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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Lego meet Nintendo.  Nintendo meet Lego.

That’s what I immediately thought of when I first heard about Nintendo’s Labo, a new innovative way of playing with a Nintendo Switch that adds various accessories to the equation.  In order to get the accessories to work with the portable gaming console, you’d first have to build them, using sets made out of cardboard.

According to The Verge:

“Today, the company revealed a new initiative dubbed Nintendo Labo, which involves DIY cardboard accessories that can transform the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers into everything from a fishing rod to a piano to a full-on robot suit. These accessories are then used to control a variety of mini-games, essentially turning the Switch tablet into a tiny arcade. The goal of Labo is to get kids involved in playing games on the Switch in a more hands-on, tactile way.”

This is basically a better version of my own childhood, when my sister would get an actual Nintendo game to play with and I’d wind up playing with the box that it came in.  Kids today will instead get the best of both worlds.

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Is Nintendo Labo the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Between Black Mirror and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams there is plenty of science fiction fodder on TV right now.  But what I want to focus on is an idea that was spotlighted a few months ago on an episode of The Orville.  In this episode the crew encountered a society on another planet that was built around the concept of a social credit score.  To the point where if you score was too low, the local coffee shop wouldn’t even serve you.

That idea of a social credit score isn’t just reserved for science fiction anymore.  It’s a real thing right here on Earth, happening right now in China.  It all started a few years ago with the proliferation of mobile payments and social apps such as AliPay and WeChat.  As people got use to using their phones to pay for things they began to use them more and more.  To pay for groceries.  To hail an Uber.  To even pay parking tickets or order food for delivery.

At this point the Network Effect began to take effect.  The more people used these services the more they became comfortable with the idea of giving up control of their data and the more willing they were to sign up for even more services.  And the more people that used these services, the more that other people also wanted to use them.

These tech companies could now know a lot about their users.  The purchases they made, the trouble they got into with the court system, their credit score, who they were friends with, where they were traveling to.  With all of that information at their disposal there was only one logical step to take.  Combining it all in a useful way.

Useful could be a dirty word though.  In the hands of the Chinese government useful data could be a bad thing as they would invariably want to keep tabs on their citizens and root out dissident.  But useful could also be a good thing in the hands of a tech company that wants to reward people for good behavior.

And that’s exactly how things have played out so far.  Citizens in China are receiving a social credit score, three digits, just like a real credit score.  Depending on what actions a person takes this score could go up or down.  If you get good grades in school, volunteer your time, shop for items that improve your health, etc. your score will go up.  Fail to pay a parking ticket, however, and your score could plummet.  So much so, that you might lose access to basic services.  In fact, you might even be denied a visa to travel to another country or lose out on certain job opportunities.

Is this a world that you’d want to live in? That depends on how much of a law abiding citizen you are.  If you sometimes forget to pay a bill on time this society is not for you.  If you do everything you’re supposed to you’d probably love living in a society like this, especially when you hear about all the perks and rewards you’d get for good behavior.  Such as being able to skip security lines at airports, receiving discounts on hotels, getting streamlined access to government services or receiving preferential profile placement on dating apps.

Now here’s where things get tricky.  Your social credit score isn’t just about you.  It also takes into account who your friends with and what their scores are.  In some regards, this makes sense.  You’d want to reward someone who travels in well respected circles, who uses good judgment when picking who to associate with.  But then again it’s also a little bit extreme.  People with low scores could essentially be ostracized from society because no one would want to be friends with someone who has a low score that could drag them down by association.

Could you imagine walking away from a life long friend just because they have a low score?  Would you be willing to do that to someone you care about?  Think long and hard about your answer.  You may have to decide that for real in just a few years.  The age of social credit is almost fully upon us.

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Is Social Credit 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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#1,189 – Hike Mic

The other day I was strolling through the woods in Asheville, North Carolina when my friend remarked how she wished she knew what she was looking at.  What kind of flower is that over there? Which one of these trees is producing those beautiful red leaves? When was this trail made and by whom?

We discovered a lot of interesting things on our hike that day.  One of the biggest leaves I’ve ever seen.  Cool moss covered logs.  An immaculately preserved acorn.  A mysterious metallic object protruding from the ground.

Answers to her questions were harder to come by.

This got me thinking.  What if there was a way that we could stay informed on a hike?  What if there was a way that we could have an expert level travel companion with us at all times?  Someone who could tell us about the foliage and the sediment, about the geology and the local history.  Someone who could tell us how much farther we had to go to reach our destination or let us know if we were lost.  Someone who could even let us know about good food in the area for when our hike was done and we needed to refuel.

