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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

#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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A quick look at everything that caught my eye this past week:

Amazon Go Finally A Go

This past week the supermarket of the future finally opened to the public. No cashiers. No lines. Just grab items and go.

As Recode explains:

“On the surface, the store resembles what a 7-Eleven might look like if it got a high-end makeover, was laid out in part like a Pret a Manger sandwich shop, and was dreamt up by the same tech powerhouse that had previously made one-click buying and two-day shipping the industry norm.

Upon entering, shoppers are greeted by a selection of salads, sandwiches and beverages, as well as ready-to-eat meals for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Amazon Go also carries small selections of beer and wine, as well as produce, meat and even Amazon’s own meal kits. Following Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, one section is also set aside for chips, cookies and nuts, all from the grocer’s 365 Everyday Value brand.”

Would you want to shop here if you could?

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High Tech Glasses Prevent Motion Sickness

Driverless cars could be game-changing, freeing us up to read while we get driven to work. Unless of course, if you’re the type of person who can’t read in the car because you get motion sickness. Thankfully, there may soon be a workaround.

As Engadget puts it, “Never mind festooning a self-driving car in lights and other devices to fend off motion sickness — you might just have to slip on some eyewear. University of Michigan researchers have patented a system that could use glasses or a headset to prevent a disconnect between your sense of motion and what you see. The approach would use a set of sequentially activated light pipes that would imitate the movement of the autonomous vehicle in your peripheral view, giving your body a frame of reference while freeing you to check your phone without getting sick.”

Levitating Humans

In the future we may be able to levitate objects using tractor beams.  Yes, really.

According to CNET:

“Engineers from the University of Bristol have been able to trap (essentially levitate) objects using an acoustic tractor beam that is larger than the wavelengths of sound used by the device.

‘Acoustic researchers had been frustrated by the size limit for years, so it’s satisfying to find a way to overcome it. I think it opens the door to many new applications,’ Asier Marzo from Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said in a release. Marzo is lead author on a paper published Monday in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Those applications could include touchless control of drug capsules or micro-surgical implements inside the human body using sonic tractor beams. It could also become possible to move and manipulate fragile items in a whole new way.”

Which means that we won’t have to worry about careless UPS drivers playing soccer with our packages anymore.

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No More Scars

I don’t mind scars. They tell the story of your life and serve as a natural ice breaker. But depending on the location of your scar you may disagree. For example, you may have severe facial scarring from a car accident.  Or maybe you want your body back after getting a C section.  For those people there will soon be an alternative on the market. A way to heal the body without inducing any scarring.

According to Science Alert:

“The type of skin that regenerates over a small, superficial cut is filled with fat cells called adipocytes, just like the skin you were born with, which means the two will eventually blend into each other once the wound has healed.

But scar tissue is made up almost entirely of cells called myofibroblasts, and doesn’t contain any fat cells at all. So instead of blending into the surrounding skin once the wound has fully healed, it looks completely different – permanently.

But scientists have discovered that existing myofibroblasts can actually be converted into adipocytes, which suggests that as a wound is healing, scar tissue could be converted to regenerated skin instead – something that scientists thought could only be possible in fish and amphibians.”

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you thought CryptoKitties was bad you ain’t seen nothing yet. Welcome to the latest cryptocurrency craze, CryptoCelebrities.

Here’s how it works. Using Ethereum people can buy virtual trading cards of famous celebrities whether that’s Elon Musk or Emma Watson. The value of each card starts out cheap at like 2 cents a pop and then doubles every time somebody else wants to buy it. So, if someone else thinks that owning the Emma Watson card is worth 4 cents, you’ll have no choice but to hand it over to them. This goes on and on until you reach a point where someone is left holding a card that nobody else wants. Great for all the people who are doubling their money along the way. Not so great for the person who is left holding the card. It’s like a high stakes game of hot potato.

Is this really what we’re going to be using the transformative potential of the blockchain for? To trade virtual cats and celebrities? Fortunately, there may be another new blockchain based app that will actually do some good. It’s known as Climatecoin and its aim is to become the world’s first carbon neutral cryptocurrency. It works by attaching itself to the long standing idea of carbon credits in which nations that produce more than their allotment of carbon emissions can purchase credits from nations that have extra.

Futurism explains how the carbon credit system works:

“The idea behind the system is that everyone has a limit to the emissions they can produce. If a nation wants to exceed its limit, it must purchase a carbon credit. Each of these carbon credits serves as a permit to produce a certain amount of emissions; for example, one credit might equal one ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

If an entity ends up with extra carbon credits, it can trade them to others on markets such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

From this system emerged voluntary carbon offsets. These give companies and consumers the ability to pay a certain amount to offset their own emissions. For example, an airline might ask passengers if they want to pay an extra $20 when purchasing a ticket to offset the emissions caused by their flight.

