Clearly, I have no time to actually be running a hackathon these days.  But I do have a dream for the topic I want to see: broken/old smartphones.
There are three major types of hackathon-eligible phones:

  1. Screen is completing broken, cannot be used for input or display.
  2. Screen is cracked, can be used for input and basic display.
  3. Works fine, just outdated.

Geeks everywhere get terribly excited by the Rasberry Pi as a $30 development platform and they are reportedly about to sell their millionth kit.  But there were more than 5,000 smartphones available on eBay in December 2012 that sold for less than $30 and fell into one of the three categories above.  All were: faster than a Pi, had wifi, could operate without a power supply for at least some period of time, had GPS, and most importantly, were not a bare circuit board and thus had some resistance to the elements.

I’m not trying to take a swipe at the Pi; I’m glad it exists.  My point is that rather than producing something new, we could reuse old hardware that is actually more fully featured, if we write code that takes advantage of it.  And in a hackathon format, I think people would produce a shocking number of applications, many of which could be deployed for the public good.

Ideas abound.  Off the top of my head, I can easily think of several: wifi mesh network for disaster relief, food safety logger that send a wifi alert when a fridge becomes too warm to adequately protect food or a shipping container version that logs it for download, a room monitor that logs noise/light/temp and broadcasts to a central server for activity comparisons, motion/sound detection for anti-looting monitoring during disasters…the list goes on.

The way to think about it is to move beyond the “what do we normally use computers for” paradigm and think about the unique properties of a smartphone: configurable input, low power usage, and, for the purposes of the hack, disposability.  They are broken phones that would normally go in the landfill, so as long as they provide something useful before being destroyed, we are in better shape than we were.

Someone run this thing.  And then invite me.

Finding the right team for a startup is hard.  You are often facing a tradeoff between limited resources (cash and equity, which themselves can have different values to different people) while looking for people who not only meet your current needs but your future plans.  And for many key roles, once you find those people, you have to compete for them: most active startup cities are busy places, with many good ideas for the talented to pick from.

So what do you do when you can’t find what you need?  You grow it.  I think my friend Max Shron makes this point nicely in this DataGotham talk on finding a data scientist: for many startup positions that are not exact maps to other fields (like software development, design, marketing, etc.), you cannot expect to find someone who has all of the skills simply because the field itself is too new.  And even for fields that are established, in a small market or a competitive market (which essentially covers all markets at this point), you may have to accept a less experienced hire.

As any good farmer knows, some seeds are better for growing than others.  If you know that you are hiring based on growth potential, some of your search patterns need to change.  For one, make the explicit choice to privilege personality over experience.  Too often, I watch entrepreneurs acknowledge that they are going to need to grow someone into a role, and then concentrate on resume and experience-level as a way of deciding who to interview.  If you know this is a growth role, personality is the single most important variable in your hiring process.  Look for good cover letters that are personal and personable, and refer to resumes only as an indication of variety and intent.

The interview is also different for a growth role.  Instead of trying to understand their experience, you want to understand their motivation, both level and direction.  To understand skills, ask questions that focus on the future, rather than the past: what do they want to learn how to do, how do they want to grow the role, how do they see that growth contributing to the business.  Don’t bother asking about their desired reward: plenty of people have said they are not motivated by money, and then discovered their own sensitivity to it around acquisition time.  Instead, try to get at motivation by asking them why they want to work at a startup instead of a larger company.  If they’re going to have to reach every single day in order to do a job they may not really be qualified for, they better know why they are there.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of having people solve problems in interviews, but growth is synonymous with the need to find novel ways to solve problems when you don’t always have all the skills already.  Try to get at who they would ask when the autodidactic approach fails.  Growing someone can truly sap all of your energy if you become the gateway through which they find all information.  You want to know that they understand the organization of a startup and the skills that people throughout the community can teach them.  Especially if you’re in NYC, where people are often far more willing to help than in The Valley.

