We’re Living in the Era of the Robopreneur

Everything that we once considered essential to becoming an entrepreneur is now reversed.

The standard “Entrepreneurial Checklist” used to go in this order:

  • Identify a problem in the market
  • Generate solutions and prototypes
  • Sell and find product-market fit
  • Create media, advertisements, partnerships, and promotions

You can still do it the traditional way, however, you’re putting yourself at a massive disadvantage. This is because it’s too risky to go through the first three steps (which take a considerable amount of time and resource investment), only to get to the promotion side and realize buying Google Adwords is too expensive and/or you’re unable to generate interest on free social platforms.

Conversely, DTC brands have shown us that the proverbial “entrepreneurship mold” has been flipped completely upside down.

The true test today is first and foremost: Can you generate your own free publicity?

If you can, then you’re already putting yourself in a position to be, a Robopreneur – which is an entrepreneur that is heavily augmented by algorithms to generate free attention and uses rented cloud technologies to automate conventional business processes and tasks.

The Robopreneur takes the same prerequisites from the above “Entrepreneurial Checklist” and performs them in an almost exact reverse order:

KFC’s Colonel Sanders is now a digital human – Will other iconic brand mascots follow?

Look at digital humans through the lens of a corporation. Digital human influencers are more reliable, trustworthy, and less of a hassle than their flesh-and-blood counterparts. All of their actions are controlled by the organization.

Everything about a digital human can be fabricated – from their personality to their struggles to the way they solve those struggles – all of which are used to build trust and eventually push an agenda. In many ways, they are a marketer’s ideal influencer.

Everything you need to know about Digital Humans

Six months ago when I wrote Everything you need to know about Digital Humans, it was clear to me why companies would circumnavigate the entire talent industry and create their own digital human influencers to promote their products.

One of our Inevitable/Human members, Cathy Hackl, took it a step further and identified the next massive corporate move that would be made with Digital Humans:

Lo and behold, KFC (not Wendy’s, so close Cathy) turned their beloved and distinctly familiar mascot, Colonel Sanders, into a Digital Human that lives on their Instagram:

As Cathy accurately describes, he’s a combination of hustle culture, being woke, and inspirational speaker. What I find particularly interesting is the fact that KFC was able to instantly inject their Digital Human Colonel with 1.4 million Instagram followers.

What happens when the Internet Archive gets erased?

History is always written by the winners. It’s just the nature of the game. The conquerors speak highly of themselves while the conquered don’t get any press. The Internet, however, has made a case for the opposite – a history where all sides of the story are covered, first hand. Unfortunately, theory and practice don’t always match up.

Although the Internet has made it easier for everyone to share their story, it doesn’t mean that information can’t be erased.

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit that saves old copies of webpages and other digital information, in a blog post yesterday, explained that it received more than 550 takedown notices from the European Union in the past week “falsely identifying hundreds of URLs on archive.org as ‘terrorist propaganda’.”

The notices came from Europol’s European Union Internet Referral Unit (or EU IRU) and its French counterpart. They included URLs for major collection pages, each containing millions of items (e.g., “https://archive.org/details/texts” and “https://archive.org/details/television”) as well as links to scientific research and US government reports, including TV footage from CSPAN.

James Vincent, The Verge

AI in Marketing: 5 Ways that Deepfakes will actually bring good into the world

About 18 months ago, a frightening technology surfaced called deepfakes, which used video manipulation algorithms to convincingly edit videos of other people and literally put words right in their mouth. Marco Rubio described the technology as a propaganda weapon. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, told US senators deepfake videos could be banned by Facebook. Others warned that it was “one of the most serious threats that democracy faces”.

Amidst all the fervor and fright, nobody really gave this technology any chance to bring something good to the world. All press was bad press.

I’ll admit that I was caught up in the dangers of this technology and largely focused on the deepfake detection technology we must create in order to catch these media forgeries.

Overall, our collective shortsightedness caused us to gloss over the opportunities that this technology can bring the world. Thankfully, there was at least one company that didn’t fall into this shortsightedness.

Will the world’s first church of artificial intelligence catch on?

Common belief has it that religion and technology mix like vinegar and water. In other words, not well. For the most part, we view religion as an industry that doesn’t need to innovate with technology in order to survive. They innovate and adapt their storytelling for the current times, but not their actual technology.

