Dr. Rick Chromey is a cultural explorer, social historian, generational futurist, and international keynote speaker. A best-selling author, he has penned over a dozen books on leadership, natural motivation, creative communication, and classroom management.
His most recent work, GenTech: An American Story of Technology, Change, and Who We REALLY Are is now available online and in bookstores everywhere. His book is a humorous romp exploring why labeling people by when they are born, like “Baby Boomers” and “Millennials”, just doesn’t work!
Instead, Dr. Chromey explores the technology we use during our “coming of age” years between 10 and 25 years-old. Learning where people fit and the wealth of what they bring through technology use will change lives, whether in the boardroom or classroom.
Rick has served as a pastor, professor, speaker/trainer, and consultant, working in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. In 2017, he founded MANNA! Educational Services International to inspire and equip leaders, teachers, pastors, and parents.
Rick holds a doctorate in leadership and emerging culture; and travels the U.S. and world to speak on culture, faith, history, education, and leadership topics.
What you will learn
- The technology that is transforming who and what we are as humans
- The 3 phases of the last 100 years
- How technology impacts each generation between the ages of 10 and 25
- Why we are at the start of the Robo generation
- When the age of robots started
- The addictive technologies
- How the last 150 years of technology of audio, video, and digital is changing our world
- The one big weakness of robots
- The importance of digital detox for mental health
Jeff Bullas: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today, I have Rick Chromey. In fact, Dr. Rick Chromey. I'm not sure whether he likes using the formal title of “doctor” in his name, but formally it's Dr. Rick Chromey. Welcome to the show, Rick. It's great to have you here.
Rick Chromey: Good to be here. Thank you for having me, Jeff.
Jeff Bullas: So, I'm going to introduce Dr. Rick Chromey.
So, he's a cultural explorer, social historian, generational futurist, and an international keynote speaker, and bestselling author. He has penned over a dozen books on leadership, national motivation, and creative communication, and classroom management. His most recent work GenTech: An American Story of Technology, Change and Who We Really Are. Tell me when you've discovered that, Rick, because that would be really good. Tell me who I am or you are. That'd be great. It's now available online and in bookstores everywhere.
Jeff Bullas: His book is a humorous romp. Like the word romp, Rick. That's a really good word. Exploring what labeling people by when they are born, like Baby Boomers. Sometimes it just doesn't work. Instead, Dr. Chromey explores the tech we use during our coming of age years between 10 and 25 years old. I think it can last longer than that, Rick, actually. It can be after 50 really.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, it took me to 50 to find out who I was. Anyway, learning where people fit and the wealth where they bring through tech, knowledge you use will change lives whether in a boardroom or the classroom. Learn more about Rick at rickcromey.com. Now a little bit more about Rick. He served as a pastor, professor, and speaker trainer, and worked in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. In 2007, he started the business MANNA! Educational Services to inspire and equip leaders, teachers, pastors, and parents. Rick holds a doctorate in leadership and emerging culture, and travels the US, the world to speak on culture, faith, history, education, and leadership topics. Welcome to the show, Rick. Great to have you here.
Rick Chromey: Well, thank you, Jeff. Yeah, again, by the way you read that just like my publicist wrote it. So, thank you very much. Well done.
Jeff Bullas: Well, I just had to be true to purpose to make sure that Lynnete didn't smack me later forgetting it wrong.
Rick Chromey: I like the word romp too. That's good.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, yeah. So, look, we're doing social distancing, which is really cool. Not really. It's not really cool at all. In fact, I hate social distancing, because it stops us being human. Because nothing like a good hug, but hugs have become illegal, which is really quite disturbing really.
Rick Chromey: Oh, handshakes.
Jeff Bullas: Well, the other one that is being done now is the elbow tap, which feels rather weird really. People go to do it, I think I'll just... I don't know what I mean to do, but the elbow tap's really weird, but anyway, it's emerged as the new handshake in this COVID world. So, Rick, I'm interested in the cultural explorer and generational futurist tag. So, how did that all start? Obviously you've got some curiosity around that topic. So, cultural explorer, generational futurist. Tell me a bit about how this is all turned into a book.
Rick Chromey: Oh, this is one of those books, Jeff, that has been probably 30 years in the making. Back in my church days when I was a pastor, I worked with youth groups. And so I was doing a lot of work with the kids and helping parents and other leaders understand the kids these days. Typical stuff. And in the process became fascinated with the generational tags that were starting to be stuck to different generations.
Rick Chromey: One of the first was... There was a book in 1980 by Landon Jones. I think he's a former editor at People magazine, but he wrote this book called Great Expectations. And he's the one that named the Baby Boom generation here in America and I found that fascinating, because not soon after that, everybody started to name things. My generation and your generation, we were called the Baby Busters in America.
Rick Chromey: And then eventually in 1991, Gen X, there was a book by Douglas Coupland, talking about Gen X and he named it. It was a fictional novel about Gen X and somehow that name got reapplied over the Baby Buster idea. And about the same time you had these millennials starting to bubble and they were initially called Gen Y, but there was a book by Strauss and Howe called “Generations” that came out in 1991. This book, which was, like I said, it's the history of America's future, they go all the way back to 1584.
Rick Chromey: And they basically lined out the generations in America and they did a very good job of it. I tend to like this particular book, because I think it has some good historical accuracy plus sociologically as astute. And I think in many ways just insightful in how it lined out those generations. And one of the best things it did was I was born in 1963 and good old Landon Jones had made labeled as a Baby Boomer, because he entered the generation for Boomers in 64, and I never felt like a Baby Boomer.
Rick Chromey: Strauss and Howe come along and they say, "No, you're part of what we call the 13th generation." Later, they conceded Gen X, but between 1961 to 1981, my generation was known as the Gen X generation. And the bottom line is I just started exploring all the different ways that we tended to look at generations and understand them. And about the same time, around the year 2000 is when I started to notice it, was technology. A lot of my workshops, a lot of my writing, I tended to go back to how technology was influencing us.
Rick Chromey: And long story short, by the end of the 2000s, I saw how these emerging generations were influenced by the i technologies, the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, iTunes. I watch all those and so I self named that generation the iTech generation and people were picking up on it quite a bit. Of course, some other marketers got into the business of naming generations back in the late '90s. I think 1995 was kind of when Gen Z, which is a very lazy label if you ask me, I think it says nothing and really helps us with very little. And plus, if you start looking at Gen Z and looking at how they're framed, it's all over the map, Jeff, it's sometimes '97 to 2000, sometimes '95 to 2005.
Rick Chromey: Strauss and Howe, in their follow-up books they list the millennials as ending in 2006. So that makes the next generation 2007. So it was all over the map. And I did my doctorate as you noted in cultural exploration, I was actually trained in what was called the science of semiotics, where we understood signs. I like to say I'm kind of like a weather forecaster. I look back at the history of culture and then we look for patterns, and I was just trained, highly trained in how to look at these patterns.
Rick Chromey: And in the process, once you know the patterns, you can then start to project, you can start to look into the future. And that's when I started making some elementary forecasts. I predicted several years ago about the demise of the compact disc and the DVD. I saw streaming coming before anybody else saw it. I saw online learning coming long before other people saw it. And so those things start to be part of my futurist side. And that's kind of where it happened. And the book itself came about because I was just trying to figure out a way to look differently at generations. And it's kind of like two great things that go great together, chocolate and peanut butter. It just mashed one day. And I realized, "Wow, technology probably frames us more than anything else." And I use these coming of age years, Jeff, because I've long proposed that the music of our life, whatever the soundtrack of your life is, probably formed between the ages of 10 and 25.
