Archive for February, 2018

Several new events have been added for the 2018 Winter Olympic games such as mixed doubles curling and mass speed skating.  Meanwhile, the 2020 Summer Olympics will see the return of softball and the addition of karate, wrestling, surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing.  Those are all great additions but some people are still clamoring for even more events.  People like me.  E-sports! Drone racing! Hiking!?  A guy can dream right?

When it comes to adding hiking to the pantheon on Olympic games you could argue that I’m already getting my wish with sport climbing but that’s not enough to satisfy my hunger.  For I won’t be happy until hiking in of itself gets its just due.  Just think about the possibilities.  Forget about marathon running.  Get some backpackers to hike 15 miles through the Grand Canyon while carrying 35 pound packs.  That’s the ultimate test of endurance and mental toughness and surely an endeavor worthy of commemorating with a gold medal.

Or take it a step further and get rid of Track and Field events like sprinting and hurdling.  More impressive would be 200 meter sprints vertically up a mountain! You could also have team relay events or trail running events and to top it all off a summit challenge, where the best hikers in the world try to hike seven peaks in the same day to see who can do it in the shortest amount of time.

Not only would these events add intrigue and suspense to the Olympic games but they would also open up the games to a whole new demographic, the weekend warriors who are our real everyday champions.

Underrepresented in the Olympiads those athletes have taken refuge in other events.  Appearing in local Spartan Races and Tough Mudders but also in larger scale events like the Iron Man, the Iditarod, and the Nathan’s 4th of July hot dog eating competition.

But it’s time to forget all that.  The Olympics should incorporate all of those competitions and then some.  It should be the end all, be all of human competition.  The one time where the entire world stops, puts aside their petty differences, and unites in the name of sportsmanship to find out once and for all who is the very best in the world at everything.  Literally everything.  Hiking included.

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Is making hiking an Olympic sport the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,263 – Super Wood

Move over Graphene.  There may be a new wonder material on the way that could soon “steel” everyone’s heart.

As Inhabitat puts it, “It’s a twig, it’s a branch, it’s… Super Wood! Researchers at the University of Maryland have created a so-called ‘super wood’ that is stronger than many titanium alloys. The research team used a two-step process to drastically increase the density of the wood, thus reinforcing its strength to 10 times that of traditional wood. ‘It is as strong as steel, but six times lighter,’ research team co-leader TengLi told ScienceDaily.”

The wood also takes 10 times more energy to fracture meaning that it could, for instance, withstand the impact of a bullet without breaking.

But that’s not all.

According to Fast Company, “Li also added that the manufacturing process is easy and inexpensive, allowing you to treat any type wood–even soft balsa wood–in bulk on the cheap. Before the process begins, you can even mold or bend the material to adopt any shape you want.”

A cheap material that’s easy to manufacture that’s as strong as steel but significantly lighter and harder to break?  That right there is a total game-changer.  But don’t worry Graphene.  I hereby reaffirm my love for you.  You will always be my #1 super material.  This new Super Wood though is now a close second.

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Is Super Wood the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Every year millions of people contract the flu and have to deal with its devastating effects. But this year things are different.  This year there is a particularly lethal strain of the Flu going around.  According to some reports as many as 10,000 Americans are dying from it every day. That’s not just an epidemic.  That’s a public health crisis. Thankfully, there may be something that we can do to stop the virus from spreading in public.

As Inquisitr explains:

“With many parts of the United States dealing with a crippling flu epidemic, researchers have come up with an ultraviolet lamp that is capable of killing the influenza virus, with the potential of preventing the disease from spreading in hospitals, schools, and other public places.

Ultraviolet light has long been recognized as an effective tool against harmful, disease-causing agents, and to this end, UV has often been used for sterilizing items such as medical equipment in hospitals, according to a report from Time.  Unfortunately, standard UV lamps for combating germs carry several risks, including the possibility of skin cancer and cataracts due to extended exposure. That’s what inspired the researchers, who published their findings this week in the journal Scientific Reports, to devise a safer alternative to these germicidal lamps.

The secret to the new UV lamp’s ability to safely combat the flu virus is their use of far-UVC, the light found on the UV-C spectrum’s far end. The researchers observed that this form of light has the potential of destroying bacteria and viruses without the risk of traveling through human skin’s protective layers, or damaging one’s eyesight, due to the fact that far-UVC has unusually short wavelengths.”

In the near future these lamps could pop up in public places from hospital waiting rooms to airports to schools where they would surely be a sight for sore eyes…and noses.

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Are special UV lamps that stop the flu from spreading the Greatest Idea Ever?


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#1,261 – SingularityNET

From trading virtual cats to collecting celebrities there are plenty of ways to occupy one’s time and make a quick buck on the Blockchain.  But is it possible to use this technology for something better? To actually make the world a better place or solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges?  AI researcher Ben Goertzel certainly thinks so and he’s created the SingularityNET to do just that.

In essence, the SingularityNET is a way for people to share Artificial Intelligence resources. Using the Blockchain as the underpinnings of its platform, SingularityNET enables developers to enter into secure contracts to complete various tasks.

As the Singularity Hub explains, “Instead of humans manually stringing together algorithms, as the system develops, they’ll be able to communicate data and coordinate processing with one another. In the system’s initial incarnation, a user who has a task to complete using AI, training a robot to dance, for example, would send that task to the system, which would then parcel it out to various algorithms specializing in the different skills required to complete the task. The developers whose algorithms are used to complete the task will be compensated by the system with the tokens the user spends to get the task completed.”

In short, what we’ll have is a secure, decentralized approach to completing AI infused tasks with the entire system being completely open and transparent. Instead of one tech company reaping all of the benefits of AI processing power it will be all of humanity that benefits.

Case in point: Sophia, the creepy, life-like humanoid robot that recently put a face on the long-standing fear of a robotic uprising, was made from code sourced from SingularityNET.  Giving everyone a glimpse into what the platform can be used for.  Not to mention a glimpse of what the future will look like.

But that’s not all. What if you could also use this platform for something bigger and better? For instance, what if you could use it to create the much ballyhooed idea of a global brain!??!

According to Singularity Hub, “…the idea is to stitch narrow AIs, which are somewhat analogous to brain regions, into a whole system, that functions like the brain itself.”

Eventually you could get to the point where you have an AI system that is flexible, autonomous, and capable of carrying out tasks for individuals as well as corporations in a fair and democratic way that is fully transparent.  Ushering in a new era for mankind wherein AI augments our capabilities bringing about a new era of abundance.  Sounds pretty good to me.

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Is SingularityNET the Greatest Idea Ever?


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There are several physical limitations that us humans must deal with.  We don’t have eyes in the back of our head and we can’t be in two places at once as any new parent can attest to.  But what if we could?  Augmented and Virtual Reality headsets are giving us the “ability” to visit far flung locales from the comfort of our living room couches.  And now a relatively low-tech solution has entered the fray.  Welcome to a future where everyone uses an Uber for humans!

That’s the premise at least behind a new program in Japan that sends people to attend live events for you. By strapping a giant screen to their faces these volunteers essentially turn themselves into telepresence robots, attending events that you can’t physically make it to.   Using this program you could attend a tech conference in London, an Opera in Melbourne, or a concert in Copenhagen. All in the same day.

If you think about it, this program is a win-win-win. End users get to attend events that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Volunteers get to attend interesting events for free on behalf of other people. And the venues themselves get a boost in ticket sales from suddenly having access to a worldwide audience. If the technology works well enough you could conceivably get to the point where every sporting event, concert, or performance in the world is always sold out.

More than likely though this technology will mainly be used by regular folk who hope to avoid uncomfortable social situations. Imagine for instance, being able to avoid seeing an ex at a friend’s birthday party, or getting out of actually having to attend a spouse’s work holiday party. With a surrogate to do your dirty work for you there will now be plenty of time to do what’s really important. Like catching up on your Netflix queue or playing Call of Duty.

As Mental Floss puts it:

“Has the process of interacting with other human beings become too much for you, but you don’t have the heart to ditch your social obligations completely? Then you’ll be very interested in what virtual reality researcher Jun Rekimoto showed off at MIT Tech Review’s EmTech conference in Asia this week.

Called the ‘ChameleonMask,’ this apparatus allows you to be a member of the outside world in spirit, all from the comfort of the couch you decided was more important than society. Basically, this telepresence helmet allows for a FaceTime-like experience that is piloted by a surrogate body. This surrogate shows up to whatever function you wish to skip, wearing headgear with a screen strapped to the front that livestreams a remote user so they can interact with the world around them.

There is a public line of communication in the helmet that allows the remote user to speak to the room through a voice channel, and a private one, where only the surrogate can hear the user (the surrogate can still be heard by everyone physically around them, so the team behind the device suggests they speak at a lower volume). There are also written commands the user can send to the surrogate that will pop up on the screen from which the surrogate views the world.”

Just like with real Uber the key to success for this service will be scale. If there aren’t enough surrogates to go around then this idea could never work. But if there are, and there likely will be once the robots take all our jobs, then you might be onto something.

So, what do you think? Would you be willing to hire a surrogate to go to events that you either can’t or don’t want to attend?! Would you ever want to be a surrogate for someone else?

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Is Uber for Humans the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,259 – Ink to Code

Like most creative people I love brainstorming in my vaunted Book of Ideas, on a piece of scrap paper, or using whatever else I can find at the time, even if that’s just a bar napkin or restaurant placemat.  Ordinarily, that would be the end of the line.  But we don’t live in ordinary times anymore.  We live in the future.  Where anything is possible.  Which today means that your napkin sketches can now become apps. In an instant.  Thanks to Microsft and their new Ink to Code initiative.

As Microsoft puts it on their blog:

“Urban legend has it that some of the greatest ideas in history started with a napkin.  The Gettysburg Address, the poem that gave way to the U.S. National Anthem and the premise of the Harry Potter series – each were reportedly born into the world through the medium of sketches on scrap paper – and when app creators put pen to paper for their ideas, that is often a canvas of choice.  While rapid prototyping with the napkin and the whiteboard holds its charms, less charming is the prospect of translating quick sketches into working code.”

