Darin Andersen and Merrin Muxlow from Seamless Podcast welcome special guest Sean Ernst, in this podcast episode “Smart Cities: Digital Nomad.”

“The missing link for us was a platform that allowed us to develop…but not be full-blown developers 100% of the time. So throughout the many trials and tribulations of looking for the right platform, we ended up partnering with a local San Diego company that had done just that.”

In this Smart Cities episode, Sean Ernst talks about the changed workplace environment from an IT and technology-use perspective, including work life during Covid-19, digital transformation and the digital workplace, the rise of the digital nomad, and the future of technology for human communication. He also discusses the new innovation platform being created by Dreamtsoft and centrexIT that is poised to transform the MSP world.

Listen here or on your favorite platform below. Quick transcript reference:

  • 00:02:43 Darin introduces Sean Ernst
  • 00:04:48 High-level market trends and application sprawl
  • 00:07:10 Efficient online collaboration improves efficiency & reduces working day
  • 00:09:29 Dogs barking & other new distractions when working from home
  • 00:12:14 How the shared experience of the WFH “new normal” has helped grow understanding & compassion for the WFH situation
  • 00:14:52 Managed IT platform development with Dreamtsoft & centrexIT
  • 00:18:40 How the new platform with help shape the IT industry
  • 00:21:52 The importance of having top-notch HR practices to support remote work and how accessing great talent is one of the benefits of a remote business structure
  • 00:25:37 Darin discusses how technology has shaped communication over the years
  • 00:28:42 How collaboration platforms have spearheaded new forms of language and communication
  • 00:35:48 What will future technology do to communication?
  • 00:29:42 Closing thoughts and contact info

 

Sean Ernst travels as a Digital Nomad while spearheading the MSP industry’s cutting-edge technology

Full Transcript

00:00:43  

Darin Andersen
Hey, good afternoon. Welcome to the Seamless podcast: the Smart City series with Darin Andersen, that’s me, and my co-host, Merrin Muxlow. Hey, how are you doing?  

Merrin Muxlow
I’m good, I’m good.  

Darin
Happy Friday. 

Merrin
Yes, you also. 

Darin
Merrin is the chapter CEO of TiE, which I learned recently, means the Indus Entrepreneurs. Tell us a little bit about what tie does and what your connection to Smart Cities is. 

Merrin
Sure. I met Darren at Tech Con, and when was that, a year ago?  Pre-COVID. 

Darin
Yeah it was pre-COVID, so maybe a year and a half. 

Merrin
And it feels like a million years ago. 

Darin
I know, that feels like a century ago. 

Merrin
So Tech Con was put on by our chapter President, Faisal Mushtaq, who’s the CTO of Sleep Number Labs. TiE is an organization where we do a couple of different things. We’re an organization for entrepreneurs, the largest global nonprofit for entrepreneurs. And we have a program for high school students that is currently running. We have about 80 kids all over San Diego, Orange County and LA now. Our program is huge this year. It’s amazing, actually. It’s kind of like a Shark Tank—meets incubator—meets mini MBA for high school students. We’re also affiliated with the fund South Coast Angels that many of our members are members of as well, so we have some connection to that.  We’re having a pitch contest in April with some members of that fund, and then we host workshops, networking stuff, TiE-Con, it’s big conference virtual this year. All kinds of stuff. 

Darin
Awesome. Well, I also want to welcome our special guest today: Sean Ernst, the Director of Technology at centrexIT.  We’re actually welcoming him back to the Seamless podcast. He’s done some other shows with us on the Seamless podcast: Futurecon Cybersecurity series. 

Sean’s a thought leader on new technology and I’ve been intrigued by his ideas about digital transformation and something called the digital workspace, which he might call marketing—we actually debate and discuss that—and which I think many see is the kind of logical evolution of the traditional work environment that most of us grew up in.  

Sean, welcome to the podcast. 

00:02:43  

Sean Ernst
Appreciate it, thanks for having me on again. 

Darin
Great to have you on. So I think most would agree that we’ve been preparing for this digital transformation in the work environment for a number of years, and perhaps the pandemic has sort of tipped the scale. 

