Technology in the classroom will always have my vote. I have always been a big believer in making use of employing just the right amount of tech in the classrooms. In the past, some of these thoughts have taken the shape and form of actual blog-posts. link, link, link and link.
In the words of Thomas Friedman 'It should not be about time spent (in the classroom) but more about stuff learned". Listening to a teacher for hours on end, droning on about any given topic is a very inefficient mechanism for imparting education. Something that I have blogged about.
Now there has been a lot of good innovation, specifically when it comes to the medium. The medium relating to how education is imparted, focusing on the emergence of MOOCs. But when it comes to delivering the 'concepts', the synthesis of what information is supposed to represent. That problem has been addressed in bits and pieces, as we can only innovative so much within a medium that is confined to text/audio/video.
Here, virtual reality is a game changing product. It will give students of all types the ability to pickup and absorb the knowledge in a much richer format. For example: reading something vs actually performing the task has a completely different impact on your cognitive cycles. The chances that you will forget something that you read are pretty high. In retrospect, your brain forms neural pathways and registers how you go about acquiring any new skills. This is precisely the reason why it is next to impossible to forget a skill, like riding a bike.
Also, there are so many other benefits when it comes to leveraging VR for education. No limitations when it comes to physical space, unlimited chances for trial and error without any harmful effects in the physical world, the ability for collaborating with others from any given part of the world e.t.c. Also, since all the interactions are occurring in the digital world, these interactions and the sum total of the outcomes can be measured and aggregated in greater details. This will be particularly beneficial, when it comes to the issue of jobs, skills training and eventually in getting rid of the job/skills mismatch.
Today I decided to Google the term 'Oculus for education' and when you click on the video section on Google, then this is one of the first videos that comes up (below).
This makes me really happy. This can transform education as we know it, entire societies and the world. But why limit it to just the education industry. Virtual reality can transform the world.
What a great invention! Great work by Palmer Luckey (in particular) and the folks at Oculus Rift.
"The Chaos Imperative", written by Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack has got to be one of the best books I have gone through this year.
I recall going through 'The Starfish and the Spider' about a decade ago, so I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect in terms of the writing style and how Ori (in particular) would tackle the subject at hand.
Now, during the past couple of decades a lot of interesting work has been done specially when it relates to the subjects of innovation, creativity and even disruption.
However, what has been missing is some kind of a unified mechanism and principles for harnessing these elements. Although, this is not the intent of this book. That being said, some of the concepts that Ori has shed light upon, could potentially lead to some interesting constructs and way of looking at problems in the near future.
Now, there are some really interesting insights packed into this book. This is the kind of book that gives credence to this range of gut feeling. Specifically the kind of gut feeling that relates to how work is conducted and how issues and challenges are generally tackled. And specially how most of the times, people and organizations tend to get stuck in a rutt. When there is so much focus on execution that you start missing the forest for the trees (big picture).
The contents within the book help shed light on unique and interesting insights such as:
There are tons of examples and use cases along the way. From leveraging examples throughout history and even using the findings from some of the work Ori has conducted himself. Most notably, the work that he has done with the US Army.
Now this blogpost has been sitting in my drafts folder for far too long and I am having difficulty finding an adequate amount of time for writing a descriptive blogpost. However, if you are a leader, a problem solver and would like to read up on some new/interesting and super simple ways of looking at problems, defining them and would like to leverage simple constructs for helping solve these problems. Then this is a great read.
Two of the many random thoughts that emerged in my mind while I was going through this book.
Coming back to the original book review. 'Chaos imperative' is a great read. I definitely want to read it again!
Earlier in June, I found myself going through another book that goes by the title of "Gravity's Arc: The Story of Gravity from Aristotle to Einstein and Beyond". I think the title does justice and I don't have to elaborate much on what this book is about.
I managed to go through half the book and I intend to finish the other half.
Now one of the many things they talk about in this book is this concept of a Space Gun. John Hunter's Space Gun.
I wasn't exactly sure if this project was technically possible. But then I wondered, if this guy (John Hunter) has been mentioned in a book that contains names such as Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein and even some of the modern day scientists. Then there has got to be a reason for that.
This got me a bit more interested in John Hunter, the inventor and the scientist. So I ended up spending the next 45 minutes to an hour looking up this guy on the web. I couldn't find many references, but I did manage to find this one interview that has been posted on medium.com and I found it to be quite informative.
