FigBrew: Designing AI And Tools For People With Bob Baxley

FigBrew
2 Apr 202439:38

Summary

TLDRIn this insightful conversation, Bob Baxley, SV of Design at ThoughtSpot, discusses the transformative impact of AI on various industries, sharing personal experiences with AI tools like Chat GPT and Dolly. He emphasizes the importance of understanding AI's potential beyond current applications and adapting to its rapid evolution. Baxley also reflects on the role of designers in improving user experiences and the philosophical implications of machine intelligence, advocating for a historical perspective to address modern challenges in technology and design.

Takeaways

  • 🤖 The integration of AI in various industries is transforming the way we interact with technology and its applications.
  • 🚀 Bob Baxley's experience from Apple, Pinterest, and Yahoo provides insight into the evolving landscape of tech and design.
  • 🧠 The discussion around AI highlights the importance of understanding its potential impact on society and the workforce.
  • 🌐 The conversation emphasizes the need for a broader conceptual model of AI and its capabilities beyond current use cases like travel planning.
  • 📊 Baxley's work at ThoughtSpot focuses on making data analytics accessible and straightforward for business users through a user-friendly interface.
  • 🔍 The use of AI in ThoughtSpot is compared to a translation service, allowing users to query data in natural language.
  • 💡 Baxley advocates for connecting with history and learning from the past to inform and improve current design practices.
  • 🌟 The Apollo moon landings serve as a powerful example of large-scale human collaboration and what can be achieved with collective effort.
  • 🎨 Baxley stresses the importance of designers understanding and empathizing with the end-users of their creations.
  • 🔧 The challenge and opportunity for designers in the era of AI is to focus on human-centric solutions that enhance rather than complicate lives.
  • 📚 Baxley encourages continuous learning and adaptation, emphasizing the value of observing 'normal' people using software to inform better design decisions.

Q & A

  • What is the main topic of discussion between Andrew Hogan and Bob Baxley in the transcript?

    -The main topic of discussion is the impact and future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in various industries, with a focus on how AI is transforming the way people work and interact with technology.

  • What is Bob Baxley's current role and what previous companies has he worked for?

    -Bob Baxley is the SV of design at ThoughtSpot, and he has previously worked for Apple, Pinterest, and Yahoo.

  • How does Bob Baxley describe his experience with Chat GPT and other AI tools?

    -Bob Baxley describes his experience with Chat GPT and other AI tools as fascinating and mind-boggling. He used Chat GPT for travel planning and to identify themes in his collection of tweets, comparing them to the themes of stoic philosophers.

  • What is the mission of ThoughtSpot, according to Bob Baxley?

    -The mission of ThoughtSpot is to create a more fact-driven world by making data analytics accessible to business users, encouraging exploration, and rewarding curiosity.

  • How does ThoughtSpot use AI to simplify the user experience?

    -ThoughtSpot uses AI, specifically Chat GPT, as a translation service to convert natural language questions into the company's data model, allowing users to get the results they need without needing to understand the underlying data structure or complex query languages.

  • What challenges does Bob Baxley foresee with the increasing integration of AI in the workplace?

    -Bob Baxley foresees challenges related to the potential replacement of human tasks by AI, the need for workers to adapt to new roles, and the philosophical and psychological implications of what it means to be human in an age of advanced machine intelligence.

  • How does the discussion touch on the importance of historical context in understanding current technological advancements?

    -The discussion emphasizes the importance of historical context by drawing parallels between past large-scale human achievements, such as the Apollo moon landings, and current technological projects. It suggests that understanding history can provide insights into managing and innovating in the present and future.

  • What is Bob Baxley's perspective on the role of designers in the age of AI?

    -Bob Baxley believes that designers play a crucial role in ensuring that AI and technology serve humans and improve their lives. He emphasizes the need for designers to focus on user experience, understand the impact of their work on people, and continuously adapt to change.

  • How does the transcript highlight the significance of a culture of innovation and collaboration in large-scale projects?

    -The transcript highlights the significance of a culture of innovation and collaboration through examples like the Apollo program and the development of products by Apple. It suggests that a collective vision, sustained effort, and effective leadership are key to successfully executing large-scale projects.

  • What advice does Bob Baxley give to designers regarding dealing with change and uncertainty?

    -Bob Baxley advises designers to embrace change, avoid becoming too attached to specific tools or methods, and develop a mindset that is comfortable with uncertainty. He also encourages designers to learn from history and to focus on the impact of their work on users.

Outlines

00:00

🤖 The Future of AI and its Impact on Design

This paragraph discusses the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its implications on the field of design. Bob Baxley, SV of design at ThoughtSpot, shares his insights on AI's role in industry, particularly focusing on tools like chat GPT and Dolly. He talks about his personal experiences with AI in travel planning and content creation, emphasizing the speed and efficiency of AI in processing information and identifying themes. The conversation highlights the transformative potential of AI and the need for designers to adapt to these technological changes.

05:01

🧠 AI and the Evolution of Computing

In this segment, the discussion delves into the philosophical aspects of AI and its impact on the evolution of computing. The speakers reflect on the historical development of neural networks and the recent advancements in hardware and software that have made AI possible. They explore the concept of machine intelligence, comparing it to human and animal intelligence, and discuss the psychological and philosophical challenges that arise as AI becomes more integrated into daily life. The conversation emphasizes the importance of understanding AI's role in the broader context of technological progress.

10:03

📊 AI in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics

This paragraph focuses on the application of AI in business intelligence and data analytics, specifically within the context of ThoughtSpot's mission and UX strategy. The discussion highlights the challenges of making data analytics accessible to non-technical users and how AI is being used to simplify the process. The integration of AI allows users to ask natural language questions and receive relevant data insights without needing to understand complex data models or SQL queries. The conversation underscores the value of encouraging exploration, rewarding curiosity, and reducing complexity for users.

15:05

🛠️ Designing for the User: Simplicity vs. Complexity

The conversation here centers on the balance between simplifying user experience and managing the inherent complexity of software. The speakers discuss the importance of designing software that serves users rather than complicating their tasks. They reflect on the challenges faced by enterprise software users and the potential for designers to improve their quality of life by reducing friction in software interactions. The discussion also touches on the cultural aspects of companies like Apple that successfully manage large-scale projects and the impact of such projects on the industry.

