On Episode 106 of The Edge of Innovation, Jacob Young is sharing some advice for someone starting a business or nonprofit organization.

Sections

Maintaining Healthy Rhythms
AI Technology & Mimicking A Person’s Voice
Should We Trust What We Consume or What We See Now?
Is Authentication in Information a Major Issue?
Is Foregoing the Digital World Even An Option?
Will Machines & AI Take Over For The Minds & Hearts of Entrepreneurs?
The Playing Field Is Even For Everyone To Be Able To Innovate
Innovation Is Still A Human Process
Closing
More Episodes
Show Notes

Advice For Someone Starting a Business or Non-Profit

Paul: So, one final question. What would be the one piece of advice that you would give to somebody starting something? I know what you’re doing isn’t a business, but I’m sure there’s a lot of angst that you’ve had, a lot of joy you’ve had, a lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of hard, a lot of easy. And what would be that one piece of advice that you would give out to somebody?

Jacob: For beginning something new, either an entrepreneur?

Paul: Yeah.

Maintaining Healthy Rhythms

Jacob: Interesting. A friend of mine here in the city is – he’s about my age. Maybe a little bit younger than me. He’s an entrepreneur, and he’s not a Christian. We’re very good friends, and he has started up two restaurants here in Manchester. And I think the similarity for what our experiences is, is that if you are starting something new, you are dreaming something into existence, and that’s a very scary dynamic, and it can be a very all-consuming dynamic. Whether it’s a church, or a restaurant, or a tech enterprise, a software, an app – whatever it is – you’re dreaming something into existence, and you’re banking your livelihood on that happening. And so, it can be very all-consuming.

And what my friend and I are regularly kind of checking in on each other with is, do you have healthy rhythms so that you are a whole human being regardless of what happens with whatever you’re starting up?

Paul: Your enterprise.

Jacob: Yeah, whatever your enterprise is. A church, an app, whatever. I think that tends to be where I would aim at for, men and women, young men and women, whoever, who are starting up something new is, not only do you have the ability…

Are you honest with assessing what do healthy rhythms look like for me, and human health look like for me? Do you have people around you – whether it’s a spouse, or close friends, or family – that are able to hold you through that?

Because I think we all have, like, “Oh, I’m fine. You know, I can work eighty hours a week.” Well, you’re going to do eighty hours a week for forty weeks straight, and you’re going to be checked into a psych ward. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. And having people who can legitimately say to you, “Hey, you need to re-evaluate,” or, “Let’s re-evaluate your healthy rhythms so that you’re whole.” And some of that includes talking to people who had no relationship to what you’re doing. I have no idea what it’s like to start a restaurant, but I really enjoy hanging out with my friend, and he helps me keep my head above water. Just like it’s good to talk to somebody that has no relationship to the church.

But, a part of maintaining healthy rhythms is maintaining healthy rhythms with people who are just not doing the same thing that you’re doing. You know, and the reason that’s important is because, if you’re actually killing it doing whatever your enterprise is, you’re going to networking out your eyeballs with people that are in the same, or close to the same, sphere of life that you’re trying to build within. Right? I mean, if you’re trying to do an app, you’re trying to get investors who invest in the tech world, so you’re still talking to the same people that are within your sphere. You need to get out and go to a cooking class and learn how to make some killer baked salmon or whatever it is you’re going to make.

It’s a part of being a whole person, and everything about your life is not going to be consumed by what you’re trying to build. So that’s, kind of, where I would go with if you’re trying to start something, a church or not, that’s where my mind goes.

Paul: Ah, I think wise advice.

Jacob: Yeah.

AI Technology & Mimicking A Person’s Voice

Jacob: Can I ask you a question?

Paul: Of course.

Jacob: In the tech world, in The Edge of Innovation, I am increasingly concerned about AI technology as it relates to mimicking and emulating other people, to put it in a broad way. So, I would be curious what your advice is. So, this last week, you have this whole deepfake that’s been on the Internet for a few years now, and now this is being used in very inventive ways.

And so, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with who Jordan Peterson is, but he writes this article this last week saying somebody had made a website using his voice, and you could type in whatever you wanted, and it would emulate his voice from recordings. It used machine learning and AI technology to take his voice and then say whatever you’re typing. So you can type in Mein Kampf, and he’s going to recite it with his voice. And so now it becomes a question of, “Did Jordan Peterson actually say that or not?”

And the concerning thing that was in that article, regardless of the person involved, was that technology is now… basically, they only need about six hours of audio recording to be able to produce that type of technology for anybody.

Paul: Right.

Jacob: That hit my radar immediately, because I’m like, “As a pastor, I put out forty minutes or whatever of audio recording on the Internet every week.” And, as a podcaster, you do similarly.

Paul: Right.

Jacob: And it’s just — It’s deeply concerning as to, “Okay, how do I understand that? But then, what are the ramifications and anticipations and liabilities I need to be aware of moving forward?” Does that question, or does that dynamic make sense at all?

Paul: Absolutely. I mean, you, you mentioned two different things. You know, you were worried about AI and its applications, and then you went into a very specific example of a technology, mechanism, or methodology to do something. They’re very different questions. The whole concept of AI, or artificial intelligence — There’s a point at which something becomes intelligent or not intelligent, and I don’t think we’re really anywhere near that. We have really expert systems that can infer things from larger sets of data than we can. We infer things. You know, somebody’s, is rude to you. You can infer they have a bad day or whatever that is, or we can infer enormous amounts of information with the tone of voice, body language, all that kind of stuff.

And so, systems — computer systems — will be able to be taught, in some ways, to do some of that, but it’s not true artificial intelligence and machine learning. I mean, it is, but it’s not necessarily what science fiction talks about as AI.

Should We Trust What We Consume or What We See Now?

Now, having said that, your concern is not unfounded. It’s not fake. It’s true. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that I can emulate a voice, or I can send an email that looks like it came from you, or I can do all these different things. So, the bottom line is, I think, that we are in a situation where you won’t be able to trust what you consume or see. That’s the only thing we can do. It’s that, how do you know?

I have a friend who has a Wikipedia page that is quite controversial, but he has a high-resolution scan of his signature there. And it’s like, “Why would you put your signature up there?” I think he even has his Social Security number on there. And it’s a very interesting question. So, now, the point becomes that if you see something with his signature on it, did he sign it, or did somebody put it there from using his high-res sample? And you can’t necessarily know that. So then, it becomes, “Oh, I attest to that, indeed did sign it.”

“Is that your signature?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Is that your Signature?”

“Well, I believe it is.”

They are very different answers.

Jacob: Yeah.

Paul: It will be the fact that I could very easily post something with anybody’s name that I want to. I mean, well — You know, just yesterday one of the senators had a fake — or an alias Twitter account that was actually him, and then, it’s like, “Well, why would you do that?” I mean, regardless of what your political persuasion is, well, what was your point in doing that? And you look at the story that the person has been trying to tell over that. So, it’s very interesting. We have to reconsider the way we validate the sources of information we have.

Is Authentication in Information a Major Issue?

Jacob: Yeah. That’s what I was thinking. Like, it seems like authentication is a major issue at that point.

Paul: It is, but I don’t believe there will be a technical solution to it. It’s extremely difficult. In the world that we’ve created, there are just too many cracks in the foundation. And I’m very frustrated with the Equifax breach, and what has happened to that company is virtually nothing. I mean, even if they get a quarter or a half-a-billion-dollar fine, it’s not a big deal, you know. Nobody goes without pay, and they make that money back in a couple of years, and everything’s fine. But yet, now, my personal information is out and available for other people, and so, what did you expect, I guess.

The bottom line is that with the genies out of the bottle, there’s nothing we can do to put that information back in the bottle, and our systems are built in such a way that they’re built by humans, and there’s a lot of mistakes that humans make, and most of the issues that we see with technology are because humans made a mistake. So, I look forward to finding out what I’m going to say in the future.

But, it’ll be a lot about relationships and saying, “No, that doesn’t sound like Paul. That doesn’t sound like Jacob. That doesn’t sound like Bob. That doesn’t sound like Julie, you know.”

And we’re going to have to get to it and it’s going to be interesting. I mean, there’s been a lot of science fiction written about things like that. Photoshop was the first thing. It’s fairly easy now to Photoshop something and make a person that wasn’t there, there.

Jacob: Yeah.

Paul: And this is just the next level. It was difficult at one time to put somebody into a photo. Now, it’s virtually trivial.

The same thing will happen with our voices. The same thing will happen with our presence, our GPS locations, and all that kind of stuff. It’s an interesting, interesting new world.

Is Foregoing the Digital World Even An Option?

Jacob: Do you feel like that would be an argument, then, for foregoing the digital world?

Paul: I don’t think it’s an option. I mean, you’ll have your outliers of people who say, “Oh, I forego that,” but your sheer absence will almost point to where you are and who you are. I don’t believe there is a digital world. It’s just the world. I’m not negative or positive about it. It’s just the way it is. You lived on a street when you grew up, and you had neighbors, and that was the fact. It was that fact. And they had right assumptions about your family and wrong ones and whatever. They heard snippets of conversations, and they formed opinions, and they heard complete conversations and formed different opinions. It’s all the same thing, except there is a great ability to mess with people now.

Jacob: Yeah.

Paul: So how was that?

Will Machines & AI Take Over For The Minds & Hearts of Entrepreneurs?

Jacob: Well, I’m curious – Again, maybe this is a silly question. I wonder, you were saying with the AI and is working with a larger data set in terms of machine learning, or kind of, that realm of things, do you foresee that the future of — even talking about the nature of your podcast of innovation — that the innovations and entrepreneurial work that comes out in the future, could that basically be pumped out from a machine rather than from the minds and hearts of entrepreneurs? That is, if the nature of entrepreneurial is engaging with problems and finding a solution, are computers the front edge of determining what those problems are and finding solutions rather than humans? Does that make sense?

Paul: Yeah, it does. I don’t know that. It’s interesting. In teaching innovation, you’re teaching people to think differently, and in developing AI or machine learning, we’re trying to teach a computer to think — or to emulate thinking by sheer volume of processing power. And it’s usually the subtleties that make an innovation innovative. There is an “aha” moment that’s like, “Oh, that’s what it was.”