According to John Hunter:
Those numbers alone warrant further analysis when it comes to the claims that John Hunter has made. Also, it's worth noting that the proposed space gun is reusable and it is powered by hydrogen. Two very solid advantages over traditional rocket based technologies.
This is a very interesting proposition. I can't help but think of the different ways such a system can be leveraged for purposes other than shooting cargo in space. For starters, a modified version of this invention could help revolutionize the delivery system that will potentially be powered by drones. That requires a fundamental redesign of the urban landscape. As you don't want to shoot projectiles over populations.
John Hunter is an interesting fellow and it seems like he has enough experience to be able to backup a revolutionary invention such as a space gun and help make it see the light of the day.
The conceptual designs for the O’Neill Colonies and the subject of Nanotechnology have always managed to capture my attention.
At least when it comes to the O'Neill colonies, often I find myself going back and observing the designs as envisioned by Gerard O'Neill. Also, I keep thinking and wondering about the enormous potential nanotechnology, in a developed form can offer for our species.
To cut to through the chase, large scale sustainable colonization of space is impossible, unless and until our species gets a much a better control over how to structure and positions atoms.
A thought related to this conceptual merger between space colonies and nanotechnology, led me to this very question.
So I started searching the web, and sure enough, my search soon led me to this very book called ‘The Visioneers’ written by a gentleman by the name of W. Patrick McCray.
I was very surprised to observe, that the entire book is a historical record when it comes to the developments related to the two concepts that I was thinking about, namely space colonies and nanotechnology!
As you might have noticed from the front cover (image above), this book is about “How a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies and a limitless future”.
Now, since the 60’s, a number scientists and visionaries have been trying to build a case for the colonization space. But, this vision has been met with a fair bit of resistance. Largely, due to the fact that the technology just wasn’t ready. And even if it was possible, then there has always been scare mongering that has been attached with these concepts (at the time) and how it had the (supposed) potential to destroy the world.
But in fits and starts, this movement has also gained encouragement from certain segments of society, academia and the Government. Namely, the United States Government and from what I can gather from this book. I’m sure that (since the 60’s) other governments have also invested in both nanotechnology and the colonization of space, but that is not in scope when it comes to the contents of this book.
The main characters:
Coming back to the book, most of the content revolves around the work performed by:
Gerard K. O’Neill: An American physicist, inventor and space activist. O’Neill tried to champion the cause of giant space settlements that could hypothetically be used for the colonization of space, using materials used from mining asteroids and the moon. O’Neill’s designs weren’t just an artistic rendition of what the conceptual models for the space colonies and manufacturing sites could look like. In fact, these designs were backed by a lot of research and what really distinguished them from science fiction was the meticulous amount of calculations that went into effect, in order to support the overall models.
Eric K. Drexler: The other amazing individual is Eric K. Drexler. An engineer from MIT (at the time), who in my opinion, is the rightful father of nanotechnology. Drexler, took the ideas as envisioned by Richard Feynmann for manipulating and controlling atoms and molecules and helped nurture and guide those ideas towards a path where they could eventually turn into a science.
Drexler’s book ‘Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology’ (published in 1986) is considered to be the first written record that hypothesizing the designs and details of machines that can be operated on a nanoscale. To quote from Wikipedia, Drexler envisioned a world where: “Molecular robots can be used for any purpose, from medicinal robots that can be guided for helping clear capillaries to environment scrubbers that can clear pollutant from air.” To even molecular robots that come together, in order to build lighter and stronger materials. Drexler worked closely with O’Neill, to see how the overall vision for the colonization of space could be supported with the aid of nanotechnology.
Obviously, there are other characters mentioned in this book as well. But like I said, most of the content focuses on the work performed by these gentlemen.
Meat and Potatoes
The overall narrative is really all about the dreams, the vision (backed by engineering designs) that these individuals continued to pursue, sometimes in the face of resistance and setbacks.
Also, after reading this book, I believe that the present day planning and activity when it relates to space exploration, colonization and mining can only trace it’s roots back to the work that individuals like O’Neill and Drexler helped envision and also champion.
Not only were these gentlemen the original dreamers, they were also the very first pioneers who dedicated a significant chunk (if not the entirety) of their lives when it comes to taking certain ideas and concepts from a fuzzy area and help bring them to a place where they could become very tangible in the foreseeable future. It is my wish that society will look back in time and always be indebted to individuals like O’Neill and Drexler and the fine work they did and sacrifices they made.
