Disrupting water

Anything under the sun can be disrupted, even water. Check out what's happening over at FreeWater if you don't believe me. Not only are they finding ways to give to those in need, they're creating a new paradigm which could be easily extended elsewhere.

Yes, we all suffer from some degree of advertising fatigue. I remember the first time I saw a hockey rink with ads along the boards as well as under the ice and thought, "this is crazy." Now it's pretty much the standard and I don't even notice; that probably means some number of those ads are just white noise now. With FreeWater, at least they're leveraging ads to help provide clean water as well as potentially lower the cost of water distribution in general.

Why stop with water though? If it makes sense in this use-case it's easy to envision a world where advertising becomes even more ubiquitous on all sorts of new, unexpected surfaces (again, think hockey rinks from 20 years ago vs. today). It's also easy to see a positive impact of this sort of advertising, so it's more feel-good and less about yet another in-your-face ad impression.

How Tesla is quietly building a disruptive AI advantage

Here's an interesting tidbit from Martin Ford's terrific book, Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence will Transform Everything:

Every Tesla is equipped with eight cameras that operate continuously, capturing images from the road and the environment around the car. Computers onboard the cars are able to evaluate these images, determine which ones are likely of interest to the company and then automatically upload these in a compressed format to Tesla’s network. Over 400,000 of these camera-equipped cars are driving on roads throughout the world, and that number is increasing rapidly. In other words, Tesla has access to a truly massive trove of real-world photographic data.

The author goes on to say, "Tesla’s ability to incorporate massive amounts of real-world data is a potentially disruptive advantage." Tesla is certainly an innovative vehicle and it's fascinating to think about the many ways it could lead to other marketplace disruptions.

Committing to lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is something I've focused on throughout my career and I believe it's sometimes helped me stand out in a crowd. I've read plenty of articles about lifelong learning but this one in HBR is undoubtedly the best I've seen. Ever. If you're pressed for time and can only read a portion of it be sure to check out the "Ask propelling questions" segment; the questions the authors suggest are priceless and will undoubtedly lead to extremely valuable discussions.

Braintrust Network: When the disruptor is disrupted

I'm fascinated when a recently disrupted segment suddenly faces its own disruption. It wasn't that long ago when a number of freelance gig platforms hit the scene (think eLance, which is now Upwork), connecting jobs with workers.

Those earlier disruptors didn't offer the most financially attractive solution for freelancers though so Braintrust Network solves that problem by allowing workers to keep 100% of their earnings. Very cool. I wonder who will eventually disrupt Braintrust (and how).

Are we on the verge of a learning system breakthrough?

I've been experimenting with a popular video-based training platform as I continue my journey as a lifelong learner. The platform is excellent and offers a variety of resources; in fact, there are so many options to choose from it's sometimes hard deciding where to go next.

And that's the problem. The platform doesn't really know me. It's designed as a one-to-many approach where the content is extremely broad and it's up to the user to figure out where to invest their time.

There's nothing wrong with that approach but it doesn't take advantage of today's technology capabilities.

If we could combine three distinct technologies I think we could take a huge leap forward in learning systems. I'm talking about (1) voice UI's (think Alexa), (2) modern text-to-speech services and, (3) artificial intelligence (AI) where the platform learns about me and therefore delivers a custom, one-to-one, solution.

Voice UI's are all around us but they're still in the new, experimental stages. Early TV is sometimes referred to as "radio in front of a camera" and before too long we'll describe today's voice UI's in a similar fashion.

One way voice UI's will move forward is by having access to enormous libraries of richly tagged content. I say "richly tagged" because the content will need to be granularized so that it can be searched and reconstituted in an infinite number of ways depending on each user's needs. Also, we shouldn't rely exclusively on Amazon and their capabilities, hence the need for one of the more modern text-to-speech solutions which are often indistinguishable from an actual person.

The third leg of the stool is the AI to power the conversation, learn about me personally, understand how to answer and where to take me next.

It all adds up to a user experience that feels like I'm receiving one-on-one training from an expert on the topic. Over time the system learns about me and my strengths and weaknesses, just like any good teacher. It also builds successful learning paths based on different user skill and learning preferences thereby making the system even more useful for future users.

I'm curious if something like this already exists, even if it's on a small scale or in the early stages. The pieces of the puzzle are already available so it's just a question of pulling them together, managing the IP rights/income streams and offering it at a compelling price.