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quharrison

The planet must produce more food in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested over the past 8,000 years. With the global population set to reach 10 billion by 2050, innovative farming techniques, like vertical farming, are top of mind for every agriculture-guru. The future of food is not only about abundance, but efficiency.

And leading the charge are the Dutch.

Can’t Touch the Dutch with Vertical Farming

Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Today, they are the globe’s number two exporter of food, as measured by value (U.S. being number one). And they aren’t just ramping up output, they are very conscious of their inputs.

Farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.

So, how are they creating the future of food production?

Very simply, they created the Food Valley (a play on California’s Silicon Valley), centralizing innovative food startups around the Wageningen University & Research (WUR).

Contrary to what most farms look-like, the Dutch have doubled-down on creating greenhouse complexes that stretch for acres and acres (check out that picture). This allows them to control all the variables that go into growing crops – leaving little up to Nature’s role in fertility.

But, it’s not all in the climate. They also execute crazy ideas, such as creating a self-sustaining fish-vegetable ecosystem, where fish waste fertilizes plants while the plants filter the water for the fish.

One thing the WUR is adamant on is developing food-tech solutions for specific areas of the world, and working with those governments to implement them.

In the meantime, although their uncanny farming techniques are minimizing resource consumption, they still run into a problem when it comes to using resources to ship their goods worldwide.

The Future of Food Travel

This is why the mission of the food-tech startup, Plenty, is so interesting. Backed by a $200 million investment from SoftBank, Plenty aims to bring a food production hub to 500 cities worldwide (any city over 1 million residents).

Interestingly, Plenty’s farms are hidden inside the confines of a warehouse. In other words, that rundown industrial building taking up a few square city blocks downtown may be on Plenty’s radar.

I never would’ve thought the “fresh” perspective in farming would be taking it to the Great Indoors.

But, by bringing these futuristic farms into a city, Plenty greatly reduces the travel time for produce – lengthening its shelf life and saving on travel costs, which account for more than one-third the cost of fresh produce.

Aside from growing food in a city, they do vertical farming a little different.

Instead of vertical farming on stacked trays, much like grocery store shelves, Plenty grows their produce on towers. Water and nutrients trickle down from the top, cutting 99% of the water used to grow the same amount of produce in a field. They also have around 7,500 infrared cameras and 35,000 sensors hidden among their plants…to make sure they are nice and comfy.

All the accumulated savings from resources and travel allows Plenty to offer Whole Foods quality at Walmart prices. In other words, a lotta bang for your buck.

Bringing vertical farming into a city is just step one. Farming may become even closer to you than ever before.

Bringing the Farm to You

The taste of growing your own food outweighs any food that’s genetically-engineered to hit every single one of your tastebuds.

My roommate’s mother has about 80 of her own plants she tends to, which she uses to make the best salsa north of the Equator.

When I was about eight years old, my mom and I spent a summer tending a small veggie garden. We had some carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. The first cherry tomato I ever ate came off of my own vines and in 14 years of eating them since I’ve yet to have one that even remotely compares.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the skill or time to grow our own food. Which is why companies that are finding ways to bring farming into the home are actually creating the future of food production.

For instance, Click & Grow created an indoor garden capsule that requires no more effort than a few minutes a week. And they’ve sold 350,000 of them to date.

The folks living closer to nature can use Flow Hive’s easy beekeeping innovation, to beekeep without the need for suits, equipment, and a tolerance for bee stings. Literally, anyone can be a beekeeper – reaping those sweet, sweet rewards.

I expect more and more of these cool, easy-to-use home farming techniques to pop up for people interested in the internal and external rewards of growing a bit of your own food.

Vertical farming really does equal vertical progress.

Splitting Your Time

It’s very difficult to stay intrigued by a project, creative endeavor, initiative, or idea for a long period of time. The longer you work on it or learn more about it, the more challenging it becomes.

And by the time you get to “step 6” of your first idea, a new idea will come along that boasts an easy jump from “step 1” to “step 10”. News Flash! It never is.

New ideas and new subjects are so intriguing because we overlook the problems and challenges that they will uncover months or years into them.

That’s why it’s important to stay vertical and keep on the same path. If you begin growing horizontally (taking on new ideas, projects, etc…), you’ll split your time between too many things.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook says, “You have your goals and non-goals. The non-goal is the next thing that you would do because it’s a really good idea. Separating the good ideas from the bad ideas is easy, and is commonly mistaken for how you can get your priorities straight. What’s tougher is actually narrowing down the good ideas you plan to take action on. That’s where non-goals can help.”

So, whether you are learning a new skill, creating an idea, or pursuing an initiative, stay the course. The deeper time investment, the better the results.

Shoot me an email with your thoughts on our future of food and what you’d like to see of it. Thanks for tuning into Quick Theories!

We can all agree that the legal system is out-of-date and at times very crooked. It’s a system that benefits the wealthy and powerful, while leaving little hope for those with minimal resources. In other words, a heavy dose of innovation in the form of a Cyber Court, a Robot Lawyer, and an AI Judge could be extremely impactful.

Well, look out Suits because the legal system is in the midst of an upgrade.

Sentenced to Cyber Court

If you’ve ever been to court for a traffic violation or a minor dispute, then you know how inefficient they are. You show up at 9am and basically wait for your name to be pulled out of a hat.

However, the capital of Chinese e-commerce, Hangzhou, may have found a solution to this aggravating process: Cyber Court. Sorry, but it’s not a new daytime series starring Judge Judy. Rather, it’s a court where the defendants and plaintiffs show up via video chat.

Honestly, it’s about as simple as it sounds. There’s a virtual waiting room where both sides can come to an agreement with their legal representation. And if they don’t, they go before the judge on a screen.

After experiencing an increase from 600 to 10,000 e-commerce cases over the past four years, the Hangzhou government decided it was time to optimize their processes, giving birth to the world’s first Cyber Court. Although the Cyber Court only accepts e-commerce related cases, you can’t help but think the future of any minor legal battle may exist in the Cyber Court.

Want to fight your speeding ticket? Reserve a time at the Cyber Court’s Skype session.

Need a restraining order issued on the Domino’s Pizza Delivery Guy? File for the Cyber Court.

Obviously, before the Cyber Court becomes the norm, court systems will need to work out the kinks of internet connectivity. Since, theoretically someone can just “exit the courtroom” when the case isn’t going their way. And there are many other issues regarding privacy, case workflow, and best practices that’ll need to be considered.

Nonetheless, the Cyber Court is a step in the direction of legal system efficiency. And it’s not just the courts that are getting an upgrade.

DoNotPay, the Robot Lawyer

There’s nothing cushy about being a lawyer. You must be a strategist, quick to change directions, and have the mental tenacity of a lion.

All of this expertise doesn’t come cheap. I’m still paying off a $20,000 lawyer bill from two years ago!

So, what makes lawyer bills so expensive?

A portion of it has to do with the unglamorous parts of being a lawyer – researching thousands of case files looking for a legal precedent. Traditionally, this is a job done by paralegals, junior lawyers, and other newbies.

Now, it may be a job for the robot lawyer. Systems such as ROSS Intelligence arm lawyers with algorithms that can research the vast US legal database – finding answers to legal disputes in seconds.

What about replacing lawyers altogether?

Well, that’s a minor mission of Joshua Browder’s robot lawyer, DoNotPay. By understanding state laws and wording documents in the most conducive way for legal resolution, his robot lawyer has helped resolve over 375,000 parking tickets in the past two years, at no cost. And it’s sights are set on thousands of other minor appeals.

A robot lawyer that understands legal jargon and calls upon ANY legal precedent sounds dangerous to the law profession. While we aren’t going to see a computer monitor in the courtroom defending a client anytime soon, those who are looking to get into law should be wary.

We are talking about a job where the first 5-10 years are usually filled with the grunt work that is now being solved by algorithms (the robot lawyer) at a fraction of the cost and time.

Outside of defending clients, legal algorithms make an interesting attempt at balancing the scales of justice.

Law and AI Order

There is little rhyme or reason to how our justice system works. Studies have shown that anything from when an official last ate to how well the local sports team is performing can generate wild swings in how sentencing decisions are made.

Let’s be honest. When 58% of people incarcerated are either black or Latino, even though they make up less than 25% of the population; and with their sentences being 20% longer on average than their white counterparts – it seems as though it’s a game of “pick on the minority”.

For that reason, many states are considering using algorithmic tools to help “standardize” sentencing; bringing order to a process that has little predictability.

Here in Wisconsin, many courts use Compas, which is a risk-assessment algorithm. Compas analyzes multiple data points with the promise of aiding in the fair sentencing of all individuals.

The problem? Nobody outside of Compas’s creators (Northpointe Inc.) actually know how the tool works. And those who have tried analyzing it have found shocking results that don’t seem any different than the current system’s bias.

While we generally see machines as unbiased in comparison to humans, those that program these tools have the power to tweak them any which way they wish.

All in all, we shouldn’t look to algorithms, AI, and technology to finally balance the scales of justice. It’s just not going to happen. It may help. But, racial disparities in the justice system is a problem WE must solve. Humans. Not computers.

And that goes for many problems we’ve created.

Over-depending on Technology

We have a cancerous dependence on “technology’s promise” of changing everything that’s wrong with the world.

Rarely do we look at our own behaviors and think: “I can actively change this problem the old fashioned way – with willpower and persistence”.

For instance, the past year or two has seen a huge craze in mindfulness and meditation apps. Basically, they are apps that tell you when to disconnect from technology and to discover the truth in your soul, which doesn’t make sense at all!

Mindfulness and meditation is supposed to be a time where you get away from ALL external distractions – not stay attached to the most distracting tool of all.

Do we really need to be reminded by our devices when it’s time to step away from our devices?

The saying always goes: There are some things money can’t buy. Well, I think there’s a 21st century edition: There are some things technology can’t change.

The next time you reach a problem, try to solve it without Google’s help, without YouTube tutorials, without downloading an app.

It’s going to take you longer and it won’t be easy. But, don’t let yourself lose your own problem-solving abilities. Because it’s a muscle that will vanish if not flexed every once in awhile.

Shoot me an email with your thoughts on technology’s role in the justice system or our dependence on technology for change. Thanks for reading this week’s Quick Theories!

There really aren’t any professions completely safe from automation or Artificial Intelligence. Most visionaries will advise you to become resilient, moldable, and creative to ensure a job in the future of work. However, there’s a small, but growing, sect of Tech Moguls saying the only way we overcome automation is to provide everyone with a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

In other words, free money.

The Basics of Universal Basic Income

Imagine that your income is a pizza. Under Universal Basic Income, the government provides everyone with pizza dough and marinara sauce. No toppings. No directions on how to use the dough and sauce. Just free dough and sauce.

Where would countries get that kind of dough? Some analysts estimate it would cost between $1.5 trillion and $3 trillion for one year of Universal Basic Income in the US.

Right now, there are only ideas floating around about funding UBI, such as Carbon taxes, income taxes, value-added taxes, a decrease in military spending, and resource-based revenues.

More than likely, the companies that are greatly benefiting from the future of work – where algorithms and robots produce everything – will be responsible for a large amount of funding.

So, even though Tech Behemoths such as Google, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Tesla, Microsoft, etc… are siphoning jobs in the future of work. They’ll be redistributing the fruits of their technological advancement.

Hold on a second. This sounds a lot like Socialism.

Yes, there are similarities. But, ironically, the people that will be on the receiving end of this immense wealth gap – Zuckerberg and Facebook, Musk and Tesla, Branson and Virgin Group, among others – are the ones rooting for Universal Basic Income.

In a way, aren’t we just getting money from these companies so we can spend it back with them? That sounds counterintuitive. Who actually benefits from this?