The money used to purchase carbon credits and offsets is given to projects attempting to help the environment, such as by developing renewable energy systems or protecting forests.

These credits give purchasers a way to effectively cancel out the amount of emissions they produce. They’re doing something bad to the environment, so they give money to someone attempting to do something good for it.”

Climatecoin piggybacks on that idea allowing for investors concerned with the negative environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining (due to the amount of electricity consumed during the process) to essentially purchase carbon credits. The money raised from this sale is then used to contribute to environmentally friendly projects.

All in all, Climatecoin is, as they say on their website, a way for people to invest in the planet. For example, through this technology you can arrange, in a transparent way, for peer to peer transactions that would raise money to fix the environment or you could use it to set up a peer to peer system of trading assets representing a certain amount of energy production. Either way you’d be doing something to try and fix the climate without harming it any further in the process. Surely, a much better use of ones time than collecting coins representing the cast of Friends.

 

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Is CryptoCelebrity the Greatest Idea Ever? Is Climatecoin?

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Every minute over 24 hours of new content is uploaded to YouTube alone. That’s a staggering statistic. Forget about the Information Age. We live in the Information Overload Age.

The vast tools that we have at our disposal have turned everyone and their mom into creators, flooding the marketplace and making it harder and harder for great ideas and unique opinions to stand out. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s great that we have the freedom to express ourselves creatively and it’s great that the barrier to entry has been lowered to the point where anyone can start a YouTube channel, a podcast, or a blog. We’re even at the point where anyone can create their own brand and look to build up a multi-platform audience from scratch. A few years ago that would have been unimaginable.

It wasn’t always this way. Our television options used to be limited to what the executives at CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC decided. Now there are hundreds of cable TV channels, dozens of streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, and millions of YouTube channels, digital shorts, and the like at our disposal. Our reading options used to be limited to the local newspaper, the New York Times best seller list, and a handful of magazines. Now there are millions of blogs and websites to choose from. Forget about keeping up with the latest fiction; you can never even keep up with the latest fan fiction.

And it’s just going to get worse. Once the robots take all our jobs and Universal Basic Income catches on we’ll all be free to pursue our passion projects full-time. No more working for the man. No more rat race. No more tip toeing around a delicate work-life balance. It’ll be all blogging all the time. The amount of video that we’ll be posting, the number of pictures we’ll be taking, the sheer volume of prose that we’ll be producing will be staggering. Which begs the question: who will consume it all?

There are times, lots of times actually, where I write something and no one retweets it or comments on it. I send it out into the ether and nobody cares. That can be disheartening. There are times where I’ve thought about quitting. But I never do. Because for me to be successful all I need is just one person to be inspired by just one thing I’ve written. And so I preserve. But what about everyone else? How many people have given up because they feel like they are wasting their time? How many people have been overcome by self-doubt? How many people have succumbed to pessimism? Countless numbers probably. So what if we could guarantee that everything you produced received a certain amount of attention?

What I’m envisioning is a dedicated system in which everything we produce is liked, shared, and/or commented on by bots programmed for specific tasks with the entire system geared towards ensuring that all content goes viral. It’s ironic really. First the bots take our jobs, freeing us up to create more content than we can consume. Then they bail us out once again, helping us to consume all that excess content.

This may seem disingenuous but I wouldn’t mind if all my feedback came from bots. If it’s done well enough you wouldn’t even be able to separate the real feedback from the robotically influenced feedback. To you it would all just be feedback. And perhaps all of the activity from the bots, could serve another purpose: to give your creation the gentle nudge that it needs to go viral for real.

Of course we already live in a world where bots exist. Millions of Twitter profiles are beefed up with fake followers, purchased in large quantities by fame seekers who try to game the system and come across as more influential than they are. However, I don’t play that game. I automatically delete any xxx infused account that I believe to be fake. But intelligent bots that can actually comment on your material? That can actually help to spread your material? Now that’s another story. Those are bots that I’d want to get into bed with. Not literally. Well, maybe. But that’s a story for another day.

PS: That ending is a little bit risqué. I probably shouldn’t have written that. But it doesn’t matter since no one is going to be reading this anyway. But if robotic consumers were real I probably would have had to write something else. Which would have made me spend more time on this post, potentially making me rethink my entire train of thought, possibly turning me into a better writer over time. Yet another reason why robotic consumers could be for the best.

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If we’re all busy creating content who is going to consume it? How about bots?

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