What Star Trek and Black Panther taught me about foresight and vision

One of the greatest skills that anyone can develop is the ability to look into the future while living in the present. Foresight has benefits in so many ways – from planning life goals to determining the best way to invest savings and it even bleeds into our careers, whether you’re selling products or planning a marketing campaign you must be able to paint a picture prettier than reality.

Foresight comes in so many forms, but they all stem from the ability to create a vision in your head and figure out ways to fulfill that vision. There doesn’t exist a technology today that wasn’t thought up by someone with great foresight and an ability to see their technology existing in the future.

Each and every one of us is born with a beta version of foresight – it’s called an imagination. We spend our childhoods immersed in worlds that are slightly removed from reality – dreaming that we’re saving the planet (our neighborhood) from criminals and wielding weapons never before seen. To a child, reality seems like a piece of moldable clay.

This is why I respect people like Octavia Butler so much. She, like so many other science fiction writers, was a dreamer until the day she died – developing these futuristic worlds that seemed just within reach. She’s cut from the same cloth as Steve Jobs. Both of them are brave enough to imagine beyond the present boundaries and sculpt the reality of the near future.

In Octavia’s science fiction lineage is Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek – a show that taught an entire generation to think beyond the confines of Earth’s atmosphere. More importantly, in creating these futuristic visions, Gene happened upon technology concepts that would inspire other creatives to build the future.

Some 50 years later, the XPRIZE Foundation took a vision from Star Trek – the tricorder device – and created plans to bring it into reality. In partnership with Qualcomm, they put up a $10 million prize for anyone who could create a Star Trek-inspired Tricorder – a medical device so simple and powerful that would change the way we diagnose patients. This exciting challenge brought thousands of creators out of the woodwork to build a better future.

Foresight is a right we, as human beings, are all allowed access to no matter our race or ethnicity. This is why Black Panther was such a groundbreaking film last year because it subtly taught so many young people of color to imagine futures where people who looked like them were heavily involved and in control – a vision that is rarely seen in modern media.

Black Panther is in the same class as Star Trek when it comes to the cultural impact it will have in the decades following its release. Not only did it bring Afrofuturism into visions of our collective future, but it will also inspire futuristic technology we won’t be able to build for another few decades.

Personally, Ryan Coogler’s visual rendition of Black Panther inspired me to own my identity as an Afrofuturist. That film, alongside the paramount work by Octavia Butler, sparked an interest in me to explore Afrofuturism, so much so, that I created an entire keynote presentation detailing the rich history and fruitful presence of Afrofuturism, which you can see for yourself below:

What caught my attention this week – 03.15.19

Earlier this month, Forbes named Kylie Jenner the youngest self-made billionaire ever. Most people got frustrated in the semantics of “self-made”, but what caught my attention was this new era that she personifies – the Ecommerce Entrepreneur.

We’re in the midst of a phenomenon where anyone and everyone can design a virtual storefront and potentially sell millions of products via powerful self-serve ecommerce technologies such as Shopify, Squarespace, Gumroad, etc.

Although Shopify is great for the local Wisconsin store that can now reach customers as far away as Peru. The people that really benefit from Shopify are those that have spent the past decade building their influence on social media platforms. Shopify is meant for personalities like Kylie Jenner that can consistently send lots of traffic to a virtual store and sell millions of lip kits with just a few social media posts.

For Instagram Influencers, YouTubers, and other internet personalities Shopify is the first truly sustainable business model they have. It’s a revenue stream they completely control and is also on brand – unlike sponsored posts, endorsements, and advertisements.

King Bach, Brother Nature, Amanda Cerny and thousands of other Insta-famous people are all turning to Shopify – changing their status from influencer to Ecommerce Entrepreneur.

This reminds me a lot of what happened not too long ago with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Thirteen years ago, AWS launched and allowed for moonshot ideas to thrive because visionaries could build their wildest platforms with the confidence that AWS would handle all the back-end computing stress – at a negligible cost compared to building the server hardware on their own.

Without AWS, you wouldn’t get companies like Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, and ironically, even Shopify. It completely changed the paradigm for venture capital and what it meant for entrepreneurs to write a business plan, raise millions of dollars, and build an everlasting business.

In very much the same way, Shopify is changing the paradigm of commerce and giving a place for Ecommerce Entrepreneurs to thrive. Some of the savvier Ecommerce Entrepreneurs are creating DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands such as Warby Parker, Allbirds, and hims that are shaking up their respective industries and ultimately fueling the panic of their incumbent competition.

Kylie Jenner is not the first, nor will she be the last, influencer to turn their attention into money with the help of Shopify.

This is what caught my attention in technology:

The future of the DTC mall

Shopify, whose low-barrier e-commerce platform has contributed to the rise of the DTC brand boom, is now pushing into physical retail, acting as a backend bridge for online stores going offline for the first time. Born-online brands, such as M.Gemi, Mack Weldon, b8ta, Rhone, Heidi Klein, Lovepop, Stance and Dirty Lemon, are taking their first shot at physical locations in malls across America.

Read the rest of the story here

How Amazon thrives on our impatience as consumers

19 years ago, Amazon introduced shoppers to an entirely new way of online shopping known as 1-click ordering. By saving a customer’s payment method and shipping preferences, Amazon empowered impulsive shoppers by allowing any item to be bought with one simple click of the mouse. Although it doesn’t seem like a very advanced idea, their swift patenting of the digital shopping method in 1999 helped create an e-commerce moat that couldn’t be beaten.

Read the entire story here

Just rent your clothes

My closet is in the cloud. After going nearly “full rental,” I’ve had little desire or need to buy new clothes in the past year. According to Rent the Runway cofounder and CEO Jennifer Hyman, this model—where we rent clothing, accessories, and soft goods that we at one point would have outright purchased—is going to change everything in the future.

Read the entire story on rental clothes here

Marie Kondo isn’t sparking joy for thrift stores

Since the reality TV show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” made its debut on Netflix in January, used-goods stores have been inundated with donations. The problem: mass quantities of dirty, worn-out clothes, ugly trinkets, and unsellable appliances. It’s burying donation centers with goods that truly, nobody wants.

Read the whole WSJ article here

Nutella tests out voice commerce with free samples via Alexa

Nutella-maker Ferrero is trying out voice commerce. The advertiser is one of the first in the U.S. to use the “send me a sample” application, which delivers a free sample-sized jar of its Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread to people who have it installed in either their Amazon or Google voice assistants. Whenever someone repeats the “send a sample” phrase followed by the name of the brand, an order is made by the app, which pulls delivery information either from the Amazon or Google account linked to the voice assistant.

Read the full story by Digiday here

What caught my attention this week – 03.08.19

Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg gave us his first meaningful, action-oriented response to all of the privacy and data-misuse issues that Facebook has encountered over the past two years.

In his letter titled A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking, he outlines a transition of Facebook toward:

  • Increase in private interactions through encryption
  • Message ephemerality – messages disappear/deleted after some time (think Snapchat)
  • Interoperability – cross-communication between Messenger, Instagram, & WhatsApp

A lot of the critics are wondering how this will all work in unison with their premier, money-making product, which is advertising via the News Feed. I’m curious as well.

Nonetheless, I’m glad to see them taking these first steps toward a “theoretically” better and more secure social media experience. This, however, doesn’t change my perspective on Facebook being a non-private means of communicating under every circumstance. Whatever you share via Facebook, you might as well be broadcasting via national TV.

If you’re really concerned about privacy, then you should be using an encrypted, private messenger such as Wire or Signal. Personally, I communicate using these apps in lieu of almost all of the other messaging platforms. It’s the best way to know that you control who sees your messages.

I’m curious about your thoughts. Do you still trust Facebook with your data, given Mark’s urge to move towards a more privacy-centric network? Or do you believe this is simply a press tour to help clean up Facebook’s image?

This is what caught my attention in technology:

Are we entitled to the Right To Be Forgotten?

We’ve reached this point in time where our digital identities are more expansive and encompassing than our physical identities. The issue is that all of the data on our digital identities is chiseled in stone. As a result, our digital identities often reflect who we once were, rather than who we are today. Should we be capable of managing our own data and ultimately hold the Right To Be Forgotten?

Watch my full discussion on this topic here

Telecom providers struggle to keep your location data safe

Bounty hunters and people with histories of domestic violence are abusing telecom company policies created to give law enforcement real-time location data without a court order in “exigent circumstances,” such as when there is the imminent threat of physical harm to a victim. One debt collector tricked T-Mobile by fabricating cases of child kidnapping to convince the telco to hand over location data.

