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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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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I live right near a park which gives me picturesque views, quick access to a bike path, and relative quiet most of the time.  It’s perfect.  Except when it’s not.  The commotion from a birthday party being held in the Ramada.  The headache inducing repetitious music from an Ice Cream Truck.  The beautiful yet annoying cacophony of bird mating calls.  I love my apartment.  And yet there are times when I can’t wait to move out.  Noisy sounds and my inability to control them the likely cause of my downfall.

Thankfully, there may soon be something I can do about it.  Thanks to new noise canceling windows that can reduce noise pollution by 50%!

As Futurism puts it, “You can’t shut your neighbors up. But researchers out of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have done the next best thing: they made noise-cancelling windows that can cancel out any harsh noise coming into your home.”

So how exactly does this amazing new technology work?!?!  If you’ve used noise-cancelling headphones the answer will sound familiar to you.

“The device is essentially an array of microphones and speakers that register the sound waves of loud noises coming in and cancel them out by playing an inverted version of the same wave — the waves’ peaks matched perfectly to the valleys of the other. When the inverted waveform and the original sound interact, they cancel each other out, leaving just mellow, ambient noise. All in real-time.”

Amen to that!

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Is a noise cancelling window the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,273 – American Pi

As the Northeast gets hammered with a second major snowstorm I’m reminded of an idea my friend had a few years back: what if you could see a weather man’s track record? Flashing up on screen alongside the scrolling ticker of school closures and snowfall accumulations would be the fact that Bob was 8 for his last 10 forecasts.  We can’t predict the weather but we could at least know who was right most often.

This got me thinking.  What if we could see statistics for everybody not just meteorologists? What if daily life was permeated with quantitative analysis?  We live in the era of Big Data so let’s put all that data to use.  Let’s turn us all into the back of a baseball card.

What I’m imagining is an algorithm that can attach to the API of existing apps and services, and use back-end data, to publicly promote obscure information that would have previously remained hidden.  I call it American Pi, a numbers based approach to improving our daily lives.

How would this improve our lives?  Well, there’s nothing worse than texting someone, especially someone you just met, and waiting for a response.  Is this person ghosting you or just busy?  If you knew how quickly they usually respond to a text your mind would be at ease.  Same thing goes for dating.  Online apps force you to make key decisions – is this person my soul mate – based on minimal, highly selective information.  The parts that the other person wants you to see.  But what if you could see additional information?  What if you could know, for example, that Joe gets second dates 87% of the time or that he offers to pay for the bill 100% of the time.  Wouldn’t that help you make a better decision?

Same thing goes for the workplace.  There is plenty of data about my job performance.  How often I’m on time or late.  How many tasks I’ve completed and how quickly.  What score I got on my annual reviews.  What if the next time I went on a job interview the prospective employer could see my personal performance statistics.  Not just my resume or LinkedIN profile.

Now I’m not saying that we go to the extreme and rate everything we do.  I wouldn’t want to have a number associated with my overall performance as a human being.  I wouldn’t want that number to follow me around for the rest of my life.  But what I am saying is that maybe, just maybe, we could find a few ways to better incorporate statistical information into our lives.  This blog, for instance, could state that 10 out of 10 times Craig’s writing is informative, hilarious, and highly entertaining.  But then again maybe we don’t need to do that at all.  After all, some things in life are pretty obvious.

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Is American Pi the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,223 – Shine Forward

The history of innovation and the history of artificial lighting are often considered one in the same.  After all, it was electricity that powered the Industrial Evolution, allowed people to move to the suburbs, gave rise to the middle class, and ultimately ushered in the Computer Age.  In fact, their histories are so intertwined that the universal symbol for innovation and idea creation is the light bulb itself.  Not to mention the fact that the most famous inventor of all-time, the man synonymous with both great success and great failure, is none other than Thomas Edison, the man who invented said light bulb.

And yet in spite of all that the light bulb itself hasn’t changed that much over the past hundred years.  It might last longer, burn brighter or be more environmentally friendly nowadays but it is, for the most part, still the same old light bulb.  Until now that is.  For the light bulb of the future might not be a bulb at all.  It might not even be a physical object.  That’s right.  In the near future our lighting may be delivered to us via remarkable bioluminescent plants.  Avatar style.

