FY19: Think Local. Act Locally.

2018 is almost over. Just a quick reflection. Growth and constant movement have run their course. The desire for new experiences still overrides stillness and the status quo. Life spent on the road warrants slowing down.

Why not just take care of things wherever you are? Expansion has been fun and good for global business, but is it good for the soul?

Less Tech, More Community

Instead of solving for global issues, just imagine how much less effort and budget it would take to end the homelessness and poverty happening next door. Quality of life is declining in most metros. How many executive boards think about fixing the poverty on their doorsteps?

The social media companies don’t want us to turn off our devices and spend more time building safe neighborhoods. NextDoor.com suffices. The desire to fix stuff at home plays second fiddle to the human need for global recognition (through social media). The tech industry records every moment — often at the expense of human trust.

Challenges await world leaders in finding solid ground and sticking to a singular purpose like helping those who got them elected. There are too many local problems in most countries which require peaceful boots on the ground. It’s safer to feed hungry neighbors before attempting world appeasement. Populism gains steam over other movements. Not many leaders want to risk “murahachibu.”

Yet, the constant desire for business expansion and personal popularity (without setting boundaries) has made narcissism a way of life. We’ve learned that selling to crooks overseas via Facebook or Google Ads has come at the expense of national security and democracy. Why can’t industries think more about ethics and less about wiring humanity for profits? Tech addiction, data infringement, software piracy, and espionage create as much domestic harm as any form of terrorism. E-commerce is exploding, but it’s also reducing retail storefronts, public gathering spaces, and jobs for youth. How do we increase social capital in our neighborhoods without relying on technology?

More Giving Back

Many companies like Facebook and Twitter could fix issues around their HQs much quicker than local governments. Marc Benioff and Salesforce lead the way in giving back to the community. Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter can do much more because they’ve captured our user journeys in their databases. They know us better than we know ourselves. Our digital footprint has become equivalent to our DNA. Tech should make us better human beings and not be used to manipulate and automate the human experience.

Nonetheless, the focus on getting us hooked on globalism keeps the ball rolling away from the harsh realities at home. I think there’s merit in spending more time and money in fixing what’s wrong in America, not what’s wrong elsewhere.

Recruit the Best and Make Stuff Locally

Why buy cheap software and technology produced overseas? These are heady times given global political shifts. The implications of putting your neighbors out of work should make you think twice about buying smartphones made in China or software from India. Instead of outsourcing, bring the best engineers here. The best talent from overseas should be retained. Just don’t forget to buy more stuff made in America. Honor companies creating US-based jobs such as Tesla.

Illusions of Grandeur

Tech entrepreneurship has generated extraordinary wealth. The gap between rich and poor grows wider while the architects of success live closer together (within a few upscale neighborhoods). It’s almost 2019 and I rarely hear conversations amongst the jet set crowd about making the world a better place. I’m sure the chatter will increase as the economy cools. There’s much talk to make everyone an influencer through social media. How about making everyone an empathizer instead?

Concrete Jungles without Culture

Gentrification is not a bad thing. It has helped reduce crime in metros around the world. Unfortunately, it increased pollution, too. More cars invade cities to provide ride-sharing or delivery services to the tech elite, yet very few drivers can afford to live in the cities themselves.

Metros have become country clubs for the privileged few. Large metros are struggling to advance the arts, the music scene, and cultural traditions while providing limited housing for its cultural ambassadors. Some musicians in SF and Seattle commute over 2 hours each way to perform late at night. For less than an hour.

Instead of increasing affordable housing, city governments have propped up fancy residences, outlandish offices, and short-lived shopping malls. Politicians aim to become financiers and entrepreneurs. Likewise, wealthy financiers run for public office to increase their power and influence. Fictional characters from the movie ‘Godfather‘ are reincarnated as real-world hucksters. Moxie wins business deals and elections.

Newly designed metros almost look the same. Wealth brings happiness to some but creates despair for the starving artists and musicians who made the metros attractive in the first place. Populism rises as commoners feel left behind.

Keeping Things Simple

There’s a lot of work to do without going anywhere. Change starts within oneself, then within the family, and expands to the neighborhood. There are movements to foster neighborliness.

My focus in FY19 will be to think local and act locally. In Seattle.