Month: January 2014

The Latest Government Bailout: Cable Providers

Due to not having a great product for some time, and failing to innovate, the cable and internet providers received an indirect bailout from the government earlier last week. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) just struck down a net neutrality bill that would have treated all data retrieved via the internet the same. Now, there is a “toll booth” on the highway of data you and I use every day. And at the “toll booth” are providers like Verizon, Comcast, Charter, Time Warner Cable, etc., etc.

I personally think there were heavy lobbyists from the cable industry present in these talks. The stats have shown that a growing number of consumers are “cutting the cord” with their cable and moving to an all internet-based data/program-viewing consumption. Now what the shut down of this bill allows for is internet service providers (ISPs) to charge companies who use lots of their bandwidth/traffic (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, etc. etc.). And the companies who pay this fee/royalty to the ISPs would allow their data to be uncapped, in other words, treated like it has always been.

Quick example of what I think could play out. Netflix pays cable/ISP Company A to have all of the data/bandwidth used for their streaming service to be treated like all other data/bandwidth. Company A makes money from the fees paid by Netflix and the consumer sees no disruption in service relative to today, but possibly an increase in their Netflix subscription (because Netflix passes the cost to the consumer). Or what could happen is Netflix decides NOT to pay Company A to treat the streaming Netflix data like any other. Then what Company A could do is charge the consumer for using a large amount of streaming services. This is where cable providers and ISPs could tier internet bandwidth, capping certain bandwidth (say only 50GB of streaming video services) and charging for it accordingly. This would help them gain money back from the consumers that are “cutting the cords” with cable and only using streaming services.

In other words, the executives at Comcast just got bailed out for their lack of innovative cable product. They probably celebrated much like AIG did when they got bailed out.

The worst part about all of this is I believe it creates a “pay to play” model, probably pricing start-ups out of participation. If start-up company ABC has a new app, but doesn’t pay Verizon to have their users’ experience in their app not be docked from its monthly data cap, it could be harder to get traction at its most critical phases in its company growth.

Any way you cut it, there will be more losers than winners when the cards are finally dealt.


Becoming “The Terminator”

The Terminator is a piece of American movie history that mystified us and continued to stretch our imagination. But it’s funny how what movie makers dream up, often become reality some years later.

And wearable technology, specifically Google GLASS could make The Terminator very close to our every day life. A cool, but slightly creepy (and possibly unethical) view of what it could be like is shown in the video below. As small, wearable technology becomes more powerful and accessible, this augmented reality may not just be a thing of the science fiction filmmaker.

Is what you saw ethical? From a current perspective, I would say absolutely not, and girls, get your pepper spray! But what if you opted into facial recognition? Say only certain pieces of software were licensed to grab pictures from your Facebook profile and you get to decide if the software can scour for your face? Then it doesn’t make it as unethical. I for one think the latter would happen and that this would really allow big data come to life for us on a personal scale.

Another aspect of robots and machines is that they can work/operate 24/7/365 (in theory). A Kickstarter campaign by a startup called NeuroOn is getting us humans closer to that reality. Watch the video, but if you’re too lazy, they’ve invented a sleeping mask that promotes strategic sleep, or in their words, polyphasic sleep (the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period). Some of the greatest people in history practiced polyphasic sleep, for example: Napoleon, Churchill, de Vinci, and the list surprisingly goes on and on. So what this mask helps you do is switch from monophasic (what we do today) to polyphasic, using lots of sensors and artificial intelligence to optimize your switch and make it smooth, effective transition for you.

All of this then leading to you becoming the guy who works 20 hours a day! Not much research has been done on the health effects of polyphasic sleep, whether people who follow it get sicker less or more often, etc. etc.

Between augmented reality and being awake and effective for 20+ hours a day, you will soon be able to become The Terminator.

110 Predictions For the Next 110 Years

If you follow me on the Twitters, I re-tweet many of the articles that ultimately are the centerpieces for what I write here on my blog. But this article in particular by Popular Mechanics is all too mind-blowing in itself to try to sum up. So here’s the link, and if you want an idea what life could be like in the next 110 years, spend about 10 minutes going through it. (My favorites are at the bottom of this post).

Now I know what you’re thinking, “I’m surprised they didn’t predict pigs would fly by next year” or “I can read better predictions in the national tabloids, or on Buzzfeed”. Popular Mechanics aggregates opinions from all of thought leaders in these fields who have seen how feasible these ideas are. And if you wanted some validity as to how probably >75% of these will be true, back in 1964 a similar set of predictions was published in the New York Times as to what 2014 would be like, and in summary here is what did and didn’t come to fruition:

Begin quote

“Asimov overshot what we could accomplish in 50 years [by 2014]. We have not dabbled in fusion power and oversee no Moon colonies, although there is a space station. Ditto no moving sections of sidewalks in downtown areas of cities nor compressed tubes to quickly deliver letters and small packages.

But the master science-fiction writer also nailed it in other ways. He estimated that the world’s population would be 6.5 billion and America’s 350 million. “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence” while “synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.” Wall screens will have replaced the ordinary television “but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible.”

