Will.i.am considers himself a popthropologist. Don’t look it up. It’s not in the dictionary.
The entertainer, known globally for his work with the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, says the term comes from his mixing together his insiders view of pop-culture and the insights he has learned from the cultures (think anthropology) he has encountered during his tours around the world. He’s now using his skills as a popthropologist to develop his own startup company.
Sounds silly? Coca-Cola, Intel and Levi’s don’t think so. They’ve hired the famous rapper to help them see them in a new light too. Will.i.am, who was speaking during a keynote presentation at CES 2013 in Las Vegas on Tuesday, said he help the drink maker find new ways to use recycled plastic bottles and the helped the jean maker come up with new ways to make jeans.
Popthropologist is also how the rapper, who’s real name is William James Adams, also come up with the idea for his own project. While at a photo shoot for the Black Eyes Peas, he said the one photo that caught everyone’s attention was taken on an iPhone, not a professional cameras.
The 37-year-old than decided to build an case around the iPhone with a sensor for better photography. The project is titled foto.sosho.
“I just looked at the iPhone as a chip and built a case around it,” he said.
He admits though that new technology was also what caused the collapse of the music industry, but he says that is a good thing.
“We forget that the record industry as old technology. RCA’s gramophone was replaced by the iPhone,” he said. He also said the economy failure of the city of Detroit was also because of obsolesce. The city was once successful because of the technology that developed cars and music.
Will.i.am also has his eyes on the future, and say that today the technology that excites him the most is the 3-D printer, a machine that can create objects from blueprints. He says he sees a future in which this means could sequence the human genome and possible create organic matter.
He’s also sees a time not far off when doctors will be able to diagnose what’s wrong with a patient by a combination of social media posts and mobile phone data.
“The doctor will tell you don’t feel well because the sushi chef who made you dinner last night has a daughter who was sick, and then you went and worked out when it as too cold. He’ll be able to tell most of that just from your twitter account.”
But he said he also believes that the next big trend in technology will come about not because of the technology, but of it’s cultural significance. He cites Steve Job for making Apple a bigger brand than Samsung, even though the later has sold more phones.
“It was because of what Steve Jobs means to people,” he said. “The next megabrand will be one that the youth cab identify with.