Great Business Models

The entire startup space has become spoiled in the last couple of decades via new business models that can be tweaked for a variety of purposes. How many companies have raised money on the pitch of “Airbnb for this” or “Uber for that”? Too many to count.

But no team has ever become a dynasty on the coattails of another team’s ingenuity. They may win a few games and maybe even a championship. However, the dynasties are reserved for the ones who create (not copy) the new prototype.

Communicating without Internet Access

It’s rare that a technology is created and has an immediate impact. It usually takes months or years to find product-market fit. In the case of mesh networking, it took 7 years and a cultural calamity to bring about the widespread use. Specifically, the protests in Hong Kong precipitated the perfect atmosphere for mesh networking to take off.

What’s mesh networking? In my opinion, it’s an idea equally or in some cases more impressive than the Internet. Let me explain:

eBay uses AI Translators

40% of AI startups don’t even use AI… Sounds preposterous, right? Well, a venture capital firm in Europe studied more than 2,830 European companies classified as AI companies. And came to the conclusion that 40% of them didn’t use AI in a way that was material to their activities, focus, and funding.

This is what happens when a word takes on an influence greater than its own meaning. It becomes a buzzword.

Amazon’s AI Stylist

From books to blouses, who would’ve guessed that Amazon would ever dominate the retail clothing business. But at every turn they’ve silenced the doubters. And their steady investments in the Amazon Fashion Technology lineup continue to raise eyebrows.

The latest is a machine learning algorithm called the Amazon Personal Shopper which will help stay effortlessly stylish. Here’s what I think about their AI Stylist.

Social Media in the Metaverse

Rick Ross unfollowed his 17-year-old daughter on Instagram after he found out she was pregnant. A picture of an egg became the most liked post on Instagram, beating out Kylie Jenner. These are perhaps the two greatest parables for humanity’s relationship with social media I’ve ever come across. So where’s the future of social media headed?

Two words: Metaverse communities.

What is Foresight?

Foresight is one of the more achievable superpowers that humans can possess. Obviously not to the point of determining next week’s winning lottery numbers. But a milder version. Not to toot my own horn, but it’s a skill I’ve been honing for the past 12 years.

On the frequent occasions I make a prediction that materializes months or years later, friends and family always ask me how. And I tell them that foresight is a muscle that can be strengthened.

Quality Control with AI

Your eyes take the first bite of every meal. It’s the first judgment every diner makes. Which is why restaurants care so much for the presentation of a meal. Even the chain restaurants must present their food consistently and appetizingly.

Naturally, we’re not far from restaurants using AI to assist in this department. One of the first, as always, to take this leap is Domino’s, using AI for pizza quality control.

An Improved AI Writer

What would happen if someone created an AI writer that could create at the rate of the entire staff of The New York Times? What if it were equivalent to that of 10 complete staff? Or 100? Naturally, we all fear the worst – a complete crumbling of public media. This belief is what led OpenAI to create a gradual, staged release of their GPT-2 text generator – their extremely effective “AI writer”.

In February 2019, they released Stage 1. Three months later it was Stage 2. And now Stage 3. I’m excited, worried, and curious all at the same time.

Virtual Mentorship

What happens when you cross AI and VR? Sorry, but you get a riddle that doesn’t have a joke at the end. Actually what you get is NeuroVR. A surgical simulator and assessment platform all bundled into one. It’s a model poised to greatly impact education. NeuroVR isn’t an anomaly. It signals the beginning of virtual mentors that will be ubiquitous in society.

AI will soon be mentoring all types of skilled professionals. After all, this isn’t rocket science…

Future of Tourism

There’s always an interesting interplay we can analyze between culture and technology. Sometimes it takes a meme movement on Twitter in order to make a technology like AirPods culturally relevant. Other times you need technology like the fax machine in order to change the culture of work life. And then there’s Instagram. An image engine that cannot be pegged as any single thing. Arguably it’s biggest, direct impact is in the travel industry.

So how has Instagram changed travel? And what does the future of tourism hold?

What does the future hold for the Gig Economy?

One of the greatest conundrums of 90s culture was trying to figure out how Cosmo Kramer made a living on Seinfeld. His ability to cook up schemes here and there was laughable and totally unrealistic. Thirty years later, this style of work has become a standard amongst more than 36% of the US population.