And really driven us there faster than some expected. It seems like so many organizations have been forced to look in how to implement new business models and new technologies that support this kind of work from home and other spaces outside of the traditional office just to stay ahead of the curb. The Gartner Group, which is an IT technology working group and research group predicts that the greatest competitive advantage for a large portion of companies, like 30 plus percent, is going to be all about their ability to implement new technology in the digital workplace, as that technology shapes up.  

So what we wanted to do today was just talk about some of the top digital trends. Also, get a little bit into the headspace of where that shapes up with the boundaries between sort of consumer work at home, live at home and work and work from home. So just wanted to open it up. When I think about some of the key trends here, I think you have to point to cloud based software, something that’s really enabled this whole movement. 

You don’t have to be tied to a server farm, or connected by wires inside of an office. That might have been the first aspect of liberation – sort of the original “cut the wire.” Before, we’ve thought about that in the terms of cable TV.  This “cut the wire” was a way for remote workers who have been out there for 10-15 years, working from home or longer. And we see it with cloud-based computing that’s open to everyone.  

A couple other trends that that I was going to just introduce: the use of personal digital devices at work. I think that’s super interesting as you especially get into this home versus workspace. But let me just open it up, and Sean, maybe you can share a few thoughts about where you see this market shaping, and some of the trends that you’re following. 

00:04:48

Sean
Yeah, absolutely yeah. I think one of the funny things with the pandemic: We were on the cusp of this maturation and moving towards the cloud and this limitless world of technology we live in. 

Ultimately, I think the pandemic did give us a little room to prepare, or as little of it as it could, so it ultimately did force our hand a little bit, but the good thing is that just-in-time training in a lot of ways, really helped us kind of accelerate not only our familiarity with it, but also clients that we work with and letting them see the technology that was there to support them in this kind of new work from home life.  

One of the things that we saw internally for our organization was we were so fragmented in so many ways.  For a company our size, we really shouldn’t have the amount of application sprawl that we do, but ultimately we recognized it. When we sat down just said, “hey how many applications are we using across all these different vendors,” we were somewhere in the range of 140150 different applications to support our business. In some cases they were integrated in some capacity, but in a lot of those they were just data silos that were sitting out there that we really didn’t have a good grasp on in a lot of ways. Just simply because it was set up, like maybe for a specific department that administered themselves, and we had no way of bringing that all together.  

Probably one of the best things from an efficiency standpoint is the ability to consolidate a lot of these applications, not only from the security side, like being able to control access and put some policies in place to support that, but also the ability to collaborate now is going through the roof. 

I think if you asked this probably five years ago, “would we have these capabilities for us?” we would have thought yeah, it’s possible, but it would take a lot of work to get there. 

The work was already happening. It really just took a pandemic for us to really start to see that and start to thrive in a scenario where we really didn’t think that working from home and this dispersed life that we would have at the office would be possible. 

Merrin
So do you think that because people are more connected in a certain way and disconnected in a certain way…I guess like you said that that it was more collaborative. Does that mean more productive? What does that mean? 

00:07:10

Sean
Yeah, it’s a funny one because when you think “being in the office” you think “being face to face”, having those conversations that would be more collaborative—but I think in a lot of ways it’s almost the inverse of that. 

I think that because we’re so much more connected, and I’m saying connected in the digital sense, because we are so much more connected, it’s easier for us to collaborate. When you don’t have the  people come in your office just to sit down and chat, when you’re not going to the break room to grab a drink, when you’re not getting pulled into side conversations as you’re walking through the office; it has kind of given us a little more tunnel vision towards work.  I would say, call me call me crazy here, but I would say that the 8 hour work day really isn’t necessary. 

It’s probably the five-hour work day, or you know, even the four-hour work day. It really is getting to that point. I’m not advocating for that, being something like this, but I think I could see why some would.  

Darin
Well, I know we had this conversation in a recent show and Marrin was like, “well, look, hey, I’m 35 years old. I’ve had 20 years to get better at what I do, so theoretically I shouldn’t be working 10- or 12-hour days. I should be working like 6- or 8-hour days ’cause I’ve learned some things, you know.” 

Merrin
One of my good girlfriends—we’ve been friends since we were like five years old and she’s still one of my best friends – and we talked when we were in high school. “Well, you know people work like 8 hours, but now there’s the Internet and that’s you know all starting to take off. So by the time that we have jobs, we’re going to have so much free time. We’re just going to be working four or five hours a day.” 

