Welcome back, good people. Thanks for returning. Now, on with this cautionary tech tale. Back in the day, I was in a band, more like five or eight bands but that’s another story. So there we were in our favorite music store in Boston, E.U. Wurlitzer; dressed in our Rock & Roll fineries. We looked like a sleep deprived traveling circus troupe. A cavalcade of tight jeans, skinny spandex, snakeskin boots, shirts open to the navel and, of course, no self-respecting lead singer would leave the house without a long and flowing silk scarf; a choking hazard thrown in to make ambulation more unpredictable. I stepped on it once and threw a crick in my neck. Of course, I threw my back out trying to make my misstep look like a dance move. For you learning types and toddler musicians out there, rock bands used to look like they were wearing costumes; like when you see a real life cowboy shopping in a department store in boots, buckle and hat. The visual can be jarring at first; until your eyes adjust.
And yes, I took a circuitous and amazing route from music to the training industry but that’s for another blog, or maybe a book; depending on time.
Anyway, there we were checking out guitars and amps, and whatnot when a howling cackle reverberated through the establishment. We ran towards the source. There was Jack, our hard drinkin’ drummer, doubled over in the drums section, laughing his Spandex off and pointing to the shelf behind the counter. By the time we arrived, the laugh was so advanced that it was little more than a high pitched wheeze; with a complement of tears rolling down his cheeks.
There on the shelf was the object of his humor. We looked in awe. What the…? Where the…? How the…? Who the…? It looked like a cross between a typewriter, a toaster, a touchtone phone, and a robot. It was…
A Drum Machine!
The skinny drummer sales assistant behind the counter ushered us over to the sound room. There was another drum machine. But this one was loaded for bear. It even had its own mood lighting complete with dramatic shafts of light accenting it’s buttons and sliders. And sleek black cords flowed from its jacks to the honking Altec Lansing sound system at the front of the room. It was a marvel. Skinny drummer sales assistant touched a key on the keypad and the most amazing thing happened. The typewriter toaster touchtone phone robot ripped into a drum riff that pulsed through those speakers like an Afro-Cuban freight train; like Buddy Rich meets Steve Gadd meets King Kong. We were mesmerized. Then our guitar player plugged in a guitar and started playing along. Before we knew it, we were all jamming with that typewriter toaster touchtone phone robot thing. All of us except for Jack. He was still laughing. He was having way too much fun to extrapolate five years into the future and see the havoc this piece of wood, wires, plastic and ones and zeros would wreak on the music industry and the livelihood of drummers the world over.
Yes, from copy/paste to sampling; and from rapid eLearning tools to cloud based LMSs, technology is on an exponential march. And while it’s marching it’s doing great things and it’s giving every industry its drum machine; which truly is a good thing. But due diligence is need to find out whether your job or your entire sector is on the “bubble” as it were. So as your sponsor, I say extrapolate, be nimble. Find out how all these technologies will change the way you do your job. Find that sweet spot in the harbor between creativity and technology and make sure that no algorithm can replace you. That way you can make advances in the world without creating or developing your own demise. And don’t be like Jack. If you see a typewriter toaster touchtone phone robot thing, don’t laugh. And by all means don’t be cynical. Figure out how to work that typewriter toaster touchtone phone robot thingbetter than anyone else in your company. Become an expert; not so you can put your brethren out of work, but so you can guide them in the way of reinvention, to the path where technology might expand your industry instead of contracting it. As a technoholic, I’m always optimistic that I can have my cake and eat it too. But I’m always watching where our wondrous technology is headed so I can stay one step ahead of the pet tiger, or…the drum machine, as it were.