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Archive for May, 2018

Another day, another great use for Blockchain technology: a secure platform for DNA research.

Companies like 23andme already let you learn about your DNA so that you can find out if you are at risk for any diseases.  But when you send in your saliva the transaction is basically complete.  Your genetic data free to go to the highest bidder with you getting nothing in return for your efforts, save for the peace of mind of knowing that you are helping advance scientific research.  But now, thanks to the power of the Blockchain and a new company founded by genetic pioneer George Church, known as Nebula Genomics, you can get something else for your efforts.  You can get paid.

According to Futurism, “Individuals will send a saliva sample to Nebula, which is analyzed by the company. From there, other entities are free to pay a fee to access to the genetic information for research purposes, using a secure computation platform provided by Nebula. The data can be rented out over and over again, even to more than one buyer at the same time.

The system is based around a purpose-built cryptocurrency dubbed Nebula tokens. Companies would need to buy tokens in order to pay for access to people’s genetic information, and individuals would initially pay a small fee to have their DNA sequenced using the coin. The idea is that they would get the money back as their genetic code is purchased by researchers all over the world.”

Getting paid for your data?  What a novel idea!  Google and Facebook, are you listening?

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Is Nebula Genomics the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,322 – Art Hunt

Finding faces in nature has quickly become one of my favorite things to do as I take great pride in creating what I consider to be unique art.   On a recent trip to Sedona I came across Alf, Tony the Tiger, and Slimer from Ghostbusters.  Or at least rock formations that looked like them.  Previously, I’ve spotted Kermit the Frog, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and Sloth from Goonies.  My Instagram account (Greatestphotoever) turning into a venerable who’s who of 80’s pop culture icons.  Suffice it to say, I’m probably the only person in the world who has ever looked at a tree log and seen Zorro.

And yet nobody cares.  I haven’t rocketed to fame and fortune.  I’m not (yet?) an Instagram star.  In fact, I’ve actually had people de-friend me on Facebook because of how weird my posts have become.  Are they right?  Am I bat-shit crazy?  Or am I a next-level genius who is ahead of his time?  Perhaps if more people knew about what I was doing we could come to some kind of consensus with the wisdom of the crowd prevailing once more.  That’s why I’d like to find a better way to get artists discovered.  Word of mouth giving way to a more technologically advanced system that would enable high-quality art to reach the masses.

Art, in this context, would refer to anything born from creativity.  No regard for medium.  Music, images, words, whatever the case may be.  Unique Etsy storefronts would qualify.  Ditto for unheralded Instagram accounts, little known blogs, and YouTube accounts deserving of a wider audience.  Anyone and everyone with an overactive imagination and an underappreciated talent.  And here’s the best part.  What I’m imagining already exists.  In a way.

You see, in my line of work as a futurist I’m constantly on the lookout for The Next Big Thing.  That game-changing invention or innovation that’s going to re-shape society for years to come, making our lives better and easier.  And as it turns out I’m not alone.  There’s an entire community of people who have come together online with a shared objective in mind: scouring the web and leaving no stone un-turned until they’ve hunted down their next obsession.  From software to hardware and all the apps in between, if there’s an exciting new product out there, the obsessives over at Product Hunt will find it.  But when it comes to discovering creativity what recourse do we have?  Who is out there hunting for the next great writer or photographer?  That’s why I’d like to fill this gap and create a Product Hunt spin-off known as Art Hunt, dedicated to scouring the world for underappreciated artistic talent.

After all, isn’t it time that we fed the egos of starving artists, sang the praises of aspiring musicians, and removed the block keeping writers out of the limelight?  Isn’t it time that we rewarded them for all of the great work that they’ve been doing?  I think so.  So, from now on, Art Hunt is going to be removing the hustle from your side hustle.  Your fifteen minutes of fame have arrived.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more faces to find.

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Is Art Hunt the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Attention outdoor enthusiasts.  Staying off the grid while camping just got harder thanks to a new device that will work even without a signal.

According to BGR, “If you enjoy hiking, climbing, skiing, or any other activity that generally takes place in a remote area, we found something you definitely need to check out. Conversely, if you go to a lot of concerts or sporting events and you’re always frustrated when network congestion prevents you from calling and texting your friends, this is also a device for you. The BEARTOOTH Smart Walkie Talkie isn’t actually a walkie talkie. Instead, it’s a little box that connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and then you can use the BEARTOOTH app to talk, text, and even share your location or navigate to someone else’s location — all without any Wi-Fi or cell service. Ready for the best part? Depending on your surroundings and the terrain, these devices have a range of between 1 and 3 miles!”

