Thoughts on the past – Milken Day 2

As I sit here at the 2027 Milken Global Conference (held at the Beverly Hilton as it always has been and always will be), I was struck by what’s changed over the last decade. I started thinking about this earlier this afternoon because something today felt remarkably familiar. I realized that it’s has been 10 years to the day that I attended two particularly insightful sessions on technological disruption.

Back in 2017, I started my second day of the conference off with “To Infinity and Beyond: What’s Cool in Transportation” and “Shaping Digital Finance.” From what I remember, the sessions looked at how technology was disrupting and spurring change in the transportation and finance industries, respectively. Given all the changes in the intervening 10 years, I thought it would be interesting to compare my experience now versus then.

What I remember from 2017 was waking up to the alarm on my iPhone…the 6, I believe…so that I could make it down to the shuttle buses to get over to the Beverly Hilton.  Yes, iPhone…seems so quaint now. And I know that Apple hasn’t called their devices “phones” since 2022 when the iPhone 10 became the iD1 (iDevice One). It was a simpler time then. If you’re curious, I still have the iD3…I’m waiting for the iD5 before I upgrade; it’s evidently got a better neural matrix.

Next, there haven’t been shuttle buses since the 2022 Milken Global Conference…and there hadn’t been drivers in those buses since 2020. Milken used autonomous buses in 2020, but switched to UATs in 2022.

UATs…if you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember when we called them “Ubers” and there were people driving them. For those who live under a virtual rock, UAT stands for “Uber Automated Transport.” It was “Uber Automated Taxis” for a while, but most people didn’t know what taxis were. Now, of course, UATs are everywhere in Los Angeles. For the Global Conference, though, Milken picks up the tab, rather than it having to come out of my Apple Wallet account.

Back in the day, the shuttle buses were usually packed. Now, the UATs for Milken have maybe two people at most. There’s just so many roaming around these days; you don’t have to share unless you want to. When I take my own UATs, I usually pay the higher rate to ride by myself. I just find that I get more done when I don’t have to share the screens and can get some work done.

This morning, as I slid onto the UAT’s black leather seat, I ‘casted my iD onto the car’s screen.  It’s only a short five-minute ride from my hotel, but still plenty of time to get some stuff done. First item on the list…my wife and I are moving again, so we need to secure a mortgage. We’re moving from the east side of Portland to North Portland. We’re not looking for anything fancy…we found and reserved a 1,400-square-foot place near Lombard Street, so we’ll only need about US$3 million. As the UAT pulled away from the hotel, I brought up the Amazon site. The lender bot and I talked for about two minutes and with a quick thumbscan on the UAT’s dashboard, we were approved for US$3.5 million. Bam! Two and a half minutes….and most of that was talking to the bot.

Compare that with 2017, when…ironically…we were also moving. Then, we were moving from the suburbs to our east side place. We applied for a mortgage online back then too, but it was such a hassle and it took forever. Not really forever…but several weeks to get approval. Plus, we had to take time off work to meet with the mortgage broker and sign a stack of documents about three inches thick.  But, back then, you could also buy a decent house for less than US$350,000 in Portland. Times change.

Traffic wasn’t bad this morning (it almost never is anymore), but I was staying at a hotel about 10 miles away from the conference. That means that after getting the mortgage secured, my iD said we’d arrive in three minutes and forty eight seconds. Plenty of time to order the new couch we needed.

(If technology hasn’t created a cat-proof couch by 2027, I don’t think it ever will.)

I started at Amazon…like we all do…but they set me up with a small boutique furniture maker in Vermont. I sent the Vermont place the digital specs of our soon-to-be new house. Since the order bot has access to my wife’s design app, it was able to suggest dimensions and colors that would work in that room. I tapped into the VR confirmation to make sure that the couch would look good in the room.

Sent the images to my wife…waited an eternity for her to reply…seriously, it took her upwards of 25 seconds to get back to me and say everything looked fine. A quick thumbscan and the couch was getting printed at their factory. We could’ve had it printed almost anywhere, but my wife and I like old-school craftsmanship. The confirmation mail said it’d be loaded onto a 24/7 automa-truck by this evening and would arrive and be loaded into our new house before the weekend.

Weirdly, we bought a couch in 2017 too. We went to a furniture store and could either pick from what they had on the floor (seriously!) or we could order something from their factory. And the custom factory order took six weeks just to build. I don’t think we ended up getting the couch delivered until the end of July that year, because it went via semi-trailer. At the time, semis were still driven by people who could only drive eight or nine hours a day. That meant it took a couple weeks to deliver that couch.

So, the UAT pulled up in front of the Beverly Hilton and it struck me that this was all somewhat familiar, like virtual deja vu. I strolled into the building and the tiny glints and pings of the long-distance retinal security scanners noted and cataloged all of the conference attendees. Why did this seem familiar?

Oh, right! This all came up at the 2017 conference during those Tuesday sessions. Then, it was “what could be.” Now, it’s “what is.”

I’ll write more tomorrow. Should be plenty to talk about…President Bieber is talking this afternoon about hopes to accomplish with a second term in next year’s election. (It still feels weird to have a Canadian as president, but I guess anything goes these days.)


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