Following the Scenius
Hello from my new home in Downtown Los Angeles! This is another short, unrehearsed, unscripted, unedited, single-take 10-minute podcast episode. I think I’m going to be experimenting with this format for the rest of the summer at least. Some of you prefer text and have asked for transcripts, and I’ll figure out a low-effort way to do that eventually, but until then, you’ll have to make do with brief tldr show notes if you don’t want to listen to audio.
1/ Breaking smart often means breaking into technology scenes, and this is not a one-time deal. It means keeping an eye on how the action is shifting and following it as needed to stay in the game, which means breaking into scenes repeatedly.
2/ A scene with active technological evolution has what musician Brian Eno called scenius (scene+genius). In my opinion, the key symptom of active scenius is that keeping up with technological change, and with the people driving the change, becomes the same thing.
3/ When the two become different, you end up with a zombie scene that’s just a lingering memory of a more generative era. Social networking and idea networking turn into separate activities.
4/ So how do you follow the action? I like to think of scenius as having 3 main dimensions: social, geographic, and most important, technical. Or, who is doing it, where are they doing it, and what they are doing. You have to track the action along all 3 dimensions, but most people only manage 1 or 2 dimensions of tracking.
5/ If you just track 1 dimension, you’re barely alive, so I won’t say much about that. Things get interesting when you at least track 2 of the 3 dimensions of scenius.
6/ The worse case is if you track scenius geographically and socially, but not technically. That makes you a scenester. You do the same thing in new places, with new people, while being indifferent to whether the action revolves around blockchains or machine learning or cleantech.
7/ You either don’t care, or lack the ability to keep up with the content of the action, so you stick to the social layer.
8/ Slightly better is if you track the action geographically and technically, where you follow the story of a technology trend as it evolves from garage-startup scale to global dominance. This is something like a journalistic mode of tracking the action.
9/ The best 2 of 3 case is if you track the action socially and technically, but not geographically. In that case you’ll age-in-place with an era of technology with the key people driving it, and either turn into a rent-seeking member of the elites if you succeed, or a precarious hanger-on if you aren’t.
10/ But if you track all three, then you’ll always be wherever history is being made, and hopefully playing at least a footnote-part in helping make it. You don’t necessarily have to move physically, but you do need to become mindful of the who, where, and what of the action, and get yourself wired to it through information, virtual participation at least.
11/ Of course if you have the right mix of capability and luck going for you, you might lead the action instead of following it.
12/ Personally, I don’t actually like that level of intensity of participation, so I like to hang back a little bit from the heart of the action, along all 3 dimensions, so I can get the headspace to think about the philosophical, cultural dimensions of what is happening. But I do like to know what’s happening, who is doing it, and where.