20:05

🌟 Learning from History: Big Projects and Human Cooperation

In this part of the conversation, the speakers express their fascination with large-scale human projects throughout history, such as the Apollo moon landings, and the importance of learning from these endeavors. They discuss the need to understand and apply the lessons from these historical projects to current and future challenges in technology and design. The speakers emphasize the value of studying the processes, cultures, and mindsets that lead to successful outcomes in complex projects, and how these insights can inform better design practices and cooperation at scale.

Mindmap

Keywords

💡AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think and learn like humans. In the context of the video, AI is discussed as a transformative technology that is being integrated into various applications, such as chatbots and data analytics, to improve efficiency and user experience. The guest, Bob Baxley, shares his experiences with AI tools like chat GPT and how they can quickly process and analyze information, highlighting the potential of AI to revolutionize industries.

💡Chat GPT

Chat GPT is an AI language model that is capable of generating human-like text based on the input it receives. It is used in various applications, including chatbots and content creation, to provide engaging and interactive experiences. In the video, Bob Baxley mentions using Chat GPT to identify themes in his tweets and compare them to philosophical concepts, demonstrating the tool's ability to understand and process complex information.

💡Data Analytics

Data analytics is the process of examining data sets to draw conclusions about the information they contain. This involves the use of statistical tools, data mining, and machine learning to extract insights and knowledge from data. In the video, the discussion around data analytics relates to the capabilities of AI in handling large data sets and providing meaningful insights, as exemplified by the work at ThoughtSpot, where AI is used to simplify the data querying process for business users.

💡UX Design

User Experience (UX) design focuses on creating products and software applications that provide a seamless and enjoyable experience for the end-user. It involves understanding user needs, behaviors, and preferences to design interfaces and interactions that are intuitive and satisfying. In the video, UX design is a central theme as Bob Baxley, a design expert, discusses the challenges and strategies in creating user-friendly products, particularly in making data analytics accessible to a broader audience.

💡Enterprise Software

Enterprise software refers to software solutions that are designed to meet the needs of businesses, often handling complex processes and large amounts of data. These software solutions are typically used by multiple users within an organization and are designed to streamline operations, improve productivity, and support decision-making. In the video, enterprise software is discussed in the context of usability and the impact it has on the quality of life of its users, with Bob Baxley emphasizing the importance of designing enterprise tools that are easy to use and do not cause frustration.

💡Philosophy of AI

The philosophy of AI deals with the theoretical and ethical implications of artificial intelligence, exploring questions about the nature of intelligence, the potential consciousness of machines, and the impact of AI on society and human identity. In the video, the discussion of the philosophy of AI arises from Bob Baxley's reflections on the capabilities of AI and its potential to change the way we understand computing and human intelligence.

💡History and Design

History and design are intertwined as the study of historical design patterns, trends, and breakthroughs can inform and inspire contemporary design practices. Understanding the historical context of design decisions and technological advancements can lead to a more profound appreciation of design as a discipline and its evolution over time. In the video, the importance of learning from history in design is emphasized, with Bob Baxley advocating for designers to understand the historical roots of their field to avoid repeating past mistakes and to draw from the wisdom of the past.

💡Innovation

Innovation refers to the process of introducing new ideas, methods, or products to improve upon existing ones or to create something entirely new. It often involves a breakthrough in thinking or technology that leads to significant changes in industries or societies. In the video, innovation is a recurring theme as it discusses the transformative potential of AI and the importance of studying successful innovative projects, like the Apollo missions and the creation of Disneyland, to learn how to drive progress.

💡Transformation

Transformation refers to a profound and lasting change that affects the form, structure, or appearance of something. In the context of technology and AI, transformation often implies the shift in how tasks are performed, industries operate, or societies function due to the introduction of advanced tools and systems. The video discusses the transformative impact of AI on various aspects of life, including work processes and user experiences.

💡User Experience Strategy

User Experience (UX) strategy involves the planning and design of user interactions with a product or service to achieve specific goals, such as improving satisfaction, increasing efficiency, or fostering engagement. It encompasses user research, design principles, and usability testing to create a cohesive and effective experience for the end-user. In the video, UX strategy is discussed as a critical component of ThoughtSpot's mission to make data analytics accessible and intuitive for business users, with a focus on encouraging exploration and rewarding curiosity.

Highlights

Discussion on the future of AI and its applications with Bob Baxley, SV of design at ThoughtSpot, who has experience from Apple, Pinterest, and Yahoo.

Bob's exploration with chatbots like GPT and Claude, and their ability to assist in travel planning and content creation.

The impressive speed at which AI can identify themes in a large dataset of tweets and compare them to philosophical themes.

The impact of AI on the legal profession and how attorneys perceive the technology.

The concept of 'eating Tech' and how it influences the perception of technology in our daily lives.

The importance of being aware of the technological landscape, such as point-of-sale systems and self-checkouts.

The mainstream breakthrough of AI technologies like chatbots and the potential for transformative use cases.

The philosophical implications of AI and machine intelligence, and how it challenges our understanding of human intelligence.

The historical context of AI and neural networks, and how recent advancements are due to hardware and software capabilities.

The role of AI in data analytics and business intelligence tools, and how it simplifies the process for non-technical users.

ThoughtSpot's mission to create a more fact-driven world and its focus on user experience and design.

The challenge of designing enterprise software that serves users effectively and reduces friction in their daily tasks.

The importance of connecting with history and learning from past experiences in design and technology.

The impact of AI on the future of work, particularly in the field of design and user experience.

The need for a mindset shift towards embracing change and continuous learning in the face of technological advancements.

The significance of observing 'normal people' using software to gain insights into user experience and design improvements.

The potential for enterprise software to greatly improve the quality of life for users if designed thoughtfully.

Reflections on the Apollo moon landings as a monumental human achievement and its relevance to large-scale projects today.

The importance of studying successful large-scale projects like Apollo, Disney, and Apple to understand the culture and processes behind them.

