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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.

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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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Crime investigation is an industry ripe for disruption. Shows like “The First 48” give us a glimpse into how ineffective lie detector tests and interviews can be when trying to place someone at the scene of a crime. Forensics and DNA testing show us how many people the justice system wrongfully convicts. Interestingly, though, there’s a group of crime investigators making a strong push toward the top; one’s a black box that sits in your pocket and the other on your wrist.

Together, the iPhone and wearable devices bring data to the scene of the crime. They act as the “fly on the wall” before, during, and after a crime takes place.

Obviously, video evidence is the most incriminating evidence we can have. But, getting someone in plain sight isn’t always that easy. Luckily, our technology gives us a better context of the situation.

Step Counts are Side Effects

Fitbits and fitness trackers have our permission to peep on our privacy. But could they be a reliable witness? Well, why don’t you ask Richard Dabate, the husband, and prime suspect in the murder, of Connie Dabate?

At first, Richard’s story had no holes in it. An intruder clearly broke into their house, tied Richard to a chair, and struggled with Connie before murdering her. Sniffer dogs and gunshot residue tests both came back inconclusive.

Then, the prosecution got an idea. Richard’s story warranted Connie to walk no more than 125 feet (the distance between the garage and basement). However, Connie’s Fitbit showed that Connie had walked over 1,200 steps at the alleged time of the attack. Sounds a bit fishy, right?

Richard Dabate was charged with murder, tampering with evidence, and providing false statements, thanks to Fitbit evidence. Overall, it’s a big win for Fitbit and fitness trackers as key witnesses, showing the hidden abilities these devices offer.

Amazon Echo Pleads the Fifth

On the other hand, just because technology is present doesn’t mean it’s a reliable witness. According to an Arkansas hot tub murder, the Amazon Echo (who is the only witness) is providing no help.

Amazon claims the device has no audio recordings since the device only records when after hearing a “wake word”. Either this is an unfortunate truth, or Amazon doesn’t want to fess up.

The conspiracy theorist in me believes that Amazon isn’t giving in because it would prove the Echo is always recording. This would spur an entirely new debate on privacy issues. In their mind, they are playing a larger game of chess and they’d be losing their queen if they gave out this info.

Regardless, our technology devices are beginning to look like items in CLUE, giving us hints in the classic game of Whodunit. Little did you know, you had the candlestick in your pocket the whole time.

iPhone as a Black Box

The few unfortunate times that we hear of a plane crash, interest almost always revolves around finding the black box. To the average person, this may sound like some mystical item that tells all truth. In reality, it just records conversations…and isn’t even black.

The aerospace industry calls them “electronic flight data recorders”. They usually give investigators a glimpse into what went wrong before the crash. Even though black boxes are archaic technology compared to our phones, they are still very useful. So useful, that Apple has copied the idea without your knowledge.

Apple HQ knew that the iPhone was a data collecting device, gathering valuable insights into people’s lives. So, why not make it a black box for humans? With the iPhone always on and collecting data, they could effectively gather “evidence” leading up to technical difficulties, disasters, and foul play – just like the Airplane black box does.

I bet you never thought of it like that.

The iPhone stores valuable health data just like the Fitbit, which proved to be helpful already. The iPhone also has a responsive microphone, just like the Amazon Echo, which might record conversations so that Siri can appear when requested. Lastly, add in the ability to communicate via voice and text, capture video footage, etc… and you have the ultimate evidence collector.

There’s just one problem. What if the device is dropped in water, smashed to pieces, or burned to ash after the evidence is captured?

First, Apple is trying their best to create an indestructible device that isn’t affected by water, heat or electromagnetic pulses. Of course, everything breaks at some point.

So, that’s where their backup plan comes into play. Using RFID (radio-frequency identification) the iPhone can send a signal right before evidence is tampered with. In the past, RFID has been used for highway tolls, inventory management, badge entry, public transportation, and wireless transactions. But, your iPhone today can send information that isn’t “fixed”, that changes depending on the circumstances. Just like crime scene evidence.

While we haven’t necessarily seen this black box in action, it’s a capability that they are sitting on. In a sense, Apple has effectively put the ultimate Sherlock Holmes in everyone’s front pocket, solving crimes and promoting justice like never before.

The future of criminal justice

Movies like The Minority Report portray a future where “oracles” predict crimes before they occur. In real life, the government has employed a data collection and analysis agency known as Palantir Technologies. By spying on the public, they aim to stop terrorism and eventually crime altogether.

But, I don’t know if I want to live in a world where crime doesn’t exist and innocent mistakes could prove fatal to your future. I’d rather picture a future where our devices record enough real-time data to ensure criminals don’t ever get away.

