January 27, 2017

There is a danger in group think, and it seems the entire world suffering from it. The internet and social media was supposed to make information free and accessible to all, that was the dream and hope. It was supposed to break down walls and barriers, and unite everyone. That has not happened.

What’s happened is that people are now free to surround themselves with people who think like them, talk like them and pray like them. Instead of creating a world where people of diverse backgrounds get together and find common cause, it has created a way to avoid diversity. Our online personas now live in self created, virtual neighborhoods, where the people are just like us.

We see this in technology with the “brogrammer” culture, where the accepted dogma is to hire people that fit in your company culture. Now, if you are a company that was created by wealthy, ivy league grads, then who do you think fits their culture? The idea of company culture has now become an accepted form of racial, sexual and income discrimination.

While women and minorities have long fought for fair representation and equal compensation in corporate America, the explosive growth of the independent contractor and gig economy has created a new arena for this dynamic. Now it’s not just a matter of fighting for promotions and fighting for raises, it has become a struggle to have a full time, good paying job with benefits. These jobs are disappearing and they will not be back, despite best efforts to make free trade more fair or keep manufacturing in the US.

Robots have taken jobs in manufacturing, and we know that. But have you used self checkout at Home Depot, or the supermarket or any fast food restaurant? Robots are soon going to be taking over jobs we never thought they would.

Self driving cars? Aerial drones? Food delivery? All these technologies will take low paying, entry level jobs. The scary thing is that the impetus for these advancements are coming from outside the industries themselves. Thousands of people and billions of dollars spend every day developing and promoting technologies that will disrupt industries, job and the economy, all will little to no thought about the consequences.

What we need in every Venture Capital office, Angel investment group, Hedge Fund and Corporate Board is a contrarian. Someone whose job is to argue against what the majority wants. This viewpoint needs to be given life and needs to be argued eloquently, forcefully and logically.

Google is developing technology for someone to live hundreds of years. What’s the affect to that person and to society? Self driving cars will disrupt millions of jobs. How will that change society? Drones delivering goods? No more delivery people, cargo pilots, truck drivers? The decisions we make behind closed doors are decisions that affect everyone and those decisions should be thoroughly thought out. Since the public cannot have a say, then the contrarian should.

Per wikipedia, “The heyoka is a kind of sacred position in the culture of the Lakota people of the Great Plains of North America. The heyoka is a contrarian who acts in an opposite fashion to the people around them.” This is what we need today in America, in business, in politics and in life. We are so used to living in a bubble, not exposed to other views and opinions. We need a contrarian, and we need the position to be one that is honored and appreciated.

How this might look, I’m not sure, but let’s start the conversations. Let’s grow the tent. Let’s put down our phones, and speak to someone with a different point of view. Facebook and Twitter have given us virtual soap boxes. We are a sea of people standing on soap boxes, surrounded by others on soap boxes, all saying the same thing. That’s my advice, spoken from my own soap box. But as much as I dislike so many things about Donald Trump and his cabinet, what would the contrarian say. I want to hear it. Just no fake news please…

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