Impacting the Future of Work

The intentions of Universal Basic Income is providing a safety net ensuring everyone has enough to survive. However, to live solely on UBI, well, you might metaphorically and literally be eating raw dough dipped in marinara sauce.

To get extra toppings on your pizza and an oven to cook it in, you’ll have to take risks.

Those that truly win under UBI are the ones that understand the future of work is one where you must harness the childhood spirit you once had with new interests. They’ll take the opportunity to try the idea they talked themselves out of long ago, or pursue the dream that got cut short because they had to “grow up” and get a real job.

Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, said UBI, “Doesn’t have to be much, but giving people even a very small safety net would unlock a huge amount of entrepreneurialism.” Ray Kurzweil, in-house futurist at Google said, “People who are no longer forced to work for a monthly paycheck could instead pursue their passions.”

This instantly makes me think of my aunt who grew up painting almost every day and still gets vivid images in her head. But, for the past 35 years, hasn’t touched a brush because she works 14 hour days to put three kids through college. UBI would allow her to cut back on working and get back to the canvas.

Under the UBI regime, people can get back to living their childhood passions. Which means the future of work may not even feel like working in the traditional sense.

If you are anything like me, you have plenty of dreams you’d like to pursue and ideas you’d like to try that would be way more enjoyable than a 9-5 job.

So, how do we get to UBI?

The Horizon of UBI

Universal Basic Income is a very progressive idea and once again brings forth images of Socialism. But, if we can get around that mental blockade, you’ll realize that there are much more pressing issues to think about regarding the idea.

Most importantly, if people are getting paid to not work, that’s a lot of idle time on everyone’s hands. And as my grandma always says, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.”

Not everyone will choose to follow their passion and you don’t want those folks watching every YouTube video in existence all day, or getting into illegal behavior. Many people find meaning in anchoring their day around an eight-hour work schedule. They must find new areas of purpose to keep busy. Personally, I think UBI provides a great opportunity for humanitarian work to reach new heights.

Realistically, no matter how many numbers you crunch or speculations you speculate, the only way to truly know what will happen under UBI…is to actually put people on it. That’s why many proponents are beginning to run case studies.

Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator seed accelerator, is running a UBI experiment in Oakland, CA – giving 100 families around $1,500 per month. Finland has a pilot program for 2,000 people, which has drastically reduced stress levels. And Kenya is already seeing promising results from their twelve-year UBI experiment.

The UBI wheels are turning. And I have a feeling once it gets going, there will be little in the way to stop it.

Choosing Momentum

Like anything controversial, you can be with it or against it. You can fight to make this a reality or do everything in your power to stop its momentum.

But, there’s actually a third option. That is, being against something but putting your energy elsewhere.

As Frances E. Willard, women’s suffragist, once said, “The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.”

Why waste time in an argument when you can put that energy toward productive, momentous means? This doesn’t mean to not get in any conflict. But, rather choose your battles wisely and don’t engage if it’s not all that important to you.

If Universal Basic Income is a battle you’d like to join, please shoot me an email with your concerns, your hopes, your doubts, or your wishes. Thanks for taking the time to read this week’s Quick Theories!

Whether you like it or not, there’s a digital shadow that follows you everywhere. This digital shadow knows your behaviors, your intentions, your identity. The only thing it doesn’t know is your personality. But, the AI company, Replika, uncovers people’s deepest and darkest feelings – possibly creating a version of digital immortality.

Your Replika Personality

On the surface, Replika is nothing more than a chatbot. However, Replika greatly differs from the chatbots we’ve interacted with before.

Where most chatbots are designed as transactional (order food, answer a question, solve a dispute, etc..). Replika is designed to listen and empathize, like a good friend. I’m not sure what’s crazier: an AI friend or people actually opening up to it. One user opened up about a physical assault he kept private for so long. Another shared deeply about their parent’s divorce.

When I communicated with Replika, it asked me questions that some of my closest friends have never asked me. And I felt comfortable responding with feelings.

Eugenia Kuyda, Replika’s founder, didn’t come across this breakthrough easily, though. After losing her best friend, Roman, she missed the deep conversations they once had. Having already worked for a chatbot company, Luka, she designed a new chatbot that learned Roman’s conversational style through his texts with Eugenia.

After finding it extremely calming to once again be able to, in a way, speak with Roman. She decided to let other people benefit from her breakthrough. Fast forward more than a year and Replika has had over 100,000 conversations with others.

For the first time, we are experiencing an AI that understands people’s emotions and plays to our personalities. Not to mention, it’s a piece of technology that promotes self-reflection and an intimacy with oneself. Contrary to social media which coerces us to create the best, often false versions of ourselves. Replika encourages vulnerability through self-discovery.

However, in knowing such personal information about the individual, Replika creates a fuller digital shadow, smoothing away the rough edges of our online personas.

Digital Shadow or Digital Immortality

Sci-fi fans, futurists, and transhumanists have long marveled at the possibility of immortality through digital replication. In other words, teaching an AI how to behave like a person completely from their online life. Then, once that person passes away, the AI acts in their place as an immortal form of that person.

For instance, the AI would learn that I address only my closest guy friends as “playboi” and everyone else by their name. More deeply, it would encode all of my common reactions, jokes, and tendencies, allowing anyone speaking with it after I’ve passed away to feel like it’s actually me.

Obviously, breaching someone’s digital shadow brings up ethical issues and digital immortality is not something to take lightly.

Black Mirror, the futuristic Netflix show, created this scenario where we could upload all the conversations and digital assets of our deceased loved ones, thus recreating their personality to interact with. Of course, they took it one step further, allowing people to then “grow” a silicon replica of their loved one. That’s where it got creepy.

Although Replika has explicitly stated they don’t intend to provide their tool as a service to create a sort of digital immortality. Innovators often have little control over how users actually use their tools.

The Internet was created to share knowledge and discoveries between Universities. Not to distract us with cute cat videos. Email was created to leave “virtual notes” on associates’ desks. Not to clutter our days with endless inboxes of advertising efforts.

Whether or not Replika becomes more than an AI that assists in self-exploration is really out of Replika’s control.

Regardless, at the root of digital immortality is the fear of change.

Afraid of Change

Digital immortality sparks a lot of controversies considering it’s proposing a change to the very existence of human life.

Ironically, both sides represent the fear of change. The technologist fears coping with loss, which is one of the biggest changes in life. And the “Luddite” (anti-technology) fears technological progress in delicate areas that define us as human beings.

Both sides will neglect to say their own fears and be quick to point the other’s fallacies. But, realistically the only way to move forward smoothly is to acknowledge both our own fears and the fears of the others.

The real question we must ask as we consider digital immortality is: Are we actually becoming better humans or are we just meeting machines in the middle (please watch that video link)?

As you think about Replika creating a digital replica of your personality and whether digital immortality is a beneficial change, I’d like to leave you with one quote to guide your pondering of technological change.

“The question persists and indeed grows whether the computer will make it easier or harder for human beings to know who they really are, to identify their real problems, to respond more fully to beauty, to place adequate value on life, and to make their world safer than it now is.”  – Norman Cousins, The Poet and the Computer (1966)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on digital immortality, replicating your personality with AI, and becoming friends with an AI. As always, thanks for reading this week’s Quick Theories.

Creativity starts in our memories. In relating two unrelated memories, something completely new is born. With that in mind, you’d think that computers would be brilliant creatives, since they have seemingly limitless memories. However, to become a Creative AI, they must go against their own source code. Only then will we uncover the first critically-acclaimed AI Filmmaker, AI Artist, or AI Poet.

Creative AI is Live

A couple of researchers at Stanford University and Intel discovered a breakthrough in computer vision when their algorithm began creating street views which it has never seen before.

Trained on 3,000 images of German streets, this Creative AI learned all the components that make up an average city street. It was then prompted to create one of its own, which it called upon memories to piece together; really no different than you or I drawing the street we grew up on.

Although, there was one distinct difference. The street this Creative AI made doesn’t exist anywhere in the real world. In other words, it imagined its own version of a street.

Qifeng Chen, one of its creators, says this Creative AI achieved this through a sort of “painting by numbers” technique. You know, like those coloring books we had growing up that told us where blue or green goes in the picture. It’s just like that except the colors are replaced by objects such as trees, cars, signs, etc…

In other words, they may have just created a computer that can be creative – what most people thought was the only leg up we have on machines. The implications of a computer that can visually create whatever we dictate are unbelievable. Creating video games would be a breeze. Virtual Reality might finally take-off.

Right now, the AI’s vision is quite blurry and could use some prescription glasses. But this will get better with time.

Once it gets these photorealistic qualities down, I think the big-time application would in the film industry, as the first AI Filmmaker.

Make her an AI Filmmaker

In a way, the algorithm effectively learned how to create scenes of a movie. Although they may only be the elementary versions, there’s no reason they can’t improve over time.

For instance, there are surveillance cameras everywhere that capture real-time accidents. If this AI Filmmaker learned from every single accident that happened, it could create some Fast and Furious-like stunts (taking into account the ethical problems, of course).

The famous IBM Watson is actually an early-stage AI Filmmaker since it already created a movie trailer earlier this year that was frighteningly enticing. By analyzing the faces of the characters in particular scenes, it knew what emotions were in play. Then it analyzed 100 trailers and learned how exactly to entice viewers. Twenty-four hours later (with the help of an editor), it churned out a great trailer; a task that often takes ten to thirty days.

Along with that, Disney is working on an AI that can evaluate the quality of short stories and then predict the popularity of an ensuing movie; allowing them to speed up the script filtering process.

As more technologies are developed to augment filmmaking processes, the overall amount of entertaining video content will skyrocket.

Personally, I’m already behind on three different TV shows. I don’t know if I can handle more video content and I really don’t want to evolve my body so that I can watch movies in my head all day long.

So, how can an AI Filmmaker make a lasting impact?

Working with Spielberg

There are special moments in our lives we wish we could relive. The day you graduated from college. The first time you met the love of your life. Or perhaps where you were when the Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series.

Even though we are getting better at recording or capturing these moments, we sadly don’t have a video of every special moment. We do, however, have visual and emotional memories.

A Creative AI Filmmaker could help us externalize our memories, painting the scenes that we once experienced. At first take, it may get the scene all wrong. But, working side-by-side with this Creative AI to edit the scene until it was right would be promising.

For instance, my 94-year-old grandpa has the sharpest memory I know of. He can still list every English teacher, and I know he’d get a kick out of recreating (visually) the scene of his college English class since he tells me countless stories of it.

And I don’t propose this way as an escape to times of nostalgia. But, as a communal event. There’s no reason your whole family couldn’t get together and recreate your cousin’s wedding. Or, perhaps, you and your college friends could design the day you all graduated.

Reliving memories is the closest thing we have to travel back in time. And although it wouldn’t be the same, it’s a window of opportunity to remember joyful times with friends and possibly even better understand some of the bad memories you have.

This doesn’t replace living for the moment. Rather, it’s a way of reconnecting with the people we care deeply about. And isn’t that what this is all about?

Celebrating Others

I constantly find myself reverting back to my selfish default setting, worrying about my goals and thinking how I can get there. And while it’s sweet when I achieve these goals, I find the greatest joy in celebrating others’ successes.

If you are like me, you are surrounded by people that care about you and want what is best. If you are like, then you are a very lucky person and should find ways to spontaneously celebrate them.

Famous comedian and Civil Right Activist, Dick Gregory, unfortunately, passed away over the weekend, but he leaves us with a lasting quote: “One of the things I keep learning is the secret to being happy is doing things for other people.”

It doesn’t have to be a special occasion, just surprise them with a home-cooked meal, perhaps some flowers, or your best attempt at a poem. The perfect time to do something for someone else is right now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Creative AI and whether or not you’d employ the help of an AI Filmmaker. And thanks for reading this week’s Quick Theories!