With technology as the detectives, showing the judge and jury exactly what happened, perhaps the justice system can make a healthy transformation. The facts will be clear and indisputable, allowing the justice system to consider other variables such as intention and circumstance – before delivering the verdict.

Perhaps in this future, justice is served based on individual character, not a precedent set 40 years ago. White collar criminals get what they truly deserve, not a special treatment.

Evil will always exist. Nature needs a balance of good and evil.

So, instead of thinking about “how things should be”, our focus should shift toward “how things are”. With this mindset, we can address the current state of crime and justice to make changes today. Not depending on a fantasy where evil vanishes for good.  

The idea of “what is” vs. “what should be” exists in all areas of our lives.

“What is” and “what should be”

When we focus our attention on “what should be”, our thoughts are centered on something that is missing. An idea isn’t in practice, there aren’t muscles where they should be, or the number in our bank account isn’t quite there.

Unfortunately, “what should be” is never satisfied because as we begin to find what we thought was missing, we discover that something else is missing too, and then another thing. And this process goes on forever.

Now, this isn’t to say that goals aren’t good. But, redirecting your attention on “what is” as you work toward your goals will allow you to notice the positive things that are present.

In other words, value what you have, not what you are missing, and you’ll never feel empty.

This can be a hard idea to live by when it comes to technology since its advancement is so fast. For that reason, I created Quick Theories – a brief, weekly newsletter with my thoughts on modern technology and its effects on your future – helping you understand “what is” going on now.

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Will I be replaced by Artificial Intelligence? What will I do if my line of work becomes automated? How can I possibly learn new skills? All of these questions, and much more accumulate when pondering the Future of Work. Honestly, overcoming the anxiety associated with the mysterious Future of Work may be the hardest obstacle.

With less than optimistic news floating around from the likes of The New York Times and Forbes and popular headlines such as “The Jobless Economy” and “Are Virtual Sweatshops the Future of Work”, it’s hard to feel confident that any job is secure.

So, instead of talking about the computers that can write their own code, robots that’ll take your order, and AI paralegals that can sift through thousands of cases instantaneously, I’d like to approach this conversation from an actionable standpoint. As in, what are actionable insights to ensure job security for the fast approaching Future of Work?

Liberal Arts for the Win

AI excels at technical tasks but struggles with the Bigger Picture.

As Mark Cuban points out, critical thinking skills learned through Liberal Arts studies are very important to have in the Future of Work. If he could go back to college, he’d exchange his Accounting degree for one in Philosophy.

For instance, English majors really understand how to form valuable opinions and argue those important points. Art Majors learn a great sense of visual taste, design skills, and an eye for aesthetic. Let’s not forget about the Philosophy majors that can tap into the wisdom of 3,000 years worth of great thinkers.

Generally, Liberal Arts degrees have carried a stigma of useless skills. In the task-oriented, business world, there was no room for creative conversations. But, that was yesterday. Today and tomorrow, intuition and creativity will rule the boardroom. The skills gained in Liberal Arts studies are exactly the skills that will take AI the longest to learn.  

There will always be limitations of technology. Right now, the Liberal Arts are a distinct advantage. However, as AI research continues, these creative skills may also be at risk.

That’s why it’s important to define your view of AI, so you can roll with the punches as AI progresses.

Your Mindset Matters to The Future of Work

Your view of the Future of Work stems from one of two mindsets:

Do you see the rise of AI as an ally or do you see it as an enemy – something that enhances your job, or competes for it?

The more favorable approach is realizing the potential of AI and using its skills to augment your capabilities – using its strengths as a strength of yours to excel further.

Phil Jackson approached coaching the Chicago Bulls in this way. He realized that Michael Jordan’s biggest strength wasn’t necessarily his skill, but that he was like honey to a bunch of bees. The other teams always heavily guarded him. Instead of creating plays that focused on getting MJ open, Phil designed plays that created MJ as a diversion. When teams keyed in on the swift style of MJ, he dished the ball to Pippen, Paxson, Kerr, and others. Six NBA championships later, using the strength of their star player as a diversion enhanced MJ’s play and the entire team.

On the flip side, I would advise against entering in a competition with AI. But, if you choose that mindset, then don’t focus on AI’s strengths because you’ll never beat them. Instead, pinpoint AI’s weaknesses and make those your strengths.

The entire genre of hip-hop was heavily influenced by this style of thinking. The RZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan, noticed the limitations of the musical technology present. At the time, beat-making machines could only record two bars at a time. This limitation gave birth to a form of production known as sampling, where producers used the beats and hooks in other popular music to create new beats (hence the name, sampling). In using this weakness of technology to his advantage, the RZA catapulted the Wu-Tang Clan to the top of the charts and influenced a slew of future hip-hop producers such as Kanye West and The Alchemist.

The limitations of technology can become artistic tools themselves, as the RZA showcased. Which spurs the question of creativity and AI.