In the end, look for someone who reminds you of yourself.  While senior employees often need to be differentiated so that they can provide different viewpoints, chances are that if you’re running a startup, you yourself are the kind of person who expands to fill the needs of a role.  If the candidate feels like they could be your younger sibling, you’ll probably in good shape.  Trust your gut!

This is another one of those posts about how to spend some money in an awesome way.  You’ve been warned.

I’ve written before about why I love AdventFinancial and their awesome founder, but I’ve never really told the story of what I do about it.  Because I like the Advent product, there is all the normal startup stuff I tend to do: introducing, recruiting, BD, etc.  But because I like Advent people, I do something a little different: I buy them lunch.

The nature of the tax business is that during the season, your entire life stops.  It is easy to talk to folks in August, when they’re really just thinking about the financial backend, some light selling in for next year, counting coup from last year.  But try to reach out in January, as all the tax preparers are coming online, and you might as well be on mute, unless you have an actual problem that needs solving.

Fortunately, Advent is in Kansas City, almost across the street from a noted BBQ place called Jack Stack.  So a few years ago, I started sending them lunch once in awhile during their toughest season.  For about $250 bucks, I can feed the 30ish employees a delicious buffet of three kinds of meats, bread, slaw, sauce, beans, potato salad, and all the plates and napkins and such.  All from the comfort of my NYC apartment.

There are lots of things you can do with $250; though the buffet is cheap in that it feeds a large team, you could make a credible argument that it should go to charity.  But in a world of double bottom line businesses and startups that are actually trying to make things better for folks, there is more than one way to give.  In the same way that supporting a parent that you are connected to, a neighbor or parent or relative, helps raise better children, spending time or money to help a prosocial startup can be a way of making the world better.  Looking out for those who look out for others, as it were.

One of the great lessons of social psychology has been that small gestures often have disproportionately large results.  In truth, I could probably just stop by each Advent employee’s desk with a cookie and a smile and not have to pay for lunch, but I’m not close and so that isn’t possible.  And $250 worth of food really can have a large effect; in every study that has looked at what motivates quality in the workplace, “feeling appreciated” tends to top it out.  Food from a non-affiliated person who thinks what you are doing is great?  Now that’s a feeling of appreciation.

Something to think about when you’re figuring out how you want to encourage and enable companies who are doing good things.  If you’re in the startup community, you’re likely connected to many people who are working on positive projects – it is worthwhile to keep them motivated to do so.

NOTE: Please do not send me lunch.  I’m still eating the jelly beans.

First, read this.

Second, I need to point out that this story is not true.  Do you hear me, internet?  NOT TRUE.  The Daily Currant is like The Onion, a satirical newspaper that pokes fun at things.

Third, even though it isn’t true, it is entirely believable, which is why so many people passed it around as true.  Partially because we’re happy to think that Bush just isn’t terribly bright, but more because the UI for voting is terrible.  Really, really terrible.

And it isn’t like we don’t know how to make good UI.  Collectively, we’ve created Facebook and Twitter and Mint and thousands of examples of truly unique interfaces that enable people to make incredibly complicated and detailed decisions.  In voting, you’re just picking one thing from a list of things.  A series of dropdowns would be better than what we have now in most voting markets.

The real fun of this story, though, is not in thinking about what better UI might look like, but rather the forces that are driving design in the world.  Overwhelmingly, design innovation comes from the private sector, the need to drive people to a decision point in an ever-increasing way.  The race to conversion, because it is the clearest metric that predicts revenue, means that companies are constantly recruiting for a combination of designers and data scientists to run every possible variation, chasing improvements as small as 0.1%.

Non-profits and the public sector just don’t have the same use for such small differences and as a consequence, we miss out on the big differences.  Voting software is built primarily by engineers concerned with security and redundancy, and because there is no concept of conversion, it could be the world’s most frustrating experience.  After all, as long as people persevere and vote for someone (regardless of whether it is who they intended to vote for), nothing changes.

