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The Risk of Our Obsession with Technology



In the spring of 2013, Nobel prize-winning physicist James Cronin was awarded the Alumni Medal for lifetime achievement as a professor at the University of Chicago, where I went to college. In his remarks, Mr. Cronin stated that his greatest concern about the future of America was our emphasis on science and technology education. He was not concerned with too much science education as much as too little education in the other areas of life. He said much of his breakthrough thinking came from his discussions with the social scientists and humanities faculty at the University, not from hanging around only with physicists and other scientists.

I live in Austin, Texas, a leading center for technology startups, especially software and online companies. I travel the world talking (excitedly) to people about entrepreneurship and innovation; technology is often at the heart of our discussions. I love gadgets and am enthusiastic about many of the technologies that have emerged in the last 50 years. For example, the book Abundance by technology enthusiasts Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler is a favorite of mine. I believe that “big data” understood by the right minds will have great benefits to society.

At the same time, I share Cronin’s fear that our obsessive focus on “hard” science and technology has swung too far, resulting in an under-emphasis on understanding the other aspects of life and society. It will cost society greatly if we do not have a more holistic and integrated approach to what we consider important and to our educational priorities. What do our future leaders need to learn?

This emphasis on left-brain, analytical, and quantified thinking is both global and pervasive. In some parts of booming Asia, the bright kids get into engineering school and the ones with lower test scores study the liberal arts: history, the humanities, the social sciences. Our whole system seems to march toward formulas, science, and technology.

Over the last 50 years, most American business schools have moved towards finance, information technology, quantification, and formulaic/algorithmic thinking. But leaders in the “real” world spend more time and energy on human motivation and organization – psychology and sociology – than on any other field. Among the most important required talents are communications skills – the ability to speak and write clearly.

I often see business and engineering students looking for ideas and solutions solely through ROI (Return on Investment) analysis rather than through thinking about humans, why people do what they do, and how we as entrepreneurs can meet their real needs and solve their real problems.

At many business schools, there is little support for entrepreneurial ventures which are not considered tech companies, or not fundable by venture capitalists, who also tend to emphasize tech. Most startups, including many of the great enterprises of the future, are neither tech nor suitable for venture capital financing. In this process, are the importance of psychology, sociology, biology, art and design, language, history, and others getting left out?

Experience indicates that a more balanced approach is critical to great success, even in technology companies and industries. The rise of the computer in the early 1950s is telling. Philadelphia’s Univac had pioneered the commercial mainframe computer, but the other leading office machine and tech companies of the era also saw the vast opportunity. Distantly behind Univac were such names as IBM, GE, Westinghouse, RCA, Burroughs, and NCR (National Cash Register).

Most of these companies were focused on the science, aiming to design computers with faster brains (CPUs). But IBM leader Thomas Watson, Sr., instead asked his customers what they wanted, and none thought they needed a faster CPU. They needed a faster printer in order to get the information out of the mainframe. So he went back to his labs, and they invented the high speed printer.

Within two years IBM achieved a market share above 60%, and held that astounding position (or better) globally for the next 30-plus years, creating one of the greatest and most profitable enterprises in US history (prior to its near-death in the early 90s and subsequent rebirth). Watson (and his son and successor Thomas, Jr.) understood that selling technology was all about people: about understanding customers and their needs. New IBM mainframe computers were introduced with secrecy followed by great fanfare and visually designed at a much higher level than their competitors – even their office architecture and logo reflected high design standards.

Fast forward 40 years and we saw Steve Jobs following a similar pattern. Last year the iPhone alone generated more revenue than the whole of Procter & Gamble. I don’t think that remarkable achievement was due primarily to better science or more advanced algorithms. It was due to making things that are easy to use and understanding what it is like to be a user, coupled with outstanding product design. All with showmanship and marketing pizzazz – pages right out of the Watsons’ IBM playbook. It has been said that the greatness of Steve Jobs was that he had the heart of an artist and the mind of an engineer. We need both. We also need innovation in our society and culture.

One ranking of the greatest business people of all time placed David Sarnoff high on the list and William Paley much lower. Sarnoff is rightfully ranked high because he was the primary promoter of commercial radio in the US (through his RCA and NBC companies) and the technological leader of broadcasting’s evolution into television, followed by color television. Bill Paley on the other hand built CBS, and gave us “cultural” innovations like the nightly TV news, the soap opera, the situation comedy, and the television star. Because we sometimes tend to think of innovation as tech-only, Paley is not ranked as highly as Sarnoff. But his innovations will probably long outlast those of Sarnoff, which will over time be superseded by new technologies.

