The Social Media Net

I kind of like the phrase “the social media net.” I doubt that I actually coined it, but I can’t think of exactly where I may have first heard it. Regardless, a net is one of the things that comes to mind when I think of social media marketing – a “fishing” net, not an “Inter” net.

As I’ve said many times before (I do understand that I may not have said it to you, but I have said it a lot to somebody) bad marketing is bad. Unfortunately, I see a lot of bad marketing, especially where social media is concerned. That is understandable. Social media is relatively new, and it changes so rapidly that it’s not easy gain a solid understanding of it before it changes again.

The single biggest mistake I see regarding social media, is in thinking that social media is an end in itself; not really understanding its value and what it can and will do for your company.

First, it’s important to understand that every company has a storefront, either physically or metaphorically. These days, many companies have more than one storefront. If customers come in to your building, that building is a store front of yours. If you have a website and that website is how people buy things from you, that website is a storefront. If people call you to buy, the phone is your store front. Whatever method customers use to buy from you is a storefront.

If you’re a non-profit, and you solicit donations or volunteers, whatever method people use to donate or sign up to volunteer is a storefront for you. Whatever your organization is, think of what it does with the outside world, and how it makes those interactions. That will be your storefront(s).

As a marketing person, your job is to find the right people – those that need what you have to offer and can afford it – and bring them to your storefront. That’s when sales takes over and helps the customer decide if your product is the right one.

That last paragraph contains the critical piece of information that many people miss when using social media in their business. I see a lot of marketeers working really hard to get people to their social media site, which is okay if you follow through and get them to your storefront. They don’t follow through.

They don’t take all of those people on their social media sites and then move them to a storefront. It might be really fun to have a million people visiting your Facebook page or YouTube videos, but it doesn’t help your business if they don’t end up at some place where they can buy from you..

Getting people to Facebook as an end can work for Coca Cola and Taco Bell, because their storefronts are all over the place. You don’t have that luxury. You don’t have your product on the shelf of every grocery store, convenience store and fast food place. If you do, you probably aren’t the engineer entrepreneur that I’m writing this for, so you can stop reading, run to Taco Bell and have a taco and a soda.

Your primary objective needs to be to collect people that are out on social media, and get them to your storefront – most likely that is your website. Think of the social media sites as nets and your website is your fishing boat. (see, I did get back to the metaphor) You’re dragging those nets and pulling the fish into your boat.

A strategy to get people to your Facebook page or Twitter feed is an awesome thing to do. But you also need a strategy for getting them from Facebook and Twitter to your website. If you forget that second part, you’re wasting a lot of time and opportunity.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put your “follow me” social media links on your website. Doing that helps to bring them back you your storefront after they’ve come and gone. Just remember that’s secondary.

People spend a lot of time on social media. Your marketing objective is to find the people that need what you have and get them to your storefront. They are out there. Cast your net. Use social media to filter out the ones that don’t need what you have and filter in the people that do need what you have. Then get them to your storefront.

Signal to noise ratio

Signal to noise ratio is a pretty important factor in the world of electronics design, especially in Rf and analog design. Strangely enough, it’s also a critical part of marketing.

In many parts of the engineering community, the term “Marketing” essentially has a similar definition as the term “deception.” Point of fact, that is not the definition of the term. But a low signal to noise ratio can make it seem so. Fundamentally, marketing is about getting factual information to people who need it to make an informed decision. Deception is bad marketing.

Just as designing a noisy amp is a lot easier than designing a clean, low noise amp; noisy, unclear and even deceptive marketing is a lot easier than is good marketing. That’s why you see so much bad marketing. It’s easy. But we’re not here for “easy.” We’re here for accurate and important.

Creating high signal to noise ratio marketing doesn’t involve grounding and filters. Well, maybe it does. Just a different type of grounding and filtering. Keep yourself emotionally grounded and filter out what’s not important. It requires an understanding of what is important to your potential customers and the ability to differentiate between that and what’s important to you. If those are the same thing, you are luck, but they’re rarely exactly the same thing.

Hopefully, there is some overlap. If not, you’re likely trying to sell the wrong thing to the wrong people and that’s never a good thing. What you need to look for is overlap, and you need to understand your customers in order to find that overlap.

That may very well be one of the most difficult concepts for an entrepreneur to fully grasp: just because it’s important to you, doesn’t make it important to anyone else.

What you need to look for is overlap between what you do and what your customer needs to know to make an informed decision. That overlap is the key. It’s not about what you want to say. It’s not about telling someone what they want to hear. It’s about the overlap of what’s accurate from you and helpful to them. If it doesn’t help a potential customer understand how it will help them or isn’t accurate, it’s not good marketing.

Why winning in sports might be a lousy template for business success

Sports metaphors are incredibly common in the world of business motivation. Probably even more common than military metaphors. We raise the bar, huddle, put on a full court press, try for the home run, and we use the winning sports team as a template for the winning management team.

At first glance, that makes sense. Team sports require, well, teamwork, as does business. A sports team that plays well together is much stronger than a simple sum of the individuals. That principle holds true in a corporate environment too. A team working well together is more multiplicative than additive. With that being the case, how can I say that sports metaphors are bad news? It comes down to the origin of purpose. It’s about why every one is there; what their foundational motivation is.

Success in team sports require much of the same recipe as does success in business. You need a common purpose. You need an understanding of what each teammate needs. You don’t necessarily need deep knowledge of everyone’s positions and jobs, but you need to know enough to help and understand all of them. Everyone has a place and must fill that place, and none of those places stand alone.

Everyone on a winning sports team is there for one purpose: to end the game with a higher score than the other team. Every member of the great team lives that purpose, and has for most of their life. Many of them have been handling the ball or bat since before they started school. Some as soon as they could sit up as a baby and reach out for the brightly colored round thing coming at them. By the time they reached high school, college, or the pros, they have all been living the same dream for a substantial portion of their life.

By the time a soccer player reaches high school, the serious ones are all thinking about playing college ball, perhaps even with a scholarship. In college, it’s the Olympics, the world cup, and a coveted spot on a pro team. They are all after that exact same goal, and have been since their formative years.

Those new freshman team members have all of the ingredients needed to form a winning team. A great coach can work with those ingredients because all of the individuals come into the team with the same goal. They all live, breath, eat, and sleep that goal. All they need is to have it tied together.

And right there, my friend, is where the metaphor falls flat in the business world. First, if you pick the wrong sport to anchor your story, someone’s going to think: “that’s not a real sport. My sport is the real sport.” Someone else, the clumsy nerd, is going to think: “great more glorification of the hot shot popular kids that made my life miserable back then.”

Your company doesn’t have a homogenous-thinking group of people that have held the same dream since potty training. Great sports teams do. You don’t have the same raw material. What you have is just about the opposite of what a sports coach has to work with. Different ingredients require a different formula. Look at what you’ve got:

  • At the age of six, Aaaa was dreaming of walking on the moon. But then, we stopped going to to moon, so they found a different career.
  • Bbbb mostly played in the mud a lot and drove their parents nuts with all of the laundry and ruined church clothes. Yet, in their head, they were creating giant hydroelectric dams and other massive public works.
  • Cccc wanted to be a great leader of soldiers, protecting the weak and saving the world for democracy.
  • Dddd wanted to be the next Joe Montana and win the Superbowl.
  • Eeee was lost and already starting to dabble in what would become a decade centered around creative ways to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Ffff couldn’t think about much more than a future family with happy spouse and kids, cars, a house, and relaxing vacations.
  • At five, Gggg was trading little used toys for slightly better ones with neighbor kids. Then came lemonade stands, paper routes and odd jobs up and down the street. Never any doubt that this one would grow up to be an entrepreneur.
  • Hhhh ran track, played basketball and baseball throughout most of K-12, settling on track in college. After not quite making the Olympic team, they became a fighter pilot and finally ended up in sales because the airlines weren’t hiring at the right time.
  • Iiii just followed the formula – grade school, middle school, high school, college, an MBA, and some lifeless job.

It’s quite unlikely that any of your management team was dreaming about middleware software as a service when they were five.

Unless you’re in one of the few overtly world-changing companies, it’s quite unlikely that even half of your management team is really passionate about the products or services that the company produces and delivers.

They may be passionate about creating a great user experience, but that can be done just about anywhere, as long as there’s enough money in the budget. They may be driven by quality, but that drive can be fulfilled in a lot of different companies.