Rick Chromey: For me, that would be the music of 1973 to 1988. If you look at my iPod, if you look at my music collection, the majority of the music comes between 1973 and 1988 for me. That's my comfort music. And it got me thinking that technology is the same way. We all come of age and the thing is, is that there's tipping points also with technology. Television, it's tipping point wasn't until about 1950, 1960. It started to have a tipping point in culture where more people had it than didn't. And there's a generation that was coming of age just as the technology was tipping. And that's where this generational personality comes from. And it has huge implications in business, how we interact in business has huge implications for how we communicate in the classroom, how we communicate even like this. It has great implications for ... in my world I also do a lot with the church world about how we congregate and how we disciple and teach. So there's a lot of ... lot to it, and I've probably unpacked more than you want at this point, but that's just because in general, yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, we've got a lot more to unpack yet. That's very cool. I recently read a book called Out of Control by Kelly. I've just read that. It's very much about how man and machines are evolving together. He goes back into the history of the planet, right back. He talks about a whole range of topics. And I certainly, for me, just observing, I'm born a little bit before you. Suppose I fit into the baby boomer box, really, because I was born in 1957.
Rick Chromey: That was a good year for Chevies too.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I know, I want to get one of those, because I'm thinking of getting a car the same age as me, which means it's quite old, but cool. They made some really cool cars back there with big fins and cool ... yeah, so.
Rick Chromey: You're not old, Jeff, you're vintage.
Jeff Bullas: Oh, that's true. I go to vintage shops as well, and even listen to vinyl, but yes, that's right. So I totally agree with you. Technology does change who we are. I was inspired about 12 years ago to actually start a business because of changing technology. I've been ... I've started several businesses over the years and a lot of them are actually all around tech. So tech has a huge impact on who we are as human beings and that interface to it. So you talk about three generations, right?
Rick Chromey: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeff Bullas: So firstly, one you talk about is audio. So let's dive into that a little, let's unpack audio a little bit in terms of its impact, and then we'll talk about some of the others, but the audio generation.
Rick Chromey: Right. Actually those are ... There are four generations within the audio generations, and then there's going to be a four generations within the visual generation. And then there's going to be four generations within the digital generation, digital.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Rick Chromey: So these are, I don't know if we call them stages or-
Jeff Bullas: Stages would work.
Rick Chromey: Yeah. But I start the book in 1900. And the reason for that is I've long proposed that there has been more change in the history of the world ... well, there's been more change in the last, since 1900, in the last 120 years than there has been in the entire history of the world. When you start thinking about what man has been capable of doing. I mean, we got automobiles and airplanes. Eventually when you think about the communication techs, of the telephone, vinyl record, motion pictures, and then you got television and all those, this is so much change has happened since 1900.
Rick Chromey: It's not stage, it's phase. I call them phases. The first phase is the audio phase. And these are the generations born between 1900 and 1940, that area. These are the early audio. They were very aural in their technology. The telephone ... I call the first generation, telephone transportation generation, or the T and T generation, 1900 to 1920. They grew up on that tipping point of telephones and cars and in the sky, you had the airplanes and such. And so that became a huge part. They were the wheel generation, and it is very interesting that by the time they came of age, they were the ones who went off to war. They went off to World War I first, the earlier ones did, the later ones went off to World War II. When they got back from war, the first thing they bought was a car. That was their status symbol.
Rick Chromey: That was, a car and a house, especially post-World War II. Suburbia was built upon these generations coming back and buying cars. And so that allowed them to have more transportation, allowed them to take trips and go places. In America we're built upon an RV industry, recreational vehicle industry. And a lot of that was built post-World War II by this generation of the wheel generation. Between 1910 and 1930 is an interesting generation I call the motion picture generation. They came of age to first of all, silent movies. And then they moved into the talkies. And eventually when you look at their coming of age years and realize a generation again, between the ages of 10 and 25, you can then, in the book, I show how it plays out for the motion picture generation. That would be between the age, between 1920 would be their coming of age years and 1955.
Rick Chromey: And when you look at it from that perspective, that's called the Golden Age of the motion pictures story in America. It's amazing how that plays out. They are right there. And I was surprised how well it worked. You start off with a theory, Jeff, especially sociological theories, and you just play with them and see, but this one really started to speak and it started to create a narrative. That's why I call it A Story of America and Our Technology, and what I'm curious about, not to get off topic here, but since we're on topic, off topic, I'm curious here eventually to find out, I think you've read the book or looked at the book enough that-
Jeff Bullas: I have.
Rick Chromey: ... did it play out kind of the same way in New Zealand? See, for us, it's American story. That's why I wrote from that perspective. But my suspicion is that in civilized cultures, Europe and Australia and places like that, that you're still going to see a very similar type of timeline with the technology.
Jeff Bullas: Oh, absolutely. So that's, I suppose, called developed countries. They're part of the OECD group of countries as well. So yeah, it's very much the same here.
Jeff Bullas: I think I remember getting frustrated not being able to watch the latest movie because it was appearing in America and you heard it in the news and it didn't turn up on a boat or a plane for several months later. Whereas now, we can have almost instant access globally to any information, which is rather exciting. So it's certainly accelerating change, that is for sure. So you've got the audio?
Rick Chromey: There's the other two generations in the audio generation. There's the radio generation and the vinyl record generation. That's that audio phase of the text. And then you move into the visual.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, let's dive into visual. So visual obviously was driven a lot by the almighty television, which we've been addicted to for over half a century now. So let's dive into the television phase.
Rick Chromey: Well, there are certain technologies that are, what I call, mega technologies. In fact, back in my doctoral work, this was part of one of the little theories that I also developed. It's what I called cultural language theory. There are certain technologies that can change an entire culture, how we speak, how we communicate, how we teach, learn, work, all those things. And when I started looking at these cultural languages, I realized that it was technology then that was again guiding it.
Rick Chromey: And we haven't had a huge cultural shift for about 500 years. The last cultural shift that we had, that there were three mega technologies that emerged. And that was the mechanical clock, the printing press, and what I call the scopes, the microscope and the telescope. Those three technologies exploded us out of the Dark Ages into what we call now, commonly modernity, whether it was Renaissance and Reformation, Enlightenment or Industrial Ages, the Scientific Age, all of that happened the last 500 years.
Rick Chromey: Well, television was the first technology that started to move us away from that old frame. It started to explode. It was a new mega tech. The other two mega techs, by the way, are the cell phone or mobile phone and the internet. Those technologies also moved us. And what they did that was different was they flattened culture. They flattened our communication. A cell phone, you could communicate anywhere, anytime, any place. It just flattened it. Same thing with the internet. It flattened information. It allowed someone like me to become a great... You can make a lot of money on YouTube, just an ordinary guy, ordinary guy like you podcasting and become rich and famous from it. It's amazing.
Rick Chromey: You couldn't do that a hundred years ago. You had to have some money. You had to have some money in the family. You had to have a royal name, royal blood flowing through you. You were pretty limited and you were also pretty local. Now we can be glocal. We can be global and local at the same time.
Rick Chromey: So back to the visual phase. Television was one that kind of guided several of these generations, and the television generation, 1940 to 1960, was followed by the space generation. And when you think about space, a lot of times, we don't think of it as a visual generation, but really, it's what launched the other ones, because what space did was put up satellites, satellites that changed how we're able to see our whole world. So it's very much a visual generation, followed by... Space generation was from 1950 to 1960 or '70, and then the cable television or the gamer generation from 1960 to 1980 and cable television generation from 1970 to 1990.