It’s also interesting to see how things are interconnected. Starting in the 60’s, from the origins of the L5 society and the whole world catalog and even individuals like Timothy Leary. To the emergence of social networks (in the absence of the internet) in the form of telephone networks e.t.c.
Or on the flip side, in a modern day context and to quote from the book “It’s impossible to ignore a certain homogeneity among this book’s characters. O’Neill, Drexler, Raymond Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Ted Nelson, Freeman Dyson, and even Richard Smalley: all men who graduated from elite schools with technical degrees.
This book is a great read for anyone who is interested in the following:
Also, there is a silver lining to the resistance that visionaries like O'Neill and Drexler had faced. As it can now serve as a lesson for new age visionaries. Namely:
It seems like a lot of things in life, kind of go back a full circle. Towards the beginning of this book, they were talking about this movement of sorts in the 60's where there was a lot of emphasis on 'Limits'. And supposedly, how limits had to be imposed on the continued advancement and development of society, if we were to continue living on this planet in a sustainable way. This was precisely the time when creative and intelligent engineers like like O'Neill and Drexler had decided to tackle these challenge head on. Their ideas and designs could help potentially help the human race leap frog these limits and such a movement could also (potentially and theoretically) help usher in a new age of abundance.
Now, some 50 ++ years later, the human race finds itself confronting a somewhat similar scenario. Where, among a host of other problems, we also have the looming threat of climate change. Luckily, for us, the debate this time around is not so much around the imposition of limits. There isn't much of a debate, the way I see it. But the one good movement I have noticed is the very nascent framework that is beginning to develop around space exploration, manufacturing and mining.
Hence, the vision as it was conceived by Gerard O'Neill and Eric K. Drexler, is still alive. It was dormant for a while and now it is slowly beginning to materialize. These individuals performed all this intelligent work decades ago, sometimes in the face of resistance, so that one day humanity could benefit from it. That era is getting closer with the passage of each day.
Overall, great read. Backed by a lot of research. Great work by Patrick McCray!
So apparently this aerogel technology is 83 years old and it has certainly evolved during this timeframe.
Future state and potential unconventional uses for the aerogel. I am thinking of a couple of ideas here and in random order.
This is definitely future state. Maybe 10, 15 or 20 years out.
Some of these thoughts and then some more, were inspired by this book I am reading. 'The Visioneers', written by a gentleman by the name of W. Patrick McCray. Who, by the way, was very kind in responding back to one of my tweets and even ended up retweeting one of them.
Halfway through this book, I started thinking of a somewhat new form of transportation and perhaps a new mechanism and method for manufacturing. Not so new, if you read the book, as a significant majority of the content revolves around the fine work done by Eric K. Drexler. What a great guy!
Then, I started thinking of lighter than air particles and eventually lighter than air machines. Or a combination of the two. Then I happened to be looking at some basic research being done when it relates to self-assembling nano-machines. And I thought to myself, could all of this be combined together? So that a million different individual components could come together to form a bigger structure?
Next, I literally got this idea of injecting stuff in space, over the more conventional approach of using rocket based technology. Don't get me wrong, I love the advances that have been made when it relates to rocket based technology. But in order to colonize space, we either need to build an elevator that goes into space or we need to come up with another mechanism for getting huge amounts of materials into space and back.
Hence the idea of a giant space needle, the kind that injects stuff into space and sucks it back. During that brief moment, when I started questioning my sanity. I happened to be looking out the window and saw the sun shining on a set of puffy clouds.
That's when I got my Eureka moment! Thinking, wondering if what I had envisioned in terms of swarms of machines that we can ride atop lighter than air material. Then we could theoretically transport them onto a different level of elevation. So again, clusters of machines, sitting atop clusters of aerogel. Picked up by a charge of static electricity. Taken to a higher level of elevation. Eventually transported into space. That is where the machines break free from their aerogelly mould and would then come together.
I admit, this is one of the craziest idea I've ever thought of. But, it is theoretically possible, specially with the advancements being made with certain technologies and how they will evolve in a relatively short amount of time.
These ideas compliment part of my vision for the future. Where objects move seamlessly, in a very stable method, without any noise and with very little to no human intervention. Poetry, must possess multiple forms.