Read the entire story by Motherboard here

Android’s digital wallet may hold your driver’s license

Governments have been exploring digital driver’s licenses for a while, but there are quite a few flaws with existing approaches. You usually have to rely on a proprietary app, sometimes with uncertain security… and what happens if your phone is low on battery when you need to flash your credentials? Google might have a solution.

Read the full story here

The fake doctor who conned the media via LinkedIn

Damian’s profile on ResearchGate.net contains over 45 research papers, 7,139 views, and his work has been cited 161 times. His research has been picked up by Vice, Forbes, Huffington Post, among others. However, he’s a con man who used digital tools and media weaknesses to become a medical expert in the most bizarre fields of research.

Read the rest of the story on Inevitable/Human

In LA, scooters become the next data privacy fight

In Los Angeles, a dispute over how the city manages data embedded in Uber-operated scooters has emerged as a leading-edge privacy issue, foreshadowing a debate over the government’s role in managing sensitive data in a new era of connected transit. They say it’s critical to know what’s happening in their streets and ensure people are being served equitably.

Read the entire story by Politico here

What caught my attention this week – 03.01.19

About once a year, usually after pushing my body to its limits and traveling way too much for work, I’m reminded of the importance of my health over everything. I fall into a sickness that takes every bit of energy out of me and stymies the momentum I’ve gathered.

Health is unfortunately one of those things we take for granted when all is good. But when your health turns south, everything screeches to a halt and nothing matters other than getting better.

I’m particularly fascinated by the opportunity of health-centric technology that helps us maintain healthy behaviors (when we lose sight of them) and does more to prevent health problems rather than solve them after the fact.

Healthcare tends to get a bad rap for adopting modern technology, but I believe nothing could be further from the truth. We are where we are now because of our consistent and relentless ingenuity to research and implement new medicines, devices, and health-conscious techniques.

It’s going to be a very exciting decade for health tech.

This is what caught my attention in technology:

The Hidden 40% of Healthcare

Everything we do in the $3 trillion healthcare market today only affects 10% of outcomes to premature death. Genetic predisposition, social circumstances and environmental behavior are the 10% we routinely focus on. But 40% of our outcomes rely on behavioral patterns — why can’t we tackle that? Nothing comes even close to mattering as much towards whether you will die prematurely as your behavior does.

Read Andreessen Horowitz’s full report on this topic

23andMe brings promise (and pain) to the Future of Medicine

One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies is using 23andMe’s genetic database to research and develop innovative new medicines and potential cures. Additionally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the help of 23andMe genetic data, may have found a link between premature births and genes – giving hope to the solving of preterm labor.

Read the full Inevitable/Human essay here

Amazon exec says AI in healthcare is moving beyond hype

Taha Kass-Hout, the former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief health informatics officer, says AI tools must do a better job of curating medical information, suggesting two or three options that are right for each patient instead of a list of thousands. Nonetheless, he indicated that Amazon sees big potential in developing AI tools for health.

Read the full story here

Google helps researchers find tech’s effect on teen brains

The youth are increasingly in crisis. Public fears about smartphones aren’t limited to mood disorders like depression, or rates of anxiety. There’s panic about gaming or tech “addiction,” and that we’re losing our ability to focus or remember due to the ubiquity of digital tech. As adults have noticed these trends, they’ve begun to worry: It’s the phones.

Read the full story here

Medical record software companies are selling your data

One of the companies that sells and supports EMR software in primary care practices in Ontario is also selling health data on the side. The company anonymizes the data – circumventing privacy laws in Canada – and then sells it to IQVIA, a U.S.-based health data giant. Pharmaceutical companies use the EMR data to track use of their drugs, identify untapped markets and plot marketing strategies.

Read the entire story here

Let’s grab lunch (digitally) next Friday

What are your plans for 12pm Central next Friday (March 1st)?

Because I was hoping we could meet up virtually for a chat about an issue affecting you and your digital identity. Now, I realize that depending on where you’re living/visiting right now, 12pm Central might not be lunchtime for you, but I hope you’ll pour yourself your favorite beverage, maybe grab a snack, and join me anyway.

The issue is that the Internet’s undeletable memory is taking away our Right To Be Forgotten.

On Friday, Ryan and I will be discussing:

  • What are the long-term consequences of letting profit-minded companies access and dictate the most personal parts of our lives?
  • Will a future iteration of the Constitution hold the Right To Be Forgotten – a right that citizens can exercise to disconnect their profile from certain apps and have their data be permanently erased from the Internet?

I hope you can carve out a little time in your day to join us for this discussion.

I realize that caring about your own digital identity may not be the coolest or easiest thing to do right now. However, five to ten years from now, I promise that you’re going to wish you were more careful about how you navigated the Internet and were more selective in the ways you willingly gave companies access to your data.

Still don’t believe your digital data is a big topic? Here are 5 recent stories on how precious your digital data actually is:

Many iOS apps are sharing sensitive data with Facebook

At least 11 popular apps are reportedly sharing people’s sensitive data with Facebook, even if they don’t have an account on the social network. The Wall Street Journal found that apps which can help track personal information such as body weight, menstrual cycles and pregnancy are sending such details to Facebook.

Read the full article here

Why the FBI is happy you took a DNA ancestry test

DNA and genealogy tests have become an absolute cultural phenomenon in the past few years. They’ve provided the news with shocking celebrity heritages. They’ve given average people the thrill of finding out they’re part Neanderthal or a slim percentage of Cherokee Indian. But the tens of millions that took these DNA tests, may have voluntarily placed their family’s DNA in a database to track down criminals.

Read the full story on DNA data and criminal forensics investigations here

Stolen user data from MyFitnessPal hits the dark web

Affected services include Dubsmash, MyFitnessPal, MyHeritage, ShareThis, HauteLook, Animoto, EyeEm, 8fit, Whitepages, Fotolog, 500px, Armor Games, BookMate, Coffee Meets Bagel, Artsy and DataCamp.

Make sure you’re data is safe here

85% of Chrome apps and extensions lack a privacy policy

There’s a good chance you use or have used Chrome, so there’s good reason for you to be disturbed by new data from Duo Security that shows just how vulnerable the 180,000-plus Chrome apps and extensions are. For starters, 85 percent of them don’t have a privacy policy, meaning developers can essentially handle your data however they want.

Read the rest of the story here

Domino’s will give you free pizza in exchange for you data

Earlier this month, Domino’s unveiled the latest in a long line of technological PR stunts: Points for Pies. The PR stunt is nothing less than a scheme to gather more consumer data in a flashy way that most people won’t ever realize.

Read the entire story on Domino’s here

What caught my attention this week – 02.15.19

We’re reaching a point in time where the warnings of a dystopia led by AI are starting to actually reflect the current times.

It’s no longer just the Luddites and sci-fi writers that are shouting these worries. The pioneers of AI are realizing that the gravity of this situation is setting in now.

Google’s pulled out of a Department of Defense contract and wrote a white paper asking the government to outline rules for the use of AI. Amazon has joined Microsoft in calling for regulation on facial recognition.

Even OpenAI, the Elon-Musk-backed AI company which was founded on the principles of open-sourcing their AI research, has pulled back one of their latest projects “Due to concerns about [it] being used to generate deceptive, biased, or abusive language at scale”.

As someone that religiously follows the progression and new use cases of AI, I’m generally a megaphone for all the technological possibilities. However, I know that no innovation is worth obliterating the foundation holding society together. It’s time for political interjection.

This is what caught my attention in technology:

IBM’s AI can win Jeopardy, but it can’t win a debate

Ever since artificial intelligence has entered mass culture, IBM and Google have been scheduling Man vs. AI exhibition matches, in various disciplines to test the progress of machines. IBM’s latest installment in the series places AI in a debate against man and it was actually a solid debate. Will an AI Debater change politics? How can lawyers adopt this technology? Will we use this tool to help us decide our life path?

If you’re an Inevitable/Human member, you can read the full essay here

The AI text generator that’s too dangerous to make public

In 2015, car-and-rocket man Elon Musk joined with influential startup backer Sam Altman to put artificial intelligence on a new, more open course. They co-founded a research institute called OpenAI to make new AI discoveries and give them away for the common good. Now, the institute’s researchers are sufficiently worried by something they built that they won’t release it to the public.

Read the entire story of this unbelievable advance in AI

Reinventing the way we invent

The problem is that human researchers can explore only a tiny slice of what is possible. But traversing seemingly unlimited possibilities is what machine learning is good at. Trained on large databases of existing molecules and their properties, the programs can explore all possible related molecules. By speeding up this critical step, deep learning could offer far more opportunities for chemists to pursue, making drug discovery much quicker.

