Episode Ninety Six: And Then It Came Back; Meek, Meeker, Meekest

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

A difficult day, as you’ll see below. And the baby monitor app isn’t working, so I’m upstairs, typing quietly and quickly whilst watching my son sleep. But, tomorrow’s Friday, and my one meeting is about a fun project.

1.0 And Then It Came Back

I don’t know how or why, but today was – is – one of the bad days again. I think the kind of depression that I get these days is different than the kind I used to get: the old kind would linger for weeks and would be incredibly hard to shrug off. It would be a sort of black listlessness that would leave me feeling like I was just going through the motions, every single day.

But this morning was just started with a feeling – no, more than a feeling, a belief, a strong *conviction* that all of the typing for coins that I’d been doing wouldn’t actually result in any coins. That everyone I’d been talking to wouldn’t ever get back to me, and why would they? I mean, I’d look inside myself, do that bit of introspection where you try and list the things that you’re good at and that people might be interested and it’s like you’re not even coming up empty handed, you’re coming up just: empty.

And it’s a hard feeling to shake, and I think for people who’ve never encountered depression, *belief* is a better description than feeling. Because you *feel* low, or bad, but that feeling is grounded in a strongly held, conviction-welded *belief*. It’s almost like you’re a devout follower of how terrible, useless or worthless you are as a person. And nothing can shake that *belief*. The feeling almost just describes the physiological symptoms: the listlessness and the lowness, but there’s a different sort of quality when you have an almost religious understanding and unshakeable belief – against all rational evidence – that you really are that useless.

So in that respect, it’s more like brainwashing, more like being a member of a cult of one, a sort of solipsistic downer in that of course no one can do anything to convince you otherwise, because it’s just like when we discovered that we could zap brains in the right area and induce religious feelings and visions. It’s a self-reinforcing, Gödelian strange loop that twists back in on itself and says: you’re useless, and you thinking you’re useless is even more evidence that you’re useless. In an abstract way, I find it interesting because, at least in my case, I *can* step back and try to examine the system and say: yep, looks like you’re depressed, you’ve had some right cowboys in messing around with your brain chemistry and neurological programming, definitely looks like you’ve got that thing where you’re convinced you’re worthless – and my exoself can understand that but can’t *do* anything about because it’s just got viewing rights, not admin rights to my neurological infrastructure. That’s part of what makes the feeling part of depression feel quite so terrible: because in some cases you can absolutely know and understand from a rational point of view what you should be doing about it. But you can’t. Because you have an irrational part of you that’s busy one-true-believing that you really are that worthless.

So I took the afternoon off. I got myself a replacement car2go card, authenticated myself into some German-produced metal-womb-like minimum viable transport device and self-drove myself home, ineffectually sat in front of WATCH_DOGS for about half an hour lobbing grenades at criminal convoys and watching them blow up, then headed upstairs to pass out.

And it even kind of persisted when I woke up and looked after my son for a few hours whilst his mum got to have a stupendously relaxing massage, it persisted through when he learned how to blow through a recorder for the first time to make a sound, and it didn’t even lift when I fed him dinner and gave him his bath. It didn’t even go away when incredibly kind strangers who I’ve never met not only offered to introduce me to people, but followed through, and it still didn’t go away when I got yet another holding note from the people running this year’s Presidential Innovation Fellowships saying that they were still working on sifting through applications.

Because it’s depression. I have no idea when it will go away. But I know that it will go away. The thing is, I know that it will come back, too.

2.0 Meek, Meeker, Meekest

Here, I’ll earn my keep. Here’s some reckons on Mary Meeker’s infamous internet trends report[1].

I’m not sure if it’s possible to say it any more bluntly, but basically: people want the internet and they want it wherever they are. They will keep wanting it. It is too good. I’m not quite sure what mobile telcos are going to do about that, but hey, I’m glad I’m not a mobile telco.

One of the things that’s interesting about the headroom for growth for internet-connected consumer electronics with screens (Ie mobile and smartphones, PCs and tablets) is that mobile phones have only really been around from a consumer’s point of view for about fifteen years and they’re just about catching up to TV penetration at 72 vs 73% of world population. One of the things that I remember finding interesting is the effective-screen-size when you take into account physical screen size versus distance from face. People will hold mobile phones and tablets at the requisite distance to achieve a sort of comfortable viewing angle and size, so you don’t ever really get the postage-stamp effect when the screen is big-enough for certain values of big-enough. Which means, at least for me: smartphone video is going to be a thing, because hey, TV is a thing.

Also, I really hope at some point we can put to bed the concept of mobile web/internet usage being some sort of second-class citizen to desktop/laptop based access. The point of the matter is: the job-to-be-done requires the internet, and the internet is in your pocket. Of course it’s going to be the first thing you reach for, because you’re reaching for *access*. We shouldn’t be surprised because it’s kind of like asking someone: hey, do you prefer pizza at the restaurant a ten minute drive away (which, practically speaking, is what the laptop on the other side of the room is), or pizza *in your lap right now*. I’m always going for pizza in my lap.

There’s an interesting implication that I don’t think is covered elsewhere in Meeker’s presentation which is the supposition that each new computing cycle leads to a 10x increase in the install base over the previous cycle. Meeker illustrates this by showing the progression from mainframes (1mm units) to minicomputers (10mm) to PCs (100mm) to Desktop Internet (1bn) to Mobile Internet (10bn). Current best bets, then, would be for 100bn internet-connected devices thanks to Moore’s law transformatively pushing down connectivity into pretty much everything that doesn’t have a screens.

One last note – and this is only probably about midway through Meeker’s report – is the statistic that 84% of hospital-esque healthcare systems are now using “fully functioning EHRs”, when, from my point of view, a fully functioning EHR appears to be something that *says* it does all the things it’s supposed to do, but doesn’t necessarily do them in a way that conforms to the way that people work.

While I’m here: it’s notable that Maeda’s slide on the death of bad user interfaces includes someone like Nike, but Nike aren’t mentioned *at all* in the context of user interfaces or product or service design by Meeker, instead their only mention is in the production of the best ad on YouTube. Instead we get Fitbits, Runkeepers and MyFitnessPals in more evidence that it’s the new challengers that are making the most headway, not the established brands.

[1] http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends

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