From time to time I include my Watching Amazon conversations with ecommerce expert John Lawson here when we touch on something that may hit home with the Small Business Trends community. And in the midst of Amazon’s recent killer quarter — being driven in part by its Amazon Web Services (AWS) division and the Echo device line with Alexa inside — people are adopting modern technology in more aspects of their personal and professional lives. But is this technology driving us to be lazy, or is it fueling our inherent laziness? And what role should modern tech play in how small businesses operate?
These are a few topics that grew out of our latest Watching Amazon episode. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see the full conversation check out the video below, or click on the embedded SoundCloud player. And leave a comment below to tell us if you think technology is making us lazy or exposing our laziness — and how we should use it in our businesses.
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Small Business Trends: I was in New York at this FinancialForce event and the CEO, Tod Nielsen, used this phrase, “Software ate the world. Services are devouring the whole galaxy”.
He used some examples. When you go on a lot of trips, business trips, you gotta pack your suitcase and stuff and take them to the airport. Then you’ve got to load them up and try to get them into your overhead bin. If you can’t, you got to check it, then you got to get it after you check. Just a big hassle.
There is a service … [Dufl.com].
John Lawson: That’ll deliver your bags to your hotel? Yeah, I know about that service. I’ve used it. They come pick up your bags. They deliver it to your hotel.
Small Business Trends: How cool is that? It’s a need that’s been here forever but it’s a completely different way to do it. They’re using technology to do it.
The cool thing is they take it to your hotel so when you get to your hotel and you get your room …
John Lawson: You’re ready to go.
Small Business Trends: That’s somebody thinking completely out of the box.
John Lawson: It is. It is. But you know what? It’s also about service, man. And I think at some level we are going to have to figure out how to use technology to serve each other better.
Small Business Trends: That’s why software ate the world, and services devours the galaxy.
John Lawson: Oh okay, all right.
Small Business Trends: That’s the thinking that is required.
John Lawson: It is.
Small Business Trends: It’s ridiculous to do things the same way we did them 30, 40, 50 years ago when we have this awesome technology that allows us to do things more efficiently, more effectively, more easily than ever before.
John Lawson: This is so deep, though. How much have humans changed in all of that time?
Small Business Trends: I would say humans in general, we are lazy.
John Lawson: You know what? This is tapping totally into …
Small Business Trends: The mother of invention comes out of this. The remote control was put in place because we did not want to have to get up out of our chair and turn the channel or turn the volume up or channel surf to find whatever we want to watch. We got tired of getting up and the person created the remote control because they didn’t want to have to get up.
John Lawson: That’s crap.
Small Business Trends: That’s the truth.
John Lawson: It sounds good in hindsight.
Small Business Trends: Let’s put it like this, continuing the theme. Now we have the remote.
John Lawson: We have the remote.
Small Business Trends: But then once we got used to doing these things with the remote we’re like, “What else can we do?”
John Lawson: What else can we do with the remote?
Small Business Trends: They started adding features and buttons to the remote, right?
John Lawson: Yes.
Small Business Trends: We’ve got these remotes that have all these features. What else do we need to do with it now? Guess what? You have to go to college basically to work these remotes because there’s so many buttons on it.
John Lawson: Now you got …
Small Business Trends: The Dish Network put Alexa inside and so instead of using these buttons to try to figure out what’s on or what to watch, now you can say, “Alexa, give me this movie on channel 12,” or, “Alexa, I don’t even know what channel. Find this movie for me.”
John Lawson: Now you can actually say a line from a movie and get the movie.
Brent Leary : You can say, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” and ‘Gone With the Wind’ will start playing.
John Lawson: It’ll find you that movie.
Small Business Trends: Once again, it’s technology doing things that we’ve wanted done, trying to find better ways, more efficient ways to do it and leveraging modern technology to do it.
John Lawson: This is your big thought here?
Small Business Trends: The big thought is instead of bellyaching about the technology, people have to figure out how to best use it in order to create opportunities for their businesses moving forward.
John Lawson: Because people are lazy.
Small Business Trends: Because consumers are lazy. Why do you think Alexa has taken off?
John Lawson: I’m not going to say consumers are lazy, and that’s why I was going to kind of backtrack on that a little bit. Consumers are lazy but they didn’t give that feature because of laziness. It was actually made as a luxury feature so that the first people that had a TV, that had a remote, now had this luxury of being able to sit on your couch and not get up and then change the channel. Actually it was just to turn it on and off.
What ends up happening is that feature that was a luxury feature becomes standard because of the free market of the technology. It becomes a standard thing so everybody now has a remote control. Now because everybody has it, now we’re all lazy. I’m wondering if that made us lazy or was lazy there to begin with?
Small Business Trends: No, we’ve always been lazy because I mean the remote control is just one example.
John Lawson: Love that.
Small Business Trends: You could go back to the phone. You used to send telegrams.
John Lawson: Here’s the thing I’m trying to ask you. Are we inherently lazy or is the technology making us lazy?
Small Business Trends: No, I think we’re using this lazy theme.
John Lawson: Yeah, it’s a theme.
Small Business Trends: I think we’re inherently lazy, but I’ll also say this. We’re inherently looking for better ways to do things too.
John Lawson: I think we’re inherently efficient.
Small Business Trends: What about the person who is a paraplegic or quadriplegic and couldn’t get up to change the TV?
John Lawson: That’s not a luxury for them.
Small Business Trends: That’s not a luxury, so that is a need.
John Lawson: That becomes a gateway for things that they never could do.
Small Business Trends: Right, and then think of somebody like Stephen Hawking before he passed away. He couldn’t even talk but he built something that allowed him to communicate with the outside world just like this technology that we’re using with Alexa allows us to experience life in a much different way because now instead of having to type something or …
John Lawson: We just talk.
Small Business Trends: What’s more natural than talking? This technology that is currently out is making it even easier for us to dictate what’s in our head and have activities brought back or things that we need brought back because now it’s easier to communicate with what’s around us as opposed to ‘let me think and then type’ and hopefully what I’m typing is going to get over to the next person [the way I meant it — and they’ll understand it the way I meant it].
John Lawson: How long before we just think?
Small Business Trends: 5 to 10 years.
John Lawson: At the most.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.