Read the rest of the story here

AI can’t smell but it’s still creating your next cologne

It’s said that our sense of smell is the strongest link to our memories, so much so that one whiff can transport us back to different periods of life. Symrise, one of the global leaders in flavor and fragrance production, teamed up with IBM to see if it was possible to use AI to create new fragrances that were pleasant and marketable. The result of their labor is an AI called Philyra and they’ve already created and sold two perfumes.

If you’re an Inevitable/Human member, you can read the full essay here

Pricing algorithms learn to collude and raise prices

If you shop on Amazon, an algorithm rather than a human probably set the price of the service or item you bought. Pricing algorithms have become ubiquitous in online retail as automated systems have grown increasingly affordable and easy to implement. But while companies like airlines and hotels have long used machines to set their prices, pricing systems have evolved.

Read the rest of the story here

Why Internet Users are Entitled to the Right To Be Forgotten

We haven’t even begun to see the true connectedness of the Internet. APIs are currently connecting anything to everything. In the future, this will have inconceivable and irreversible effects. Will a future iteration of the Constitution include the Right To Be Forgotten – a right that citizens can exercise to disconnect their profile from certain apps and have their data be permanently erased from the Internet?

Join me (digitally) for lunch on March 1st to discuss this topic

What caught my attention this week – 02.08.19

We’re reaching a point in time where human-machine interactions are going far beyond us tapping on a screen or typing on a keyboard. Every keystroke and behavior is being used to teach machines to get better at predicting us and therefore better serving our needs.

You may not realize it, but apps, websites, and our devices are interacting with us just as much as we interact with them. What started out as a give-and-take relationship, where apps were giving and we were taking, has now reversed in their favor.

In other words, that app you downloaded to meet cute singles near you has not only gotten you zero dates, but you’ve now contributed to building a comprehensive, worldwide understanding of what people are attracted to – an extremely valuable and lucrative concept that you’re not getting any stake in.

Yes, my grandma always said to give without expecting anything in return. But this, I feel is a little bit different and we should understand what we’re giving away before we give it away.

I’d happily give someone a scratch-off lottery ticket. But if that thing turns out to be worth a few million dollars, I’d like a few dollars for my wallet too.

This is what caught my attention in technology:

Why Internet Users are Entitled to the Right To Be Forgotten

We haven’t even begun to see the true connectedness of the Internet. APIs are currently connecting anything to everything. In the future, this will have inconceivable and irreversible effects. Will a future iteration of the Constitution include the Right To Be Forgotten – a right that citizens can exercise to disconnect their profile from certain apps and have their data be permanently erased from the Internet?

Join me (digitally) for lunch on March 1st to discuss this topic

How the Tinder algorithm actually works

Hypothetically, if you were to swipe on enough thousands of people, you could go through every one. [You’re] going through people one at a time … you’re talking about a line of people and we put the best options up front. It actually means that every time you swipe, the next choice should be a little bit worse of an option. So, the longer you’re on an app, the worse the options get.

Read the rest of the story here

AI is getting very good at understanding emotion

SoundNet can classify anger from audio data in as little as 1.2 seconds regardless of the speaker’s language — just over the time, it takes for humans to perceive anger. Imagine how this could be applied to Siri or Alexa – giving those AIs the ability to understand our emotions. That would be a monumental moment for therapy.

Read the rest of the story here

Even Amazon wants face recognition to be regulated

Amazon has come in for criticism for supplying the technology to police. Last year the American Civil Liberties Union also published a study suggesting that the company’s cloud software, called Rekognition, is racially biased. In the ACLU’s test, the tech falsely matched members of Congress with a database of criminal mugshots, with a disproportionate number of the mismatches being people of color.

Read the full article here

National Geographic unveils dinosaur chatbot for kids

Tina [the dinosaur chatbot] is an exciting example of how technology can enhance a child’s learning. The bot uses the new AI technology made available on messenger services earlier this year, and hopes to engage the whole family as you sit down together to chat to Tina the T. rex!

Read the rest of the story on Tina here

What caught my attention this week – 02.01.19

Evolution hasn’t stopped now that we’re here. We’re entering an era where we may take evolution into our own hands and steer it the way we’d like it to go.

This is the reality of the transhuman technologies being developed all around us. Brain-computer interfaces, implantable RFID chips, and exoskeletons are just a few transhuman terms that evoke this fear of the unknown.

I’ll admit, even Boy Future gets anxiety thinking about transhumanism, but I find comfort and solace in knowing that other people feel the exact same way as I do.

In a way, it’s no different than the people who hack their diets to achieve extreme physical results. We augment our bodies in many ways. Merging technology with the human form is just going to be another option.

This is what caught my attention in technology:

Beyond bionics: how prosthetics are redefining humanity

Evolution hasn’t stopped just because we are here. We are probably becoming the first species that can influence its own evolution. Modern advances in the world of prosthetics are changing lives across the globe. Where once there was a stigma, amputees are now empowered and enhanced. What further advances are around the corner? What ethical battles lie ahead?

Watch the full video on the future of augmented humans below:

AI will soon decode people’s thoughts

Neural networks have been used to turn words that a human has heard into intelligible, recognizable speech. It could be a step toward technology that can one day decode people’s thoughts. Thanks to fMRI scanning, we’ve known for decades that when people speak, or hear others, it activates specific parts of their brain. However, it’s proved hugely challenging to translate thoughts into words. A team from Columbia University has developed a system that combines deep learning with a speech synthesizer to do just that.

Read the experiment results here

Fighting loneliness: Why isn’t there a pill for that?

Millions of years of evolution have shaped us into creatures who need social bonds in the same way that we need food and water. Today, loneliness elevates our risk of developing a range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive decline, and metastatic cancer. It also weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections. If there are pharmacological treatments for other social pains like depression and anxiety, why not loneliness?

Read the rest of the story here

Prisons are quietly building databases of voice prints

Roughly six months ago at New York’s Sing Sing prison, John Dukes says he was brought out with cellmates to meet a corrections counselor. He recalls her giving him a paper with some phrases and offering him a strange choice: He could go up to the phone and utter the phrases that an automated voice would ask him to read, or he could choose not to and lose his phone access altogether… His audio sample was being “enrolled” into a new voice surveillance system.

Read the full story on voice print databases here

What is quantum computing and where will it take us?

One of the most promising applications of quantum computers is for simulating the behavior of matter down to the molecular level. Pharmaceutical companies are leveraging them to analyze and compare compounds that could lead to the creation of new drugs. Some researchers also think the machines could be used to accelerate artificial intelligence.

Read the entire article here

What caught my attention this week – 01.25.19

At our worst, we’re programmed to think only of ourselves. At our best, we consider the impact of our actions on others. Unfortunately, when we do consider others, it tends to be only of the people that look and think like us.

The beauty of the Internet and our devices is that it has exposed us all to people outside of our own circles. And I truly believe it has pushed us towards a better world.

However, there’s a massive looming threat.

The technology and algorithms shaping the next decade are encoded with many of the same biases that have plagued our past. Ultimately, we’re risking a reversal of the progress we’ve made.

This is a concept I’ve been thinking deeply about this week. The following video and articles address the landscape of the problem and pose a solution that could potentially work.

Our future must include a wide variety of people, abilities, and ideas. And for that, we all must tread outside of our own comfortable circles of like-minded people.

This is what caught my attention in technology:

Is AI Racist?

Artificial intelligence is being used to do many things from diagnosing cancer, stopping the deforestation of endangered rainforests, helping farmers in India with crop insurance, it helps you find the Fyre Fest Documentary on Netflix (or Hulu), or it can even be used to help you save
money on your energy bill.

But how could something so helpful be racist?

Watch the video below for my thoughts on this technology:

The Blind YouTubers Making the Internet Accessible

“I went to see Tropic Thunder and all the resolution was visual,” Edison says. “I’d spent two hours with these characters, and in the end, I had no idea what the heck had happened to them.” He turned that frustrating experience into a YouTube channel: the Blind Film Critic.

Read the entire article here

AI Is Sending People To Jail – And Getting It Wrong

Machine-learning algorithms use statistics to find patterns in data. So if you feed it historical crime data, it will pick out the patterns associated with crime. But those patterns are statistical correlations—nowhere near the same as causations. If an algorithm found, for example, that low income was correlated with high recidivism, it would leave you none the wiser about whether low income actually caused crime. But this is precisely what risk assessment tools do: they turn correlative insights into causal scoring mechanisms.

