A Document, A Scanner, and A Text File Walk Into a Bar

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On a phenomenal episode of The Tim Ferris Show with Balaji Srinivasan, Balaji introduces a project he's working in an interesting fashion.

He makes a unique comparison to physical, hybrid, and digital native objects that can be found in today's world that sums up what any "physical" start-up was trying to solve in 2020 and 2021 – the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Balaji points out that a piece of paper is the "in-real-life" version of a document. And then there's a scanner. The scanner takes what was at first physical and turns it digital. The scanner is a sort of hybrid model. But then you have a text file. That same document that used to be just on paper is now a text file that is digitally native and can be edited and transformed in anyway.

He continues the analogy and says face-to-face meetings are the physical events of meeting up with someone. Zoom is the hybrid model. Much like the scanner, Zoom takes what was once in-person and allows it to be done on the internet. But virtual reality takes that experience of meeting someone in-person, spins it around, and radically transforms it. VR is the digitally-native version of meeting in-person.

So.. what does this mean?

As we all saw in the midst of COVID-19, most companies and employers took what they were doing in-person, online. They had staff meetings on Zoom, client calls on Google Meet, or events on Facebook Live. But what everyone was thinking but nobody said was that no one wanted to be on a Zoom happy hour at 7:00pm on a Friday night. It's nowhere near the same experience of going to the bar with co-workers after a long week of work to vent about your boss and blow off steam.

Taking what worked in real life and making it digital works. It gets the job done, sure. But it's not the best way to be doing something. Companies, employers, and soon-to-be-founders need to think about new ways of meeting and new ways of doing other, normal, "in-real-life" tasks, and turning them into a digital-native experience.

There's a reason we didn't accept just a scanner.

Written by
Dalton Mabery