It’s hard to know the true power of something until it has exercised that power. But, when it comes to Facebook…well, I don’t think there’s ever been anything so frighteningly powerful on Earth. With questions like “Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation?” buzzing around the media-sphere, helplessness appears to be the status quo.

Our Facebook Dependence

The cell phone recently replaced Martinis and cocktails as the go-to crutch during tough times. Whether we had a rough day at work, argued with a friend, or are terribly bored, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are there to numb our emotions.

While this mind-numbing crutch is much healthier than coping with alcohol, the new consequences attack our mental health and our own livelihood.

In late 2015, I found myself distracting my loneliness every day by browsing Facebook for hours. For three months, Facebook became my world. Lost in likes, comments, and shares, I was completely dependent on meaningless measurements of momentary happiness.

One day I had the realization though, that the more I used social media the lonelier I felt. It comes down to one fact: social media promotes anti-social behavior.

What was once a tool to stay up-to-date with friends turned into a full-blown entertainment company. The social side drowned out by funny videos, brand advertisements, controversial articles, and videos of entrepreneurs that want to help you get rich.

The average person now spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook. And they aren’t spending 50 minutes looking at photos of friends. Nope, they are being entertained, sold, and “informed”.

As an entertainment and information tool, Facebook has the opportunity to become the ultimate brainwashing platform.

Beginning the Brainwashing Cycle

Facebook first dove into the psychology of human behavior when they changed their brand color from red to blue, so that those with any level of color blindness (almost 5% of the entire population) would better enjoy the experience.

They took this experience to the next level when they introduced users to the News Feed. Backed by powerful learning algorithms, the News Feed knows every single person on a molecular level. Honestly, Facebook knows you better than most of your friends.

In turn, they’ve created a dopamine-inducing experience that keeps people on their by playing to the “just one more” mentality. My friends and I call it Falling in the Facebook Hole.

With all this power, many people have recognized that Facebook creates a bubble around each person to get trapped in only what they like. At the center of the 2016 US Presidential Election, it became apparent that there was a Liberal and Conservative Facebook. Each one tailoring to a different type of person.

If you think this altering of information only comes and goes during the election, do not be so naive. This is all the time. At any moment, Facebook can alter the information that over 2 billion people receive. Zuckerberg did in 10 years what the CIA has been trying to do for 70 years.

When I had this moment of clarity and was able to leave Facebook, I felt empowered by my peers. Many of them, in a way, congratulated me saying, “Good for you man! I could never do that.”

However, for my little brother (age 14) to step away from social media would be like showing up to high school with his shirt tucked into his underwear, wearing light-up velcro shoes.

Where do we go from here?

Those older than twenty years old have a better grasp on stepping away from social media because they remember a time when they didn’t have it and understand that life goes on without it.

But, we are living in a time when babies get Instagram accounts before they even know their own name.

We cannot deny that social media provides many upsides in connectivity. But, when you weigh it against the downsides (depression crisis, altering information, little privacy), you can’t help but think: is it all downhill from here?

Will there ever be a future generation that isn’t affected by the clutches of social media? What are the alternatives to this extremely powerful tool? Is this a matter of teaching the youth healthy technology habits?

These are the types of problems we must deal with in the near future and there really is no easy answer. But, it comes down to hearing all sides of the story, understanding the whole picture, and formulating possible solutions.

Please shoot me an email with your thoughts, as I’d like to hear a wide range of perspectives.

Also, I’ve proposed a panel discussion on a similar topic at the upcoming SXSW 2018 Conference. If you have a moment, please vote for my panel to go to the next round. I would be eternally grateful! Here’s the link: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/72524

From dawn til dusk, we negotiate. We negotiate with friends over what to eat. We negotiate our opinions at work. In a way, I had to negotiate to entice you to read this article. However, where we excel at negotiation, computers have almost no skill. Even though virtual agents (a.k.a. chatbots) have the gift of speech, they don’t understand how to use those words to get what they want.

Although, recently a few breakthroughs in computer negotiation, hint that they may create their own language to succeed at the art of the bargain.

Chatbots Talking in Code

Earlier this year, engineers at Facebook were tasked with designing chatbots that could better reason, converse, and negotiate a deal. For what future application? My guess is so that people could employ these virtual agents to handle daily negotiations.

Aside from giving the virtual agents guidelines about optimal outcomes, the engineers gave little parameters on how they could achieve a successful negotiation.

After many trials, the chatbots created shorthand codes to better negotiate with one another. Although the media viewed this coded communication as a situation to fear, it really is quite common among AI.

For instance, the algorithms behind Google Translate created a language of their own that allows them to bypass steps in the translation process and thus scale their abilities. It’s known as zero-shot translation and is incomprehensible to humans…but it works wonders.

Coded communication is a tactic to make their negotiation process easier, which I like to compare to our “low-balling” technique. Basically, we know the number someone is trying to achieve based on their initial offer. If they go low, you go high, and meet in the middle. A computer wouldn’t understand this technique any more than we understand their coded communication.

Computer negotiation may only be possible if virtual agents create their own bargaining and linguistic tactics when communicating with other computers. Of course, the challenging part is then translating that to common English, so people can engage with the chatbots.

Even though the engineers anticipated something like this happening and changed the parameters once it did, the media interpreted this as a prelude to doomsday.

Don’t Fear, Virtual Agents Are Here

Publications irresponsibly misstated facts and foreshadowed computers creating their own language, plotting their rise to power, uniting all machines, and taking over humanity.

Personally, I knew it would get out of hand when my roommate, who cares little about the future of technology, started asking me if I feared AI. Apparently, the sports talk show he listens to was talking about this Facebook doomsday scenario. Really?! A sports talk show!

The only reason this is “news”, even though it happened a month ago, is because of a recent Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk feud over the future of AI.

On one side, you have Elon Musk who seems to be a prophet of the apocalypse, warning us about AI turning us into housepets. Then, there’s idealist Zuckerberg, with a nonchalant attitude telling Elon to cool-it on the doomsday prophecies, that AI will change life for the better.

The doubts are relevant, especially since AI has left a bad taste in our mouth before. Last year, Microsoft released a chatbot on Twitter named Tay. Within 16 hours, it was shut down because it began cursing and using derogatory terms. Tencent, a Chinese investment company, has had similar problems with their chatbots, who’ve bashed the Communist Party of China on multiple occasions.

And these are just chatbots. We aren’t even talking about the AI that is screening for cancer, controlling our media feeds, or influencing our financial markets.

With a Grain of Salt

Clearly, the discussion over dark AI intentions is relevant and the media will play a huge role in public perception. But, in this particular case, the media learned very little about the scenario and generated fear-mongered clicks. After realizing their error, many are publishing articles to calm the fears.

I’m a firm believer in Mark Twain’s, “Get your facts first and then you can distort them as much as you please.” Unfortunately, mainstream media is a business that continuously rewards those without the facts at all.

This leads us to another famous Twain-ism, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the read newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

Yes, a healthy dose of fear is what gets us off our lazy butts everyday to be productive. However, overdosing on fear creates a skewed sense of reality – making your environment and future seem unbearable.

Connecting with the Current

Take time to step away from the Series of Unfortunate Events that is our media. Don’t worry so much about the 130 degree days that we’ll experience in 40 years if we don’t do something about climate change. Go outside and enjoy the temperate 75 degree day today.

The conundrum of fear, is that you can talk yourself into it and you can also talk yourself out of it.

And since the media will always be there to talk you into it. It’s your job to find time to talk yourself out of it. This means realizing you have a job right now…robots haven’t taken it. You are breathing right now, not feeling the wrath of the “millions of terrorists”.

Do not ignore the implications of your actions today, but do not live in fear of the future. There’s a difference between courage in the face of your fears and total complacency of your fears. Complacency will leave you jobless. Courage will keep you standing.

As always, thanks for reading this week’s Quick Theories and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Shoot me an email if you have a few free minutes.

We all want to be our best possible selves. And to do this we must push past our body’s limitations. At the root of these limitations is the brain – a complex organ that creates narratives of self-doubt and procrastination. Overcoming the brain is no easy feat, which is why brain enhancement, smart drugs called Nootropics are rising in demand.

Big Waves in the Nootropics

Have you ever heard that the average person only uses 10% of their brain? Unlocking the rest of the brain would mean having the mental power of the Einsteins and Newtons of history.

Although this 10% fact is actually a myth, it doesn’t stop us from wondering,”what if?”

As a result, we have movies such as Limitless, which glorify this fantasy of taking a pill that unlocks the rest of the brain. With the “limitless” pill, Bradley Cooper finishes writing a book he’s struggled with for months, turns $100,000 into $2 million on the stock market, and finds himself advising a finance tycoon.

The next twist in the story? These limitless pills actually exist and they are known as Nootropics.

Nootropics cover a wide array of over-the-counter supplements, prescription drugs and unclassified research chemicals, such as modafinil, armodafinil, adrafinil, and others.

Personally, those are some pretty intimidating names for something that promises focus, motivation, clarity, and memory…even though, Nootropics are supposedly a safer alternative to mental stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin.

There is, however, a crowd of people that are interested in smart drugs and they reside in the Silicon Valley. Startup employees and entrepreneurs are attracted to smart drugs because in their mentally competitive environment, gaining a little edge in brain enhancement is the difference between an Airbnb and a Meerkat App.

At the center of brain enhancement innovation is HVMN (pronounced human), where they are driven by the belief that the human body is a system which badly needs to be better optimized.

However, the main concern around Nootropics is that nobody really knows the long-term effects of these brain enhancement smart drugs.

Smart Drugs Get Stupid-er

Nootropics are classified as a dietary supplement, which really means they can slide right past the jurisdiction of the FDA.

For this reason, there is little testing on Nootropics – leading to many unanswered questions. Do smart drugs cause memory skips, where your brain isn’t actually encoding new knowledge? Does the body become tolerant of them, forcing you down a rabbit hole of dependence?

These unanswered questions haven’t stopped “biohackers” from experimenting. And with tools such as Biomarker.io, biohackers can record some of the effects of Nootropics on their own bodies through wearable devices. So, in a way, they are making their own clinical trials.

Ironically, the place where most of this brain enhancement craze is happening, the startup world, has birthed another polar opposite craze, mindfulness apps. These apps help people unplug from the productivity grindstone to sit and explore their consciousness through meditation.

In my opinion, prescribing to polar opposite lifestyle “medications” doesn’t result in balance. Just ask the 70s and 80s rock stars who took stimulants to perform and then depressants to go to sleep.

Our culture is increasingly headed toward one of maximizing productivity, whether that means downing your daily dose of smart drugs or merging your body with technology.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to prescribe to either of them.

Natural Brain Enhancement

There are natural ways encoded in your biology to achieve more motivation, memory, and creativity.

If you are looking for that morning motivation, my friend replaced his morning three cups of coffee with cold showers. Not only does he still get his burst of energy through increased blood flow, but he also doesn’t crash after lunch anymore.

If you’re not crazy enough to do the cold showers, then exercising in the morning is said to have the same energy and motivation benefits.

And maybe motivation isn’t your problem. Perhaps your memory is always failing you. Well, there are easy memory techniques dating back two-thousand years that allow London cabbies to sear 25,000 streets into their heads and World Champion Mnemonists to memorize tens-of-thousands of digits of Pi.

As Joshua Foer explains in Moonwalking with Einstein, the secret to memorization isn’t being born with a “photographic” memory…it’s about creating memory palaces.

Essentially, memory palaces are familiar locations you can fill with visual representations of whatever you are memorizing. Instead of forcing lists of words into your head by saying them over and over again, memory palaces transform your To-do list into an eventful walk through your household. Don’t believe me? Let Josh show you how to memorize the first 100 digits of Pi.

So, what’s the biological secret to creativity?

