I’d completely forgotten about this interview until someone contacted me about it recently and I was reminded about how cool it was. Basically the German National Radio (I think) did a piece on people who were living nomadically and using the internet and its related technologies to make doing so easy. It’s a big part of how my wife and I have set up our own lives just to reduce cognitive overhead, and also a big part of our ongoing minimalization efforts. You can listen in here.
I was lucky enough to get to speak on WBLQ radio, heard up and down the eastern US seaboard. What made it a real treat was talking with CJ, the host, who is as excited about changing the world as I am. Our 15 minute pre-call before the show lasted more than an hour, and the bit that we eventually got on the radio was only a snippet, but it was fun to revisit the topic of crows again – especially with someone who was as curious about them as I am.
Listen to it here.
Here’s how I’ve been billed at conferences like:
- PINC conference in the Netherlands
- India Today’s Annual Conclave
- Technology Education, and Design (TED) Conference
- Business Innovation Factory
- Dublin’s Science Gallery
And here are some nice things people have said after my talks:
“Normally I’m not captured by many keynotes but your presentation was awesome… and very scary. My attendees LOVED it! You were the talk of the conference. Thank you!”
- - Steven Stout, Organizer, HITEC Conference
“Josh Klein takes you on a journey that helps you escape the confines of traditional thinking and explore new ways of doing things that help you achieve results quicker and smarter.”
- - Marilyn Williams, Partnership Development Manager, Best Buy
“Josh Klein is a natural born storyteller with a real knack for capturing–and keeping–an audience engaged. Authentic and irreverent, it’s always a pleasure to see Josh on stage.”
- - Melissa Withers, Executive Director, Business Innovation Factory Conference
“Josh is not only a hacker of work; he’s a hacker of speaking. He ignores conventions that suck energy out of a room, and turn listeners to zombies. He opens eyes. He boggles minds. He doesn’t just tippy toe up to the edge, he hits it going 100 miles an hour. Hire this deviant to speak to your group. I dare you.”
- - Jim Ericson, founder, The Masters Forum Conference
“Josh Klein will be one of the most exciting cultural players to watch in the coming decade; his personal fluidity between disciplines and movement of ideas across worlds both real and virtual, technological and creative, allows him to be a guide for those of us who are interested in being the architects of our own identity.”
– Aimee Mullins, Speaker, Athlete, Actress
“I hack everything now. When I have an assignment, I think to myself ‘how can I hack this?’. … It [the concept of hacking] has changed my life. Now when I do anything I ask myself – how can I hack this?”
– Manleen Kaur
“My brain is still splattered against the wall from this morning.”
– Nikole Yinger, Producer, Bloomberg TV
Here’s an interview a brilliant friend of mine conducted to force me to think more clearly about what I offered clients. It was super helpful to me; I hope it helps you!
Alternately, I was interviewed for the New York Times on how I do what I do – this one is pretty fun too, and has a story about the tooth fairy. The tooth fairy! I know, it’s crazy what they’ll publish these days.
What do you do?
I innovate – particularly around systems, across disciplines, and in ways that entrenched industries are too afraid to try. For example, I mixed new a new business model (free) with an old industry (publishing) and got a distribution deal for my novel with Amazon when nobody else would publish it. In another example, I took an established psychological method (operant conditioning) and a problomatic ecological niche (crows) and combined them by making a vending machine from crows that trains them to fetch lost change for peanuts. More recently, I’ve been combining technology and fashion, public speaking with gastronomy, and robots with secretaries.
Why is it important?
All leaps of human progress have occurred on the fringes, by people taking big chances and thinking differently. Now, more than ever, we need innovation that will take us ahead of the problems we face. For example, the ecology is suffering from human kind’s inability to foresee the implications of our technology choices. Economically we’re unable to keep up with the rate of change in industry. There are all kinds of problems like this right now, all occuring at the same time as we’re seeing unbelievable advances in science and technology. Connecting the two – particularly across siloed disciplines – is both effective and important.
How do you do it?
First off, you need to be passionate about something. I am passionate about technology, people and creating positive change within society. Then, you need to talk to a lot of different people about it and to learn a lot about it. In doing so you’ll get not just the established cannon of information on the discipline (or niche, or industry, or whatever), but also the problems and quirks of the systems that people inside it take for granted. Those are your entrance vectors to bring about radical change. Then, take the information and access that you can uniquely bring to the problem and start talking over your ideas for unusual solutions. Eventually you’ll meet the right team of folks who have the best mix of backgrounds and insights and you’ll have developed a solution to match. In being courageous enough to question the obvious and being willing to collaborate you’ll be able to do something completely different and effective in a space where others take those problems for granted.
So What? Why does this matter in the long run?
I don’t do things “by the book.” And when you look around, most of the greatest inventions – penicillin, the internet or chocolate cake – didn’t come with instructions. Most people are used to the deeply-siloed, tautologically-divided way of doing things. I try to color outside of the lines and do things that haven’t been tried before because if you don’t take risks, you won’t succeed. Making a vending machine for crows, for example, or giving away your novel for free as a way to get it published. Sometimes, turning the expected view of things and turning it on its head gives way to radical new ways of suddenly evolving a formerly stagnant situation. As we all get increasing access to new and expert information doing this is just going to get more important; insight is only going to become more valuable.
