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Not too long ago, I was having a casual but meaningful digital conversation with a couple of gentlemen that I respect. They both have large networks, good street cred, and active digital profiles.

I asked the question: “Who are the top 3 people you respect in “the space”?

The response from one was thoughtful and quick. 3 names with brief reasons why.  I benefited as relational capital and intelligence were quickly transferred. It was one interaction in a regular stream of sharing between us. I quickly found each of the mentioned names online.  None of them have high digital influence scores, nor significantly active social profiles or presences. However, I began following them and evaluating some of the work and comments of theirs that was able to find.

Quickly I recognized that this was influence in action. Someone I knew, respected, and trusted had given me a gift, pointed me in a new direction, and even though in just a very small way, had changed my behavior for a few minutes, and perhaps my scope of view and thinking for a longer period of time.

What I also recognized that this interaction was not visible to any of today’s “influence ranking” systems like Klout, PeerIndex, Kred, or the recently released Little Bird.

I shared this observation with my two friends and asked “Will we ever have the technology to connect the dots between what just happened and true influence?”  My other colleague quickly replied “when our neurons are connected to the net”.

But will we need to wait that long?

  • Are the reputation systems of today void of any value at all?
  • What if I don’t want everything I do and everyone I know to be available for consumption and analysis?
  • If I opt out, will I essentially be opting out of future society?

The concept introduces a whole slew of new considerations, opportunities, and privacy and transparency concerns.

Om Malik riffs in a recent post:

At present we rank photos, rate restaurants, like or dislike brands, retweet things we love. But if this idea of collaborative consumption takes hold — and I have no reason to think it won’t — we will be building a quantified society. We will be ranking real humans. The freelance workers — like the Uber drivers and Postmates couriers — are getting quantified. The best ones will continue to do well, but what about the others, the victims of this data darwinism? Do they have any protection or any rights?

We continue to leverage machines to help us to our jobs better. We continue to teach them more and more – how to reason and think like a human. The traditional response is that it can never be done. But IBM Watson‘s jeopardy perhaps requires us to take a deeper look and do a closer analysis. It is predicted that in just a few years, the processing power of IBM Watson will be contained in the size of a smartphone. We can and likely will have a super human intelligent friend with us.  What is worthy of world wide fame and media coverage today may arguably be just part of human existence in just a few years. We’ve seen this pattern continually reinforce itself repeatedly over shorter and shorter time horizons over the last few decades.

Some will quickly reply that Watson is capable of finding facts, but the things that make us uniquely human, namely emotions;  Being funny, being sexy, being loving, these are very complicated and intelligent behaviors may forever be separated from the realm of machines.

It’s a reasonable argument and one I currently subscribe to, but there is a dissenting argument that perhaps emotions are simply the highest form of humanity, may also be able to be taught and learned by machines.  In fact, Ray Kurzweil predicts that in less than 20 years, computers will be capable and will perhaps surpass a full range of human capabilities.

This computer is thousands of times more powerful than the computer I used as a student, and it’s 100,000 times smaller. In 25 years, it will be a billion times more powerful in price performance, a billion times more powerful per dollar, and 100,000 times smaller.

It’ll be the size of a blood cell. They’ll be going through our body and keeping us healthy from the inside.

Not as futuristic as it sounds. People have already been doing that in animal models. There are people walking around with computers attached to their brains, like Parkinson’s patients, the latest generation of which allows you to download new software to the computer that’s connected into your brain from outside the patient. Right now that requires surgery because it’s pea-sized. But it will be blood-cell-size in 25 years, and we will be able to introduce it noninvasively.

We’re collectively on a unprecedented journey that surely holds unprecedented disruption and opportunity for individuals and organizations alike. We’re about to witness the next experiment be unleashed as Google Glass begins shipping to early adopters in the coming weeks. If you haven’t seen it, the video below provides a 2 minute preview of what’s possible today along the road to deeper human and technology integration.

  • What will these changes mean for your personal life?
  • What new opportunities are being unlocked for your organization?
  • How can you leverage the deeper integration between technology and humans to understand your customers better and deliver superior experiences for them?
  • What are the biggest barriers to leveraging these new technologies, internally and for your customer base?


  1. says


    Love the post. One of those that needs a read or two, some thought and then a comment. My comment is not of the ‘me too’ variety, rather just support. I believe the journey from where we are will be at least two steps. First, machines will need to add proper context to my request (for a friend, influencer, product, service whatever). It will take little while for machines to get there. Then, machines might be able to add emotion to the context, just maybe.

    That said, the only thing more annoying than a person acting like a machine, is a machine trying to act like a person – but I am sure I will get over it.


    • says


      Thanks for the kind words and for taking the time to comment. I also believe we’re a ways off but I am increasingly seeing things that challenge my position.

      Talk soon,

  2. says

    Brian, brilliant post! Your questions remind me a presentation on VRM I’m
    preparing for the next Social Business Forum in Milan. The mental connection that I find is in the incredible development of new devices (in one slide I
    show google glasses but also chip embedded in product (HAB project by Irene Ng) and the wearable gestural tool by Pranav Mistry)
    that will enable us to archive our own data in our personal data store
    and personal information management tool that will interface with new multi-sided marketplace or with objects and places in order to inprove our personal experience (life)

    • says


      Best wishes with your presentation and I hope to make it over there for the event someday. Nonetheless, some grappa is in order whenever and wherever we connect.

      The accessibility of technology and and the ability to manage it could indeed be the thing that closes the gap that the VRM movement needs. In theory, it should be gaining ground and rearing its head as privacy becomes a bigger topic. However, it seems that users are getting more and more comfortable sharing their information and trusting the corporations with it.

      I am concerned that before average people realize what’s happened, it will be too late. Once the systems, policies, and societal infrastructures are built to serve a world where corps and cloud service providers are the keepers of the data, wrestling it away may prove to be a significant challenge.

      VRM is a very interesting topic to see how and where it all plays out.

      • says

        Whenever you want, rivers of grappa are waiting for you especially in Veneto where I’m actually living now :)

        As you told, people are getting more and more confortable with sharing their info in the cloud for various corps purposes but it’s really an attitude of trust or maybe a consequence tied to passivenes and loss of “power”? I think that when privacy, not considering the complex regulations, will become a real sensitive topic first of all for ourselves, maybe the same cloud service providers will find a bigger opportunity in changing their main partners offering PDS services to individuals giving them the possibility to have a unique hub through which interact with new multi-sided marketplaces. Maybe the societal and tech changes won’t be so dramatic…or maybe not :)


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