Read the rest of the story here

The People That Sell Millions Of Online Dating Profiles Could Solve AI’s Racism

AI is only as good as the data it learns from. And since a lot of the data sets out there today operate in biased territory, we’re getting biased AI. There’s a huge market opportunity for a company to build diverse data sets for developers to train their algorithms on. This sort of data brokering has been done before, but not with the level of polish and respect we would like to see.

For instance, USDate is a company that sells online dating profile data at massive scale to people that are looking to start their own online dating sites. It’s pretty shady, considering I can buy hundreds of thousands of data profiles for less than a hundred bucks in some cases. But this is a business model that could prove very beneficial to AI.

If you’re an Inevitable/Human member, read more on this theory here

The Automation of the Everyday Man by 2030

Drilling into demographics on the US workforce revealed who is most likely to be challenged by automation. On average, half of the tasks performed by workers aged 16 to 24 can be automated over the next couple of decades, the report says, compared with just 40 percent of the tasks of older workers. Hispanic workers are in jobs that are already 47 percent automatable; for Native American and black workers, those shares are 45 and 44 percent, respectively. For the average white worker, according to the study, only 40 percent of their job is within reach of machines in the next two decades.

Read the rest of the story here

What caught my attention this week – 01.18.19

Being in Japan for three weeks with really no one to talk to led me to do a lot of introspection.

One realization I had is the importance of being myself in the world, especially in 2019 and moving forward. I know this is a cliche’ that takes us back to our formative years. But, I don’t think we’re ever too old to be reminded of this.

This means communicating with you all more regularly and re-engaging our dialogue on life and technology.

Along the same lines, I’ve been getting back to creating videos and it’s one of those arts where you really are forced to be yourself. Because to be anyone else in the digital world is too exhausting.

Without further ado…

This is what caught my attention in technology:

Self-Lacing Basketball Shoes

The Nike Adapt BB builds upon self-lacing technology they’ve developed, and released, with two other shoes in the past. Except now, the lacing mechanism wraps around the bottom of the foot and back of the heel for more comprehensive squeeze.

What’s particularly interesting is that they have their sights set on the basketball market (hence, BB). This is going to be a tough training ground for this technology since it’s a sport that truly pushes shoes to the limits — with all the sharp cuts and impacts.

Watch the video below for my thoughts on this technology:

Global Internet For All In 2069

Access to the Internet’s unbelievable web of knowledge and services might be the biggest societal differentiator today. Making sure that everyone has a connection to the infinite health advice, education, financial leverage, e-commerce, etc. is practically a human right — it’s a moral duty. However, morality is not the motivator for the half dozen companies bringing the rest of the world online.

Read more of my thoughts on Google, Facebook, and SpaceX’s plans to bring the entire world online.

Tracking Devices Powered By Air

Wiliot has developed a paper-thin bluetooth chip that operates entirely without a battery – harvesting its energy from the ambient radio frequencies around us, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular signals. It’s like a gas station that fills your gas tank as you drive by.

If you’re an Inevitable/Human member, read more on Wiliot here

Instagram Influencers Team Up With Hackers

Hackers have taken notice of how important Instagram accounts are to their owners, many of which entirely rely on their Instagram presence for their income.

Motherboard recently reported on an emerging trend of hackers taking control of Instagram influencers’ accounts and holding them ransom. Now, a wave of fresh attacks and internal Instagram documents obtained by Motherboard provide more detail about the issue. Victims say that Instagram’s process for recovering accounts is so cumbersome that they’ve had to rely on third-party social media experts and, in some cases, white-hat hackers to help them regain access while Instagram itself was largely silent.

Read the entire story here

Computers Can Speak In Your Voice

With just 3.7 seconds of audio, a new AI algorithm developed by Chinese tech giant Baidu can clone a pretty believable fake voice. Much like the rapid development of machine learning software that democratized the creation of fake videos, this research shows why it’s getting harder to believe any piece of media on the internet.

Read the entire story here and I’m sure this will create a new industry of coping mechanisms, as seen here.

Have a nice weekend. And feel free to message me on any of the above topics.

Are algorithms the modern slaves of Internet giants?

A topic that comes up in my conversations a lot is the addictive nature of entertainment technology, specifically YouTube and Netflix. My friends are always curious about how these services designed a craving among hundreds of millions of people.

It’s clear that the culprit is their content recommendation algorithms. However, to truly understand these addictions, you must understand how these AI’s are vastly different in their ways.

At 7 am CST today (Nov. 30), I’m going live with a discussion about how YouTube’s and Netflix’s AIs are fundamentally different, as well as how they’ve become the slaves to our time.

You can tune into the live stream (or watch the replay) here:

🚨 P.S. Medium just featured one of my latest articles – Everything you need to know about Digital Humans – on their homepage!

Facebook Just Created the iPhone of Virtual Reality

Someone’s probably told you before about how massive virtual reality could be. And, you’ve also probably tucked those speeches somewhere alongside the people who claim the end of the world is coming… since neither of them has held true, thus far.

But, that all might be changing. Well, the VR thing. Not the end of the world.

Facebook’s Oculus Go

I realize I sound like every other VR “prophesizer” when I say that “this” is the one. But, after spending a considerable amount of time in the VR space back in 2014-2016 and not seeing much happen since then, Facebook’s launch of their second VR headset, the Oculus Go, is something to finally get me amped about VR again.

So, what makes the Oculus Go so different?

In short, new and exciting ownership possibilities in the digital world. They are expanding on what the iPhone did so well back in 2008 – recreating physical tools in a digital way.

Before iPhones, my family shared one digital camera, one Xbox, one sound system. For a few hundred dollars each, the iPhone gave us all a powerful digital camera, gaming system, and mp3 player. Alongside dozens of other devices that the iPhone made obsolete.

The Oculus Go is poised to have a similar effect.

For instance, Netflix launched an exclusive experience with Oculus Go where you can enjoy streaming Netflix on a 100-inch TV screen in a mountain chalet-type living room. I can invite other Oculus Go users over to my virtual crib to enjoy an episode of Stranger Things. And I’d imagine that it’s in their plans to one day allow users to customize these virtual living rooms to their liking. I for one can’t wait to make my virtual bat cave.

Compare this to a similar experience in the real world and you’re looking at a thousand-dollar weekend getaway. And that’s only thanks to Airbnb. Owning that place would be over a million dollars. All of which comes with my Oculus Go.

What’s important to note, is that the first iPhone didn’t have a robust App Store. We had to use a web browser to access Facebook. But, the massive growth of users spurred all the developers to migrate over to Apple’s ecosystem and begin making apps there.

At a $200 price point, the Oculus Go has a chance to attract massive user base like the iPhone did. Today, there might be Netflix and a few other media experiences to engage users. But, the developers are simultaneously building the virtual worlds of tomorrow.

The Pros at Digital Escape

Previously, a lot of VR initiatives focused on creating intense gaming experiences. But, if we learned anything from the movie Ready, Player One, perhaps the best thing that VR can offer us is an outlet to escape reality. A place where we can not only create a new persona but also embody it.

And if there is any single company that has proven their abilities in that area, well, it’s Facebook.

We’re talking about a company whose average user spends 50 minutes on their platform per day. Facebook understands on a molecular level how to create mental addiction in their users. Seriously, they own people’s attention for 5-15% of their waking hours. And Oculus Go is a chance for them to get even more of it.

But, it’s not going to be that easy.

The Oculus Go doesn’t only compare to the revolutionary nature of the iPhone. It’s also in direct competition with them. Well, all smartphones for that matter. Let me explain.

Yesterday, I was in my Oculus Go for two straight hours. And interestingly, it was the only two hours of my day that I was away from my phone. Completely unplugged.

Not just because watching Netflix in my Swiss-chalet was so nice, but also because physically removing my headset every time my phone vibrated was a nuisance. These two devices aren’t compatible at the moment. You’re either immersed in VR without your phone or you’re not. Plain and simple. In all honesty, I’m completely fine with that too. Phone distractions would only take away from the experience.

Regardless, smartphones aren’t going anywhere. However, let’s not forget that Facebook has already succeeded in capturing the attention of over 2 billion people monthly.

Undoubtedly, there’s a stronger stigma surrounding virtual reality today than there was a stigma surrounding smartphones a decade ago. But, perhaps VR’s stigma of cutting people off from the real world will turn out to be its biggest asset.

Need to Getaway?

Escaping from problems is looked at as a horrible way to deal with issues. But, I believe it’s a necessary first step.

In times of conflict or great stress, we are far too emotionally attached to come to a solution or formulate an effective strategy. That’s why you must first step back from the situation and release the personal ties you have with the problem.

For a simple work dispute, this might mean going for a walk or having a calming cup of tea. For a more complex relationship issue or personal problem, this might mean taking a weekend getaway.