Both were great men, but our perspective is out of balance. I have given talks on the histories of the movie, airline, auto, retailing, computer, and some of the media industries. Reviewing all the great products, ideas, and buildings they created, I realized that the things most likely to still be of value and of use in 200 years are the movies and other “cultural products.” The magazine, the fast food restaurant, and the discount store are important innovations right alongside the latest tech breakthrough. Their impact on us and our society can be immense.

These observations lead me to thinking more broadly about the role of science and technology, and beyond that to our emphasis on left-brain, logical, analytical thinking. I serve as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Texas School of Information, which is the modern evolution of the school of library and information sciences. We focus, like librarians and card catalogs, on the role of humans in information – how data is used and understood. We go beyond algorithms and machine learning to focus on human psychology and behavior. This is a very different mindset from that of most computer scientists and even business students.

Peter Drucker in a 2001 magazine interview said, “I can say that no financial man will ever understand business because financial people think a business makes money. A company makes shoes, and no financial man understands that.” In the book Poor Charlie’s Almanac by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s brilliant investment partner, psychology is referenced 140 times in the index; return on investment none.

I have come to believe that this left-brained focus has also limited our thinking about health and longevity. Many of my friends seem to think health is determined entirely or overwhelmingly by diet and exercise. But eating and exercising are complex parts of human society. I think that our health and longevity are in large part determined by our social and cultural environment, the friends and loved ones we are with, when and where and how old we are, and most importantly our own mental attitude.

The physicist Cronin and I are not alone in these concerns. Daniel Pink wrote an excellent book called A Whole New Mind about the importance of balanced education and thinking. The great entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell touches on many similar ideas in his intriguing book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs. Perhaps a better grounding in the liberal arts, from design to history, from music to philosophy, from economics to social psychology, would serve all of us better.

written by Gary Hoover of Texas Enterprise. see more.


“When Adam Draper does Crypto Standup, Singapore listens”



I live and work in Singapore and Santa Monica. Yes, I am blessed. However, my life has been by design, I think of what I want and so I make my life choices and make them happen in my life. Hence the bi-continent living and that comes with bi-continent and now global community living, being and ecosystems building. So I am now never surprised when one part of my world meets another.

I went to Wavemaker Partners venture capital event this evening, keen to meet Adam Draper, who is one of the many great presenters at Crypto Invest Summit, April 30- May 2 in Los Angeles.

Since I actively support leaders who are building scalable, sustainable businesses and movements for the betterment of many; of course I am learning about Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. I had been keen to report on the Crypto Invest Summit as I would be back in May to LA for my PhD programme. I was in communications with the organizers. However, I am being awarded an award at the Women Economic Forum in Delhi that same week and could not be physically present.

Still I wanted to report on the event, somehow.

I wanted to listen to the speakers and support some of the speakers who are already friends and experts I rely on for greater insights on cryptocurrency. I like learning and sharing with the greater audience, I have in Asia what I am learning from the US and vice versa. So I feel I had my chance tonight to do a bit of that.

I could not help but smile as Adam Draper shed light into his world of investing in more than 85 crypto related products because he was such a breath of fresh air to the last few Blockchain and Financial conferences I have been reporting on; especially here in Asia.

He just says it like it is.

He kept stopping the audience when they said Blockchain and he said, “You know you really mean cryptocurrency.”  He hit the nail on the head because I have seen so clearly how this phrase had been said in Singapore time and again – “I am not into cryptocurrency but I believe in Blockchain.”

When he said how there was an incongruity as he sat across bankers who personally invested in cryptocurrency and when faced with an inbound of requests from their clients on the same investment; are tied by regulations and are unable to respond.

Here’s some of his best lines. If you don’t laugh or “ah-ha” the way I did, you probably just had to be there. The truth is funny because it calls out for something we all see but sometimes just do not want to admit.

There is a growing understanding of the underlying thematics that the cryptocurrency world has been experiencing as the interface between centralize; de-centralize and personal autonomy becomes more and more apparent and lines get drawn.

Adam Says:

1) The newest phenomenon is that some of the ICO founders are now just so rich from their ICOs that they really don’t need to work on the project they asked for money for.

2) For the crypto-world, money doesn’t matter anymore!
They need talent

It’s so founder friendly now.

3) What Bitcoin made us ask is “What is money?”

The next question is “What is government and governance?”

He highlighted if an entrepreneur is looking for a problem to solve., then the entrepreneur is always looking for horrible industries with poor services and high costs. So yes – Governments are those horrible industries and they need to be disrupted.

4)  Any company who comes to an investor and leads with how much ICO has raised; is a red flag. Leave immediately and go read a Harry Potter book instead.
If they are leading with value and not the problem they are solving. Beware. (read more here

5) If you are going to invest in where the brains are. It’s in crypto.

