Let me state a hard truth: if this is a far as you are going to read, you aren’t going to get it. Which is really frustrating, if getting it turns out to be important. Like vaccinations. On the other hand, sometimes it doesn’t matter if you get it or not, it’s still going to work. Like vaccinations. But you do have to go along, and that’s where things can start to get frustrating. It took some three hundred years for people to start taking the germ theory of disease seriously. For a few scientists, those must have been some frustrating times.
Hard truth: if you can’t explain something in three bullet points or less, you are done. Let me tell you another hard truth: those three bullet points are holding us back. Big time. And the reason is this: all three bullet points have to be common knowledge. If any one of them is an unknown – or even worse: debatable – then it doesn’t matter if you have the cure for cancer, you are done. Unless the cure is a vaccine, because everyone knows that will work.
And that’s where the three bullet points go from holding us back to shooting us in the back. As life gets complicated, it is just as easy to be led down a back alley with three bullet points. And even when this little soirée is every bit of fun and excitement that you thought it could be, you might get a little more than you bargained for. I hope you got your vaccinations, they might keep you from getting cancer.
Here are my three bullet points:
- Connections are valuable.
- Smartphones aren’t going away.
- Smartphones make connections.
I tried to pluck out the most fundamental hard truths, the ones that are common knowledge, not debatable. Even so, that second line is the one that my generation and older is going to try to debate. But smartphones are a bit like teenage sex: it doesn’t matter how you think the world should be, some things are unstoppable. Smartphones aren’t going away, and ironically appear to be reducing teenage sex. Be careful what you wish for.
Connections, in any form, are valuable. They are a fundamental human need, right along with water, food, and shelter. We could slip into a dim alley and discuss at length the different types of connections and the relative value of those connections, but let’s just leave it as a bullet point on which we should all be able to agree: connections are valuable.
Smartphones make connections. In fact, that is their power, it is what draws us to them, and it is why they are never going away, and why they are replacing teenage sex. (The irony is never ending). Over time, they may change forms, and the adoption of those changes will be personal (wearables like watches and <shudder> implants), but those changes will be driven by the ability to connect.
Right about now you should be asking WTF this has to do with anything.
Where vaccines have saved us from unmeasurable human suffering, smartphones may save the free world from collapsing. Go back, read it again, it’s not a misprint: smartphones may save the free world from collapsing. In what I find to be par for the course of universal irony, our salvation may come from a device brought to life by a man who died of cancer, arguably because he did not understand the disease.
I think it’s time for three more bullet points:
- In free society, we are going to pay all of the costs of everyone’s healthcare, no matter what.
- As we develop new treatments for diseases, the cost of healthcare will continue to increase.
- When we run out of money, our society is going to collapse.
You can try and debate these things, but the end result is coming whether you get it or not. It didn’t matter if the victims of the great plague understood the germ theory of disease, they died just the same.
I think this is a problem.
Wanting to fix a problem and actually fixing a problem are two different things. The bigger the problem, the more we are willing to keep trying things that clearly aren’t working. That’s called desperation. The people of Europe in the mid-1300s were desperate (the germ theory was not a big thing then). Desperate times call for desperate measures, like blaming Jews. Because that’s one of the things we like to do when things are going to shit, blame someone else. And let’s not forget to capitalize on the shitty situation, we are good at that too, a sorta desperate version of the lemonade-out-of-lemons thing, except it’s more of a shit sandwich, and we all get to eat it. Because it still doesn’t fix the problem.
If you think this is not a problem, well, that’s a problem.
The earlier you begin treating a disease, the better. (Ask Steve Jobs). This explains both my frustration and desperation. If we are going to try something different, now is the time. If we wait until the fighting starts, it’s too late. If you time-travelled a team of trained healthcare providers with a world’s supply of antibiotics into Crimea as the first infected fleas jumped from the backs of the rats on which they had been napping, I doubt you would make a dent in the death toll to follow. You’d probably be swept up in the blame and desperation, like nuts and corn in a gourmet shit sandwich.
Did you know that John Snow was one of the first to describe germ theory? I guess he did know something…
The only solution to our problem is this: we have to find a way to make everyone healthier.
One more clip of bullets:
- The more resources you have, the healthier you tend to be.
- Connections are valuable.
- Connections are the one resource that can be distributed without a cost to society.
Unlike water, food, shelter, or more complex resources like education and transportation, connections can now be created and given away to anyone and everyone, free of charge, without cost to manufacture or deliver, without the side effects of shifting assets from one group to another. It does not hurt your situation one bit for someone else to have all the connections they need and want. In fact – because we are going to pay for all of the costs of everyone’s healthcare, no matter what – other people being connected is tremendously valuable to each of us, and that value is amplified across the entire population. These are unique properties, because every other resource comes with both a cost to society and a finite supply; the more water you get, the more it costs me, and the less there is. Furthermore, the healthier the network that we are all connected to, the more powerful the connections become for all of us.
Connections may be the treatment for the disease of our society, and smartphones are a syringe.
In many ways, Facebook and Uber are analogous to blaming the Jews for the plague. These are systems that masquerade as solutions but exist solely to capitalize on our needs, in this case, our need for connections. It’s not even ironic that Mark Zuckerburg pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to end childhood disease, it’s offensive. As if millions of people hadn’t already been devoting their lives to a similar goal, but all along they just lacked his money and resources. If Facebook reshaped itself into a purpose-built, uncorrupted social network with the goal of allowing us to connect as we see fit, it would go further to improve the health of children (and the rest of us) than every charitable foundation on earth. Or vaccines, for that matter. But that would mean letting go of the money, and that’s just not going to happen, even if it all burns down around us.
Uber is a nothing more than a smartphone app. It is a way to make a connection. It is not an altruistic entity that intends to improve the health of society by facilitating better transportation. It is smartphone app that makes a connection, and that connection is sold to us by a for-profit, investor-driven company that wants to squeeze as many dollars out of our pockets as it can so that the wall-street perception of its value continues to climb.
But here’s the catch: they can’t stop us from doing things differently, and we don’t need someone to cleverly manufacture our cure. We can make it ourselves.
MoveUP is my way of proving this to you, and I am going to deliver this drug, even if I have to hold you down and inject it in your butt. Thus far, I have made the mistake of trying to convert the people who are least likely to see the light: grownups. My generation does not understand the power of the smartphone. They understand the 100 billion dollar valuation of Uber, because that’s the world they grew up in, the one where new products cost money and make money, a world that turns to the tune of big business. I appealed to industry, but industry exists for the profit, even when the product fights disease. I appealed to the government, but the government feeds on blame and desperation. And both industry and the government are run by grownups.
And grownups don’t get it. But young people get it. Even better, they don’t even know how powerful they can be, and once they see what they are capable of when they connect, they will be unstoppable. I don’t want their money, and I don’t want their vote, I just need them to get it, to connect them. And then they will get it. And it won’t matter if you don’t.