Different situations call for a different degree of emotional release. And I believe that VR may actually be a feasible option to this emotional release since it’s immediate and frictionless.

I might get into an argument with Ryan or a roommate and find it hard to get my needed space. VR could transport me immediately to an island getaway, where I can dive into the ocean, decompress, and collect my thoughts.

I don’t believe VR provides the full solution to our problems, just like driving away from your problems can’t. But, it’s an inexpensive alternative to the first step of dealing with issues, which is decompressing emotionally.

How Smart Home Devices Open Your Door to Unwanted Visitors

We’re in the middle of a war on security and we are sabotaging ourselves for a little bit of convenience. As we bring more connected devices into our homes, we essentially create more windows for “Peeping Toms” to look into our lives – metaphorically speaking.

The connected home is undoubtedly a great concept. But there are many security risks that should be resolved before you dive into it.

Don’t Touch the Thermostat!

Earlier this year, Amazon added Ring’s wifi-enabled Video Doorbells to their lineup of smart home devices. With a Ring doorbell, you can see who’s at your door from anywhere in the world (with internet).

But, there’s a major security flaw. Any time a password is changed, the Ring system doesn’t boot all the connected devices off the system for over an hour. Basically, it’s like changing your school lock combo, yet the old combo (which other people know) still works.

You’d think that once you changed your password, everyone else would have to log in with the new password, right. It’s a pretty big flaw, especially if someone you don’t want gains access to your Ring system.

Actually, this reminds me of a hysterical Amazon review of the Honeywell wifi thermostat, where a divorced husband takes revenge on his ex-wife, who took the house, the dog, and the 401k. But forgot to change the password on the connected thermostat.

On frigid winter nights, from his home far away from hers, he drops the house temperature to 40 degrees. In the middle of June, when sweaty backs have a problem of sticking to bed sheets, he cranks her heat up to 80 degrees. And when she takes long vacations, he hikes up her electric bill by fluctuating the temperature all week.

Talk about a sophisticated kind of evil.

This goes to show a problem of unwanted people accessing connected devices. Both of these seemingly harmless, aforementioned flaws is what leaves a door open for criminals to take advantage of connected devices.

Inviting Unwanted Visitors

Just like any other computer, connected IoT (Internet of Things) devices can be inflicted with malware which cybercriminals can then take advantage of and control.

Back in October 2016, over 100,000 IoT devices – ranging from baby monitors to home security cameras – were infected with Mirai malware and used in a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. Essentially, all the infected IoT devices began simultaneously flooding the internet servers at Dyn, a company that services websites such as GitHub, Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, Airbnb, and many others. As a result, those websites were temporarily out of service for millions of people – potentially causing millions of dollars in lost revenue to those companies.

Although this particular security flaw didn’t directly harm any owners of the IoT devices, this isn’t always the case.

Just months ago, dozens of people came to find out that their wifi-enabled home security cameras were giving one hacker a view into their most private household activities.

Steven Hankers gained access to household cameras, recording unsuspecting homeowners. Authorities found in his possession over 4,000 clips of couples having sex and young kids undressing. Think about the trauma for the families involved in this incident. To find out the device you bought to bring safety into your household had actually backfired.

We all want our homes to be sturdy and safe as a castle. Yet, bringing these devices into our homes is like leaving the drawbridge down.

Every time that you bring another connected device into your home, introducing it to your lifestyle in the name of more convenience, you’re risking your own personal security.

Unconnecting the Connected Home

One of the common first steps in “smartifying” one’s home is buying an Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker. Given their abilities to act as a hub or control center for many other smart home devices, these smart speakers are effectively the brains of the operation. And they are also fun to use – asking them to search the internet for you, play music, create shopping lists, etc… They are a total convenience tool.

To date, CIRP estimates that nearly 45 million smart speakers (Amazon Echo and Google Home) have been purchased and installed in US homes. That’s a lot of devices and a lot of security vulnerability.

What worries me about them, though, is that they are designed to always be on – ready for your command – since there’s nothing less convenient about a device you have to turn on in order to use, right.

Well, this is where I think we’re wrong.

There’s just too much security vulnerability presently involved in these devices for you to keep them always on. If they truly are the brains of a connected home, then my message is to shut off this brain occasionally. Give it a break. And give yourself a break from the possible security risk you’ve already brought into your home.

It’s not like the Amazon Echo or Google Home are solving world hunger. Powering them down won’t force insanity upon you.

Besides, is it really alleviating an inconvenience in your life?

Convenient Inconveniences

We’ve become increasingly attached to adopting technology for convenience-sake, when in fact there may not be any inconvenience present at all.

Silicon Valley and tech companies live by the mantra that “customers don’t know what they want, so we have to tell them”. As a result, we get many solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had.

Uber and Lyft on the surface may have solved a problem of easy transportation. But studies are showing that they, in fact, create more citywide congestion by taking people off buses, bicycles, and their feet – placing them in cars.

We’ve exchanged one problem for another, which is a common thread in everyday life.

When we find that our schedule is complex, we add a service that’ll make it simpler. Only to eventually find out that managing this service has created more complexity than before. It’s an endless cycle of exchanging one problem for the next.

In reality, we create many of these inconveniences by looking for the easy solution.

If your schedule is busy, then maybe you should assess your daily routine and better optimize it… instead of looking for a service that’ll do it for you.

The Artificial Influencer That’s Worth Over $6 Million

You are probably already aware of how easy it is to present a fake self on social media. MTV made an entire show out of “catfishing” someone. But, rarely do we reward fakeness… until today. One of the world’s first Artificial Influencers is now a highly sought after marketing product – proving that despite being completely fake, the impact is real.

If you thought this world wasn’t crazy enough, strap on your seatbelt because it’s about to get even more absurd.

THE Artificial Influencer

She’s a 19-year-old fashion model and singer, with a Brazilian background. In a matter of two years, she’s gained over a million followers, modeled the clothes of some of the highest fashion brands, and just raised $6 million to keep it up.

But, she’s not really a “she” at all.

Miquela Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela, is a computer-generated teenager and now the world’s most successful Artificial Influencer.

Born to the parents of Photoshop and a little creativity, Lil Miquela has taken over conversations about what it means to be real on social media.

Everyone has a little bit of artificial-ness when it comes to presenting our best, sometimes false, selves online. But, not quite to the extreme of Lil Miquela.

The only real thing about Lil Miquela is the team of creatives behind her – the robotics startup known as Brud. Caught up in a mix of fantasy and delusion, Brud tells a story of how they saved Lil Miquela from Cain Intelligence – a firm creating robots as sex objects.

And while the story is probably false, the message they are spreading has bits of truth.

A Positive Spark?

For one, the fashion industry makes a living on the human form. And they’ve routinely put the “sexy” on pedestals while ignoring the “unsexy”. In many ways, they mold what is the acceptable body form.

Meanwhile, half the celebrity pictures out there in the world are unattainable without professional Photoshoppers. This is extremely toxic for all those young girls and boys that look at the stars and think “that’s the right body type and mine is wrong”.

In theory, an Artificial Influencer like Lil Miquela could turn the social influence industry on its head. We all know Miquela is not really a person, and therefore, hopefully, people won’t feel shamed by her appearance.

Miquela literally embodies the artificiality that’s overcome the Internet, where something created totally as fantasy can have so much influence. The Brud team has since launched another Artificial Influencer.

One of Brud’s intentions is to “bring about both a more empathetic world and more tolerant future” through the use of these Artificial Influencers. And they have a monumental opportunity to create change.

However, we cannot overlook the fact that in the process Miquela has become a cash crop. And more broadly, a marketers ideal scenario.

An Abundance of Artificiality

Artificial Influencers present a huge potential to corporations and their advertising efforts.

For one, Artificial Influencers are predictable. They do whatever is “asked” of them. They aren’t going to act out crazily. And they don’t have a past history that’ll skew a campaign’s message.

Additionally, they can be grown in-house by a company’s advertising team, thus side-stepping some of the large costs associated with hiring a celebrity.

For these two reasons, we could potentially see a slew of Artificial Influencers pop up in the coming years.

They could be used as figureheads to hide behind polarizing beliefs. Or they could represent momentous change.

Artificial Influencers and their “lives” can literally be created out of thin air with any set of beliefs, looks, or personality that’ll gain a following. And that’s what scares me.

There’s a lot of opportunity in creating these Artificial Influencers. But, the responsibility and consequences are even greater.

Forcing A New You

In navigating the new realms of the digital world, there’s undoubtedly more chances to alter our own identities even create new identities.