As Inverse puts it:

“During the nearly three-hour ride that is Avatar, James Cameron builds a strange world filled with mountain banshees, sex tails, and forests pulsating with bioluminescence. If you’re a regular Jake Sully yearning for the world of Pandora, you don’t need to wait much longer for your life to become more Avatar-like: On Wednesday, scientists reported that they’re already working on creating real plants that glow like the fauna of the film, which could one day fill up your home, making you one with the Na’vi.”

So, how does this neat parlor trick work?!

According to the article, “The plants are able to glow because they are infused with luciferase, the enzyme responsible for making fireflies glow. In the reaction, luciferase interacts with a molecule called luciferin to create light, and another molecule called co-enzyme A allows the process to happen by removing the reaction byproduct that can inhibit glow. So, the researchers packaged these three molecules into nanoparticles and poured them into a chemical solution.  Putting the plants into this solution and hitting them with high pressure allows the particles to enter the tiny pores of the plants, and once they go there, biological magic happens: luciferin is released and interacts with luciferase, and suddenly the chemical reaction causes the plants to glow.”

To be a fair a lot more work has to be done before our living rooms and places of business start to look like Pandora.  But at this rate it’s not far-fetched to imagine such a world existing.  James Cameron would be proud.  Edison too.

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Are bio-luminescent plants the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I consider myself a creative person.  Someone who is not long for the rat race.  Someone who would rather be traveling the world, taking pictures of landscapes and blogging about innovation.  A true Renaissance Man who spends any remaining free time reading, antiquing, podcasting, mapping the stars, painting, or partaking in any number of various other left or right brain side projects depending on my mood and the time of day.

In our modern economy a person like me is living pay check to pay check as a lowly knowledge worker, pushing paper at a 9 to 5.  In our future economy a person like me is a high-end bread winner, pulling in a six or seven figure salary.  Welcome to the Imagination Age, that forthcoming period of time that is likely to succeed the Information Age as the preeminent driver of technological progress and wealth creation.

As the Singularity Hub explains:

“In many ways, the future is unpredictable. A report by the World Economic Forum reveals that almost 65 percent of the jobs elementary school students will be doing in the future do not even exist yet. Combined with technological automation and the disappearance of traditional jobs, this leaves us with a critical question: how can we survive such a world?

The answer may be imagination.

Initially coined by Rita J. King, the imagination age is a theoretical period beyond the information age where creativity and imagination will become the primary creators of economic value. This is driven by technological trends like virtual reality and the rise of digital platforms like YouTube, all of which increase demand for user-generated content and creativity. It is also driven by automation, which will take away a lot of monotonous and routine jobs, leaving more higher-ordered and creative jobs.”

In fact, we’re already starting to see the foundation of this new economy start to form as Internet celebrities rise to fame not just on YouTube but on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook as well.  In the future, buoyed by a government issued Universal Basic Income we will all be content creators, generating value with our imagination, creativity, and ability to think outside the box.  Or in some cases with our winning personalities.

For further proof of what the future of work will look like all one has to do is look at the burgeoning podcast scene.  The days of listening to local sports talk radio in your car on your way to work are quickly coming to an end.  Now we’re surrounding by infinite listening choices as everyone and their mother spouts prophetic about everything from movies to politics.

As far as I’m concerned the Imagination Age can’t come soon enough.  Being able to flip the switch and turn my part-time creative pursuits into the primary drivers of my wealth would be a dream come true.

But would that dream actually come true or would it be more of a nightmare?  After all, if everyone is busy creating content then who is going to consume it?

Quite the conundrum isn’t it?

Imagine that.

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Is the Imagination Age coming soon? Is it already here?

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Whenever somebody asks me why I don’t drink I usually respond by saying that I don’t like the taste.  Beer, champagne, wine.  It doesn’t matter.  They’re all acquired tastes that I don’t have the patience to acquire seeing as how I’m a picky eater.  Of course, that’s not the only reason why I don’t drink.  Primarily, it’s because I’m not a fan of the lifestyle.  Standing around a loud, crowded bar constantly getting bumped into while meatheads spill their beers on me, is not my idea of a good time.  I’d rather go to bed early, wake up early, and conquer the next day than deal with the after effects of a hangover.  But rather than explain all that I just revert to my standard, “I don’t like the taste”, retort whenever the topic comes up.

