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How to make technology work for you, not against you

Technology brings us closer together yet pushes us further apart, so how do you overcome this and other conundrums to make tech work for you not against you?

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The conundrum of technology

Technology is a conundrum; a confusing and difficult problem or question, indeed! It is the double-edged sword that simultaneously arms you with the powers of productivity and the perils of procrastination. It gives you the WORLD in the palm of our hand yet may prevent you from listening to the person standing right next to you. Technology is a gift that can sometimes feel like a curse. It is becoming more simple and easy to use, yet with increasing complexity and capability. Such is the irony that is technology.

Don’t get me wrong because I love technology! Perhaps even a little too much. It is difficult to fathom what my life would look like without the technologies I am accustomed to using on a daily basis. Yet the relationship I have with technology is…well, complicated. Perhaps it is for you as well.

There is hardware to buy, storage to manage, accounts to setup, passwords to store, accessories to buy, data to synchronize, apps to update, emails to read (or not), receipts to save, alerts to acknowledge, more accessories to buy, software to upgrade, documents to scan, to dosto do and of course calls to take, voice messages to listen to, texts to read and AGBeat articles to clip and share. There is no end to what you can do (and not get done) when you use and interact with the latest and greatest technologies available to you.

Real Estate & Technology

When it comes to real estate practitioners and technology, I’m of the opinion that it will ultimately be an ‘Adopt, Adapt or Die’ scenario within the next 10-15 years, if not much sooner. Regardless of age, background, upbringing and love (or lack thereof) for technology, those who call themselves real estate professionals must be willing to do what it takes to adopt relevant technologies and adapt to using them effectively or be prepared to see business significantly dwindle as a result.

Agents and brokers don’t necessarily need to become 100% paperless, but should decide in what areas a paperless approach may make sense. Then take the steps necessary to put a paperless process into place.

There will always be those that have no desire to adopt and adapt to technology innovations. They may seem to know everyone or simply have enough sheer social grit to keep their business going and growing, even without using all the latest technologies available to them. While power agents that are technology-averse may see little to no change in their business in the near term, they could be out of business within the next decade. When we limit the value we provide to our clients, we limit our results. Ultimately our results will be in direct proportion to the services we render; the value we create in the market.

We live in an age where we are becoming hard-wired to be wireless. Sure, you can opt-out of technology, but in so doing you would also opt-out of the challenges and opportunities technology brings us. We need to be able to have an open mind, be flexible and recognize thatchange is the only constant in our lives. We need to release negativity and let go of any mental blocks or self-limiting beliefs which tell us we can’t do something, learn something or use something…just because we don’t understand it.

I believe my future success in real estate will, in large part, be directly correlated with my willingness and ability to adopt and adapt to technology innovation. Keep in mind that even the sharpest techno-gurus out there have their moments of difficulty, frustration and even fear. They just work through those emotions and keep learning; keep getting better. You and I can do that, too! Here’s how…

Be An Early Adopter of Relevant Technologies

While you don’t want the influence of technology to overrun your life, you need to be able to embrace it to the extent that it can benefit you personally and professionally; to the extent that it can help you to do what you do more effectively and efficiently.

One way to do that, starting today, is to become an early adopter. An early adopter is simply anyone who learns about a new technology that seems like it could be of value, and jumps right in to test it out to see how well it works.

A word of caution though – beware of the never-ending rabbit-hole of NEW. Just because a device or application or gadget is NEW or popular it doesn’t mean it is for you. In fact, when discussing technology it is particularly useful to keep in mind that less is more. Having an overwhelming number of devices, accessories, applications and programs will likely tend to unnecessarily complicate your life rather than simplify it.

Leonardo da Vinci’s wise words from a past era are still applicable today: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

Keep It Simple… Without Getting Left Behind

Frequent interaction with technology (hardware, software, applications, cloud computing) throughout each day is not just the norm, it is often a necessity. An inability to understand and effectively utilize and embrace both old and new technologies can disqualify you from being able to work within certain industries and professions.

I have been implementing and testing the following methods and mindsets for keeping it simple when it comes to technology. Through some experimentation you too can determine the approach that will work best for you.
  • Eliminate unnecessary alerts and distractions: If technology ends up distracting you more than it focuses you, then it is not to your benefit. It owns you rather than you owningit. I choose to turn off all audible and vibration alerts on my computer and mobile devices with the exception of phone calls, text messages and certain work emails. I often close unused programs and windows when not in use to remain focused on the task at hand. I work best when my desk or work area is clear of clutter and visual distractions.
  • Remember that multi-tasking is a myth: This statement alone may possibly launch a wave of controversy so I will devote a future article solely to this subject. Yet it is true. Computers can multi-task; people cannot. You and I can switch tasks, but can’t do two things effectively at the same time. Obviously you can do certain things simultaneously, and we all do, but when it comes to using the mind, focusing and being productivity, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you are being productive when you bounce from one thing to the next in a flurry of busy-ness. Being busy and being productive are two entirely different things. They are not synonymous, unfortunately. Set your priority and focus on it until complete. Then set your sights on the next one. I think we all inherently know this is the surest path to productivity, yet it is difficult to consistently do it. We live in the age of distraction after all.
  • It Only Takes Half a Dozen of…Whatever: Jim Rohn certainly knew what he was talking about when he said that it only takes about half a dozen things to make the difference in our lives. If we look closely at what really matters, what really produces results, it would be about half a dozen things! And since the subject is technology, I’m here to tell you there are probably about half a dozen apps and/or software programs that are essential for your business success. The take away? Start deleting some apps, removing some programs and freeing up some space in your life.
  • Use It Or Lose It Baby: This statement is so true in all facets of life, isn’t it? If you consistently workout, you get stronger; you have more energy! Find ways to consistently use technology. By creating daily habits related to technology that serve you well you can find creative ways for making your life more simple, productive and fun. Enjoy the process of learning and growing with all the advances in technology. If you are overwhelmed by it all, just devote 10-15 minutes a day to practicing and working with whatever it is that happens to intimidate you. You could also take a local class or online course to gain a better understanding and increase your confidence with technology.
  • Implement Your Social Media Strategy: Social media platforms can be a huge time suck if left unchecked; though they can also be a great way to meet people and to provide value for others. You need to be strategic and mindful with the way you approach social media to ensure you are not just wasting time. There is a lot to it so keep it simple and if you need to, work with one program at a time until you are comfortable enough with it to add others into the mix. I still consider myself somewhat of a social media novice, but my current approach is based on using content that I’ve published in various blog formats to then be pushed out through the social media networks that I have accounts with. That gives me a chance to share something of value and to hopefully create some dialogue with others related to the topics that I have written about.

The ultimate take-away I would hope you remember from all of this is that you own your technology; it does not own you. You can setup and configure your devices and applications to either work for you or against you. You can let technology drive you crazy, or you can utilize it efficiently to help drive you towards your goals with greater speed and precision. The power lies in your hands.

Munro Murdock is a Realtor-Associate in the Kahala office of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers in Honolulu (catch "Hawaii Life" episodes on HGTV). His passion is for luxury real estate and exclusive Hawaii vacation rentals. He enjoys writing about technology, travel and real estate trends. Munro’s active lifestyle also includes SCUBA diving, stand-up paddle boarding, cycling, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Tech News

Degree holders are shifting tech hubs and affordability

(TECH NEWS) Tech hubs are shifting as degree holders move, but it’s causing some other issues and raising some interesting questions about the future of jobs.

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Bloomberg recently announced their annual “Brain” Indexes. The indexes are an annual reckoning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs and degree holders. The “Brain Concentration Index” approximates the number of people working full time in computer, engineering, and science jobs (including math and architecture.) It measures the median earnings for people in those jobs. It also counts how many people have a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, or an advanced degree of any kind. It blends those things together to determine how “brainy” a city is.

Since they started in 2016, Boulder, CO has been at the top of the list. This year it’s followed by San Jose, CA, which many people might expect to be at the top. Many of the more surprising cities, like Ann Arbor, MI, Ithaca, NY, and even Lawrence, KS, are bolstered by the presence of a strong university.