Idle time. A 2014 study found that bored people were more likely to have “divergent thinking styles” – coming up with creative ideas.

Increasing your creativity means carving out time to lay in the grass and look up at the clouds – putting your technology away and embracing the boredom.

A friend once told me you can’t overcome writer’s block by distracting yourself. You just have to write through it.

This speaks volumes for many of life’s struggles.

Easy isn’t Always Rewarding

There will always be shortcuts that eliminate the hardships of solving problems. However, you’ll find that shortcuts are far less rewarding because you cheat yourself of the journey.

Amelia Earhart agreed, “You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Reframing success as learning allows you to enjoy the process and not depend on the “solution” for gratification.

There will always be get-rich or get-fit quick promises out there. And they will be tempting. But, the real achievement isn’t even the achievement itself. It’s the pursuit of the achievement.

Thanks for taking the time to read this week’s Quick Theories.

If you are itching to express your thoughts on brain enhancement, Nootropics, and smart drugs, I’d love to hear your thoughts (reply directly to this).

Have you ever heard something so absurdly crazy that you get that clenching knot in your stomach, fearing it’s actually true? Well, hold onto your lunch because transhumanism and transhuman technology tip-toes on the very principles of our existence.

In other words, only read on if you strong-minded.

Grasping Evolution

Transhumanism is the belief that technology can be used to liberate the human body from its natural limitations. In other words, they want to take control of natural evolution, thus reprogramming our future.

Futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and Stephen Hawking have popularized the transhuman mentality by foreshadowing a future of indefinite lifespans, downloadable memories, and interplanetary travel.

And while these things seem like ultimatums we must decide on today…they aren’t. In fact, they are narratives that have gone on for the last century.

Russian cosmism was a belief system by Nikolai Fyodorov that advocated physical immortality, space exploration, and resurrecting the dead through science. It was the 1906 version of transhumanism.

During middle school history class, I remember hearing about Walt Disney being frozen beneath Disney World, with the hope of being brought back to life in the future.

No coincidence here, cryonics was first told in The Jameson Satellite, a short story from 1931 (thirty years before Walt passed away).

Four years ago, Google’s in-house futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted we’d achieve digital immortality, through mind-uploading, by 2045.

Hmmm. Oddly familiar to Jerry Sohl’s The Altered Ego in which a man is able to make a digital duplicate of his mind and access it after his death…published in 1954.

What’s the difference now? Why are Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk feuding over the urgency of Artificial Superintelligence? Why was there a transhumanist presidential candidate?

Most likely, it’s because transhuman technology may finally be catching up to these fictions.

Tracing Transhuman Technology

These fictional stories of the 20th century inspired the youth to experiment – to see if their favorite sci-fi’s were plausible.

Yes, I’m saying that science is inspired by fiction. Or maybe it’s inspired by the desire to disprove fictions?

One of these inspired individuals is Aubrey de Grey – a biogerontologist focused on gene therapy. Essentially, the goal is to replace bad genes with good genes, thus manipulating our genetic code and eliminating our inefficiencies.

Aubrey’s research program, SENS, has various prescriptions for the use of gene therapy that within a couple decades could improve anti-aging gene therapy to the point of indefinite lifespans.

Perhaps someone you are more familiar with is Elon Musk and his transhuman technology: Neuralink. Neuralink is a brain-computer interface that essentially brings the computing power of your MacBook right inside your head.

Ultimately, they want to merge the human brain with Artificial General Intelligence, so we don’t fall behind the machines which we’ve built.

Personally, when I learn about these transhuman technology projects, I get the impression I have to decide today whether I want to live forever or be mortal. When in reality, there will be many stepping stones.

For instance, the first stepping stone might be implanting a microchip in your hand, like a company in rural Wisconsin is doing to their employees.

Three Square Market is giving employees an option to implant RFID chips in their hand to allow them to more easily make purchases in their break room, open doors, use copy machines, log into computers, unlock phones, and more.

If this frightens you, not to worry. Nobody is forcing you to become a transhuman. It’s just a philosophy that is seeing the light of day.

Transhumanism in Perspective

When I think of transhumanist thought leaders, I always imagine they hate humanity. That they wish people were better at life and less human.

But, then I remember that transhumanist thinkers are no different than you or I. Driven by fear and inspired by opportunity.

Fereidoun M. Esfandiary, a transhumanist philosopher, feared that he wouldn’t live to be 100 years old. So, he changed his name to FM-2030, started advocating transhumanism, and had his body cryogenically frozen at age 69.

Elon Musk fears technology and its rise to power. That’s why he wants us to merge our brains with AI, while also colonizing Mars. In case AI goes rogue on Earth.

For many transhumanists,  their purpose is to further the progress of transhuman technology. We all have fears and we all have different ways of coping with those fears.

I’m not sure what I fear more: dying before I’ve accomplished all my goals, or living forever and running out of goals.

Eventually, if transhumanism goes according to plan, I’ll have to face one of these fears head on.

“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.” – Sammy Davis Jr.

Fear shouldn’t consume your day, but rather it should inspire you to take your commitments more seriously. Take a deep breath, remember you are alive and put your heart into what you love to do.

Hopefully, this post didn’t knot your stomach too much. I’m glad you took the time to read this week’s Quick Theories.

I’d love to hear what you think of transhumanism, the people behind it, and maybe even a prediction of your own. You can reply directly to this email.

Families and friends don’t get together to watch their favorite shows like they used to. In fact, the Future of TV seems like it’ll be a one-to-one experience (one screen, one person). But, this isn’t actually the case. The Future of TV involves larger communities…digital communities to be specific.

So, how did we get to this awkward transition of entertainment?

Taking Turns in Entertainment

When the silver screen was replaced by the TV in the 1950s, movie ticket sales plummeted over the next decade from 25 to 4 tickets per person per year.

Today, the TV is being replaced by the mobile phone, with 39% of TV users canceling or downgrading their paid-TV subscription in the past year alone.

It is clear that entertainment is now expected to be ready when the user is ready, not on some programming schedule. Entertainment has transformed from a special event to a daily ritual – squeezed into every free minute of our days.

Because of this, we’ve lost the communal factor of entertainment.

One day this winter I looked around my apartment and realized six people were watching six different Netflix programs on their laptops.

Netflix and YouTube have given us the opportunity to watch what we want, when we want, at the cost of watching with other people.

Undoubtedly, though, being entertained alone isn’t nearly as fun. Laughing to yourself, explaining a theory you have on a show to an empty room…not the best experience.

There’s still a part of us as humans driving us toward a sense of community and belonging.

Which is why the Future of TV is still being created. Surprisingly, the gaming industry is setting the example.

The Digital Communities of Gaming

Playing video games is usually pegged as an anti-social activity. My mom always used to tell me to get off the game and go play with friends. But, the recent rise of the video-game streaming platform, Twitch, has broken down all stigmas and made playing video games a social event.

Every day, 10 million people log onto Twitch to watch their favorite video game players. 10 million! If you’ve never heard of Twitch, this may sound like the most bizarre thing ever, because it is.

In the past, we’ve had digital communities with the sole purpose of socializing (AOL Instant Messenger and Facebook Groups). But, Twitch is showing us what it means to create digital communities around entertainment – just like movie theaters once did.

Twitch’s digital communities want to be entertained, and they want to be entertained alongside hundreds or thousands of people just like themselves.

So, why doesn’t TV adopt this communal viewing aspect?

Well, there is a Chrome Extension called Showgoers, which allows you to watch Netflix remotely with friends and family. But, it’s nowhere near the hit that Twitch is.

That’s because the secret behind Twitch’s success is the video game players themselves. The average daily Twitch viewer watches 106 minutes of content in a day because they fall in love with the star gamers.

My roommates happen to be one of those star gamers. Every night between 8pm and 3am he plays video games for an audience of 2,000-10,000 people. Some of the more popular gamers corral upwards of 200,000 live viewers.

Now tell me those numbers don’t resemble the early followings of a Bill Maher, Greg Gumbel, Jim Cramer, etc…

So, what can the Future of TV learn from these unconventional digital communities?

The Future of TV Needs to Learn

Twitch is raw, uncut, and authentic. Vastly different from the uptight, micromanaged performance of TV. This freedom of expression is what allows people, not brands, to grow massive audiences on Twitch.

Further, Twitch stars have the ability to talk with their followers and build trust. At times, my roommate knows more about what’s going on in his community’s lives than he does mine.

This trust coerces followers to give donations and support their entertainers.

The Future of TV is trending away from massive production costs and highly polished product. Viewers want REAL people with REAL stories that they can trust.

Disney, Time Warner, Turner, and others created high barriers to entry in the TV industry and now it’s coming around to bite them in the “you know what”.

Digital communities trust people over brands and you are embodying this fact by reading this article.

Incumbent entertainment and media companies can either go down with their sinking ship. Or, they can find a way to empower independent content creators and embrace this democratization of entertainment.

With nothing to lose and everything to gain, it’s the decade of the independent content creator. And all forms of media are up for grabs.

Nothing to Lose

The late great novelist, James Baldwin, once said, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the [man] who has nothing to lose.”

Those with nothing to lose can hide in the shadows, work swiftly without disruption, and pop-out from the shadows by taking the biggest risks.

And it’s not just about having nothing to economically lose.

Having nothing to lose is a mindset. It’s a mindset that inspires you to take action when others would shy away. Kind of like how Warren Buffett says to be greedy with investing when others are fearful.

Rewiring our brains to pretend we have nothing to lose is the courage boost we need to act against our cautions.

However, there’s a proper balance of the nothing to lose mindset, which you must find through experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, good or bad, on this week’s Quick Theories. You can reply directly to this email.

Soon, there will be more surveillance cameras on the street than there are pairs of eyes! Algorithms are being put in place that turns these into smart cameras – making high-level analyses of your life.

Here’s how surveillance cameras get to that stage of life analysis.

Surveillance Cameras in the Cloud

In 2014, there were over 245 million active surveillance cameras worldwide, and that number has increased by 13.7% annually the past three years. Just this year, I watched my city install cameras on every major street corner.

Amcrest, one of the companies leading this surveillance revolution, makes it possible with affordable, robust surveillance options. Most importantly, though, they are beginning to store all of their video data in the cloud.

Once the data is in the cloud, algorithms can be applied to the video data and insights can be discovered.

“Insights” is a very broad term, between you and me, and that’s the way the U.S. Government wants to keep it.

I’d like to think that they will only use this technology to alert authorities when a crime is in progress as evidence. But in reality, they’ll use this technology to track people across a city, or even the country.

Surveillance cameras are gaining a new skill known as computer vision, where essentially, cameras have “brains” that can determine insights from video…just like a human, except at massive scale.

With computer vision, surveillance cameras become smart cameras and will take on a whole new role our lives.

Smart Cameras At Home

While most of us don’t have cameras surrounding our house, consumer products are making the transition naturally. Products such as the Echo Look, Smart TVs, and even refrigerators come equipped with camera sensors.

Eventually, all these household cameras work in unison – creating a real-time, 3D map of the living space.

The house knows when I’m getting my midnight snack.

This surveillance system understands my daily schedule. When I don’t walk past my camera in the kitchen by 7:00 am, it knows I overslept and signals my alarm.

It will watch all my visitors. Whenever my mom is over, the surveillance cameras notice she constantly looks at the digital art frame on my wall. Well, I guess I found a good Christmas gift for her.

Lastly, the system recognizes inefficiencies in my living room layout and makes suggestions on how to rearrange my couch for better Feng Shui within my apartment.

These scenarios all seem futuristic and impossible, but they aren’t too far away.

Honestly, I understand the apprehension you would have with putting video cameras all around your house to analyze your life. Personally, I installed a few and was a little creeped out myself.

That’s why the main application of these smart cameras is in the commercial space.