No. You don’t have that common fundamental purpose so important to the sports team as a starting point. You don’t have a group of people that are driven by the same thing, and you can’t treat them as if they do. You’ve got to find and or build a different purpose, and you’ve got to understand that you may always have a few team members that aren’t motivated by what you really need them to be motivated by.

It’s easy to say that such people should just leave and go elsewhere. Ideally they will, and you’ll replace them with better fits. But, you can’t depend on it. It’s not practical to expect everyone that isn’t spot on with your purpose to quit or be fired. The real world doesn’t work that way.

You need to create a team building strategy that accommodates some crosses of purpose and some unproductive behavior. If your team building strategy requires that everyone come around and see and live by the common vision, it will very likely not live up to your goals.

You’ve got to find commonality in what drives every member of your team. And the purpose you derive from that needs to be robust enough to deal with some level of indifference. It can’t be dependent upon 100% buy-in. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ve got it that easy.

What Is A Brand? Really?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a brand is: “a category of products that are all made by a particular company and all have a particular name.”

That’s true, but that definition’s simplicity harkens back to the days of identifying cattle on the open range. Use in the business world of today has evolved to encompass a far more complex set of meanings. Today “brand” covers so much more than just a pattern burned into thick skin.

Brand, as commonly used in the business world, is the internal imagery and emotion evoked in someone’s mind when they hear a name or see a logo. It’s more than just an identifying mark, it is the identity, the personality, and the definition.

Going back to the Old West metaphor, think about a couple of range hands spotting someone else’s cattle. They see the mark branded into the animals. If they’ve met or heard about the owner, they will have an emotional reaction.

If the cattle belong to Hank, across yonder dry creek, and Hank’s a mean son of a gun that won’t take nothin’ from nobody, the reaction upon seeing the mark might be one of fear. On the other hand, if they belong to the kind and open Miller family, down by the big oak tree – the one with the crooked trunk – the reaction might be warmth and memories of fresh Apple pie and good conversation. That’s the brand: “Hank” = fear at the point of a gun. “Miller” = good times and good food. The mark isn’t the brand. It just represents the brand.

Most companies aspire to have a positive brand, but regardless of aspiration, it is behavior that determines what the outside world thinks of a company. And that’s the given brand: what people outside the company think.

The “given” brand is more important than the aspirational brand. It’s what counts. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what you think; if you don’t act to inspire the brand you want, you won’t have it.

What this means is brand is not just something used in the marketing department. Even if the company doesn’t consider or put effort into the brand, it will still have a brand. Everything you do; everything that anyone sees; it all goes into the brand that outsiders assign to you.

How do you get the brand you want?

Building and nurturing a brand comes from your behavior. That’s why most small companies have a brand that is very much a reflection of the personality of the proprietor. A person usually acts in a small business as they are in person.

It gets more complex when employees are involved. Unless all of the employees share the same personality traits, the company brand will devolve from that of the owner. It will become a conglomerate of the most prominent personality traits of all employees.

A sales rep that’s perpetually grumpy, and vocal about their grumpiness, can cause the company to be given “grumpy” as a brand attribute. A half dozen polite, but quiet sales reps may not be able to cancel out one loud and grumpy rep.

A strong, positive, marketing campaign can start to create the image of a helpful company, but it can only start the process. The company, through its behavior, will outweigh anything that’s in print. That weight can be either positive or negative, based on behavior.

What to Write

Marketing should be easy. It should be just about the easiest thing you can do. Marketing is just getting the word out. Right? That can’t be too difficult.

Yes, marketing is just getting the word out. The big challenge, though, comes in deciding which words to get out. In the marketing world, we call this “messaging”, and like so many things in Marketing, it’s really more dependent on who will be reading it than who is writing it.

In marketing, what you want to say is less important than what a customer cares about. That doesn’t mean say what the customer wants to hear, regardless of truth. That’s bad marketing.

No, it means pull out the parts of the real story that a customer will care about, and toss the rest aside for now. No matter how important a fact is to you, if it’s not important to your audience, it’s simply not relevant. If it won’t help them make an intelligent purchasing decision, it’s not important right now. It will just get in the way.

It is possible to find examples that contradict this advice, but they generally involve significant amounts of money. One of the best goes back to the “Intel inside” advertising campaign. Before Intel started that campaign, few people outside of the tech world knew what a CPU is, what the difference is between CPUs, nor did they really care. Intel spent enough money to make people care. You don’t have that kind of money.