Similar to Beartooth is Lynq.  A simple device that lets you find your friends in a crowd.

According to TechCrunch, “If you’ve ever been hiking or skiing, or gone to a music festival or state fair, you know how easy it is to lose track of your friends, and the usually ridiculous exchange of ‘I’m by the big thing’-type messages.  Lynq is a gadget that fixes this problem with an ultra-simple premise: it simply tells you how far and in what direction your friends are, no data connection required.”

This invention is basically my location within a location locator and goes to show just how much we’ve come to rely on modern technology.  Not having access to it at all or in certain situations is simply no longer an option.

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Is Beartooth the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Play outside in the snow for too long and catch a cold.  Go from air-conditioned apartment to outside heat to air-conditioned car to outside heat to air-conditioned apartment and catch a cold.  Travel often and catch a cold.  Hang around those human cesspools known as kids and catch a cold.

No matter who you are or what you’re doing you’re likely going to get a cold and be down and out for several days with no recourse.  All you can do is treat the symptoms.  There’s no cure for the cause of your suffering.  Until now that is.  That’s right.  Scientists may have finally figured out a way to invent a cure for the common cold!

As Futurism explains, “When a cold virus enters the body, it commandeers a human protein cell called N-myristoyltransferase (NMT). The virus uses this protein to construct a capsid, a shell that protects the virus so it can replicate.  The ICL team developed a molecule, IMP-1088, that completely blocked several strains of rhinovirus, the primary cause of the common cold, from reaching the NMT protein.”

Since the virus can’t reach the protein it can’t use it to make its shell and thus it can’t survive long enough to replicate.  Now, this isn’t the first time this approach has been attempted.  It is, however, the first time that the treatment didn’t have any negative side effects.  Paving the way for animal and then human trials.  So, hopefully it won’t be too long before a viable drug is on the market.

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Is a cure for the common cold the Greatest Idea Ever?

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What if your diary or journal could write back to you?  That’s the premise behind The Sigmund, a new concept for an interactive, AI-infused smart journal, named after the greatest couch therapist of all-time, Sigmund Freud.

Here’s how it would work.  Rather than tell off your ex, complain about your co-workers to your spouse, or burden your friends with deep existential thoughts about the meaning of life, you can instead just express yourself within the pages of The Sigmund, the same way that millions of people have interacted with diaries and journals for millennia.  But here’s where things get interesting.  Instead of just writing on a static page or even in a smart journal capable of transferring your writings to the cloud, you would instead be writing inside of a journal that an AI would be actively scanning.  Able to make sense of natural language this AI would take clues from your ruminations and over time serve up advice and recommendations to ease you through your troubling times.

For instance, let’s say that you just got out of a relationship and are contemplating the current state of your love life.  The Sigmund would pick up on these subtle clues, the one’s where you talk about how lonely and depressed you are, and suggest that you attend a swing dancing class on Thursday night.  A few days later, with the topic still being written about, a different approach would be taken.  In addition to sending over a link to a speed dating event the journal would also start complimenting you on a daily basis, providing you with inspirational quotes and the like, to remind you of how great you are.

Dating aside, let’s say that you write in a journal that your New Year’s Resolution for the year is to write a book.  It’s May and you haven’t done shit yet.  You lament this fact in The Sigmund.  The next thing you know you’re getting daily reminders to get off your ass and write along with links to writing classes and emails containing tips to get pass writer’s block.  By September you have a rough draft complete.

All in all, there’s something to be said for putting pen to paper and getting your thoughts off your chest.  Abraham Lincoln used to write letters to his generals, telling them off, before stuffing them away in a draw.  No need to actually mail them having already cleared his mind and moved on.  Others don’t have that luxury though.  No matter how hard we try we can’t move on easily.  Our thoughts linger.  Weighing us down.  Acting as an anchor that hold down our relationships and friendships.  Thankfully, we now have another option.  Part pen pal, part therapist, part digital assistant, The Sigmund would allow us to get the help that we need without burdening our friends or burning any bridges.  A use of AI that makes our lives better, not just easier.

 

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Is The Sigmund the Greatest Idea Ever?

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This next idea is a real doozy.  Mind-blowing would be an apt description.  Especially since it involves literally blowing up your mind.  Or at least editing it.  That’s right.  Scientists at the University of California Berkley are actually working on a hologram projecting device that would enable them to manipulate thousands of the brain’s neurons at once allowing for the mind to be hacked and memories replaced or added at will.

So how does this scary, yet amazing, brain-editing technology work?!

As The Next Web describes:

“The researchers successfully activated and deactivated specific groups of neurons in the brains of mice by projecting holograms directly onto them through a ‘window’ in the animals’ heads. This method allows the team to manipulate precise neuron groups, hundreds of times per second, in an imitation of the brain’s natural response to stimulus.  This research indicates the potential exists for complete ‘editing’ of the brain. The scientists hope to decode the brain’s ‘language’ and learn to replicate it – a breakthrough which could give us god-like control over our thoughts, memories, senses, and feelings.”

This technology would obviously be a huge boon for those suffering from PTSD or anyone else in need of replacing painful memories with more positive ones.  Such as someone suffering from chronic pain.  The technology could potentially also be used to help amputees control their prosthetic limbs in a more natural way.  However, there are obvious commercial implications as well.  As people may one day look to trick their brains into responding to artificial stimuli Total Recall style.

So what do you think?  Would you want to “edit” your brain in the future?  To get rid of traumatic memories?  Or to trick your mind into thinking you’ve done things that you’ve never done before?  Or would you prefer a more natural life experience, for better or for worse?

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Is a brain editing device the Greatest Idea Ever?

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By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court of the United States has voted to overturn a ban on sports gambling that had existed since 1992, declaring it unconstitutional.

According to CNN, “The court said the federal law violated constitutional principles limiting the federal government from controlling state policy, unconstitutionally forcing states to prohibit sports betting under their own laws.”

The move paves the way for each individual state to decide for themselves if they want to legalize sports betting with it being believed that about thirty two of them will within the next five years.  In fact, New Jersey is raring to go, and could be up and running by the NBA Finals in June, in a move that could save decrepit Atlantic City.  Other states such as Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut are also said to have legislation already in the works in anticipation of this announcement which mirrors a previous ruling in relation to state lotteries.

The ruling is seen as a boon for professional sport leagues as it is widely believed that allowing sports betting will generate significantly more interest from casual fans who will now have a vested interest in the outcome of otherwise meaningless contests.  For proof, look no further than the explosion in popularity of the NFL in recent years, despite numerous off-field incidents, all thanks to fantasy football going mainstream.  Now the NBA and MLB can similarly hope to capitalize on artificial interest to boost ticket sales and TV ratings.  In fact, some team owners are already jumping for joy as there is some speculation that this move has effectively doubled the value of their franchises.

Others are more skeptical of the move.  Especially league officials who will now have to put their own regulations in place to ensure that there is no corruption in their games as the last thing that anybody wants is a situation where an official, umpire, referee, player or coach is on the take to fix the outcome of a game ala Pete Rose and Tim Donaghy.  On the other hand, those same officials might reason that if billions of dollars are already being spent every year illegally in off the book gambling why not legalize the action to profit off of something that’s going to be happening anyway.  The same logic used by proponents of legalizing marijuana.

Considering that I live in Arizona, a state with a Native American casino monopoly that banned DraftKings and FanDuel and which is in close proximity to Las Vegas, it’s likely that sports betting will never be legalized for me.  At least not anytime soon.  But for everyone else?  This decision could have a major impact on their daily lives going forward.  And their bank accounts.  For better or for worse.

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A look at the current state of sports betting in all of the states.

 

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#1,316 – Lobe

Have an idea for an app that leverages machine learning but don’t know how to code?  You’re in luck.  Soon you’ll be able to create your very own applications thanks to an easy to use platform that makes AI accessible for the masses.  So easy to use, in fact, that’ll be just like playing with legos.

As Fast Company puts it, “The theory of machine learning isn’t hard to grasp. If you want to train software to spot a face in a photography, you amass many pictures of faces in photographs. You draw a box around the face parts. And over millions of rounds of practice, the software will learn to spot faces in pretty much any photograph–as if it’s twisting a wax key in a lock over and over again until it can unlock a door effortlessly.

The problem is that while the theory is largely understandable, the tools are hard to use, let alone master. You have to create all sorts of custom bits of code, plug it into multiple pieces of software, and operate under an almost intuitive grasp of advanced data analytics to get anywhere.

Or maybe that was the case, until the launch of Lobe, which looks like the most user-friendly take on machine learning yet. All you need is a big pile of images or sounds, which you drag and drop onto Lobe’s website. From here, Lobe will automatically begin creating a machine that’s capable of learning pretty much anything. There’s no coding required, and you can even stack existing bit of AI onto your project, much like Lego bricks.”

So, what can Lobe be used for?  Well, like with most new technologies the best use-cases are likely to come from the crowd now that the barriers to entry have been lowered.

According to TechCrunch, “The ease and speed with which new applications can be designed and experimented with could open up the field to people who see the potential of the tools but lack the technical know-how.

[Co-founder Mike Matas] compared the situation to the early days of PCs, when computer scientists and engineers were the only ones who knew how to operate them. “’They were the only people able to use them, so they were they only people able to come up with ideas about how to use them,’ he said. But by the late ’80s, computers had been transformed into creative tools, largely because of improvements to the UI.

Matas expects a similar flood of applications, even beyond the many we’ve already seen, as the barrier to entry drops.

‘People outside the data science community are going to think about how to apply this to their field,’ he said, and unlike before, they’ll be able to create a working model themselves.”

Given that fact Lobe has the potential to be truly game-changing once it gets into the hands of creatives. Hopefully, the applications that come out of it will be just as transformative as the tool itself.

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Is Lobe the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,315 – Pages

Ryan Reynolds and C.J. Miller, in a trailer for Deadpool 2, are seen auditioning various “superheroes” for the X Force team they are building.  When a guy shows up with the superpower of having both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes Miller jokes that its time to update LinkedIN.  In other words, that it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

This got me thinking.  If you really were looking to build a superhero team is LinkedIN where you would look?  Or would you look on Craigslist?  Or somewhere else?  And what if there was a better way?  A place where you could go to look for someone regardless of your need, whether you’re looking for a superhero or a plumber.

What I’m envisioning then is an app called Pages, named after the White Pages and Yellow Pages listings that dominated the pre-Internet era.  Anyone can set up a page and use it to announce to the world what they would want to be “hired” for.  Now this isn’t strictly a job platform although you could use this service for that if you really wanted to.  Nor is it a dating app, although, once again, if you wanted to use it to find dates you could.  Rather the point of Pages would be to find anyone you are looking for.  That could be a fill-in for your softball team, a babysitter, someone to go hiking with, or someone to help you move.

For instance, my Pages profile would announce that I’m available for public speaking gigs.  Someone else might announce that they’re down to fill in on your bar trivia team or to round out a golfing foursome.  Others might broadcast the fact that they are a wedding singer looking for gigs or a photographer looking for work during wedding season.

No matter who you are or what you’re interested in, from fighting crime to playing kickball, chances are that there’s someone out there with similar interests looking for someone just like you.  Isn’t it about time that we made it easier for one another to find each other?  Isn’t it about time that we created a Google type search engine for people?  Facebook doesn’t make the cut.  Our profiles are private.  Only shared with people we already know.  On the other hand Pages would be public and fully searchable so that we could broadcast ourselves in order to find work or make new connections.  This service would be a real game-changer for freelance workers and weekend warriors alike.  For everyone and anyone with a need for someone.

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Is Pages the Greatest Idea Ever?

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It’s enough of a struggle trying to find true love without having one hand tied behind your back. And yet that’s the reality facing millions of men around the world who have to contend with the onslaught of male pattern baldness.  Sure plenty of men who are either bald or going bald still find love.  Some women don’t care about looks.  And some men even embrace their new looks, going full Michael Jordan.  But for others, dealing with losing one’s hair is just yet another setback in the on-going pursuit of happiness.  Luckily, men in the future won’t have to worry about baldness at all.  Thanks to yet another accidental discovery.

According to Time, “Researchers may have discovered a new cure for baldness using a drug initially intended to treat osteoporosis.  Scientists from the University of Manchester say the drug,WAY-316606, stimulated hair growth in the lab by targeting a protein that halts hair growth and contributes to baldness, BBC reports.

They were originally testing Cyclosporine A, an immunosuppressive drug that has been used since the 1980s to stop rejections in organ transplants and mitigate symptoms of autoimmune diseases.  While it was found to suppress hair loss, Cyclosporine A had side-effects that made it unsuitable. So the team went on looking for a drug with similar attributes; they found it in WAY-316606.”

Hopefully, the promising research will continue and a commercial product will hit the market.  And hopefully, sooner rather than later.  At least for my sake.

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Is a cure for baldness the Greatest Idea Ever?

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