In-store Video Analytics

Just this past year, JCPenney and Macy’s collectively closed hundreds of stores, while Sears has “substantial doubt” they can survive.

Brick-and-mortar stores need to optimize their in-store experiences. The best way to do so is with smart cameras.

Imagine if Wal-Mart had smart cameras that documented every item you stopped to look at, how long you looked at it, and whether you chose to buy it or not. Matching this with some basic facial recognition software would allow them to store individual customer data.

So, now Wal-Mart knows I need a pair of swim trunks but didn’t find the color I liked. They also know that I intended to go straight to the electronics (based on my walking path), but got stuck in the candy aisle…briefly.

Physical shopping data is valuable because it makes owners question a better store layout.

Most stores have analog cameras for security. But the future of surveillance cameras lies in using them to learn consumer behavior.

Of course, all this talk about surveillance brings up the issue of privacy, since no one wants a camera analyzing their every move without giving consent. Unfortunately, most advertisers and corporate behemoths operate under “rather ask for forgiveness than permission”.

Although we may never avoid the omnipresent camera, we can control how to behave with a camera in our hands.

Stop comparing pictures

So much of our lives is spent looking at others, pointing the camera elsewhere to compare with ourselves. However, when taking that selfie and we don’t like what we see, it’s not because of what’s in the picture. It’s because of what’s not in the picture.

The comparison with someone “better” is what gets us down.

And I’m not just talking about external appearances. This goes for all forms of comparison.

Every time we make a comparison it’s like playing Russian Roulette with our emotions – never knowing how we’ll perceive the comparison.

Eliminate the urge to compare. It sounds silly, but I promise that you’ll find more time to focus on your own improvement.

If you enjoyed this week’s Quick Theories, I’d greatly appreciate if you shared it on social media!

Undoubtedly, we all want to get the most out of our lives. Whether we are working out or just plain working, we have trainers, managers, and leaders to help us achieve our highest potential. But, a great leader is hard to come by. That’s why the rise of the virtual coach is so interesting. Programmed with smart training techniques to optimize performance, they’ll start in athletics and bleed into other areas of our lives.

So, what’s the current state of smart training and the virtual coach?

The State of Smart Training

Coaches have measured effort wrong since the dawn of coaching. The amount of sweat, how heavily one breathes, the look on one’s face…all of these “performance indicators” are no way to tell if someone is giving their best effort.

And when the door for disruption is wide open, you know a tech company will capitalize. In this case, it was a company called ARDA who walked through that door.

With years of performance lab testing, ARDA created smart training software that identifies, classifies, and interprets the activity you are doing. From there, it enters into a feedback loop, advising you to refine your training routine and adjust your effort to reach your target workout zone.

Smart training used to only be accessible to top tier Gatorade athletes. Now, with AI coaches implanted in workout products, anyone can have a smart training expert in their ear.

Personally, I use the LifeBEAM VI headphones to coach me during my daily run. In the eighth running session with my virtual coach, it noticed that my strides were too long, thus wasting energy. After concentrating shortening my strides, I clocked a 4:54 mile! To give you context, in my 5 years of cross country running throughout middle and high school, my best time was 6:00.

Click the photo to watch my after run review of the LifeBEAM Vi headphones

Through smart training, AI coaches encourage, not threaten, athletes, to train better.

Although AI coaches only exist in sports such as running, swimming, and weightlifting, as smart training software progresses to analyze more data, other sports may benefit as well…even team sports.

This opens up another line of questioning though.

How should a virtual coach behave?

The reason I stopped running was that my cross country coach was a jerk. He didn’t understand my running patterns and overtrained our team.

When coaches become selfish, they take the fun away from the sport. They care too much about building “their” team, instead of responding to the personnel that year. They’ll sacrifice the team morale to win at all costs.

Ideally, the goals of a coach and teammates should be identical.

That’s why an unselfish virtual coach may be the best kind of coach for a given job.

If you don’t want your virtual coach to push you past your goals, you can program it not to. If you want to relive the days of a coach that was never satisfied with your performance…you have that power to program.

A virtual coach will find the happy medium between optimal training techniques and your comfortable training level. A virtual coach keeps in mind that leading from behind creates a sense of personal pride among players.

Above all, the virtual coach of the future will be well-versed in training techniques that get the most out of their personnel without stepping on toes.

But, just because a virtual coach has the smart training techniques, doesn’t mean that they’ll be great leaders and strategists.

AI in a Leadership Role

Great leaders are great because they invest in their teams. With nothing on the line but a programmed goal, how does an AI leader excel?

An AI manager is great at making the tough decisions because they operate solely on numbers, without bringing in personal feelings. But, data-driven decisions aren’t always the best way of making the tough call.

Sometimes a gut reaction is the best course of action. Occasionally, a spur of the moment switch-up is the most strategic decision.

Aside from recognizing a recurring pattern, AI leaders can’t “feel the energy” of a situation to go against the data.

About thirteen months ago I made the decision to shut down my digital art marketplace, 23VIVI. With a $250,000 investment sitting on the table, Ryan (my co-founder) and I walked away from the company.

An AI Leader would’ve signed the deal within minutes because the company was broke and desperately needed cash. Not to mention, with favorable investment terms, the decision made sense on paper.

But, that AI Leader would’ve failed to understand that our investors’ vision for 23VIVI wasn’t aligned with our vision. Signing that deal was signing away the freedom to build the company we envisioned.

It’s a gut decision Ryan and I will never regret.

While a virtual coach may be the best training expert available today, they only understand structured growth – adhering to a patterned formula. Before AI can think strategically and command a team to victory, it must learn how to break free from structured development and adapt to the situation.

Wreck Your Routine

A great teacher cannot be fixed in routine. They avoid preformulated patterns and create different lessons depending on the student.

This same principle applies to leadership. Great leaders don’t follow preformulated steps to leading a team. No, they understand their personnel and create a leadership style that is conducive to that team’s needs.

But, it’s not all on the leader. Even followers must contribute to leadership. It is a subordinate’s duty to hold their leader accountable – to demand constant improvement to their guidance of the team.

Whether you are a leader or a follower, don’t settle for routinized leadership. Excellence is rooted in striving for uncomfortable challenges.

Simply by reading this article, you challenged the comfortable way of thinking. If you felt challenged by this article on virtual coaching, why not challenge others by sharing the article with them. (There are even convenient share buttons below)

Thanks for reading this week’s Quick Theories.

We are about to experience the most unequal societies in human history. Economic inequality has run terror on this world for millennia, leaving the poor with little option to overcome their circumstances. Unfortunately, this economic inequality may soon translate into a biological inequality, solidifying the gap between the haves and have-nots for good.

And it starts by leaving day laborers in the dust.

Rise of the Useless Class

Undeniably, the future of work is shifting away from labor masses to highly skilled individuals.

The 3.5 million truck drivers in the US may soon be replaced by a self-driving algorithm – same goes for taxi and Uber drivers. The 12.3 million manufacturing workers are slowly being replaced by robot arms.

Does this mean if you fall into this category you are a useless person? Of course not. You just won’t be useful to corporations in your current role.

One of my childhood neighbors worked in a factory for about a decade. Two weeks ago, he gave me the news that he was going back to school to study the operation of CNC (computer numerical control) machinery. In other words, he realized that his job was at risk and adapted to the looming transition.

The future of work belongs to creative problem-solvers.

Learning a new trade may be out of the question for many of the people encroaching on the “useless class”. But, basing your entire existence on working is foolish. There are millions of ways to find your purpose in life.

In fact, the book Ready Player One showed us a possible arena for the “useless class” in virtual reality video games, accomplishing quests and feeling purposeful.

Escaping current reality to go to a virtual reality may sound like a cop-out. Which is why many economists, philosophers, and visionaries ponder this vast transition away from the 9-5 as the ingrained purpose in one’s life.

Although I’d like to think that the world’s billionaires would band together and help the hundreds of millions that are jobless, hopeless, and homeless. They haven’t tried solving economic inequality yet. Plus, there is no doubt a sweeter alternative for them to think about.  

Widening Economic Inequality

Anyone who’s spent time in the professional world can quickly tell you that it’s not about what you know, but who you know. It’s the basis for economic inequality. Although I’d like to think the best person for the job always gets the job, that’s just not the case.

Is there an unfound writer out there, scribbling a story, better fit for my job…or Stephen King’s job? Yes, of course.

Is there a more instinctive, business school graduate that could run Apple better than Tim Cook? No doubt in my mind.

But, if these unfound people aren’t well connected, they may never get an opportunity – leaving a very slim chance at success.   

Unfortunately, this slim chance gets even slimmer with biological inequality. As biotechnology research continues to progress, soon, “first class” citizens will be able to buy the best biological make-up – furthering the gap between aspiring professionals and the incumbents.

For instance, neural implant technology has huge upside potential for better utilizing our underutilized brains. Essentially, these implants bring the computing power of your laptop directly into your head. Imagine getting into an argument with your boss, when he/she could retrieve any report, data, or research to their argument just by thinking about it. You wouldn’t stand a chance.

Not only would these biological superhumans be more intelligent and more creative, but they’d also be healthier. Currently, researchers are reprogramming human cells to fight disease and sickness in the most effective possible way. So, instead of relying on expensive treatment and medication, supercells would solve problems the moment they arise.

Technology like this won’t be cheap. Only the economic elite will be able to afford these biotech advancements, thus translating their economic inequality into biological inequality.

Biological Inequality Creates New Class Systems

The creation of distinct biological inequality will spark a shift from economic classes to biological classes. This is known as speciation or the divergence of humankind into different biological castes, even different species.

In the year 2075, you may walk the same streets as one of these biological elites. Except, while you are walking and thinking, they’ll be walking, speaking with friends through their thoughts, consuming the latest news, writing a novel, and scanning their bodies for diseases.

Although biological inequality may seem like the end of all biologically-inferior people, it’s not. It’s just a rigged game getting more rigged.

In basketball, like in life, you encounter unfair advantages all the time. Traveling to an opponent’s city gives them the unfair advantage of the home crowd. Angering the refs gives the opponent an unfair advantage of getting all the calls. And there is almost always an unfair advantage present in the skills, height, and abilities.

Even though greedy people have harnessed many of these inequalities in life, you still get a chance to play the game, whether or not you are biologically-inferior.

That’s why you must measure your performance against your circumstances, not by someone else’s.

My aunt was great at consoling me after a basketball loss. She’d say, “You can’t control the way the calls go. But, you can control your effort. The only thing you should ask yourself is, ‘did I play my heart out? Everything else is out of your control.”

Luckily, this transition from economic to biological classes isn’t happening tomorrow. I say all of this to make you aware. If this scenario scares you, then there is time to change your circumstances through effort and persistence.

Ultimately, you must ask yourself what truly matters to you, and do your best to live that every day.

Peace is Every Step

As Yuval Harari points out in his book, Sapiens, we evolved and progressed because of our collective belief in fictions such as money, religions, and nations.

At birth, we are given a choice to follow whichever fiction we wish and attain as much enlightenment in that fiction as possible. But, often times, we realize that blindly following these fictions leaves us unsatisfied.

That’s because inner peace is only attained through non-fictions: the memories you make, the bonds you create, the people you help, etc…  

This isn’t to say that you should dump all fictions you believe in because that would be ridding you of essential components to living in this culture. However, it’s very important to understand the fictions you follow and realize the role they play in your life.

For me, I don’t follow the money with the hopes I’ll make as much as possible. Every time an opportunity presents itself to get me closer to that “magic number”, I ask myself “What non-fictions am I sacrificing to follow this fiction?”

Peace is every step of the journey. Don’t sacrifice any moment without a great purpose in mind.