Transcripts

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[Music]

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what's AI going to do next I talked to

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Bob Baxley SV of design at thoughts spot

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with experience from Apple Pinterest and

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Yahoo about that very question my name

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is Andrew Hogan head of insights at

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figma and this is big Brew big Brew is

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something that we were doing inside of

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figma to raise our level of awareness

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about what's happening in the industry

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and we thought we should share it all

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with you hope you

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enjoy Bob welcome to Fig Brew Andrew

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thanks for having me excited to be here

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amazing to talk with you uh I know

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you've been at Apple Pinterest Yahoo

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you're now at thoughts spot but to be

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honest the only thing people care about

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is AI so I want you to tell me what's

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the last thing you did with AI really I

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thought all they cared about this

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weekend was the Apple Vision Pro but

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yeah so we're still talking AI now

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they're going to have ai ai look guys

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I'm I'm playing around with chat GPT and

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and Claude and other stuff as well

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playing around with mid Journey uh and

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Dolly I personally I've uh I've used it

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a little bit for travel planning I have

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uh a lot of different U little things

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that I post on LinkedIn and I'm trying

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to build a website around those so I

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have like 600 of these different little

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basically tweets and one of the one of

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the interesting things I did is I gave

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that list of 400 of these tweets to chat

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GPT and I said can you tell me the 13

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themes that are captured in these things

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and of course it did did that in like I

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don't know 10 seconds which is

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absolutely mindboggling and then I'm

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it's sort of self-help type content so

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then I was like can you take that list

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of 13 themes and compare it to the 13

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themes of the stoic philosophers and

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then it could do that and then okay now

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slice it against montain and it could do

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that and then my head kind of explodes

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because you start to realize what the

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heck is actually going on uh and one one

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of the things I tell people about the AI

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is my my wife used to be an attorney and

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we have dinner parties or over attorney

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friends and they're sort of naturally

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skeptical people that's what makes them

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attorneys and I'll start talking about

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Ai and they kind of bring that

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skepticism and I'll try out my phone

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I'll go well let's just try question and

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they'll say something like you know

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let's imagine we're doing travel

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planning I'm like okay two we vacation

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in France 60 year-old couple interested

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in music movies and food or something

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you know and then it like kicks out a

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day day by day almost hour by hour

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itinerary in like I don't know 20

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seconds and then somebody at the table

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go yeah but that's not exactly the thing

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I would do I don't think I would do that

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on day to to which I have to go could we

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just stop here for a minute and think

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about what's happened here it is

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absolutely mindboggling because you

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could have put in anything and this

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system's going to respond to you Bob you

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said the phrase you know eating Tech

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like what what does that mean and how

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how do you think that changes people's

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perception of these things I I mean it's

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just what part of the economy and the

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happening in the world you're paying

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attention to right and like people like

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you and me and a lot of my neighbors

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here in Silicon Valley like we just

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think Tech all the time it's the

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centerpiece of our life like we live for

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it we're not just looking at computers

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to find the content we're looking at

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computers cuz we're thinking about

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Computing all the time we're noticing

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all these things in the landscape I

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talked to Young designers about this all

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the time are are you paying attention to

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the point of s system at the gas station

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are you are you deconstructing the

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conceptual model of what it means to buy

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gasoline at the pump when you're looking

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at self checkout and it's treating you

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like a criminal are you noticing that

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the fragmentation between all the

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different vendors that came to play to

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make that thing work like isn't it clear

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to you that the point of sale piece

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where they're taking your credit card is

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completely bolted on to this other

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system and that there's like friction in

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that fragmentation and that's resulting

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in like a really poor user experience I

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mean I could go on and on there's like

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software in every corner of your life uh

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and most most you know mere mortals as I

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call them like normal people who don't

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eat Tech all the time you know they're

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just moving through life and kind of

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being forced to use all that stuff and

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they're not really it's just become sort

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of the ambient of Modern Life and those

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of us in the industry I think you kind

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of look at it in a different way the

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data would say that like you know chat

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GPT and Dolly like the mid Journey all

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of those things have actually broken out

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of the world of people who eat Tech I

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can't believe I repeating that and we

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were going to maybe make an but but but

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you know like they've broken out of that

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world and it's surprising to the extent

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that that's happened I think yeah luk I

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think there's there's we're moving out

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of like the just the pure early adopter

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stuff um and I haven't seen the usage

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figures for those things I mean clearly

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these systems are going to be transform

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transformative I still just don't think

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the common person on the street has a

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good conceptual model of what they could

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use this thing for and so right now

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there is a lot of party tricks you know

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and we could all name the same things

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you know travel planning and I guess

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asking questions about the Romans or

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something you know I've never done that

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one summarizing you know summarizing

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papers or you know whatever like there's

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a handful of use cases that people kind

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of understand it's a difficult

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conceptual model it's very very

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different from how we've thought about

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Computing in the past like radically

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different it's a completely different

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approach to Computing it's a me I was

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going to say you know one of the things

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that's I found most interesting about

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the stuff with AI over the last year is

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it's gotten me plugged back into the

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philosophy around AI because the kinds

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of systems we have now the neural

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network stuff has been theorized since

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the 1950s we just haven't had the

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computing power and the storage to be

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able to pull it off so you know what we

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what you have with chat GPT is not not

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really so much understanding it's not

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really so much a breakthrough from a

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computer science point of view it's a

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breakthrough in that we finally have the

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hardware and the software systems to

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pull it off and so there's like 50 years

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of people writing about what is what is

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machine intelligence going to mean and

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it's uh it's got me reading some really

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interesting books but around this time

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last year I read a book called God human

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animal machine which is kind of about

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the nature of intelligence and you know

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we used to just think it was only God

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that was intelligent and then that kind

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of spanned to humans are intelligent now

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we think about animal intelligence and

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now we're wrestling with the question of

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machine intelligence and and what does

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that mean that was a very fascinating

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kind of philosophical book and then I

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followed that with another one called

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other Minds which is about um octopuses

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and and Squids and seapods and kind of

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their their kind of intelligence and the

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the theory of that book is if you go

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back to if you go back 500 million years

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ago humans in octopuses shared this

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common ancestor called this flat worm

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where the flat worm's clearly not

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intelligent fast forward 500 million

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years you got human beings like to think

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we're intelligent you got octopus is

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clearly intelligent Nature has has

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created intelligence two at least two

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times and radically different ways what

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does that really mean like how do we

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think about human intelligence you know

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I think that's to me that's like the

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really fascinating philosophical

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question that we're facing now when

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you're looking at Ai and what it can do

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and it's I think that I think that that

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that tension underg guards a lot of

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people's initial sense of skepticism and

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I think there's just kind of an anxiety

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and fear about like what mean like the

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idea that a machine could be intelligent

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and that it could give answers in the

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way that a human would it could create

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answers that kind of thing I mean it

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could replace me it could do a lot of

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the things that I do and and when you go

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back and you look at like the anxiety uh

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around deep blue when it when when it

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beat Gary Casper off at at chess like

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that was a very pivotal moment you go

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watch the alpha go documentary on

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YouTube about when Alpha go want it

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wanted the game against go and like the

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the guy that was playing His Name

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Escapes Me The Dan from I think he was

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from in Japan he was rushed like like he

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left at one point he like goes he like

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leaves the the the the place the where

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the game was taking place leaves the

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room and goes outside and and he is like

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stressed so there's a completely new

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method of computing and thinking and

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interacting your response to that as a

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person who eats Tech is to go read about

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philosophy and sort of go back to

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history and then sort of you have this

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this belief that like it's going to do a

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lot of the things that you do today like

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how do you feel about that I don't know

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man I'm feeling it out you know I'm

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trying not to be anxious and freaked out

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about it but you know change is change

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is coming and a lot of the things that

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I've thought were important for me to be

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able to do and I could uniquely do in my

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job I don't know if that's actually

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going to end up being the case or not

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yeah there's an interesting challenge

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like I think it makes you confront what

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does it mean to be human and uh what is

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my value as a human outside my ability

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to be able to execute you know certains

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of these tasks asks um and I think

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that's a that's a real meaty

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psychological and liberal arts problem

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to deal with yeah which is part of why

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you know I assume you're going back to

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the history and you you know mentioned

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the stoics earlier and you know that

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that yeah I'm always drawn to that sort

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of stuff I mean you know part of it's

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it's just how I'm tuned I studied

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history in college along with film and

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I've just sort of always been tuned to

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like what if what's happened in the past

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those are amazing Stories and how did

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people learn from them you see some of

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the Apollo stuff kind of over there in

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the back background personally I find

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connecting to the past to be very

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rewarding and grounding and I think it's

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one of the challenges when I talk to

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younger designers I think it's one of

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the things that I try to council them on

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is a lot of lot of folks today don't

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realize that there's like you know

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history design goes back at least a

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century and if not more and many of the

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problems that we're dealing with today

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about how to explain the value of design

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how to think about design the design

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process the psychology the designer

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mindset all those things people have

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been writing and thinking about that

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stuff for decades and decades like we're

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not the first folks to figure this out

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and why we like to think that we're

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unique and it's this unique historical

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moment that's um that's this concept

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called Chrono centricity and Chronos

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centricity is the belief that everything

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interesting happened in your own

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lifetime I think the problem with that

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is it ends up being super isolating

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because you end up feeling like you have

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to uniquely figure out these problems

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and there's nobody to learn from and no

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Community to connect to whereas you know

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by connecting to historical graphic

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designers or the Arts and Crafts

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movement or going back to some of the

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early Tech Pioneers like vver Bush or

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Doug engelbart or Stuart brand you

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realize oh I'm I'm actually part of this

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community of this you know human

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exploration that expands out over time

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and uh at least in my case you know it

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keeps me from feeling so isolated and

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alone when I'm confronting some of the

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challenges of being a designer in the

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modern world excellent advice you gave

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some names maybe we'll give people a few

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links that they can follow um or some

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some other um but it is it's it's

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striking when I talk to you how much uh

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history comes up how much like patterns

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that have repeated themselves come up um

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and I have to imagine you're drawing on

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that you know with the work today

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because you also mentioned these devices

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this technology um could replace some of

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the things you do today but you are

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actively also designing things that are

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helpful in augmenting people's work and

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so you've been thinking about how to

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apply it and how to think about it in

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the context of uh data engineer the AI I

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um engineer the sort of the folks using

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thoughtspot yeah so thought spot's a

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business intelligence tool right so we

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do data analytics basically charts and

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graphs for big gigantic data sets uh we

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compete with the likes of Tableau

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powerbi and many many other uh companies

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the vision of thoughts spot that the

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founders set forth when they founded the

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company was a more fact-driven world

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right so we wanted that the change they

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wanted to see in the world was a world

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where decisions were based more on fact

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than just opinions and intuition and so

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from that you get the mission of trying

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to get the thoughts spot product into

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the hands of millions of users and from

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that then we get a ux strategy that we

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refer to is encourage exploration and

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reward curiosity and then that leads to

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a handful of tenants of how we think

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about the design of the product now

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what's unique about our product is we're

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trying to get data analytics into the

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hands of business users the challenge

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for that is that in order to use our

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tool or any others like most of our

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competitors tblo and powerbi again

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examples you would have to go get

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specialized training those are

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professional tools you know they're sort

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of the bi equivalent of Photoshop like

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you're not just going to get in those

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tools and figure stuff out like you're

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going to have to get some training but

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the goal of thought spot is to just put

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data analytics into the hands of normal

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folks which means we need to have a tool

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that you can just sit down at and make

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sense of you know which is why I went

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there because that's ultimately a very

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big and interesting ux design challenge

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that I think we've done a really great

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job of we're broadly recognized as

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having the best UI in the in the space

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and people buy the product because of

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the design and because of the usability

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but there's still a fundamental

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challenge which is for a business user

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to sit and use our tool they have to

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understand or they historically they've

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had to understand their company's

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underlying data model they had to know

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what particular columns were called Etc

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now we have a simplified version of of

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SQL that allows them to be able to

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create uh much less uh structured

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queries than they would have to do in a

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in a traditional language like SQL but

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they still kind of had to have the

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vocabulary of the data model what we've

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been able to do with AI over the last

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year is we've been able to use chat GPT

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to go between how somebody might ask a

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natural language question and then map

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that into the company's data model so

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somebody can say What Would by sales in

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North America and physical you know 2022

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uh by region and there's actually a

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whole bunch of different column names in

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there that could that there's different

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ways companies refer to to sales

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different ways to refer to region Etc

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and in the past you would have had to

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know exactly what those column names

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were with our AI integration you can ask

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that a very natural way and we can go

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off and interpolate that so we we're

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using AI almost like a trans translation

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service where somebody can ask something

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in English and we're able to convert

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that over into their kind of internal

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data model language to then bring back

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the chart and the results that they're

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looking for and really aligned with the

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the mission of you know curiosity and

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exploration and it's very punishing when

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you write code that doesn't work and so

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getting something back is better than

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getting nothing back for sure yeah so so

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if you go back to again our our strategy

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of encourage exploration and reward

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curiosity like one of the one of our 10

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is nobody wants to learn the product

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know and and that means nobody wants to

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ever be stuck and have to read a manual

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it also means they don't want to hit an

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error right and in in in coding

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environments and you know most of our

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competitors again there's just lots of

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ways that you can dig yourself into a

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hole and not know what to do next and

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our goal is to create a feeling where

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you can just stay and explore the data

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you know hopefully you kind of find fall

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down a rabbit hole you know our our our

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conceptually I'd love to see our product

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kind of be like the Wikipedia of your

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data model and in my you know I imagine

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users sitting there kind of Surfing the

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data of their company in probably kind

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of an undirected just humanly curious

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way I just want to wander the data and

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see what I can find you know that

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requires a lot of sophisticated

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technology because these data models are

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hard to navigate and complicated and

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technically specific so just be able to

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click on things and have it constantly

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bringing you back results and results

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that are valid and accurate and

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everything else and that you can

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understand like I mean in many ways

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that's been tech for 50 years right like

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moving from Main frames to personal

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computers to from command lines to goys

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to you're essentially following a very

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similar kind of path and you've put an

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AI translation layer as sort of the next

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stage the next part of the evolution

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there yeah you know I sort of uh I have

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this thing where I say you know every

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problem has you know it's its fixed

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units of complexity and the question is

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is it going to be the system that's

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going to suck up the complexity or the

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humans and most companies are trying to

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find where they want to be on that scale

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you know in companies like apple they

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they put a lot more emphasis in the

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system the system being the thing that's

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going to take care of the complexity and

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much less complexity for the users and

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we're trying to move that needle in our

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very technical space as well you know

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and then look that's our strategy and I

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think it's the right strategy it's a

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great strategy there is another strategy

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that says no no no like you know you

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have to know your stuff like it's we're

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going to give you technical powers and

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there's going to be like a really robust

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set of things you can do but you're

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going to have to learn how to operate

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the system and that's yeah it's also a

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valid approach again just not the one

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that's consistent with our business

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model and how we think about the space I

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sort of you know the comparison I use is

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like Photoshop to canva you know there's

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space for both not everybody that needs

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to produce assets wants to learn

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everything you have to learn to be able

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to use these other projects some people

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just want simpler stuff well and it also

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I know it's personally pretty aligned

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with your your philosophy too of uh your

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personal philosophy of you know making

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things simpler for the user and making

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things more approachable and I just see

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I see a lot of align here it feel like

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you you've helped shape that yeah look

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whenever I get a chance to to talk to

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other folks or to have a moment on stage

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one of the things I try to do is take

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the audience which is generally

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designers back to like why we do what we

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do you know and being a designer is it's

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a tough thing you know I think people

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get into it pretty optimistic and maybe

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a little naive about what it's going to

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be like but the stakes are really high

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in software there's a lot of money to be

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made there's a lot of attention to be

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guarded from different companies and so

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the stakes are high that means it's a

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difficult field where a create a

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professional to survive in but I try to

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remind people that there actually are

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folks on the other side of the glass and

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it's weird cuz in software we don't see

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the people on the other side of the

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glass it's a unattributed medium they

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don't see us they don't know who we are

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um and we never get to see them been

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fortunate to work on products that have

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been used by over a billion people I've

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never seen anyone use anything I've

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designed in the wild in real time just

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happening right like which never never

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never I've never stumbled in somebody

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using the apple on onl store oh stum

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okay so so but you I mean you've watched

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people yeah I've watched people but it's

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always organized right I mean so organic

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organically you've never okay that makes

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sense yeah so like my audience is

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relatively unknown to me and hard to get

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to and there's no other medium like this

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I mean a film director even though

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they're abstracted from Their audience

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they can always go to the movie theater

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and watch people watching the movie and

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they can always watch people watching

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another movie A musicians get to perform

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in front of an audience so they get to

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build that rapport with the audience

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artists can go to their opening they get

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to build a report With Their audience

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but designers like we don't have any

play18:01

rapport with our audience you know even

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though our audience is massive and so

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one of the again one of the things I try

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to always remind designers is you got to

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think about the folks on the other side

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of the glass because that's why we're

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all drawn to do this thing my sense is

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that uh when I when I use computers and

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they work right um it is just absolutely

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magic to me you heard my enthusiasm

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earlier about using chat PT it is

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mind-bogglingly cool to me in a really

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fundamental way it's like looking up at

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the stars or something you know there's

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something profoundly unknowable about

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what happens inside this little metal

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box on my desk that's making this moment

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possible it's absolutely mindboggling

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what's actually happening with us right

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now from a technical point of view um

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and a personal point of view but you

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know it's um mostly technical but a lot

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of times it goes wrong right and and we

play18:50

all have to use crappy software that we

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don't like like self checkout right that

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treats you like a criminal which it's

play18:56

always a but then sometimes you get the

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one that's really well done yeah and and

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then it's magic it's magical yeah and so

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I go you know I look around the built

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environments you know and I think about

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the built virtual environment and I

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think a lot of mere mortals people that

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don't eat Tech you know spend a lot of

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time probably feeling kind of victimized

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by it like it doesn't quite work they

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don't really know who to blame there's

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like these faceless bureaucracies that

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we call Facebook and Google and Amazon

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and apple that are pushing all this

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stuff on them and that change stuff

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behind their back and you you know

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that's not even counting for all the

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Enterprise tools they have to use and I

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just suspect a lot of them feel awfully

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frustrated and again kind of victimized

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honestly it kind of breaks my heart

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because I think using computers and

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using software is one of the Miracles of

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Modern Life right up there with jet

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travel you know and fresh sushi or

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something you know and so so when it

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doesn't go right I just I I don't know

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it just it it really troubles me kind of

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at a deep moral level uh because I feel

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that whoever created that system just

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couldn't find it themselves to spend the

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extra time to care about the people on

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the other side of the glass of which

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there are millions describe this sort of

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like you know going back in history to

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sort of think about this moment um and

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to think about uh the impact that AI

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might have and how you should deal with

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it you've talked about using um thought

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spot as a way to sort of like you know

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help other people work more successfully

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and you kind of like I know this is part

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of your your core like Mission how you

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want things you want the world to sort

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of be designed better you want software

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to work better for people and I you want

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people to be able to do that work

play20:42

successfully but you also just described

play20:44

you were a little worried about the

play20:46

impact that AI might have on the work

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that you do and the skills that you need

