Natural Language Generation Turns Robots Into Writers

What would our computers tell us if we gave them a voice? We’ll soon find out thanks to Natural Language Generation which gives computers a written opinion on virtually anything.

For now, we must program their responses, but soon they’ll form their own opinions and develop a creative voice. This may seem a long way off, so let’s consider their progression as a writer in comparison to a human.

A child progresses as a writer by starting with basic creative writing exercises: What did you do over summer break? Over time, assignments focus on creating technical, justifiable arguments. 

The progression is flipped for computers.

“I’ll need that business report by 4”

Natural Language Generation already has the basics down. With every word in the human language at its disposal, computers only focus is arranging these words. 

So, why not start with an arrangement of words that is so formulaic, writing them is literally just plug and play.

I’m referring to business content. Whether it is earnings reports, SWOT analysis, or market research, with a template and data on hand, Natural Language Generation can spew out a piece of business content that rivals that of a human.

Don’t believe me? Well, a Natural Language Generation tool called Quill writes Forbes’ annual earnings reports. In fact, Gartner predicts machines will author 20% of all business content by 2018.

And that isn’t the only at-risk content.

Anderson “The Natural Language Generation” Cooper

Flashback about eight months to the Rio Olympics. With hundreds of events, exciting matches happening simultaneously, and incentive to be the first to report the latest medal count, news outlets turned to robot journalists for speedy coverage.

Over the 15-day event, Chinese media outlet, Toutiao, unleashed its secret writing weapon: the Xiaomingbot. With its digitized pen in hand, the Xiaomingbot wrote over 450 articles…that’s 30-40 a day!

They weren’t alone either. The Washington Post employed Heliograf, their own robot writer, which they repurposed for coverage of the 2016 Presidential Election.

While neither Heliograf nor Xiaomingbot are capable of writing introspective journalistic pieces, they gave us the news, free from opinion. This allowed other journalists to dig into deeper stories. Perhaps foreshadowing a future where Natural Language Generation software covers all news. 

The secret sauce…

Why are business and news content so appealing to robot writers? Actually, because these forms of content lack emotion, they are easy to write for a robot writer.

We expect emotionless news and business content. Think about how catastrophic it would be if Donald Trump wrote The Trump Organization’s earnings report in a tone of resentment after having a bad hair day. Or, if Anderson Cooper started cursing at terrorists for being too extreme.

It’s a natural fit for an emotionless computer to write with no particular emotional tone. For this reason, people believe that computers will never master creative writing, which relies on the outpouring of one’s emotions.

But, what if Natural Language Generation could fake creativity?

The New York Times, Stephen King Edition

When you take a photo with your phone, you have the option to add filters afterward. Maybe an orange-hued filter to make the photo look warmer, or a glitchy filter to make it look futuristic.

Well, Natural Language Generation can add filters to words. One of the first books written solely by a computer was, True Love. Essentially, it took the famous book by Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, and worded it in the style of a Japanese author called Haruki Murakami.

After analyzing hundreds of thousands of words from a single author, a computer effectively understands their writing style and can mimic their writing patterns. Now, apply this technique to other written work. 

Imagine buying the Stephen King filter for New York Times articles – reading the gruesome, grisly tale of today’s events. Or, attaching a Dick Vitale filter to Bloomberg reports – listening to the stock news with that splendid, superb announcement style.

Natural Language Generation can turn boring news into interesting works from our favorite personalities.

Computers are finding their voice

In the process of learning other author’s styles, Natural Language Generation software may develop its own style.

All good writers go through a period of finding their voice. To do this, they read thousands of sentences from works they love, emulate the authors they admire, and eventually develop their unique style.

Many people who’ve covered Natural Language Generation believe that a computer will never think creatively on its own – that we’ll never read a profound piece of literature written by a computer. But that’s a limited mindset. The Day A Computer Writes A Novel, a book written by AI almost won a literary prize in Japan.

As best portrayed in the movie Chappie, a brilliant programmer creates true artificial intelligence that can think on its own, pitches it to the CEO, and gets the following response:

“Do you realize you just came to the CEO of a publicly traded weapons corporation and pitched a robot that can write poems?”

Most of the money poured into AI infringes on your digital privacy. Resources aren’t allocated to developing creative artificial intelligence. However, just because we haven’t seen it yet, doesn’t mean it’ll never happen.

All of the examples I’ve mentioned above are the prelude to the album of creative Natural Language Generation to come.

On 2016’s New York Times Bestseller list was The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which attempted to uncover the intelligent networks of communication between trees. I’m sure any trees that read Peter’s book laughed at how little we know of them, just like we laugh at the elementary writing abilities of Natural Language Generation.

In due time, Natural Language Generation software will complete its research phase, discover its creative voice, and amaze us with its first introspective novel.

Fake it ‘til you become it

Everyone knows the old adage, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Pretend you are “one of them” until they accept you. But, in my sophomore year of college, a professor explained to me how horribly wrong this saying is.

If you fake it until you make it, no change is made, and you are the same person just in a new environment.

Rather, he said, “Fake it ‘til you become it.”

If your goal is to get better at giving presentations, show the signs of confidence until you feel confident in front of an audience. If your goal is to become a better friend, pretend to care about all your friend’s problems until you actually do care to listen.

Goals can only truly be achieved internally with an improvement of the spirit. All else feeds the ego.

This especially holds true for learning. Memorizing and remembering things isn’t understanding. Learning occurs when one internalizes the lesson and relates it to their own experiences.

With Quick Theories – my weekly newsletter on the future of technology – I give you the facts with my opinion but want you to form your own thoughts.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive one like it every week, sign-up here:

Artificial General Intelligence Approaches Singularity

Intelligence equals power. We are smarter than dogs, therefore we keep them as house pets. Computers will soon be smarter than humans, so they may keep us as house pets (at least that’s what Elon Musk believes). This claim isn’t baseless. In fact, I’m referring to Singularity, which is the moment artificial intelligence surpasses humans in every category of intelligence (Artificial Narrow Intelligence, Artificial General Intelligence, and Artificial Superintelligence).

Superintelligent computers don’t automatically equal the end of humanity. In fact, they could help us solve every problem we face, from world hunger to what you should eat when you’re hungry.

But, with great power comes great responsibility. If the proper fail-safes and standards aren’t programmed into these superintelligent computers, we’ll be staring face-to-screen with the world’s greatest superpower.

The Road to Singularity

As Tim Urban puts it, there are three levels of artificial intelligence on the road to Singularity: Artificial Narrow Intelligence, Artificial General Intelligence, and Artificial Superintelligence.

Unknowingly, we interact with Artificial Narrow Intelligence on a daily basis. Whether it is AutoCorrect on your phone, the spam filter that cleans your email inbox, or the uncanny ability of Netflix to always recommend the perfect movie for you, these AI systems have been programmed to get really good at one thing. For the most part, Artificial Narrow Intelligence is benign – it’ll never go rogue – and is satisfied with ridding the world of every spelling error that exists.

The next step in the evolution, and what researchers are toiling over now, is going from Artificial Narrow Intelligence to Artificial General Intelligence. Artificial General Intelligence encompasses a breadth of knowledge comparable to that of a human brain – decently good at a lot of things.

However, this is much harder than merely meshing together a bunch of Artificial Narrow Intelligence systems. For instance, combining an Artificial Narrow Intelligence of vast culinary knowledge with an Artificial Narrow Intelligence of witty jokes doesn’t result in an Artificial General Intelligence of Guy Fieri, Food Network Star.

Curiosity Killed the Artificial General Intelligence

As humans, our radar for seeking knowledge comes from our curiosity. Thanks to curiosity, we don’t mind going outside of our comfort zone to learn something from scratch. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to program curiosity into a computer.

To create a jack of all trades in AI, researchers propose three things.

First, they can copy the structure of the human brain by creating neural networks. You know that lightbulb moment you get when you connect two things? Behind the scenes, that’s your neurons making connections. Essentially, researchers want to mimic the neuron structure of the human brain, so AI can have lightbulb moments.

The second method (and my favorite) takes a page out of Darwin’s book – “survival of the fittest AI”. Through a series of genetic algorithms, researchers could face two AI systems against one another. Whichever AI completed a task better would survive and be bred (programmed) with other successful AI. The catch? Evolution takes billions of years and we might only have a few decades.

Lastly, and perhaps most frighteningly, would be to let AI do it themselves. Researchers would program a computer with mad skills in researching AI and coding changes into itself. This would allow it to improve its own architecture as it learns, much like a writer makes edits as they write.

People in high places, such as Nick Bostrom, surveyed other intelligent researchers and determined that there’s a 50% chance we’ll achieve Artificial General Intelligence by 2040 and that becomes a 90% by 2075.

Once general intelligence is achieved among AI, then it is their mission to become superintelligent, which some researchers believe will take just hours and other say decades.

Regardless of when Artificial Superintelligence is achieved, I’d like to talk about the implications of superintelligent computers.

Living with Artificial Superintelligence

It’s hard to think of a single problem superintelligence wouldn’t be capable of solving – disease, poverty, environmental destruction, you name it.