It is, in a sense, the problem we have with any captive audience: as long as people don’t have a choice other than participate or don’t participate, and incremental participation isn’t considered as a success metric, then nothing changes.  Particularly because this is not software that is built in the public sphere, so things like Code For America have an uphill battle to get involved.

So what do we do about it?  For one, we need to employ some of the data science I talked about earlier.  Unless we test whether people are actually able to vote for the candidates they intended to, we have no way of knowing whether a UI is appropriate.  Indeed, intention congruence should be the new primary metric for judging voting software, followed closely by a subjective measure of the quality of the experience.  After all, if people don’t feel like voting was a good experience, then they won’t do it again.  Year-over-year participation, for example, should be considered.

And then, quite simply, we need designers who treat this problem like a commercial one.  Given the metrics, they need to design against them and have the opportunity to A/B test and refine in waves.  In a commercial atmosphere, this is standard fare, but in the public sphere, it is far less common.

I leave you with this thought experiment: how much is a vote worth?  That is, a single voter who is able to vote for the candidates of their choice effectively – how much should we as a country pay for that?  Let’s pretend you said it was worth a $1 to get an incremental voter through the experience.  ~126 million people voted in the 2012 presidential election.  That 0.1% change I mentioned early?  Its worth $126,000 each e

Double bottom line is a relatively silly name for a simple concept: businesses can be about more than just profit.  Double bottom line usually means “profit and social good” and triple bottom line usually means “profit and social good and environmental sustainability”.  God knows what a quadruple bottom line would be, since environmental sustainability seems to fall under social good.  Really, double is the sweet spot: profit and “not sucking”.

Despite the name, the concept is fairly important.  Most folks aren’t aware that CEOs have a fiduciary duty: one of which is that they are legally obligated to maximize profit for their shareholders (and can actually be sued for not doing so).  By formally introducing a second bottom line and writing it into the company mission, they are then allowed to use that second bottom line as a justification for taking actions that aren’t explicitly profit-oriented.  Which, in turn, prevents them from being sued for not doing terrible things in the name of profit.  Pretty nifty.

So explaining this over dinner to a friend, I used the restaurant we were sitting in as an example.  It might be more profitable, I posited, to swap out our green salad for some fries and if this restaurant was publicly traded, shareholders could conceivably try to force that that move.  If it was a double bottom line restaurant, however, the manager could argue that it would make people fat and that would be a legitimate defense.

Which got me thinking: what if more restaurants, private or public, were double bottom line?  That is, what if they were concerned with reducing the calorie count of the food that they served?  Large chains already are, because in NYC and some other markets, they are required to put the calories on the menu.  But when I go to any of New York City’s wonderful restaurants, there is literally no reason for them to pay attention to my health – taste/value ratio is literally the only bottom line.

The idea behind double bottom line is not only that it protects companies who choose to pursue “not sucking” but that it sets another goal for employees to strive for and in turn differentiates that company.  It is the most authentic form of marketing: saying something and doing it.  We all want to be healthier – is it really impossible to compete as a restaurant willing to help us do it?  For those that say yes, consider that twenty years ago, there were almost no double bottom line companies.  And now Tom’s Shoes.  Chobani.  Seventh Generation.  Warby Parker.  Ben & Jerry’s.  Patagonia.  It is a very long list.

Restaurateurs – you need to step up your game.

Recently, after giving a flurry of talks and press interviews, I started talking to colleagues from a variety of fields about the process of speaking and the somewhat bizarre rituals that occur in order to create good events.  Almost everyone I talked to had some funny story about speaking, and the humor was often generated by unexpected deviations from the community norms around talks.

Which made me realize that there were community norms, but like most norms, they were encoded and passive and rarely discussed.  Which naturally made me want to discuss them.  So now, settle back and enjoy a few definitions, a brief rant, and the occasionally lame joke.

