It’s time for our children to learn American Sign Language

American Sign Language(ASL) has been taught in schools for decades, but not generally known as a serious second language.  However, new gesture based technologies are going to require ASL or something similar as we move towards the future.  

Currently, our newest input method is voice command with Siri or Google’s equivalent.  I personally use Siri quite a bit to text while driving, launching an app or to call a contact without having to find them in my address book.  That usage always being in short bursts.  For extended use or in public spaces, voice command just won’t cut it.  

Think about voice calls on a noisy sales floor or in a crowd vs the ability to text or email in the same situation.  The latter is a superior input device.  For this same reason, ASL will rise to prominance and overtake the keyboard as an input method for your devices.

Think how much better inputting lengthy emails or text using ASL on a LeapMotion while paired with your phone or tablet would be.

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Race to Zero Employment

With the election looming and discussions surrounding job creation, I’d like to take a step back and provide an alternative viewpoint. Let’s take a look at our ancient past then compare it with our current path forward to analyze for similarities.

Directly after the last ice age, crops of various nutritional value arose worldwide. By sheer luck, those people that lived in the fertile crescent(what is now the middle east), contained advantages found no where else in the world. Wheat and barley were very high in nutritional value for humans, large 100lb+ docile native herbivore mammals provided us with a workforce and clothing, and a highly desirable climate enhanced the former benefits. Due to these, we were able to develop agriculture which required that only a few persons work to feed and clothe the entire population. Those that weren’t working in agriculture were able to utilize their free time to experiment and specialize in other tasks such as stone and metal work thus spawning a technological renaissance that quickly developed several highly advanced societies.

Our natural human drive for efficiency leads us towards less and less employment for outdated tasks. The rise of self-driving cars, autonomous drones and 3d-printing will cut large amounts of jobs in manufacturing and transportation. These workers will either have to become skilled in other trades or join the unemployed. As we progress into our future, I don’t see the harm in a large unemployment rate if collectively we can provide these individuals with basic needs. Some will be lazy and waste their lives, but others will have limitless time to explore their deepest passions. The curious will collaborate, invent, tinker and create exciting new innovations at an exponential rate.

100% of nomads must work to hunt and gather in order to feed the entire tribe. However, one that has evolved into agriculture can provide for the entire group with a few specialized workers while freeing others to make discoveries like architecture or metalworking. The less people we have doing mundane tasks in the future, the more people will be freed to develop the next great innovations that benefit all of us.

Jobs vs Cook and the Google Apps Hubbub

I’ve heard countless complaints over the past week about iOS6 and the new iPhone.  The main things that stick out are the complaints over the lighting connector and their related shortages as well as the big one, Apple Maps.

Apple has received some heat due to shortages on iPhone supply as well as the delay on the lightning converter that allows you to use your new iPhone 5 with existing accessories.  Under Jobs reign, this likely wouldn’t have happened because Jobs never pandered to shareholders and he wouldn’t have released the iPhone 5 for another month when everything was ready.  Looking back a year, Apple released their iPhone 4s on October 14th 2011 which means they missed out on Q3 sales of the iPhone unlike previous years.  Because the 4s was launched in Q4, analysts and investors roasted the stock making it drop a whopping 10% after Q3’s earnings announcement.  Fast forward to this year, the iPhone 5 was released three weeks earlier than the previous year giving Apple a solid week of iPhone sales to inflate Q3’s numbers and appease Wall Street.  This is leadership under the Cook era.  It’s not worse(especially for me as a shareholder), it’s just a different way of doing business.

