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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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I’d love to work at Google.  But, then again, who wouldn’t?  The free food.  The Quidditch Patch.  The 20% free time rule.  The secretive moonshot lab.  The never ending quest to make all of the world’s information easily accessible.  The desire to make the world a better place just so long as they aren’t being evil along the way.  Google has it all.  Everything you look for in a workplace from perks to work life balance to that hard to quantify feeling that what you’re doing with your life actually matters.   But, let’s face it, I’m never going to work at Google.

It wouldn’t be for a lack of trying though.  I’ve applied in the past and been rejected.  But that’s okay.  Google is highly selective.  Only about 1% of applicants get admitted.  By comparison Harvard admits 7% of applicants.  They also like to hire engineers, programmers, computer scientists, math wizards, quants, and those predisposed to quantitative analysis and I am none of those things.  I can’t even figure out how much to tip at dinner.

But what if I could work at Google?  As a matter of fact, what if everyone could?  What if there was no such thing as positions or job openings?  No such thing as qualifications or prerequisites.  No tricky interview questions to ponder.  No riddles to solve.  No references required.  What if everyone who wanted to work at a place like Google could? No questions asked.

I know how that sounds but in my mind it’s a logical response to the looming question of what will happen to society once robots take all our jobs.  With millions of unemployed people roaming the streets society could be on the verge of collapse unless somebody steps in and does something about it.  The idea of a Universal Income has been trending lately as one possible solution.  One that Sir Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg have been passionately championing with Elon Musk even calling it an inevitability.  The basic premise is that as a response to automation, governments would just give every citizen an arbitrary stipend to cover the minimum cost of living.  With this stipend in hand citizens would be free to pursue their dreams and passion projects.  To become writers, actors, painters and photographers.  To become well fed “starving artists”.

But this plan has never seemed all that feasible to me.  Where is the money for these stipends coming from?  If we can’t fund social security how are we going to fund a basic universal income?  What makes more sense to me then is the idea of a limitless corporation.  A company that would hire anyone who wanted to work it, head count be damned.  In theory, this would be a universal basic income with a catch.  Anyone would be free to join this fictitious company, to punch in and get paid by the hour, but this is no free stipend.  You’d have to earn your paycheck, just like at a real modern day company, but the difference is that there’s no one to tell you how to go about doing that.  There are no bosses.  No assigned projects.  No deadlines to meet.  You are on your own.

If you’re not successful in your chosen endeavor, no problem.  You’d still collect your stipend just for trying.  But if you are successful?  If you managed to start your own company, publish a book, or launch a profitable career as a world famous lip gloss reviewer on YouTube, well then that’s where things would get interesting.  You’d be filthy rich but you wouldn’t be the only one to benefit from your success.  This limitless corporation would as well.  They’d get a portion of your earnings and all your future earnings with that money going into a general pool to fund the basic universal income of everyone else who wasn’t successful.

In a way this is a kind of hybrid communist/capitalist system.  Everyone’s basic needs are met and everyone shares in individual successes.  Google kind of works this way already.  Engineers collect a standard paycheck but they’re also free to work on passion projects.  If one of those passion projects winds up becoming an actual Google product, then great.  Everyone benefits.  That’s kind of like what would happen at the limitless corporation.  Instead of 20% of your time dedicated to passion projects it would be 100% of your time.  But the end result is the same.  The corporation would own the product you created so that they could integrate it into a wider ecosystem.

Under such a system prolific individuals could still rise above the crowd and enjoy a better lifestyle than everyone else.  But there wouldn’t be a wide divide between the 1% and the 99% percent.  We’d all be working together, helping each other to innovate, coming together to create value that would benefit all of society while the robots did all of our dirty work for us.

Is this crazy?  Probably.  But is it also crazy enough to work?  Possibly.  But, hey, if you don’t like this plan there is an alternate solution.  Just hire me to work at Google now.

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What if everyone who wanted to work could? No questions asked.

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#1,151 – Temporal Treasure

Yesterday I saw a post on LinkedIn in which a sales recruiter was complaining about a rude CEO that she had to deal with.  In her post she recapped how she had emailed him twice and never received a response.  After emailing for a third time she was floored by the response that she did get.  Something to the effect of, “if you email me again, I’m going to charge you for my time spent on dealing with your emails.”

When I read this my initial reaction was the same reaction that I’m sure most people had.  That this CEO must be a total douche to say that aloud even if he was thinking it.  But then I began to look at this rant with a different slant.  What if the CEO had a point?  If he’s the leader of a Fortune 500 company his time is extremely valuable.  So why shouldn’t he be allowed to charge for it?  And if he’s allowed to charge for it, then why can’t we all charge for our time?

