Why Silicon Valley Tech Bros Keep Inventing The Bus
It's not all about ego.
It happens every few months: some über-genius tech bro in Silicon Valley comes up with a hot new disruptive product . . . and it's literally just a bus.
Maybe it's "connected", maybe there's an app, but it's still, essentially, your stock-standard bus. Or a taxi.
Elon Musk is guilty, obviously. So is Lyft, the pool service similar to Uber not yet available in Australia. Both Musk's Boring Company and Lyft have unveiled incredible plans in the past year to revolutionise shared transport, the former an "urban loop system" with thousands of small stations, the latter a shuttle service that only picks up or puts down at predesignated stops.
And it's not always buses. The hot new trend of "co-living" being lauded in tech hubs like San Francisco and London led to a spate of trend-pieces before rightly being called out for what it was: roommates (affluent, largely millennial roommates, but roommates all the same).
This highly entertaining but baffling trend has even led to satire pieces like Silicon Valley tech bro accidentally reinvents the guillotine, which honestly isn't far off.
But in the end, it all comes down to two things: ego, and the right environment for it to thrive.
"The Silicon Valley ethic is a unique one. It came out of this interesting group of three things: educational institutes, money looking for a place to invest, and the fact that the American west has always been a place of reinvention," CNET editor at large, Brian Cooley, a born-and-bred Silicon Valley native told ten daily.
"It goes back many generations. People came from the classist, structured, blue-blooded east. You went to the west to reinvent yourself and make things happen fast. And this has come along over the last century of more, to meet the DNA of Silicon Valley.
"Now when you see these tech bros and entrepreneurs who come along and say, 'I've got the greatest idea ever: I'm going to reinvent the slice of bread. It's connected now. It'll know what side you want butter on.' Come on. Are you kidding me?"
Cooley says that plenty of entrepreneurs have this mentality to not just improve your life, but prove to you that they can do it.
"There's an ego thing going on there, to be honest. They really want to do good work for society, they do also want to make a lot of money for them and their employees, but they really have this need to show that their vision was clearer, stronger and better than other people's. Take that as you will. Whether you take that to be a negative or a positive trait, that's what drives so much of this.
"They see an area that could use their genius, and they attach to it. Even if it's only one in 100 ideas that stick, they tend to be amazing."
Cooley was in Australia to speak at the Vivid Lights, Music & Ideas Festival, talking about the future of consumer technology as we know it.
We're at a stage where smart homes are catching on, where driverless cars aren't far away, and where hoverboards honest-to-god exist -- even if they're not quite what Back To The Future II promised.
But what comes next?
"Technology is moving towards the era of anticpation," said Cooley.
"Right now we have lots of cool ways to go out and ask for what we want. Search was new 20 years ago, and then along came apps, and we could do anything we wanted there. We have predictive text now as we type, Google kind of figures out what you mean. All of these things are things we have to do explicitly, though.
The future is that same technology will start to say, 'You know what, I think I know what you want' without you explicitly doing anything. No search, no like, no follow, no clicks."
He imagines a not-too-distant future -- years, not decades -- where the data from wearables (like smart watches), home sensors, connect cars and more will start to predict what we want before we even think it. A world where your toilet flushes predicts bowel cancer, or your movements around your home detect the early stages of Parkinsons disease, is not far away.
The other side of that coin, he says, is that we need to have something called an 'ambient interface'.
"So less clicking, and [more] specifically listening to things," he says. "[It's] more about my devices just sensing me and listening to me, and saying, 'Huh. He just mentioned that he really liked the look of that pizza on a commercial on TV. Next time he says, 'Order me a pizza', I know which one'."