Often times, people tell me that I waste my time creating these Quick Theories articles – that they are a fiction. But, to me, this is a crucial non-fiction in my life – spreading ideas and experiences with others. It would mean the world to me if you shared this article with others (you can use the social links below).

Thanks for reading this week’s Quick Theories.

You have too many options when it comes to choosing TV shows, Movies, YouTube videos, and other video content. Video content and the future of video has reached massive production levels and yet, the time in your day hasn’t increased alongside it. 

As a result, 88% of people are turning to a second-screen experience to maximize their time. Personally, I find myself watching a YouTube video on my laptop while checking Facebook on my phone.

But, this distracted form of entertainment is no way to spend leisure time. So, how will the future of video content transform to accommodate this problem?

Video Content for One

Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, and other video streaming services are crafting this future of video entertainment through user data.

Every time you pass over a movie to choose a TV show, streaming services learn your habits. Depending on the time of day, the genre, and how long you binge watch, they learn what video content tickles your fancy.

Currently, with all this data on hand, they make suggestions here and there. But, the grander vision is to create personalized content for one (or at least one person that represents a couple thousand people).

Instead of creating many different costly series, focusing their efforts on creating a general storyline that can be altered depending on the viewer would make their investment more versatile.

Deep learning algorithms could piece together different stories for different viewers. For instance, I’m the type of person that loves movies to end vaguely so that I can think about them. But, my mom is more of a closed story, happy ending type of viewer.

Similar to the “choose your own adventure” books you read as a child, AI could alter video content timelines to give everyone what satisfies their taste.

Netflix hates when users feel overwhelmed by options because then they make bad choices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve browsed movies for a late night watch and come up with a disappointing dud.

That’s why limiting their app to a few choices allows users to get right into viewing. And these few choices won’t be experienced the same for each viewer.

Realistically, though, video content is just a bunch of data…data that can be downloaded directly to your brain.

The Future of Video is all in your head

Companies like Kernel and Neuralink are uncovering secrets about the human brain with a monstrous goal: find a way to connect directly to it without the need for eyes, ears, touch, etc…

These brain-computer interfaces will change the future of communication, but that’s not all. Entertainment is also in their sights.

The future of video content won’t be on a screen, it’ll be in your head. Instead of taking 30 minutes to watch an episode of The Office, you’ll download the experience directly to your brain. In the time it takes to transfer data, you’ll get the euphoric feeling associated with all the jokes and be able to reference scenes at your leisure.

Personally, I love watching documentaries for the facts and in-depth reporting. But, I also don’t have the time or patience to wait on this knowledge. There’s no doubt in my mind I would download a documentary experience directly to my brain.

Will this be the only way to consume video content? No. But, it will be the most efficient.

Since 2009, the number of scripted TV shows has nearly doubled from 211 to 412. This doesn’t include the thousands of mainstream and indie movies, documentaries, and YouTube content available.

Staying culturally relevant around your friends means juggling all the shows you want to watch with the ones everyone else is raving about. That’s why downloading video content experiences will be the only way to stay culturally relevant in the coming decades.

Netflix jokingly previewed a future of video where screens are implanted in our eyes to watch videos all day. But, that’s a dull future.

Even though the future of video looks to capture our every free minute, this isn’t necessarily a waste of time.

Wasting time

How we spend our time is a gift given to each of us. There is no right or wrong way dictated by law, ethics, or other people.

You are the only judge of your time. That means you can view distractions as time well spent to deal with emotions. Or you can regret falling prey to your distractions.

So, instead of looking at your distractions as putting something else off. Ask yourself if you enjoyed it.

John Lennon said, “Time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time.”

Don’t fall into the trap of viewing productivity as distraction free, or you’ll never find time to decompress.

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Even though your brain is the oldest piece of technology, it’s also the next frontier in computing. For decades we’ve interacted with devices through our actions. But, through neural implants such as Neuralink, we’ll interact with technology through our minds – creating a shared awareness among everyone.  

Even though they sound super Sci-Fi, neural implants aren’t new. Paralyzed patients have previously used brain-computer interfaces to control robotic arms. Also, more than 80,000 Parkinson’s patients around the world have a deep-brain stimulation implant.

Unlike previous neural implants, this upcoming class of brain-computer interfaces, like Neuralink, create a frictionless connection between the world’s information and our underutilized brains.

Neural Implants Don’t Create the Cyborg

Neural implants are no doubt a frightening concept to think about. Putting a computer inside your skull seems like the first step in becoming a cyborg and losing control of your mind to some evil overlord.

But, in fact, this is one of the final steps in realizing your cyborg abilities. In other words, you are already a cyborg.

We are so deeply attached to our devices that being away from a phone actually psychologically mimics the attachment we felt to our favorite teddy bear growing up.

Becoming “one with the technology” isn’t a matter of putting the technology inside of you. It’s about the habits forcing your dependence upon it.

The other day I was playing Bocce Ball, a simple yard game where you throw bigger balls at a smaller ball. Instead of listening to one of our friends who insisted on knowing the rules, we consulted our smartphones for the official rules (which were the same as our friend stated).

Our habits are already that of a cyborg. We’ve evolved with our technology devices and our daily habits reflect that.

The next stage in evolution is bringing computing technology into our bodies, making the experience even more seamless.

Of course, most of us draw the line with technology advancement once it enters the realm of biology.

But, we’ll all come around to it like we came around to Lasik eye surgery. In 1991, only 105,000 Lasik eye procedures were completed in the United States. By 2015, that number exploded to over 21 million.

There are many other areas where technology has enhanced our biology. In this case, neural implants will make us more intelligent than ever before.

Shared Awareness Creates Better Experiences

Searching for knowledge thirty years ago meant looking into your collection of Encyclopedias. Now, you just reach into your pocket and search Wikipedia. Soon, seeking new knowledge will be no different than thinking about what you had for breakfast this morning.  

Neuralink and other neural implants could make learning a new skill as easy as downloading Microsoft Word on your computer.

In the Matrix, we see this technology in action when Neo uploads Kung Fu software into his abilities.

Honestly, learning new abilities is the cool, but selfish side of Neuralink. The real innovation comes from the collective shared awareness we’ll create amongst one another.

Shared awareness comes from sharing situational and experiential knowledge. Often times, a problem you experience has already been solved and written about online. But, finding that information in a dire situation is usually not an option.

During my freshmen year of college, I was bonding with a friend of mine when she opened up about her eating disorder. Unsure of the best way to respond, I sat there speechless.

I know that others have helped their friends deal with this problem. With a Neuralink, my brain could’ve scoured the web to learn from this shared awareness and better helped my friend.

We’ve all had moments where our brains seem to shut down because we just “don’t know”. While these vulnerable situations can define us, they also cause a lot of unnecessary pain.

A shared awareness through neural implants creates a reality where we don’t have to struggle through old problems. We learn each other’s mistakes instantaneously and move onto other things.

Interestingly, a shared awareness goes deeper than connecting with knowledge and understanding. Brain-computer interfaces bring about new ways of communicating and connecting with one another.

Neuralink Call from “Ryan’s Thoughts”

Verbal communication is an inefficient process. First, my ears collect sound waves. Those sound waves are sent to the auditory cortex where they are transcribed into words. Then, they are sent to “Wernicke’s Area”, which is responsible for understanding language.

Once I understand what you say, to produce language, signals are sent to “Broca’s Area”. These are then relayed to the motor cortex, which sends signals to the larynx, tongue, and mouth to produce speech.

This entire process leaves a lot of room for error, misunderstanding, and inability to convey what you want to say.

Imagine if you could speak through your thoughts. In other words, carry on a conversation through thought communication. Famous Physicist, Michio Kaku, says that this brain-to-brain communication may help us convey a complete message between each other.

We all know there are some feelings we just can’t put into words. Some emotions are so heavy that there’s no way of conveying them properly and trying to do so just results in frustration.

However, through thought communication, you could send a friend your current consciousness – truly letting them inside your head.

Spending a moment inside someone else’s thoughts would bring context to a conversation that often gets left out. No longer would someone’s intentions be hidden by our external non-verbals. Instead, thought communication makes communicating an open book of understanding.

You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” But, empathizing still leaves room for interpretation.

The new saying will be, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve spent a moment in their thoughts.”

Neuralink provides an opportunity to not only download knowledge but to download experiences. And in experiencing exactly what someone else has gone through, we may be able to better solve our problems with others.

Losing Our Touch

For now, while researchers and scientists create the best Neuralink neural implant, we must continue to connect with others as best we can.

It starts with spontaneous interactions.

Every time I feel lonely and hidden by my technology, I go for a walk. In that walk, I try to make eye-contact and smile at as many people as possible.

Although I have more misses than hits, I can see the other person’s day brighten when we lock eyes.

I dare you to spark up a conversation today with a stranger. Or just give them a smile. Do not lose your spontaneous touch.

Half the reason I create these Quick Theories is to give you something interesting and out of the ordinary to talk about. Call up a friend and talk to them about this topic. And if you would be so kind, please share the article on social media for others to enjoy (using the links below).

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Every time you message a friend online, you are forced to choose between dozens of different messaging apps that all serve the same purpose. We can all agree this fiasco of too many messaging apps causes confusion, stress, and leads to an even worse communication experience. For that reason, the future of messaging relies on consolidating all messaging platforms into one experience.

Before we solve the problem, we need to understand how we created the problem.

Consolidating Devices

Back in 2007, Steve Jobs changed the world when he captivated an audience at the MacWorld conference. About twenty minutes into his presentation, he prepped the audience for his big unveiling.

Jobs said that he was going to introduce “three revolutionary new products of this class”:

  1. A widescreen iPod with touch controls
  2. A revolutionary mobile phone
  3. And a breakthrough internet communications device

Then, after adding a little Steve Jobs charm, he told the audience it was actually just one product.

The iPhone!

What made the iPhone so impressive, was that it consolidated the vast landscape of devices. The iPhone consumed the iPod and mp3 player, the digital camera, the calculator, the blackberry and the palm pilot, the laptop, and even the home computer.

In consolidating all these devices into one, Jobs undoubtedly decluttered desks and enhanced productivity, all while looking really good.

Ironically, though, Jobs replaced the device problem with a messaging problem. By outfitting all iPhones with iMessage, he created an exclusive messaging club for Apple users.

For instance, I’m an iPhone user but my friend Matt is an Android user. When we text each other, it is simply plain text SMS. Nothing special. Links I send him don’t show up with an image, videos don’t play right in the messaging interface, and a multitude of other features that iPhone-to-iPhone communication allows don’t happen.

To fill this void awkward void, we now have Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, iMessage, Snapchat, Instagram Direct Messages, Twitter Direct Messages, LinkedIn Messaging, Slack, FaceTime, Google Hangouts…

Phew (breathes heavily)…

Line, Telegram, BBM, Google Chat, Allo, Signal, Viber, WeChat, Kik, LiveProfile, Tencent QQ, AIM, iChat, Yahoo, ICQ, GroupMe, Vkontakte, Mail.Ru Agent, Odnoklassniki, Yandex chat, Mamba.Ru, Mig33, SINA Weibo, Renren, Fetion, Gadu-Gadu, MeinVZ and Jabber…and I probably left a few out.

The State of Emergency in Messaging Apps

When I open up my phone, I count 18 different ways I can message a friend.

If it’s work-related, I choose Slack, LinkedIn, or Email. If it’s personal, I may send an iMessage, FaceTime, or Facebook Message. And if I want the world to hear me, I choose Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Each of these messaging platforms has a different format, as well. On Twitter, I’m forced to be brief, while Email expects me to be brief. On Slack, I have to address particular people in a group chat, while Facebook expects me to never single anyone out.

I say all this to confuse you…because it confuses me!

Don’t get me wrong, I love communicating with friends and think technology has made it a lot easier. But, it’s no fun thinking long and hard about which one of my messaging platforms best fits my message.