On the surface this sounds absurd.  Something that would be impossible to enforce.  But there may be some merit to the idea.  Perhaps, in a weird way, it’s even an appropriate response to robots taking all of jobs.  In the face of insurmountable unemployment we’d create a financial system built around something other than actual employment.  A system build around time.

Such a system could be a variation on the theme of the Justin Timberlake movie In Time.  Instead of paying people in units of time, increasing or decreasing their lifespans, we could pay them for their time.  If you respond to an email, you’d get paid.  If you spoke on the phone with someone, or responded to a text, you’d get paid.  Maybe you’d even get paid every time you edited a Wikipedia article, read a blog post, answered a question on Quora, shared a video on YouTube, or commented on a Facebook thread.  Anytime you did anything that contributed positively to society you’d get paid by the person who benefited from your value add.  Available funds would flow freely through society, getting passed from neighbor to neighbor throughout the course of the day.

In a sense, the wealthiest among us would be the people who were the most helpful, the most accessible.  We’d be living in a true reputation economy in which your actions really, truly mattered.  And in a way, it’s the society that we’ve already started living in.  We already pay a neighbor a few bucks when they give us a ride to the airport or when they let us crash at their apartment.  It’s called taking an Uber and renting an Airbnb.  The share economy is the reputation economy.  So why not also make it the time economy?

Email overload is one of the scourges of modern day life as that CEO’s response attested to.  Trying to get down to inbox zero is an exercise in futility.  But if we actually had to pay to send an email, wouldn’t that all change?  If it cost, say 5 cents to send an email, and an additional one cent per additional recipient, I’m pretty sure that my twelve person fantasy football league wouldn’t indulge in petty reply all debate threads 100 emails long because none of those cheap bastards would want to spend $100 over the course of a season just to get the last word in an argument.  Actually, I probably would, but that’s just me.  Everyone else probably wouldn’t.  And if everyone else stops sending hundreds of emails then your email inbox might start looking more manageable.  You’d also have the added benefit of knowing that you’re not receiving junk email because if somebody paid to speak to you, it must be important.

Would a society built around a series of micropayments flounder or flourish.  Would we get more done since we have less to do or would we do less since we’d only want to do things that we could paid for?  Would such a system bring us together or tear us apart?

Only time will tell.

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Is getting paid for your time the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Almost every major city in the world has a museum of Natural History.  A place where people can congregate to marvel at dinosaur fossils, shards of broken pottery from ancient cultures, and mannequins made to look like Neanderthals.  A place where people can examine handheld tools, crude drawings, and other artifacts gleamed from archaeological digs.  A place where cultural anthropology is on full display.

But what we don’t have is a Museum of Natural History of the Mind.  A place where people can congregate to marvel at how the mind has evolved and how it continues to do so.  Granted, most of the inventions and innovations on display in a museum of Natural History are products of the human mind and therefore already accounted for.  You could certainly argue that having a separate museum dedicated to the mind would be a duplicative effort.  But studying human history through the lens of the various cultures that have pre-dated modern man doesn’t capture the full essence of the transformation that the mind has gone through during that same time span.  The Earth has come a long way over the course of its illustrious history and we are right to want to pay homage to our lineage and our birthplace.  But the mind has come an equally long way in a much shorter period of time.  Shouldn’t we be paying our respects to the highest power that we know, that which we don’t yet fully understand, the holy grail of modern achievement, biological or otherwise, the human mind?

Technically, a Museum of the Mind does exist.  The Bethlem Gallery in England, housed in a former mental institution, is dedicated to displaying artworks from mentally afflicted artists.  But a museum dedicated to the Natural History of the Mind, at least as I’m imagining it, doesn’t exist.  What would such a museum look like?  Well for starters, here’s a look at some of the topics that such a museum would touch on:

  • The history of communication from storytelling to the Oral Culture of the Ancient Greeks, to the advent of Cuneiform and the written word, to the invention of the Printing Press, all the way to the Information Age and the creation of the Internet.  Each new innovation has re-shaped our minds as we went from reading aloud to reading silently, from reading intently for long periods of time, to reading quickly in a haphazard fashion.  Going forward our minds will continue to evolve in lockstep with our ever changing communication methods.

 

  • What is consciousness?  What region or regions of the brain is responsible for it?  Will we ever find out?  An exhibit dedicated to consciousness could take museum patrons on a tour of the cutting-edge of modern day brain scanning and mapping as scientists race to answer these questions.  An actual working lab could be situated on the museum campus allowing for patrons to view real brain science in real time in a fish bowl like setting.  Anyone hoping to contribute directly to science can take part in control group experiments that will directly aid current research.  Anyone just interested in learning about how the process works can take part in reenactments of famous experiments.