What I’m imagining then is an audio tour phone app specifically designed for hiking.  Similar to the audio tours offered in museums, Hike Mic would inform hikers about what they were seeing as they approached various landmarks.  Available in dozens of languages Hike Mic could either inform a single hiker or be broadcast out to a group of trailblazers.  Depending on how long you’ll be hiking for you could either listen to a shorter informational only stream or for longer hikes enjoy a stream that has several songs mixed in.

Imagine if you will, listening to a brief description of how a particular rock formation was formed by a moving glacier, and then suddenly, as you begin your ascent, hearing Eye of the Tiger from the Rocky movies.  A program that could effortlessly toggle between song and information as you reach various mile markers would be absolutely amazing.  Famous naturalists, explorers, adventurers, and climbers could provide the narrations.  Or you could even make it open source and allow for anyone to add messages and tidbits to the trails that they frequent.

When people go for walks in the woods it’s usually because they want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Want to go somewhere where they can unplug and decompress.  Be alone with their thoughts.  And I get all that.  But what about everyone else?  What about the insatiably curious or the wandering wonderers? What about all the people who want to stay informed? Who want to stay connected? For those people maybe one day they’ll be Hike Mic.

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Is Hike Mic the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The Big Four, as they are commonly referred to, have come to dominate modern life as we know it.  The phone in our pocket or tablet in our hand that we use to stay connected with friends on Facebook was made by Apple.  The online searches that we conduct are powered by Google.  The groceries and supplies that we have delivered are ordered through Amazon.  Other companies like Microsoft dabble in relevancy.  But for now, and the immediate future, it’s all about the Big Four.

To secure this narrative Apple is launching the iPhone X and taking the lead on integrating Augmented Reality into their devices.  Previously, Facebook bought Oculus to lead the charge into Virtual Reality.  Meanwhile, Amazon’s Echo gave them a head start on dominating the Internet of Things and connected home markets.  All the while Google presses ahead with their moonshots from driverless cars to curing age related diseases.  The Big Four isn’t going anywhere.  Far from it.  They’re core businesses are all doing well as they transition to mobile computing and their big bets are well diversified across a myriad of industries from AI and drones to telecommunications and content creation.

The question that I like to grabble with is what comes next?  How long can the Big Four stay on top?  Will a massive conglomerate supplant them all?  Will a fifth company ever join their ranks, and if so, who will it be?  No matter how you slice it, there’s only one possible answer.  What comes next is whatever Elon Musk has planned.

And according to Futurism, what’s next, is a global network of satellites capable of providing low cost Internet access.

“SpaceX seems to be taking a step forward in its plan to provide low-cost global internet access via a network of satellites. According to a report from GeekWire, SpaceX has filed to trademark the name ‘Starlink’ for the network. CEO Elon Musk first announced his intention to begin the project back in 2015. More detailed plans were laid out in May, including the intention to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit between 2019 and 2024.  Musk estimated that the network could cost upward of $10 billion to get started, but foresees it as a major source of revenue for the company once it is up and running.”

So let’s say that this initiative is vastly successful and does indeed become a major revenue stream for SpaceX.  Now, let’s say that their reusable rocket business continues to take off, pun intended, and they get into sub-orbital shipping and even space tourism as well and so at the end of the day you’re talking about this major company that’s just absolutely crushing it.  Now let’s say that Tesla with their driverless cars and trucks and their energy powerpacks and powerwalls is also absolutely crushing it.  Now, here’s where things get interesting.  What if Elon Musk combines those two companies with all of his other initiatives (Solar City, the Boring Company, the Hyperloop, Neuralink, plus whatever else he dreams up the next time he’s bored) and creates one major company.  What would that look like? Would this entity, with its focus on transportation/shipping/energy/access to the Internet, etc. be powerful enough to compete with the Big Four?!?! Could it supplant them all on its own?

Obviously, only time will tell, but it is worth speculating about now.  For when Elon Musk announces something new, in this case Starlink, it’s not necessarily just a stand-alone announcement.  For all we know it’s the latest step in his master plan to join the Big Four.  Which begs the question: what does he have planned next?!!?

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Is Starlink the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Have you ever said something and then had someone else ask, “and you’re proud of that?”  Perhaps you were in college and were bragging about how you got a B in a class despite never even opening the textbook once.  Or maybe you were on a date recently talking about how your lazy ass just binge watched five seasons of a reality TV show in only two days.

If life has taught me anything it’s that you have to be careful about what you’re putting out into the world.  Especially in today’s day and age where every waking thought that we have is captured on social media for posterity.  And yet, in spite of that, and in spite of the inevitable, “and you’re proud of that?” eye-rolling that I’m about to solicit, I’m going to go ahead and announce to the world something totally ridiculous that I do.  Because I get the sense that it’s something that we all do.  After all, I can’t be the only person that says that I “read” an article even though the only thing that I read was the title.

