Updated: Feb 6
"Why would I want to do that?", "It's already simple enough", “Nah, I don’t see it”.
These we some of the initial reactions I got when I first told people about WhatsTopApp, and that was from friends!
Not exactly a ringing endorsement!
But I held persevered through the discouragement and kept persuading them to, “just give it a try”.
“Oh wow”. “Excellent”. “Ahh cool”. Very different reactions once they actually tried it.
If you've ever eaten a really well made patisserie profiterole, try thinking about how to describe it to a person and persuading them that it's not just any profiterole - hard right?
But I’m not here to write a ‘triumph of the underdog tale’.
I want to tell you an altogether different story.
A story about the end of history.
In the 1990’s, at the end of the cold war that many of you might be too young to recall, a historian called Francis Fukayama wrote a book called, “The end of history”.
In it he talked about mankind’s ideological struggles having come to an end.
History was ‘over’ and the ideology of Western Liberal democracy had triumphed, there was nothing left for humanity to think about (at least not in politics or economics).
Well, we all know how that turned out!
This ‘end of history’ fallacy repeats itself in so many areas of life.
When I was growing up, back in the early 1800’s, there were things called ‘laser discs’ that meant the 'end of cinemas'.
All inventions that could be made, already had been, there was nothing left to be make.
People never thought that a phone would ever be wireless.
I’ve seen some wonderful (and pretty hilarious) cartoons about the future from the past.
Here’s one from 'The Public Doman Review' magazine:
To 21st century eyes, it seems really funny, comical even and we can look back at them with smug satisfaction at how naïve they were.
But that’s where we should stop and check ourselves.
It’s readily apparent to us, that even though some of their concepts, we recognize even today as technological aspirations (flying cars and what have you), they were constrained by their mental models of what was possible and how it could be executed.
In the 1800’s wooden fabric covered wings were the best mental model of a wing most people had.
It made sense to extrapolate their vision of the future from this.
By the 1960’s metal aircraft had become the norm, lo and behold, so did their conception of flying cars.
And in our age, the age of battery powered quadcopter drones and composite materials, guess what?
That’s right, our conception of what a flying car should look like has evolved as well.
This gives us some insight into how technology evolves.
If all technology starts in our imagination but our imagination is constrained by the technology we have already seen, then how is it that new things ever emerge?
The question almost answers itself.
Through leaps of the imagination that go outside what has already been seen.
It’s by taking leaps and asking what if we did this another way, that new and (sometimes better – not sure I want any of these ‘flying cars’ – still seem like more bother than benefit) ways of doing things emerge and push the boundaries of our conceptions of what is possible outwards.
Considering our initial feedback, the past few months we’ve spent developing and refining WhatsTopApp have revealed a few interesting things to us.
We have a 38.5% lifetime re-use rate, a number that has only ever climbed.
Our churn is 0%. Once people start using it, they don't stop.
Even that statistic is deceptive because we count everyone we ever demo’d it to, even when it wasn’t working properly and was all held together by sticky tape and chewing gum.
I’d hazard that figure is well over 50% in reality.
The same friends who once asked me why they would ever use it, now tell me how much they love it and use nothing else.
They just needed to experience it to get it.
That’s actually one of our biggest marketing problems at the moment.
We are still a product in development and refinement and I am loathe to make this seem like a self-congratulatory puffery piece.
What I want to talk to you about is allowing yourself to imagine past wooden wings to metal ones, metal wings to composite ones, to take a leap of imagination outside what we all have become accustomed to.
So, let’s never be afraid to take a trip down imagination road, that's where all the new and exciting things in the future live.
Let’s always be brave enough to imagine ever nicer ways of doing seemingly mundane things, what we find, might pleasantly surprise us!
I imagine a time, when your phone will memorise your shopping habits, memorise what your staple purchases are and reorder them at their respective individual consumption rates. No waste. No surplus.
And as your lifestyle changes through the phases of your life, it will change along with you always getting better at predicting and fulfilling your needs until you begin to wonder how you ever lived without it much like we wonder how we ever lived without mobile money today.
I imagine a time, when your phone will automatically give you sound stock investment advice, tell you what fruits are in season when, where the best diving in your country is when you buy a snorkel and flippers and automatically re-order your expiring car insurance a week in advance, to save you from an unwelcome visit to the courthouse.
I imagine a time, when your phone will be a personal mental prosthetic, helping you manage so much of the cognitive load that is currently placed upon us in modern human life and doing it in a seamless, effortless way, until you that you hardly notice it's there.
What do you imagine?
What is the vision you have for the computational mobile telephony of the future?
Comment below and let's start a conversation and keep our imagination alive!