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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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 Three – Curated HyperData

“Our technology has become our gateway to our reality, and our reality has become a distorted ‘hyperreality’ – Baudrillard

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We have entered a time where we rely each other’s shared experiences viewed through our social networks which now extend beyond the local to provide us with the pieces of information that form our new perception of the world. The Twitter-sphere’s and Reddit’s trending threads and hash-tags already represent the flowing current of the zeitgeist, expressing the collectively wired. What are we internet people reading and talking about? What is relevant to me right now? What will be relevant to us when the next 2 billion people come online?

With the adoption of high speed internet connections, the collectively wired have joined to become part of one ersatz nation, shattering the corporate news medias central perspective, along with shoddy and often one dimensional advertising campaigns that once held together the traditionally coveted cable TV model (and sharing cat pictures). Now it’s absolutely necessary to have a social media component and web component as part of your marketing model in all realms of business to measure, understand and interact with your audience.

Just look at decision engines. Individuals believe that there is a certain amount of trust inherent in the fact that these views and perspectives stem from regular people, “just like me”. Review engines built into TripAdvisor, Yelp, Airbnb and even Ebay and Amazon are responsible for herding commerce by affecting decision making and closing sales (sorry sales guys). You don’t need a direct recommendation from a real life friend or convincing salesperson when there are hundreds of people just like you out there writing product and service reviews. In this way business has become a two way dialogue and the massive amount of information available to us means we have to be more discerning and organized about the way we access it.

So how do we navigate ourselves in the sea of information? As mentioned in previous posts, organizing how we digest our data has become its own specialty and will involve the birth of innovative ways of looking at data relationships like the upcoming Semantic Web browser “Tabulator”.

New systems like those from Echosec let us pull social media data and chatter from a specific geographic areas just by clicking and dragging. This is the modern “radio scanner,” except it works for far more than just police events. 

By dragging a bounding box over an area of the map, a snapshot of the local buzz is generated in real-time, accessible from anywhere on the globe.

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Eventually, by filtering context such as “food” or “shows’, I could be visiting a different city and be able to figure out where the best spots to dine for me are because I’ll be able to see various dishes being discussed, tweeted about and instagrammed in real-time.

Governmental agencies also benefit by digitizing information. They can better plan, prepare and respond to civic issues using the latest GIS platforms. Privacy be damned, data, in all its glorious forms is here to share and the human race will be better off for it. When another two billion people come online over the next couple years this will be all too clear. But, in order for data to truly improve our lives, it requires a two way system of sharing. For instance if BC hydro is going to monitor our homes power usage data, in return, the public should have access to a heat-map of the electrical grid in it’s entirety. This may not sound practical to an average taxpayer now, but if you allow for innovation in the free market to drive the improvement of power distribution and efficiency to lower energy costs in the future, it is necessary.

In the meantime, paper map and road guide booklet companies are undoubtedly seeing a decline in sales. In the modern era, pulling over to ask a gas station attendant for directions was a commonality. In the postmodern era, smartphones are eliminating the needs for human interaction and thinking skills leaving us with a cognitive surplus and a feeling of estrangement around one another.

Waiting in a line-up somewhere, better check my phone and see what’s going on.

Multiplied over the number of operations that used to require an interaction, a skill set, or specific knowledge, we are facing an intellectual gap that only the cohesiveness of the wired collective can fill. This means in the future, systems will have to be set up to pull things like traffic data involving signage and bi-laws to feed into a cars autonomous computer system. It will be expected that our surroundings are data packed and digitally quantified. On the plus side, forget ever getting a speeding ticket in a school zone again, even with manual control, you could program your car to always limit your speed inside the bounding box of a school zone during school hours.

Making many more sources of data available to creative people will help society manage resources intelligently to sustain our future growth. Stay tuned for the next article with a look at upcoming open source money and voting systems.

EPCOT Concept 1966

 

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.

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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.

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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…

Saving Rim, Part 3: NokiaSoft

Blackberry is in the news again, this time for not getting bought by Microsoft.