A friend’s dad (55 years old) just quit his cushy, high-profile tech job to go back to his high school dreams as a musician. And while most of us won’t make such a drastic change overnight, we still can change bits and pieces of ourselves.

And my message to you comes from Charles Schulz, the legend behind the Peanuts comic strip.

He says, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

No matter your age, there will be people you admire for a certain way they act. Even so much so that you might want to be them.

But, before you go changing aspects of your lifestyle or personality, think about whether or not that change is actually YOU. It’s a tough question that only you can answer.

I believe the pieces that fit will happen easily. Forcing anything new means it probably isn’t YOU.

Is this Artificial Intelligence Church the Way of the Future?

I’ll admit that at times the routine of everyday life can seem bizarre, even a little pointless. Fortunately, we have work, religion, and companionship to give us meaning – something to explain why we wake up every day. But, what happens when two of these explanations begin to fall?

What will we do when work is no longer plentiful because we’ve been replaced by algorithmic machines? And what will we do when religious texts can’t explain why technology is so invasive and overpowering in our lives?

Life will go on, but we’ll still want to explain the unknown. Thus, a new religion is born.

The Way of the Future

Anthony Levandowski is an influential researcher in the self-driving car space, having founded Otto (self-driving trucks), worked at Waymo (Google’s self-driving car division), and at Uber’s self-driving car initiative.

However, after transferring trade secrets from Waymo to Uber he was banned in the space, causing him to start a religion called Way of the Future (WOTF). I know, that transition doesn’t really add up.

However, having worked in the artificial intelligence trenches for years, Levandowski believes that a superintelligent AI is coming. This AI will be able to teach itself anything and come up with solutions to the world’s problems in moments. It could tap into all connected products on the globe from refrigerators to cameras to armed drones. Effectively, it would be all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-controlling of humankind.

The advance of AI is a momentum that nobody can stop. And instead of sitting back and hoping this Superintelligent AI doesn’t harm us, the Way of the Future wants us to prepare.

WOTF proposes we begin worshipping this AI overlord at designated churches. So, when the AI god manifests, it knows that we brought it to life, will view us as its elders, and treat us with respect.

I realize this sounds like pure lunacy, but his prophecy of an “AI god” isn’t completely unwarranted. Tech elite from Elon Musk to Ray Kurzweil warn of The Singularity – the moment when AI becomes far superior to the collective intelligence of mankind.

When it will come; we don’t fully know.

However, the timeline of this machine deity doesn’t have to match up with the Way of the Future. With enough believers, WOTF will come to life.

Is there Merit in WOTF?

First of all, I don’t think Levandowski is proposing we gather around a computer server and chant (although that would be quite comical to witness). Instead, his church would be rooted in education.

There’s a lot of pushback from Society about AI development. But, AI doesn’t have to be threatening. I support anyone that’s educating people on how AI can be used for good… AI deity or not.

Undoubtedly, there are going to be people that see Levandowski as a prophet. And a lot will write him off as a paranoid freak. Regardless, we all need to recognize the significance of the movement he’s attempting here.

Their core beliefs are:

  • Belief in Science
  • Belief in Progress
  • The belief that intelligence isn’t rooted in biology
  • Belief in an inevitable Superintelligent AI
  • Belief that anyone can help

Religion is notoriously behind the times – reading from thousand-year-old texts. A religion that embraces change, even promotes it, is truly different and has a shot at catching on whether it’s WTOF or something else.

Do we have the beginnings of a Scientology-like creation and conspiracy here? I can’t say. I really don’t know how people are going to respond and if anyone is actually interested in something like this.

Nonetheless, people will believe what they want to believe and you can’t take that away from them, no matter how ludicrous it may sound. Because it is the belief in something greater than oneself that gets us through our days on Earth.

Our understanding of reality and the meaning we place on life will undoubtedly be tested with the continual advancement of artificial intelligence. It may take a religious initiative like the WOTF to help us come to terms with the changing times.

Regardless, there’s one thing that must remain unphased…

Belief in Mankind

I believe in the abilities of man, no matter their past or present. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been screwed over by my fair share of jerks. And it’s caused me to put my guard up more than I’d like.

But, the moment we stop believing in our neighbor to do the right thing or our fellow worker to strive for productivity. This is the crumbling of society.

There are evil-doers out there and I’m not suggesting full naivety. However, sometimes people just need to be believed in by others to help them decide to do what’s best for the greater good.

Because the more you perpetuate the opposite – a disbelief in your fellow man – the more it’ll become the reality.

Trust in Government falls to 20%. Is this the opening for an AI Politician?

Would you elect a machine into office? It’s probably a question you’d never think to ask yourself. But, it may be near. According to the Pew Research Center, the general trust in government here in the US has been on a steady decline from 70% in the 1950s to 20% today – a momentum regardless of the party in office.

Now, there’s a variety of factors that caused this distrust. And this isn’t an article about those factors. Rather, it’s a response.

With widespread distrust in the operation of government, people are going to be open to a big political change. Perhaps even a revolutionary moment in politics worldwide. It could be someone like Andrew Yang, a politician with a fresh perspective and futuristic vision. Or it could be technologically assisted – like an AI Politician.

World’s First AI Candidate

In Tama City, Japan, Michito Matsuda ran for the mayoral election with an interesting twist: his decision-making would be deferred to artificial intelligence. Matsuda was proud to announce the world’s first AI Candidate which would bring competence, impartiality, and balance back to politics. The AI Candidate garnered over 4,000 votes, which was just enough for a bronze medal.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the pillars he posed.

Competence? Yes, please. An AI Politician would have the power to call upon countless sources of data and truth in the form of surveys, governmental meetings, laws and regulations, and voter feedback all in the matter of moments.

Impartiality? This one is a little more tricky considering that everyone has biases, even the researchers that would develop an AI Politician. We’ve seen partial AI systems in the past. The risk-assessment algorithms courts use to assist in sentencing have been found to support racism. And the image recognition algorithms on Facebook and Google reinforce sexist gender stereotypes. Therefore, there’s a great challenge ahead for an unbiased AI Politician.

And how about balance? Is that even possible in politics? If it is, do we want balance? This is an AI Politician’s greatest test, I believe.

In the bipartisan politics of the United States, would an AI Politician take into account both sides of an argument when making a decision? Or would it operate with a programmed, fixed viewpoint?

Downfall of an AI Politician

Part of what makes politics effective is that compromise is often avoided and you get strong viewpoints battling it out until one side wins.

Compromise may sound nice when sharing sandwiches, but when it comes to important negotiations, compromise is actually a failure among all participants.

Take this classic negotiation fable:

“Two sisters each want a full orange but they have just one orange between them, with nothing of value to trade. In the end, they compromise. Each takes half the orange and goes on her way. One sister happily ate her fruit, throwing away the peel. The other peeled her half, throwing away the fruit and using the peel to garnish a dish. The compromise in this story was completely unnecessary.  Each sister could have had the full value of the orange if they had identified each other’s true interests.”

Yes, this is a fable. But, it shows that compromise may cause us to overlook options that we are neglecting to find.

Even FBI negotiators avoid compromise at all costs. They abide by a cooperative, rapport-building, empathetic approach. The kind that creates a dynamic in which deals can be made. This usually means digging deeper into people’s true intentions.

It’s idealistic to think that an AI Politician could take into account the viewpoints of thousands or millions and find a way to satisfy everyone. It’s a difficult concept to even wrap your mind around because it’s probably impossible.

With this knock against an AI Candidate, is there any place in politics for AI?

AI in Politics

Although we may not be ready for an AI Candidate, I do believe the next logical step is electing politicians that understand artificial intelligence and also are open to bringing it into action in a variety of ways. Thus, executing their job to a higher degree with a level of automation.

For example, Andrew Yang announced his running for the 2020 US Presidential Election. With a background as a tech executive, he accepts the impact that AI is going to have on our jobs and society as a whole.

Yang, among other tech-literate candidates, would bring a lot of fresh ideas to the table. For one, he’s proposed to establish a Department of the Attention Economy in order to regulate social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. He also proposes appointing a cabinet-level secretary of technology, based in Silicon Valley, to study the effects of emerging technologies.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Yang used AI in budget formation, culling some of the waste. Also, adopt AI tools such as SAM — a chatbot application that works to inform and involve voters more. SAM helps alleviate the grandiose, false promises that have created a lot of the political distrust. This shows how AI could help make politics more transparent by engaging in more active dialogue on a personal basis.

Overall, AI has a place in improving politics. At the moment, it just may not be ready to run on the ballot.

Avoid the Compromise

Let’s take a lesson from the best in the biz: FBI negotiators. Next time you find yourself in a negotiation scenario, try avoiding the compromise a little longer. Don’t instantly look for the middle-ground or split the difference.

