Friday 17 August 2018

Apple's co-founder believes the future of tech is people

Business Travel

Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, speaking at the Tianguis Touristico travel conference
Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, speaking at the Tianguis Touristico travel conference
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

Without Steve Wozniak I wouldn't be writing this column on a MacBook Pro, watching YouTube on my iPad or Facetiming friends on an iPhone.

The co-founder of Apple, Wozniak changed the world when he created the Apple II computer, transforming computers from something controlled by governments and corporations to every-day items.

Now in high demand on the speaking circuit, he admits he spends much of the time away from home travelling the world.

And as a frequent traveller, his take on getting from A to B is not what you'd expect.

He's not a huge fan of the sharing economy, and has concerns about the way the digital revolution he has helped spawn is losing its human touch - and not for the better.

This column caught up with him at Tianguis Touristico, a massive travel conference where Mexico's 31 states showcase their diverse attractions. It's an event attended by thousands of international buyers and sellers in the Pacific resort town of Mazatlan.

"I travel so much - maybe 100 cities a year. I'm hardly home most of the year. It's a lot of time away from my tasks at home, my internet, my family," he says. "I have young infants - young dogs that I call infants. The most precious thing to me is my time."

He and Steve Jobs were pioneers in the digital field, so Wozniak is no Luddite, but he wants us to take a step back, particularly in how we do business on the road.

"The sharing economy tends to solve one aspect or one discipline at a time. Uber solves some car transportation if you need it, so it's kind of nice on the fly - but not when you're planning a vacation." He cites a recent trip to Germany for business, which he attended with a friend. "I booked into a hotel and he booked into an airbnb. When he got there the airbnb would not answer his emails or phone calls.

"Experiences like that are one thing to be avoided. The trust is not quite as high as when you're dealing with person to person. We've even seen incidents with Uber or Lyft (ride-sharing companies) where it's either on the driver side or the passenger side where things don't work out."

"So trust is not very high already… and that would apply to all the travel planning. You can buy plans online, but the trust online is a little low"

He says in the past he did all his own travel planning - something many SMEs do to cut the cost of paying a dedicated planner. "A long time ago, I would only book for myself - and then I got one good travel agent. She knew hotels in far-away cities. Not only did she know where they were located, but she had stayed at them. And she could book flights as fast as I could."

Now he's lost her services, adding: "I like to be independent and do my own searching, but it's a lot of work for us."

Asked about data privacy, he believes that Facebook was never set up as a data-mining company to analyse your lifestyle to target you with ads. However, he adds: "Management at Facebook allowed way too much to happen. I recently left Facebook. I said there were more negatives than positives. It's not really just like I hate all the privacy invasions - some advertising has to occur - but it doesn't mean they have to strip my data and target the ads at me.

"But really I quit it because it became too addictive. I've had it for years, I share some information, my check ins where I am through Foursquare and nest swarming… people would comment and I can comment back."

But that has lost its allure. "I have 5,000 Facebook friends that I don't know. Even if you're a friend I only have a 1pc chance I'm ever going to see one of your posts anyway. I was wasting a lot of my time, so I gave it up last week. My wife and I were saying, hey we get along fine, we have email, other social websites and it's actually more peaceful. My head is more at rest now.

"I think there should be strict limits on how much information can be used in what ways by these social websites, like Facebook."

"I also think that when you have a customer-support issue there should be a law that you press a button at the very start that says I want to speak to a human."

And even digital retail isn't something Wozniak is totally comfortable with, saying: "Ordering on the web, I kind of prefer sometimes to see it in person. I think it's very limited."

And if a digital pioneer believes in humanity, it's worth sitting up and taking note.

Sunday Indo Business

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business