We all know the story of Blackberry, if not, here’s the recap. An innovative Canadian upstart that captured the cellphone market with QWERTY keyboards and enterprise ready email integration. One of the first true smartphones and choice of business’s all over the world. Like all great things, imitation was the purest form of flattery and Palm and Microsoft began nipping at the champs heals. Finally Apple jumped in and changed the game for everyone.

RIM wasn’t worried though. Perhaps they should have been.

Palm (remember them?) floundered and was swallowed up by HP, then sacrificed to the tablet god. Blackberry began its slow decline right thought its own tablet attempt and face lift. At this point Blackberry was seen as your dad’s phone, sturdy but incompetent in the new world of Facetime and Facebook.  Despite the heavy marketing effort to signal otherwise, RIM could not make up for a lack of R&D and the  giant technological eco-systems from Apple and Google.

Microsoft stalled on a few devices, trying to perfect the Windows phone which they didn’t really do it until they found a partner with Nokia. At that point, Blackberry and Microsoft partnership seemed like a good idea, Microsoft’s RT wasn’t cutting it, neither was Blackberry’s OS system… Palms OS was dead and Nokia’s ancient Symbian was freshly buried.

The Genius of Nokia. The last maker of Dumbphones.

The Nokia CEO made the right call to partner with Microsoft. The developing world is the largest growth market left to conquer. Nokia has the best penetration worldwide and at the price points needed to serve these regions. Blackberry would have always demanded a premium and would have stayed that way to preserve it’s model. So when looking for a partner to grab the #3 market share, Microsoft had two options. A) High value, small segment B) Medium / low value + huge segment, and went with the latter.

Microsoft and Nokia are playing the long game, the global one.

In the end I know Nokia was a better deal for Microsoft’s global plans but as a proud Canadian and a business person, it would have been really interesting to see Microsoft resources reinvigorate Blackberry. I think Microsoft would have gained some fresh perspective and a leg up on their tablet game and found a natural partner for their office suite of software. No one knows what’s next for Blackberry (other then an eventual sale), perhaps Microsoft is so big they will have the cash leftover for a purchase, but I doubt they would want the headache at this time.

Companies with a lot of cash that want to play the cellphone game and market to the business and enterprise sector might see Blackberry as a logical extension of their brand – I’m looking at you Sony.

Supersonic Commerce

Elon Musk’s idea for the creation of the Hyperloop transport system is not a crazy (or technically his) idea, but it is the logical evolution of high-speed rail and could be a boon to a domestic economy, both by creating jobs in its construction and maintenance and by morphing our idea of acceptable commute distances.

The Hyperloop (a vacuum tube based, supersonic electromagnetic rail system) is said to be able to take 30 minutes to go from San Francisco to LA, a trip that would normally take over 5 hours.

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A cross-country Hyperloop could go from New York to LA in 2 hours.  This is because inside the tubes there is minimal friction and the ability to hit speeds of Mach 2 (two times the speed of sound or about 2400 kph) or higher comes easily. Powered by the sun with energy stored in super-capacitors, the cost would be negligible to run; however, building the infrastructure for a smaller line from San Francisco to LA would cost about around 6 billion dollars.

You may be thinking this is great for a lot of actors and movie producers but what effects would Hyperloop’s have on the rest of the world?

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Supersonic passenger travel is an old idea, theorized and designed in the early 60’s and 70’s. The Hyperloop itself is based on a paper published over thirty years ago.

By 1969, the world witnessed the first flight of a supersonic passenger jet. This was the Concorde – the spawn of a cutting edge venture between Air France and British Airways. My grandfather flew on it before it was retired. I still have some of the in flight British Airways, Concorde branded memorabilia he handed over to me as a child.  He said the in flight experience was “rock solid”, you couldn’t perceive how fast you were going, there was no turbulence and he didn’t forget to mention how awesome it was to say you used the bathroom at the speed of sound. Supersonic indeed.

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The Concorde transported 2 million passengers in its twenty plus year lifespan with regular flights from New York to London in 3 hours (a distance of over 5000km).

That is akin to going across Canada in about 3 hours or from Vancouver to Hong Kong in 6 hours.

Plans for more supersonic passenger planes like the  Boeing 2707 and Lockheed L2000 were scrapped in the late 70’s citing economic concerns (there was also concern of damage or noise created by the sonic boom – easily avoided by transitioning supersonic speeds at high altitude).