And that hasn’t happened, kind of. 

Darin
Yeah, ’cause new technology always brings either this subtle or overt promise of more productivity, which you would think translates into more free time. 

But in my career, you know 20-30 years I’ve never seen. It’s like more productivity means more access to like my brain space and my head space in my working hours. So it’s expanded, in many cases, the time that I work, so you end up working hours way more, but to your point…it should actually be shrinking.  

Merrin
It’s kind of forcing people to reexamine like, well, “if I’m working all this time I need to be doing something that’s actually interesting for me and that I like.”  I see this personally, and just with my own friends and people that I know, there’s a shift to where it’s “if you are always accessible, who wants to always be accessible at something that they think it sucks, or it’s not their mission in life, right?” 

00:09:29

Sean
Sure, absolutely. I think the other thing too. And I would say the  flipside of that is that the distractions of being in the office aren’t there as much, but now we have new distractions. You know, no one was used to their dog barking in the background when you’re at home, or a kid running into a room while you’re giving a presentation. 

Now our distractions are a little different in the way that what we consider a distraction… it’s just not the same as it was before.  Ultimately I like the ability for us to be able to have the conversations with people not being in the same room.  

I’d be hard pressed to find someone who says that they haven’t been more productive at home. I think it does require a little more discipline when you’re working from home in this capacity because it does require you to focus.  

But ultimately, I think in the end what it will provide us is a good thing. I don’t know the long term effects of being siloed off from everyone a little more in the physical sense. 

I worked from the road for two months through this pandemic and I didn’t even tell the team—they didn’t even know I was gone. So I think there are a lot of positives that come out with that. We should look forward. 

Darin
You know you touched on something and this is a little bit of a tertiary direction here, but something I think is interesting and that is: in the age of social media when we are more exposed as humans to everyone around us through what we post or what people post about us, does it create a more forgiving society? Do people become more understanding like you just referenced? A small example of it where you said “the dog is barking, kid rushing in” and so historically you would have said that would have been kind of inappropriate in some way like “oh, your dog is not supposed to be barking.” “It’s unprofessional” is maybe what you would say.  

There’s that famous video where the two kids like come in… 

Merrin
That’s my life. 

Darin
And the guy’s doing his thing and he’s just like freaking out, you know. 

But now, all of a sudden, it’s commonplace and what was maybe wrong 24 months ago, maybe three years ago, and now all of a sudden, it’s like, it’s everybody.  

Merrin
That’s everybody. 

Darin
So that’s why I’m saying. Is like the public exposure that we get, either because now we’re working from home and people say “Oh, Darin has like certain kinds of art, he must have certain kinds of interests because he’s got like a motorcycle poster behind him.” 

So in knowing people better does it make us more forgiving humans? Like “I see that your transgressions or your interests are available for public consumption, I’m therefore going to be more tolerant or lenient in how I judge you.”  

00:12:14

Sean
You know, we all got forced in this situation, and probably the first couple months was just a lot of apologies when you’re in meetings. Everyone had these things where we weren’t really settled yet. We were still kind of on edge with the whole work from home and trying to get our bearings around us. But now it almost seems when my dog barks in the background…at my company it has become a joke that she voices her opinion when we’re sitting there having a conversation and she doesn’t like something. It’s almost now part of work. It just kind of naturally evolved into this this new way of being. 

You would hope it would make people more understanding. This is a scenario that I don’t think any of us at any point in our lives would have said “man, can you wait for when we have that pandemic and we just have to completely change every way we operate,” I think it certainly changes the mentality of it and I think it has really thrown a lot of people for a loop. I will say I’m personally fortunate that we have not been adversely affected by this as much as I had anticipated. I do think it changes everyone’s perspective once we kind of hit our stride and realize that this is just the way of being—we need to learn to adapt to it. 

Merrin
It’s good because you have to have that balance, because in a certain sense people are getting more and more disembodied, right? 

So it’s like you’re filtering more and more of yourself, so if you have your social media profiles or whatever you have, like your real self, like with your actual body, and then you have your filtered self on your you know social media or whatever. And so people are becoming derivatives of themselves as they exist in the cloud or on the Internet, in the ether, or whatever, right? And so it’s good. We have to have that balance, I think, of “that is your physical reality, that is where you live.” It’s good it’s breaking down barriers. I think it’s really good. Everybody kind of ditched the jacket and they’re just in T shirts, no makeup. Now it’s great. 