Picking words for marketing is actually quite closely related to product design. Product design is about learning what’s important to the person using your product. Messaging is about learning what elements of what your product does are important to the people buying your product; what aspects of you or your product will make a customer comfortable and confident enough to buy it.

As an engineer, you know that a muffler belt won’t work without a good solid polysided freem modulator. You know that your freem modulator is more polysided than any other on the market. It seems quite logical that a customer would need to know that. Right?

Some will. Some won’t. Understanding which camp your customers fall into can be the difference between growing your business, and looking for a job working for someone else.

If the minimum acceptable working polisidedness is 10, and yours is 20, should you focus on the fact that yours is 20, while your competitors is 17? If that’s what the majority of your customers care about, then, yes.

However, it’s entirely possible that your customers just care that polisideness is greater than 10, and beyond that, they care about something else. Given that, you may find that you over built, and would have been better off with 15 polished polisides instead of 17 or 20 unpolished polisides.

That’s what messaging is about; the cross over of what your product does and what’s important to your customers. Find that and you will know what to write when trying to sell your product.

Advice from the fringes

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs

That may have been literal for Jobs, or it may have been metaphor. We’ll never know and it doesn’t matter. By many standards, he was an unimaginable success. But… It’s not difficult to find stories of people he terrorized on his way, or huge mistakes he swept under the carpet. He stepped on people, and he left this world earlier than was necessary. He made his own path. His way of thinking fit his specific type of genius. If you don’t have his type of genius, his advice likely won’t work for you, and if you do have genius, you’ll make your own path.

I don’t really think that people like Steve Jobs are the right ones to be taking advice from, personally or professionally. Most of us don’t have what it takes to be a Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Bill Gates, nor do we need to have it. That type of person isn’t in the norm. Most of us wouldn’t be happy in their shoes. Those in that select group are on the fringes of humanity. They are very rare, whatever the subject or vocation, and will have their own way of getting through life. Advice from others of their ilk isn’t what drives them, a voice inside their heads does.

If today were my last day on earth, would I be doing what I’m doing now. No. Of course not. Think carefully about your last 24 hours. Would you want to be at a job, any job? Would you care to save money? Would you put food in your refrigerator? Would you pay for the gas you just put into your car? My guess is that you’d find one person or a group of friends to be with, and one thing to do. It would be a day of very singular purpose.

What if you found that you have a week to live? Would the answer be different? With a week, you could get a lot more done and see a lot more people. You’d pay for the gas so you wouldn’t end up spending two days of that week in jail. You’d think about food a bit, and either wash or buy some clothes.

How about a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime? With three months, you might be able to live off of credit cards, but beyond that, you’d need income – a job. Each successively longer time period would allow for, and require, more long-term thinking. Some of the long-term activities would not be all that pleasant, but as a part of a whole, they enable the pleasant. Life is an accumulation, an averaging. It’s not a single event. It’s a lot of events that add up to a whole. We all have a lifetime. We just don’t know how long that lifetime will be.

Some pieces of advice, like “work hard”, or “don’t fear failure, learn from it” are more or less universal. That’s because advice doesn’t work in a vacuum. It works within a specific set of conditions. We are all surrounded by hard work and moments of failure (well, all normal people are), so “work hard” and “don’t fear failure…” work for most people. Beyond that, the real secret is in yourself.

To follow advice from Elon Musk, with the aspiration of becoming him, you’ll have to put in the massive amount of work time he does, you’ll have to get his education, take on his attitude – become him in entirety. That’s not realistic for someone that just wants a better salary, a more fulfilling job, and a more rewarding life.

If I look at the whole of my life today, and see something I don’t like, I need to change or adjust. Whether it’s big change, or a few small tweaks really depends on personality. If big change typically ends in failure, try small adjustments, and vice versa.

I don’t buy into the philosophy of live everyday as if it’s your last. To live everyday as if it’s your last is to say that you can never have a down day. It’s to say that you can never make a mistake, to never invest in the future, to never do something without short-term gain. I say live everyday as if it’s a small part of a great work of art. Today is a brush stroke – a pixel for those like like to think in digital terms. It is one part, working towards the whole.

Perspective

If we’re the only life in the universe, does that mean we’re significant, or insignificant?