As for the complains related to Apple Maps; Apple didn’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying three mapping companies over a three year period to give you a bad experience.  As you may know, this is the five year anniversary of the iPhone and in iOS6 both YouTube and Google Maps have disappeared.  The casual observer might say that Apple is being selfish.  Look at it a different way and perhaps a five-year contract ran out and Google and Apple were unable to come to an agreement moving forward.  Google Maps has had turn by turn directions on Android for years, but Google has denied iOS users this feature.  The new YouTube app built by Google now comes chock full of ads, something Apple was likely uninterested to include into the native YouTube app.  Why should Google make money on an Apple built app on the Apple platform?  As for the quality of the maps itself, I’ve had no trouble.  Most of the people I know that have used the new maps prefer it to Google’s, but perhaps the silent majority is being drowned out by those that tweet every single negative emotion.

Users are aggressively focusing on the negatives while ignoring the fact that the new iPhone has proved almost indestructible in countless drop tests vs its counterparts.  Yet again, mob mentality takes over and shines a magnifying glass on the bad while ignoring the good.

 

Déjà vu

[From Wikipedia] Déjà vu is the experience of feeling sure that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined.

We’ve all experienced the above before, but why does it occur?  

During a daydream, it’s likely you run scenarios in your head about the future.  You think what the upcoming weekend will be like, or how dreadful the presentation you are giving tomorrow will be.  You can run these scenarios because your brain already knows a lot about the future.  If you’re going to be in a room you’ve been in before, you have a setting.  If you know who you’ll be with, you have your characters.  After you factor in the previous interactions you’ve had with the characters and setting, you can put together a fairly accurate representation of what the future holds.

Similarly, when you dream your brain probably continues this process.  Dozens and dozens of times, your imagination takes creative license with the vast amounts of memories you posses to run scenarios about the future.

If something coincidentally happens in the present that feels similar to something that has happened before, it’s probably nothing more than a loose parallel to a scenario from your dreams.  I say loose because from my experience, our memories are pretty shotty.  Memories seem so clear, but often when you re-experience something you take note at how poor your memory’s interpretation was.

Déjà vu then, in my opinion, is nothing more than a flashback to a dream that was close enough to something you just experienced.

What if iCloud is a development platform?

Apple seems to have figured out their specialty is providing great hardware and platforms to develop on while leaving the apps us. What if iCloud is to the web as iOS is to mobile devices? What if I can power my web apps with iCloud API’s the same way an iPhone app developer powers his apps?

This would trump developing Facebook apps and tapping into ‘the social graph.’ The real social graph lives on my phone. I don’t send my closest friends Facebook messages that often in favor of calling and texting.

What if I could build an events web app powered by iCloud’s access to my contacts and calendar? Then I could share photos from an event via the ‘photostream.’ All the user has to do is login and authorize with their Apple ID. Not to mention the payment system is built in.

The data in these basic services is gold to any developer and potential access to 200 million user’s information would fuel a whole new generation of web apps.

Facebook’s Questions design is poisoning answers

Within the last month or so, facebook overhauled their Questions feature to resemble polls.  I’ve been tinkering with Questions through my RestlessNapkin facebook page to see how well it worked.

It doesn’t.

Through a combination of answering questions that pop up in my news feed as well as starting my own questions, it’s become apparent that facebook overlooked the effect of showing other’s answers prior to voting.  I currently have a Questions poll asking people simply “What’s the best queso in Austin?”  I was expecting to see answers all over the board, instead one place commands 58% of the 19 current votes.

Why?

Because when I created the poll, I voted for the place that is currently in the lead.  Sure that’s not the only reason, I voted for the place because their queso is amazing.  However, this is Austin and there are countless places that should emerge on an open poll like this.

I don’t see any reason to show other’s votes prior to voting.  Imagine someone walking up to you and asking whether red, green or blue was the best primary color.  What would your answer be?  If that same person instead approached you and asked whether red, green or blue was the best primary color and included that red currently had 256 votes while blue and green had 45 and 18 respectively; what would your answer be then?

This is another fail to add to facebook’s increasingly flawed designs.  As I read a few days ago, facebook is the new ebay.  With their rapid growth, they have the network effect on their side preventing anyone from entering the market.  Unfortunately, this means we are all forced to use features that are half-thought out; built by the best engineers money can buy, but not designed by socially intelligent people.