Darin
Yeah, we’re all we’re all here in the studio. We’re socially distanced, with masks of course, and we’re all in T-shirts.  So this kind of touches on the notion of democratized technology services, which is this kind of undercurrent, I think of what we’re seeing in our physical, emotionally connected world. To the technology that’s driving it.  

This whole trend about sort of low code or no code tools that are starting to shape up a whole new class of software, and in fact, Sean, you’re involved in the development of a new platform for your industry that kind of uses this approach. Can you talk a little bit about this kind of democratized technology movement and how you’re participating in it. 

00:14:52

Sean
Yeah, it’s been kind of a passion project of mine for a few years trying to get to this point. 

One of the things that we saw was that, I kind of alluded to it earlier, these silos of data and we would get applications to use for our team, whatever department.  We were where we really liked 10% of the application and the other 90% we didn’t even touch, but we were paying for the full 100% of the application. 

And we continued to see this application sprawl and the shadow IT where people are just using applications because it works for them. What we ended up seeing was a death spiral of applications that we were trying to get. You know the management, the security, all of the aspects of it where we felt comfortable and it took a while for us to  recognize that we need to enter this space where we could build something exactly how we want. Have the exact features, functionality, language, whatever that is in it, but not have to completely change our business model as an organization or the people that we had in the organization.  

We have a great culture with our company. We love everyone we work with. They all have great ideas. 

The missing link for us was a platform that allowed us to develop…but not be full-blown developers 100% of the time. So throughout the many trials and tribulations of looking for the right platform, we ended up partnering with a local San Diego company here that had done just that.  

They did their time; they came from the ServiceNow world. They knew what that was like. They knew the things they liked. They knew the things that they wanted to see out of a new platform, should they create it.  

Every time that we would say “man, we really loved this,” they kept saying “yeah it’s super easy.” And we didn’t see it. We didn’t fully grasp it because the way they talked about it, and the ease-of-use, we were like “it can’t be this easy. This just this doesn’t make sense” until we actually got in there and saw them starting building things.  And then we recognized that we have these limitless possibilities now with this platform that we’ve stepped into, simply because it did give us the freedom to do whatever we want.   

I will say the downside of that is – it can do whatever you want. So if you go down a rabbit hole, which we have done many times over the past 18 months that we’ve been working on this, we recognize you do have to rein it in a little bit and make sure that you really articulate what it is that you want out of something. So it’s been a good learning process for our team as we continue to grow, once we got the majority of the team in there seeing what we’re doing and we pulled back the veil of this mysterious platform that we were talking about and everyone saw it, they recognized that this is the way of the future for us. The ability to integrate anything and everything into one platform, and have one place that could be that central repository for all of it. 

It’s opened up avenues for the team for the things that we hadn’t even thought about—and we’ve been around 18 years—hadn’t even thought about from an efficiency standpoint or that collaboration standpoint. We now have all of these things on the table, and it’s probably the most excited I’ve been around technology since I started doing this many, many years ago. 

Merrin
So what do you think are going to be some of the upsides of using that going forward? You already said about the downside where you could go down a rabbit hole…because it has to come from your own brain first, right? 

What do you think that’s going to mean? Are people going to be more intentional with how they want something to operate, or what do you think? 

00:18:40  

Sean
Yeah, 100%. The biggest thing it’s intentional, absolutely. I think, first and foremost, the other part that that needs to be embodied, is to be very articulate in what you want when going through and building these things. If you say “I want this to do this…” If there’s gray area in there, what it can do is it can be this prolonged endless cycle where: you revise it—review it again—you say “oh, but it be cool if we did this,” and then you revise it and do it again. 

That’s continuous improvement, just in and of itself, so you need to have a good process to support that. But also we need to be very deliberate in the manner in which we step into things because we don’t recognize that we cost money necessarily when doing some of these things. But if you’re constantly doing this over and over again, what you see is you produce a lot, but a lot of it may not make into production. If you’re not deliberate in the means in which you want that produced, it puts you in a position where you just spend all of your time developing and don’t actually reap the benefits of what you’ve been doing. 

So that to me is probably one at one of the big ones.  