Instead, take a new approach. Dig for other intentions or desires at play.

You might find something else to add to the negotiation. Perhaps there’s an “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” deal you can make.

I know from experience how tough this is. I used to be the “middle-ground” guy. But, I soon found the power of the counter-offer. Bringing new deals into the mix that offers up additional value without sacrificing my position.

Just give it a shot! You might surprise yourself. Also, if you want inspiration, check out the movie The Negotiator starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. It’s a classic.

Digital Legacy: What will you pass along when you pass away?

No matter how you choose to spend your time on Earth, you will inherently leave behind a legacy. This includes what you’ve created that you will pass along (wealth, assets, knowledge) and what you stood for or represented while you were alive (strong work ethic, humility, etc…). Leaving some sort of legacy to friends and family is partly what makes life worth living.

However, how do the new digital environments which we spend a large amount of our time fit into our legacies? How will one’s Digital Legacy live on?

Leaving a Digital Legacy

Back in October of 2016, I published an article on LinkedIn that spurred someone to comment some hateful things – cursing me out and telling me to stop writing.

I’ve got thick skin so it didn’t bother me. But, it was so uncharacteristic of an executive on LinkedIn (the world’s professional platform) that it got me thinking.

Every action on public platforms contributes to our Digital Legacy. These actions are recorded and archived.

Future kids and grandkids are going to be tech-savvy at a level we may not comprehend right now. A regular Tuesday night might be scraping their grandpa’s Twitter account for all his public Tweets – seeing how he spent his years online.

Tell me, how will that grandparent explain to his grandkid the time he called someone on YouTube a “fat bucket of fried chicken”?

Those precious, “gather round” story-time moments that grandchildren share with their grandparents are soon going to include the actions we take in digital environments.

My grandpa was a fairly secretive man. The few moments that someone got him to open up about his past, we all got quiet and listened because we knew there was a great story coming.

Today, digital environments record many of these great stories for us. Vacations, activities, and everyday pictures are logged on Instagram. Visual conversations are logged on Snapchat. Raw emotions are logged on Twitter rants.

The beauty of a Digital Legacy is that it’s extremely transparent. And also acts as a time capsule.

From here on out, digital environments will provide a lot of clarity to the identity of a person’s life. But, there’s more to a Digital Legacy than stories.

Inheriting a Digital Estate

Over a lifetime, we accumulate “things” and “stuff”. Some of it valuable, some useless, and some priceless. Increasingly, more of these accumulated assets are becoming digital.

You might have dozens of email, social media, and other accounts, a few digital content subscriptions (Netflix, Apple Music, etc.), and hundreds of personal media files (pictures and videos).

These are assets you may want to pass along to family or friends.

For me, I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars building a massive archive of digital music, ebooks, and online movies. No different than a box of records, a shelf of books, and a cabinet of DVDs – I want my Digital Estate to be passed along and enjoyed by others once I pass away.

Unfortunately, there aren’t simple ways of doing so. One proposed law, the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (FADA) aims to make digital asset transfer legal. But, it’s far from being passed.

Additionally, considering a Last Will & Testament eventually becomes publicly available, the last thing you want to do is bequeath your passwords over this public document.

Some of the larger online entities (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram) provide options for people to memorialize the accounts of the deceased. But, it’s somewhat of an arduous process and mostly prevents others from taking over the account.

Also, this doesn’t account for the thousands or millions of other accounts out there that don’t have these options.

Nonetheless, we can agree that our loved ones’ digital assets shouldn’t pass away with them. Preserving social media accounts and other services is a way of preserving great memories.

As we accumulate more digital assets, the need for Digital Estate management will grow. We can expect to see services pop up in the coming decade that makes the process of Digital Inheritance easier.

The Collective Legacy

One of the highest behavioral motivators is wanting to be remembered, to make a lasting accomplishment in the name of society. It’s partially what fuels innovation and economy.

But, it is far from foolproof. And one of the greatest creatives of our time, Kanye West, brings up some very interesting questions:

“What makes us be so selfish and prideful… what keeps us from wanting to help the next man? What makes us be so focused on a personal legacy as opposed to the entire legacy of a race?”

The pride we take in wanting a legacy for our name often forces us to forget about the person standing next to us.

I’m a firm believer that dedicating your time to the goals of others pays huge returns for your own missions… As long as you aren’t helping others to help yourself.

Balance the time you invest in building your legacy and the collective legacy of our race because they are equally important to leading a fulfilling life.

Mind Control? Now Possible with University of Washington Research

I’ve talked previously about brain-computer interfaces and how we could use them to replace the current way of accessing the Internet – discovering new information with a simple thought. But, what if this technology could link two individuals. Thus, sharing consciousness by sending their brain’s electrical impulses between one another.

Connecting Brains via the Internet

The human mind is an extremely complex operating system, especially when you get down to the nitty-gritty of decoding thoughts and intentions.

Which is why researchers at the University of Washington started with one of the more simple processes (muscle movement), testing how they could communicate this behavior between two people. They describe the result below:

“[Rajesh] Rao looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game with his mind. When he was supposed to fire a cannon at a target, he imagined moving his right hand (being careful not to actually move his hand), causing a cursor to hit the “fire” button. Almost instantaneously, [Andrea] Stocco, who wore noise-canceling earbuds and wasn’t looking at a computer screen, involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the spacebar on the keyboard in front of him, as if firing the cannon. Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily to that of a nervous tic.”

How did they achieve this amazing feat?

On one side of campus, Rao wore a cap with electrodes hooked up to an EEG machine, which reads electrical activity in the brain. Across campus, Stocco wore a cap equipped with a TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) coil directly over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement.

Together, the brains worked in unison. One creating the impulse, while the other acted on the impulse.

We use the Internet to connect computers. But, this is an instance where the Internet connects brains. Is this a massive leap toward mind-control?

Far from it. A Duke University researcher was unimpressed with the experiment since there was no message. It was simply an electrical impulse, not information or thoughts.

However, let’s say that the research continues to advance beyond this basic experiment. How might this muscular control of someone else’s body be used?

Momentary Mind Control

A clear implication would be using this to help the physically disabled. Someone who is paralyzed from the neck down could potentially use this to communicate their wishes. Perhaps controlling the movements of a caretaker, so that nothing is lost in translation.

My mind initially thought about coaching sports. If you’ve ever had a good coach that teaches you certain movements and motions, you know that it usually just takes one perfect replication on your part to get the move down.

Golf lessons would be less about “here’s a video showing you what’s wrong with your swing”. And more about “here, I’ll take over your movements and let you feel what a perfect swing is”.

I, for one, would love if this could be applied to my swimming technique. When it comes to swimming laps, I just can’t figure out how to pace myself properly for long distances. I usually find myself cruising through a lap or two and coming up for big gulps of air. If a teacher could take over my body momentarily, granting me the feeling of what swimming laps should be, then I know that I’d catch on quickly.

From physical activity to arts and crafts, this momentary mind-muscle control could be great for learning.

Of course, the idea of being a mind slave to a puppet master obviously has its dark undertones. And in all the above examples and research that’s what’s happening since it’s a one-way communication stream.

But, the broader spectrum would be two-way communication. Essentially, telepathic communication between people (like Star Trek’s Vulcan mind meld). Or two-way communication between us and the Internet, replacing our action interfaces with cognitive interfaces.

Right now, most research is in very early stages. There’s ample opportunity for dreamers to have fun with these possibilities.

Fiction for Fun

If you’re like many adults, then you can look back at a general time when you stopped using your imagination. When you got serious and realistic about your thinking, probably adhering to a common way of thinking.

But, the imagination is a powerful tool no matter what stage in life or what profession you hold. You can regain those mystical powers from your childhood with a simple “what if” scenario. From “what if”, you’ll find the effects begin falling into place chain-reaction style.

Guillermo Arriaga, the screenwriter of the movie 21 Grams, had the idea for his movie driving home, late for dinner as usual. He thought, “What if I went inside this time and told my wife I was late because I ran over a father and his two daughters.” Yes, this is a dark “what if” scenario. But, it turned into a phenomenal movie about the burden of death and was nominated for two Academy Awards.

If you find that your imagination powers are weak at the moment, then try thinking movie tangents for your favorite flicks.

I find myself thinking about “what if Sonny Corleone wasn’t murdered in The Godfather and he took the reigns as the Don instead of Michael?” The movie would turn into complete carnage.

As you build your imagination muscles back to your pre-teen levels, you’ll find how useful it is in other areas of your life besides just killing the time.

My imagination helps me come up with a lot of fresh ideas for my marketing consulting business. My friend Ryan tells me that he uses his imagination frequently in conversations, turning dull moments into funny jokes.

And it all comes back to “what if”.

Researchers Develop Mind-Reading Machine that Works With 90% Accuracy

The one place you have complete control and safety from the outside world may be under siege. From mind-readers to detectives to your everyday conversation, people have tried to gain access to other people’s thoughts and get in other people’s heads for a long time. And new developments in brain-computer interface technology may provide us with this opportunity.

Is this research of liberating proportions or a nightmare scenario in which we say: Science went too far? Let’s take a look.

Translating Thoughts into Text

Locked-in syndrome or pseudocoma is a condition in which a patient is aware and conscious but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for vertical eye movements and blinking. Aside from technologies such as Dasher, which help people produce text without a keyboard (in this case through eye tracking), communicating with this affliction is extremely difficult, tedious, and nearly impossible.

But, if you can find a way to tap into and decode brain signals at the root of language understanding and creation, you can tap into someone’s thoughts and possibly their speech.

This was the moonshot goal of a group of University of California researchers and they are showing early success.

What some sources refer to as a “mind-reading machine”, the researchers created a device that registers and analyzes the combination of vowels and consonants we use to construct words and sentences in our brain. Simultaneously, the technology interprets and translates these neural signals into text with over 90% accuracy.

Scientists have understood this neurological process for some time, but have lacked hard research results to show its possibilities.

However, with these positive results, the idea of eventually developing a speech neuroprosthetic that restores communication to individuals with locked-in syndrome or other impairments isn’t that far out of the question.

Since we love to ponder the possibilities here at Quick Theories, what’s the grander outlook of brain-computer interfaces for everyday communication?

Mind-Controlled Computers?

Although it may seem like we “use” our devices. We actually communicate with them. As I type this sentence, my brain gathers my ideas and signals my hands to move over the keys. The computer “listens” to my hand’s movements and displays their actions. If my hands miscommunicate (typo), then the computer replies with a red underline to ask me to clarify.

It’s a basic way of looking at how we communicate with our devices. But, this is how it’s done across all user interfaces. However, using physical actions isn’t the only way to communicate with our devices. The keyboard is just the current interface we use.

The above research shows potential for a new type of interface, where the brain communicates directly with the computer, without the need for our hands to slide over a keyboard.

Elon Musk is one of the visionaries that believes we must merge with software, so we aren’t replaced by software. His Neuralink initiative is one of the few brain-computer interfaces leading the charge.

Imagine you’re in a heated debate with a coworker, but you can’t seem to remember who’s quote you’re trying to reference that’ll demolish his argument. By simply thinking about the quote, your brain-computer interface scours the web and matches the quote with the author and voila! You “remembered”.

Or, you’re in your car and hear an incoming call. But, your phone’s not ringing… it’s your head. That’s right, your calls enter right into Broca’s and Wernicke’s Area (the language centers of the brain) and you’re talking to someone across the country… kind of like telepathy.

So, what’s standing in the way of these crazy possibilities?

In the Way of Brain-Computer Interfaces

One limiting factor of a brain-computer interface like this is filtering out all the noise happening in our brains. At any given moment, dozens of thoughts run through our heads. And most of them aren’t focused on the task at hand.

As I’m trying to search for a wallet on Amazon, I see a bird fly by. The search generated by my brainwaves now includes wallets with bird pictures embossed on them. Not what I’m actually looking for. This shows the pitfall of brain-computer interfaces that they may pick up thoughts we don’t actually want to communicate. Think of all those thoughts that sit in your head that you never say.

Another pitfall is the security of a device connected directly to your brain. The pessimists, realists, and conspiracy-theorists worry that a device like Neuralink could cause “Big brother behavior control”. Tapping into our thoughts and our movement control, they could make us act without our permission. Kind of a dystopian, sci-fi concern. But still a concern.

Only time will tell how the larger market for brain-computer interfaces develops. But, if there’s anything we know for certain, it’s that innovation is driven by NEEDS.

Maybe it’s not for you

Providing communication capabilities to those that are neurologically impaired is the driving force of the aforementioned brain-computer interfaces. It’s an inherent NEED for these folks to live better lives.

As far as connecting your brain to the internet so you can retrieve facts at your leisure, well that’s much more of a WANT. Even though Elon Musk would say otherwise.

So, don’t get lost in this narrative of becoming “one with the machine” in the coming years. You probably aren’t the intended target…

Quick Theories is supported by subscriptions to my Digital Identity series.

This Digital Identity series is an exclusive weekly update to help you adapt to technological change and accelerate your digital intelligence by developing a systematic approach to thinking about, communicating, and protecting your digital identity. This weekly series provides resources for both digital novices and savants plus it can be done from any location. If you love my weekly Quick Theories, you’ll love the Digital Identity series.

 

The app with 938 million users, showing Facebook how it’s done

At face value, you might see Facebook as a social media tool turned advertising platform. Which is why the world was shocked to find out Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest the data of over 50 million of their users. But, once you understand what Facebook is becoming, then you’ll understand how something like Cambridge Analytica could’ve happened.

For that, we’ll look at a company even more influential than Facebook.

WeChat: Ruler of the East

Contrary to the US – where we have dozens of widely used communication tools to choose from (Snapchat, Twitter, Messenger, etc…) – China has streamlined its communication apps down to one: WeChat.

Chances are you’ve never heard of this company, despite having 938 million daily active users.

Essentially, WeChat is a platform much like Facebook, that offers a variety of communication services – messaging, audio, video. However, the real power of WeChat is all the mini-apps they offer, which make it an “app of all apps”.

Inside the app, users can download mini-apps to play games, pay bills, find local hangouts, book doctor appointments, file police reports, hail taxis, hold video conferences, and access bank services. There are literally millions (not thousands) of these apps within the app.

Partly, WeChat has grown in dominance because the Chinese government censors the competition (Facebook, Whatsapp, Line, Google). But also because it’s so dang useful.

Virtually any service that one would take care of digitally can be done through WeChat. Now they are even replacing physical IDs with digital IDs that can be accessed only through the WeChat app.

In the US – where we care deeply about invasive government involvement – this would be considered privacy heresy. But, the Chinese culture has long accepted government overwatch. It’s commonplace.

What’s important to note, though, is that for millions of people, WeChat is their portal to the digital world. Everything that they do digitally, from banking to texting is done on WeChat.

And this is the type of dominance Facebook dreams of having.

The Facebook Portal

With far less success than WeChat’s mini-apps, Facebook has launched many similar services. Facebook Marketplace allows people to exchange goods. Facebook Groups can help you find an apartment, comment on current events, schedule events and much more. They’re also a “key” to other websites – logging into Uber, Spotify, Instagram with your Facebook profile.

Sounds a little like WeChat’s portal to the digital world, right?

Implementing all of these services within the Facebook platform means they had to empower developers with our data. Facebook grants developers access to your interests, likes, connections, religious and political affiliation, work history, and dozens of other things associated with your Facebook profile.

Additionally, when you engage with a developer’s app on Facebook, that developer can harvest data on all your connections. This is how Cambridge Analytica leveraged 270,000 survey respondents to collect the data of over 50 million users.

This data-sharing has outraged a lot of people. But, you need to remember that when a service is free, generally “you” are the product.

It’s the case with Google – a free search engine that makes money from collecting and selling your behaviors. And it’s also the case with Facebook.

Following this Facebook fiasco, we may see data-sharing regulations that crack down on how free services handle user data. We may not.

Regardless, your digital identity is the hottest commodity on the market today. And if you aren’t taking precautions to insulate your digital identity from harm, then you are an easy target.

If this worries you, then you’ll find a lot of value in my Digital Identity Series – a resource to help educate you on how to protect your digital identity from cybercriminals and Big Brother corporations.

Nonetheless, this is digital life.

Dangers of a New Environment

In the grand scheme, the digital world is very nascent. Just a half-century old. We’re all trying to understand how to navigate this digital world without letting it harm us.

Danger is a reality of entering new environments.

Start a new job and there’s a danger of getting let go. Start driving and there’s a danger of crashing.

What’s important is to not enter new environments with your guns blazin’ and panic in your eyes. It’s like driving for the first time and hitting the gas up to 120 mph.

In new environments, you must figure out the lay of the land and devise a strategy. You must learn how to navigate properly to avoid danger.

The digital world is no different. Unfortunately, most people hit the digital world at 120 mph without figuring out the rules first.

Thanks for reading this week’s Quick Theories. And don’t be afraid to shoot me an email with any thoughts.