Rick Chromey: And if you think cable television for a moment, it was interesting that 1980 in America, in a way, was the explosion of cable television. When I wrote that chapter, I was kind of playing with it. 1970, starting that generation, really through the seventies, you didn't have much cable television unless you were in a rural location, but in 1980, that all changed. CNN, 81 was MTV, you had ESPN as well emerged, all those major core types of channels and which hopefully, you get down there in Australia as well, those major-
Jeff Bullas: Yes.
Rick Chromey: But that created that visual phase of those generations.
Jeff Bullas: Certainly, TV for me was pretty exciting. Mom and dad were a little bit reticent about allowing a TV into the house. So we rented a TV during our school holidays. That was a big, exciting time. We couldn't wait for school to end so we'd have school holidays so we could watch TV.
Jeff Bullas: I remember that my friend had a TV, it was black and white, and I was so obsessed that I'd drop in on my way home from school. And even if my friend wasn't there because he was hanging out with other friends, I'd sort of knock on the door and I'd go, "Mrs. Verdonk." That her last time, she was Dutch. "Mrs. Verdonk. Could I watch TV? Look, I really want to see the cartoons." So I would have been all of six or seven. I was fascinated by it. That, for me, was the first addictive technology.
Jeff Bullas: And radio was sort of addictive, listening to ACDC and the Beatles on the radio. And so, the TV for me was really addictive. But I do remember listening to the radio at 5:00 listening to what we have in Australia called the Argonauts, which is like a narrative.
Jeff Bullas: Radio very much was about the narrative, not just music. So I remember that there was a great narrative told on the radio, which got everyone really, really scared called War of the Worlds, I think, is that correct? Is that the one that created the panic in the streets?
Rick Chromey: That's right, that's right. I think it was 1947. Orson Welles did the War of the Worlds and it was so real that he came out the next day. You can look on it, you can find it on YouTube. He actually came out the very next day and apologized, saying, "I didn't mean to cause all this much trouble here. It was just a story," but it was so real. And in many ways, it's kind of interesting that it was.
Rick Chromey: And I think part of... I'm going back to my history here, so forgive me, you're testing my history, but I think the Hindenburg was only a couple years earlier than that. And that was the first, the Hindenburg going down and exploding. That was also broadcast on live radio. And it was kind of the... We talked about reality television. Well, we had reality radio as well at the time.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Rick Chromey: And that's part of the reason why War of the Worlds caused such a panic was because it was echoing the Hindenburg and that type of a tragic thing. Except it was more all over the world. It was just craziness.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I remember reading that story and the fact that it created panic in the streets, because people thought we were being invaded by the Martians, or someone. So I certainly remember radio from a narrative point of view. And today what's interesting watching, and we'll deal with it a little bit later, but the podcasting industry which is starting to really get some traction with half a billion dollars on Spotify being spent in the last 12 months.
Jeff Bullas: Narrative podcasting is certainly starting to come into its own. That sits next to the visuals such as TV series, online, and also movies. Okay. So, we've got the TV generation, which is a mega tech. I totally agree with you. For me, I can still remember sitting in front of the TV and watching man landing on the moon. And it was terribly grainy. You had to use your imagination, because it was so poor definition, which I think led a lot of people to say that it was actually a hoax. So, the old hoax thing has certainly been running around for the last 30, 40 years.
Rick Chromey: The funny thing, Jeff, about the moon landing, what we remember is more probably Armstrong stepping off of the capsule there onto the moon surface. I did not realize... So, I was doing research on the chapter, the space chapter, and in particular the moon landing, that CBS news and the other stations, CBS was pretty much leading it, but CBS did not... They had a simulated visual, let's just put it that way, of the capsule landing.
Rick Chromey: They did not have a camera to show the capsule actually landing on the moon. We really don't have video of the capsule landing on the moon. What we have is a simulation that a news organization put out. So, I found that fascinating, because back then they were simulating certain things to make it look like it was really that capsule.
Rick Chromey: But what we do remember, you're right, is that man stepping on the moon. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. And America, this is what I'm proud of, America is the only country in the world to ever step on the moon. Russia landed on the moon I think 1974, 1975. They had a probe that landed on the moon, but they never put a man actually on the moon. That's an American story. It's a unique American story and something we can be proud of.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, well, you're certainly telling an American story in your book and America has been very much at the core of the technology race along with... Well, it's been certainly a technology race for a long time. So, the visual, let's just get back to the different generations. So, what are the different visual generations again? So, you've got mega tech...
Rick Chromey: Right. Again, it starts with the television generation from 1940 to 1960. Then you have the... And if you notice these generations also overlap, Jeff.
Jeff Bullas: Oh, yeah.
Rick Chromey: That makes you part of two generations, which I think is a little bit more dynamic way of looking at us rather than stacked up as generations. But from 1950 to 1970, that's the space generation. From 1960 to 1980, that's the gamer generation. Video games. This is Pac-Man and Mario Brothers, and Pong, and all that, and Asteroids. And then from 1970 to 1990, that is the cable television generation. Those are the four generations that make up the visual phase of GenTech.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, certainly the space industry one really fascinated me, but the next phase, which we will dive into now is the digital. Now-
Rick Chromey: Digital?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So, digital is... And again, you're right. These are stacking on top. This is an aggregation of technology that... Yeah, okay, so of course we've got the telephones still. We still got radio, we've got TV, but we're stacking technology on top of technology. And it almost becomes hyperactive in the sense of they feed off each other. So, now we're into the digital age.
Rick Chromey: Yeah. Again, it's those coming of age years.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Rick Chromey: When you're coming of age, you come of age between ages 10 and 25. That's a developmental thing by the way. I know earlier you were saying, "Well, I'm not sure I've actually fully come of age." Most sociologists, most biologists, most doctors would tell you usually by age 25, you've come of age. But age 10, that's when puberty starts and emotional maturity, and all that. So, between ages of 10 and 25 is a good window for that coming of age period.
Rick Chromey: And when you apply that, that means that radio had its moment. And you've got to look at then those tipping points. When did radio have its tipping point? That was back in the 1930s with the FDR Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration. He was the radio president of the Great Depression period. Television had its tipping point in the fifties and sixties. Video games had its tipping point in the late seventies and eighties.
Rick Chromey: So, as those tipping points happen, and whoever's coming of age during that tipping point, that's how they get named that generation. And it doesn't mean, as you've just pointed out, that previous generations can't still feed off of older technologies, but eventually technology becomes obsolete. I hate to break it to people, because we talk about the vinyl record and I love vinyl. I used to go around preaching vinyl is final, but I got to tell you, I can't remember the last time I played a vinyl record. I have a vinyl record player right here in my office. Don't play it. Love it, but I don't play it, because it's not convenient to my life anymore.
Rick Chromey: And that's what happens with technology is it eventually becomes obsolete. And in the book I have a whole list of obsolete, or going obsolete, types of technologies. And it's not going to be long, for example, for the book. As much as I love paper, the book is going away, because our youngest generations are being brought up in a pure digital world. Everything's being streamed to them, everything's being downloaded or uploaded for them. Why would they carry around in their backpack 50 pounds of books when they can carry around on their iPad, or their other device, these books in digital format and read them that way. It's changing the world.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, very much so. My preferred way of reading, even though I do love the printed word, nothing like a nice book in your hands, turn the pages, I've got a library on my Kindle. And I am literally carrying around hundreds of books and it weighs one kilo or less. And I can access any of that, I can take notes, I can share it, I can highlight and send an email to myself of notes and then aggregate that. For me, it's my preferred way of reading now. And I can read in the dark as well, which is pretty cool.