Now that you know why I’m writing this post, let’s get to the what of the matter.

Invited talks are exactly what they sound like: an inviter (usually an individual, though often acting on behalf of a group as an organizer, curator, or editor) and an invitee (presumably an expert in the field).  The inviter generally sends the invitee a personal note or gives them a call, asks if they’d like to talk at a particular event, and relays details about the event.  The implicit assumption is that the invitee is doing the inviter (or at least the inviter’s organization) a favor by appearing; travel costs are often covered and if they aren’t, the invitee is at least wined and dined.  The invitee is free to talk about whatever they want and they submit nothing in advance.

This usually works out well because the community is self-policing.  If the invitee was a bad speaker or prone to giving inappropriate talks, they wouldn’t get invited to give them again – interests are aligned because presumably the invitee wants to be heard in the world and so is motivated to present such that people will continue to listen.  And because they are invited by an individual, there is also a smaller social effect at work, such that the invitee doesn’t want to disappoint the inviter, who puts some of their reputation as an editor/curator/whatever on the line in having issued the invitation.  A bad talk is bad for all and so there is a strong aligned pressures for everyone involved.

But invited talks do have a significant downside: they favor the established over the undiscovered.  You’ll rarely see a grad student give an invited talk, for example, unless they have a particularly notable career already.  Inviters tend to work with known quantities, often those they have personal ties with, and this can lead to a cyclical series of invitations that means you hear the same ten people speak most of the time.  It also means that hot topics tend to rise to the top because of a recency effect: the inviters often heard the invitee speak recently, which makes them top-of-mind for inviting.

Submitted talks aren’t new, but they are become more common in some arenas.  Basically, they’re the opposite of an invited talk: people are asked to submit proposals or videos or some sort of evidence of what a talk is going to be about to the inviters, and then the inviters select from that pool.  Usually this submission process is open to almost everyone, although there may be explicit or implicit requirements.

Originally, these were most common in very large academic conferences, where there were main invited talks, but plenty of smaller sessions that were filled in with people presenting papers, often in a panel format.  And by people, I generally mean grad students – they didn’t get travel money, they have no reputation, they’re just hoping to get noticed.  It isn’t quite vanity press, in that many more submit than get picked; it is more like trying to walk-on to a sports team – you only really show up if you think you’ve got a reasonable chance of being picked.

Recently, however, this format has expanded beyond second-tier academic slots.  With the rise of social media and the increasing ease of collecting electronic video, many venues, including TED and Ignite, have increasingly been at least partially filled with submitted talks.  The 2013 TED has promised that over half their speakers will come from a “worldwide talent search”, in which people submit applications and give a demo talk.

There is an argument to be made that the submitted talk is actually a form of egalitarianism.  Yes, not everyone always has the ability to submit, but it is certainly more broad reaching than the invited talk and it does help promote new voices.  In theory, the best of the best can rise to the top, even if they’ve never been seen before or don’t have the same stodgy track record that others may insistent upon.

But a major drawback is that because most submitted talks are still curated, the inviters actually not have significantly more control than with invited talks.  Not only are they taking a pass at initial submissions, but they continue that editorial power down the line; the presumption is that there are always more people who submitted than were selected, so if your talk doesn’t fall into the desired shape, you can be replaced.  Unlike the invited talk, where oversight is actively discouraged and inviters would have difficulty pulling back from someone once they have been invited and announced, submitted talks give inviters the ability to meddle in the content of the talk itself.

And why not?  After all, it is the inviters conference and can’t they damn well do what they please?  Depends on your goal for talks.  The trouble is that a format that appears more egalitarian (submitted talks) can actually be significantly less so because of the ability of the inviters to control content.  Just as tenure exists in academia to make sure that controversial research still gets done and controversial classes still get taught, there is a very real danger that the curation of submitted talks can actually stifle the very voices that the format originally encouraged.