The Gig Economy glamorizes doing odd jobs for others. As a result, we’ve created an entire working class of Kramers. But is this the Gig Economy we hoped for? And what does the future hold for this style of work?

The Rise of the Computer Therapist

A little less than two years ago (October 2017), I was toying around with the idea of a computer therapist. Not a novel idea, by any means. In fact, one of the earliest artificial intelligence programs was a computer therapist named ELIZA – created in 1964. Impressive for the time. Laughable today.

However, the language models are much further along than they were 55 years ago. Plus, we now have digital humans to fill a presence for these computer therapists. But do people actually want to spill their feelings to a computer program?

Biosensors in the NBA

Human health data is the most valuable data we collect and analyze. It’s the only data I can think of that directly impacts the length of a person’s life. While fitness wearables have helped popularize the mass recording of individual, daily health data. Most monitors miss meaningful data – body temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose, ECG, respiratory rate, etc.

But new advances in biosensors and wearable health monitors are bringing us closer to a complete human health picture. And the possibility of elevating sports is what has me very excited.

Social Media Addiction

Social media platforms have been designed very similarly to casinos. They’re loaded with psychological tricks to keep you around for as long as possible, monetizing your attention all the while. It’s devious, genius, and problematic all at the same time.

Aside from people changing their behaviors one at a time, how can we turn around the nature of this beast on a wide scale? One senator from Missouri has a possible resolution.

Next Billion-Dollar Companies

Not too long ago, Forbes created their annual Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. It’s sort of a prediction list for companies that’ll soon join the nearly 400 unicorns(worth a billion dollars). It’s not a proverbial, blind prediction list. All of these companies have some early traction. They’re a reflection of what’s working now. Not necessarily a guide to “the future” though.

What’s most fascinating to me is that the list points to some interesting niches which I usually overlook. Here they are:

AI in Advertising

Sometimes I wonder why we’ve romanticized the role of advertising but vilified the role of sales. They do the same thing. Both tap into people’s feelings, desires, and memories in order to sell. Look no further than the juxtaposition of Jordan Belfort (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Don Draper (Mad Men). One is portrayed as a slimy salesman while the other is a suave adman.

Naturally, as a future-obsessed technologist, I think about how each job will look in the future. And while the salesman’s job will largely remain intact. The advertiser’s job is slowly being picked apart by AI in advertising.

AI wrote my business plan

AI employees are already fairly prevalent around us. Chatbot customer service reps, content recommendation algorithms, spam filters – they are literally doing the jobs that would take tens of millions of people to do. We don’t get mad at Google for using AI spam filters, for the same reason we don’t get mad at Ford for making engines that do the jobs of millions of horses.

But what about AI writers? Will text generators such as Talk to Transformer and GPT-2 by OpenAI change this AI employee conundrum? That’s why I tested the value of an AI employee in the writer role.

Every AI Creator AI has an AI Critic

Every great creator is contrasted by a critic. Zeppelin had The Rolling StonemagazineKubrick and Spielberg had Siskel and Ebert. But when we look out twenty years – realizing that the next Shakespeare, Pollock, or Spielberg could actually be a piece of software – will creative AI also be faced with critical AI? Are creative algorithms such as GPT-2 at the mercy of the reviews from algorithmic critics like GLTR?

What are Dark Patterns?

There’s a good chance that the Internet has tricked you once. Accidentally buying something you didn’t mean to, agreeing to something that gave away your data, or clicking an ad that looked like native content. These are traps known as Dark Patterns. They are psychological design elements that turn you into a puppet – forcing you to fall exactly into behavior that a website planned for you. From Amazon to Ziggy’s Zigars, every website uses them.

What are Dark Patterns? And how can you avoid them?

7 of the Cleverest Smart Home Gadgets

Amazon, Google, and other Internet of Things companies have been feeding us the idea of the smart home for years. This paradise-like ecosystem that is sustainable, safe, automated, and self-updating. While most of us are waiting for these commercial behemoths to roll out this vision – others are taking it upon themselves to update their house with AI.

Tinkerers and makers across the globe are creating these quirky household AI gadgets that actually have a lot of character. They have that pre-commercial personality.