It’s an interesting methodology. It’s worth noting that anyone with an advanced degree, whether it’s an MBA, a law degree, or a Ph.D. in literature, contributes to which city is a “tech hub.” It’s also worth noting how expensive many of these places are to live.

If you follow this kind of national data collection at all, you may also know that Boulder is one of the least-affordable cities in the country. So is the San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara metro area, with a median home price of 1.25 million dollars and a median household income of $117,474. (That means that the average mortgage is more than half of the average paycheck). However many people tech hubs like San Jose and San Francisco attract, they’re also hemorrhaging talent. Every day, 8 Californians move to Austin. Of the people who stay, more than half are thinking of moving.

They aren’t doing that for fun. As much flak as Californians get for gentrifying places like Austin, they’re being megagentrified out of their own homes. As salaries rise and CEO gigs attract the wealthy (and turn them into the Uberwealthy), the people who wait on tables or teach their children can’t afford to stay there anymore.

Speaking of people leaving, Bloomberg also measured what they call “brain drain,” the flow of advanced degree holders out of cities. They pair that with a decline in white-collar jobs and a decline in STEM pay to come up with their annual list. It includes places like Lebanon, PA and Kahului, HI.

All in all, it’s interesting information. But there are other factors at work that it can’t speak to. What does wage stagnation in the U.S. mean for the flow of education workers? If San Jose and San Francisco can be tech hubs based on the number of people with degrees, but people are still fleeing, what does that say about rankings like these? What human stories get lost in the shuffle? And is “tech hub” even something a city wants to be if that means running out of teachers (or making them sleep in garages)? Where does the next generation of tech hub workers come from?

Knowing the people behind the numbers makes it clear just what a mixed bag this is. Maybe we need more tech hubs like Lawrence, Kansas. Or maybe we need rent control. Or maybe we need to embrace remote work. Maybe there are no answers. As interesting as data like this is, there’s something sort of wistful about it, too.

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Tech News

New Apple Watch is awesome, but past watches could be just as good for cheaper

(TECH NEWS) The Apple Watch Series 6 is a ridiculous display of self-flattery—but that doesn’t mean people won’t line up to buy it in droves.

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Apple Watch being worn on wrist showing weather for Montreal.

The Apple Watch has been the subject of everything from speculation to ridicule during its relatively short tenure on this planet. While most have nothing but praise for the most recent iteration, that praise comes at a cost: The Apple Watch’s ghost of Christmas past.

Or, to put it more literally, the fact that the Apple Watch’s prior version and accompanying variations are too good—and, at this point, too comparatively cheap—to warrant buying the most recent (and expensive) option.

Sure, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a bevy of health features—a sensor that can take an ECG and a blood oxygen test, to name a couple—but the Series 5 has almost everything else that makes the Apple Watch Series 6 “notable.” According to Gear Patrol, even the Series 4 is comparable if you don’t mind forgoing the option to have the Apple Watch’s screen on all of the time.

More pressingly, Gear Patrol points out, is the availability of discount options from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are, at this point, budget options that still do the job for smart watch enthusiasts.

Not to mention any Apple Watch can run updates can utilize Apple’s Fitness Plus subscription—another selling point that, despite its lucrative potential, doesn’t justify buying a $400 watch when a cheaper option is present.

It’s worth noting that Apple is no stranger to outdoing themselves retroactively. Every year, Apple’s “new” MacBook, iPhone, and iPad models are subjected to extensive benchmarking by every tech goatee around. And the conclusion is usually that buying a generation or two behind is fine—and, from a financial perspective, smart.

And yet, as the holidays roll around or the initial drop date of a new product arrives, Apple invariably goes through inventory like a tabby cat through unattended butter.

The Apple Watch is already a parody of itself, yet its immense popularity and subtle innovation has promoted it through several generations and a few spin-off iterations. And that’s not even including the massive Apple-specific watch band market that appears to have popped up as a result.

Say what you will about the Series 6; when the chips are on the table, my money’s on the consumers making the same decisions they always make.

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Tech News

Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?

(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?

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Code on screen, powering AI technology

The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.

While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.

Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.

Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.

“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”

OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.

While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.

Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.

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