The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘Technology’

What’s Next?

Here is an interesting way to think about what businesses will die in our lifetime.

Instead of trying to think about what is next in a ‘disruptive’ sort of way, think about what you don’t like about a current business. And then, that might be the key that some other company uses (or the company itself will use) to change that business. A business ‘dying’ is loose, then, because Shell may die in its current form but still exist as Shell. Ok, let’s jump in.

Oh wait. Amazon is an interesting one. I worry about how powerful Bezos is, and his company, but my worry doesn’t exceed the amount of saved effort that company provides. Same goes for Google. I don’t like a number of things about Google, but BOY do they make life easier. My thinking is to discount moral objections, because laziness is the key here. What don’t you like about a current company / service?

empty gray metal shopping card near assorted plastic bottles

When the grocery store notices how much candy and sugary cereal I buy the staff will pitch in and buy me a self-help book.

Know what I don’t think is worth it? Going to an NFL game regularly.

  • What if there were more trains that took me to/from the game without effort. No traffic, no wasted hours of getting in and out of the game.
  • If the NFL was smart, when they are pumping a city for tax dollars to make you pay for someone else’s thing, they’d also get some money for mass transit.
  • That cost is harsh, and then you tack on any food or drinks? Brutal. AND the annoyance of getting up to go get stuff and missing some of the game.
  • This one is something the NFL itself will have to fix, and right now they have no reason to … But if they saw a drop in attendance, I bet some changes might come along here.

Know what is prime for AI and a better experience? Grocery stores.

  • The grocery store involves a lot more thinking, walking, and repetition than is necessary. You go to the grocery store and let’s say 50% of your list is the same every time.
  • Why do you need to go pick all these things out, if you have a grocery store membership card your store already knows exactly what your habits are.
  • Why should you have to bother with finding a new recipe that aligns with what you like when the grocery store can do this for you? Again, they track everything you buy (assuming you have one of those cards) so they can see that you’re trying to eat healthier based on your trends, they can see that you’re into whole wheat pasta, lemons, and chicken, so why not have the grocery store propose a new recipe for you? AND, while you’re at it grocery store, why don’t you go ahead and just have a little robot put together my common things in one container, and your suggested items in another container, and have that waiting in a cart for me. (You could ping the grocery store via their to be built app and then boom, their little robots will run off and compile your cart.)

Know what everyone is sick of? Washing their hands.

  • Poop particles, are they really so harmful?
  • Nah I’m just kidding.
  • But what would really be nice is a tiny robot who would pop out of my desk and put some lotion on my knuckles so that my hands don’t hurt AND I don’t have greasy lotion fingers (and keyboard).

So back to you, dear reader. What’s next?

Technology With a Personality

When I was in high school, my parents mini-van provided good entertainment. It had taken on a personality. While driving, the lights in the car would randomly flicker on and off and the locks would also switch a couple times – locked, unlocked, locked, locked, locked.

When designing something that people will interact with – from a website, to a computer, to a car – the manufacturer probably wants to follow ‘the principle of least astonishment.’ This is exactly what it sounds like (but if you want to read about it, here you go). When you do X, what would you expect to happen? Well, the manufacturer likes to think they know what you think would happen … and they’ve built it that way.

When technology gets older it can begin to fail. And then, what once held no astonishment now holds astonishment at every corner. ‘When I turn the steering wheel, my brights come on … huh.’ The personality the mini-van had developed was really just a sign of the car failing.

If you wanted to write a scifi novel about a society of perfect humans that are equal and impeccable in all things and then along comes this person who had a manufacturing flaw and suddenly that person is the most interesting person on Earth … you could do that I guess. I mean, I’d see where you were going and all. Kind of obvious though, don’t you think? Celebrating our flaws that way? It just feels a little contrived. Honestly, to think of a screen play … Human 724789232156, one of any number of people in a society manufactured and perfected by technology … a society where all men and women truly are created equal … Where there is no hunger, or sadness, or confusion of purpose in life. All people are impeccable … but a minor glitch one day produces … Human 724789232156 as the one who is not quite an impeccable human … Yes, it’s KEVIN JAMES AS Mr. PECCABLE! Coming this Christmas!)

Let’s get back to topic. Over Thanksgiving I bought a FANCY new camera – a DLSR! I am excited about this, but it maybe wasn’t the best way to spend my money. You see, my iPhone 4s is a little old as far as phones go and it is now FULL of personality.

-> Browsing Facebook at 43%? Interrupted by a message saying I have less than 10% battery life and sure enough, it jumped from 43% to 1%
-> Made a note? Why not have the phone make random duplicates with no discernible pattern? Sure, I could use 7 copies of this note
-> Want to head out on a jog? Sure, just log in to Nike+ … just log in … just log … ugh … eh, I don’t know if I really wanted to jog anyway

What’s my point? Am I suggesting you delay the need for new technology, embracing the reduce aspect of reduce/reuse/recycle? Welcoming the eventual software or hardware decay with a look of astonishment, and a smirk? Am I giving the weakest ever pitch for someone else to write a movie script, get that movie script sold, and then give me like 10% of the profits or at least let me take some silly photos with Kevin James?

I’ll leave that to you to figure out, dear reader.


I bet his one flaw is that he cares too much. Or maybe he winks inappropriately at everyone.

For the Mamas and the Papas

One interview question that I read about, but was never asked, went something along the lines of, “explain the internet as you would to your grandmother.”

The idea of this is to provide an opportunity for the candidate to show off (or fluster and flop-sweatingly stumble around) their ability to explain technical concepts in a simple manner. This is a great skill to have.