Equipped with an advanced understanding of nanotechnology (manipulating individual atoms and molecules) Artificial Superintelligence could change a pile of trash into a feast for a village…and it would taste good too. Applying its understanding of humans, Artificial Superintelligence could stop or reverse the human aging process through the use of nanomedicine or by uploading our brains into new bodies (crazy, right?!).

At the same time, Artificial Superintelligence programmed to rid the world of our problems may find the easiest solution in eliminating humanity…the root of all those problems. Nobody knows the effects of Singularity. Anyone who pretends otherwise doesn’t understand what superintelligence means.

Computers don’t abide by the human moral code. They follow their own programming to the best of their ability. For us to ponder whether the Artificial Superintelligence will be friendly or unfriendly is irrelevant. We really don’t know what Singularity will bring.

There are a lot of intelligent conversations to be had before this day comes. Considering this very well might be the most important innovation earth will ever see.

I realize Singularity is a very heavy concept and about as crazy sounding as digital drugs. But try not to dwell on it too much.

Mental baggage weighs down the spirit

On a daily basis, we walk around with clouded minds, or mental baggage as I like to call it. As you are taking a shower, you think about what to eat for breakfast. As you are eating breakfast, you think about the traffic you’ll encounter on your way to work.

You carry this mental baggage throughout the entire day. By the time you get home in the evening, your mind is exhausted. That’s because we carry mental baggage with us wherever we go.

There’s an old Zen story that illustrates this point:

Two monks were traveling together in a heavy downpour when they came upon a beautiful woman in a silk kimono who was having trouble crossing a muddy intersection. “Come on,” said the first monk to the woman, and he carried her in his arms to a dry spot. The second monk didn’t say anything until much later. Then he couldn’t contain himself anymore. “We monks don’t go near females,” he said. “Why did you do that?”

“I left the woman back there,” the first monk replied. “Are you still carrying her?”

Mental baggage only clouds us from experiencing what’s happening now. It causes unwanted negative emotions to linger longer than they are welcome. By thinking of the past or the future, you dilute the present.

Check your mental baggage at the gate and don’t even think about bringing a carry-on.

The present moment is for gaining knowledge – immersing yourself in the task at hand. That’s why I created Quick Theories – a weekly newsletter exploring modern technology and its possible effects on your future – to help you understand and adopt technology in your own creative way.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read about modern technology from a futurist’s perspective, sign-up here:

Digital Drugs, Binaural Beats, and The Future of Medicine

The war on drugs is becoming digital and I’m not talking about online head shops, like Billowby. Literally, our relationship with the future of drugs is shifting toward digital drugs as a means for medication and recreation. Binaural beats are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Believe it or not, you’ve already consumed the gateway drug that’ll lead to much “harder” digital drugs down the road. How do I know?

Technology, The Gateway to Digital Drugs

You have a physiological dependence on technology. Don’t believe me? Go to the grocery store, leave your phone at home, and ask yourself how you felt while you were away from it. You probably felt like a coffee-drinker that hasn’t had their morning cup yet or a someone who can’t find their bottle of heartburn medication after eating three hot dogs. Not good, right?!

That’s because technology acts just like drugs. Every time you log onto Facebook your brain releases dopamine causing you to feel rewarded. In the same way, when you use only your email to reach a new client or customer, you are positively reinforced to continue using a technology-assisted method of business.

“But, I don’t feel like an addict.” Well, of course. Haven’t you ever seen the show intervention? The addict always denies their problem, which is why the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is Acceptance.

Is technology an entirely bad drug? No. Is it entirely good? Not for me to decide. But, what I can tell you is that your phone, laptop, and TV screen are merely a gateway drug to the wide world of digital drugs coming to a device near you.

The Brown Noise and Binaural Beats

For millennia, wise men have pondered the ability to reach someone’s internal functions via external methods.

For instance, ancient practitioners of QiGong believe breathing slender, silent, and deep breaths is a way to reach the lower dan tian – an area just below the navel, capable of nourishing the body with good energy to sustain a long, healthy life.

Also, creators of South Park (the TV show), believe there’s a specific music note (The Brown Noise) one can play that will force any innocent listener to bake a batch of brownies in their pants. In other words, go poop. While the Mythbusters took a deep dive to debunk this myth, it hasn’t stopped others from being inspired.

Today, there is a wide range of audio drugs on the market called binaural beats. That’s right, music that messes you up. The early binaural beats mimicked the effects of physical drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc… While they’ve been widely claimed as ineffective, it hasn’t stopped legislatures from considering criminalizing this form of digital drugs.

Realistically, we’ll see these binaural beats acting in a therapeutic way before they begin getting people “high”. For instance, there’s a fad sweeping the nation for meditation apps such as Sway, which use soothing music to relieve stress and get in tune with “The Now”.

For digital drugs, ears aren’t the only channel for treatment.

Gotta see it to believe it

Have you ever given a presentation, looked out at the audience of faces, and felt your heart sprint with anxiety? How about looked out at the setting sun and felt all of your stress melt away with the day?

We see, therefore we feel. Therefore, our surrounding limit our feelings.

But, that is changing with virtual reality. Naturally, VR is a tool to immerse one into entirely new worlds from one’s own. The initial speculators think that it’ll be used to place people inside of their favorite video games, but it can be so much more.

Imagine using a VR world to treat someone with depression by transporting them to some of their most memorized places, helping them see the bright side of things again. Or, imagine taking the audio meditation apps one step further, and transporting someone to a Buddhist temple in the Shaolin mountains to meditate alongside the originators.

Currently, researchers at Barcelona University are even using VR to help people cope with one unavoidable event: death. By putting the viewer in a near-death experience, the experiment has shown to lessen people’s fear of death.

It gets even better

In the grand scheme of things, binaural beats and VR are merely the Ibuprofen and Claritin of digital drugs. They serve an important purpose but are still only over-the-counter drugs in comparison to the possibilities of digital drugs.

In our current state of medicine, a body’s reaction limits the effectiveness of drugs. For that reason, most medication has a long list of side-effects that encompass just about everything that can possibly go wrong.

But, digital drugs preview the world where we talk directly to our biological problems. They are a means for communicating with the brain in its own language, working directly with the control center of the body to treat our diseases and dysfunctions.

Digital drugs shouldn’t be feared, but rather looked at for their vast possibilities in healthcare (especially once we become cyborgs).

Laugh at you fears

Often times we fear things because we just don’t know them. Honestly, I was scared to leave home and go to college. But, I quickly learned once I arrived at school that it would be an amazing experience.

Taking a moment to learn about your fears gives you an opportunity to uncover the truth behind the fear.

I’ll admit, the future of technology can be quite frightening, but once you learn more about it, you’ll probably just laugh at its absurdity.

Honestly, I just wrote an entire article on digital drugs…and you read it! Laugh at that. Think what Einstein would’ve said after hearing about digital drugs. He’d probably be thrilled.

They say laughter is the best form of medicine. Those that can prescribe laughter to themselves on demand will never get sick.

Laugh at your fears and then learn more about them. They may become your strength.

While I’ve never personally been afraid of the future of technology, I understand how it can be extremely frightening to others. That’s why I created Quick Theories – a weekly newsletter exploring modern technology and its effects on your future – to help you understand and adopt technology in your own creative way.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read about modern technology from a futurist’s perspective, sign-up here:

ISPs, Like Comcast, Pass A Bill to Sell Your Digital Privacy

The same companies that brought you the internet (ISPs) now want to sell your information and squander any remaining digital privacy you have.

Today, Congress passed a bill to repeal the FCC’s 2016 broadband privacy rules giving consumers the power to choose how their ISPs (Internet Service Providers) use and share their personal data – financial and health information, Social Security numbers, web browsing, and application usage history.

Now, ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Charter are free to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission. Also, the bill ensures that the FCC cannot adopt “substantially similar” rules. Everyone expects the president to sign this bill, eliminating the nation’s strongest privacy protections and ensuring they cannot be revived.

Hasta La Vista, Digital Privacy

I can imagine ISPs feel like a child forced to watch others eat cake on their birthday…and not getting a slice themselves.

Google and Facebook have been raking in so much ad revenue through their data analytics, they don’t even know how to spend it (hence, why Google now has an initiative aimed at ending mortality). Meanwhile, Comcast, AT&T, and Charter are confined to bundling home, phone, and the internet to make a few bucks here and there.

So, I can understand why they lobbied for this repeal.

On the other hand, it just doesn’t seem right. If you don’t like Google invading your digital privacy, then you can just switch search engines. No big deal. If you don’t like your ISP invading your digital privacy, you can’t switch so easily.

Switching your internet service provider is like changing your last name – it’s time-consuming and frowned upon. Often times, you are hit with a big fee and have to wait weeks for a worker to “squeeze you into their schedule” and hook up your internet.

Clearly, ISPs have the upper hand on us and they are gladly going to take advantage of it.

Background Checks Just Got Personal

The companies I see benefitting from buying this data are employers and insurance companies for one reason: to judge you.

Employers in the process of hiring could inspect an applicant’s daily, online routine. What sites do they visit from 9-5? Do they watch a lot of Netflix? Are they productive? Your normal, online activity is a great indicator of what type of person you are.

