We interrupt our regularly scheduled screeds …
This is all a little — a lot — strange. I’m not sure how to
start. Maybe …
I know I’m old and don’t always catch on to this weirdly
evolving world. But I preach with evangelical fervor the need for us all to try
our best to keep up. And I try to practice what I preach.
But I recently learned about a technological … thing … that has
left me dumbfounded, befuddled, flummoxed, flabbergasted, thunderstruck, gobsmacked,
and other words that haven’t even been invented yet. And it has effectively
been around since 2007.
I was rereading a small book titled Four Dead Kings at
Work that my cousin, David Rolston, wrote in 2013. Even though it was
written seven years ago, it has some interesting and still relevant things to
say about the way we work and the ways we will work in the future. Unfortunately,
it looks like it is no longer available. (Luckily, that does eliminate the shadow
of nepotism that might lurk overhead if I were to suggest you look it up.)
In the book, Dave makes a quick mention of Hatsune Miku. I
followed up on the reference and discovered one of the strangest phenomena I’ve
seen — something that speaks to so many changes in our perceptions that I don’t
quite know how to start.
If you know about the event/image/technology that is Hatsune
Miku, then congratulations. I’m guessing that puts you ahead of 99.99% of the
rest of us. If I’m wrong, and my cave just needs better internet, then let me
know. But, for any other fellow cave dwellers, let me try to explain.
In 2007, Hatsune Miku started as a vocaloid software
voicebank — synthesized voice and music. Today, Miku is an anime-based hologram
that performs live on stage. Now, if that was all there was to talk about — the
technology — then it would be interesting and perhaps still worth thinking
about. But what has really struck my thunder, gasted my flabber, and smacked my
gob is the human element.
As I type this, I am listening to a Hatsune Miku concert
from 2016. The hologram is performing. She is surrounded by live musicians. And
there are fans — hundreds, thousands of fans; real, live people — dancing; waving
glowsticks; singing along; watching their star with adoration, passion, and
joy; acting like any crowd at any major concert you ever attended.
Let me repeat something. Hatsune Miku does not exist; she is
an anime hologram. But that is irrelevant to a fan base that seems to know
every song, every inflection, every expected audience interaction — a fan base
that supports an expanding Miku empire. There is a Hatsune Miku Expo. In 2020
she is performing throughout the U.S. And this coming March, she is
performing at Coachella. Both weekends. Coachella!!?
I know I’ve gone into paroxysms of description that do not help
any of this make any sense. But that may be part of the point. I can’t make
complete sense out of it to myself.
What I see when I watch the videos of this
concert is transformative. I don’t mean transformative as in life changing — a movie
that moves you, a poem that speaks to you, a song that redefines you, art that
transforms how you think about yourself. No, I mean it is a mind-altering example
of how our understanding of the world, business, and culture is being
I’ve been listening for almost an hour now and, every once in a
while, I still get chills. Not because of the music (which is actually pretty
good), but because of what I keep seeing on stage, and the response of a crowd
of people to … a … hologram. Right this second, I’m hearing her interact with the
crowd — speaking to them, the crowd responding, the crowd cheering, a call and response
to an anime hologram.
And I think this says something to internal auditors. I’m
just not sure what. I know it is important to our fundamental understandings of
how things work and how things change — but I don’t know that I can make a
Except maybe this. We think we are caught up. We think we
have a vague hint of what Plato’s shadows on the wall are telling us about the
challenges, opportunities, and change that we and our organizations face.
And we have no idea.
Keep looking, keep learning, keep watching. I watch a
hologram perform for an adoring crowd and I wonder: Does Miku have an
application for organizations? Does it say something about the way organizations
should interact with customers? Does she speak to something new that will
change the organization or the industry? And what does she have to say about
Go out and search YouTube for her performances. Come for the
technology, but stay for the crowds. I watch this video and realize I have not
even scratched the surface of what technology is going to do for and to us —
how it will change our cultures, our perceptions, our humanity.
And I have no
answers. I just know that, once again, I find myself eating the dust of a world
that seems to enjoy letting me think I’ve caught up — throwing open the door
and telling me to jump in — then hitting the gas, laughing as it drives away.
Here's the good news. Every once in a while, our foundational
understanding of what is going on in the world needs to be shattered. Kind of
helps us look at things a little differently as we pick up the pieces of
internal audit psyche scattered around us. All we can do is hang on, try to
understand, and do our best to prepare ourselves and our organizations for
things we can’t even imagine.
(And one, final, parenthetical aside. After all this, I listened
to John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. It felt good to go back to something that
was much easier to understand.)