However, it looks like I’m going to have to come up with a new excuse the next time someone asks me why I don’t drink thanks to a new invention capable of changing the taste of any beverage.  After all, I’m not going to be able to avoid drinking beer now that I can have one that’ll taste like chocolate milk or whatever else I’d prefer.

As Springwise puts it:

“Craving a drink that is a bit more high-tech than your average martini? Well, you may be in luck. A team of researchers at the National University of Singapore, led by Nimesha Ranasinghe, have developed a programmable cocktail glass which is capable of tricking your senses into thinking that you are drinking just about anything.  Named the Vocktail, the glass and specially-designed stand contain scent cartridges and micro air-pumps to provide aroma; LEDs to alter the color of the drink; and two silver electrodes on the rim of the glass which stimulate the tongue to add salty, bitter or sweet notes. The Vocktail also comes with an app that allows drinkers to fully customize their own drinks.”

Just think about the possibilities that this Vocktail, or virtual cocktail, would enable.  Instead of needing to stock a full bar, you could in theory, just carry a few standard, run of the mill ingredients, and then “trick” your friends or customers into thinking that they really ordered their favorite drink, when in fact, all they ordered was a glass of apple juice.

Or if you find yourself in a social situation that doesn’t suit your tastes, say at a bachelor party where everyone is sharing a bucket of beers, or at a Sunday morning brunch where everyone is sharing some Sangria, you no longer have to avoid participating.  Thanks to the Vocktail you can now pound a beer or share a glass with everyone else because when you do, you’ll actually be tasting your favorite rum.

Or taken one step further, imagine the possibilities for the Vocktail to be used as an instrument of health, not just as another way to get drunk.  For example, what if I could drink a horrible tasting Kale shake or some other kind of vegetable juice concoction but have it taste like soda?  Or better yet, what if you could turn water into anything you wanted?  This would be a total game changer.  By replacing soda with water we’d finally have a leg up on putting an end to the obesity epidemic.

That’s why the Vocktail has the potential to be so transformative.  From enabling me to finally drink alcohol to enabling me to finally kick my soda habit, the Vocktail could change my life forever.  For better or for worse.

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Is the Vocktail the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,154 – Kestrel Materials

Bundling up under several layers when it’s cold out or lugging around a jacket when it’s warm out in case it might get cold later in the evening might soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new type of adaptive clothing from Kestrel Materials.

According to Futurism:

“Kestrel Materials has designed a fabric that’s a step-up from breathable and waterproof types, and their goal is simple enough: ‘reduce the need for bulky layers.’ To do this, the startup has created an adaptive material that reacts to cold and warmth.

When exposed to cold surroundings, the fabric flexes and creates air pockets that trap heat and keep people warm. During warmer weather, the air pockets collapse and prevent heat from being trapped in the clothing. Since the material uses common fibers, such as nylon and polyester, the applications for such an adaptive fabric are as plentiful as the styles of clothes people wear.”

This new material doesn’t just alter its properties to adjust to the weather.  It also changes its shape.  As the Kestrel Materials website describes:

“Our fabrics change shape, increasing their thickness and insulation in response to the cold…early prototypes have demonstrated more than a doubling of material thickness in response to a temperature change of 10 degrees Celsius .”

Kestrel Materials aren’t the only ones looking to design adaptive clothing.  The Army has been working on a solution as well, that according to Quartz, “uses a coating of fine silver nanowires on ordinary fabrics, such as cotton or polyester, as a way to potentially keep soldiers warm in extreme cold.  The coating makes the fabric conductive, and with just a few volts of electricity, it can generate a substantial amount of heat.”

How much electricity are we talking about needing? 3 volts, the amount found in a watch battery, would be more than enough, capable of heating up the clothing by 110 degrees Celsius.

Between Kestrel Materials, the Army, and other clothing designers and fashion brands that are working on similar approaches it’s likely that our days of layering up will soon be over.

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In the future we may not have to bundle up anymore.

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