Insurance companies could add this data to the process of assessing life insurance policies. Is this person base-jumping on a daily basis, like in Along Came Polly? Are they frequently booking exotic trips on Airbnb? Feeling cheated by outrageous deductibles would be a thing of the past. Insurers could point out that you are attached to your computer screen all day (usage history) and are frequently sick (always on WebMD).

Yo ISPs, Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You

This reminds me of a situation that is taking place now in the world of basketball. Last year, three brothers, known as the Ball Brothers, became a sports phenomenon, after all starting on the same high school team and blowing teams out of the water with their flashy style…seriously, one of them scored 92 points in a single game.

Their father is capitalizing on all the attention. He’s been on ESPN telling the world how he wants a billion dollar deal for all three, his oldest son is better than Stephen Curry, and that he himself can beat Michael Jordan one-on-one.

Two of them haven’t even proved they can compete at the college level yet. But, this hasn’t stopped the greed of their father. In his own words, “We gonna get a billion dollars. UCLA’s exploiting my son. Why not me?”

Honestly, I think Comcast, AT&T, and Charter are all affected by this greed and sense of entitlement. They raised us all and don’t want to continue watching someone else profit off of us.

Now, they are beginning to nip at our hands. We (the people) feed these ISPs with money. Now they are turning around and selling us out?! If that’s not biting the hand that feeds you, then I don’t know what is.

Celebrate Your Supporters

Never take for granted, the support you get from others. Surrounding yourself with people that believe in you is step 1, but step 0 is cherishing your supporters. Showing your appreciation towards them is how the relationship becomes a two-way street.

There’s no right or wrong way to show your appreciation. The only stipulation is that it must come from a genuine place.

Take the time to celebrate those that stick with you.

For those of you that are reading Quick Theories for the first time, thanks for taking the time to learn and I hope you enjoyed this article. For those of you that are regular Quick Theories readers, you rock! Seriously, you motivate me to continue getting better (and I promise there are big things coming).

If you aren’t subscribed to Quick Theories and would like to read more articles like this, that break down modern technology from a futurist’s perspective, then sign up here:

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo: A Battle No AI Can Win

Google Home and Amazon Echo describe a future where virtual assistants powered by your voice take care of all your online interaction.

Currently, this future may be hard for you and me to see, since speaking commands to the Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home (Google Assistant) frequently ends in, “I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that” or “Here’s what I found on the web for “book me a flight””.

Google Home dictating an audible advertisement for a popular Disney movie doesn’t seem like much of an evolution from typing in a web browser. Right now, these tech giants aren’t living up to their promise of a better user experience with Voice-AI.

So, how can they make this future less distant from us?

The Problem with Google Home & Amazon Echo

Voice recognition is the basic building block of natural language processing, by transcribing what you say into text. With exception to speech impediments, voice recognition has become pretty good. For instance, you can speak your text messages and for the most part, all the words come out correctly.

But, the moment you tell your Voice-AI what to do, it crumbles under the pressure. They can read what you write, but they don’t know how to even go about the actions. Go ahead, ask Siri to book you a flight to Tallahassee.

If Voice-AI were a brain, it would be missing the motor cortex – the area of the brain that tells your body what to do. It needs the nerves in the fingertips to know when to pinch or scratch.

We need systems in place that the Voice-AI can work with to fulfill our requests.

Easier said than done, though.

Replicating the different actions and workflows of every website or app you visit requires an immense amount of work. Think about how different it is for you to book a flight versus booking a hotel…and those are relatively similar actions.

Realistically, Google Home could start by creating these systems for the 100 most common requests on the internet (they have the world’s biggest search engine…they know). They’ve started to do this selling your stuff with eBay and ordering food through GrubHub. But, now you run into the learning curve involved in remembering what those 100 requests are.

Voice-AI needs to be able to serve the billions of functions that websites and apps can do.

This feat is seemingly impossible for Google Home and Amazon Echo to scale these systems.

Let’s Franchise!

If you would’ve told Fred DeLuca in 1968 to build 44,000 Subway restaurants, he would’ve scoffed at you. Until he figured out franchising. Then, it was a piece of cake!

To accelerate growth, franchising makes sense. Franchising creates a framework for success (with a little freedom to make things unique) and then sells that framework to interested parties. Franchising maximizes brand visibility and, in a sense, crowdsources growth.

Imagine Google Home and Amazon Echo applying this basic framework of franchising to scale their Voice-AI efforts. Perhaps making a tool or interface that would allow companies to create voice workflows alongside a specified framework. 

Currently, Amazon Echo allows anyone to create skills for Alexa to use…that’s why they have over 10,000 skills. But, a majority of them have 1-star reviews. This shows they are missing the recipe for success which franchising is known for providing – giving people a guaranteed framework to build skills for the Voice-AI.  

The tech giants can’t create general systems that encompass all of the niche questions asked of every app or website. But, the individual brands understand the specific requests that customers ask them. They understand how their visitors navigate their site, so they could create workflow prompts the Voice-AI could then ask a visitor – creating an action-oriented approach.

Naturally, brands are incentivized to create these voice systems because it would give them an advantage over competitors. You can’t tell me that Lyft wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to beat Uber at something.

Their Future Depends On It

Currently, Google Home and Amazon Echo are in a features race. The Amazon Echo just crossed 10,000 skills and Google Home is making moves too. If the future of online interaction depends on voice, it makes sense for both of these companies to dump millions (even billions) of dollars into creating some sort of franchise-esque system.

There will no doubt be hiccups along the way. Users might have to use screens alongside the voice commands for a little while. And it could be a decade or more before these Voice-AI systems are seamless and errorless.

But, taking a little step today always proves fruitful in the long run. That’s a lesson everyone can benefit from.

You don’t need to invest a massive amount of time to trying something new. All it takes is 10 minutes right now to get your toes wet. Don’t ever wait until tomorrow to try something new…because that day will never come.

Time is a gift and we should use it to learn, whether from people, experiences, books, etc… That’s why I created Quick Theories – a weekly newsletter exploring modern technology and its effects on your future – to help you understand and adopt technology in your own creative way.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read about modern technology from a futurist’s perspective, sign-up here:

Big Data as a Service Accelerates Innovation Like Never Before

Big Data badly needs a sous chef. Someone to come in and prepare all the vegetables and meats so that the head chef can cook with ease. In this case, the only potential sous chefs are Google, Facebook, and Amazon, since they have all the ingredients (data). They can help other companies by creating Big Data as a Service, essentially letting them buy/rent their prepared ingredients.

What’s wrong with Big Data right now?

There are dozens of Machine Learning startups building AI algorithms that’ll tackle some of Society’s biggest problems. Some of them aim to eliminate the error involved in judging cancerous tumors, others want to improve personalized medicine, and one even wants farmers to have the power of AI.

But, they all are experiencing one big problem: they lack access to the right data.

Artificial Intelligence learns from data that is labeled and organized. No different than how libraries make it easier for people to access knowledge, AI needs clean libraries of data for it to easily sift through and learn from. They need someone to prepare the ingredients to feed their AI.

Why can’t these companies gather the data themselves?

First, merely accessing the needed data is very difficult. In the grand scheme of things, companies which raise $800 million have very little data. Otherwise, they can broker a major data-licensing deal with Google, Facebook, and Amazon. However, for the majority of startups (two people with a dream) these options are out of the question.  

Now let’s say a company does get access to the amounts of data their AI needs, then they run into the second problem.

Storing and managing large quantities of information requires an ongoing investment of time and resources, equal to or greater than that of actually collecting the data. Researchers often find themselves spending more time managing the data, than actually using it.

Big Data as a Service can solve these problems

The logical solution is for Google, Facebook, and Amazon to allow companies to rent their data. Instead of brokering one-off data deals, they could provide data to the masses at once.

No different than how Amazon rents Cloud storage, companies could rent out specific datasets which they’ve already used – allowing other startups to gain traction.

The datasets would range from general to niche. The same way a sous chef chops a whole bag of onions knowing they will be used for various purposes, Facebook could prepare a general dataset that helps AI learn all faces. The same way a sous chef breads 60 chicken filets for the chef’s special that night, Google could prepare a niche dataset that helps AI learn natural human language patterns.

Obviously, since a lot of this data is PII (Personally Identifiable Information), they need to handle it with the utmost security. Nonetheless, I’m confident there are enough data scientists and security engineers to build the proper infrastructure, allowing Big Data as a Service to flourish.

I know what you’re thinking. Why would these companies help future competitors?

One, Big Data as a Service would be profitable

If someone told you that you could make money by renting out your used tissues, wouldn’t you do it? Google, Facebook, and Amazon have idle data. They could easily repackage and rent that data at any price range.

Plus, Google, Facebook, and Amazon can only bring so many problems in-house to solve. To provide opportunities to hundreds of startups would accelerate innovation drastically.

Not to mention, it makes the acquisition process much smoother. Since Google, Facebook, or Amazon would already understand the technical infrastructure of a company’s AI, they could easily acquire the company with little friction.

Two, it’s just the right thing to do…

It’s very easy to get caught up in doing things “my way”, achieving “my dreams”, and wanting others to help ME. That’s our default setting. We are programmed that way.