I was just rewatching the introduction of the iPhone, and as Steve was dancing about with the thing, we’re talking about an iPod, an Internet device, a phone. Are you getting it? An iPod, an Internet, and a phone. An iPod, an int— You know, so it’s just one device.

And very, very interesting, in reading and watching some of the videos about the gestation period of the iPhone and what happened during that time, and how some of it was innovative. One of the most innovative things was the ability for when you scrolled with your finger, that it had a rubber band effect at the bottom.

Jacob: Yeah.

Paul: That made the human interface better. Now, could a machine figure that out? I guess I’d like to think that someday it could, but before that was… I mean, when I say it now, it’s an obvious thing, that you can sympathize with and say, “Oh yeah, I see that.” You can’t necessarily remember how bad other devices that didn’t have that rubber banding effect were to use. I do, because I’m a nerd techie, and I remember that kind of stuff, and I saw phones and devices that didn’t have that rubber banding effect.

So, there’s this thing, in data science, called fuzzy, fuzz… Well, it’s fuzzy math or fuzzy data, and the thing is that where you take the data you have, and you make it a little bit more, and a little bit less, and you change different parameters of it to see what happens, and it has to do with chaos and things like that. And so, as, as we start to apply those things to data sets, I think they’ll be tremendously beneficial to help us realize things that we wouldn’t have realized otherwise.

Now, having said that, I don’t know that we’re — You know, the synthesis of something — That rubber banding effect is a human realization that we needed to have a way to experience something in a different way. if you were to go to a native on an island, and say, “Here’s two phones,” and they’ve never seen a phone before. “Do you like the one with the rubber banding effect or the one with out?” I don’t know that they’d have a context to make a decision. So that’s difficult, I think, for machines to do that without a lot more data about that.

Now, I think you could probably build an expert system or an AI that worked on just interface things, and then, as the people started to feed into it different options, it could probably meld those together into the better option that we couldn’t do.

The Playing Field Is Even For Everyone To Be Able To Innovate

Jacob: Yeah. But, then, it seems like the controlling factor in terms of what qualifies as innovation is the human factor, not merely the parts and pieces that actually end up being put together.

Paul: Right. Well, that’s true. Yeah. I have a good friend that says – he was giving a lecture in Washington, D.C. just a few blocks from the Library of Congress – and it’s all the answers are there. And now, all the answers are in your pocket. You just need to know what question to ask.

Jacob: Yeah.

Paul: And so, none of us are uneven. The field is completely even for us to be able to innovate. It’s really a thought process. There’s nothing I intrinsically have that’s better than you or than the person across the street. We are all able to innovate similarly. Now, we might have differences in the way we can execute that innovation, but a lot of that comes with persistence.

Innovation Is Still A Human Process

Jacob: Yeah. So that’s the interesting. That’s a helpful dynamic. It’s that, at the end of the day, the innovation is still a human process. It’s not merely a — Maybe that was where my question was wrong-footed. It’s merely a problem–solution process. It’s a human process, at the end of the day.

Paul: I think so. I think so. But I do think machines can assist on that. They could probably predict better than a human could what you might like to have for dinner if you gave them the information. You know, “I had a hard day. I had this, this, and this,” and, “Okay, well, then. If it’s going to be comfort food, okay, let’s make pasta.” You know, so, however you’re wired, or if you have celiac disease, they’re not going to suggest that. So, it’s all data, and it’s an optimized fit.

Humans, we process enormous amounts of data, and don’t underestimate the amount of data that we process. We also filter out good and bad data, and machines don’t have necessarily that ability to weigh what’s important and what’s not important yet. So, I don’t know.

Jacob: Actually, well, that’s helpful, yeah.

Paul: I don’t know if that’s, you know —

Jacob: No, I appreciate you letting me get into the interviewer chair and ask you a few questions on that.

Paul: Oh, absolutely.

Closing

Paul: All right, well, we’ve been talking with Jacob Young. Do you have an official title?

Jacob: I’m the Great and Mighty Jacob Young.

Paul: No, no. Wasn’t it — What were we saying? It was just yesterday that we were talking about — Oh, Mister Awesome, that’s right.

Jacob: Yes, yeah.

Paul: Is that on your business card?

Jacob: That is, yeah.

Paul: All right. Well, we’ve been talking with Jacob Young, a church-planting pastor in Manchester, New Hampshire, and we’ll have links to his website and some of his blogs.

I think it’d be good for people who are listening who might be interested to follow him and see what he has to say, as he’s sort of on one of the cutting edge of our society right now. New England is really in a post-church time, and you’ve chosen to go and really plant a church, start a church in a hard area.

Jacob: Yeah. Exciting times, and I’m enjoying it. It’s a fun time, you know.

Paul: Cool. Thank you, sir.

Jacob: Yeah, Paul, thanks for your time.

More Episodes:

This is Part 3 of 3 of our conversation with Jacob Young!
If you missed Part 1, you can listen to it here!
If you missed Part 2, you can listen to it here!

Show Notes:

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