a bigger thing we need to start to talk about. And that's this idea that we are all fundamentally changing and we're changing because of our relationship with technology.
One of my favorite mathematicians - yes, I'm one of those people that has mathematician heroes. His name is Richard Tapia. And he has this saying, that we don't know how to measure what we care about, so we care about what we measure. And that's the precipice that we're on today. Because the technology is not going to go away, it's just going to get more invisible.
We don't live in smart homes, we live in homes. And those homes are expressions of how we take care of each other. And it's giving rise to this idea of everyday cyborgs. And it's never been more apparent than if you'd look at our children and young folks. They express their values through the causes they hashtag, update their profile photos to, or the charities they create on their birthdays. Every single way our young people see the network and the technology they use, is an expression of the things they believe in. These aren't social media posts. They are values on who we want to be as people for ourselves and each other.
But we have to dig deep below this concept of cyborg. When people hear the term cyborg, they might think, oh, someone who's like a machine or a robot or any one of these other cliche examples we get from the movies. But really a cyborg is just an organism, a living being who's been enhanced or becomes part of a piece of technology. Glasses make you a cyborg, shoes in some ways make you a cyborg. But today, kids, technology is part of them, no longer is it normal for kids to have a phone most kids have a phone and some type of wearable technology. And how many of us see young people today walking around with an earbud permanently in their ear? We went from carrying technology to wearing it, to putting it inside us. And this doesn't make our kids less kids. It doesn't make them less human and it certainly doesn't help define who we are. Who we are is what we do.
“We need to stop making this online-offline judgment about everyone in our lives and what's important. You're no more human because you can avoid using your phone than someone who spends all their time on it.”
If your kid's putting in earbuds to listen to a podcast, play a game, where they connect with their friends or spend time learning about other cultures - that makes them better people. It doesn't make them better machines. We need to stop making this online-offline judgment about everyone in our lives and what's important. You're no more human because you can avoid using your phone than someone who spends all their time on it.
I've seen great videos of young people today who can't get their parents' attention so they literally go outside and ring the doorbell because they know their dad will pick up at work if someone is at the front door. You see, it's allowing us to connect and show love so much more deeply. In the future, as technology becomes more invisible and more pervasive, and we start wearing it on our clothes and it's automatically in the homes we use, we'll think about this a lot differently. But right now, it's important that we come to terms with the idea that we are changing and how we're showing our values is totally on display for the world to see.
“Over the next 10 years, the pyramid and paradigm shift from tools for just some of us to tools for all of us is going to flip. Suddenly, we're going to look at solutions and networks for entire populations of people instead of just one person.”
See, we can't escape technology because we've become it. And there's no shame in that. We're no less human now than when we first put on shoes or tried to work with fire. Over the next 10 years, the pyramid and paradigm shift from tools for just some of us to tools for all of us is going to flip. Suddenly, we're going to look at solutions and networks for entire populations of people instead of just one person.
Where Uber seemed like a good idea in 2010, in 2020, we can deploy a solution to mitigate and track it to pandemic in real time. That's a paradigm shift in 10 years, and that's what our networks and our values are starting to uncover. But it's more than that. How we say thank you. From children today who have charities instead of birthdays on social media, to places we shop that allow a part of every dollar to go to the donations that we want to support and the causes, o applications where we launch and order food that allow us to say thank you to the people making those things. Even digital payments that allow a portion of a re-payment to go to causes you care about. How we say thank you is evolving and changing.
In the next 10 years, it's going to become more obvious how much we support and care for each other. But marginalized groups are also a big part of this. Today, how we connect and what we connect to allow us to see the groups behind those connections. One of my favorite features in an application called TripIt - which is an application that helps me focus on organizing my travel - is it shows me the safety of the area that I'm going to be visiting. It shows me the safety for the LGBT community and it shows me the safety for black and brown people and I know right away if that's the type of community I want to be involved in.
But it goes even further 'cause the mental health crisis is being addressed. Today, and many networks, if someone is having trouble there's an option to get them help. There's an option for you to start to understand what you need and how you connect to the world. In many countries these mental health systems are built right into the everyday social networks that we use. The networks of the next 10 years will have to address and start to heal the disasters happening in our world. Everything from climate change to pandemics.
Today, if you take a car, you can make sure it's carbon neutral. If you're using Snapchat, it can put a filter on and show you the effects of climate change where you live. Social networks like Facebook allow you to check in and say you're safe when there's a fire or flood or earthquake. And home sharing sites like Airbnb have a place where you can volunteer your home to let strangers come and stay if they've been displaced by emergencies. This is what the internet was built for and this is the reason I believe so strongly in the next 10 years.
When the pandemic hit, I was at Walt Disney World and I was scared. I had just gotten home from Europe, I wasn't sure if I'd make it and on the drive home because I didn't feel safe flying, I created a little teeny system for my neighborhood. My neighborhood where I live now is full of older folks and they have varying health conditions. The closest hospital is about an hour away. I didn't know in March what the pandemic would do to my neighborhood. But I knew my neighborhood would need food, they would need help fixing things, they would possibly even need medical help. And we're a neighborhood full of nurses, doctors, teachers, handymen. So I built a little system that allowed my neighbors to log in, ask for help or log in and volunteer. That system got replicated and sent around the world and now is in multiple countries helping so many people - hundreds of thousands.
This is just one example, of how at the beginning of this decade here in 2020, this network and all of our networks are changing. 'Cause no longer is it about the internet. The internet is invisible. It's not about the social networks we use. We just take them for granted. The support networks like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, they're there to show our friends and our family and the people we believe in how to support them, or even the creator networks that we're starting to see. Everything from Buy Me a Coffee to Patreon. We're in the age of what they call, Mutual Aid Networks. And that means, the network that empowered us to buy things remotely now empowers us to heal communities in real time, locally. And that's an exciting thing because the network and technology was built for this.
“We now live in a world where we access networks that become solutions for each and every single one of us.”
So what can you do? Well, first, share this talk, share it with your friends. Think about it, watch it a second time. You can even watch it on double speed probably. Think about how every time you pick up your phone, send an email or order something online, you're expressing your values. We no longer live in a world where we download apps that become habits. We now live in a world where we access networks that become solutions for each and every single one of us. I believe we are just at the beginning of the most amazing time in our life because I believe the best apps are people. Have a great rest of your conference and thank you so much for spending this time with me.
Intrigued by what you've watched? Read our interview with Chris Dancy