Are we just a mole on the back of the universe’s foot? Or, are we the actual purpose of the universe? Are we the seed, expected to spread out and explore and conquer the universe? Are we the last sentient residents of a now ashen universe, once full of life?

It’s quite unlikely that any of those questions will be answered within the lifespan of any of us currently alive. But it’s even less likely that we will stop trying to answer those questions.

NASA, not long ago, announced the discovery of a solar system, some 40 light-years away, harboring seven “Earth-like” planets. Three are currently thought to orbit in the habitable zone – where liquid water is likely to exist – not too close, nor too far from the sun to allow water to maintain a liquid state.

All things being equal, if life had arisen on one of those planets during the same time frame as on our Earth, and followed the same pattern of evolution and advancement as ours, we would have found them and they would have found us. Or, so it seems.

The problem is time. We think of the search for extraterrestrial life in terms of vast distances. To really understand the chances of finding any (or us being found), you also need to look at the universe in terms of its staggering duration.

Even at a mere 40 light-years away, finding each other wouldn’t be a sure thing. To illustrate that, let’s look at some numbers.

Michael Faraday created a primitive electric generator in 1831. This is an important date, because, even though, his electricity was running through wires, the act of generating electricity creates radio spectrum noise. It wouldn’t have been coherent radio signals, nor would they have been powerful enough to expect that the signals could have been detected anywhere on Earth, let alone, 40 light years away, but 1831 could be called the opening of the window of opportunity for discovery.

As of this writing, that’s 186 years ago. Out of the 100,000 years of humanity and 4.5 billion years that the Earth has been around, the window of possible discovery via electromagnetic means, has been less than 200 years. We’ve been potentially discoverable for a sixth of a percent humanity’s existence, and for 4.13 * 10-6% of the existence of the planet. Those are small windows of opportunity.

It gets even smaller if you consider a reasonable likelihood of discovery. Electric generation came 186 years ago. Morse code was first transmitted wirelessly 131 years ago. That’s when we started deliberately creating coherent radio signals. The first atomic bomb detonations in 1945 created gamma rays, which, if the Earth was pointed in the right direction, would have been easily detectable 40 light-years away. Really high powered AM radio transmissions started near that time, as well.

On the receiving end, radio astronomy began in the 1930s and we started looking for gamma rays of non-terrestrial origin in 1967. We’ve been looking for radio signals from space for 85 years, and gamma ray bursts for 50 years. Assuming a similar progression on a planet 40 light years away, our 85 years of searching would need to line up with their 131 years of transmitting wireless radio.

You might say that, if they evolved and developed faster than we did, they might have been searching their skies for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. Assuming no extinction level asteroid strikes, globally devastating nuclear wars, or climate destroying pollution cycles, our 131 years would need to fall into that few thousand years, out of billions of possible years, which is still pretty unlikely.

For us to have detected the signs of life (coherent radio or gamma rays) on one of these three of seven planets thought to have liquid water, the alignment of advancement would have to be incredibly convenient.

They would have to have advanced to the point of emitting those radiological signs of life, and we would have had to have been listening to the right area of space sometime within the last 85 years. 85 out of 4.5 billion.

That doesn’t help in terms of deciding if we are important, or not. But, it does help illustrate the difficulty in determining if we are alone or not.

What’s Next for Content Marketing?

I’ve been engaging in content marketing for more than a decade. I’ve used content marketing to take an obscure, niche, commodity business, that no one wanted to write about, and turn it into a branded service that’s known as a leader in its industry.

Back in 2006, no one in the electronics industry cared about manufacturing. It was something that stood between design and selling. It was a wall, a black hole, that sucked up time and money, and eventually, hopefully, ended up spitting out products.

Trying to get press releases, case studies, and other material published, was a non-starter. I was told, many times, that: “our readers aren’t interested in manufacturing”, or: “we don’t publish anything about manufacturing.” Granted, I was talking to electronics engineering publications, not manufacturing or purchasing publications, but I had my reasons.

Prior to that time, manufacturing had simply been one small part of the supply chain. It was a purchasing and manufacturing issue and it was bought and sold through that supply chain. It seemed to make sense to promote my company, Screaming Circuits, through the supply chain media channel.