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With computer simulations and the updated engines of today, the Concorde design would easily double its range and efficiency and add a host of amenities for it’s passenger. Wi-Fi at 55,000+ feet anyone?

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For the naysayers that doubt the safety record of the Concorde – stop – it was the safest jet ever flown. It’s demise came at the hands of runway debris, a downturn in the market post 911 and a business model that was unsustainable at the time.

With upgraded technology and smarter business models the state of commercial aeronautics is ripe for change.

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 Have we stagnated?

The speed of travel has always been linked to humanity’s progress. There was a time when horse-drawn carriages and steamships revolutionized the world. The exchange of ideas and cultures has always accelerated technological innovation, and expanded economies. There is little doubt that trade has benefited humanity beyond pure financial need by increasing our level of cooperation with one another leading us to a more peaceful world.

In the past hundred years we harnessed the power of flight and its ability to make trips that used to take a month would be completed in a day. We’ve gone to the Moon, we’ve flown craft to Mars and we even have vehicles on the verge of leaving our solar system for the first time.

Despite all these breakthroughs, it appears we have become accustomed to the status quo of travel for too long. The next step for us is traveling to and from countries on opposite ends of the earth within a couple of hours for a reasonable price.

teleport_BIG

The pace of the technological world today makes the current process of travel seem anachronistic.

The internet helps us communicate instantly around the world which has been a great stop-gap solution to physical travel; however, getting to know each other by immersing ourselves in each other’s cultures via business trips and vacations is a wholly different experience in comparison to the cold hard glow of lcd panels.

There are challenges. The airline industry struggles in its current form with increasingly bogged down airport security and multiple stop overs which make travel a more arduous process then it needs to be.

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Canada is a huge country, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to visit family and friends in other cities in as much time as you are used to being in a car commuting to work every day?     Right now it’s an impossibility. The cost of fuel alone has made flight in general a losing business model, but this is precisely why we need a leap in technology to enliven the industry.

On-board amenities and electronics have improved, so has engine efficiency and aerodynamic design thanks to modern-day computer modelling. The higher you fly, the less efficient those old combustion engines become the more efficient electric options become. Instead of zigzagging vacuum tubes across the land, how about slapping together some Tesla Model S battery packs for high altitude electric fan powered flight?

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What the world needs is the ability to have people explore and leverage their dollar to elevate each other’s economy while enriching their lives. With the advent of cost-effective supersonic air travel, the airline industry would experience growth while new disruptive hospitality models like AirBnB would thrive. Local and struggling economies would get a sorely needed boost while people would gain a better understanding and appreciation of the cultures this planet has to offer. The world needs supersonic commerce yesterday.

Check out the “Son of the Concorde” – a hypersonic passenger plane in the works.

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Designing for VR

If you visit this blog regularly or follow me on twitter @alexanderkline , you know I have been raving about the Oculus Rift. I finally had a chance to finally use one, special thanks to @iheartinternets for setting up the nerd home office invasion.

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First Impressions

The headset is remarkably light and unobtrusive. It’s relatively innocuous looking and honestly I would feel comfortable wearing it for extended periods of time, even in front of other people.

We loaded up the Tuscany demo, and boy, this thing is a trip!  It’s hard to describe in words what the experience is like. Close your eyes and imagine you could peer into another world, the world would look slightly pixelated and you would definitely perceive it to feel like being inside a video game. There is no lag when you move your head and look around which really provides the through the looking glass experience.

It actually takes a moment to get used to the fact that you can look around freely (lag free). When you start to look up and down, around and  behind you, you start to realize how confining looking straight at your monitor has made every digital experience you’ve ever had up until now.

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The whole experience is not without flaws. The pixel density although satisfactory, could definitely be higher. This will just be matter of time as miniaturization moves forward and costs come down, in fact the consumer version is said to be targeting higher resolutions in a year or so when the Oculus hits the mass market.

That being said, the SDK version is entirely serviceable and gives you a sense of how far this tech could go. Anyone who uses one of these things will immediately have gameplay scenario ideas and unique uses come to mind.

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Check out the guillotine simulator (link)

 VR User Experience Design

A key element of getting VR right will be designing experiences around the unique properties and scenarios this technology can offer. Right off the bat, I did feel a bit queasy jumping in and moving around too quickly while snapping my in-game body left and right using the mouse.  To ease the transition perhaps games can tie a calibration sequence into the introduction to get the player used to the headset  and controls while making it part of the narrative.

Another aspect of the VR experience is the feeling of being disembodied in the world. Developers will have to create “virtual bodies” for players as you will expect to see when you look down. Along with this are the needs for proportionate movement speed, architecture and scenery that need to be scaled to approximate reality.

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Being able to see your own hands in the VR world would be incredible. I can see this could being accomplished with systems from Leap Motion or even the Microsoft Kinect device. When control sticks are needed the  Razer Hydra sticks seem to be the best option.

It was a bit jarring to see a giant floating mouse cursor when hitting the wrong button on the keyboard. User information will need to be centralized and overlaid in a way that is unobtrusive rather than the traditional dashboard hub, unless it is a driving or flying sim with working gauges (as per the helicopter demo).

Finally, if you are looking for the full on VR experience you need to be able to move your whole body. Check out the Omni directional treadmill , it already works with Team Fortress 2, Crysis and Skyrim.

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Afterthoughts

This is exciting stuff that will only get better with time as the development kit improves and support for more devices is added and refined. I think a lot of people will be pre-ordering the consumer version of the Oculus and I’m glad to see game developers jumping on board. I recently helped fund one that is taking advantage of the unique experience provided by the Oculus called  The Gallery : Six Elements.

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The Second Coming of VR

I remember a time when a Virtual Reality business setup shop in my hometown of Victoria, BC, inside Hillside mall. Run like a futuristic arcade, you stepped into booth and put a clunky headset on, you were given some kind of joystick and told you would experience virtual reality for a couple dollars a minute.

I loaded up Duke Nukem 3d (must have been around 1999) and was very aware of how much this VR experience was like pressing my face up against a large curved monitor, to make matters worse, the head tracking was laggy and the game experience was disjointed and awkward.

The VR shop closed down within a month or two, I walked away disappointed, wondering when or if we would see VR in our lifetime.

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It seemed like so many movies that had represented VR in the past(Lawnmower Man, Johnny Mnemonic, and even newer ones like the Matrix) were way off the mark and the dream of true virtual reality would never be realized until the Oculus Rift appeared.

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The founder of the Rift, a young man named Lucky Palmer didn’t want to live in a world that couldn’t conceive of proper VR headset. He saw that graphics and processing power of modern computers were simulating more realistic environments, that the pixel density of smart phone screens were increasing. Meanwhile  sensors were getting cheaper and the advent of 3d printing converged to make it feasible to prototype a commercial device that could change the way people game, learn and even interact.
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The Oculus is revolutionary in that it simulates a field of view akin to what you are used to seeing out of your own eyes with lag-free head tracking that essentially tricks your mind into thinking you are having a valid experience. I haven’t yet experienced it for myself , but there is a litany of videos of people trying it that all seem genuinely blown away

[youtube=http://youtu.be/uso6vxZ5O4c]
From  urban youth to grandmothers and the all-important game development community, everyone is hailing it as the next big thing in interactive entertainment.
There is a case to be made for simulation and training of professionals as well as therapeutic uses and a place for it in a clinicians setting as well. This is a technology to keep your eyes on.

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The Hidden Dangers of Mycotoxins

Ever see those spots of black on improperly sealed windows? Ever get a headache, or start sneezing from a musty smell?

Mycotoxins.
Myco come from a Greek word mykes meaning fungus and toxins from the Latin word tocicum meaning poison. The fungus or mold making the mycotoxins use it as a way of defense by offense to pave the way for their spores to go forth and colonize.

It’s not all bad…
Some molds produce tasty metabolic products in cheeses such as brie and blue cheese.
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Even the stuff on bread isn’t too bad, you can normally see it and thus avoid eating it.
It’s the stuff you can’t see or shouldn’t be there to be worried about.

Not to get all “Burnsey” on you, but you should know where they come from.
Burnsey

At about 1/100 the size of human hair thickness, mycotoxins are so small you cannot see them with the naked eye.

Mycotoxins come from fungus and mold and are commonly found in our industrial food chain. Anything that was once wet then processed and made to sit on a shelf is a potential source.
Bagged Pet food, coffee’s, grains, etc. Almost anything you can buy.

Normally your body’s immune system senses these things even if you don’t consciously notice them. The tip’ offs are allergy symptoms. I find it slightly disparaging that allergy medicine ads are selling you the stuff to mask the symptoms of your body throwing up red flags for a potentially dangerous invader in your presence.

You are probably thinking, this stuff can’t be that bad for us, after all humans have harnessed forms of fungi for our medicine such as penicillin which attacks bacteria and has saved countless limbs and lives. You would be correct on that account.

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However, there are many types of mycotoxins and most have the effect of slowly poisoning you.
Sometimes that crash you get after coffee isn’t just the sugar and caffeine comedown, it’s potentially toxic shock from moldy coffee beans. That’s right, even after they get roasted you can ingest the little guys.

Not to scare you but the importance of mold free environments and food are of an utmost importance. There have been links from mycotoxicity to incidences of cancer (http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/56/1/184.full.pdf).

Cancer’s themselves appear to behave in a very fungal manner, and perhaps we will see more direct linkage in the future.

Things you can do.
Keep things dry, sunlight seems to discourage mold growth. If you see it crawling up your walls or windows, hit it with a highly acidic spray made from white vinegar. Wear a mask, gloves and eye protection. Bleach, baking soda, borax, ammonia and hydrogen peroxide are also effective. Unfortunately if you think it’s in the walls or carpets there isn’t much you can do other than removal of the affected area.
As for preventing it from entering your food supply, thats’s more difficult. Try to ascertain where your food is coming from. Very few manufacturers have safeguards in place to prevent mold growth and in some cases the preservatives uses to deter it are just as bad.

I recommend bulletproof coffee if you are looking for mycotoxin free beans. You can order it here.

References

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/03/molds-making-you-ill.aspx
http://blackmold.awardspace.com/black-mold-cleanup-removal.html
http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/56/1/184.full.pdf
http://www.sinusitiswellness.com/articles/mycotoxins-cancer.html
http://www.healingcancernaturally.com/causes6.html
http://www.bioidea.net/resources/deadly-molds/

10 Tips to Start Your Day

 

Being productive and generally awesome at your job requires a lot of energy and focus. Both of which are very dependent on how much attention you pay to nutrition and how well you know what works for your body.

It’s hard to be stuck at a desk all day, mostly because it’s draining and just plain bad for your health.
 

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs I think how we manage our body is critical to our energy levels. It just makes sense to start on the foundation. The oldest parts of you from an evolutionary standpoint are parts of your brain and nervous system. Knowing this, a good starting point is looking at what we share with other animals, such as the need for sleep.

 

 

 

1. Sleep

Animals like it. Everybody needs it.

We really need REM cycles, in this state our brain is theorized as compartmentalizing and breaking down experiences, the hard data of your life is being defragged. Cycles typically last for about 90 minutes at a time. Waking up mid REM cycle will leave you feeling groggy. Devices exist that will monitor your brain waves to catalog when and how long you entered these states.

Hopefully you get a few REM cycles within 6-8 hours of deep sleep, you shouldn’t actually need coffee to get through the day, in fact try napping on the weekend instead of having more stimulants, and this will recharge you for the week ahead.  You should only need more sleep if your body is physically repairing and needs to build new tissue.

Circadian-rhythm-bodyTry to stay on the circadian rhythm, this is a system that is built into the very cells that make up your body, it is the “wireless sync” with the sun cycle. It’s the internal clock that tell us to fall asleep when it’s dark, and wakes us up at sunrise.  A typically ideal sleep cycle is 11pm to 7am.

There are all kinds of tips and tricks to falling asleep and having a good night’s rest but I found Onnit product New Mood to be particularly effective.

 

 

 

2. Mineralization

We often hear of a need for vitamins, but minerals are just as important if not more so because they can be harder to come by in our food supply.

The acid/alkaline balance of your body is “buffered” by trace elements, the more acidy foods you consume, the more your body uses up its elements to balance it out.
Your body tries to maintain a blood ph level that is slightly basic (alkaline) of 7.4. To put things in perspective, Tomato juice is about 4, beer is about 5.5, coffee is about 6, the ph scale is logarithmic meaning each number is 10 times more or less strong.
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Himalayan or black salts, added to water will help buffer your system with trace minerals (small amounts of different elements ) over time, all you need is a pinch into a glass of water (shouldn’t taste salty).

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Himalayan salts can be found locally at the Market on Yates, Lifestyles and tons of other grocery stores, look for the pink crystals. Online it can be found here

 

 

 

3. Hydration and Elimination

We’ve all heard how we should drink eight glasses of water a day.

I would dispute this, if I was to drink 8+ glasses of water after a tea or coffee (diuretics), I’m would start to deplete my minerals and electrolytes and as a consequence probably feel tired later. This could be because without adequate salts, I may lower the blood pressure resulting in feeling weak or light-headed.

water-bottle-glass-by-nkzs

A glass of water with a pinch of Himalayan salt crystals and a squeezed lemon wedge first thing in the morning  can also help kick-start hydration in your body and primes your system for digestion and elimination before having coffee or tea.  Really can’t stress the importance of a proper elimination to really put some spring in your step.

 

 

 

4. Body Mechanics & Mind Connection

“Starting the day with a measure of optimism and a clear intention of what you want to accomplish can give your day a boost.”

Most people feel like their body is extra heavy in the morning, like gravity got a whole lot stronger overnight. If you aren’t a jump out of bed by 5am be at the gym by 5:45am person, doing some breathing and gentle stretching is a great way to start.  I personally like this bio-energetic warm up routine from Elliot Hulse [youtube=http://youtu.be/zD-3j2g9w9U] 

Alex-Grey-Meditation

Doing some deep breathing oxygenates your system and gets blood moving which is good for bringing your brain online. I find it difficult to make it to a gym in the mornings because I’m simply not a morning person, but riding my bike to work in the summer is a great way to get blood moving. If that’s not possible, clearing some space to do some breathing, stretching, yoga or meditating is a great way to start the day.

All you really need is 5-15 minutes to feel a difference and add some clarity to your mornings.

 

 

 

5. Nutrition

Nothing beats local soil, open air, sun grown food. – Carolyn Herriot

(see her awesome ted x talk video here) http://youtu.be/9yFN8V7pWZs

Compost and grow some of your own food, even if all you can do is a parsley plant on a window sill, just do it.

Kratomsupergreen

The benefits of live food, especially brightly colored fruit and vegetables are filled with swimming chlorophyll and phytonutrients that are the essence of life itself. In lieu of eating like that all the time for lack of time. I have decided, after getting frustrated at the litany of vitamins in my cabinet for the following reasons to switch to whole food powdered vitamins (greens style) because;

1)      Whole food vitamins take up less space and are kept refrigerated allowing for probiotics

2)      My body recognizes the vitamins because they are derived from real food not synthetically derived in a lab

3)      Allows me to hydrate while absorbing vitamins

 

http://products.mercola.com/whole-foods-multivitamin/

 
 

 

 

6. To Juice or to Blend

Homemade fresh juice can be great unlike canned or bottled juices which are far too sugary, acidic and pasteurized beyond the body’s ability to recognize nutritional value.

I have a juicer but don’t use it as much as I would like due to the mess it creates, as well as the drawbacks such as lack of fibre in the juice which is a huge benefit of having vegetables. I know I need a good better blender usually a vitamix or blendtec to liquefy the cellulose and get that fibre.

Tom-on-WIB-Set-Promo-Pics-Small-Jun14-12-2

Stay away from most fruits, they spike your blood sugar and lead you to a crash later, dark leafy green veges like kale, parsley and celery will give you an incredible boost and help keep you system in the alkaline for most of the day. You can try adding a small piece of ginger and a slice of pear or apple or beet to make it more palatable.

Figure out what works for you, try different combinations of food, note how you feel, specifically how clear your mind is and how easy it is to focus on your tasks. In my opinion, nothing beats the long lasting energy boost of a homemade green shake.

Smoothies-015edited

Check out Joe Rogan making a huge green shake: http://youtu.be/gmmPSBRu6wg

Get the Blentec Blender here

 

 

 

 

 

7. The First meal of the day

You will still want to eat some solid foods, for a lot of people we skip breakfast or think a muffin and a coffee will get us through the morning, and it usually will but it isn’t preferable.

A better breakfast includes high amount of protein/choline for brain function (eggs , the higher quality the better, yolks should be bright orange), animals fats from local and naturally cured meats like the bacon you can pick up at (cook st ) help digest sugars slower leaving us less likely to crash, even if we go for a cup of coffee with this meal we will probably feel a lot sharper and happier as dopamine is released into the system from a pleasurable meal while the animal fats and salts buffer your body from a spike in blood sugar or caffeine.

Eggs Benedict-3

Have some carbs for energy if you are biking to work in the form of some quinoa with nuts (unroasted raw, unpasteurized if possible). I’m not fully against breads but I have definitely cut back. Squash and even yams have become more prevalent in my diet as I keep shifting further into the spectrum of the Paleo diet.

As far as I know most Fruits aren’t great for you, unless they’re local and in season which has immune system benefits. If you have weight loss goals I hear good things about grapefruits in the morning. Kiwis are great if you want your vitamin c with less acidity and papaya has beneficial enzymes for digestion.

paleo-pyramid

Here’s a video of Robb Wolf, one of the Paleo diets key advocates http://youtu.be/7HkqBxpPBeI

And here’s a food guide for you based on the Paleo Diet: http://www.bulletproofexec.com/the-complete-illustrated-one-page-bulletproof-diet/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Tonics

I usually start my day with a tea, I haven’t kicked the caffeine habit yet but I do take breaks from it from time to time.  I might also want a coffee by mid-day, it’s easier on the body to ramp up caffeine slowly and spread it out over time to avoid a crash, if you eat a meal with protein and animal fats (or coconut oil), and you may also notice a cognitive advantage.

If you need an extra edge to focus and help you feel like your neural system is more jacked in then a character from a William Gibson novel, allow me to introduce you to the world of Nootropics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic

Now I’m not for the stimulant variety, but as with the theme of this article, I’m all about the supplements and making sure your body has what it needs. As it turns out the brains needs are very specific.

neuromancer-poster

Products like Onnit’s ‘Alpha Brain’ are engineered to provide the brain with everything it needs to fire up neurons at full capacity. If you feel like picking and choosing supplements one at time, ginkgo biloba is a great vaso dilator which means it can help increase blood flow to the brain and ginseng is an adaptogen which means it plugs holes in your body’s endocrine and immune system.

To learn more about Onnit products click this link.

 

 

 

9. Avoid too much Caffeine

“Nothing is for free, even the boost you get from coffee”

coffee-art

Unlike vitamins, minerals which generally replenish and allows your system to function at full tilt, stimulants and depressants burn up the body’s vital reserves.

I happen to really like coffee, especially a good locally roasted blend, usually from Café Fantastico, 2% Jazz or Discovery here in Victoria. Coffee that is locally roasted is dated this is good for a number of reasons which I will get into in a follow-up post.

The effect of coffee or caffeine that increase your productive capacity and mental focus come from a complex bio-chemical reaction happening in the body. Notably adrenal glands (endocrine system) ramps up your nervous system which trigger an elevate heart rate and can put you on the edge of fight or flight. On the upper end of the spectrum, usually this is experienced as anxiety and can actually cause productive to decline.

On the opposite spectrum, to reduce anxiety, Tulsi Tea (holy basil) or lemon balm can relax the body and nervous system which is awesome for feeling calm, clear and rested.

 

 

 

10. Keeping it all in Balance

Management of your energy levels is an integral part of self-management. Knowing what works for you can set you up for a more productive day.

Remember all of this is just advice, there is no ONE SIZE fits all approach, find what works for you and do it!

Stay tuned for the midday recharge tips and more about coffee