 

  • What is dreaming?  Why do we dream and what do recurring dreams mean?  An entire exhibit could be dedicated to daydreams, REM cycle sleep, nightmares and everything in between.  Add your dreams to a worldwide database of dreams and discover the most common dreams for the region that you live in.  Find out what it really means when you’re constantly getting chased in your dreams.

 

  • Why is that we do our best thinking while in the shower?  Does brainstorming really work?  Are there tricks to make us more creative?  More innovative?  More imaginative?  What are the best environments for creative thinking?  Or some locations more creative than others?  Where in the world does innovation most often occur?  Find out in this exhibit dedicated to creativity which will span the entire campus and feature all of the various environments thought to spur creativity.  Go on a long walk through the forested gardens that surround the museum.  Frolic through the splash pads on a warmer summer day.  Sit in solitude in the illustrious study.  Just to be sure to write down your ideas before you leave the premises.

 

  • We can easily recall a cherished childhood memory but have trouble remembering what we ate for lunch yesterday.  Why is that?  Why is it that some memories fade over time while others become ingrained in our subconscious? Can we trust our memories in a court of law or elsewhere for that matter?  Can we get to the point where we can implant false memories or remove traumatic ones?  Find out if an exhibit dedicated to memory.  If you can remember how to get to it.  It’ll be situated at the end of a corn field maze.

The museum could also focus on brain disorders and extraordinary feats such as those people who can remember everything that’s ever happened to them.  Patrons can take IQ and personality tests to see how they stack up against their peers.  An Escape the Room style game could represent what it’s like to be stuck inside a dream state; the only way out of the dream is to figure a way out of the room.  A Carnival style House of Horrors could make use of hypnotism and other illusions to demonstrate what happens when your mind plays tricks on you.  What color is that dress?  Find out why we can’t all agree.  The gift shop could be filled with puzzles and other brain teasers.  Anything and everything having to do with the mind and the brain would be in play.

Such a museum would be a fascinating world wind tour of human history.  We’d learn where we came from, where we’re at, and where we’re heading.  We’d learn the entire essence of what it means to be human. I even have the perfect tagline in mind: “Come with an open mind.  Leave with a full heart.”

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Is a Museum of the Mind the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Nikola Tesla was on to something.  Electricity really is awesome.  It allows use to see after the sun goes down.  It allows us to refrigerator food, thereby preventing it from spoiling.  It allows us to cool our homes and live in warm weather climates.  It allows us to recharge our cell phones, those pocket sized devices that we just can’t live without.  It does all that and so much more.  And soon it’ll do one more thing for us: end world hunger.

According to Quartz:

“A team of researchers in Finland has successfully created food using electricity.

Well, calling it food is a bit of a stretch at this point—but it’s a start. By mixing three ingredients into a coffee-cup-sized bioreactor and supplying an electric shock, they zapped a powder into being that’s around 50% protein and 25% carbohydrates, with the rest being fat and nucleic acid.

This early-stage research could pave a path toward a solution to cheaply feed hungry populations without massive land use. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people in the world—that’s one in nine—suffer from chronic undernourishment.  And it’s not just human mouths it can help feed: ‘Along with food, the researchers are developing the protein to be used as animal feed,’ says a press release on the study…”

Considering how quickly the human population is growing and how quickly climate change is devastating land that could have been used to grow food, this innovation could be a real game-changer.  With it we won’t need large swaths of land to grow crops or raise cattle.  In addition to law grown meat we could artificially create food with electricity and ensure that everyone is always fed.  Every beauty pageant contestant who wanted to end world hunger just got their wish.

This innovation could also have far reaching implications for space travel or colonizing other planets.  You wouldn’t need to carry around a lot of equipment to cook.  All you’d need is some powder and an electric charge.  It would also make it a lot easier to cook down here on Earth.  You wouldn’t need any fancy ingredients.  There wouldn’t be any complicated instructions to follow.  Even I could zap food into existence.  When I make toast it basically looks like it got struck by lightning anyway.  I’d be right at home creating food from electricity.  Every guy would.  It’s basically a cooler version of a microwave.

Nikola Tesla was right to marvel at the awesome power of electricity.  Now that it’s set its sights on creating food, world hunger doesn’t stand a chance.  Is there anything it can’t do?

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Is using electricity to create food the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The Joba Rules were designed to protect the right arm of former New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain.  A starting pitcher by trade, Chamberlain arrived in the major leagues as a relief pitcher and instantly became a Phenom as his bulldog mentality translated into an intimidating mound presence.  As his success continued the debate surrounding what his role should be intensified.  With a four pitch mix capable of maintaining his velocity deep into games Chamberlain could have been groomed as a starting pitcher.  But thanks to his size, demeanor, mound antics, success to date, and innings limit restrictions some thought that his future was in the bullpen as a closer or relief ace.  The Rules, which put restrictions on how many innings he could throw in one game or how many games he could appear in successively curtailed his momentum.  As his role constantly changed so did his confidence.  He went from Phenom to out of the game in just a few short years.