Rick Chromey: That's right.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Rick Chromey: Right. There are a lot of advantages to digital.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Rick Chromey: Well, the digital generations then, they started in 1980 with another twin technology generation. Remember the generation between 1900 and 1920 they had twin technologies of telephone and transportation? Well, in 1980 to 2000, that 20-year period, they were what I call the PC-CP Generation, the Personal Computer Cell Phone Generation. PC and if you flip it, it becomes CP, which is interesting. Their first phone was the flip phone, so you just flip it. But they came of age to the personal computer revolution, cell phones becoming part of their lives.
Rick Chromey: Between 1990 and 2010, the next generation is what I call the Net Generation. They came of age to the internet. It's interesting in the year 2000, that's when everything exploded when it came to the internet and kids were really on it. In fact, it wasn't too much long after that, mid-2000s, that you get into the social media aspect and that Net Generation were the first generation to really feed on that in an active way.
Jeff Bullas: Sure.
Rick Chromey: Then from 2000 to 2020, the generation that just is finishing up being born is what I call the iTechs, the iTech, little I, big T. They came of age to, again, iPods and iTunes and iPads and iWatches and iPhones, the smartphone.
Rick Chromey: Then there is the generation that's being born right now, and I've named them the robo generation, but it's short for the robotics generation born since 2010. They're going to be born all the way to the age to 2030, but the robo generation is probably the most unique. I don't know. To me, this is the most fascinating part of the book because you can then project out to 2055, which is their final coming of age years will be in 2055, to kind of think about what they might look like, what they might do, the characteristics of this generation. They're still too young.
Rick Chromey: One of the problems I have with marketers out there that like to name generations after only a couple of years, I mean the guy who named Gen Z, Gen Z, I think he named them in '97 and 1995 was the start. These kids were still toddlers when he named them Gen Z and it got him a lot of money, got him a lot of notoriety, got him a lot of press, a lot of workshops and probably speaking engagements, but you don't name a generation that's only two years old. Sociologists will tell you and a historian of myself will tell you that it takes about 10 years for us to start to see qualities and characteristics and personality emerge. And this year 2020, we have seen the age of the robot just start to explode.
Rick Chromey: A year ago, there was an ad for the Super Bowl here in America. And it was the Intuit tax company and they were introducing to America, RoboChild. I was at that point as I was writing that chapter, I was trying to figure out, I kind of had an idea of where I wanted to go with it. But when I found that commercial on it, I remembered. That's it. 10 years in, almost 10 years in, here you have RoboChild being introduced.
Rick Chromey: I want to introduce to you the robo generation, and what has happened in the last year is there's been an explosion of robots in our world. Robots all over. Not just manufacturing robots, but every drone is a robot. Self-driving cars are robots, when you think about it. In many ways, your cell phone is an inanimate robot, right?
Jeff Bullas: Right, absolutely.
Rick Chromey: It's artificially intelligent. So in that chapter, Jeff, that's my fascinating chapter because I was trying to think of how do I frame this? When I deal with the iTechs, I call them a 3D type of generation. When I look at the millennials or that CP-PC generation, they were a WWW generation. WWW means they were a “watched” generation, they were a “wordy” generation, they were a “wanted” generation. The 3D degeneration of the iTechs, they were more digital, they were more decentralized in how they looked at things, and they were more diverse. That's the third D for them.
Rick Chromey: But when you look at this robo generation, they are coming of age to what I call HAIRy technologies or HAIR technologies, Holograms, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Those three technologies are emerging. It is funny, people would think, holograms? Well, we've had holograms for a while, but we're going to see a new age of artificially manufactured holograms, especially in the entertainment industry.
Rick Chromey: Last November here in Boise, we had Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly in concert down here at the Morrison Center. Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison have been dead for a long, long time. This was a live concert. People who went to the concert said, "Look, just like them." It was like they were actually on stage performing. They were holograms. That's what we're going to see. There's a whole bunch of that happening, and it's really going to start to emerge.
Rick Chromey: But artificial intelligence and robotics, they are starting to bubble right now. Basically if we thought the last 120 years was wild, and I often say that the last 20 years we've had a lot of change, the next 10 years, Jeff, oh, is going to be some of the most incredible transformational change that we've seen in our culture. It is literally going to explode. It's going to be a whole new world in 2030, around these HAIR technologies.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, it's going to have huge implications. Yeah, robotics, the enhancement of the humanities externally all also to remind, like you said, we're carrying around the smartphone. It's basically like having a brain in your pocket, it's an enhanced brain in your pocket.
Jeff Bullas: But before we leap into more robotics and basically where the future is going in terms of your HAIR technologies, let's go back a little bit to the start of the digital era or digital phase. I left teaching after teaching for about five, six years, so my original career was the teaching degree and then went and taught high school.
Jeff Bullas: I decided to get into the whole PC tech industry in the mid '80s and that transformed me. I was well beyond my transformative years in that sense in terms of being in my 20s or even my teens. I leapt into the PC industry, which was the battle between Apple and Microsoft, and so I found that era absolutely fascinating. It was like the Wild West. It was the rise of the individual PC as opposed to the mainframe, so the PCs were like islands of information. But then what started to happen is they started to get networked.
Rick Chromey: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Now that's when it started to get more exciting. Then the network was a network within a building or within an organization. But what got me really excited, was in 1994, '95 when I connected to the internet using a modem, which a lot of people haven't even heard of. But the modem allowed us to communicate with the world, connect to the internet. Before it was just kept to the elite, which was the universities and the colleges, because the internet was-
Rick Chromey: It was military. The military developed it first. The ARPANET was a military use. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Yes. Yep. And then it got used in the universities. It was for the elite. And then we had the rise of the democratization of that connectivity, where the personal computers started to get connected. And I remember the first time using the browser Netscape and we're using a very slow modem to actually... I think we started at 2.8 K or whatever it was.
Rick Chromey: I think I started at 14.4. I mean, it was ridiculous. It had that strange sound, as it popped in and...
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And it was so slow, you went off and made a coffee while you waited for a webpage to download. You go and do a search on Netscape and it's like you had to trawl through a 100 pages to find something meaningful. But I was fascinated by that then. But I think about the next phase... So we got the individual PCs being connected. Information is now being shared. So much like the brain of the planet is being connected to... Everyone's been connected. The next phase that I got excited, I remember watching my kids as they were teenagers, even younger than that. I remember they would finish dinner, they would rush upstairs to the office so they could actually be the first one to use the PC connected to the internet using broadband. Yeah, we're fairly advanced in Australia back then. And what they did is they leaped onto a little strange site back then called Myspace.
Jeff Bullas: For me, social media, I think, was one of that actually humanized technologies. In other words, the isolated PC that was used for spreadsheets and Word, and then we had the corporate PC and then that was all connected. And then social media showed up. And the first one that really got real traction was Mypace. So tell a little bit about your insights what you think the implications are for in this digital phase? What are some of the insights you have regarding this event, the social media?
Rick Chromey: Yeah. Yeah. So social media, I mean, there's a lot that can be said on that one. And in fact, in the book, I really unpack that a lot because to me, social media is really what, and I love how you put it, humanized us, because if you remember, some of the early criticisms of the internet in particular was that it was going to have people alone in their basements, separated from people, we would have no interaction and addicted or whatever it might be. And that is not what happened. I like to say today, we're not connected. We're hyper-connected. The cell phone literally hyper-connects us all the time. It's constantly dinging with updates and notifications and news and our Facebook and our Twitter feeds and Instagram and Pinterest and YouTube, all those things are constantly feeding us information. Social media changed us.
