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Archive for January, 2015

Arizona is home to hundreds of golf courses, hundreds of hiking trails, and hundreds of antique shops.  Not to mention the fact that it hosts Spring Training every year!  It’s a great place to live and an even better place to retire to.  So when I moved out here last year that was the running joke.  That I was retiring early.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’ve lived for 32 years.  A little over three decades.  Nearly a third of a Century.  That’s a long time.  A lot has happened in that time.  I’ve lived in four states.  Held about a dozen different jobs.  Even spent some time in the military.  I’m about half way to having a decent memoir to write.  And yet I’m going to have to live another one of my lifetimes before I’m able to retire.  Think about that for a minute.  It will be another three decades, another third of a Century, before I’ll be in my early 60’s.  That’s another thirty years, give or take, of pushing paper around, of staring at a computer screen, of forcing my body to sit in a desk chair against it’s will for eight hours a day.

That’s why retirement is pointless.  We work our lives away so that we can get to the point where we have enough money saved up to live happily after.  Except that by the time we’re able to retire we’re too old and run down to actually enjoy our retirement.  Instead of crossing items off your bucket list you’re sitting in a rocking chair doing crossword puzzles.  More epic fail than Disney fairy tale.

Wouldn’t it be great then if there was a better way?  A way for us to retire earlier.  To enjoy life before it’s too late.  A way to lead more fulfilling lives.  Well, I think there very well may be.  All we’d have to do is engineer a society wide shift in the way we do things.  That may sound like quite the undertaking but thankfully we have some experience to draw on.

Just look at the way we teach our kids.  According to geopolitics.us, “Our school system was modeled after the factories of the industrial revolution. Schools and factories are similar even to the point where the bells at these schools were modeled on the shift-time sounds in factories.”

The article adds that, “Schools operate similarly to assembly lines. The school assembly line is segmented into years. Students enter the schools and are sorted by age. Each day during the year students receive instruction on particular subjects and skill sets. Every subject is taught during a fixed time period in the day. Students are then tested on each subject to see if they meet the standards, so they can move along the line. Finally they receive their stamp of approval (diploma) at the end of the line.”

Think about that for a minute.  We developed a rigid assembly line style system to educate our children in order to have a future work force that fit our needs at the time.  Forget for a moment that we still educate our kids in this same manner and that doing so is entirely pointless.  And just focus on the fact that we have the ability to put a system in place that fits our needs.  In other words if we can devise a system for educating our children that best serves our society can’t we do the same for adults?

So here’s what I’m proposing:  let’s turn retirement upside down.  Instead of working through your 20’s and 30’s and 40’s when you’re in your physical prime and then retiring when you’re too old to do anything fun let’s flip the script.  Let’s make it so that you don’t start working until you reach retirement age.

You’ll be free to travel the world, explore new places, experience different cultures, and try new things.  You’ll be completely open minded following your every whim and seeing where life takes you.  Your days will be spent pursing your passion projects and focusing on your hobbies.  Your nights will be spent hanging out with your friends and family without having any stress or time constraints to weigh you down.  There won’t be any “it’s a weeknight” excuse making.  You’ll be 100% free to enjoy your life and to try and make the most of it.

Just think about all that you could do with all that free time.  You could learn new languages to help you as you travel the world.  You could learn to code or add other skills that make you a more well rounded person.  You could write books or create beautiful art.

By the time you’re ready to start working you won’t have any regrets.  Your bucket lists will be completely empty.  No longer in peak physical shape you’ll naturally slow down and travel less.  You’ll read more to keep your mind sharp.  You’ll live out the rest of your days in a sedentary lifestyle.  The kind of lifestyle that’s perfect for a cubicle dweller.  And since you spent your whole life learning new languages and picking up new skills you’re now in the perfect position to find a really good job that under the old system you never would have been qualified for.