I think the other part to us is it’s changed our perspective on going out and looking for new software. When we looked at software before, we would say “this company does it.” We may have had a list of requirements that we would benchmark it against, and then we would just go out and purchase it.  

When you look at what it took for us to replicate that same capability on one platform that shares data with all of these other systems—it’s a little more frugal in the sense that we don’t need to go out there and look for something. There may be cool things out there, but we can develop things on their own now. What we felt previously were these chains that held us in place that that said “this is what we were confined to.”  

Now we have unlimited possibilities at this point, and it’s crazy to say. As I sit here and say it, I still don’t believe it when I say it, but it’s very much true. 

Darin
Well, it seems like you’re living it. Along with this democratized software and technology, you have this notion of desktop as a service, right, where somebody has almost 24×7 access virtually across any platform that they’re working off of. So if they’re on their laptop or their cell phone, as long as they’ve got connection to the Internet, they’re connected to their job and they can actually work in a virtual manner. And that could be on the road, it can be like this whole new category, which in my mind is the third category. You have traditionally the digital office folks; that’s where most of us came from. You now have the idea of remote access—which has been available for 10 or 15 years—but now all of a sudden, 30, 40, 60% of us have jumped into that category.  

And then there’s this new interesting piece also, which is the “digital nomad” I call it. And that was like — you’re on your two months sojourn doing what you needed to do personally, but you were able to keep up with your work and your teammates. Not that it was being hidden, but they didn’t even know about it. And you see that happening more and more. And I think that the generation that’s coming up, you know, are wanting this kind of freedom of access. It’ll be curious to see how they leverage it, how they use it, and how it all ends up.  

00:21:52  

Sean
I think one of the biggest things that comes out of that in terms of the shift…and this may be one of the areas where I think the collective business world will need to be. I speak from the mid-market in SMB so that’s my orbit, our bread and butter. 

HR practices, I think, are going to be the ones that will be affected the most by this. When you start looking at “well, we can hire people across the country, across the world.”  

Having really, really good HR practices—and that’s the full supply chain of HR-to-technology to all the kind of things therein that really will need to mature. And that’s potentially leveraging an HR-S system to manage your people and applicant tracking. And all of those things. 

We’re based out of San Diego, and this is always going to be Headquarters, but we’ve expanded our search out to be nationwide, at this point, for talent, because now that we’re not tied down to the office and we need people to be here, it opens up a world of possibilities. We can bring someone from Rhode Island who is looking to jump start their career in IT. Or someone who’s got some specialty in Milwaukee, WI. We have a ton of talent at our disposal now, even more so than we had in a tech hub like San Diego. 

But it did require us to make sure that our HR practices really were there to support the field. 

Darin
You know, I think you’ve just cracked open the door too, because I’m certain that you’ll be looking globally and internationally soon. 

You know, if you think about it we’ve been working with offshoring teams for 20 years now, and a lot of people have integrated that into their business. But it’s been a kind of a sliver of what either a startup has done; more mature companies may bring people in on a project basis, but are usually building their own teams or outsourcing somewhere locally. But I think it’s going open up a global marketplace for what you’re talking about. 

00:23:47 
Sean
Yeah, absolutely, as it should. I think there’s so much talent out there that, given the right opportunities, can really flourish, and that’s one of the things I was the most excited about. 

Coming out of a pandemic and trying to be the eternal optimist that I am, I was trying to see the positives out of it. That was one of them, to say that “look, we have the talent pool that we were looking at previously is…I couldn’t even tell you…how many X times it grew overnight simply because we now have the ability to search nationwide.”  

We want to be sure that we could still provide them the best experience of coming into our company. You know, embracing the culture side of it, and all of those elements that are there, I think we’ve proven that to ourselves as an organization that we can maintain it. The culture side of it. Now we have an  endless pool of resources that we may be able to bring in, too, and be able to be a part of the family. 

Merrin
Yeah. Not to be grandiose, but I honestly I think that’s going to change the world and humanity in general, because what I think changes people more is that close connected relationship, like a spouse or a work teammate. Or a close relationship, not something where it’s just an acquaintance. And so if you’re working closely with somebody who lives in, I don’t know, Israel or Croatia or wherever, right then, the level of understanding of like that person’s life, that person’s culture, and the underlying knowledge that all of us are ultimately the same under it all—is only going to increase. I think it’s just going to level up humanity. 

Darin
Well in some ways you may have described the Internet experience, right? ‘Cause as somebody that literally watched the Internet start, right, 1994.  

Sean
You’re dating yourself there. 

00:25:37 

Darin
Yeah, I know, I’m going with it here. But in 1994 you have Netscape going public and their innovation was a graphical interface to the Internet. Before it had been all eggheads, academic people, and military, and that’s who was active using what we called the Internet. 

The World Wide Web kind of started to bring graphical interface into it, and Netscape created a graphical interface as a project out of Marc Andreessen’s college. And they kicked off that browser, and that really started what we see as the graphical Internet. 

So, fast-forward what, 25 years? and we are where we’re at now, and I think that what you just described is what I remember feeling even at that time. Like, “this is going to have an impact,” and as the first five years went by, ‘942000, that was such a great time. The thing that was great about the Internet then is it really was democratized, it really was doing a lot of what you suggested. 

I feel like some of that’s gotten broken as we’ve added big corporations to the mix. All of a sudden, like oh, “let’s commoditize Sean as a product” and all of us kind of get jacked into the Matrix yet again, tricked yet again. 

And it kind of pulls us away in some ways. Unless being a kind of commodity item is global and important to all of us, I wish that we could get back to that original Internet a little bit more. I feel like we’ve gravitated away from it, being controlled by the Big. 

Merrin
Well, all that is, it’s just creating different boxes for things, creating layers of separation. At the beginning I wish would have like been there, paid attention to all that… 

Darin
I’ll tell you about it sometime. 

Merrin
Well ’cause the whole amorphous nature of it, where it’s people being able to just communicate, share ideas and all of that, without the interference of the labels, the separateness. 

Darin
Yeah, it was like “BOOM,” you know, because like all of a sudden it’s like you’re literally in a conversation between email and the actual Internet where you can share graphical experiences and easily share information in a graphical way. Pages you know? ’cause that’s what you’re looking at as an HTML page is a picture. Or it’s some picture with some words to it. 

And all of a sudden you could share that really easily and extensively. 

Merrin
Like telepathy. 

Darin
It is. It’s kind of a. A digital visual telepathy and you just felt connected to people in a new way. As somebody [like myself] that grew up in a small town outside of Los Angeles, who had a very limited global view…that was just like taking the blinders off. It was like “oh there’s a whole big world out here,” you know, which I had seen it on a map before at school, but never realized I might actually meet some people over there. And that’s what has been the major innovation is that global connectedness. 

What we’re doing with it…I’m not sure what we’re doing with it is the right direction, because as always happens, you know the Big step in a lot and they try to take control of it. It’s my sense. 

00:28:42

Sean
You talk about the commoditization of technology. When you look at instant messaging before, you know, AOL Instant Messenger. I think anyone who grew up with dial-up at some point, has seen AOL instant messenger? Well, that became commoditized as a way to chat with people around the world, and for the longest time it was not brought into the business side of the house, where chatting in the real time collaboration side was relegated to email and telephones. That’s really where it had stagnated for a while.  

And now when you look at it, when you talk about collaboration platforms, if you’re not using one right now, it seems kind of weird. If you’re not chatting in real time with, you know the rest of your team. It seems kind of behind the times now.  

So, to take something as simple as before when you’d send memes and three letter acronyms to all of your friends, that has now become so mainstream that businesses, build the way they operate around the ability to collaborate in real time via the chat platforms that are out there. 

So, you’re seeing it start to shift, and I think the pandemic shot it to the moon in terms of how quickly we had to do that, but ultimately, this goes back to the question “are we better collaborators and communicators now because of this technology, and because we’re working from home?”  It’s odd in a sense that it took something like this to really catapult us into to that level. But it’s true. I mean, it absolutely is the kind of shift we’ve seen. 

00:30:22
Darin
I think that you could almost argue that, as a species, the human species representative with people across the planet, is we are developing a language, and it actually involves everything that you mentioned.  

It’s a use of actual language itself—words, that tend to be a lot of English. There still are a lot of other very pervasive, important languages that are out there, but I think there is this kind of shift to use English across many domains. If you travel to China, every business person speaks English. India. Every person speaks English. 