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I imagine lots of other people would

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also be worried about that and thinking

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about you're designing a certain way

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today you're designing AI features today

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in a certain way um how might it work in

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the future and then like what skills uh

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would you tell people to have so they

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could sort of keep with this same

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mission of how do I you know make

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software work better for people what do

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you what do you think they should be

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sort of like trying to learn or do

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obviously we live in an era of profound

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change you know and I think we will see

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more change in our lifetime than any

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generation in history um although we may

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not recognize it as much because we're

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so used to the change humans aren't

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really no animals really well set up for

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the amount of change that we're dealing

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with right now so what I think about the

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things you need to learn it's a lot of

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it's probably around just your mindset

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you know like how are you how are you

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managing the change are you getting

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attached to certain things that are

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going to be shifted out from underneath

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you you know I I focus a lot personally

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uh on what I call Baseline thinking

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which is to make my judgments today

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based on how the situation used to be in

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the past um and you see people do that

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you know where they drive around around

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their Hometown and they kind of go oh I

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remember when that was a field right and

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they kind of get nostalgic and a little

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bit down that that used to be a field

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and now it's a parking lot or something

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and I think that's a sign of somebody

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that's not really keeping up um and if

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you can't keep up and just kind of go

play22:14

with the flow of what's happening around

play22:16

you you're going to get really

play22:17

frustrated and unhappy really quickly

play22:20

and so I think as a mindset skill just

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being comfortable with change and not

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getting too attached and not believing

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that you know what's going to happen I

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think those are all just again kind of

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really important mindset skills that I

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focus on quite a bit through journaling

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and other practices so I think that's

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kind of on the maybe the soft skill side

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more on the hard skill side I mean I

play22:43

don't know if I have any great advice

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there watching normal people use

play22:47

software I think is incredibly valuable

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and something I don't see many folks

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doing anymore I was never a huge fan of

play22:53

traditional usability testing because I

play22:55

often found it to be wildly inconclusive

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and have some other challeng but there

play22:59

was something profound about watching

play23:01

mere mortals actually use software and

play23:03

with a lot of things now moving to

play23:05

metrics based decisionmaking instead of

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like watching real users I think we've

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lost something important like we've

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gotten again kind of really abstracted

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and removed from our audience and

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whatever they do on server logs does not

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tell you what's happening at the human

play23:18

level and so I I wish there was a way

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where designers could get more connected

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to to just watching how people use

play23:25

software and in my own life much you

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know kind of much to my annoyance when

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we're you know when we're at a dinner

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party I often ask the other people

play23:32

around me if I could look at their phone

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cuz I'm just trying to figure out like

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which apps they use and if there's

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something I don't recognize I'll ask

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them about that you know when my kids

play23:40

were in high school and they'd have a

play23:41

friend over I would actually proactively

play23:43

try to watch their friends using

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Snapchat and other things because I just

play23:46

wanted to understand how people are

play23:48

navigating that stuff when we travel at

play23:49

Disneyland I talk to the employees all

play23:51

the time about what the back of house

play23:53

systems look like you know and how they

play23:55

know when to punch in and punch out and

play23:57

what shift they're on when you're at the

play23:58

airport you know if the next time you go

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to the airport if you if you go up to

play24:01

the the ticket counter and you ask to

play24:03

change seats they're going to type for

play24:05

like five minutes you know try to I mean

play24:08

you know just stop and ask them like

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what are you doing you know like because

play24:11

you because they're on this like really

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dos-based kind of system how you ask

play24:15

them what are you doing maybe a little

play24:16

yeah no but you can ask them you can

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just be curious you know you can look

play24:19

over I mean every time I'm in a

play24:20

restaurant I ask the the the the service

play24:23

staff what they think of toast or Clover

play24:25

whatever they're using you know I kind

play24:26

of lean over the system that's the

play24:28

really I feel like there is something

play24:29

too like we have now been more exposed

play24:32

to the the things that they were using

play24:34

on the other side with self-checkout and

play24:37

you know with you get this little

play24:39

Glimpse and it it is it is alarming

play24:42

because that is the easier to use

play24:44

version than what than what they get um

play24:47

and we've all experienced you click one

play24:49

button to change seats on an airline

play24:51

website or in an app yeah they do not

play24:53

click one button there's clearly more

play24:55

happening over there no no well I asked

play24:57

them one time what was going on and they

play24:58

what they told me is that they were

play24:59

chatting with other agents on the line

play25:01

where they were trying to move multiple

play25:02

passengers to request to accommodate

play25:04

your request and so there's people that

play25:06

they had been Auto assigned into seats

play25:08

and they were trying to figure out if

play25:08

they could move them to accommodate what

play25:10

your request was since You' made a

play25:11

request and so it wasn't like what was

play25:13

actually happening with all those

play25:14

keystrokes is not what you thought was

play25:15

happening to your point like one of the

play25:17

reasons that I enjoy working at

play25:18

Enterprise software is because to me

play25:21

that's a place where you can have kind

play25:23

of the greatest impact on the quality of

play25:24

somebody's life because the people that

play25:26

use Enterprise software the users are

play25:28

rarely the customers typically somebody

play25:31

using enterprise software including our

play25:33

own you know that's dictated from the

play25:35

CIO or somebody somebody else made that

play25:37

purchasing decision and this tool just

play25:39

arrives and they have to use it those

play25:41

tools often aren't very thoughtfully

play25:43

designed like the quality of the UI is

play25:45

not often part of the the purchase

play25:46

consideration and I think those people

play25:49

just feel end up feeling really

play25:51

victimized you know and they get bummed

play25:53

with their employer like why did you

play25:54

give us these crappy tools and this

play25:56

thing's not working and so I think

play25:58

enterprise software is an interesting

play25:59

place for designers to put their energy

play26:01

cuz for what it's like super easy to

play26:02

move the needle um and you can have a

play26:04

tremendous impact on the quality

play26:06

people's lives cuz if there's a little

play26:07

bit of friction in Enterprise software

play26:09

product and you can get rid of it you've

play26:10

taken that friction out of somebody's

play26:12

life a dozen times a day cuz they're in

play26:14

those systems over and over and over

play26:16

again and they don't have the freedom to

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switch to something else so I it's an

play26:19

easy do you think it's getting better

play26:21

you and I have talked about this for the

play26:23

past couple years and I actually I'm

play26:26

curious like do you do you have a that

play26:28

it's improving I don't know if it's

play26:30

improving and then probably more

play26:31

importantly I don't know if I am

play26:34

metaphysically capable of being a good

play26:35

judge of that you know like I think my

play26:38

designer mindset is always trying to

play26:41

like every cell in my body is constantly

play26:43

asking how can this be better so it's

play26:45

not like I have some perspective that

play26:46

it's gotten better I'm just constantly

play26:48

trying to figure out how to make it

play26:49

better so I'm not a good judge in that

play26:51

way I suppose a different response I

play26:54

might have is it yeah I think software's

play26:57

maybe become a little bit easier to use

play26:59

but we've also added more and more

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capability so I think we've sort of