Is creativity the only safe profession?

Many people believe that a computer can’t be creative, that it can’t have an original thought. But, there are early warning signs that this isn’t true. AI is proving to us that it can write pretty well, and may have a future in picking up where Shakespeare left off. Google’s AI art project, Deep Dream, is churning out inspirational (and freaky) art constantly.

So, will AI master the creative output?

Maybe. Even if it does, there’s nothing to worry about because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There will always be a connection between humans and the art they make.

Not to mention, creativity is greatest during times of competition. Commonly, creative communities foster a healthy competitive challenge of one-upping each other. The Renaissance was so profound because there were hundreds of thousands of people sitting around with nothing to do but be more creative than the next guy. People point to the best period in hip-hop when Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur pitted the West Coast against the East Coast, and the styles became distinct.

Instead of AI replacing creative professions, they will enhance them. Man and machine will work together to ask each other questions that have never been asked before. Creative projects will be heavily influenced by the technology that augments the creative process. Similar to how Andy Warhol had a team of creatives he worked with daily, creatives of the future will have teams of AI to work alongside, bolstering each other’s expression.

In fact, many people even believe the Future of Work isn’t going to be work, but rather a Second Renaissance. The skilled writer, artist, and musician will further use technology as inspiration and creative tools to best express themselves.

So, don’t fret that there will never be any more jobs, ever, in the Future of Work. It’s just a transitional period. Perhaps the biggest takeaway you can have in preparation for the Future of Work is the importance of overcoming the anxiety of it.

Overcoming Anxiety is the Key

Anxiety is a normal reaction. It means that you care about something important. Yet, overcoming anxiety is harder than taking a few deep breaths (even though that will help).

However, you must reframe your mindset towards one of preparation to overcome anxiety.

In the wise words of the late, great Bruce Lee, “Don’t be forecasting evil unless it is what you can guard against. Anxiety is good for nothing if we can’t turn it into a defense.”

Overcoming anxiety is rooted in preparation. Finding areas of anxiety means you’ve found a weakness. Overcoming anxiety of a strength is never a problem since you have confidence in your abilities.

Therefore, overcoming the anxiety of a weakness means that you must learn about the weakness, study those that have achieved greatness in that area of your weakness, and begin building your defenses there.

Unless redirected to improve and prepare yourself, anxiety is merely mental baggage – weighing your mind down during daily travel.

For the reason that technology and the future can be so overwhelming, I created Quick Theories – a weekly newsletter exploring modern technology and its possible effects on your future – to help you understand and adopt technology in your own creative way.

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

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

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

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

The progression is flipped for computers.

“I’ll need that business report by 4”

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

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

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

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

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

Anderson “The Natural Language Generation” Cooper

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

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

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

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

The secret sauce…

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

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

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

But, what if Natural Language Generation could fake creativity?

The New York Times, Stephen King Edition

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

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

Creative Environment: The Gate To Creative InspirationAfter analyzing hundreds of thousands of words from a single author, a computer effectively understands their writing style and can mimic their writing patterns. Now, apply this technique to other written work. 

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

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

Computers are finding their voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fake it ‘til you become it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Road to Singularity

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

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

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

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

Curiosity Killed the Artificial General Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living with Artificial Superintelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental baggage weighs down the spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology, The Gateway to Digital Drugs

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

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

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

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

The Brown Noise and Binaural Beats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotta see it to believe it

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

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

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

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

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

It gets even better

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

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

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

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

Laugh at you fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hasta La Vista, Digital Privacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background Checks Just Got Personal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate Your Supporters

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

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

Take the time to celebrate those that stick with you.

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem with Google Home & Amazon Echo

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

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

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

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

Easier said than done, though.

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

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

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

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

Let’s Franchise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their Future Depends On It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with Big Data right now?

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

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

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

Why can’t these companies gather the data themselves?

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

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

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

Big Data as a Service can solve these problems

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

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

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

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

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

One, Big Data as a Service would be profitable

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

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

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

Two, it’s just the right thing to do…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palantir Technologies is the “seeing stone”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find digital privacy with secure messaging apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the bad disguises the good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tunnel transportation…it’s groundbreaking!

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

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

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

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

The Boring Company isn’t first

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

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

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

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

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

Innovation isn’t always flashy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleverbot the witty chatbot

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

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

Other chatbots are cultivating love

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

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

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

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

How these robots fit in legally

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t adapt to change, adopt it

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

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

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

Overall, don’t fight automation. Adopt it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for the future of fashion technology?

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

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

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

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

Expressing yourself: Use it or lose it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pick a form of art you enjoy and LET LOOSE!

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

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

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

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

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

Right now, they are learning to identify things.

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

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

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

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

Computer vision has a lot to learn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second set of eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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