I know this plan sounds a little far fetched but I believe that is has merit.  Young people who have no idea what they want to do with their lives will have plenty of time to figure it out.  Our elders who have already lived full lives and have plenty of experience to draw from will become our politicians, teachers, and business leaders and they will guide us to new heights.

In a few years isn’t it entirely possible that advances in robotics are going to make some, if not most, jobs obsolete anyway?  If that’s going to be the case and robots are going to be doing the heavy lifting for us doesn’t it make sense that we re-think our society?  Instead of mass unemployment dragging down our economy we can have a wonderful society that aims to make sure that each of us has a wonderful experience with our time on Earth and that we do so in the most efficient manner possible.

They say that youth is wasted on the young.  Let’s change that.  Let’s travel and lead active lifestyles while we’re physically able to.  Let’s sit around all day in front of a computer when we’re no longer physically able to lead active lifestyles.  Let’s flip the script.  Reverse Retirement here we come.

Sure you could go fishing at the office.  Or you could go fishing for real thanks to my Reverse Retirement plan.

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#600 – State of the Union

This isn’t going to be as timely as I would have liked but in honor of President Obama’s recent State of the Union address I thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and reflect on the current state of affairs in science and technology.  While I may not be as eloquent as the President’s speech writers I will do my best to convey my thoughts in a coherent manner.  Thankfully there will not be a rebuttal from the anti-science ass clowns who don’t believe in climate change or vaccinating their children.  Those people can go scratch.

On the other hand there are some amazing people doing some amazing things at the moment.  People that we should be celebrating.  Honoring.  Paying homage to.  People like Elon Musk, he of Simpsons character fame, who recently came very close to landing a rocket on a platform in the ocean, a remarkable achievement that could pave the way for cheap space flight and the start of the next Space Age.

The Musketeer is not alone though, oh no.  He’s joined on a seemingly daily basis by the incredible scientists from all over the world who continue to amaze us with their unbridled passion for pushing the boundaries of what is scientifically possible.  Just within the last month alone we’ve created a metal that is so hydrophobic that water bounces right off of it as well as a new metamaterial that has the ability to control waves!  Scientists have even found a way to unboil an egg!  A discovery that could help us find a way to cure cancer!  But wait that’s not all.  We might even be on the verge of coming up with a cure for Peanut Allergies!  Not to mention the fact that we may need to rewrite the text books when it comes to how DNA works, the speed of light, dark energy, and even time itself.

Still not impressed?  Okay.  How about I throw some sideways moving elevators your way.  Or some rewriteable paper.  Or an appetite suppressing pacemaker.  Or holographic virtual reality.  Take your pick.  There’s no shortage of mind blowing, life altering, game changing innovations on the horizon.  This isn’t a leap of faith that I’m asking you to take with me.  It’s simply Magic Leap and a whole lot more.

That’s why I’m always amazed whenever I hear someone say that we’ve already accomplished everything that we’re going to accomplish.  That there’s nothing new left to discovery.  That we already have it all figured out.  That’s hogwash.  We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of our potential.

Just think about how different our lives are going to be in ten years time.  Or even five years.  Or even just one year.  Driverless cars are coming.  Virtual reality is coming.  Life extension is coming.  Wearables that haven’t even been imagined yet are coming.  Google Glass may be going the way of the Segway but Google {X} is just getting started.

These are great times that we are living in.  Truly remarkable times brimming with possibility. Brimming with precocious wonderment.  Sure we can throw it all away in a heartbeat.  Wars.  Diseases.  Natural Disasters.  Acts of “God”.

But at the same time if we can just hold out a little bit longer we could be on the verge of controlling our own destiny.  On the verge of creating self aware artificial intelligence and entirely new life forms.  On the verge of curing cancer and countless other diseases.  On the verge of controlling the climate and manipulating the weather.  On the verge of finding habitable exo-planets in other solar systems and travelling to them.