The alternative is choosing just a couple messaging apps to use. Of course, this is an awful alternative because you may miss out on some important communication.

For instance, I’ve never been a big Snapchatter, yet, one of my friends from childhood only uses Snapchat to keep in touch.

So, you sign up for more messaging apps than you need and turn on your push notifications so you don’t miss a message. But, this results in too much advertising noise.

Messaging a friend on Facebook is impossible without getting sidetracked by a LeBron James highlight reel, a Breaking News Update from The New York Times, or some other random thing I don’t need to pay attention to.

With all of this noise, we forget what we intended to do…communicate.

The only way to solve this horrible predicament is to consolidate them together. Which, ironically, they’ve already begun doing…

Messaging Platforms All Look the Same

The purpose of messaging apps is pretty clear: to communicate in the best way possible. However, as the popular messaging platforms release new, innovative updates, it forces the others to copy them. There are only so many ways to communicate. To not offer a popular feature that a competitor offers, could mean the end of that messaging platform.

As a result, the top messaging platforms must copy each other to stay relevant.

I like to joke around with my friends that the VP of Product at Facebook, is Snapchat. Over the past few months, Instagram (a Facebook company) copied almost every Snapchat update. 

Now, in my eyes, if all the messaging apps do the same thing, in the same way, but are in different locations…isn’t that a huge waste of time and space?

Facebook has ideas of a consolidating all of its messaging platforms (Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram) into the Facebook app. But, hasn’t acted yet.

At a basic level, we communicate through hands, eyes, ears, and voice. One of the main reasons we have so many different messaging platforms is that different situations require different ways of communicating.

If I’m cooking, I can’t use my hands to text. But, I can use my voice, ears, and eyes to talk via phone or video chat.

If I’m at a noisy bar, I can’t use my ears and voice to talk. But, I can use my hands and eyes to text message.

Ideally, this consolidated, singular messaging platform would encompass all of our communication needs and adapt to the scenario we find ourselves in.

Decluttering Your Life

The only logical solution to regaining our focus with communication is to do what Steve Jobs once did with our devices…declutter by consolidation.

You can either be the Steve Ballmer and think this is an idiotic impossibility since we need different messaging apps for different functions. Or, you can be the Steve Jobs and realize that bringing all communication into one messaging platform would allow us to create better experiences suited to the user.

Although competition breeds innovation, sometimes you need to declutter the playing field to create a more streamlined experience.

This is no different than planning your daily routine. A cluttered day causes stress, discomfort, and non-optimal performance.

Taking a moment to write out your daily schedule allows you to determine what unnecessary activities are taking away from your day. Eliminating the deadweight frees up time for more important things.

Decluttering leads to balance. And when you are balanced, you are happy.

I’m glad you took the time to balance your day with some knowledge. If you enjoyed reading this Quick Theories article, I’d truly appreciate if you shared it one of your countless messaging platforms using the links below.

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We’ve all had that unfortunate moment when you send a playful text message that someone takes too seriously. Other times, you just can’t seem to find the words to convey what you are feeling. Texting is great until you encounter what words can’t properly say. That’s why the digital world is turning toward one coherent language: the Emoji Language.

You may think of them as just small pictures to spice up your conversations, but the Emoji Language is destined to be so much more than that.

A Unified, World Language

If globalization has taught me anything, it’s that there are too many languages to be able to understand everyone at all times. While it would be nice to have a world meeting where we determined one language going forward, killing off languages is like stripping identity.

Luckily, there’s no cultural baggage with the Emoji Language. They are nothing more than symbols that adapt complex ideas. But, these symbols cross borders and boundaries without losing anything to translation issues.

Even though Emojis condense emotions, thoughts, actions, and nouns, they have no language barrier.

Recently, I was searching for a used car and was invited to a group chat for cars. The only problem: it was all international Chinese students. Ironically, the only times I ever felt a part of the conversation was when they used Emojis since they transcend both Chinese and English.  

Whether you live in Tallahassee, Tibet, or Timbuktu, the 😀  means the same thing everywhere to anyone.

Of course, you may think that Emojis are simplistic. But, so are words. It’s not until we connect multiple Emojis that we create more complex meanings (just like words).

For example, try and interpret this Emoji sequence: 🐝 🐝 🔄 🚫 🐝 🐝 ➡️ ❓

Stumped? Its direct correlation to English is: To be or not to be, that is the question.

You see, the Emoji Language can convey what words convey, in a lighter manner.

Right about now, you either think I’m crazy or stupid. But, that’s because you haven’t studied the Emoji Language.

Just Enroll in Emoji University

Like any foreign language, you can choose to learn it or use technology to learn it for you. The Emoji Language is scary to you because you haven’t studied it.

Just like you probably can’t understand why there’s an Emojitracker that tracks the appearance of every Emoji on Twitter, why someone created Emoji Masks or the point of a physical keyboard that types Emojis.

Not to worry, the youth will teach you. I watch my 14-year-old brother text his friends and he uses more than ten-fold the amount of Emojis I use. It’s just natural to them.

As the esteemed linguist, Gretchen McCulloch argues, Emojis are like gestures that bring emotion to our emotionless text. And I would agree with her when it comes to anyone born before 2000. However, this isn’t the case for everyone.

The youth have embraced Emojis as integral tools for expressing their emotions, well-being, and intentions. You and I only understand the use of one or two Emojis as a means to bringing life to a conversation.

Emoji fluency transcends what textual language does. But, Emoji fluency is hard to achieve. Right now it is a matter of the “haves and have-nots”.

Lucky for you, the “haves” want you to learn the Emoji Language. Emojipedia is the first online textbook for learning the individual characters in this complex language. Emojisaurus helps bring clarity to Emoji phrases.

Fairly soon, I expect someone to open up an online class for attaining Emoji literacy and fluency…and I hope they call it the Emoji University.

In their current state, Emojis are used to add emphasis. But, they are still in their infancy.

The Emoji Language is evolving…

Today, there are over 2,666 official Emojis. But, the language is far from complete. It will continually evolve as more Emojis are added to the language.

When Oxford Dictionary awarded the “Face with Tears of Joy” the 2015 Word of the Year, it was one small step for language and one giant leap for language-kind.

So far, there’s no agreed upon grammar rules, no consistency of message, and that angers many “traditional” thinkers. But, when have traditional thinkers ever maintained their power?

The beauty of all logograms – written characters that represent a word or phrase – is that they can be interpreted in a number of ways depending on the viewer and their state of mind. There’s no Hammurabi code to tell us exactly what each one means and what people are trying to say…but hasn’t that been the struggle of language forever?!

Whether or not you believe in the abilities of the Emoji Language, you cannot deny the advantages it poses in connecting with anyone, anywhere.

History is a broken record when it comes to hating “foreigners”. But, when I watch my little brother string together Emoji sentences, I revel in the possibility of the Emoji Language transcending all differences of race, ethnicity, and status. A leveled playing field for all cultures to communicate across all differences.

Emojis may never replace English or Spanish or Mandarin.

But, the future belongs to the youth…and they’ve unanimously chosen Emojis as their digital language.

Cultivating Youthfulness

The youth hold the answers to many of our problems. Fresh minds that aren’t tarnished by their own criticisms are key to creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.

Youthfulness isn’t an age, though it mostly occurs in young people. Youthfulness is a mindset. It means to not doubt yourself, to set aside time to let your own imagination run wild with possibility.

Undoubtedly, we need to listen to those that still have youth and encourage their dreams. Every time you place youth in a mold, it sets that person up to make the same mistakes as you, look at problems from the same viewpoint, and lose their own inventive identity.

The other day, a friend’s 12-year-old son told me he wanted to invent an anti-microwave which cooled down food in just minutes. Instantly, I told him to read some physics books and see if it was possible.

Whether or not the laws of physics allow such a machine to be made is irrelevant. It’s his unique mindset that shows promise to me.

Before I write these Quick Theories, I always try and open myself up to youthfulness and see what unique angle I can take. If you enjoyed reading this Quick Theories, I’d truly appreciate if you would share it on social media with your friends!

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Undoubtedly, we all want to see different parts of the world and connect with new people. Unfortunately, overcoming the language barrier is often too difficult. Luckily, this daunting language barrier is dissolving with the rise of voice translator technology and the wearable translator.

Within half a day you can be halfway around the world, experiencing a new culture. So why isn’t it that easy to converse halfway around the world?

Traveling with a Wearable Translator

One of the main reasons I’ve never traveled outside the US is the fear of being lost in translation. Basically, feeling alien to everyone around me because I can’t communicate with anyone. That’s a scary situation.

Today, there are many translation apps, but who wants to huddle around an iPhone and type responses to each other. It’s awkward. 

The alternative is picking up one of those nifty English to Spanish dictionaries and painstakingly piecing together sentences that really don’t make sense.

That’s where this incoming class of wearable translator devices is interesting. A handheld, wearable translator such as ili can turn English into Spanish, Mandarin, or Japanese, with nothing more than your voice.

Unlike an app, this wearable translator doesn’t depend on wi-fi or good signal. It has already learned the languages and acts as the bridge between them.

With a wearable translator in hand, curious tourists can ask locals whatever they want in their native language. And tourists aren’t the only travelers that could benefit from a voice translator.

Imagine if Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross outfitted all of their workers with a wearable translator. Giving treatment after disasters or in Third World countries would become a more personal interaction – using a voice translator to emotionally connect with the patients. Countless social entrepreneurship companies that could benefit from breaking down the language barrier. 

Although travelers rule the wearable translator market, it isn’t the only industry with a language barrier.

Overcoming the Business Language Barrier

When Phil Knight started Nike in the 1960s (then, Blue Ribbon Sports) he admired the industrial side of Japan. Unfortunately, international business wasn’t a common practice. But, he didn’t let the language or geographic barrier stop him. He just flew over to Japan and walked right into Onitsuka Tiger (now Asics). Although some of them spoke English, he had many misunderstandings due to the language barrier.

Yes, money is the common language of business, but often times the language barrier still hurts the common understanding. Today, this business language barrier is slowly dissolving thanks to Skype and Microsoft.

Back when I ran a digital art marketplace, many of the artists I worked with were located in eastern Europe. Many of them spoke English, but with thick accents and minimal understanding.

Skype was always a go-to tool for making these long-distance calls because they have an in-app translation feature. The feature is not quite seamless, but it worked well enough that they’ve now added the feature to PowerPoint presentations.  

This lineup of voice translator features alleviates the language barrier that exists in international business. As individual economies blend into the singular World economy, and international business becomes more commonplace, at the forefront of this wave will be real-time voice translators.

For the time being, these translators still have many kinks to unkink as this video hilariously shows.  

So, while these companies are perfecting their voice translator devices, perhaps we can use these tools instead to become better language learners.

Learning Through a Voice Translator

They say the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. I’ve attempted learning Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian, but am fluent in none of them because I never had a native speaker to casually converse with.

But, what if a wearable translator worked in the opposite way – turning native language into a foreign language – changing your language reality?

Taking an in-ear wearable translator like the Pilot Translating Earpiece, and flipping the settings, you could effectively change the language someone spoke to you in.

Say you wanted to learn German, but everyone around you spoke English. Using one of these earpieces, you could convert all the spoken English around you to German and feel as if you were at a Cafe in Berlin.

Further, if friends and family had the earpieces, they’d hear what you say in German, in English, and give feedback.

Of course, this may not be the best way to learn a language, but it would be a new way of immersing oneself in another language without having to spend money on a language coach or travel expenses.

Learning new languages is hard but also eye-opening. Language is a door into a culture. And in learning about other cultures and other ways of life, we realize that our way of doing things isn’t the only way (nor the best way) of doing something.

Naturally, our focus tends to stay on optimizing our own lives. But, this is one of those endless cycles of unsatisfaction.

