The one thing humans can do that robots can’t (at least for a long while) is to decide what it is that humans want to do.
The Japanese have an expression, hara hachi bu, which means, roughly speaking, “belly 80 percent full.” Hara hachi bu is shorthand for an ancient injunction to stop eating before feeling full. Nutritionally, the command makes a great deal of sense. When people eat, their stomachs produce peptides that signal fullness to the nervous system. Unfortunately, the mechanism is so slow that eaters frequently perceive satiety only after they have consumed too much—hence the all-too-common condition of feeling bloated or sick from overeating.
Thank goodness for Percolate, a small but fast-growing company that recognizes that marketing on the “social scale” requires content, content and more content, but only if it passes the relevancy test. Through algorithms, filters and other tools, Percolate scours the web and serves up content tailored to my specific areas of focus that I can review and easily share.
I’m grateful for and a tiny bit envious of this start-up. I marvel at how its founders quickly spotted a need and last year created a company that has scored a slew of clients and, in November, $9 million in funding. Besides that, everything this company does is on-brand, from its business cards and its Daily Brew email to the—yes–perkiness of its staffers.
Claiming to have been born in 1906, Pierre Jean Buster Martin was a 104-year-old beer drinking and chain-smoking marathon runner. He did not include fish, dairy, tea, or water in his diet. Buster smoked since he was seven-years-old and followed a diligent regimen of beer, cigarettes, and red meat. In 2008, Buster successfully finished the London Marathon. When Buster was not training for marathons, he cleaned vans for Pimlico Plumbers in southeast London. On April 12, 2011 Buster finished work, had a beer, and went home. He died that night, at age 104
My agency is no stranger to this, either. For example, we started to see that the creative process and its business model were breaking down the deeper we got into social media. Constant, timely asset creation was mandatory but did not work within “normal” digital operational or financial models. We could not create assets intelligently, creatively, quickly or inexpensively enough to be as effective as we believed we needed to be. So we had to re-imagine and re-invent a significant part of our business to adapt, and our Moment Studio was born. And it, like us, will need to be in a constant state of flux. And frankly, both will always have a long way to go, because we are in the service business, a highly competitive space with downward pressure on margins and rising expectations for leadership. We have accepted that we must remain nimble enough to re-invent other areas of our business in our quest to be the best, and the best option for our clients. That means striving to be the best at disrupting ourselves. The only way to be well positioned for the future is to accept that it is uncertain and to structure your organization as one that is self-disruptive. The only certain part of the future for agencies is that we will continue to get consideration for our most commoditized services. You should not be OK with that.
Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.
The counterculture is aging fast and starting to die. The best counterculture now is in biology. As far as I can tell, biohackers are all adventurous young people, incredibly athletic, and they’re all traveling the world. I don’t know if biohackers are as much fun as the computer hackers were, but they’re way more responsible. They monitor their own potential misbehavior in a way that computer hackers never have.