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undermined any progress we've made in

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usability by just stuffing more and more

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features into these products features

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are that's an easy thing for people to

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build that seems like the obvious thing

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to build it seems like oh I should just

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can't of do this and do this and do this

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and do this and there's there's very few

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companies that are willing to say no no

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it's going to do this set of things but

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it's going to do them really well and

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that's going to be incredibly valuable

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minimalism is not something that's

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appreciated in in tech for whatever

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reason like it's not consumers buy for

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either you know it's like I mean I was

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going to say the Enterprise in the

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Enterprise World especially you know

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you're up against a feature checklist we

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have all these things and they don't

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have these things and then that

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incentivizes it and we haven't even

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gotten to the number of products that

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companies use which I think has probably

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only increased over the last couple

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years oh yeah so it's possible that you

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know individual workflows for some

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things have improved greatly and then on

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the whole it's tough to tell yeah I

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remember when I onboarded and thought

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spot uh just the number I I I you the

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number of pieces of software that I was

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just assumed to know and to have to make

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sense of and to use just right out the

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gate and I you know I did know most of

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them but there was like two dozen

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different pieces of software that you're

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just to be a modern knowledge worker

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that you're just expected to know right

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off the bat that's an incredible tax you

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know but those things also make other

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people's lives better usually like

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there's there's probably some you know

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some piece ofof software that's really

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helpful for the accounting department

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one piece of software that's really

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helpful for someone different in the

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accounting department and then there's

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you know a procurement thing and then

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there's a uh HR software and then

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there's and so I you know it is it is a

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tricky balance of like how do you think

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about all these different workflows and

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the different pieces of software try to

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stitch it together in some like you know

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easy way yeah absolutely see where you

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could move the needle but I also see how

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it's pretty tough

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what you just described as a reason I'm

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still doing software design you know 33

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years on and I have to admit you know I

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often feel that I'm kind of it's rightly

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it's kind of a losing battle at times

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but you know it's a battle worth having

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because we shouldn't be victimized by

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our tools like these tools are here to

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serve us maybe we don't know how to make

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sense of AI or but the idea that it's

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threatening to us tells me something

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that's kind of gone ay all these tools

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should be making our lives as humans

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better and not that many of them are

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it's a that's a real loss to humanity

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it's a it's a yeah I don't know it's

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it's I hate to kind of put it in these

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moral terms but you know well but you

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you see an opportunity and I think that

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is the that's one of the one of the

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other things I wanted to ask you about

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is you have this you have this interest

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in big projects that humans countries

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you know

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peoples uh have tackled throughout

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history um and what you just described

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as a you know it's a big project how are

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we going to you know make this soft

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software make sure the software is

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working for us how we all going to work

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together to do that tell me about this

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big project I don't know what to call it

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like it's not quite an obsession um and

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you know oh why why I've drawn to Big

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projects yeah and what are the big

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projects that you think about yeah so I

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think the first one was the Apollo

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missions the Apollo moon landings you

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know and uh I was born in 1963 oddly I

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should have been more interested in it

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when they landed in 1969 but it's just

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not kind of the the MEO of the family I

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grew up in so I kind of remember

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watching it but not really but I got

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into it in my 20s when I think there was

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there was one night I just looked up at

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the full moon and I think it just hit me

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we'd gone to the moon like six people

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walked on the surface of the Moon they

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camped out you know I'm sorry 12 people

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had walked on the surface of the Moon we

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had we had six different campouts you

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know on the surface of the Moon and when

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you look at it in the night sky and you

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really conceptualize that it's just

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absolutely mindboggling like the

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audacity of it and that we did it like

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six times between July 1969 and I think

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it was January 1972 like it's 50 years

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ago you know it's over 50 years ago that

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jeene cernon and Harrison Schmidt left

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left the surface of the Moon for Apollo

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7 or you know exited the moon on Apollo

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17 and their Footprints are still up

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there the computers that they landed

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with are still up there the core rope

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memory that had all the all the software

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that ran the The Landing computer for

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the the lunar module it's still up there

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if you could recover it you could run

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the code again you know it's just

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mindboggling and so I think that led me

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a fascination with the Apollo program

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and I've done a lot of talks about this

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and Leadership Lessons From the Apollo

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program and how that applies to other

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things and it's taken me a while to

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figure out that what's really

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fascinating because I do deeply believe

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that you know the future of our survival

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and happiness as a species is our

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ability to cooperate at scale on these

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large scale projects and I'm a big

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believer in studying in doing case

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studies you know so instead of doing

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theoretical ideas of what a design

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process is it's like well let's just

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look at an example that we you know

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let's look at a product that we all

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admire and then figure out how they made

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it and use that as a case study for how

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we might want to make our product and so

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when I look at Apollo I just sort of try

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to deconstruct it and use it as a case

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study of how human beings accomplished a

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you know what was arguably a peacetime

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goal it was at least even if it was you

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know Act of the Cold War at least it was

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a nonviolent Act of the Cold War and to

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get the country to commit that amount of

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time that amount of money that amount of

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risk you know for a solid programs

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announced at at Rice University in 1961

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I believe we land in 196 9 last mission

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against 1972 like being able to sustain

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this country's attention a decade for a

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decade yeah yeah um yeah so I've got a

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talk where I deconstruct the Kennedy

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speech because it you know people talk

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about a moonshot I'm like well there's

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only been one moonshot and that's the

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one that landed on the moon because the

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moon shot's kind of got to go to the

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Moon you know if you go and listen to

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that Rice speech which I encourage

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everybody to do it clocks in at 18

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minutes it is the consumate Ted Talk it

