8 Tech Lessons from Tiger King

If you look really hard, you can find some valuable lessons about technology buried in Netflix’s insane true crime docuseries.
  • By now you’ve all seen Netflix’s Tiger King – the docuseries about the rescue and preservation of tigers and other big cats that quickly devolves into a Russian nesting doll of increasingly bizarre, outlandish, and outright disgusting scandals and behavior.

    You might not think the show has anything to offer engineers and developers, but if you look beyond the cults, rampant drug use, and general disregard for personal safety around dangerous wildlife, there are some valuable lessons embedded deep within the show. Granted, these lessons are deeper than Carole Baskin allegedly buried her husband.

    Here are 8 lessons about tech that can be learned from Tiger King.

    (All images source: Netflix)

  • Embrace Open Source

    Joe Exotic wasn’t above using repurposed meat from supermarket dumpsters for everything from feeding his tigers to making his infamous pizza at his restaurant. Like dumpster meat there are plenty of reasons to avoid open source, but more products than you think have been made using open source software. Don’t be scared off by open source, it might save you some time and spark new ideas.

  • Partnerships Can Be Powerful

    When Joe wanted to step up the production value on his web show he turned to journalist Rick Kirkman to bring his product expertise to the tiger park. While Jeff and Rick’s partnership culminated in a literal fiery blaze, there are plenty of lessons to learn – many of which are applicable to product development partnerships.

  • Prosthetics Are More Advanced Than Ever

    Joe Exotic had two disabled employees – one of whom, Saff, lost his arm after a tiger attack. While Saff doesn’t wear any sort of prosthetic it’s worth noting how far along prosethetics have come in the last decade. Not only are prosthetics exhibiting more dexterity than ever before, researchers are developing ones that can be 3D printed and also return a sense of touch to their wearers.

  • Fakes are Getting More Sophisticated

    When he’s not raising (and allegedly abusing) tigers, or running for political office, Joe Exotic enjoys somewhat of a music career. It’s too bad he lip syncs all of his music. Joe’s music career is a rather simple fake, but new AI-enabled technologies like deepfakes are making video and audio hoaxes and scams more sophisticated and harder to detect than ever. Pretty soon it might be easier than ever for guys like Joe to top the charts.

  • Guard Your Privacy Around Technology

    When Joe was plotting his murder of Carole Baskin he was able to trace her bike riding route via Google Maps. These days concerns over facial recognition, contact tracing, and other technologies are sparking debate all over the country as to when technology crosses the line from being a convenience to an intrusion. And, frankly, if these people can figure it out, imagine what more sophisticated and malicious groups can do.

  • You Can Recycle a Dead Body

    There are many theories to the whereabouts of Carole Baskin’s missing husband, Don Lewis. We’re not saying Carole had anything to do with his disappearance, but if you were going to get rid of a body nowadays there’s the option of having it turned into eco-friendly compost.

  • Guns Can Be 3D-Printed

    Joe Exotic and his cohorts seem to own enough guns to form a small militia. Perhaps if he invested in a 3D printer he could have saved some money on all of that artillery. Thanks to some legal gray areas, plans to 3D-print working guns and modifications are readily available online. Thankfully, companies are also developing technologies to detect concealed 3D-printed firearms.

  • Pay Attention to the Hype

    Joe Exotic ran for political office – twice! – both times to not much fanfare beyond a mention on a segment of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It’s easy to get caught up in hype – your own and others. When it comes to tech it’s best to follow the advice of the people at Gartner and realize that everything follows a hype cycle – and some technologies (like Joe’s political campaign) don’t make it – now matter how many branded condoms you give out.


Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.


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