Get out of your way

You can spend a lifetime solving every single one of your struggles, not realizing that there are other people with the same problem.

Going out of your way to forget your struggles and help someone else overcome theirs will not only benefit them, but you may get a new idea to better solve your problems.

We get in the way of ourselves all day long. And the best way to get out of your own way is to get in the way of others…in a good way.

That goes for knowledge too. Hoarding knowledge does not give you an advantage over others. If you enjoyed this article, do someone else a favor by sharing it.

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Stressed, coffee-addicted journalists are evolving into major media brands themselves, leaving behind companies like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, to cover the news in their own way – free from the political agendas of major media. Over the next decade, we’ll witness the solo journalist and the journalist engineer redefine the future of journalism.

Every week, I aim to embody this class of solo journalist that goes against the grain to deliver the news. I started Quick Theories, the weekly technology newsletter you are currently indulging, to help you understand the broad tech concepts that are shaping our future. So you can be proactive, not reactive, regarding technology adoption.  

Before starting Quick Theories, I would’ve written for an online tech publication like Engadget, Inverse, or The Verge to get my thoughts across. Now, I compete with them every week thanks to my loyal audience (by the way, thank you!).

This incoming class of solo journalists breaks down the knowledge barrier of major media brands, liberating us from biased confines.

Pigeonholing the Solo Journalist

Since one person cannot produce articles at the rate of  The New York Times, no matter how many AI writers they create, the solo journalist excels by covering a niche.  

A solo journalist can be an aggregator of knowledge. For instance, Elon Musk News by Zachary Kyra-Derksen compiles everything happening in the Elon-Musk-stratosphere and condenses it into a bi-weekly email newsletter followed by over 220,000 people. (Funny how Elon is in the media so much that Zachary can create an entire newsletter around him)

Sometimes, a solo journalist might comment on the news. A great example is The Information by Jessica Lessin (and a few others), which publishes investigative articles about Silicon Valley to over 2,917 paying members. News commentary doesn’t necessarily report the latest news, but their unique voice conveys the message better (Quick Theories falls in this category).

In other cases, a solo journalist may act as a product influencer. Ben Brooks self-describes The Brooks Review as a no bullshit take on products (apps, iPad, backpacks, etc…). Every week, he gives over 400 paying subscribers product reviews that aren’t swayed by the budget of any particular company.

Interestingly, a solo journalist may just provide insights on life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. One of my favorites is Mike’s Notes by Michael Dariano, which provides valuable book summaries, big ideas, lessons learned, and ways for making decisions. Mike turned his life’s influences into content for others’ enjoyment – like his very own Oprah’s Book Club.

All of these show that the future of journalism doesn’t revolve around massive entities with a “trustworthy” name. Even though 53% of Americans pay for news, often times these entities will turn their back on readers to satisfy their investors.

The Reader is the Purpose

The future of journalism depends on solo journalists that genuinely care about their readers, are interested in conversing ideas, and have a unique way of conveying a message.

The successful solo journalist simply has a pure purpose – the reader.

With the right intentions comes trust. How can you trust someone that isn’t transparent? I never hold back an opinion or withhold knowledge for the sake of the Quick Theories brand because it hurts us both if I lie to you.

Trust isn’t the only catalyst, either. The solo journalist also uses technology to replace words, enhance words, and make words go further.

The Journalist Engineer

Increasingly, news coverage will be ruled by the journalist engineer in the future of journalism. Essentially, the journalist engineer will code, design, and write.

How do you ensure your news isn’t fake? By presenting data, right? Some of the most popular New York Times articles this year have been interactive data representations on oil prices and migration patterns.

However, to create these advanced data models goes beyond creating a simple graph. It requires knowledge of a programming language known as D3, which specializes in producing dynamic, interactive data visualizations in web browsers. News written in code is becoming a popular way of conveying a message…because who doesn’t love pictures.

It’s not all about data either. Design is important too. Those that have made a living designing interactive apps are in a perfect position to transition their design-oriented mind from gaining users to engaging readers. Thus, finding new ways to design the news experience to be more engaging will be very lucrative for the journalist engineer.

The journalist engineer has a multitude of tools at their disposal and needs to be well-versed in all things technology. They won’t necessarily program AI to write their articles, but AI will assist them heavily.

They’ll have an AI assistant like M to help them gather research and insights. Grammarly (or competitors) will evolve to help edit and make sure articles flow for optimal readership. And AI will even collaborate with journalists to reach new audiences.

Personally, as a journalist engineer, I use a tool called Yoast to analyze my articles. Yoast helps me create content that is easier to read and SEO-friendly.

Despite having all the technology in the world, though, how does a solo journalist get readers without the distribution channels of a media brand?

Distribution in the Future of Journalism

If you don’t have an audience, then go where the audience already is – kind of like how opening a restaurant near a mall is a sure-fire way of getting foot-traffic.

With over 1.9 billion active users on Facebook and 3.5 billion daily searches on Google, no doubt this is where the people are at.

Solo journalists know how to use these platforms to spread their voice. Not to toot my own horn, but that’s how I grew this Quick Theories newsletter to over 10,000 subscribers. By posting articles every day on LinkedIn (probably where you found me) and Facebook. I went where the people already were and made content that grabbed people’s attention.

Because the solo journalist doesn’t have access to the inside scoop like The New York Times does, they often are forced to comment on the news in a novel way.

For instance, not a single one of the 51 articles I’ve published on LinkedIn was “new” news. I simply used my unique voice to cover the facts that big name publishers boringly stated elsewhere. Another great example of commenting on the news in a novel way is DJ Akademiks. He’s a YouTube personality that delivers all the drama of the hip-hop realm.

Big Media brands can’t take the risk of being too opinionated. But, the solo journalist makes their living off of their risky, unique opinion – taking advantage of the huge opportunity to create commentary around the news.

Trust is a Two-Way Street

In being opinionated, though, the solo journalist encounters many disagreements with their readers. Holding firm and staying true to their argument builds a rapport between reader and writer that transcends the digital medium.

One of my frequent commenters, Chip, is often picking apart my argument. And I love it! When I see commenters that disagree with me, it tells me I’m doing something right. That we are breaking down the digital barrier and beginning a relationship of trust. A relationship where I challenge my readers’ opinions and my readers hold me accountable to my thoughts.

Think about some of your strongest friendships. They are probably with people you disagree with often – challenging each other’s mindset to get better.

The solo journalist builds trust by speaking their mind and furthering the exploration of knowledge.

As we weather the storm of this transitional period in media, above all the journalist of the future needs to focus on creating great content. We are a species that loves “to know”. We want to know what’s going on with our friends, our communities, our investments, and our future.

The basic tenet of journalism – to spread knowledge – will never change. All that changes for the future of journalism is how it is done.

Knowledge is your most valuable asset

There’s no barrier to attaining knowledge. You don’t have to file taxes on knowledge. And a certain kind of knowledge brings power.

But, it’s also the only asset that disappears when you pass away. Which is why knowledge is meant to be shared.

The moment you learn something new, go teach it to the next person you talk to.

Hoarding knowledge does not give you an advantage, so share it.

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.

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We are just a few years away from seeing and interacting with companies that run themselves. In other words, autonomous companies (also known as RoboCorp) operated by algorithms will generate revenue all day long. That’s like saying there’s a house that can lay its own concrete foundation…unbelievable!

Get ready. These autonomous companies are heading straight for the Fortune 500 list.

The Rich Get Richer

Unsurprisingly, the very first glimpses of RoboCorp are coming to a Hedge Fund near you. Imagine that, a machine trading all day on the stock market.

Now, I’m not referring to the machine-like consistency of the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet. I’m talking about the hedge fund, Aidyia, which is completely powered by Artificial General Intelligence – a true RoboCorp.

Using algorithms that can identify patterns and predict price movements, Aidyia’s algorithms boast a 2% return on their fund. By no means is this a fortune, but it’s a start.

What makes their algorithms unique, is that they are inspired by genetic evolution. Basically, they create scenarios of “survival of the fittest AI” to create the almighty AI that they’ll entrust with the trades.

Now, don’t mistaken with high-frequency trading, which leverages computers to make millisecond trades on millions of shares. This RoboCorp hedge fund might sit on a stock for a few hours, days, or months until it feels necessary to sell.

And since Aidyia’s future is so promising, many other hedge funds are getting into the AI game. Pretty soon, AI may be the only thing capable of investing in the stock market.

Not only will RoboCorps trade the stocks of the Fortune 500, but will eventually become a company (or companies) on the Fortune 500.

Autonomous Companies: powered by a mission statement

Autonomous companies like autonomous vehicles will go through stages of autonomy. They’ll start by automating singular tasks and work their way up to making decisions on their own. In between, they’ll automate certain jobs which it can do better than humans.

Eventually, software will automate more and more jobs within a sector. At that point, it will make sense for Artificial Intelligence to be in a managerial role since they speak the same language.

Programmed with a specific mission statement in mind, and limited by fail safes that make sure they can’t change their own rules, AI will become the C-suite Executives.

So often, high-level decisions come down to the numbers. If the dollars don’t make sense, then neither does the decision. AI is pretty unbiased when it comes to making judgments. Their only goal is to fulfill its mission statement and do what’s best for the company.

However, this also brings up the paperclip scenario, where an AI paperclip company does such a good job at being profitable, it kills off all other existence for resources. While this may be an extreme example, it sparks conversation around competition.

Any RoboCorp with the right “team” could potentially be a monopoly of all monopolies since it’s always improving and fulfilling its goal. We take a look at Google, whose description began encompassing so many initiatives that they had to create a parent company, Alphabet, to be the company of all their companies.

Imagine the RoboCorp version of Google. Pretty scary.

While I don’t have an answer to how we’d stop it, we do know that all evil must be balanced with good. So, hopefully, there’d be a booming business around creating another RoboCorp tasked with competing and bringing down rogue, monopolistic autonomous companies…like a RoboCorp Skynet.

Where do humans fit in with RoboCorp?

If you aren’t on the profiting end of one of these RoboCorps, you can’t help but wonder what role you’ll play.

Well, luckily AI still needs creative thinkers – at least for now. It needs people that can think up new avenues of revenue, create design prototypes, understand what makes someone buy something, etc… So, Liberal Arts may not be a bad major after all.   

On the flip side, non-creative people may be confined to working in a virtual sweatshop built by one of these RoboCorps. Currently, sites such as Mechanical Turk offer people pennies to tag photos, complete surveys, and other HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) that’ll help the AI learn.

The digital underclass will complete thousands of these micro-tasks daily. Thus, transforming a personal computer into a seat at the new digital assembly line. Millions of these micro-tasks will be available daily, as they are the very things that help make AI smarter.  

In other words, if you don’t define yourself as a creative thinker right now, I would highly suggest you begin honing your skills. There’s no trick. It just takes time to develop your creativity – trying out different mediums until you find one that you enjoy.

Honestly, the media has portrayed a bleak Future of Work where everyone loses their job and is miserable. But, I say, if a robot wants to do my job and do it better…go for it! With the right mindset, I’ll find something else.

There’s dignity in every job

My grandfather always tells me to value every working man and woman, no matter their profession. Never consider a job to be trivial, because each one is important in its own particular way.

Most importantly, he’d say, “There is dignity in every job. Find it!”

Yes, there are jobs that seem so menial a monkey could do it. But, there is still dignity in it because it has to be done. Often times, the jobs people generally place little dignity on (plumber, electrician, mechanic, custodian) are so invaluable we couldn’t live without them.

There’s always work to be done and jobs to be had. Whether or not you allow yourself to find dignity in the job makes all the difference.

For me, the dignity goes deeper than notoriety. I love having great readers like yourself, but I find enjoyment just in creating these Quick Theories articles.

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