My new iPhone 4s arrived finally arrived this past weekend. My oldest son and I opened the package with much anticipation and we immediately dropped what we were doing to configure the device. Among the many new features made part of the 4s is Siri – the speech recognition device which, as Apple advertises, “Understands what you say, knows what you mean, and takes dictation.” So, gone are the days when I have to manually type a query into Google to search for a nearby Sushi restaurant, find directions, or, get this – type to text or email. From now on, all I have to do is talk. So, over the weekend I dictated and had Siri read aloud roughly 100 text messages sent and received. I quickly grew so accustomed to iPhone dictation that I became annoyed when I had to manually type an email on my Mac later that evening. On one hand, I felt more efficient, on the other hand I questioned if I was simply becoming lazy…
Separately, as a CEO, I am constantly striving to predict the future and react to it in advance. Not only with respect to positional real estate strategies, but also in terms of adopting (and creating) new intellectual technologies – which extend mental capabilities and enable us to gain more information faster. So as a fan of applications in this category, I’ve researched and adopted as many CRE and non-CRE of these intellectual technologies as anyone. I use Dragan Dictation to dictate most of my laptop writing, regularly use Loopnet to create space surveys, view comps, and get a read on the market. SVN Advisors are LoopNet power users and many are subscribers to CoStar, including their CoStar Go iPad app, which allows you to take real estate data into the field, where you can even view detailed tenant information, including lease expiration dates without having to charm past building security or receptionists. And all of this has me thinking – are the convenience applications mentioned above changing the way I learn, eroding at certain skill sets, and making me less knowledgeable?
While I can say with reasonable certainty that my IQ remains the same since becoming an early adopter, my ability to easily become immersed in the analysis of raw research data has eroded. In addition, my typing skills aren’t what they used to be and my spelling skills, thanks to auto-correct, have gone from good to average. For those of us in CRE (or any other field for that matter), what role have research products played in the reduction in the amount of market research that we retain? Posed another way, are the CRE practitioners of yesteryear, who had to physically walk building floors, drive every property in their area of focus, conduct live courthouse research, etc., more knowledgeable than we brokers of today?
Are we becoming dependent upon these resources because we’re lazy, or because we need to in order to remain competitive? I’m not making a value judgment here, I’m just asking you to do a gut check – Do you use technology to advance your learning, or to fill a knowledge gap? The distinction between the two is subtle, yet important.
The human brain is malleable. It is capable of being reshaped and while I don’t know the answer to the above questions, I do know that my mind now approaches learning a bit differently. My mind now expects to receive information the way that Loopnet feeds it to me – instantly, and with little effort. I have made it a personal challenge to add to my cognitive skills rather than replace them. This has required me to slow down in the short run at times, but in the long run I feel as if I’m expanding my knowledge base, not shrinking it.
So, I ask – has our “encyclopedic knowledge” of CRE markets and beyond become artificial intelligence? Are Loopnet/Costar and the like making us stupid, or are we better off? I think the answer largely depends on approach and motivation. Thoughts?
– Kevin Maggiacomo, CEO & President, Sperry Van Ness International Corporation
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