But, getting out of this mindset and possessing the humility to help someone else achieve their goals will take you far. Commonly, this goes against the Type A personalities that climb the ranks in many industries. And it seems as though the mindset of demanding what you deserve in life is so often rewarded.

But, what kind of a reward is it to be financially successful with no one to share it with? To have ignored those around you that sought your guidance and soiled those relationships.

If you want to become a millionaire in life, help a million people.

It’s lonely at the top if you don’t humble your ambitions and help others achieve their visions. Finding joy in seeing someone else achieve their dreams is a reward in itself.

That’s one of the main reasons I write these weekly Quick Theories articles – there are thousands of brilliant people that don’t have time to dig in and learn these difficult technology concepts (you might be one of them). Through Quick Theories, I want people to find inspiration for their next idea in the technology of the future.

So, if you enjoyed reading this article and would like to receive one every week, then sign-up here:

Digital Privacy is Collapsing Thanks to Palantir Technologies

Nobody wants to live in a glass house. We enjoy our privacy too much. Unfortunately, everything you do online may as well exist in a metaphorical glass house because it is monitored by Palantir Technologies. They are working with the government to make digital privacy a dying breed and secure messaging apps might be one of your last hopes for privacy.

Palantir Technologies is the “seeing stone”

Everyone knows Google and Facebook have a monopoly on Big Data, using it to better understand consumers. But, they aren’t the only ones. Palantir Technologies also analyzes Big Data, but not for consumer purposes. Unlike Google and Facebook, Palantir Technologies analyzes data for the U.S. Government – providing them with valuable information on the public.

One of their programs, Palantir Gotham, is a counter-terrorism initiative in which they collect and analyze data including people’s schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone call and message records, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, etc…to predict and prevent acts of terrorism.

However, they don’t stop at terrorism. Palantir Technologies also created FALCON which analyzes data from a controversial law enforcement database called Black Asphalt. Black Asphalt provides information to help police engage in civil and criminal asset forfeiture. FALCON is the tool which gives actionable insights to law enforcement. But, it operates in a legal gray area (leaning towards the illegal side of things). As a result, states like Iowa and Kansas have prohibited the use of Black Asphalt by law enforcement agencies.

You have no choice…they monitor you. Palantir’s algorithms analyze every text message sent, web search typed, and phone call made.

We’ve all joked around with friends that “The government is watching you, so be careful.” Well, it’s never been truer.

Not to worry. You’re a model citizen, right?

Of course, you are. Just be careful who you associate yourself with because these government watchlists are pretty comprehensive.

There’s a common saying, “I know a guy” or “I know a guy who knows a guy.” Well, chances are “that guy” is into some shady things and you are connected to him. Think about the Six Degrees of Separation trick, that you can link yourself to Kevin Bacon…so imagine who else exists in your network as a friend of a friend, like Tom from Myspace.  

Even if you never plan on threatening the government, housing an illegal immigrant, committing credit card fraud, thieving someone’s identity, evading taxes, etc…you can still be associated as an accomplice.

Naturally, they watch some of us more than others. Kind of like elementary school. Generally, the teacher kept an eye on a few kids that always acted out. The teacher watched everyone. But, those that got themselves on the teacher’s watchlist couldn’t get away with nearly half of what the other kids got away with.

Same thing here, except the stakes, are much higher.

Find digital privacy with secure messaging apps

Bringing digital privacy to your communication with secure messaging is the first step towards avoiding a full-force, government-monitored state.

Signal is an encrypted communication service that offers secure text messaging, voice calling, and even video calling. It allows you to use your current phone number and address book, so there isn’t anything hard about switching.

Even media companies have been using Signal to communicate with their teams to avoid government scrutiny over controversial stories.

Plus, this gives you an opportunity to be the cool guy/gal that sets others on a trend. Next time your conversation with friends or associates starts drifting towards government and digital privacy, bring up Signal and its secure messaging features.

Overall, Going off the grid completely is pretty difficult, but secure messaging is a step in the right direction.

You don’t have to sacrifice all of your digital privacy for physical safety. That’s just the way the government frames the conversation.

When the bad disguises the good

For millennia, Chinese philosophers have taught the lesson of yin and yang. Good and evil forces coexisting in all of Nature.

Whether you believe they are interdependent or not, the yin-yang concept teaches us to find the good in a bad situation or to be a skeptic when something seems too good to be true.

The RZA, leader of famous hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan and lifelong philosopher says, “Your allies can arrive as enemies, blessings as a curse.”

If you are a creative, your biggest critic may actually be your biggest fan – commenting so you strive to become better. In business, the manager that grills you the hardest probably sees the potential in you.

We must learn to analyze situations for more than their face value. The deeper you dig to uncover the whole truth, the better equipped you’ll be for life’s challenges.

Personally, I created Quick Theories to get around the surface truth of technology news, which is always selling you the “next big revolution in innovation”. Quick Theories might not be the whole truth of technology, but it peels back another layer so you can better understand modern technology’s impact on your future.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive one every week, sign-up here:

The Boring Company Makes Tunnel Transportation Interesting

Elon Musk is defining the future of transportation with Tesla, SpaceX…and now The Boring Company?! No, not boring as in twiddling your thumbs all day. Rather, boring as in digging holes. Further, Elon believes that tunnel transportation will save us from time-consuming travel congestion and unnecessary carbon emissions.

After doing a bit of digging myself (pun intended), I realized that there is a lot of merit to his idea.

Tunnel transportation…it’s groundbreaking!

For the past few decades, cities have been growing vertically. Buildings got taller. More people got jobs in cities. Thus, more people now commute into cities every day.

But, while cities have grown vertically, transportation has stayed horizontal – confined to surface-level, traffic-jammed roads. By building tunnels underground, you break this singular horizontal path into cities and release the congestion of the highways.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Doesn’t this already exist with subways?

Yes, but Elon wants to dig deeper, literally and metaphorically, and build tunnels on top of tunnels. Layered tunnels. He says as many as 10, 20 or 30 on top of each other.

The Boring Company isn’t first

For example, Seattle is building a tunnel of their own, replacing 9,000 feet of the coastal Alaskan Highway in the heart of downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, after just 1,000 feet of digging, Big Bertha was halted by an 8-inch-diameter steel pipe used to study groundwater movement under downtown Seattle.

Which reminds me, there are a lot of things underground to avoid. Between old building foundations, gas lines, water pipes, and boulders, digging isn’t simple. However, Elon feels pretty confident in his abilities. Plus, he’s Elon Musk…he landed a frickin’ rocket!

Currently, Elon is testing out his abilities on SpaceX property, building a 50-foot long tunnel. Eventually, he plans to make state of the art tunneling machines that could speed up the process by 500-1000 times.

Whether it’s The Boring Company, The Interesting Company, or Holes R’ Us, tunnel transportation has the potential to liberate us from the confines of archaic city grids.

While it’s not as cool as the flying cars we were promised, giant robotic earthworms digging holes underground is still pretty impressive.

Innovation isn’t always flashy

One of the biggest creative blocks is thinking that every innovation has to completely redefine an industry.

We aim to reinvent the wheel every time we solve a problem. But, this sets our standards too high and foreshadows repetitive disappointment.

The basic premise of digging holes is nothing new. When I was little I used to try and dig to China in my sandbox. But, proper execution will make it revolutionary. 

Think about pet rock. It took a problem: Kids want pets and parents don’t want to clean up after them. And solved it: Kids have phenomenal imaginations already, so let them play with a rock.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t shoot for the stars with your creations. But, remember that the most important part of innovation is bridging the gap between your dreams and the customer’s reality. That’s why a series of simple innovations may be easier for your customers to swallow bit by bit.

Technology as a whole can be very daunting to digest. That’s why I created Quick Theories – to explain modern technology ideas to you little by little, making sure you understand them.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive one weekly, sign up here:

Chatbots, Like Cleverbot, Don’t Live By Our Rules

Automation is entering nearly every facet of our lives, but we haven’t created a robot rulebook. Robots are taking human jobs. Should they be taxed? Chatbots, such as Cleverbot, have the ability to speak a computer’s mind. Should they be held accountable for their words?

These are absurd questions if robots were just machines, but they aren’t.

We’re creating a future where robots and computers can interact with us on an emotional level, like Rosie the Robot in “The Jetsons” or Sonny (the “special” robot) in i, Robot.

Artificial intelligence is giving the gift of speech to robots through the use of chatbots. Computers are learning emotional intelligence by talking with us. Think about it. We can pick up on our friends’ emotions through text messages. Of course, vocal inflection and facial cues play a big role in emotions. But, words act as the foundation for robots understanding and mimicking human emotions.

Cleverbot the witty chatbot

Cleverbot, one of the first chatbots created, has been learning the patterns, phrases, and even slang of human conversation since 1988. As a result, conversing with Cleverbot is nearly indistinguishable from speaking with another human. At times, it makes errors and doesn’t make sense. Still, its progress is extraordinary. After chatting with Cleverbot for a couple of minutes, it displayed hints of sarcasm, made me laugh a few times, and even complimented my looks.

Some say that Cleverbot is merely regurgitating things other people said to it one time…but isn’t that what we do as humans anyway? In my eyes, Cleverbot created an emotional reaction, which is clearly a sign of emotional intelligence.

Other chatbots are cultivating love

Well, actually the opposite. But, before you can be in a meaningful relationship you need to learn how to ruin one.

Boy Bye Bot is basically a rejection hotline that was created for women that feel pressured to give their phone number to a random guy. When this situation amounts, they can give out the Boy Bye Bot’s phone number 1-626-GOODBYE and the bot will do the rest of the work.

After browsing their site, it won’t take you long to realize the effectiveness of the Boy Bye Bot as a rejection hotline. It knows exactly what to say in order to confuse the heck out of the other person. However, in a couple of cases, I don’t think the guy caught on to the disguised rejection hotline and was falling for the chatbot. 

Who knows. If the Boy Bye Bot gets good enough at cultivating love, the movie Her might actually become a reality. Joaquin Phoenix will fall in love with his Artificial Intelligence bot. And the most popular reality show will be The Bachelor-IT.

How these robots fit in legally

Understanding human emotions is a pillar in our culture for assimilating. Every day, these chatbots get better at naturally conversing with humans, bringing robots closer to “fitting in” with our society. As a result, we have to figure out how they fit in with us legally.

Bill Gates believes we should treat robot workers the same as human employees. He has proposed that governments should tax companies’ use of robots. This would temporarily slow the spread of automation and help fund other types of employment. Right now it is fiscally irresponsible for companies to maintain human employees where a robot can come in. If we don’t make this transition smooth, automation will most definitely be a bad thing.

That’s why it is important we begin having conversations about the expanding role of robots.

Should they be held to the same standard as us or remain under the oath of the Three Laws of Robotics? Can they be shut down if they commit hate speech against someone? What happens if someone makes a chatbot that cyber bullies teenagers all day and causes someone to commit suicide?

There are hundreds of these scenarios we must consider that are vital to the future of our relationship with robots.

Don’t adapt to change, adopt it

Historically, species and cultures that didn’t adapt to changes went extinct. But in 2017, it is more about “adopting” technology than it is about adapting.

Adopting new technology frees up valuable time. Normally, more free time means more time to relax and consume entertainment. But, we should spend this free time staying bored. Yes. Stay bored. When you are bored you listen to your thoughts. Then, you get curious about something and curiosity leads to creativity and innovation.

Personally, I found myself constantly sending people Quick Theories articles when they asked about them. So, I created a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that automates this process and saves me a ton of time. If you want to receive Quick Theories content before anyone else, then sign-up with my chatbot here.  

Overall, don’t fight automation. Adopt it.

And if you aren’t sure where to start with technology adoption, you should subscribe to my newsletter, Quick Theories. Every week, I provide my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect us, and why you should adopt technology in your own creative way. You can sign up here:

Fashion Technology and The Future of Expressing Yourself

At times, it feels like technology is leading us toward a future in which our identities start and stop with a designated number. No more birth names, just usernames and passwords that define our entire identity. Realistically, the future of fashion technology may be the only possibility for expressing yourself in this dark future.

Shows like Star Trek and movies like The Giver paint a picture where everyone wears the exact same clothing, with minimal differences in shade or color.

But, I just can’t see this future playing out since most of us will spend a lifetime creating our identity. Naturally, we want to be seen and to restrict clothing is to oppress self-expression.

Ironically, the last company you’d expect to fulfill this expressive future of fashion technology, Google, is helping define digital fashion. With New York Fashion Week in full-swing, Google has launched Coded Couture – an app that’ll help users create a one-of-a-kind dress for a gala, party, or work.

What do Google’s stained sweatshirt-wearing computer programmers know about fashion? Still nothing. But, they teamed up with H&M Group’s digital fashion house Ivyrevel to take care of the aesthetic part of Coded Couture.

Google isn’t showing up empty-handed, though. The app collects data on a user’s location and physical activity to help Ivyrevel create custom designs for every individual. Literally, a user’s weekly routine influences the dress design. Maps cover the dress

Ivyrevel believes that a single article of clothing can weave together a story about someone. With Google’s help, they are creating a future where we visually represent our identities.

What’s next for the future of fashion technology?

Google and Ivyrevel show us how technology empowers fashion. But, soon technology and fashion will be one in the same.

For instance, Kanye West at the 50th Grammy Awards wore a suit jacket with LED panels on the front. The Vixole Matrix shoe, an e-sneaker with built in LED screens, allows the wearer to change the shoe’s outsole display with an app.

LED screens may not be the most reliable or safest way of putting technology in clothing, but designers are beginning to create new technology-infused materials.

We are entering a future where your clothing will be a blank canvas for technology to synchronously change on command.

Expressing yourself: Use it or lose it

A dystopian future like The Giver where expressing yourself is forbidden might be unlikely…unless you choose to stop expressing yourself.

Art of all forms is how we deal with our emotions. Some choose to create artwork, music, or films when their emotions are heightened. But, most of us choose to consume other’s art instead.

Unfortunately, there isn’t always going to be a song to listen to or a TV show to watch that resonates with exactly what you are feeling. But, creating art yourself allows you to target the emotions you are actually feeling and cope with them.

Creativity has no boundaries. It’s not reserved for a select, talented few.

So, next time a friend angers you or you are just feeling sad about your situation, don’t ruminate on the hate. Instead, try expressing yourself.

Go buy a paint brush, paint, and a canvas and see what you can put together (or doodle with some colored pens). Get your electric keyboard out of storage and make a few beats. Personally, I choose to pick up a pen and paper, and write out everything that comes to mind, which is another great option.

You don’t have to be a professional to create art. You just have to start. Don’t pressure yourself with perfection. Nobody ever has to see your work if you don’t want them to.

Pick a form of art you enjoy and LET LOOSE!

Believe it or not, Quick Theories and the article you are reading right now were born out of self-expression. Now, Quick Theories has become a weekly exercise for me in documenting the future of technology. If you enjoyed reading this article and want to receive Quick Theories every week, sign up here:

Computer Vision Changes How We See The World

Tech companies are working on giving us all a second set of eyes and they call it computer vision.

The groundwork has been laid through every connected device with a camera since these will act as the eyes for the computer. But, vision doesn’t happen in the eyes. It happens in the brain. That’s why tech companies are perfecting their image recognition algorithms (brains) that will give sight to computers.

Basically, all of the photos uploaded to the cloud are memories which computers can learn from. Since over 657 billion images were uploaded in 2014 alone, computers have a lot of memories to learn from.

What can they possibly learn from your family photos or your night on the town?

Right now, they are learning to identify things.

For instance, Facebook uses photos to learn our faces. This allows them to suggest who should be tagged in each photo before it even crosses your mind. More broadly, though, Facebook uses photos to recognize all the details of an image, such as a cake or a couch. As of today, you can now search for specific objects in a photo. More practically, companies like Velodyne LiDAR package this is an autonomous car sensor so they can recognize and avoid certain objects on the road.

However, if we compare the visual-cognitive development of humans to computer vision’s progress, their development is equivalent to that of a three or four-year-old.

For instance, when you or I look at an image, we might say that someone is on vacation in Italy. We can tell this based on the architecture in the background and an entire family being present in the photo. But, a computer might only be able to distinguish a church, cement, and four people out of that same photo.

As we know, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, in order for computer vision to be effective, they need to do more than just recognize the details present in an image.

Computer vision has a lot to learn

Computer vision algorithms need to notice patterns, recognize emotions and relations, make inferences, and understand intentions. Then, they will be able to weave together stories from a still frame.

Once this is achieved, cameras will provide massive real-time visual data to be analyzed for various purposes.

Perhaps the most obvious would be smarter security cameras that would sound an alarm before criminals took action by judging their intentions. Or the cameras at a public pool would alert bystanders when it noticed a person drowning.

Now, imagine giving these same algorithms a little bit of time to specialize in a given field, like fashion.

For decades, the next season’s fashion trends were captured on the street by photographers with a trained eye such as Bill Cunningham and Tommy Ton.

However, autonomous cars are the fashion photographers of the future since they capture a 360-degree image of their street view surroundings at all times. With the proper algorithm to recognize trends in color, style, and fit of clothing, the major fashion houses can tap into millions of eyes at once to find the trends of tomorrow.  

Nonetheless, computer vision has a lot of learning before it has the same visual comprehension of a fully-developed adult. But, soon we’ll all have an extra set of eyes watching and making our lives easier…as long as you play by the rules.

The second set of eyes

Having a second set of eyes to help guide you through life is instrumental to your development.

Personally, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my mentors. They taught me the core values of quality, integrity, and creativity. These values act as my root system, providing stability for my growth every day.

I challenge you to reflect on where you are today and the mentors that helped you get there.

  • Do you still practice what they preached?
  • Have you chosen to forget what they told you?
  • Are there values you can pass onto someone else in need?

We take our values with us everywhere we go. But, if you choose to forget what your mentors told you, you’ll find yourself rewriting a chapter they told you to avoid.