It would have made sense, except we were breaking the supply chain mold. We were selling direct to electronics engineers. We were selling a service, that would, years later, be called personal, or on-demand manufacturing. We were turning the small volume manufacturing world on its head, and the people buying from us were not readers of supply chain media.

Just turning to a different set of media, as I quickly learned, wasn’t enough to sell manufacturing to engineers. I had to change what I presented to the media. I also had to create my own publishing channel, until the engineering media world caught up.

We published easy to digest, short subject, technical content in our blog. We pushed it through our customer newsletter. We linked to it from message boards and social media. Eventually, we started turning it into publishable articles, and made our way into the mainstream engineering media world.

Over the years, we created a library of credible, valuable content, that’s been used and published by dozens of organizations – partners, and media – and has been sought out by other industry players. Media and industry leading companies come to us for content, advice, solutions, and marketing help. We’ve been referred to, by media industry experts, as “journalism.”

And, most important for a for-profit corporation, we’ve outgrown the manufacturing industry in the country. We’ve grown in absolute terms, every year – except the one really bad recession year, and we’d caught up and surpassed our pre-recession record in the following year. I’d have to say that content marketing at Screaming Circuits has been an unqualified success.

So, what’s next? More content marketing? Something different?

I wouldn’t use the phrase: “out with the old, and in with the new”, but there will be an element of that in the marketing universe. Content marketing hasn’t run its course, though it is quite long in the teeth for some of us early adopters. It won’t go away, but it does have to change and adapt.

For Screaming Circuits, the company blog has always been the anchor. That blog will stay, but I don’t know that I’d call it an anchor anymore. Content is used differently than it was a decade ago, and it needs ways to stay fresh and accessible. A blog is still a great thing, but its structure falls down when it holds 700 plus articles that don’t go out of date. It’s a vehicle for presenting content, but not a good one for reusing content.

Public relations, the granddaddy of content marketing was largely a one way street: information went out. Content marketing turned that into a multi-path, two way boulevard. The next derivative turns it into an interconnected world, with content being as much a product as is the core of what the company sells.

The content becomes a core competence of the company, and becomes a major part of the value proposition. That’s what follows content marketing. Content merges with the core of who and what the company is.

Content marketing doesn’t go away. It just becomes something greater, and more valuable to company and customer alike. If those of us who developed and matured content marketing are up to the task, the time is now.

My top ten predictions for the next decade

Not long ago, social speculators talked about how the younger generation grew up with computers, the Internet, and cell phones; that they have fully integrated this technology into their lives. I would maintain that today, it’s even more than that. We’re past the time when people integrate technology into their lives. Today, people are integrating themselves into the technology. For many in the millennial generation, their very identity has crossed over to the digital realm.

Years ago, you could tell just about everything about a person by spending some time with them. Their identity was contained within their being, and was anchored around the home, job, or school. Identity was clear, and rooted into a fixed location. Today, those roots are spread throughout the collective Internet. A good portion of a millennial’s personality is stationed out in that digital world.

The modern human doesn’t have an offline and an online personality. They have one personality that is partially stored in their physical being, and partially stored in the digital world. They are an early type of cyborg. The continuation, and acceleration, of this trend is my first prediction for the coming decade.

#1 Ten years from now, the post-millennial generation will have their personality so dispersed that it won’t be possible to know them exclusively offline. Their digital footprint will be as much an aspect of who they are as is their appearance, their voice, and their physical actions.

#2 Many people won’t even notice that #1 has happened. In the same sense that a blind person can’t see another person’s appearance, most people from prior generations simply won’t have the sensory ability to see this additional aspect of the post-millennial’s persona. The future is here and we didn’t notice.

#3 As with personality, described above, most of a person’s physical being will no longer be fixed to what we see as being “normal human.” Artificial limbs, and many internal organs, will be easily reproducible with 3D bio-mechanical personal-manufacturing.

#4 With the bio-prototyping will come body hacking. Third and fourth arms, exoskeletons, and similar modifications will be commonplace. Prosthesis, to replace missing original extremities, will have feeling and dexterity nearly as good as the original, and will come with custom fittings.

#5 The generation gap between these post-millennials and past generations will be more a canyon than a gap. It will be as though they have sight and sound, but we only have sound.

The “machine” isn’t taking over. It’s evolving us to become it

#6 Artificial humans won’t be sentient and thinking, but they will be designed such that most of them could easily pass the Turing test. They won’t be human, but if the designers want them to look it, many people won’t be able to identify them as non-human without a close examination.