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is the Ted Talk of all time go and

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listen to it look at how Kennedy sells

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the vision of going to the moon and why

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we're going to go to the moon and why it

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matters and how much that changes

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people's minds and how compelling it is

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and then especially watch him after he

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finishes the speech because it turns out

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he's he's fairly short and when he goes

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back to the to the seats he's surrounded

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by these gigantic guys and he sits there

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and he's kind of got this interesting

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look on his face I don't think he was

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really expecting that response and like

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he really expected it to go that well I

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don't know just looking at the video

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kind of like wow he's seems pretty proud

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of the moment and he seems to have some

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sense of like what's happened it's just

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I I find that speech just super

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compelling both to watch the video and

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to like read the The Narrative itself uh

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again to deconstruct it so he's saying

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we need a moonshot for enterprise

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software I'm just kidding no I'm saying

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yeah I'm just saying there's learnings

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from the Apollo prog there's learnings

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from how Walt sold Disneyland you know

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Disneyland's a big massive project they

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went you know they it within one

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calendar or within one year they went

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from getting the bank loans you know

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based on a on a drawing that him and a

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Disney animator did at his house over

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the weekend a drawing of the park they

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got a bank loan against that and they

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open the park with Ronald Reagan as the

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Master of Ceremonies on TV 12 months

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later like in a year like how the hell

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do you do that you know like you're

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talking about an MVP and like time to

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Market like they built Disneyland in a

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year and they got Ronald Reagan and like

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everybody imaginable to like come to the

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opening it's phenomenal and and there's

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just not that many examples of humans

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pulling off large scale projects like

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that when I think about software like

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building enterprise software is a large

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scale project how do you how do you

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Galvanize and motivate a huge group of

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people Apple's the only company I see

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doing that in a reliable way at scale

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like if you look I mentioned earlier the

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Apple Vision Pro and people can look at

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the product and they can deconstruct the

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product I would suggest that you look at

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the company that produced it and you ask

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yourself what kind of culture produces a

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product like that that they were working

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on for I think eight years they were

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able to stain sustain that Vision none

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of it leaked none of it leaked before

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the announcement yet probably hundreds

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of people worked on that product and all

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the different specializations and

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Explorations all the things that had to

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go into creating that product that

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people are reporting as you know kind of

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mindblowing and in some cases maybe

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life-changing although it seems a little

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hyperbolic but you whe whether you're a

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believer in The Vision Pro or not

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nobody's every everybody's saying it's

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one of it's the most incredible consumer

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electronics product ever conceived ever

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and like what kind of culture pulls that

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off like what's the mechanics of a

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culture that makes that possible well

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and there's a series of them right

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because it it would be one thing if it

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was you know just the iPhone but it's

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also the watch it's also the iPad it's

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also the Mac yeah the Mac I mean yeah

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clearly Steve you know and Steve talked

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about that the various points in his

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life like the thing that he had created

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that he was most proud of was Apple you

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know and that's the culture to go study

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like what's that what's the machine that

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makes Apple function and that's apart

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from the products and what they actually

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produced it's like what is what is the

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culture and that's that's how I look at

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the Apollo program that's how I look at

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Disney that's how I look at Pixar you

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know there's there's only a handful of

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companies that can operate at that way

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but those are the those are the

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companies I think we should be studying

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from again from a case study point of

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view instead of trying to deconstruct

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some of these products you say what was

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the culture and the processes and the

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mindsets that ended up yielding these

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products that we all admire so much the

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fast with big projects has always made

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sense to me I wanted to make sure other

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people heard about it and I um it's such

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an interesting combination of you know

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history we were in a moment then and

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what can we pull from that what sorts of

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things can we think about um and you

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know broadly applicable you you make

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people you know if you if you want

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people to cross an ocean you don't like

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you know teach him to sail you teach him

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to yearn for the sea right isn't I love

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always love hearing about that yeah look

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I think the trick with with history and

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it's true with Apollo is you know with

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all this stuff including Apollo is can

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you get yourself into a mindset where

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you can identify with the participants

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when they didn't know the outcome you

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know can you sit with James Madison uh

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in Philadelphia when he showed up

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earlier for early for the Constitutional

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Convention and he decides to write a

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draft of the Constitution James Madison

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didn't know how it was going to turn out

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at some point he sits down with paper

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and he start start structuring a

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constitution that had three branches of

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government and all the rest of that

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stuff can you can you get back to that

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moment where it wasn't clear what was

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going to happen can you get yourself

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back to the moment where it wasn't clear

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they were going to land on the moon you

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know they had there was three missions

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lined up in 1969 so Apollo 11 12 and 13

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were all queued up to land by the end of

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1969 because nobody thought they were

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going to land Apollo 11 they they in

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fact Neil Armstrong the night before the

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quote he's at the press conference the

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night before and he says we the crew of

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Apollo 11 are privileged to represent

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Mankind in this our first attempt to

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land on the moon and so this this

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concept of like their privilege to have

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this to be part of this opportunity you

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know to our first attempt like the

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mindset was maybe this is going to work

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and like he's almost out of gas like

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he's got I think 11 seconds of fuel left

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when he lands and there was a big

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boulder where they were supposed to land

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like there's there's a lot of stuff

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uncertain stuff that happens in that

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last 180 you know seconds talk about

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those things though to your point it's

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actually very difficult to be back in

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that moment it's much you get much more

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uh sort of accounts and Analysis of like

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why it worked and what was anyway yeah

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when you see the final score you forget

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how tense the game was and I think you

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have to go back and put aside the final

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score and sort of say no this is what

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the participants were dealing with it

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wasn't clear and I think that's where my

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why I study history and that's kind of

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where my comfort comes from because then

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you kind of realize oh well like I'm

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feeling all that uncertainty in my daily

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life too and that's just well that's how

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it's always been you know that's what it

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means to be in the now I don't know how

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the election's going to turn out I don't

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know what's going to happen with the

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pandemic I don't know what's going to

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happen with the weather I don't know

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what's going to happen with my job with

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the econom like like nobody ever knows

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what's going to happen that's how it

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always is right and uh if all you ever

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think about is the final score you

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forget that the game was very much in

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doubt Bob thanks for being on fig Brew

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always fascinating thank you Mr Hogan

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lovely to see you as always thank you

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and I can't wait to have you back love

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to have you back that would be great

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anytime I'm around

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[Music]

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