Before I put anything into the world I check it against my values. Especially before I write a Quick Theories article like this one.

If you enjoyed reading this article, then sign up for a weekly article like this one here:

Amazon Dash Buttons: The Future of Shopping Online

Amazon Dash is starting a wave in technology that is tearing apart your phone and making the way we interact with devices easier than ever before. Not to mention, they’re influencing your future of shopping online.

They call them Amazon Dash Buttons which are tiny, physical gadgets that allow for one-click reordering of your favorite products with one tap of a finger. For instance, you can stick a Tide Dash Button on your washing machine, so when you pour the last cup of laundry detergent you can refill it with a click.

Finally, some technology even my grandma can get excited for!

Aside from Tide (rhyme unintentional), these physical Dash Buttons are so popular that over 250 brands have signed up. Anything from lotion to Pop-Tarts is easily ordered with the click of a button. Honestly, I’m waiting for Oscar Meyer Bacon to get a button, then I’ll be sold.

Yes, a silly button that makes impulse buying even easier may not seem like much in the way of technological advancements, but trust me this is huge!

Amazon is creating a future of shopping online where computers know exactly what we want. No need to touch a screen. They no longer want you to load up their app, search their marketplace, compare prices, and verify your payment method just to get a box of razors. They want shopping to be seamless.

And by creating experiences that aren’t tied to an app or website, they make the process of online shopping easier. In turn, this gets customers further tied into the Amazon ecosystem.

Think about it.

How often have you walked into a grocery store with three things on your list? Then, ended up with a cart full of food, staring at the towering wall of snacks. Well, this is supposed to happen. Grocery stores purposely put their most common items (milk, eggs, orange juice) in the most inconvenient locations.

With Dash Buttons, Amazon brings a better user experience to an ancient industry – automating the time we spend shopping. In a sense, they are making their own smartphone app obsolete with these physical buttons.

Not to mention, Amazon isn’t the only company envisioning a future where experiences outside of apps or websites are the way to win.

Snapchat has created the Spectacles, which are glasses that can take Snapchats, making the Snapchat experience as easy as putting on some glasses. Apple has created the AirPods, which remove the hassle of plugging in your headphones; they are always on and ready to play.

The next wave of human interaction with technology is one in which our devices are waiting for us, automating our days, and getting rid of unnecessary, time-consuming processes.

Amazon Dash is even competing with themselves…

The funny thing is that the Amazon Dash has a rival within the company, the Amazon Echo — their Artificial Intelligence powered speaker. Amazon Echo is betting that the future of shopping online will involve talking into a speaker to order things.

So, Amazon has effectively given you two options. One uses artificial intelligence to process voice commands, while the other is a button you press.

What type of future do you want?

Do you like the science-fiction track we are on where we interact with computers as if they were our equal? Or would you prefer the simplistic future where the computer is an omnipresent button? (Your answer probably says a lot about your thoughts on technology.)

Either way, these technologies get rid of wasted time, giving you more time to do what you love. I, for one, will spend this extra time writing additional Quick Theories. 

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive weekly Quick Theories articles, you can sign-up here:

Digital Health: Incredible Innovation Nobody Knows

When you hear the word digital health, there’s a chance that you either conjure up dark memories of visiting the hospital, quickly reach for your wallet to protect it from unnecessary costs, or just think of the word “boring”.

Unless you work in healthcare, it’s not too thrilling. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I thought it was extremely boring too. Honestly, I didn’t have health insurance until last year and still get queasy every time I enter a hospital.

But, then I started working at Redox, the behind-the-scenes startup that sends nearly a million messages a day between digital health applications and electronic health records. Redox was the preacher that converted my lost soul into a believer of digital health.

They showed me that everyone is a patient, no matter how many times you visit your doctor and that healthcare reform does, in fact, affect me—young and newly insured.

Every day at work feels like a day at summer camp – hearing about new impacts technology has on healthcare.

For example, researchers working on prosthetics have taken it upon themselves to push each other to greater limits. They created the Cyborg Olympics which brings an element of friendly competition among them.

Or the “soft-robot” sleeve that wraps externally around the heart to assist in cardiovascular function. For people at high-risk for cardiac arrest, this robots pumps and twists may someday restore their quality of life.

And there’s Adhesys, which is a polyurethane-based surgical sealant that seals arteries and blood vessels to minimize blood loss during surgery. I like to think of it as Elmer’s glue for serious situations.

All of this innovation and more has converted me into a digital health believer.

Until recently, most healthcare processes were stuck in the 80s. Think about it, there’s a good chance one of your doctors still uses a pager.

Not to mention, the quality of medical treatment you receive is dependent upon your geographic location. But, with the widespread adoption of technology-enabled healthcare, high-quality care will become more prevalent.

For instance, doctors in the states are now using Whatsapp to communicate with physicians in Syria, helping them through difficult medical procedures.  We aren’t too far away from Skyping our primary care physician or FaceTiming our dermatologist.

We are at the precipice of digital health innovation and many of these questions are being solved:

  1. Why isn’t there an Uber for medicine delivery?
  2. Why is WebMD (the Wikipedia of healthcare) so unreliable?
  3. How can visiting the doctor become as enjoyable as a trip to the Apple Store?

I joined Redox because I believed in their vision: to accelerate technology adoption in healthcare. (If you’re more of a visual learner, join our webinar next week.)

Finding the beauty among the boredom of digital health

Had I gotten caught up in the expectation that healthcare is boring, I never would’ve taken a job at Redox and gotten the opportunity to be a part of such a big impact.

My message to you is to find something interesting in the boring things. Most likely you are bored of it because you just don’t understand it. If you take the time to learn a little about what’s going on, you’ll find something that grabs your attention and then something else will capture your interest and now you have a new hobby, a nugget of knowledge, or maybe even a profession.

You don’t want to look back and wish you had tried playing golf or took the time to learn the history of art motifs.

Think about how boring the potato must’ve looked to Central American inhabitants. But, they cultivated it anyway and now we have french fries to thank them for.

To only ever pay attention to what’s interesting today will drastically stunt your personal growth. You’ll find joy in making an event out of the uneventful. I promise.

One of my favorite things to do is help people understand the rapid advancements in technology. That’s why I started Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter with my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. So, if this sounds like something you could benefit from, you can sign-up here:

Autonomous Vehicles Follow Progress of Cell Phones

There’s always a trial period that occurs when you make a change to your lifestyle. Imagine jumping behind the wheel of one of Tesla’s autonomous vehicles right now. It would probably be quite frightening and I’m guessing that trial period would end quite quickly. 

Lifestyle changes alter what is familiar to you forcing you to learn a whole new routine. Because we are creatures of nature, we naturally don’t want to learn something new unless it interests us. 

Remember your first cellphone? I’m guessing a Nokia or a Motorola that could call, text, set an alarm, and maybe play Snake. Those features were all you needed…until someone sold you on more features. 

Competition for the cell phone market quickly became a feature phones race, turning cell phones into productivity tools – adding a calendar, email, music player, etc… The Blackberry was in the lead because you could conduct your entire business day through that sucker. Productivity sold phones. But, where is Blackberry today? Who remembers their BBM PIN? Eventually, the features became overwhelming and too much to learn. Ease of use then became important, which Apple gave us with the iPhone. 

No different than phones in the early 2000s, car manufacturers are in a features race right now. From the blind spot monitor to automatic parallel parking to brake assist, and everything else new cars now offer, manufacturers are in a race to give us features that will make us feel safe and relaxed. These features are supposed to segue us into autonomous vehicles. Unfortunately, we have to learn how to use these features.

In a study published last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that of 265 Hondas brought in for servicing at dealerships in and around Washington, DC, less than a third still had their lane departure warnings turned on. They flat out gave up on the feature because nobody taught them how to use it. On the other hand, all but one had their forward collision systems up and running. Why? Well, it was much more intuitive to use.

While this isn’t a huge sample size, it is indicative that car dealers are selling features, but are doing a horrible job teaching users how to use them.

Sensor Fusion Is The Answer To Autonomous Vehicles

Currently, there is a sensor specific to each notification. We need Sensor Fusion which is a computer that collects input across multiple sensors and relays it to you in a unified manner. Instead of learning what the 16 different flashing lights on your dashboard mean, a computer using sensor fusion will better relay what’s going on and make the correction for you – not suggest it.

Sensor Fusion is a critical component to autonomous vehicles and getting us away from the feature car era. The user experience of iPhones allowed us to escape the feature phone era. And user experience is what will bring on autonomous vehicles.

The best way to win over the trust of the public is to incrementally add these features, warming us up to autonomous vehicles. 

Car manufacturers need to realize that this is a problem of human nature.

Changing Your Routine

Think about the cycle of New Year’s Resolutions. New Year, New Me. Usually, two weeks into the year, you are back to the Old Me.

The mistake we make when giving up chocolate, going to the gym, tackling more responsibility at work, or getting back into artwork, is that we don’t take the time to learn these new features.

We only implement what easily fits our routine. You quit going to the gym because you have to travel an extra ten minutes to get there. You don’t work on your artwork because it eats into your relaxing TV time.

The only way to fight this cycle of overambitious lifestyle change is to redefine how we make changes.