#7 Tele-presence will be a big part of this too. People will be able use artificial sense and presence to essentially, be anywhere. These tele-presence bots may look conventionally human, mechanical, electronic, or not be visible at all. Spooky

#8 Uber, Air BnB, and companies like them will skyrocket for the next five years. After that, they’ll start a long slide down as the need to travel declines. With personas dispersed and intermingled online, travel will be much less of a thing. People won’t “be someplace.” They’ll be anywhere and everywhere. If they want to “physically” go someplace, instead of traveling and renting a car, they will be able to rent an artificial body wherever they want to be.

#9 Space travel will be commonplace, but not in the way we’ve traditionally thought of. With tele-presence and immersive virtual reality display devices, the experience will be almost as real as actually being out there.

#10 You can’t complain about it. We’re the people that made all this possible.

Duane Benson

The expanding universe – Food for thought

As divisive and self-important as humanity sometimes gets, the universe just keeps moving around us. Hate and fear race across the page, and yet LIGO observes gravity waves, Space-X lands rockets, and 3D printers learn to print replacement organs. We are all really very small.

The most widely accepted estimates put the age of the universe at just under 14 billion years. We’ve seen objects out to 13.3 billion light years away, in all directions. That doesn’t mean those most distant objects are 13.3 billion miles away. They were that distance away back when the light we are seeing today was emitted; 13.3 billion years ago.

The universe is expanding, so those objects are now a distance further away, the amount determined based on on the speed at which the universe is expanding. 13.3 billion years ago, the light we are now seeing started off toward us. While the light has been moving from the point of origin toward us at 186,000 miles per second, the objects have been moving away from the same point of origin, in the opposite direction.

The current school of thought on the rate of expansion puts those observed objects at 46 billion light years away, as of this writing. That means that, in the 13.3 billion years since the big-bang, some amount of matter has traveled as far as 46 billion light years. If true, this brings to mind a paradox: if nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, how did those galaxies get further away from us than the speed of light would allow?

The answer is interesting, and non-intuitive. The expansion is equal in all directions and from all points of perspective that we can observe; we can see just as far in any direction. The only way this is possible is if there is not a center of the universe anywhere within the area we can observe, and if “explosion”, in the conventional sense, is really not the right term to use to describe the big bang. Think of “big bang” as a name or label, not a descriptive term.

In an explosion, everything does start in one place and expand out from that point. Heavier parts move slower, but go farther. Lighter parts initially expand out faster, but lose the momentum battle to air resistance and don’t go as far. During the active time of the explosion, it’s denser near the center, and less dense near the outside edge. Following the active time of the explosion, there is no longer any explosive material, so the center area empties out, becoming hollow, with an inside front moving outwards at a speed slower than the outside front.

That’s not what’s happening in our universe. The matter isn’t expanding away from a center point. Space, the carrier, the “fabric” of our universe, is expanding and taking the matter with it.

One way to visualize this is to take a rubber band and poke thumbtacks into it, equal distance apart, all around it. The rubber band represents the fabric of the universe, and the thumbtacks represent galaxies. You can stretch the band in any direction, and all of the tacks will move away from each other equally.

The carrier, the rubber band, is expanding, and the dots are moving with it. The same thing will happen no matter where you pull on the rubber band, so no point can be clearly identified as the center of your rubber band universe. The tacks, however, are not changing in size. In the rubber band model, the tacks are galaxies, which are bound and contained by gravity (or maybe dark matter), and thus not expanding internally with space.

The objects aren’t moving relative to a center. Space is expanding. Just as the thumb tack does not change spots on the rubber band, the distant galaxies don’t change spots in the fabric of space. The light from those galaxies, however, can still only travel at 186,000 miles per second. Any light from galaxies that were outside of our viewing range 13.8 billion years ago will never reach us. In fact, if the rate of expansion of space keeps increasing, earth bound observers will gradually be able to see a smaller and smaller portion of the universe.

Galaxies are moving relative to each other, but not as the primary method of expansion. It’s more difficult to wrap one’s head around this in three dimensions, and this example is quite simplified, but it’s about as representative as we can get without a lot of math that I don’t have in my head.

Back to your regularly scheduled negative news.