I never understood the Joba Rules or any other attempt to put innings restrictions on pitchers.  Yes, there is evidence to suggest that throwing exponentially more innings in one year than the prior year could affect your arm strength and lead to injuries.  But not all innings are created equal.  A 1-2-3 inning in which you faced the bottom of the order is not the same as having to navigate the heart of the order in the bottom of the ninth inning of a playoff game.  What major league teams should be monitoring more than the number of innings completed or the number of pitches thrown is the amount of stress encountered.

The same adage holds true for driving.  If all innings aren’t created equal than neither are all the miles you drive.  A ride to the local grocery store isn’t the same as driving uphill on a mountain grade curve.  Local driving on a day to day basis isn’t the same as a long road trip.  Stop and go traffic isn’t the same as speeding, suddenly stopping and starting, making a sharp turn, or doing any of the other things that one might do when running late to an appointment.  And yet when it comes to leasing a car you’re likely to encounter a one size fits all approach to mileage.  In most cases that’s 12,000 miles per year, on average a thousand miles per month for you to use at your leisure.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Something I learned when I leased my new Subaru Crosstrek is that the car has software capable of monitoring your driving.  Your speed, the way you use your breaks, the turns you make.  If you happen to have Progressive Insurance you can opt into a program that will send this black box data from your car to the insurance company.  If you’re a good driver this data can be used to lower your rate.

What I’d like to suggest then is for car companies to adopt this practice of monitoring the way we drive for determining how many miles we get when we lease a car.  If all miles aren’t created equal then I shouldn’t be penalized for going over the arbitrary number of miles that was given to me to work with when I first leased my car.   Rather, when I turn my car in at the end of my lease a conversion should take place to determine how many “true” miles I put on my car regardless of how many “actual” miles I put on it.

Will this switch ever take place?  Of course not.  Car companies love to nickel and dime customers and there’s no way better way to nickel and dime them than to literally charge them a nickel and a dime as they do when they charge customers 15 cents for every mile they go over their limit when they turn their cars in at the end of their leases. But a guy can hope can’t he?  All miles are not created equal.  Maybe one day we’ll realize that.

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All innings and car miles are not created equal.

 

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I have a confession to make: I don’t love Star Wars.  Shocking I know.  The admission surprises even me.  But there’s no denying it.  I just can’t get into it.  The Natalie Portman lead prequels were atrocious.  And that’s coming from someone who loves Natalie Portman.  The latest iteration was an improvement over the prequels but felt like more of a remake than a new take on the story.  The Kylo Ren-Han Solo I am your father storyline?  Rey not realizing that she’s a Jedi?  The emerging threat of a Death Star?  Sound familiar?

Admittedly the original trilogy was good.  Especially considering when it came out.  It was so far ahead of its time that it blew audiences away and became a cult hit.  But I didn’t have the benefit of watching it when it first came out.  I watched it on my VCR in the late 1990s before I could fully appreciate what I was watching.  As a result I wasn’t impressed with what I saw and as a result I never recovered my fandom.

But all that may be about to change because if there’s one thing I love more than a good space opera it’s a good immersive experience.  And thanks to Disney I may soon have the chance to live out an incredible immersive experience set in space aboard a spaceship.  An immersive experience that’s to be set in the Star Wars Universe for those of you who are into that sort of thing.

That’s right.  Disney just announced plans to build a Star Wars themed hotel in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida that is to be so immersive as to dominate every second of your day.  Every guest will be given their own unique story line to follow, the entire hotel staff will be in character, and the fun and games will never let up as you pilot the Millennium Falcon, partake in battles, interact with other guests in the Cantina, and fight the urge to join the Dark Side.

As TechCrunch states:

“In other words, it’s… like… Westworld (or, you know, as close as anyone can get) plus Star Wars, minus all the sexy and/or murdery stuff.  The potential here is incredible. I’d be excited about this even if it was just some haphazard third party throwing together a Star Wars-themed weekend. But with the might of an army of Disney Imagineers and Lucasfilm’s own stamp of approval on it? Oh man, oh man, oh man.”

Even if you’re not a Star Wars you’d have to admit that the idea of spending a weekend living out a fantasy aboard a spaceship is still pretty cool.  And if you are a Star Wars fan?  The kind of person who camps out the night before the movies come out, dresses up like a Storm Trooper for Halloween, has a life sized Yoda statue in their living room, thinks that they have actually successfully used Jedi mind tricks on their dog and ends every email by saying ‘May The Force Be With You’, well…you probably just lost your mind.

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Is an Immersive Star Wars Hotel the Greatest Idea Ever?

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