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AI: our Digital Genie

The first personal robots assistants are already here, and much like genies, they are trapped inside a physical object. Instead of lamps, we use our phones to cajole them to come out and be helpful. Although willing, they rarely provide perfect assistance and in most situations result in frustration especially when unable to string answers to a couple related questions together.


Like Obama said in his  Wired article this past month,  I also grew up watching Star Trek and imagining a future for the planet that was semi-utopian.

The idea that people could be fulfilled in their daily lives without the having to grind five or more days a week at a job to sustain a living income was one of the most appealing aspects of the future Earth portrayed in Star Trek.  A world evolved beyond the concept cash leads to the inevitable question of, who gets the waterfront homes? Similarly, who should take on the noble task of being the trash man? 

I digress I don’t have an answer, but maybe AI can at least help drive the garbage truck, or maybe robots will one day assume an Asimovian form and being useful to us by taking low skill jobs and freeing up humans to achieve their creative potential.


Working AI is the first step to that Star Trek reality. We all remember how you could ask the computer anything in TNG and the computer in true genie like fashion could conjure it for you out of thin air. Since most consumer grade 3d printers are still slow and limited to mostly dollar store grade plastic junk, at least having an AI that can dim the lights, adjust temperature, and look up information for you is a neat luxury of our time.


We’ve got all the right bits of technology congealing in various silos to make interacting with AI a seamless experience, however, no singular company has been able to tie it all together.

  • Apple has Siri
  • Microsoft has Cortana
  • Google has Google Assistant
  • Amazon has Alexa
  • IBM has Watson

Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, largely to do with where you keep your data or how you interact with those corporations. The problem is that we users are split across all or many of those ecosystems and individual company’s products.

That means none of the current AI’s can truly get to know you on any meaningful or well-rounded level to provide an amazing experience on a daily level like Scarlett Johannsen’s AI character from the movie Her. Wouldn’t you like if Siri or Cortana could do small but time-consuming things like organise your digital files in a better way, customised to you?


It will take co-opetition amongst the big companies & a healthy dose of FOMO to welcome an open AI platform with various data hooks to your email, calendars, schedules, reminders, entertainment preferences, circadian rhythm, behaviours, smart home devices etc to begin feeling like you’ve got a personal butler or extension of yourself actually helping you throughout your week like a Jarvis to Tony Stark.

Companies and more importantly users must be willing to let AI have a peek at data which by its nature could be private such as google searches or email records. Safeguards will have to be put in place to keep this data secure, anonymized and out of the hands of anyone but our digital assistants.

I’m interested in seeing which company can tweak or build the AI platform that can ingest the best data from the most diverse sources, perhaps it will be Viv

The Age of Transparency Part Two – The Fall of the Hero

anchormanPeople have evolved past the “anchorman” way of telling news, partially because of how little real journalism is getting done these days. News has devolved into mindless rhetoric and un-researched bias-based dribble to maintain a level of profitability that relies on people’s addiction to fear-porn, and narcissism.

New media is not entirely immune. An example of this is when news pages display high impact political news alongside tabloid level journalism. The simple act of displaying news stories this way seems inane at first. However, doing so creates confusion in the viewer’s mind that both articles may be of equal importance.  With this dynamic at play, news pages lose a level of credibility and put the user in the position of having to delve deeper in their own quest for the truth. Doing so now hinges on use of social media to search for and vet sources.

If you are a public figure, it is going to be especially difficult to hide your true self from the public eye. Let’s look at the example of heroes, specifically sport heroes of the last decade. The Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong’s and Oscar de la Hoyas of the world.  We’ve discovered at one time or another that they all have character flaws; they aren’t “perfect”. They all have their own personal problems and battles, just like us. This discovery is much in part to cell phone usage and the ease and proliferation of data exchange.

After some minor damage-control on our hero’s part, we can stay connected through thick and thin if we are a true fan of them. Following them on Twitter, staying fans on their Facebook page or following their blogs. This gives us an opportunity to empathize with them knowing they are human and have flaws too.

Politicians, by the nature of their job, are also in the public eye. Does it surprise anyone anymore when the guy with great Christian morals and family values turns out to have been cheating on his wife?  Does it surprise us when a guy running for office uses his phone for sexting and the pictures find their way onto the Internet? As more of these events and similar ones crop up, our minds will be tempered to filter out the noise, and after we’ve come to accept these moral dichotomies as human nature, we will become less distracted by the circus around them and more concerned with how well people are doing their jobs.

The Age of Transparency Part One – Changing Media

Casual computing and access to social media has radically altered our perception of media. We have gone from one channel with several voices to thousands of channels and hundreds of millions of voices in eighty years.


The birth of social media

 Unlike traditional media, whose purpose is to provide temporary spin and keep you fixed to one channel (don’t touch that dial), social media is an ongoing dialogue that beckons you to explore and connect with an increasing number of social streams. With web 2.0, we’ve fractured a singular narrative of the old media, but there remain many people unsure of the benefits. I’m talking about the holdouts of social media, and I can understand their fears and prejudice about the whole thing.  I’ve heard a lot of reasons, but most of them refer to an invasion of privacy and the time wasting elements.

I would agree that at their core, advertising and revenue creation are the long term goal of most of these networks, but in return, they are providing a communications service free of charge. The concern of wasting time relates to how effectively one manages it, but more so, how they organize their consumption of information. Yes you can hang out on twitter all day, but you can also flip channels on the TV and waste huge wads of time with unplanned viewing. In the same way, some people can waste time reading news stories of their friend’s updates on Facebook for example, but I see the news feed as an aggregator of news from many different publications that I follow.

The privacy thing is a bigger issue, but here’s my greatest single argument for taking part in social media. I can represent myself the way I want to. I have control over the content I output – giving you less room to infer things about me that may not be true.  Even more, I can have a dialogue with you that could change your perspective or mine. Depending on what I choose to share, you can get to know me on an intimate level without ever meeting me in person. Taking this a step further, if you podcast yourself or create video blogs, I may end up hearing your voice more than close friends of mine because my daily commute or gym time is accompanied by your show.


On Demand Media

It took a while – YouTube has been around for eight years now, but user generated content has now become an industry – several popular YouTube channels bring in six figures in annual revenue. Now, with the advent on Netflix people are dropping cable TV subscriptions. The reduction in signal “noise” is significant with the reduction of inane advertisements and old school broadcast news.

The cure for information overload?

People are aggregating their news from multiple web sites  and from their friend’s curated posts every day now. You’ve heard the main news story of the day by 10 am, so why watch the same thing with scripts, advertisements and celebrity driven news when you get home at 6 pm?

“stay tuned” for part 2…