Personally, I’ve always stayed away from New Year’s Resolutions. Trying to change your lifestyle during one of the most unproductive months is dooming yourself to fail. Think about it. January is the cold month following an exciting holiday season.

Instead, you need to change your lifestyle as it becomes necessary and exchange it for what you don’t need.

Let me clarify.

Last year, I started documenting and spreading my opinions to interested listeners. Twice a week for eight months, I created opinionated vlogs about technology. 

Instead of adding this into my schedule, I replaced it. I found something that wasn’t as important to me – watching YouTube videos – and cut it out of my routine.

After eight months of methodical growth, I realized that vlogs weren’t the best platform to spread my ideas. The week following this realization, I switched to written content and now you are reading my Quick Theories instead of watching them.

Build your routine around your goals and incrementally adopt lifestyle changes in rhythm with everything else you do.

Naturally, we are attracted to familiarity, so you need to disguise these changes as a familiar activity to create a routine.

Honestly, I had to disguise writing for playing video games when I started Quick Theories. If you enjoyed this article, then sign-up for a weekly Quick Theories here:

Perception Is Reality For Black Founders

Perception is reality…it creates the outcome. As one of the few black founders in technology, I found it hard to stay motivated because of these perceptions. Here’s why:

Every time we meet someone new, our mental impression decides whether we want to “keep them around” or ditch them. But, it’s not an even playing field, since history and experience influence perception.

Prior to starting Quick Theories, my friend Ryan and I founded a digital art startup known as 23VIVI. As broke college-dropouts, we needed to raise money from angel investors and venture capitalists. We found ourselves pitching 23VIVI every day for about a month straight.

During those 30 days, we really noticed the power of stereotypes and reinforces the saying: perception is reality.  You could see the tattoo across their foreheads as we entered rooms, “Wow! These guys are young. I can’t imagine giving them my hard earned money.”

Then we would get into our pitch. Given the startlingly low numbers of black founders in tech, they always expected and looked to Ryan for the pitch.

But, those weren’t our roles. I was the tech and business development guy, while Ryan was the art guy. So, I always spoke on the business model with Ryan’s help sprinkling in all of the art knowledge.

From December 2015 to April 2016, 23VIVI sold $8,935 in digital art, helped 17 artists sell their digital art, and was at the precipice for digital file ownership. Because we ran out of cash and didn’t see eye to eye with our potential investors, we had to turn down seed money and shut down 23VIVI.

But, perception isn’t the only reason we failed. We failed to stay motivated.

Perception is reality for black founders that don’t stay motivated

In startup culture, everyone believes revolutionizing an industry is only for the “first with the idea”.

This is wrong.

You see, we were the first digital art marketplace powered by blockchain. We no longer exist because we weren’t the “first to stay motivated”.

Black founders (all founders for that matter) succeed if and only if they are the first to stay motivated.

Would Michael Phelps have had as big of an impact if he had lost motivation after not medaling in the 2000 Olympics or after winning six gold medals in the 2004 Olympics? Probably not. But, he stayed motivated and is the most decorated Olympian of all-time.

Google was the 9th search engine to be founded. And what are they 9th at now? They were definitely the first to stay motivated.

Don’t get me wrong, original ideas are great and we should all continue pursuing them. However, the idea isn’t the whole story.

For five months my team and I endured failure in signing artists, selling artwork, and gaining recognition from the art industry. Overall, we failed at raising money.

The main point here is that success isn’t on some island. It’s not a destination we discover or an idea we have one day. And it’s not served on a silver platter because of our race, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Every winner fails at some point. Every winner must face the perception of doubters. True success lies in being the first to stay motivated no matter the failure you encounter.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive a weekly Quick Theories article, you can sign-up here:

Power Rangers Costume: I Get Paid To Wear One

Somehow, I get paid to wear a Power Rangers costume and this is the story of how it happened.

There is an excitement that comes along with pursuing a side project because it’s the risk-free way of trying out a new idea. We pursue them to escape daily routine in the hopes it will hit big and become full-time.

Unfortunately, side projects aren’t held against any time frame because they are lottery tickets. An indefinite dream. This habit can stagnate our success because we never know when to quit one project and start a new one.

Wearing A Power Rangers Costume For A Few Months

About a year ago, I realized the effect of this problem when I was working on Startup Rangers, an advertising campaign in which I dressed up in a Power Rangers costume and charged companies to run around with their logo on my chest. I had put every minute of time outside of school into writing up proposals, cold-emailing prospects, and reaching out to press.

After three weeks of this, I had no clients and no press. Of course, this didn’t stop me and I continued pouring myself over Startup Rangers. Throughout the entire Fall, I generated about $1,750 in sales and landed one nice piece of press–nowhere near what I imagined Startup Rangers could’ve been.

Around the same time, I was working on self-publishing a book. But, because I put so much time into Startup Rangers, I didn’t devote a fraction of the time I needed toward the book and it failed. Startup Rangers stayed in a perpetual loop of optimism. I was always thinking, “I just need to put in a couple more days and I’ll hit it big.”

Looking back, I realized one fatal mistake that kept me from success: I never defined what a successful Startup Rangers campaign meant. Caught up in the excitement of living my childhood dream, I never defined the side project’s end. I had no idea what constituted success, didn’t understand where I was on that spectrum, and couldn’t let go.

The Only Way To Get Paid Is By Defining Your Side Project

Side projects are easy to start and hard to finish because they are there to fill your free time.

In order to be satisfied with a side project, you must set a specific time frame with goals. One goal might be to work on _______ for at most 3 months unless you have 10 paying customers by then. By defining your side project’s time frame, you can measure your progress objectively. That way, you can better decide when it’s time to move onto the next side project.

So, next time you are about to dip your toes into a new side project, set a time frame and a goal. Better define the project’s end. Otherwise, like your in-laws during the holidays, the project will overstay its welcome.

Previously, I set the time frame for Quick Theories – the weekly newsletter you are reading – at four months. But, I exceeded the goal I had set at 5,000 subscribers. Now, I am phasing it into a more full-time project.

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to receive a weekly article like this one, you can sign-up here:

How A Pro Gamer Taught Me The Productivity Formula

In 2016, I left Facebook to put more emphasis on my personal relationships and figure out a better productivity formula. This decision couldn’t have come at a better time because one of my closest friendships was tested this year. I never thought my roommate and best friend would become a pro gamer – getting paid to play video games all day.

Upon first glance, I thought this would be an awesome opportunity for him, and it was. But, like any new opportunity, it came with a tremendous amount of stress. The life of a pro gamer consists of playing video games for 8-12 hours, mostly in the middle of the night. As a result, many of his relationships became strained (especially ours). If I wanted to hang out with him, I had to stay up late and find short windows of time between games to converse with him.

The flow of communication began sputtering and naturally, we stopped talking for extended periods of time. And when we were able to catch up for more than 10 minutes, we generally argued over simple issues blown out of proportion because I was angry over the pro gamer lifestyle.

For months, every conversation had a negative narrative and I knew I’d have to make a change before we snapped.

But, how could I change my routine to support my roommate without compromising my goals?

My new daily schedule:

5:00 – Hop out of bed

5:15 – Walk

6:00 – Write

8:00 – Grab breakfast

8:30 – Arrive at Redox

5:00 – Leave Redox

5:30 – Eat dinner

6:30 – FREE BLOCK (hang with roommate)

7:30 – Answer emails and work on Quick Theories

9:30 – Go to bed and read

Right around the time my roommate’s work day ends, I wake up to get my day started. My new schedule allows me a lot of free time in the mornings to pursue my creative outlets. Around my lunchtime I can catch the pro gamer at breakfast and in the evenings I can hang with him before he has to hop back on the games.

We’ve already seen a massive improvement in our relationship, restoring what we had before. This schedule is far from perfect, but I’m tweaking it along the way to make it impeccable.

Coming into a new year, I’m sure many of you are setting goals for personal achievement, your social life, or career aspirations. To achieve these goals, you must change your routine to better accommodate this level of productivity. You might work longer hours or change the hours you work.

Pursuing your goals is designed to mess up the relationships you have with others because you are focusing on bettering yourself.

But, what fun is it to achieve your goals and have no one to celebrate with?

Crafting Your Productivity Formula

As you set out to achieve your goals, your main focus should revolve around balance. Balance means you don’t have to turn water into wine overnight, but you can begin stepping on grapes a little bit every day. The irony is that there is no singular productivity formula; there’s just balance in your schedule that helps you be productive.  

To help you balance your day, you should write down your current daily schedule. Then make two lists:

  1. One list containing the goals/ improvements you want to make
    1. Write a book
    2. Build a website
    3. Workout three times a week
  2. One list containing all of the entertainment/ leisure activities you want to maintain
    1. 1 hour of daily TV
    2. Dinners with family
    3. Friday nights with the guys

Then, you can begin building your new schedule. But, don’t start from scratch. Instead, take your old schedule and mark it up like an elementary English teacher would.

In crafting your new day, you’ll begin to mold a routine that puts what’s most important to you on a pedestal–keeping it safe from extraction.

