News to get you ready for what’s coming…
Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.
— T. S. Eliot
Life & Learning
What we’re reading: The Sky Below by Scott Parazynski and Susy Flory. A veteran of five Space Shuttle flights and seven spacewalks. As you might expect, the book is packed with goodness, and opens powerfully:
Everything is possible until proven impossible, and then you just need to become more creative.
And it keeps em’ coming:
I learned that if you can’t pre-visualize success, it’s much less likely to happen.
Planning for multiple failures means a better chance of ultimate survival and success.
Shallow, panicked breathing and a lack of focus are a prelude to disaster.
Health & Fitness
Did you know that there’s a biological switch in humans that helps the body burn fat? It’s true. It occurs immediately after eating, when your body switches energy reserves (i.e. fat) into energy burning fuel. When someone is obese, this switch never turns “on,” so the body isn’t able to burn the right amount of fat. Interestingly, the same thing occurs if you fast for too long. It’s our body’s way of regulating weight so that we stay in a relatively stable place.This also means you need to take care of yourself in other ways to allow the natural abilities of our bodies to go to work.
Money & Investing
Even though oil prices are down, the giants aren’t resting. They’re actively searching for ways to cut costs, increase cash flow and keep operations going. Want to know how they did it? Tech. Yep, they rolled up their sleeves and invested in new technologies to increase efficiencies, automate processes and stretch their dollar even further. BP just eeked out a small profit after being in the red.
After all, the renewables space is only accounting for a small fraction of our world’s energy supply. If we turned off oil today, the world would be in major trouble. Even though we’re fighting the good fight with climate change (veganism anyone?), we still need to turn on the lights, heat up our food, and get to work every day.
The lesson is that even cash cows that have produced milk for years require technological innovation. If you stagnate and don’t invest in leading tools for automation, you’re going to go bye bye. And that could end up hurting the world.
In other news, the Dow Jones is at a record high, nearing 22,000. We remember at the height of the dot com, it was like 14,000. It’s always dangerous to predict the top. But what goes up, must come down. We wouldn’t advise following all the greedy greedies into the market right now. Wait until the fire sale comes and then pick up all these stocks on the cheap. If you look at the market like a retail store selling clothes, why buy full price when you can wait a week and get the same thing 30% off?
Stories & Entertainment
The video wars continue:
- Amazon Prime subscribers: 79M
- ESPN subscribers: 88M
- Netflix subscribers: 100M
- Apple Music: 27M (they’re gearing up for video)
- Spotify: 60M (going public)
- Facebook: 2B monthly active users (that stands out, doesn’t it?)
Is it possible that Monday night football may no longer be housed on ESPN / Disney properties after 2021? What if these streaming upstarts eat everyone’s lunch in the future? Amazon Prime gives you free shipping plus a bunch of other goodies when you pay their $10/month. Netflix only gives you videos. Facebook is most definitely pushing video hard, but it remains to be seen if they can handle high quality content.
In documentary news, have you caught The Defiant Ones 4-part series on HBO? It covers Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s humble beginnings and rise to music gods. Lessons are everywhere in this 4–5 hour show: The grit to keep calling from a bathroom phone every day for a year until a contract gets turned over to your business; The luck it takes in the very beginning to be put in the same room with the best; The marketing power of controversy and the original influencer marketing; And ultimately, it’s the love for your craft that keeps you going. Because you can’t just turn that off, right?
Makers & Science
Theo Jansen is an amazing dude. He created wind-powered creatures that move entirely on their own, all made from plastic pop bottles. This video made the rounds about 3 years ago, but it’s still worthwile to see how something amazing can continue to live on for years after creation.
Crazy sunscreen using DNA. Researchers at Binghamton University have created a DNA coating you can apply to your skin that works much like sunscreen. The benefit being two-fold:
- The more ultraviolet light (i.e., sunshine) you expose it to, the more protection it provides.
- Keeps your skin hydrated in the process.
That’s what we call sun kissed.