Perhaps more passively (and more importantly), submitted talks also privilege a certain kind of speaker: one with time on their hands.

Preparing a submission, a video, and trying out adds to the already onerous process of doing a talk, which is particularly difficult if you’re not simply sitting on your duff and are actually trying to do things in the world.  In academia, the active researcher always has things happening in their lab and simply may not have time to go search for speaking opportunities and submit themselves to them – that is an inhibiting pressure in a world of competing pressures.  And outside of academia, people who are actively directing projects meant to help and change and create face the same pressures: they may simply be too busy to submit a talk that, if they were invited, they could find the time to give.

This is the true loss of submitted talks for me.  As someone who has never looked for the opportunity to speak, I treasure the process of spreading a particular message but would much rather be building than looking for someplace to talk about what I’m building. We can avoid the censorship issue by simply insuring that submitted speakers are allowed to speak freely on the topic of their choice, but it is difficult to get around the sheer inhibiting pressure that is the act of submission.  Any college admissions officer will tell you that inviting minority students to attend guarantees you higher admission from that pool that asking them to submit themselves, and such invitations have had a significant impact on the face of college enrollment.

Submitted talks make life easy for inviters, but I doubt highly that is the explanation for their rise.  Its us, the masses, the people who dream of one day being on the TED stage.  It fuels reality TV and game shows and the idea that we can be famous, if only just for a moment.

The problem is, fame should actually be earned – it should be a mark of respect for genuine achievements.  And in our clamor to have the chance at the TED stage, we’ve forgotten that what made TED so unique was the ability to see truly insightful talks by people who had put years into gaining the expertise that made their short talks such a mind blast of knowledge.  The reason we loved TED talks was because they were drinking straight from the geek tap.  And ultimately, submitted talks will water that down, because you will lose out on those geeks who you have to ask to come out of the lab or their non-profit or the boardroom long enough to talk to us about something they are truly expert about.

Let us do our job, as inviters and audiences, and not just pander to the need for instant fame.  Go find the speakers too busy doing awesomeness to submit an application and make them talk, for all our sakes.

Imagine people as a two by two matrix (which is pretty much how I see the world).  On one  axis is competence (genius, idiot) and the other is personality (awesome, asshole).

The genius/awesome quadrant is easy to make intros for: they bring value to almost every situation and they make you laugh while they do it.  Since we all want to be this person, we all want to meet/work/spend time with this person, and the real problem is not overwhelming them with connections.

The idiot/asshole is also easy to deal with: you work with them only when you are forced to, spend no social currency helping them, and hope they don’t give you cooties.  If you’re particularly awesome, you can try to help them anyway; if you choose to do so, please do it by keeping them away from me.

The real issue is the other two quadrants, the mixes.  I know a lot of genius/assholes and they often end up in engineering or academia, where you don’t actually need many introductions, so they are slightly less of a problem for me.  When they do need something, you generally rely more on evaluating what they need than them.  For example, if they need an intro to a business person, you generally try to find the most tolerant business person you know and make sure you are around when they meet to smooth over the bumps.

Which leaves the awesome/idiot and this is the quadrant that has been stumping me lately.  They are nice people and so I do genuinely want to help them, but what do we do with people who simply don’t have the skills to manage the things they want intro’s for?

For example, I consistently have a few people who ask me for introductions to job leads that they just aren’t qualified for, and there is nothing more frustrating and conflicting.  On the one hand, you want them to get a good job where they learn something and can meaningfully contribute to society in someplace that makes them feel happy and healthy.  On the other hand, if they can’t do the job, they can’t do the job, and there is nothing worse for your credibility than trying to push the agenda of someone who just isn’t good enough to be able to run with that ball.