Rick Chromey: And I'll make an observation on this COVID moment that we're in. I don't like the word social distancing. I think it's a poor word. I think it's poorly played. We're not social distancing at all, if you really think about it. We're physically distancing.
Jeff Bullas: I agree. Totally agree.
Rick Chromey: We're not socially distancing at all. We're having a conversation here. You're in Australia and I'm in America. We're having a conversation. This is very much a social moment. So we're not socially distancing. We're physically distancing. And I run some life groups for my church for example, and we moved to Zoom. I listened to one of your podcasts earlier today and you said it so right, that Zoom is now a verb, just like Google is a verb. "I'm going to Google," or, "I'm going to Zoom." It's become a verb and Zoom changed everything.
Rick Chromey: I think a lot of us kind of... I was already well aware of Zoom. I was using it with my grad classes and stuff, but I got to tell you. I had a hard time getting my grad classes to Zoom with me before COVID. COVID hits, and all of a sudden, I start doing Zooms on Friday, Zooms with my grad class, which is an all online grad class. And they've been stuck all week long in their apartments or their houses and they're desperate for some connections. So they said, "Yeah. Let's Zoom." They come in and then I bring a guest in, someone like you, to come in and talk about the topic of the week and we record it and we put it up on YouTube and stuff. It changed my grad class. The pedagogy of how I was teaching changed because of Zoom.
Rick Chromey: And the problem is that a lot of educators today don't think outside the box. They're still trying to think of, "We got to still do this like we used to do it in the classroom." What social media teaches us is there's a new way to communicate. And we have to kind of figure that out. Twitter has taught us that we can communicate with brevity. YouTube has taught us that we can communicate with visuals. Instagram and Pinterest as well has taught us how we can communicate using visuals. So social media teaches us a lot. Facebook has redefined friendship when you think about it. It used to be that if I had a friend, it was someone that I had spent some time with, we had some things in common and you were my friend. Well, on Facebook, someone pops in and... I had someone here about five years ago friend me on Facebook. He just liked some of the stuff that he was kind of catching off my feed. I guess it kind of got out there. And he popped in, wanted to be a friend. And we started a friendship online, communicating, back and forth.
Rick Chromey: And I was in Washington, DC this last spring, and lo and behold, he lives in the DC area. Found out through Facebook, because I said I was kind of going that way, that I was going to be there, says, "Let's meet." We spent three hours together and really our friendship went to a different level because of that point. So social media hasn't really... It's connected us, but I also think it's hyper-connected us, but it's redefined friendship. It's redefined relationships. And it's redefined how we communicate. And it's something that, again, businesses, schools, churches, institutions, other institutions need to pay attention to. The world is changing.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That's what excited me about social media when I first stumbled upon it. It was noticing people's observation, and observing people's behavior. And I noticed that it was a very obsessive technology, just like TV was, still is.
Rick Chromey: Addictive. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Yes. Addictive. Then what happened was I said, "Wow. I can reach the world from my own bedroom, office, lounge room. I can connect with tribes, my tribe. In other words, those who have the same interest as me, whether it's vinyl or whether it's marketing or whether it's Star Wars collecting, whatever. It doesn't really matter." So it allows you to connect to a global tribe. So you might've been in a small town and you're passionate about cheese, but there might only be one other person or no one in your town that's actually interested in cheese, but if you go onto social media and try to connect with those passionate about cheese, there's going to be a million of them around the world. So as I say, I'm blessed without the cheese makers.
Rick Chromey: I was going to say, the other problem with social media is that it flattened news. It allowed every person to be a newsmaker, a commentator, a reporter. And when social media did that, that's when this thing... we call it fake news here in America, fake news started to emerge, and it is amazing. I think today in education, the most important thing is not to teach our students what to think, but how to think. How to evaluate information, how to critically analyze and understand, "Well, hey listen, that piece of information is interesting."
Rick Chromey: My wife got a wonderful meme the other day from somebody and it was political in nature. And when she played it, she said, "Oh man, this is terrible. This is terrible." And I said, "What is it?" And she read it to me, I said, "I don't think that's true."
Rick Chromey: There was something in it that just kind of flagged for me. I said, "Why don't you do a little bit of research on that?" And she did on her smartphone. She just Googled and did some research on it. Within 30 seconds she said, "It's totally false, but it sounded so true." And because the narrative was something that was in our wheelhouse, as far as the narrative that we wanted to believe, it was easy for us to accept it as truth.
Rick Chromey: And that's the problem, you have these narratives flying around with fake news and false ideas often pushing them up. And to me, Jeff, the most fascinating thing about social media are the narratives. I love to listen to narratives. My doctoral professor put it this way, he said, "You can never understand a person until you stand under them."
Rick Chromey: This was the process he called deconstruction. You have to deconstruct a person's life. You have to look past their experiences, their politics, their religion, their background. You had to pull those away to really understand who they are and see them for what they are. And I find that interesting. And maybe that's what I did in my book, is I just deconstructed America and posited a different way of looking at generations.
Jeff Bullas: Well, I found the book fascinating-
Rick Chromey: Thank you.
Jeff Bullas: ... in terms of how it actually, I suppose, put it in neat boxes. And as we know, boxes aren't neat. We just use them to make sense of the noise, don't we?
Rick Chromey: Yes.
Jeff Bullas: It's really about distilling complexity and the simplicity. So we put them in stages, whether you're defining baby boomer, gen X, whatever you want to call it. These are not perfect boxes. They're actually just ways of making sense of a crazy, noisy world that we live in. So social media has risen, which ... you used the term flattening. The term I like to use as well is called democratization. In other words-
Rick Chromey: Decentralization.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So it allows people all to have a voice, but there's worrying things about this voice though, in the sense that organic social media has certainly been diminished by the algorithms of the players, the big players. So the media moguls that you had to pay to get attention of the past, now we have the media moguls of the present and the future. They just happen to be the big four. They happen to be Google. They happen to be Facebook, and they happen to be Amazon.
Jeff Bullas: So the reality is they're the new media moguls and they can define who talks to who and what algorithms define it. We're in the middle of the battle of the algorithms as well. So you've got social media rising. Then you've got the other obsessive technology, the smart phone shows up at the same time. So you've got this perfect storm of two obsessive technologies. And they're both, I'd say you would mostly call them mega tech. Is that correct? How do you see that playing out?
Rick Chromey: Yeah, it's actually interesting that ... remember the three mega techs were ... of what I call the postmodern era, the three mega techs were television, cell phone and internet. They're all combined in one device now. We watch our television on here. It's obviously a telephone, it's still a communication device, but it's how we connect to the world.
Rick Chromey: My mother-in-law lives with us and she's a wonderful person too, but she still lives in 1995. She still has her flip phone. And we've tried for years to get her to just upgrade to a smartphone. She won't do it. And it creates unique, interesting problems for us when we need to do certain things that she needs. But this thing, it's a GPS, it's a music player. Think about all the technologies that are included in this little phone.
Rick Chromey: Just to call it a phone would be disingenuous. It's a device. It's a smart device. Some people actually think that this was the start, that this device is the start of what they call the singularity, where man and machine mold together. And one of the reasons I say that is if you lose your cell phone, if you lose it, it's like a death.