Besides being lucky enough to do a bunch of public speaking, I wrote two books – one sci-fi novel and one business book – and I hosted a TV series called The Link on the history of innovation! I’ve also wrangled some:
- The New York Times (personal interview)
- Wired (Italy) (English PDF – original here)
- The New York Times
- Oprah Magazine
- Wired Magazine
- Irish Times
- The BBC
- La Monde (PDF)
- Fast Company
- BBC News
- Discovery Magazine
- ARTE Magazine (PDF)
- The Seattle PI
- Vancouver Sun
I’ve appeared on programs such as Nova, Discovery, and the Sundance Channel. Even more bizarre, I recently hosted a tv series for National Geographic – learn more here, on NatGeo’s site, and on Facebook!!
Next up, direct 3-D intercranial RSS Tweet insertion!!
Here’s a speech I did at TEDxDublin; “An overview of Hacking Work and why the world of employment is about to undergo a sea change.”
Here’s a speech I did at PINC; “How to do the impossible for fun and profit.” The PINC guys were super kind, and embodied everything I’ve ever liked about working with conferences – warm, fun, and a great time had by everyone.
Here’s a speech I did at BIF; “How to break the publishing industry in a few easy steps.”
They also said some nice things about me.
Here’s a speech I did at TED; “A presentation on training crows to bring me spare change – and how it can serve to better the world.”
Here’s a speech I did at Davos; “What we’re overlooking about four big trends in IT, and how their confluence spells big change for our world.”
I wrote an article for El Mundo titled “Ignorance is Rarely Bliss: major IT trends we’re misunderstanding” – you can find a PDF here. Of course, it’s in Spanish, but they’ve assured me the translation sounds really smart. Here’s hoping.
Over a bottle of wine after the panel I had the real revelation, which was that Tim was a warm, funny guy who I genuinely liked. More than anything that’s the take-away for me; that revolutions are built on the backs of normal people who just want to make things better.
Oh, and Sarah Palin was there. Check it out:
Hacking Work is a book on where employment is going, where it needs to go, and what we need to know to get there. The Millenials (people born after 1980) are coming – and they don’t work the way you do. Hacking Work aims to prove it, and more importantly to define what we can all do about it to combine the best of the new with the best of the old.
Part how-to guide to hacking your job, your company, and your boss, part insightful dissection of the new rules of work, Hacking Work has been called one of the Top 10 Ideas of 2010 by Harvard Business Review. Get your copy here!
April 15, 2009
I got to learn a lot about the press this week. The short version is this: an intern for the New York Times interviewed me in December of 2008 and confused Brooklyn (where I had proven the entire training process with captive crows) with Binghamton (where we tested whether crows would approach the box in the wild), thus taking my plan to test the crow box with a Binghamton professor at a zoo there as history. The NY Times then failed to fact check with the zoo and published the intern’s article in the Top Ideas of 2008 issue.
As a result, the professor I was working with there had her tenure and funding threatened, which resulted in her severing her relationship with me, which has led to terminating any further progress on the project in either Binghamton or Ithaca.
edit: This was my best guess; I never got a satisfactory explanation for why the professor decided my work was no longer viable once the NY Times published their correction (see below). All I know is that they decided not to continue to participate.
The NY Times later told me that the request for a retraction which I submitted via the NY Times’ website had been lost by their system, leading to the professor’s phone call reaching them first, with the result that I appeared errant in suggesting there was an error.
Four months later, the NY Times published a correction that was 100 words longer than the original piece which said that the experiment in Binghamton was a failure and that corvid experts felt that the machine was unlikely to work. This was contradictory to the enthusiastic emails and phone conversations I had previously had with said experts, and, when I asked the NY Times about this on April 15, 2009, their fact checker told me that “I can totally understand why you’d be annoyed that people would say they wouldn’t touch your project with a ten foot pole when they had clearly been involved with it before.”
I pointed out that several other folks took the correction to mean that I had lied to the NY Times. While their fact checker agreed that in terms of this article, “everything went wrong that possibly could go wrong,” he also told me directly that the NY Times was not going to publish a correction to their correction to address my concerns.
He also told me they had gone to great lengths to assure that the correction was fair and balanced and made it clear that the NY Times took responsibility for their mistakes, and that he was surprised I felt injured by it.
Here is the original article, and here is the correction. This is my web page where I’ve had my thesis and all the other information you see there up since 2007. You decide, and let me know what you think.
“Roo’d is geek-addled cyberpunk fiction at its finest, about a teenage boy with two prosthetic legs and a band of misfit body-modders, shamanistic computer hackers, and pharmaceutically psychotic bioscientists. But it’s also an exploration of someone coming to grips with what they truly love to do – and what it means to do it in a confusing world of shades of gray.”
Neal Stephenson gave me some advice about a year after I wrote this, which was more or less that if I’d already edited my book a couple of times and still didn’t feel it was ready then I should get on with things and write another one.
I ignored his advice until now, when its good sense finally sunk in. So here’s my first novel – a cyberpunk exploration of one geek’s search for meaning. Even cooler, it was chosen for release for the eBook reader for the iPhone – the first modern novel released for the platform, and the second available after Tarzan – which led to it being made available on Amazon.com! W00t!
If you like it, please let me know, and if you think you can rewrite it better, give it a shot – It’s released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License for exactly that purpose. Big thanks to Cory Doctorow for encouraging aspiring authors like myself to give their work to the world this way!
Roo’d is available in a variety of formats:
If you like the book and want to help me afford to take time off to write another one, feel free to make a donation.
Or Buy it!
It’s available Print On Demand via Amazon.com; while a POD book is usually slightly more expensive than one produced as part of “traditional” publishing, it creates little or no waste from unsold products.