This may just be an offshoot of the global conversation people have been having about a generation that they feel is lacking in practical skills.  I’m with Jon Stewart in that I think the young people of today are actually fairly amazing in their ability to accomplish a variety of things, with some shiny standouts, and so I don’t have a particularly pessimistic view of the young.  But I’m still stuck on trying to figure out what we do with the people who aren’t standouts.

For introductions, at least, there is a standard formula: explain why the introduction isn’t the right one, offer to make the introduction you think is the right one, consistent positive feedback about being awesome (ignoring idiot, since that is something that can generally be changed).  And those are all important steps: too often, I think people just throw awesome/idiots to the wolves, which sets them up not only for an unpleasant, demoralizing interview, but also wastes the time of your contact, who now shares your conflict about what to do with them.

The bottom line is that we have to stop being afraid to tell people that they aren’t ready for an opportunity.  Sink or swim is great when you’re on Survivor, but genuine advisors should be taking into account the global well-being of the purpose and their long-term development, which means helping them understand their limits and find a place to grow beyond them.  Scaffolding FTW.

It is no secret that I love the active advisor role: my LinkedIn is rife with them (and let’s just appreciate that we no longer say “my resume”).  What is perhaps less evident is exactly how difficult being an active advisor is.  Not because of the time demands (although it can be demanding) but because in order to be an active advisor, you need active advisees.  And that can be a truly hard lesson for a founder to learn.

Most founders are self-starters; they wouldn’t have formed a company otherwise.  At the very least, they are capable of doing a great many things on their own, and I truly believe that most of them take specific pleasure from doing so.  The trouble is that makes them prone to a Rambo mentality, a one-man-army approach that means taking on more than you actually need to.  Sometimes, the burdens get to feeling good.

As an advisor, that’s hard to watch.  In an ideal world, you want them to realize “this is something someone else could do better” and almost immediately outsource it to the correct person.  From that view, the best founders are the ones who realize the specific function of each person in their team, including advisors.

Different advisors are good for different things, but overwhelmingly I think they have two strengths: the ability to impart mental paradigm shifting information in short bursts and the ability to connect above and around problems.

By the first, I mean simply that a good advisor can entirely change the way you view your approach over the course of a meal or a drink.  It is something you find in good college professors as well, that mind-blowing moment where they totally shift your worldview.  Taking advantage of that means introducing your advisor to whatever team member needs a paradigm shift and letting them have it.  Too often, the advisor meetings are just with founders: don’t make that mistake.  Introduce your advisor to the team and give them the chance to ask the questions they need answers to.

The second is far more standard.  Most advisors have a varied network, in part because they have also had to solve the same problems that founders have and thus have developed the networks that allow for those solutions.  Need to hire an engineer?  Call your advisors.  Need a lawyer?  Call your advisors.  Trying to get a bizdev meeting?  Call your advisors.  If it involves needing something that you don’t have and requires more than a day to get, your advisors can probably get it more quickly for you.

And here’s the key: your advisors want to help you.  That’s the whole reason they are your advisors!  Nobody signs up to be any kind of active advisor unless they really do want to be a part of making your company better.  By letting them do that, you’re not only making your life easier, you’re making them happy.  I’m always reminded of The Offspring lyrics: Now I know I’m being used. That’s okay, man, ’cause I like the abuse.

People love a certain kind of disaster preparation.  After Hurricane Irene’s lackluster rains last year and today’s Hurricane Sandy prep, New Yorkers are now well familiar with mayoral press conferences and impressive lines at the Trader Joe’s.  Twitter is abuzz with witty puns and prayers for safety (and the safety of satellite dishes, so that they can still see The Walking Dead).  Everyone is just a little bit jazzed, even if they’re evacuating.

We’re fascinated by a certain kind of pseudo-disaster for the same reason we like watching scary movies: it is a safe kind of fear.  Hurricane Sandy has already killed 65 people to date in the Carribean, but we can likely assume that the New York death toll will be essentially nil; even if someone does die, it will almost certainly be less than the loss-of-life suffered in the average heat wave.  So for most New Yorkers, we’re “in danger” but not in any way that is, practically speaking, dangerous.