Rick Chromey: A lot of us don't know what to do. You lose it, you misplace it. Where's my cell phone? And you call it. You can't find it. If you have it on silent, you're in trouble.
Jeff Bullas: And you feel like you've lost part of yourself.
Rick Chromey: Right, exactly, because you have. A lot of us keep our memories on this. You may have heard of the Google project to digitize all the books in the world and have them upload it for us to build a download. That's the Google project. I've been working on the Chromey Project. I love all sorts of old television. I collect television shows. So I have television shows all the way back to the 1950s. And I collect in particular first season television shows, but I've been slowly digitizing my entire collection. I have been doing it for like 10, 15 years now.
Jeff Bullas: Wow.
Rick Chromey: And eventually, I'm going to put it up. I'm in the process right now of putting it up in the cloud. I don't know what I'll ever do with it, but maybe someday you'll be able to watch an episode of Bonanza from 1968 and thank me for it.
Jeff Bullas: I look forward to that moment, because I really love Bonanza, really, so let me know. So let's start to look at what a future maybe looks like. And I think we're starting to see that. I think the pandemic has accelerated change that was already happening. So I'd love to hear your thoughts in this digital phase about what COVID, what this pandemic is doing to us as humans and where you see that playing out.
Rick Chromey: Well, I have been predicting for probably 15 years now that there's going to be what I call a blue screen moment for our culture. That blue screen moment was in reference to the ... You remember when a computer would have that, the old Microsoft, it would just come up with a blue screen. And basically it meant that you're in trouble. The whole thing has to start over.
Rick Chromey: I had a blue screen moment with a computer back in ... what was it? 1998, 1999. And I had just finished a book. I literally had my entire book on there and I lost it all. And it took me six months to write it, but I had to reconstruct it for a deadline within three weeks. But that blue screen moment caused a lot of anxiety. A lot of stress, a lot of doubt, a lot of where are we going, what am I going to do here? But in the process, I actually think I wrote a better book. When I rewrote it, I actually wrote it better. Blue screen moment is what COVID is for us as a culture. It has caused us all to rethink how we do things.
Rick Chromey: When you look at business, it has changed entire business models. Restaurants. We've got a restaurant here in Boise, it was a cafe, it was a breakfast type of cafe. When the COVID hit and they had to shut down, they couldn't have anybody in their restaurant and they weren't really set up to do a takeout. Most people don't do takeout for breakfast. It just wasn't a good model. But what they did have was lots of toilet paper, lots of other things that people suddenly wanted and needed, so they started a new shop.
Rick Chromey: They turned their floor of tables into a manufacturing place or a warehouse, and because their distributor was different from the other stores in town, they were able to get stuff that other stores couldn't get. So they start selling. They totally changed their whole model. Seeing this right now in America, in particular, I don't know how it is there in Australia, but in America we're having a serious conversation about whether or not we're going to have school. I could tell you, in 2000, I was predicting already that we need to get ready. I was a college professor and I was telling the school I was at, "The best thing we could do would be to sell these buildings, sell everything right now, and move online to become a totally digital university."
Rick Chromey: Had we done that back then, we would have been totally prepared. But most schools right now, they made online learning just one of those things, "We'll do it if we have to do it." But now because they have to do it, they have to do it. It's totally changed. In my world with the churches, for example, churches are having a terrible time because they're so used to having people come and congregate in a space. Well, YouTube and Zoom and all that has totally changed, and there are people out there like you and I who get it and we've been getting it and we've been talking about it, but no one's been listening. And what the COVID moment has done is it's been a wake up call that we can't ignore.
Rick Chromey: This is not an interruption, my friends. I hear that a lot of times. "It's just an interruption. It'll go away." Last March, "It'll just go away. We'll be shut down for a couple of weeks and it'll go away." I think it's a disruption. It's a disruption. It's not interruption. And a disruption is what transforms us. It's what moves us out. It changes everything. The Protestant Reformation was a disruption of European culture and it changed European culture for 500 years, the Protestant Reformation did. There are those types of things that happen, and this one just happened to be... Who would've thought a little virus would bring the whole world to its knees? But it has.
Jeff Bullas: It certainly has.
Rick Chromey: I'd be curious what you think about all this, because I'd like to learn a little from you today as well.
Jeff Bullas: I've reflected a lot on it. I've been working essentially in a digital world for the last 10, 12 years. For me, I was ready, but essentially I'm really fascinated by the accelerated change that I think... The change was already happening. For me, getting into the car to commute for an hour or get on a train and commute for an hour from a distant suburb into a high rise, for me, that's just an anathema. I'm just going, "This is crazy." So we've got to balance that with the social aspect of being human, which we are. Humans are social creatures. So for me looking into the future, I'm, I suppose, both concerned and also amazed and hopeful.
Jeff Bullas: Any technology has a good side and a bad side. I was at the Egypt Youth Forum about two years ago. It was put on by the Egyptian president and he hosted a round table, which I was honored to be part of. And on one side of the table was the negatives, in other words, the cons of social media. On the other side was the pros of social media. What are the good aspects and what are the bad aspects of social media? Me being an optimist, an eternal optimist, I saw... Because to me social media was just a great way to connect with the world, it gave me a voice without the gatekeepers, and I saw it as a way to get your creation out to the world. And what I discovered with social media was I can change the world in my own small way, but along the way, the feedback I got on this two way communication from social media was that the world changed me.
Jeff Bullas: What we're, I think, in the middle of to... Where I'm going with this is that we are being changed by this moment. Now I think we, as humans, have got some choices to make. Whether we want to make it... Do we want to grow from this, or shall we just shrink back to country versus country? Are we going to be less global? Are we going to be more global?
I see some positive changes. What if we don't see a lot? You walk down a street now and people actually say hi, because we are in this together. I think that getting on and doing Zoom calls with friends or whatever. I think I spent three hours on Monday night Zooming with three or four different groups of friends, individuals. And it was just fantastic.
Jeff Bullas: What really worried me a little bit in one sense was I actually was almost enjoying these virtual drinks, as we occasionally do. I went, "Wow, this is actually almost as bad as actually catching up." So the accelerated change, I think, the nature of work is going to be totally different. The nature of socializing is going to be different. How we run events, big conferences. The conference industry in the US is huge, there are 30,000 conferences a year, I believe, in the US. That's going to be changed forever. It's just so many elements to the change. I think as humans, we've got to try and embrace the positive and grow from it.
We don't learn from comfort because we all sit back and go, "I'll just leave things the way they were." We grow from discomfort. That's where real growth and personal development happens, and I'd be interested in your thoughts on that.
Rick Chromey: Well, when I teach about cultural change, I have my audience do, just fold your hands like this, Jeff. You'll notice that you'll have one thumb on top of the other and it feels very comfortable.
Jeff Bullas: Yes.
Rick Chromey: That's what it feels like. It feels good. But now take your hands apart and put the opposite thumb on top. That's what change feels like. And the thing that's interesting is when you ask people, "How do you feel?" Immediately they say things like, "Oh, this is wrong," or, "I don't like this, it's awkward." All negative feelings. But I say, "Hold it for a while. Don't let go. Just hold it." And the longer you hold it this way, the more comfortable it becomes. That's what's going to happen here with COVID. As we become more comfortable not dining in, it's going to change how we deliver food, how restaurants deliver food, as we become more interested in how we consume and buy things.