But you mix in there the way people communicate digitally and things like memes, which I think are now universal, that’s its own development of a language. I think that people will use what they have at hand and their own limitations and then kind of tap into that new language. 

And I think, over time, there will be this global language that’ll be not only a mix of the use of words, but the use of digital means and mechanisms, whether it’s video or audio or memes or other things. 

Merrin
I think so too. That could go in many different directions, like it could be “pidgin English plus memes,” like the “Idiocracy” way. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie, it’s an awesome movie. 

Sean
Fantastic movie. 

Merrin
It’s so good. But it could go that way. Or it could go…like yoga. Language is ultimately a filter for your thoughts, right? People that speak many languages—they express themselves differently in those languages depending on how those languages are. Think of how trippy it would be to write something where you couldn’t use possessive apostrophes. 

And think of how other languages are structured.  I was talking to a woman a while ago and she wrote her dissertation in Brazilian Portuguese, and she said it would have been so much easier if she could have written it in English. Just because of the nature of like those languages. So, if that filter is going away by virtue of this other form of communication, like graphically or we just all understand some of the same words, I think it can only be a net boon to people being able to connect. 

Darin
Yeah, my dissertation was 125 pages of text that’s buried in some library someplace right now. 

But imagine when that is all living in the cloud and that you, as somebody that came into my life 30 years after I did it, could actually go access it easily and say, “wow, that’s where he was at 35 years ago” you know, what he was talking about. 

And it’s an expression of the digital, the visual. And all you’d see now is a bunch of pieces of paper in a book, stuffed in some library somewhere. 

Merrin
But then somebody could take that and…I mean, that’s the coolest thing. Is that things find lives of their own, right?  

Darin
Yeah, it’s the iteration. Well, think about the development of music. So in music, art, everyone riffs off of everything else, and I think in a way isn’t that what a meme is, right? 

It’s kind of riffing off of something that someone spots, right? So someone spots a trend and then they develop a meme, and then the mean becomes a new hit, and then the new hit transfers around the world and then that will spawn additional things, you know, something to riff off of, and that’s cool. That’s a great kind of global collaboration. 

Merrin
It’s like the shorthand for the thing. 

Sean
Yeah, you could replace an entire conversation with just a Seinfeld GIF and everyone gets it and everyone understands it. That’s something that I couldn’t even fathom at some point in the past. Now it’s…you see him and you’re like “I know exactly what this person is thinking. I know exactly what they mean by that.” 

It really does, you know, change the way in which we communicate and maybe more effective communication in a sense, too.  

Darin
Well, it’s like simpler in a way and people just get it more intuitively. And yet, there’s also an aspect that they can interpret it to their own brain. 

Merrin
Yeah, I think that enhances connection too, because if you send something like that, the assumption is “OK. We both share this cultural reference.” We both have had this somewhat of a shared experience, and it’s communicating on a level of vibes. 

Darin
That’s why I just describe it almost as a language, ’cause I believe that language is the thing that brings new things into the world. Like when you describe a new software paradigm, you’re bringing something into existence. 

Merrin
That’s in most religions too, about the “word” becoming life, or the “word” is the spark for a lot of things, which I mean, it’s funny because how is that going to evolve as things become not really words anymore. I would love to live to be like 100 years old where everybody is going to be communicating just in memes and hand talk. That would be rad. 

Darin
That’s a whole other topic. You might live till 100 because—the thing that you’re going to experience that probably I won’t, and Sean yeah, maybe in the middle on is all the new technologies come down the pipe—their ability to replace your broken parts, which is happening, and that’s both like what I’d call robotics and stuff being implanted in your body, like “I can fix your hip or your broken knee or shoulder.” But it’s also the medicines and the genetic transformation in medicine that’s coming so we can take an ailment that you have and actually repair that, and that’s going to create longevity so people will be living to be 100. I believe if we don’t blow ourselves up first. 

00:35:48 

Sean
The I think the part I heard Elon Musk talking about the future of the brain implant that he’s been talking about, which is you get four nodes that go into your brain, and then those who have the brain implant would just communicate without talking. Where you’re communicating your thoughts, and that could be the biggest and best change ever.  

It’s also one of the scariest things I’ve ever heard of in the sense that you wouldn’t actually communicate, you just sit there and stare at someone and they would know what you’re thinking. You would know what they’re thinking and you would just communicate nonverbally. 