But the trick is that our brain doesn’t fully believe the difference.  We still get a spike of generalized arousal, which makes us more alert and focused, so that we get the benefits of preparing for fight-or-flight but without actually having to run or fight anyone.

In other words, a hurricane is a scary movie but you get to actually be in the movie.  There are practical things you get to do (like food shopping); it engages in your brain, you can plan, you can execute.  And in doing so, you come into contact with other engaged people: you make friends in the supermarket line, schedule impromptu parties of neighbors for spontaneous hurricane parties, hop on social networks to exchange plans and jokes and tips.  So we’re aroused, we’ve got a place to channel it, and we get to do it while being around other people.  That’s a brain cocktail for happiness.

Until Day 2.  Arousal is long gone; your brain isn’t stupid, it has figured out that you aren’t actually in any danger, and now it goes back to sleep.  And its an even deeper sleep, because now its recovering from yesterday’s burst of activity.  You’ve got no practical things that need doing, having battened the hatches and filled the fridge.  And you already saw everybody yesterday and they are sick of playing board games with you.

And that’s par for the course.  For psychologists, there are two major components to happiness: satisfaction (the long term experience of happiness) and delight (the momentary experience of happiness).  Delight, what you feel on Hurricane Day 1, is intense and important, but it comes at a significant cost: by sharply elevating our brain chemistry and our expectations, we experience a bit of a gulf when it is gone.  With enough satisfaction, we can mitigate this by using our long-term base level to bring us back up, but there will still be a little dip.

So live large, New York, on the first day of Hurricane Sandy.  Because tomorrow, it will be raining, with no schools and possibly no subways, and you may all be just a little dreary.  Celebrate – and don’t party so hard that a few more board games don’t sound good for tomorrow.

There has been a lot of chatter in the press recently about intelligence augmentation, which can mean a variety of things but always gets instantiated for me mostly clear in the “software” of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.  The basic idea is that “always on” forms of computing (like Google Glasses) will fill in the gaps of intelligence by either proactively or retroactively providing information.

Put another way: you’re sitting at dinner with me, we start talking about The Beatles but can’t remember when they were formed, Google Glasses says “1960, asshole” and presto…our intelligence was augmented.

I’ve raised issues about Google Glasses before, but it is a little harder to know in advance the effect of this kind of change.  For example, we know that resolving ambiguity tends to make us happy – our brain gives us a little extra love when we solve a puzzle or see the pattern in something that seemed random.  But we don’t know what happens if someone gives us the answer: does that provide the same rush of pleasure?  Does Google Glasses filling in The Beatles answer count for as much as noodling on it for a few minutes and figuring it out ourselves?

It may not matter in the sense that, like cell phones, the technology will almost certainly find widespread adoption.  But knowing in advance the potential psychological implications of intelligence augmentation may prove key in helping with a smooth transition.

The calculator gives us a good example from history.  I remember even up until high school the degree to which some teachers felt like using a calculator was intellectually lazy, and banned or discouraged them.  More recently, however, most the math teachers I know don’t give calculator use a second thought; the emphasis is on the concepts and application of math, not its mechanics.

As Howard Rheingold and others have pointed out, technology often evolves to help us become smarter as a mass humanity (the printing press, for example).  What is different about Google Glasses is that we are now moving into areas of technology that interact with brain processes that are much more core to our own human evolution: information recall, perception, and choice.  Whereas the printing press and calculator have no doubt made us able to do more, they did not change the fundamentals of how we think, just what we do with our thinking time.

In the end, this may just be me wanting to start a lab at the intersection of psychology and technology to start experimenting with the future of these things.  But the next time you can’t remember something, think about what it would be like if you just instantly “knew” – you never had the frustration or the process of finding out.  Net good?  Net bad?  Net different?