A 2.5 kg brick is supported by a piece of aerogel with a mass of only 2 grams. (Source: Wikipedia)
Grocery shopping is such a drag.
It’s inefficient, time-consuming and the line-ups. Makes no sense.
I think the time it takes to conduct grocery shopping can be reduced by a significant margin. I’m thinking 90% of the time spent, if not more, could be saved by virtue of this design that I’ve been thinking of.
This 90% bucket is generally spent on three specific set of activities:
So I started thinking. How can the entire design be changed in such a way, so that:
Originally, I thought of this idea a while back. I think it was 9 years ago and on my first visit to California. For some reason, I get a lot of ideas when I’m just sitting by the beach. But the technology to do something like what I had envisioned did not exist at the time. Not to this scale.
I think the technology is now available. Thus the ‘process’ by which grocery shopping is conducted, seems to be ripe for disruption.
Here is the idea in a nutshell. A process, that explains the idea in a bit more detail, has also been documented below.
The idea is actually quite simple. Think of it as as merger between “Google Streetview + Online shopping + a secured quasi conveyor belt for delivering the boxed goods to the consumer”
This process is obviously just one of the ways, that this idea could be implemented. If not disruption, then this idea is ready to mingle with other ideas.
1- You’d go on a webpage and you’d be presented with a very simple blueprint/map for the store.
2- Once you select a category, you’d then have the option to navigate through the actual area/aisle as if you were actually there.
So it’d be something like this:
For the purpose of navigating through something like this.
3- You could then move around. Escape to the blueprint area, in order to go to another section. You could, select items. Now, I can’t find an image that displays what I’m actually thinking right now and too lazy to draw it. But it’d be something like this (below). It doesn’t necessarily have to be touchscreen for the MVP.
4 – Next, you’d simply add the item to your cart and you may proceed to the checkout, if you so desire.
5- Once at the on-line check-out phase. You’d then have the ability to pick and choose a time-slot when you’d like to come and pickup your order. A simple UI could do the job.
6- Once the financial transaction has occurred and the payment is received. Your order is simply going to be placed in queue.
7- A QR code would automatically be sent to your email, as well as a mobile application that you would have already downloaded on your smartphone. You’d use this QR code for your order pickup.
8- For the purpose of security, you’d have two levels of authentication. One would be the QR code. The other one could be a unique code that you’d choose. (temporary or persistent with user profiles).
9- Now, in the back-end. As soon your order is placed an entire process is going to be triggered. The intent would be to ensure, that your order is ready for pickup for the date/time that you have mentioned.
10- The next series of steps, will be transparent to the user. Workers are going to be dispatched. They would do the shopping for you. They would place the items in a box which has the same QR code printed on it, as the one that you have been provided with.
11- The workers are going to scan every single item to ensure that it matches with the item that is on your list. There will be provisions in the system and the intent would be to verify that the order has been completed as desired by the consumer. That the items match the exact specifications.
12- The box is going to be placed in a temporary storage area. Preferably a cool/dry place. The design can always be changed based on specifications. If space is a consideration, then the system can be tweaked in such a way that orders are placed 30 to 40 minutes before they are received. That would entail that the business hire more workers. Meaning, more jobs! Or maybe, just more robots.
13- Delivery: On the date and time of the delivery. The user would simply visit the store. They would let the machine scan the QR code that is on their smartphone or that they have printed. They would plug in the second level of authentication (whatever that may be). Next, they would wait for their box to arrive. The box containing their groceries is going to be delivered through a secured/quasi conveyor belt that has the ability to deliver the boxed goods to a pertinent user. I’ve thought a little bit about the dispersal. The user would have to scan the box again, so that the machine can release it to it’s rightful owner.
Multiple outlets for dispersal may have to be designed, in order to avoid congestion.
The other idea for dispersal, was basically storage locations around the city. A place where boxed goods could be delivered. A place that is closer to the pickup location that the consumer would prefer. Items that require refrigeration could be a problem. But alliances could be made and solutions would be invented. That all comes down to the opportunity cost.
Hoping that someone can pick this idea and implement it. So that we can all avoid the drudgery that grocery shopping is today.
I haven’t done the costing. But I suspect that the major expenditure would be for the conveyor belt. A simplified version of a conveyor belt could be implemented. Many ideas along those lines.