The blog continues:

“Last summer, a group of Garage interns tackled this problem by creating a prototype of their own: meet Ink to Code, a Microsoft Garage project, now available in the United States and Canada.  Ink to Code is a Windows app that enables developers to draw wire frame sketches and export them into Visual Studio, expediting the process of prototyping Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Android user interfaces.”

There are, however, some caveats.


As Engadget explains, “It can’t magically turn your doodles into full-fledged working apps, but it can turn handwriting into text and transform boxes into buttons, text boxes and even image placeholders without you having to write code at all. According to Microsoft, the application uses Windows 10’s Smart Ink to recognize objects and uses the tech titan’s Visual Studio to digitize your sketches.”

This is a total game-changer.  It’s already significantly easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to create their own apps than it was merely 10 years ago.  All it takes is a little bit of programming knowledge and sometimes not even that.  But can you imagine what kinds of innovations will be possible if it becomes even easier to create an app?  If literally all it takes is sketching something onto a napkin? With the barrier to entry being lowered that much there’s no telling what could be created. Not since the advent of the Gutenberg printing press or the creation of the Internet has there been a human invention with as much potential for exponential innovation growth as Ink to Code.

So, get your napkins and pens ready.  It’s time to invent the future.  One sketch at a time.

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Is Ink to Code the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Yesterday, while President Trump was delivering his State of the Union address, Facebook was busy playing a zero sum game, banning all advertisements relating to cryptocurrencies in order to better protect their users from investment scams.  A sound strategy in the face of growing criticism that Mark Zuckerberg and company should have done more to prevent fake news from spreading during the last election cycle.

Unfortunately, the runaway popularity of anything having to do with the blockchain means that some of these scams will still proliferate. As will news about whatever the latest crypto currency craze is, such as today’s nominee, Cryptocribs, a blockchain based alternative to AirBnB that lets travelers book rooms with digital currency.

The news that is likely to spread the fastest and the farthest though is the speculation surrounding an upcoming IPO that could completely revolutionize the entire blockchain landscape and the world at large.

The IPO in question belongs to Telegram, the popular encrypted cloud based messaging service that was originally started in Russia and now boosts hundreds of millions of users around the world, as people gravitated towards a product that let them seamlessly communicate across all of their devices. With an IPO on the horizon, the founders of the app have started looking towards the future, wondering what comes next for their company. Their answer is, not surprisingly, the blockchain, like it is for so many other people. But what is surprising, is the scope of their ambition as they aim to create an easily scalable blockchain platform that is both centralized and decentralized at the same time. Could it work?

As Bloomberg posits:

“Messenger apps have proven that they can double as powerful payment platforms — just look at the trillions being spent using WeChat in China. But can it work for cryptocurrencies as well? Pavel and Nikolai Durov, the brothers who founded the Telegram messenger, are about to find out. If it works, they’ll end up, more or less, with a digital equivalent of an autonomous economy.”

An entire autonomous digital economy? Okay. You’ve got my attention now. But what exactly does that mean?

“Imagine a messenger app that serves as a passport to a whole semi-autonomous economy. A user is initially identified by a copy of a government-issued ID. That copy is stored in an encrypted form only accessible to its owner, yet the digital proof of identification works for all purposes within the ecosystem. As today, the community will have their own media in the form of Telegram channels, but the built-in cryptocurrency and smart contract platform will allow channel owners to sell advertising in a less ad-hoc way than they do now.

Users will be able to browse the web anonymously via a proxy built into the system. They’ll also gain access to tools that instantly transfer grams — the network’s digital currency — to fellow users and to vendors with a presence on the network, as well as for the conversion of grams into fiat currency. The whole experience, the Durovs promise, will be simple enough for non-technical folks.

All the resulting system lacks to be a fully-fledged digital nation is a government (but who needs another one of those?) and a social safety net (though a voluntary one would be easy to add on). With its own identification and monetary systems, its own media, as well as more ‘citizens’ than most countries, it could, at least in theory, quickly attract enough economic agents to become a big economy.”

A system that would allow users to surf the web anonymously while conducting secure transactions within a messaging app would be a dream come true for many people. Personal data wouldn’t get sold to advertisers and the prying eyes of Big Brother wouldn’t be able to see your transaction history. People would be free to act of their own accord in a secure manner. It would be the realization of the ideals of the blockchain. Everything we think of when we dream about how this transformative technology can change the world.

But perhaps no one will really care at the end of the day. Maybe the only thing that will really matter will be Cryptocribs or some other blockchain based service aiming to copy an existing hit business. Right now, no one knows. All we know for sure is that we’re living in the Wild, Wild West of the blockchain era. Where there’s never a dull moment. So stay tuned for more Tales From the Crypto coming soon.

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Is Telegram on the blockchain the Greatest Idea Ever?

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