We’re so close on so many different fronts.  Robotics.  Synthetic Biology.  Materials science.  Physics.  Machine learning.  It’s all within our grasp.  We just have to stay focused and keep working at it.  Just have to keep pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible.  If we can dream it we can do it.  And as long as we don’t lose sight of our humanity along the way we’ll be golden.

Can we do it?

YES WE CAN!

These are exciting times that we’re living in.  New technologies may transform our lives ten times over in the next ten years.

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It’s often been said that the best part of going to the movies is the coming attractions.  That’s usually true no matter if you’re being dragged to a chic flick with your girlfriend or watching a summer blockbuster that you’ve been dying to see.  At least that used to be the case before they added in half an hour of commercials on top of all those previews and dragged out the entire process.  Wouldn’t it be great then if we could make that the best part of the movie again?  Better yet, wouldn’t it be great if we could make an entire movie be the “best part”?

That’s right.  I want to make a movie without a cohesive story line, without any sub plots, without any quality acting performances.  No, I’m not talking about another Transformers movie.  I’m talking about a movie that isn’t really a movie.  But rather a collection of trailers.  A Trailer Movie if you will.

Just think about it.  Trailers have become big business.  Debuting a year or more before a movie comes out they’re the epitome of buzz worthy.  They steal the show at Comic Con.  They trend on social media as soon as they’re released.  They get fan boys in a dizzy.  They get dissected over and over again in search of Easter eggs and clues.  There’s even an entire section dedicated to them on Hulu Plus.

Don’t think they matter?  Try telling that to a Star Wars fan.  Don’t think anyone cares about them?  When an Ant-Man trailer is trending worldwide you know that’s not true.  Trailers are a big deal and it’s time we accepted that.  Time that we gave them their proper due.  Time that we put them in the spotlight and dedicated an entire movie to the best of the best.

So here’s what I’m proposing.  Let’s take ten future blockbuster movies and/or television shows and let’s give them ten minutes each to tell their story.  They can show a clip from the movie, an extended trailer, a deleted scene, a digital short centered around a sub plot or obscure character, behind the scenes bloopers, or a highlight reel mixed together with commentary from actors and producers.  Whatever they want.  Anything is fair game as long as it entertains and sufficiently hypes the crowd.

Of course 100 minutes of trailers wouldn’t be entertaining throughout if the subject matter isn’t great.  So let’s ensure success by only selecting the best of the best.  If we were to make this movie right now I would go with:

  • The Walking Dead
  • Game of Thrones
  • Star Wars
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Furious 7
  • Jurassic World
  • The Hunger Games
  • Tommorowland
  • Avatar 2
  • Mad Men – the final season

That right there is ten of the best blockbusters coming our way.  Ten film or television properties that we’re dying to get a closer look at.  Ten projects that we can’t wait to consume.  A trailer movie wouldn’t work for all movies but it would for those.

Now can you imagine if this was an annual event hitting theaters each January featuring the best of the year ahead?  And if prior to this point none of these trailers had come out.  Just based on the Star Wars trailer alone this movie would sell out around the world.

A lot of you may be skeptical of this idea and I can understand why.  But if you really think about it this idea has a lot of merit.  Just look at what is happening with piracy as movie studios are losing out on millions of dollars a year as movies get streamed for free across the Internet.  So what do you do if you can’t make as much money as you used to?  You find yourselves a new revenue stream.  Like one based on trailers.

Is a movie comprised entirely of trailers the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#598 – iGrow

The other day I came across a girl online that I kind of liked.  She was cute and intellectual and had just moved to the area.  Seemed like a good catch.  There was just one problem.  She had a massive forehead.  How massive are we talking?  Large enough that we could spread out a game board across it if we ever ran out of table space during game night.  For some men this would be a turn off.  For me it meant she was the one.

All kidding aside hair loss is an, ahem, growing concern for both men and women past the age of 30.  I have no idea why hair grows in some places and not others and why some people lose their hair and others don’t.  All I know is that baldness and receding hairlines are a major problem for a lot of people.