Rick Chromey: Amazon's made a killing. Walmart's made a killing here in America, because they shifted their models very quickly to delivery and pick up. That works. Groceries. My wife has not stepped inside a grocery store in weeks. She just goes and picks it up at Walmart. She says, "It's a whole lot easier to order it on my phone and go and pick it up." Okay, that works. But you think about schooling, you think about our area, we're both trainers.
Rick Chromey: You think about the training industry. But this is where holographic technology, to me, is going to be interesting. We're very close and we're already knocking on that door a bit, where holographic technology, I think in 10, 15 years, will allow me to go any place in the world and have a conversation, give a workshop, or whatever, and I won't be there. I'll be in my living room. I'll be in a studio in my office. But I can go anywhere in the world as a hologram. And I will look very, very real.
Rick Chromey: In fact, looking at me from the crowd, you would think, "Oh, that's really him up there," which is going to change some things. We used to say, "I'll believe it when I see it." I'll believe when I see it. In this new world, it's, "I believe it when I can touch it and make sure it's real." So authenticity. That's what I tell leaders, it's what I tell teachers, pastors as well. If you want to survive in this new COVID world and moment, you've got to be real with people. You got to be willing to show them that, "Hey, I'm authentic." That means you can't be perfect. People trying to put together the perfect podcast, forget that. Just put together a podcast. This conversation's not perfect. I've made mistakes, and you'll love the fact because you don't have to edit it out. I give you permission to. I am not a perfect speaker. I will stumble at times. But at the same time, that's what makes it real. That's what makes it authentic. That's what people really want, is real today.
Jeff Bullas: I totally agree with you. That's what I love about podcasting, the rise of podcasts. There's only about a million podcasts around the world, whereas there's nearly a billion blogs. The podcast will be actually, people can see you, because you can turn a podcast into a visual, put it on YouTube, which we do here as well. As well as that we actually put it on across the whole platforms, iTunes, Spotify. For me, it's actually about having real conversations, such as we're having today, and to meet the most fascinating people, such as yourself and just have Fireside Chats about what really matters to them, what they're passionate about. I can see you're absolutely passionate about, essentially being a cultural explorer.
Rick Chromey: I love it.
Jeff Bullas: I can see it. It comes through. Also, I think what you see when you add audio visual, as well as writing, none of these are all going away. It's just different types of media. We all have different preferences for media. Some like to read more than they like to watch. My son doesn't like reading very much, he's dyslexic. So guess how he learns? YouTube. The reality is that we're all very different as human beings.
Jeff Bullas: I love this mediumwe are using today for this podcast. We're having a conversation in high definition, and we're about, I'd say about 14,000 kilometers apart. How's that miles?
Rick Chromey: Not sure.
Jeff Bullas: That's about 8,000 miles.
Rick Chromey: A long way.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Rick Chromey: The fact that you can transfer that to miles impresses me, because I would have no idea.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah well, in Australia, we changed to kilometers and the metric system in 1966, including went from pounds to actually dollars. I just happened to be at school and I learned both. I can flip between miles and kilometers. It's not a special superpower because I'd rather just pull out my phone to work it out, really, but it's okay.
Jeff Bullas: The future. He talked about holograms. You talked about robots. The book by Kevin Kelly on Out Of Control, it's written quite a long time ago, talked about ... And I'll be interested in your thoughts on this. He wrote about the fact that everything goes back to organic. Essentially, the planet, we as humans have risen from this planet. Technology is actually disappearing to us as humans. It's actually not visible. That's what gets rather exciting, is that it's hard to tell the difference between what is a robot, what's a human, or what's enhanced by yourself.
Jeff Bullas: Where do you see us as humans going? The phone at the moment is great, but it's external. Where do you see ... You talk about holograms, So how do you think robots are going to be integrated to what we are as humans?
Rick Chromey: I don't like to put a lot of cold water on the social theorists out there, the technocrats that see some sort of singularity coming where man and machine meld into one. Then there'll be these great big battles and such for humanity and robots, whatever that might be. I think there's a big problem, and maybe this comes a little bit from my own philosophy of life, maybe theology of life as well, is that there's something distinct about humanity. Something that separates us already from machines, and that's our ability to emote. In the Star Trek episodes, you remember Spock and later Data. Both of them were Androids. They were robots. Basically they were humanoids, but they had one major flaw. They could not emote. I do think that's going to be the one thing that's going to keep us separate from the machine.
Rick Chromey: They're going to look very real. Japan right now is working on humanoids that are so real, they're real to the touch, they even have ... The skin feels real. It feels warm, as human skin would be. But it's completely a machine. And it's artificially intelligent.
Rick Chromey: When I was researching the robot chapter, I did a lot of study on YouTube. In fact, YouTube's been a wonderful resource for my book, but there are entire YouTube videos that show some of these Japanese robots that they can have a conversation, kind of like you and I are having a conversation. The robot will start by asking you a question, and then you respond and they're learning from you. That's what artificial intelligence is. It's the ability to learn something as it's going. So it's creating a memory bag. But literally they have this particular robot that's an interviewer. She sat down, this robot did, and had a conversation, and was asking very astute questions by the end of the interview.
Rick Chromey: But the one thing that robot couldn't still do was emote. It couldn't feel. I think that's what's going to separate human beings. I also think the ability to be creative. I'm not sure a robot can do that. There's going to be a limit to its creativity. That to me is interesting. It's caused me a lot of thought. But that's probably the biggest difference. I don't see a singularity ever happening. I know there are a lot that propose that, and some even fear it, that there's going to be a singularity of man and machine, but I don't see that. What's going to happen though, and just look at it from a practical point of view, Jeff, is that robots are going to start taking over those jobs that human beings probably shouldn't be doing anyway. You think about firefighting. You think about police work. You think about those types of work... In Los Angeles, right now, they have police robots going around patrolling parks in some Southern California areas.
Rick Chromey: We already have police robots, but imagine the day when you have a fire, we don't need to send a human being into a fire. We can send a robot into a fire and they can do the work of human being. And if we lose the robot, we lose the robot. We don't lose a human life. You think about war. In the future wars will be fought by robots, I believe not by human beings. Now human beings may control a bit of the actions and the deployment, if you will, of these machines, these drones in the sky perspective. But I think it's going to change warfare. There's a lot of things on the horizon, and the next 10 years, it's going to just blossom.
Rick Chromey: I'll give you one last anecdote here. We were in Sweden last year. My wife and I, she has relatives in Sweden. We got in at nighttime, so we went right to bed. And the next morning I woke up and I kept hearing this whirring noise outside the window. And I looked out and it was a robot lawnmower going around and his lawn was perfectly manicured. And I found out that our Swedish relative actually sells these things for a living. That's how he makes his buck. So I was fascinated by this robot lawnmower. About every three days, it goes back and mows the same spot. It never collects grass because the grass never gets high enough to be collected. It just kind of shaves off. So the grass always looks the same. It's beautiful. It's wonderful. Manicured.
Rick Chromey: Well, I asked my Swedish relative, "How long have you had these robots?" Because in America I saw one of these lot more robots at Lowe's, our home improvement store here locally, and we were all just kind of standing around looking at this thing. It was in a little green playpen, and it was just kind of going around on artificial grass, showing us what it could do. And all of us men were just kind of standing around going, "Wow, that's interesting. What are we going to... No, I kind of like my exercise." We're all kind of poo-pooing the idea.
Rick Chromey: But after spending a couple of weeks in Sweden, it was like, "No, I like that. I like that." But Sweden has had robot lawnmowers since 1995. For them it's a part of their culture. And Japanese have had robots for a couple of decades now. And the smart ones, especially in the last 20 years, have started to emerge. So America has been somewhat resistant to it, I think partly because of our Western ideas on robots. Westerners tend to look at robots as being more evil. In our movies and such robots are always trying to destroy the world. Whereas the Eastern idea of a robot is it's more of a companion. It's a friend. I find that all so interesting.