Merrin
Can’t we kind of do that already, though, in a lot of ways? 

Darin
Well it’s it’s gonna say I think. I think absolutely well. I think two things. One is you and I consider across the room and we’ve worked together now and we have certain visual cues like I can tell. Oh, I think she’s got a question. I’m 98% accurate most of the time. 

But there is, there’s a project at MIT and a student who actually has already done what Musk is talking about, and that’s actually create a kind of a telepathy using a digital chip. So it’s just around the corner for those that want to jump in that pool. 

Merrin
Marina Abramovic did that. You guys know Marina Abramovic, the artist?  So she had people sit across from her, and if you watched the footage of it, it was just a museum, I think in New York, and she would have people sit across from her and some of the people should just kind of like look at her and they would like start crying. Some people gave her a hug. It was, I think, humans absolutely have the capacity to do that already. Without the implants, we just have to get to that part of our brain to be able to unlock it. 

Darin
I’m curious to know, do you think that’s more evolved than the animal side? Or that it’s more primitive? I almost think it’s more primitive to think of our nonverbal cues and our ability to sync on that, I actually think it’s something that’s more primitive, you know. 

Merrin
It is because that’s how I mean like I’ve had two babies, and so that’s how you have to communicate with somebody before they have language, yeah. 

Darin
‘Cause they don’t talk, right, so they cry and that’s how they share. That’s a communication of some sort. Whether they’re crying or fidgeting or laughing. 

Merrin
Or just their vibe, yeah? 

Darin
So that’s why I think it’s a more primitive, less evolved thing. It doesn’t mean it’s not as important or significant, but it’s just less. It’s just more of a primitive feature to me that humans carry. 

Merrin
I think primitive and evolved are like parallel tracks almost. You gotta watch that mushroom movie The Fantastic Fungi. It’s so good. One of the things that the guy says in it is that evolution hasn’t stopped. We kind of have this vision of ourselves of “oh, we’re the worthy evolved creatures.” We are being evolved presently, right? 

Darin
The only thing that makes me nervous is, when I watch the social dilemma I feel like we’re being groomed, like that is the new Soylent green, or what’s that movie where everyone like gets placed up in the little nest, you know? Or they just all get like digitalized? Well, the matrix is one version of that. There are a few sorts of sci-fi versions like that 

Merrin
Like in most sci-fi I think, and for a reason. That’s because I think that those ideas are just around, and that’s the cool thing I read. 

One of the best things I’ve ever read, and I have no idea who wrote it, and I quote it all the time. Do you guys know who said this? 

It was some poet, and she said that when she feels the inspiration to go write a poem, she feels as if it’s a tornado that has hit her. 

And if she’s not in a spot where she can type, or can remember it or whatever, the tornado blows through her and goes to the next person. 

And then that person gets the inspiration and writes it down. And maybe it comes from the same source. 

00:39:20 

Darin 

Well, that’s a perfect place to pause this conversation, which I think we have to continue on. 

I just wanted to ask Merrin: if someone wants to get ahold of you and explore some more of these ideas or learn more about TiE, what’s the best place for them, or best way to get ahold of you?  

Merrin
Probably emailing me. I’m executive director at southcoast.tie.org and then our website is southcoast.tie.org.  

Darin
Awesome, and I think these ideas directly tie to the digital workplace. I think the evolution of how we live, work and play is all wrapped up in the conversation that we just had. 

Sean, if people want to get ahold of you, or learn more about what centrexIT is doing, what’s the best way for them to connect?  

Sean
Yeah, I mean, email is obviously a good one. So S Ernst and that’s Ernst at centrexIT.com or LinkedIn is another easy one. Same thing, seanernst. 

Darin
Awesome, and if you like the content that you heard today, you can check us out at seamlesspodcast.com. 

Also, we’re available on all of your channels where you listen to your podcast, so everything from IHeartRadio to iTunes and Spotify, check us out there.  

You can also, on seamless podcast.com, learn more about the hosts and other shows that they’ve been on. Shows that both Merrin and Sean have participated on would be there as well. 

On behalf of the whole team and our producer Ivan Contreras, I want to thank you for joining us and we’ll catch you next time. 

Thanks everybody. 

Merrin
Thanks everyone. 

Sean
Thank you very much. 

 

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