A picture of me standing at a lectern, working on a laptop computer, on the stage of the FWD50 digital government conference

Hi! I’m Alistair. I write surprisingly useful books, run unexpectedly interesting events, & build things humans need for the future.

Category: Writing

  • First, we had suspects

    First, you had a suspect; then you collected data Fifty years ago, if you worked for law enforcement, you started with a crime. You used information from that crime to make a list of possible suspects. And then you looked into their life. Maybe you did this with publicly accessible information, by digging through their […]

  • The perils of local maxima

    Preamble: It’s been nearly two years since I wrote something here. In that time, I’ve worked with a dozen or so big public companies trying to understand how to balance keep-the-lights-on, milk-the-cash-cow marketing with the pursuit of disruptive innovations. I’m trying to assemble these thoughts into something—maybe a book, maybe an online course, maybe a […]

  • On chat as interface

    Musings on the (for now) strange world of chat, where the interfaces are untestable, every use leaves a logfile, each interaction is a survey, and we talk with our cars and bank accounts.

  • Inbox is the Trojan Horse for your personal AI

    Google’s Mail products are a Trojan Horse with which the company is turning “use the Internet” into “talk with an AI.”

  • Unlocking our future past

    In a few years, algorithms will be able to describe video content as well as humans can. Unlocking the pent up information in petabytes of video will have wide-ranging impacts on society.

  • Dear Canada: Stop apologizing

    It’s time to stop writing press releases and start hacking markets. Because the world’s best startups have a dirty secret: they’re all a little bit evil.

  • This trifecta drives the next decade of tech

    Big data, smart agents, and new interfaces are cool on their own. But together, they’re a virtuous cycle that shows what the next decade of tech looks like.

  • Can we fix representation?

    Representative government is broken. But now we’re all connected, maybe syndicates can fix it?

  • Can tech fix our carrying capacity?

    We humans invent things like sanitation, or disease resistant wheat strains, to increase our carrying capacity. But can new technology features do the same?

  • Pitchers not buckets

    Forget leaky buckets—for SaaS, a leaky pitcher is a way better metaphor.