Of course, had I been asked this question I would have said, “uh, my grandma is best friends with Vint Cerf, so suck eggs you ageist scum.” (Vinton Gray Cerf co-designed the TCP/IP protocol which is to the internet what the foundation of a house is … to a house.)

This all brings me to today’s topic – The Cloud. Like all great buzzwords, it is catchy without revealing anything substantial or informational.

(Also a note. For technically-savvy readers, if I state anything incorrectly or make poor assumptions or have anything worth debate or investigation – please let me know. The point of this is to provide something useful and accurate, unlike the vast majority of my posts.)


What is the Cloud?

Your computer has memory that can hold X amount of data – pictures, programs, movies, whatever. Your phone is the same way. Really, any number of devices are the same way.

The cloud provides you more space to store things. If you can store ten things, but you have access to the cloud (you would need the internet to have access … so if you’re on a plane you likely won’t have access to the cloud), then you can store your ten things locally on your phone/computer/whatever and some extra amount of things in the cloud.

Let’s look at Mary Poppins, who had a purse with access to the cloud.

There’s no way a hat rack can fit in that purse. Therefore, we must assume the purse is connected to some extra storage area like a shed. With her access to that extra storage, she isn’t limited to how much her purse can contain, she can carry things in her purse, and use that purse to access to the additional storage in her shed.

Now to ask the eye doctor question – is that better, or worse? Did I just confuse you more?

Basically, “the cloud” is just more space to put stuff. If you’ve got the right tool (Mary Poppin’s purse, or the internet) you can access that extra stuff.

The Downside of Better Video Games

In the video game FIFA 14 you can choose to create a player and play through the career of that one person. This can lead to upgrading your rating as you get accomplishments, and playing for different teams if you prove yourself ready to play at higher or lower levels.

In other words, the game is tracking your stats to decide how to rank you and move you. Pretty neat.

What would not be neat is if the game got really good at this.

When playing the game I take turns between two skill levels: one offers a challenge where I have to play intelligently, my team could win or lose, and I will score a goal if I’m lucky/play really well. Also my rating (you are rated each match) is so-so. To offset this and advance my player I also play at an easier level in order to get more accomplishments, advancing my player faster and also, obviously, it’s just fun to score. In those matches I’m rated very highly.

Here’s what a write-up of my player might look like if the game got to the point where it had built in the ability to track trends in your play. (FYI: my character’s nickname is Slinky because it’s an old soccer nickname of mine.)

“Slinky is a decent player. He ranges from slightly below average to amazing, seemingly game to game.

“Some days he arrives and the game starts with him calling for the ball and he persists in calling for the ball without once distributing it, seemingly, until he has a hat trick. It is some of the most selfish play one could ever witness, and yet it works. Disturbingly, even after scoring multiple goals he seems to avoid passing to a specific teammate (it should be noted that this player is second on the team stat sheet for goals scored, first in assists). On some of these games he will take shot after shot that is nearly impossible – with his weak foot, from outside the box. It makes no sense.

“I would kick him off the team except he really can score at will. With enough time and chances he WILL score multiple goals, embarrassing the opponent. It is almost as if everyone around him is an amateur compared to his professional status.

“Then, on the ‘off’ days, Slinky is a good teammate, making runs, distributing the ball, coming back to help on defense. He does everything he should … But honestly, I’d prefer the selfish a-hole version who scores 4 times per game.

“It should be noted several teammates, independent of each other, have made attempts on his life.

“I think he deserves a raise.”

Technology Can Be Awesome!

This is breaking from my usual type of post, but thankfully I have no standards for my blog.

First of all, UAVs. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. They have become prominent recently with war, and now they may be coming to your home … if you have some time, read this.

Don’t want to read that? Fine. Here’s my quick takeaway: UAVs in the civilian world CAN be really cool, but they could be bad, and they can be slippery.


  • Delivering tacos to you
  • Road signs saying “missing elderly, Ford truck, etc etc” … these bad boys can help look for the missing elderly
  • Traffic reporting (as mentioned in the article)


  • Invasion of privacy (peeping tom, 2.0)
  • Hogging bandwidth



Seriously … this is a verrrry interesting thing to me.

A few years ago I was driving with a girl to visit the acquarium in Monterey Bay, California. While driving there we passed by some farms. There was someone out driving some farming machinery through the fields and I talked to the girl about how that job could be automated.

You have the dimensions of the field, you know where crop X is, where crop Y is (in case they need different machines). All you have to do is input this information into a central database (or directly into the machines), and whala, you’ve got yourself some automated farm hands.

With these UAVs it mentions shipping yards that could use drones. Imagine a drone crew lifting debris from the demolition of a building.

Here’s an interesting/bad part – the girl’s dad had a skilled manual labor job. It had slipped my mind at the time, but she was adamently against automation of certain jobs. Unfortunately, her stubborn resistance only made me want to list more jobs where people could be replaced.

You’ve probably been to a grocery store where there are self-checkouts. You’ve probably seen ATMs where you can deposit checks through them (or you can do this through your phone now). There are TONS of jobs people do that can be replaced by robots.

Think about how complex a football game is, and yet we have AI that figures out what to do with that in video games. VIDEO GAMES! I think any consistent motion, or set of motions, no matter how complex, can be automated.

That is both cool and scary.

Other slippery slope things … The article mentions the idea of police UAVs with some ‘crowd control’ non-lethal weapons. Oh, what tangled webs we have.

What do you think about all this? Scary? Cool? Have some brilliant business idea based on UAVs? If so, you should probably keep it to yourself.

%d bloggers like this: