1980 LA – Everyone has beginnings.
Blasting down Benedict Canyon Drive, one day after my high school graduation, in my Black Magic Mercury Capri, I’m on my way to grab The Wall, Pink Floyd’s #1 release. The Santa Anna wind destroys my 80’s mullet. It’s 1980 in Los Angeles, California, and I’m turning onto Sunset Blvd. To my left was the Beverly Hills Hotel, a place filled with legendary events. I proceeded down Sunset through Beverly Hills, looking at all the enormous homes decorating the iconic route to Hollywood. My journey would transition into the hyperactive wild experiential Sunset Strip, filled with billboards, Tower Records, and famous clubs like the Roxy and Whiskey A-Go-Go. I had seen bands at those clubs and enjoyed Tower Records, always dreaming of what I would do one day to get on those cool billboards. At the time, I didn't realize I would become the sign maker and the “puppet master” for experiential realities that would radically impact culture. Even today, I don’t always fully realize the impact of my work. In fact, not long ago, my daughter graduated from Baylor University, and she called me one day and said, "Dad, I'm going on my first business trip. I want to get a good business book. What do you suggest?"
"Sweetie, go and find any business book on the bestseller’s list today and read it cover to cover so you understand the syntax of modern business. This will help you in business meetings so you can speak with other professionals in a knowledgeable and relevant way."
She said, "Dad, I'll do it. Thanks!"
About five hours later, she called me back.
"Dad, I went out and I bought the book, The Latte Factor. It's a New York Times bestseller and I started reading it right away.”
“That’s great!” I replied.
“Well Dad, chapter one is about the author’s story of passing through the oculus in New York City every day. He talked about the importance of taking in the magnificence all around him because until he intentionally paid attention, he was missing out on the splendor of the world around him. Suddenly I realized I was reading about my dad’s work!"
In case you haven’t yet had a chance to visit Manhattan, the Freedom Towers and the 911 Museum, a lot has changed in New York’s Financial District. The Oculus is the extravagant wing-shaped building that replaced the former World Trade Center Train Station destroyed during the attacks of September 11, 2001. Looking like a large white dove, the transportation hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is the world’s most expensive train station, coming in at $4 billion. This iconic building houses 5,000 feet of LED video boards, delighting visitors with beautiful ads, information, and patriotic images on the anniversary of 911. One particular board, one of the longest, if not the longest LED video board in North America, measures 280 feet long and floor to ceiling, lines the corridor to the trains. It’s so spectacular that people say you could easily charge admission to see it. It’s one of my favorites… no I take that back, it is absolutely my favorite installation by my team at ANC. Clearly David Bach, one of the most popular financial authors of our time was equally mesmerized when he saw it for the first time, selecting this spectacle to set the stage for his story.
When your daughter randomly reads a story in a New York Times Bestselling business book about your work, not that it’s the main subject of the book, but that you are part of the lore, you're part of the city, you're part of the environment—that’s when you realize you've really done something significant. Helping build an American company, with expanding job opportunities, with the inspiration of growing, and sometimes the perspiration that goes into creating deployments and it makes me proud to know that people enjoy our work.
The Pace of Change
The pace of change today is so fast and furious it’s easier to tune out than to try to understand the world around us. But if we tune it out, we are missing out. On a lot. My goal is to help you explore the tremendous potential, along with the pitfalls and very real risks of today’s technology. I have spent decades discovering, developing, and exploiting new technologies, from broadcast television to 3D graphics, music composition to distribution, and now, the largest, most dynamic sports and event experiences in the world. Today’s technology creates incredible opportunity, but we need guard rails to keep us from falling off the digital cliff. That is what I want to provide for you through this book, the guardrails to help keep your life in check, protect you from bad technologies, and teach you to understand the technological world around you. Join me for the ride, it’s going to be fun.
I am addicted to modern culture, and you probably are too. The technology, opportunities, and infrastructure of our day are the greatest of all time. The question is, how much of your humanity are you willing to give up for the sake of convenience and free stuff? Do you even recognize what you are giving up? Most people don’t.
Think about this: If you aren’t paying for something, YOU are the product and whoever is selling you, owns you.
Now, you may have not ever thought of yourself as a product, but I assure you others have--big tech, marketers, the media, and the government. Algorithms place you and me into special interest categories and sell our eyeballs to the highest bidder if we let them. And because infinite categories do not exist, we are funneled into a finite number of existing categories based on stuff we like and the content we consume. Machine learning further subdivides us into funnels of censorship and propaganda to help sway us into a desired action or outcome. No matter how unique and special you are, in the online world, you are sorted and reduced to a formula, then auctioned off as a “user.” Dehumanizing isn’t it.
Who is in control? The big corporations create the programming and narrow ai rules. Interestingly enough, as social media becomes more powerful and humans more dehumanized, worldwide discontent has increased. Problems are being created that were never problems before such AI existed. Billions of people are being conditioned to think through the lens of their own bias and reinforced through the carefully curated feed of information they are served. Mind control anyone? At the same time, in the countries that have shielded themselves, like Hungary, people are living happier lives. Yes, it doesn’t have to be this way. Depression can be mitigated by not allowing products to define your worth. We “humans” have more power than we know. Understand that there are two highways: one that is free where you are the product, and another path in which you pay-as-you-go, like a toll road. It’s cleaner, with less traffic, and it’s your own “freeway” that you design. I hope by the end of this book you are empowered to design your path and that you no longer identify as a “user” but instead you graduate back to being a human, with a soul, a mind, a choice, and your power. We must never forget that human beings are not the sum of their bank accounts, a social security number, or the value of their likes and followers. Instead, we are a collection of our life stories and experiences that comprise who we are at the core, and we deserve to be seen as unique individuals and to express who we are in an authentic way. “Users” are addicts, owned, controlled, and commoditized. Humans are unique, free thinkers who will fight for their free will. Which one are you?
In this book, we will look at how this happens, how to break the cycle, how to protect yourself, what to watch for, etc…