Jeff Bullas: Japan has developed robots that look after people in aged care homes.
Rick Chromey: Yeah, caregivers.
Jeff Bullas: In other words, they're actually going to have a conversation. Now I want to go back to a term you mentioned that we as humans are different to machines in that we have emotions. A personal interest of mine is I'm very positive about the future, but in the meantime, some of the implications of what's happening with social media and digital technologies, and... People will walk down the street, they will not look at nature. They've got their earphones on. They are just looking at their phone. They're a danger to everyone else walking on the same path. People who have been killed just walking up the street and crossing the road because they've got their head buried in their phone, which is very sad.
Jeff Bullas: But the reality is that there's a negative aspect to digital tech, which is your last phase. I'd be interested in your thoughts on what you think are the emotional and mental health issues that are rising out of this, because we're seeing in the Western world the rise of a lot more mental health issues. Anxiety is rife. Suicide is rising. And it's a personal interest of mine based upon what's happened to me. Not personally for myself, but my partner, that was. She passed away from suicide two years ago. And for me, it's a personal interest. And for me, it's basically what can we do as a society in this digital age to actually make sure that we both got the technology to actually help people that are struggling, and they're entrepreneurs because being an entrepreneur is a tough gig. It's a lot of pain. What do you see as some implications of the digital age on mental health? I'm sure you'd have some interesting insights around that. I'm interested in your thoughts.
Rick Chromey: Yeah. First of all, I'm sorry to hear of your loss there my friend, I don't see it so much as digital, but more as cyber. It's more the cyber culture that creates the issues. Certainly the narcissism that can rise, I think, has some impact. Social media. One of the best things that I do for my mental health, Jeff, is once or twice a year, I'd go on a fast. I just leave Facebook. I leave social media. I get away from it. I literally take the icon off my phone, move it to a back part, a back page, and take off notifications of it so I don't even know there's something happening.
Jeff Bullas: Digital detox.
Rick Chromey: It's one of the most beautiful things for me because I don't realize how much the phone is a part of my life. I'm constantly looking at, "Oh, there we go. Okay." And I get in these conversations, if you will, on social media, just because I'm a curious person by nature. So I like to hear how people think about things. And sometimes social media is not exactly the most conducive or productive place if you want to have a conversation. Most people, unfortunately today, at least on Facebook, tend to want to just yell at each other or preach a narrative, and they really don't want to listen. And I kind of grew up... I have my views, you have your views. We all have views, but I grew up in a world that's much different.
Rick Chromey: And I think one of the things that social media has done for our younger generation is it's created a very divisive, narcissistic hole and we're all fighting for that space of truth. I think the deep down thing that we all want is what is the truth here? That's what we're looking for. And social media is such a cesspool of narratives, and false narratives often, that it's hard to tell what is true.
Rick Chromey: We see pictures that look, "Oh, wow, that looks real. That video looks real." And then you find out it's completely concocted. So, it does have a lot of social implications. It has a lot of mental health implications. And for those who struggle with self-esteem, with some of their own awareness of who they are, it can really start to bite in a big way and hurt. And I feel for those people.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I think part of the challenge we have as human beings is this evolution, and actually a revolution, has been so quick that we, as humans, are struggling to adapt to it.
Rick Chromey: Yes.
Jeff Bullas: So, how do we use social media properly? How do we use our phones properly? How do we use global communication properly that is healthy? You know what? I don't have any notifications from my social media on my phone. They are all off. And I very rarely go and check my Facebook news feed. There's a great quote I came upon, a friend of mine, she shared it with me about a year ago, and I think it's something we've got to be really aware of, especially when you go and check our Facebook food and Instagram feed, is that we, as human beings, judge the inside of ourselves by the outside of others.
Jeff Bullas: And what I mean by that is we look at the polished personas of Instagram and Facebook, and we say, "Aren't they having fabulous lives?" But behind that persona, the real person sits. And we, all as humans, struggle. Some struggle more than others. And behind that pretty face, that smiling face is often a lot of pain. And I think we've got to be so careful that we don't dive into the stream and say, "Everyone's having a fabulous life and I'm having a shit life." I think that's the reality that we've got to understand.
Jeff Bullas: And for me, I actually control. I really do not go into my Facebook stream very often. And I think I've got a fairly solid self esteem, a good self esteem, but I just noticed my feelings when I watched these perfect personas turn up, polished to perfection. It's not real. And I think that's the thing we're still learning as human beings to actually deal with this digital revolution. And it's going to take us a generation or two to actually work out how we deal with it with correct etiquette, to actually still be beautiful human beings, hug and hold, and look after each other, rather than shout and scream, and how dare you have a different opinion to me. I think we are still learning as humans to deal with this digital age.
Rick Chromey: I'm with you, Jeff. I'm a positive person on all this. And I think that if people like you and I just keep in a positive way presenting the ideas, saying, "We truly can not just get along, but we can be productive and find some solutions." Because that's what the world needs today is solutions. We need to find that. I think truth is part of that, but also we just need to find integrity in our journeys. What is real, what's integrity, what's that mean, what's truth? That's an epitaph of a great life right there. If you can find truth, and integrity, and respect, validation.
Jeff Bullas: And what I want to share here is real stories. And we've heard some from you today and basically your passion. It was great to hear that. I think I look forward to the next book, which I'm sure you must already be thinking of, or ideating.
Rick Chromey: Yeah, the robo generation. I'm thinking about writing just on that robo generation. Maybe a little bit of the iTech generation too, but I think we need to start understanding this younger generation. And hopefully we can... They're being called Generation Alpha here in America, which, again, please, can we stop naming our kids by the alphabet? I mean it's just getting old.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, putting people in boxes and categories is good, but it's not necessarily the truth. It's just a way to make sense of the world. For me, looking at what's happening in the world, I think we've got to work at what will allow us to deal with the ups and downs of life. How are we going to be resilient? How are we going to flourish and thrive? What are the skill sets we need?
Jeff Bullas: I think we need to be better at listening. We need to work at our resilience. We need to get closer to nature. There's a whole bunch of, I think, skills that need to be worked on. I look forward to reading your next book and maybe even hearing your next book, or maybe seeing it as a hologram. Maybe that would be fascinating as well.
Rick Chromey: There you go. It may not even come out in printed format this next one. Who knows?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, it might come out in multiple formats. So, there you go.
Rick Chromey: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Well, thank you, Rick, for a wonderful conversation and for sharing your genius with the world, your creation with the world. So, the book for everyone is called GenTech: An American Story of Technology, Change and Who We Really Are. It's now available in printed format and it's also available online. Thanks, Rick. It's been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to catching up in real life and sharing a beer or wine, whatever your preference, or maybe a glass of water is your...
Rick Chromey: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Don't touch the other stuff. But yeah. So...
Rick Chromey: I'm kind of addicted to that Coca-Cola stuff.
Jeff Bullas: Really?
Rick Chromey: So, when I go hard, it's usually a Shirley Temple. But...
Jeff Bullas: All right. Thank you very much, Rick. Thank you.
Rick Chromey: Thank you very much, Jeff. It's been a real pleasure and I look forward to following you as well. I've already started that process, because you are an influencer that I want to be following too. So, thank you.
Jeff Bullas: Thanks for being on the show.
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