I do this all the time.  I see something that looks interesting and I immediately forward it to a friend who I think might like it.  Sometimes they actually do read it and then when they ask me a follow-up question about it, I have to reveal that I hadn’t fully read it yet.  Or sometimes they don’t even read either, and then later on when it comes up in conversation, we both have to awkwardly reveal that neither of us have read it! A similar scenario actually just played out the other morning when I told a co-worker that Bill Gates had apologized for the keyboard shortcut Control, Alt, Delete.  When he asked me why, I couldn’t answer.  So we speculated on the reason why and determined that he had apologized for creating an inefficient three step command when only two keys would have gotten the job done.  Is that the real reason for the apology?  I have no idea.  And I probably never will.

This problem is so widespread that I Fucking Love Science even did a test study last year in which they posted interesting sounding sham articles to see how many times the articles would get shared without first being read.   The click bait article in question was about life on another planet being discovered.  If you took the bait and forwarded the article the joke was on you.  There was no ground breaking discovery.  The content of the article was actually about how nobody reads the body of articles anymore.  And yes, in case you’re wondering, I was one of the people who fell for this trick.  Sadly, I wasn’t alone.

According to Forbes, “A recent study confirmed this phenomenon isn’t in our heads; in fact, 59 percent of all links shared on social networks aren’t actually clicked on at all, implying the majority of article shares aren’t based on actual reading. People are sharing articles without ever getting past the headlines. So why is this the case—isn’t the body of an article supposed to be the most important part? What does this mean for content marketers? And what does this mean for our society?”

This may sound like a ridiculous way to go through life, not fully understanding the world we live in, not even taking the time to try to understand it.  But this is sadly a sign of our times.  This is the way that millennials and xennials operate.  In a world that rewards instant gratification, where everybody is pulled in a million different directions at all times, sometimes the only way to get by is by the skin of your teeth.  Why read entire articles, when you get the gist of it by skimming the headline and sub-titles?  This is a generation, after all, that grew up reading the Cliff’s notes version of classic books.  A generation that uses cheat codes to beat video games on the first pass.  A generation that waits for TV shows to show up in their Netflix queue so that they can watch them all at once and not have to sit through commercials or wait weeks for new episodes to come out.  Do you really think that this generation is going to do a deep-dive into long-form journalism or even bother to read past the jump?

Rather than try to change this generation I think we should instead cater to them.  So instead of writing articles that no one’s going to read, let’s instead create a news website that only deals in headlines.  This news site would essentially just be an expansion of the news headlines bar that currently occupies the right hand side of the screen on Facebook.  An infinitely scrollable resource of information and breaking news, as it happens, updated in real-time, in easily digestible, highly informative chunks, designed to cater to busy professionals.  Every headline capable of standing on its own as a cliff notes style summation of what would have been an entire article.

Think of it this way.  If we can communicate in 140 characters, or get our point across in a two second GIF, then why can’t we also have a news service that informs the masses in short bursts?  It won’t be pretty.  But it’ll get the job done.

Sure, this might lead to ridiculous long run on sentence headlines or titles with multiples of sub-titles but it also may lead to a more well-informed general public.  And if that’s the case that would be a win.  In today’s day and age I’ll take a win wherever I can get it.

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Sometimes a catchy headline is all you need.

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#1,161 – Swiipe

Where do you get your news from? Your Facebook feed? Via the Daily Show on Comedy Central or HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver?  From your loud-mouthed co-worked or neighbor?  From the crazy lady on the subway shouting about the end of days? Or dare I ask, from an actual newspaper or nightly news program?

In the future, your answer might be none of the above.  It might be Swiipe, a new Tinder style app that lets you swipe your way to information overload.  Simply swipe left to bypass a story, swipe right to save it for later, or click on it to read it now.

To help you find stories that may interest you the app will let either swipe through entire categories, say business or sports, or select from a collection of various sources. 50 for now, but another 300 on the way.

As Tech PP puts it:

“’Swiipe News’ certainly seems like an app worth trying out as it eliminates all the clutter you usually encounter on a run-in-the-mill news platform with a straightforward and minimalistic design.”

For today’s youth, who have grown accustomed to the act of swiping and of the practice of using their phones for everything, Swiipe could become the portal through which they enter the real world.  In lieu of water cooler talk and newsstands they’ll have swipes and shares.  The fact that the app was created by one of their own, Alex Goodison, a 14 year old from Ireland, who shouldn’t even know what Tinder is, speaks to that.

For now the app is only available on iOS but it should be coming to Android in the near future.

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Changes are coming to the newspaper industry.  In the future you may get your news from a Tinder style app.

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