6) Philosophically, Coinbase is against ethos of what Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency movement is trying to do. However to do such a move from fiat to digital currency, there would need a way to do that. So Coinbase acts like a browser does for internet. One day there will be no need to cash in or out as everyone is already there on digital. Cryptocurrency is the exchange of value. His advice and we know his bias as he is invested in  Coinhako; is to hold onto an exchange for 3-5 years since onboarding of all users to the new digital currency will take some time.

Adam met with many banks and government bodies on his trip to Singapore – I hope they got his truths.

I ended the night by thanking Adam for making me laugh. He reminded me of how much I miss LA.

Want more of this?

If you are in LA on April 30 – May 2.



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Callum Connects

Adrian Reid, Founder of Enlightened Stock Trading



Adrian Reid escaped the rat race and became a knowledgeable trader. He now shares his trading knowledge and empowers others to take control of their stocks.

What’s your story?
After working 12-16 hour days in the corporate world for many years I had a moment of realisation on the 1 hour bus ride to work. It was here at this moment in time, I realised that I felt trapped, desperate and isolated. Trapped in a job I hated, and a life I had not designed. I had long been interested in investing, but I made the decision at that point to become the best trader I could possibly be and escape the rat race.
My dream was to be free; free of the 9 to 5, the commute, the stress and the exhaustion. I threw myself into my stock trading research and study and emerged 3 months later with the trading rules that would ultimately buy me my freedom. I am now retired from the corporate world, I trade full time and share my knowledge with other aspiring traders through my online education program which puts them in control and empowers them to take control and accountability for their trading results.

What excites you most about your industry?
So many people are trapped in jobs they don’t like or are feeling immense financial pressure in their life. Trading education is typically done extremely badly today because of the conflicts of interest in the industry. Fund managers want to hold onto your money forever; brokers want you to trade more frequently; forex brokers want you to use more leverage. Why? Because that is how they make their money.
By teaching traders how to develop and test their own stock trading systems I am able to empower them to find trading rules which fit their own personality, objectives and lifestyle. This is the only way for new traders to be successful. This process transforms people’s financial future, their relationship with money and wealth and gives them hope. I love that!

What’s your connection to Asia?
I recently spent 3 years living in Singapore which I absolutely loved. This put me in a good position to observe the other Asian markets. As a stock trader I am interested in many markets and economies around the world, however the Asian markets have some of the best potential for trading profits. I have traded stocks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo and I have developed trading systems that work in many other Asian markets as well.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city is Singapore. After living in Singapore for 3 years my family fell in love with the city. Life is great in Singapore for the whole family and the pro-business and investing policies of the government make it a wonderful place to build your financial future as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
On a personal front: Find something you love, throw all your energy and passion into it.
On the wealth front: Spend less than you earn and invest the difference. Take control of your finances and always accept 100% responsibility for your investment decisions.

Who inspires you?
My wife Stephanie inspires me. Her commitment to everything she does, her compassion, her insights into people and her ability to uplift those around her, make me want to be a better person.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
No matter what we think we know, there will always be a different perspective that can change our opinion. In my own trading, I continually find that the truths I cling to are not absolute and they can be misleading if held onto dogmatically. Striking a balance between taking a stance and knowing when to change that stance based on new information is critical in all areas of life.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more action earlier on. My fear of mistakes (which still limits me on occasions, like most people) has always proven to be baseless. Playing small to avoid the embarrassment or pain of mistakes is very limiting and I would have taken more action earlier, if I had my time again.

How do you unwind?
To unwind I like to read, meditate, run and ride my mountain bike in the forest.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I just love the small island resort at Batu Batu. It is beautiful, isolated, quiet and surrounded by clean water, full of sealife. After a week at the resort I felt like a different person.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto. This book teaches the art of clear and structured communication. My time working as a business strategy consultant gave me a great appreciation for the importance of communication in business. Clear and effective communication can solve a myriad of challenges in your business and professional life, and as a strong communicator your employment prospects, business relationships, team performance and family life are all dramatically improved.

Shameless plug for your business:
Enlightened Stock Trading ( is the only stock market trading education business that empowers you, as an individual trader. It shows you how to design and test your own unique stock trading system that fits YOUR Personality, Objectives and Lifestyle. We have no conflicts of interest and we are focused on teaching you how to trade stocks profitably in a way that fits your life.
After working through the Enlightened Stock Trader Certification Program you will find yourself confident and empowered with your own battle tested trading system and trading plan to guide you through the markets.

How can people connect with you?
Email me directly at [email protected] or through my Facebook Page (

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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