However, this is actually untrue.

Ryan breaks this perspective by elaborating on how religious leaders tend to be among the first adopters of emerging technology. He also discusses a new religion called the Way of the Future Church that will worship an AI deity… heavy stuff, I know. But don’t be worried, you’re in good hands with Ryan.

What is the Metaverse and how will it replace the Internet?

There will be a digital life after the Internet. Not in the sense that our digital infrastructure might collapse. Rather, there will come a social invention that outdoes the Internet, believe it or not. That invention, it appears, will be the Metaverse – a culmination of the Internet and the boundless possibilities in augmented and virtual reality technologies.

The internet has done a lot of the grunt work in bringing information, services, and experiences online. But there are more efficient ways to deliver, discover, and interact with everything that exists on the Internet.

To understand how the Internet will evolve into the metaverse, I’ll give you an analogy.

Before the Internet, when it came to finding travel information for a future vacation or a city you were visiting, you had to either visit the library, call up a travel agent, or browse through pamphlets at a rest stop. It was not efficient and you’d be hard pressed to find everything a city had to offer.

Then, the Internet brought us a beautiful website called TripAdvisor, which crowd-sourced reviews and prices on everything about a city – ranging from restaurants to accommodations. It amplified the amount of information we could get about travel, while also removing any singular authority on the subject.

In the metaverse, you’ll put on your Magic Leap goggles or Oculus headset and be transported to the city you want to visit. You’ll be able to take virtual city tours, browse the attractions, see what’s cooking at the best restaurants – simultaneously adding the things you like to an actionable itinerary for when you visit one day. It’s a culmination of the travel agent, Internet information, and personal judgment.

This is just one way that the metaverse will evolve the Internet.

We’ve digitized so many experiences, services, and information. However, they all exist in their own isolated buckets across the web – loosely connected by links, Google Search, and the occasional social media post.

The metaverse, on the other hand, is a virtual, shared space where all these luxuries the Internet has brought us can be better connected and exist simultaneously. The metaverse will rely heavily on virtual reality and augmented reality to provide the digital infrastructure for all these connected experiences to coexist – however, as I described, a large portion of the metaverse is already in existence on the Internet. It’s just in a 2D format right now.

15 years after its debut, will Gmail ever be dethroned?

Every few years, people pronounce email to be dead. Yet, here we are, some 30 years into email’s existence and it’s still the first place people turn to move their opportunities forward.

Frequently I find myself thinking about email, perhaps the unsexiest of all our daily technologies, questioning how it’s continued to stay relevant for so long. I don’t think there is any single answer that will suffice. Rather, it’s made up of many components:

  • Lots of optionalities – no single governing org can get in the way of sender and recipient
  • Behaviorally, we’re all indoctrinated into these unwritten rules that keep email courteous
  • It’s largely remained a simple, straightforward interface
  • It carefully innovates and improves

This week marked the 15th birthday of Gmail. Although they were extremely late to the Email party (seven years behind Yahoo!, eight behind Hotmail/Outlook.com, and eleven behind AOL), when Gmail entered the game, they came correct… just as they did with Google Search (which was the 9th search engine).

We create more than 150 million digital maps daily… Meanwhile, you only use Google Maps

Our ability to compile location-based data and create accurate maps is one of the most underrated achievements of humankind. Many of us assume that after the “official” World Map was completed and after Google Earth was released to the masses, that everything about mapping was completed. This could not be further from the truth.

Every day, more than 150 million digital maps are created – from mapping Ebola outbreaks to visualizing how poverty is distributed.

Location-based data tells the story of humans and how we exist in our environments. It brings color to the relationship between man and environment. We’ve only just begun bringing this rich story to life. Truthfully, there are very few companies and organizations that won’t benefit or be affected by digital mapping, cartography, or geographic information systems.

Digital mapping is a massive opportunity, whether the goal is to:

  • Design better cityscapes to accommodate a growing population
  • Prospect the next physical store locations that will thrive
  • Get passengers from point A to point B
  • Provide environments for virtual and augmented reality spaces
  • And even eradicate diseases

As we venture further and further into the metaverse, incorporating more technology into our lives, we’re going to bring more and more location-based data into our lives.

So how did we get here?

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.