Culture & Society
The people who make the pretty ads you either skip over or the technology you expect for free are starting to get the message: Creativity + Technology = Profit. To that end, you’re going to start seeing more Chief Experience Officers (ahem, the CEO acronymn is already taken). Publicis in NYC just got themselves one from an in-town rival. Keep us up to date on how it goes, John.
Biohacking isn’t just some futuristic Matrix idea. A Wisconsin company threw a party for employees to implant microchips into their bodies. At first glance, this may seem strange and likely “not for me!” until you take a closer look. It’s a small RFID sliver that can be put into your hand to open locked doors, login to computers, and buy food from vending machines. Instead of carrying that ugly white keycard on a lanyard or on your belt, now you’ve got it in your hand.
Of course, you might be wondering what happens when you quit. Reprogram? Get it removed? You should probably ask first.
Air & Space
There’s a rumor making the rounds that Snap is interested in buying a small hover drone company who sells the product at Apple stores. This leads us to believe that Snap’s Spectacles are just a window into viewing top-down aerial selfies. If we squint our eyes a bit, we could see the synergies. Of course, everyone is officially denying this, but the strategy is sound.
In the new space wars, Japan isn’t letting the US and China have all the fun. Their latest attempt, while able to lift off and fly, didn’t quite make it all the way to space. That’s okay guys, nobody ever rode a bike the first time they got on either. Keep going.
Collaboration & Politics
Some people are pushing back more heavily than others on policies of the current administration. In this episode, the new White House Chief of Staff had some choice words for President Trump. From the Associated Press,
Kelly, a whip-cracking retired general who was sworn in as White House chief of staff on Monday, had demanded to speak to the president alone after Trump complained loudly that the U.S. was admitting travelers from countries he viewed as high risk.
Kelly first tried to explain to Trump that the admissions were standard — some people had legitimate reasons to visit the country — but the president insisted that it was making him look bad, according to an administration official familiar with the exchange about a month ago.
It reminds us of a great strategy Abraham Lincoln employed after he took office. He surrounded himself not with ardent supporters, but with his detractors from the campaign trail. He smartly wanted to hear all sides of an argument before putting any policies in place. You can’t argue with Lincoln’s results, or the strategy. We give this small move towards that hopeful goal a thumbs up.
Tech & Startups
The “fake news” sound bite is about to become all too real. Researchers at the University of Washington have shown how to make the former President say whatever they want in a video. By mashing together an audio clip of his voice, a video clip of his face, and some impressive machine learning trained on hundreds of hours, they successfully showed they could create “fake news”.
Even Sam Lessin, The Information’s former Facebook Product Manager and husband to the founder, is wondering: what happens when this becomes pervasive?
Our own internal experienced AI product chap, Sean Everett, has this to say about the answer:
“This is a showcase of something very simple and the beginning of what’s likely to be a few different things:
1) Social Fun. Animated videos of your own face saying things you might never have said. It’s fun, guys. Snapchat is likely working on it right now as the next step in their face filter evolution. That will go viral across different platforms quickly and, of course, Facebook will do it’s copy and paste product business.
2) Major Media. Most of the big publishers are looking for scalable ways to drive eyeballs to their digital properties. The bellwethers would never present fake news as the real thing so you can trust in who’s running the ship at the NYT, WSJ and Washington Post to name a few. But many others might add on to real-news with “what if” scenarios where they take audio recordings and place them on others faces. Video content creation at scale could be determined by AI.
3) Next-Gen Robotics. There is a subtle robotics underpinning here. What you’re actually seeing this machine learning algorithm do is what’s called “decision-making and control”. It’s digitally manipulating the muscles in a digital face to make it seem to a human that the voice box matches the face. As we move into a service bot-enabled future (this is a real $1 Billion per year strategy that I know of personally from one global manufacturing company), there will need to be mechanisms that control facial features and muscles for human interaction and believable user experience.
As you can see, it’s not all bad news. Just watch the space carefully and pay for the content you trust already. That will only make them more incentivized to produce valuable real content while the roboticists can go to work.