Communications, he added, “will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.” Batteries will replace power cords. Life expectancy: 85.”

End quote

Also if you get a chance, head over to i09, it’s like Deadspin but for the science and entertainment of tomorrow. They dug up old thought leaders’ predictions and what’s most astonishing is how long ago these ideas were drummed up. But even more interesting is how much quicker these ideas are becoming a reality:

  • Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691), who envisioned life extension, nanotechnology, synthetic life, and designer drugs
  • French philosopher Denis Diderot (1713 – 1784), who saw human enhancement, artificial intelligence, and reanimating the dead in our collective futures
  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), who forecast the space elevator, human space flight, self-sustaining space habitats, and interstellar colonization
  • J.B.S. Haldane  (1892-1944), who imagined artificial wombs, human cloning, and human genetic engineering, a vision that influenced his friend Aldoux Huxley to write “Brave New World”

My five favorites predicted to be available 2012-2022 (lots of advances in healthcare/medical devices):

  • Vaccines will wipe out drug addiction. The human immune system is supremely adept at detecting and neutralizing foreign substances. Why not train it to target illicit ones? That’s the idea behind addiction vaccines: Persuade the body to produce antibodies that shut down drug molecules before they get to the brain. The concept works in mice. Human trials are under way.
  • Software will predict traffic jams before they occur. Using archived data, roadside sensors, and GPS, IBM has come up with a modeling program that anticipates bumper-to-bumper congestion a full hour before it begins. Better yet, the idea proved successful in early tests—even on the Jersey Turnpike.
  • Nanoparticles will make chemotherapy far more effective. By delivering tiny doses of cisplatin and docetaxel right to cancerous cells, the mini messengers will significantly reduce the pain and side effects of today’s treatments.
  • Your genome will be sequenced before you are born. Researchers led by Jay Shendure of the University of Washington recently reconstructed the genome of a fetus using saliva from the father and a blood sample from the mother (which yielded free-floating DNA from the child). Blood from the umbilical cord later confirmed that the sequencing was 98 percent accurate. Once the price declines, this procedure will allow us to do noninvasive prenatal testing.
  • Your clothes will clean themselves too. Engineers in China have developed a titanium dioxide coating that helps cotton shed stains and eliminate odor-producing bacteria. To revive your lucky shirt after a night of poker, you need only step into the sun.

My five favorites predicted 2023-2062:

  • Contact lenses will grant us Terminator vision. When miniaturization reaches its full potential, achieving superhuman eyesight will be as simple as placing a soft lens on your eye. Early prototypes feature wirelessly powered LEDs. But circuits and antennas can also be grafted onto flexible polymer, enabling zooming, night vision, and visible data fields. (Actually writing a post about this soon…Augmented reality talk is beginning to heat up as hardware, e.g. Google GLASS, becomes more powerful and prevalent)
  • Nurse Jackie will be a robot. By 2045, when seniors (60-plus) outnumber the planet’s youth (15 and under) for the first time in history, hospitals will use robots to solve chronic staffing issues. Expect to find the new Nightingales lifting patients and pushing food carts. Engineers at Purdue University are thinking even bolder—designing mechanical scrub nurses that respond to hand gestures during surgery. (This one is also cool to think about because currently, you should do something that computers can’t do, something that involves judgement, emotion, and creativity. As the elderly could be over 20% of the population by 2050, staffing this sector with smart robots will be vital to accommodate the surge in need for care. This is also the first glimpse that NO ONE’S current job is completely safe from technology)
  • Connecticut will feed the world. To keep up with all the hungry mouths, we may just have to rethink food. The folks at tech startup Pronutria claim to have discovered an industrious single-cell organism that converts sunlight, CO2 and water into low-cost nutrients. It works in tight quarters too. Instead of a few thousand pounds of crops per acre a year, we’d be looking at 100,000, according to the company’s research. In other words, the planet’s protein could be produced in an area half the size of Connecticut.
  • Navy SEALs will be able to hold their breath for 4 hours. Advances in nanotechnology will help us overcome not only illness but also the limits of being human. For example, robotic red blood cells called respirocytes could each hold 200 times the oxygen of their natural counterparts, enabling a man on a mission to, say, hide out underwater for half a day without a scuba tank.
  • Highways will handle three times as many cars. According to researchers at Columbia University, vehicles driven by humans use at best 5 percent of a highway’s road surface at any given time. If we let technology take the wheel, we could significantly increase the volume of traffic. In one example, Volvo’s semiautonomous road train wirelessly connects a stream of cars to a truck driven by a professional. The self-driving cars mimic the speed and steering of the lead vehicle, safely decreasing the gaps while increasing fuel efficiency.

And I’ll let you go to the page to see the predictions from 2063-2112, it’s f&%@ing scary.

Favorite Stand Up Monday – Mark Schiff “Going to the Doctor” and “99 Cent Store”

Mark Schiff is one of the old-timers of stand up comedy. Making a name for himself through the 70’s and 80’s, but still pops up once in a while to do shows, often being regarded as a legend. Here are two of his bits that I love, and to be honest, he’s repeated for quite some time, but they never get old.