That’s why the best innovation to come out of the Consumer Electronics Show last week had nothing to do with the Internet of Things, wearables, driverless cars, or 3-D printing.  Rather it was a new device known as iGrow that uses lasers to regenerate lost hair!

Although that sounds scary the iGrow device actually looks relatively user friendly as it essentially a helmet that you put on intermittently a few times a week.  And here’s the best part.  It actually works!  Without side effects!

According to the Verge, “The device, which a user wears four times a week for 25 minutes, was shown to increase women’s hair count by 37 percent in four months, according to a study published in Lasers in Surgery in Medicine. And men also experienced a 35 percent increase in hair counts, according to separate study, also published in Lasers in Surgery in Medicine. No adverse effects or side effects were reported.”

Considering that it’s only a matter of time before I completely lose my own battle with a receding hairline this is an issue that is near and dear to my heart.  If this technology catches on I can definitely see myself using it in the future.  Unless of course I want to be bald by choice so that I can add looking like George Costanza to acting like him.  Somehow I doubt that’s going to happen.

Is iGrow the Greatest Idea Ever?

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CES wasn’t the only place that headlines were getting made this past week.  From government announcements to scientific breakthroughs there was no shortage of things to talk about.  Here’s a quick look at everything else that caught my eye over the last week and a half:

  • Elon Musk and SpaceX almost successfully landed a rocket on a platform in the ocean after several false starts.  If successful this means that we can reuse parts and drop the cost of space travel by a factor of 100.  Translation:  we’re on the verge of a new era in space flight!  Mars here we come!
  • President Obama’s proposal for two free years of community college.  Why stop there?  Let’s make four years of college free anywhere!  And let’s absolve all student loan debt!
  • Another interesting government proposal was a plan from New Jersey law makers to give a tax credit to seniors that volunteer.  By why stop there?  Why not a tax break for volunteering done by anyone?
  • Mark Zuckerberg starting the best book club since Oprah.  See that.  He’s really not such a bad guy after all.
  • Amazon announcing plans for a venture that could be like a hybrid of Quirky and Kickstarter.  Selling books was just the beginning.
  • A possible new explanation for Dark Energy that will totally blow your mind.
  • As many as 8 new potentially habitable planets discovered by the Kepler telescope including the two most Earth like ever!
  • DNA observed shuttling between cells for the first time ever.  This could have huge ramifications for our understanding of cancer.

Space X almost successfully landed a rocket on an ocean platform this week.  Is a new era in spaceflight upon us?

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As I looked ahead to 2015 over the last week technology enthusiasts from around the world were doing the same thing in Las Vegas at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.  The big takeaway from that event is that increasingly it seems as though the general public is growing tired of the same old technological advancements.  Wearable this.  Internet of Things that.  From curved screens and 3-D televisions to virtual reality and smart appliances no matter what we’re talking about chances are we were already talking about it last year.

What I’m truly interested in then and what we’ve all been clamoring for is something truly new and exciting.  Something thought provoking.  Something game changing.  Were there any such innovations this year?  Let’s take a quick look at what tickled my fancy and see what we have to work with.

Without further adieu the best ideas from CES 2015 are:

  • MakerBot’s announcement regarding new materials that imitate wood, stone, and metal.  This could propel the 3-D printing industry forward to new heights as the list of what could be printed grows ever larger.
  • Samsung’s $100 million dollar pledge to make sure the Internet of Things comes to fruition.
  • Apira’s iGrow that uses lasers to regenerate hair for both men and women.  More on this in a future post.
  • Dish Network’s news surrounding Sling TV, a new venture that could aide cord cutters in watching ESPN, HBO and other channels for $20 a month.  In the wake of Aereo losing a key court battle is this the future of TV?
  • The Tao Chair that’s an invisible gym for your living room.  More on this in a future post.
  • A Smart Belt Buckle that loosens itself when you’ve had too much to eat.  Pretty sure I won’t be diving deeper into this one.