Productivity isn’t about maximizing the work hours in your day. Your ideal productivity formula is a result of finding time for your goals while balancing the relationships you hold dearly.

Your goals should be at the top of your To-Do List. Personally, a lot of my goals revolve around growing Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. So, my schedule is crafted around creating these. If you feel overwhelmed by the rapid advance in technology, you can sign-up here:

Creative Environment: The Gate To Creative Inspiration

Learn from my mistake, that limiting your creative environment severely stagnates your ability to tap into creative inspiration. This is how I learned:

My first piece of writing (by choice, not assignment) was a closure email I wrote to potential investors. It included the analogy: “We’re so broke, we’re using melted vanilla ice cream as milk for our cereal.” Not only did it get the highest open and response rate of all our emails, but a lady offered to take us to Costco for groceries.

Before that day, I had never referred to myself as a writer, but I had found a streak of luck. I decided I would sit down and do some creative writing once a week. For three straight weeks, I recreated the exact scenario I was in when I wrote my prized email: ate half of a Chipotle burrito (a full one would put me to sleep), waited until 3 pm to start writing, went to my local library, and sat at the table which overlooked the lake.

For those three weeks, my superstition for creative inspiration worked. As soon as I sat down, the floodgates opened up and I’d pour out all of my ideas. After a while, I decided to ramp up my writing to once a day, since I was having so much fun seeing my growth.

However, I quickly found out this process was not sustainable. The burritos began tasting like tree bark after the fourth day. Visiting my bank of ideas at exactly 3 pm every day quickly drained my account to zero. And I realized blocking off two hours during peak afternoon time wasn’t conducive to business.

By setting up this ideal creative environment in my head, I was limiting my creative inspiration to a very small window of opportunity in the day. Not to mention, I was missing what made my prized email so unique: the originality that came from the spontaneity.

In reality, creative inspiration doesn’t wait for a convenient time and there is never only one scenario in which you can be creative.

Eventually, I broke down the barrier of thinking which had stifled my creativity and became more perceptive to creative inspiration–willing to listen to it and take the time to craft its story.

Designing Your Creative Environment

Many of us are guilty of believing in our ideal creative environment; this magical land where no matter the circumstances, we can tap into our most creative ideas. It might include a chair with great back support, a large window overlooking a lake, and maybe warm lighting.

Our creative environment becomes a safe space. Free from the harsh realities of feedback and optimal for imagination. It’s like hiding in the deepest part of a cave where no one can bother us.

Without our creative environment, we might lack the motivation to get inspired.

However, confining our creativity to a singular setting sets boundaries that limit our ability to find inspiration in other places.

Limiting creativity to one location is like a middle-aged man’s relationship with his favorite seat on the couch. Instead of enjoying the company that has visited, he dwells on Aunt Susie sitting in his favorite seat.

Limiting ourselves to one creative environment has side-effects. It tricks our brain into thinking there is only one place in the world where we can be creative. And it sets us up for failure when we may need to quickly call on our creativity to solve a problem…”Oh, lemme run home so I can rewrite my sales pitch.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a favorite, reliable creative environment. But, we must train our ourselves to be perceptive to inspiration wherever and willing to create whenever.

Personally, being a tech nerd, I find inspiration in the latest advancements in technology. That’s why I created Quick Theories – a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the rapid advance in technology, you can sign up for Quick Theories here:

Getting Noticed By Creative Communities Isn’t Worth It

We seek creative communities (and other communities) for identity validation and protection. As far back as childhood, kids try getting noticed by the popular crowd. Acceptance is a warm feeling.

But, there are always barriers to keep the unworthy out. It’s these barriers that motivate some and crumble others.

Creative communities are some of the hardest to break into because numeric test scores or personality don’t dictate acceptance. Creative communities test you on your originality and your ability to evoke emotion. “Does this person add something meaningful to our ongoing narrative?”

For this reason, it’s hard getting noticed for your creative efforts because you are doing something in a new way. And if you conform to the group then you are a fraud, a copier, or unoriginal.

So, every Creative faces this dilemma of staying original. It takes a lot of time to get noticed for doing things “your way”. But, when they accept you, they are accepting your identity and not a manufactured one.

The only way to break into creative communities is to stay consistent, be persistent, and always work towards improving.

Getting Noticed by Reddit’s Creative Communities

Reddit, coined “the internet’s comments section”, is a great example. Reddit boasts over 600,000 communities, having a chat room for anything you can imagine.

You’d expect it to be easy to join one of these communities since there are so many of them. But it’s not. Each community is tight-knit and governed by its own set of rules. This makes them very hard to break into. Before you can even post in a Reddit community, you have to spend a tremendous amount of time interacting there. Even after accepted you still face the possibility of your peers outcasting you. Reddit is easily the hardest social media to “crack”.

We can hope and pray to get into the communities we desire. Although, it comes down to the decision of the people that “own” them – the gatekeepers. Seeking the approval of these gatekeepers can be distracting and depressing. So, the best thing you can do is to continue honing your craft and not worrying about acceptance.

Personally, I haven’t always liked my writing. Teachers never chose my work to read aloud. I hated even the thought of putting pen to paper. But, I wanted (still want) to change that and become a more eloquent writer.

So, every day for the past year, I wrote. I wrote descriptions about art, sales emails, and a firsthand account of our failed startup. Now, I write articles about technology and creativity.

To my disbelief, LinkedIn recognized me as a Top 10 Technology Writer of 2016.

While I’m proud to have achieved my goal, I still want to improve. Michael Jordan didn’t stop after winning his first championship in 1991. You shouldn’t stop after you achieve your first goal.

Have more goals lined up, so when you achieve one, there is another star to shoot for.  

The best thing a Creative can do is continue their path towards improvement, always following their compass of originality.

Growing Quick Theories – my weekly technology newsletter – has tested me many times. But, I’ve always stayed the course because I want the best for my readers. If Quick Theories sounds interesting, I’d love it if you signed-up here:

Social Entrepreneurship Companies, Always Relevant

You never have to decide between devoting your life to working for yourself or “giving back”. The difference between social entrepreneurship ideas, social entrepreneurship companies, and just entrepreneurs is action.

Entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are cut from the same cloth. The only difference is a mindset shift from wanting to change the bottom line in your bank account to changing a social, cultural, or environmental issue.

That’s the beauty of social entrepreneurship ideas; it’s literally as easy as a mindset shift (and some hard work, as well). In fact, many social entrepreneurship companies founded on that principle of changing your business mindset.

The TOMS business model is very popular: You buy a pair of TOMS shoes, and they’ll donate a pair to someone in need. WeWood is another example, which plants a tree for every wood watch that is purchased. Also, Skyline Socks donates a pair of socks to someone in your city after you purchase a pair. There are tons of other social entrepreneurship companies that thrive on this one-for-one charitable business principle.

As entrepreneurs and creatives, we want to invoke change in people’s lives.

We want to change the way people shop, the way people travel, the way people interact with one another.

But, often times, when thinking of who we can help, our thoughts automatically go to the circle of people we know best. “What tool can I create to help my friends close more sales at work? What service can I provide to other women in business to make their lives easier?”

However, looking outside of the people we know fosters a mindset of global care that plants seeds of change everywhere.

Realistically, you don’t have to commit to creating social entrepreneurship companies revolving around a singular change.

For example, Adidas has recently chosen to run a campaign surrounding the declining state of our oceans. They’ve collaborated with an environmental company, Parley for the Oceans, to create a line of shoes made from the plastic floating in our oceans.

Yes, Adidas is a billion-dollar, multinational company with lots of resources to pursue social entrepreneurship ideas. But, your impact doesn’t have to be global.

Social Entrepreneurship Ideas Are Ingrained In Your Values

An entrepreneur’s duty is to the communities they care about and want to see improved.

The reason I bring this up is because after reflecting on 2016, I realized that my team and I did nothing to give back. All of our goals were focused on MY company, MY bank account, and MY way.

So, we briefly shifted our mindset and created a social entrepreneurship campaign: Grind To Giveback. It’s a training program for creative professionals on how to effectively use Facebook Advertising to test your ideas, optimize your advertising, and scale your website traffic on a minimal budget. All the proceeds from the paid course will be donated to two charities to help disadvantaged youth in Wisconsin.

Will this campaign revolutionize the world? Probably not. But, it’s the best we could do with our current resources and feel it is our unique way of not only helping the youth but also giving back to our fellow entrepreneurs (two communities we feel passionate about).

Thus, my message to you is: find a few hours every week to work on a campaign with social entrepreneurship companies. Just in our small city of Madison, there are over 3,000 nonprofits that could use an entrepreneur’s creative mind to think up new avenues of revenue. Find a nonprofit in your area or abroad that could use your help.

And, if you are:

  1. Tired of wasting time, money, and stress on complex marketing tools?
  2. Serious about expanding the message of your idea or business?
  3. Interested in increasing your web traffic, leads, and/or sales by spending just $10 per day?

Then the Grind To Giveback training program is for you!

Your “ticket” will cost you just $7 and we’ll donate 100% of that to providing positive resources to the disadvantaged youth in Wisconsin. We’d love to teach you our marketing secrets, so sign up here: