Waze, the crowdsourced GPS app, is an incredible mix of man, machine, and network effects. From the live reporting of user inputs like accidents and speed traps, to the machine (automatically) reported speed tracking, the network is incredibly valuable for an otherwise free to use app. But this isn’t a plug for Waze, this is a plug for a metaphor: the map is not the territory.
When we’re driving, the app can only tell us so much. We still (until tech solves this too) have to literally look at the road in front of us, put our foot on the gas, and keep a hand on the wheel. The GPS is not the literal road in front of us. It sounds almost too obvious to be worth saying, but there’s depth here.
Tim O’Reilly’s book, “WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us,” is largely about making a map of the present to best understand what is coming in the future. While clearly not trying to be Nostradamus, O’Reilly makes the Twain-ian statement that history doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. Much like Waze, we can see everything that’s going on now from our smartphone screen, but somebody has to be the first one to note a live incident by having their eyes on the road.
Last night were the Golden Globes. If you want a less literal example of the map not being the territory, look no further than a 75 year old ceremony operating in the wake of several years of racially-driven criticisms and now the Weinstein scandal. There’s a new road opening up, and this is a platform. The puns should be irresistible, because the golden globe is not the real planet we’re all living on.
Oprah’s speech has people calling for her to run for President. With a former reality TV star currently in the role, that’s suddenly an easier connection for people to make. When Natalie Portman introduces the “all male” nominees for best director, that’s suddenly a clearer picture of gender diversity that people are noticing. When Seth Meyer’s jokes that all the other award show hosts are looking at him like “the first dog in space,” this is all the notice you need that this trend will continue.
Mind the map, but keep your eyes on the road. Be extra alert when your map is labeled the Golden Globe (or Wall Street, or corporate America, or…). As O’Reilly says, it’s up to us.