As you can see there were plenty of interesting innovations at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.  Whether we’re talking about gadgets that help us sleep better, exercise more, or watch TV more conveniently there was something for everyone.  Some of these I even want to explore more in future posts.

However, when push comes to shove there really wasn’t any game changing innovations that emerged.  No cause for celebration.  No reason to write home.  Just a few things that were kind of cool and some early indications that the battle for the connected car could be more fierce than the battle for the connected home.  Unfortunately, I’m not interested in the kind of cool.  I’m interested in what could become the next, “Greatest.  Idea.  Ever.”

So have no fear.  Even though CES underwhelmed this year there are still plenty of innovations coming your way in 2015.  Leave it to me to find them.

When a smart belt buckle is one of the top innovations at a tech showcase you know you’ve got problems.

 

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The lost in a series of posts about the potential Breakout Hit of 2015.  

Those of you who know me personally know that I have love-hate relationship with my Alma mater Northeastern University.  As in I love to hate it.  And over the years there’s been a lot to hate.  Whether it was disconnect that existed between the administration and the student body, the fact that the flower pot to student ratio far exceeded the student to faculty ratio, or the infamous NU Shuffle red tape run around, the commuter school for hard working middle class folks turned U.S. News and World Report Top 100 sellout could do no right in my book.  Higher Tuition.  Richer Freeland.

It really is a shame because I wanted to love it.  Wanted to identify with it.  To be proud of it.  To call it my own.  To stay connected to it.  To follow it.  To be a part of it.  But instead my apathy just grew like a cancer.  I turned my back on it.  Shunned it.  Wanted nothing to do with it.  I had given it my heart and all it had given me in return was a swift kick in the butt.  The one place that influenced me more than any other is now but a distant memory fading further with each passing day.

But all that is about to change.  A new day is about to dawn.  A day in which I proudly shout from the highest mountain top, “I went to Notheastern University!  The Greatest School That Ever Was!”

Why am I suddenly over joyed for that which I once disdained?  It’s simple.  They’ve finally done something that I can be proud of!  That’s right.  The birthplace of Napster is now home to one of the greatest and most influential scientific breakthroughs of all time.  A discovery so significant that is being hailed as a “paradigm shift” in the way science is conducted.

So, what is it that we’re talking about?  What is it that those nerds on the other side of the river over at Harvard and M.I.T. couldn’t figure out?  What is it that is finally going to put Northeastern on the map and make Darrell Hammond rue the day that he ever called us Northwestern?  Oh, nothing special.  Just the creation of the first new antibiotic in a quarter century and the discovery along with it of a whole new process for isolating compounds from dirt that do not grow under normal laboratory conditions.

As The Telegraph reports, “Scientists have always believed that the soil was teeming with new and potent antibiotics because bacteria have developed novel ways to fight off other microbes.  But 99 per cent of microbes will not grow in laboratory conditions leaving researchers frustrated that they could not get to the life-saving natural drugs.  Now a team from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, have discovered a way of using an electronic chip to grow the microbes in the soil and then isolate their antibiotic chemical compounds.”

See that!  Northeastern University! That’s my Alma mater!  I haven’t been this proud to be a Husky since the time I found out that University House of Pizza was offering a $5 two slice special to students!

My how times have changed.  Now I’m back on the Northeastern bandwagon.  Back on board with the five year plan.  With the trimesters.   With the co-op program.  Heck, I don’t even mind the decision to get rid of the football team if it means more innovations like this one are coming.

So, Northeastern keep up the good work and continue to make me proud.  That alumni donation that you keep harassing me to make may soon be on its way.

It’s been a while since the last major antibiotic discovery.  Does that make this new discovery pulled from dirt the Breakout Star of 2015?

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