In May 2014, I made a blog-post that details the conceptual design (how things work) when it comes to my latest startup. Since then I have received a steady stream of questions and some feedback related to the work I've been doing.
Now, most of the feedback that I have received is positive, specially when I paint the vision of the (potential) features that can be introduced in a fitness/outdoors related interest based social network.
But I have also received some criticism. The criticism usually comes in the form that this area is overdone. Specially with the emergence of other interest based social networks like fitocracy, pinterest, yaamo and mighty bells e.t.c. Overall, It begets the question, is there really a need for another interest based social network?
First of all, let me state that I find this criticism really valuable. In the words of Vinod Khosla, the most important thing is a reality where "someone disagrees with your point of view". I completely agree with this disagreement statement and I live by these words. I live by these words as this 'reality' forces you to challenge your own assumptions. There are two important reasons for having your assumptions challenged.
1. It creates synergy.
2. It helps shed light on the narrative from a point of view that you might have missed. And doing this could save you time and effort in the long run.
So paying attention to criticism is absolutely necessary for the survivability and success of your initiative.
That being said and to get back to the topic at hand. I'm creating TriboApp for a couple of simple reasons. These are questions or rather hypotheses in my mind. I have come to these hypotheses after observing the social media scene and also society at large. So in essence, what I am trying to do is test my different hypotheses. I believe that helping test these hypotheses is important, as getting the answers to some of these questions could help society at large. There is also the obvious and hugely important benefit of connecting individuals and bringing joy in their lives.
Now, these hypothesis that I have been referring to can be categorized into two groups:
1. Tribes vs Systems - Is that a good model?
I suspect that in most respects the potential for harnessing the collective capability of tribes or smaller teams is overlooked. I don't want to get into the actual cause, as this is just a hypothesis in my mind. Meaning large monolithic systems vs tribes. Although, that would be a very good thought experiment. But if this is true, then this is a major design problem. You'd have to go deeper and look at this problem from a biological (evolutionary), anthropological and societal point of view (psychology, group dynamics). Overcoming this design problem could mean a new way of conducting our lives and solving problems that confounds societies and entire civilizations. Also, overcoming this design problem would result in less waste. Waste that currently exists in the form of human capital that is not utilized, under utilized or utilized for the wrong endeavours as there is a skill mismatch. (task to individual/teams).
2. The social paradox
a. Social networks should be an enabler for connecting people. Not just people who you know, or friends of a friend or someone who you may benefit from (new job, new contract, new project e.t.c).
b. If an individual feels lonely then there should be a social network out there that helps solve that problem!
The emergence and popularity of 'interest based social networks' may be the driving force that gives credence to the two points that I have raised above. Or in other words, these are the problems that are driving growth in this space and will continue doing so.
Overall, I suspect that the way social networking has been done all this time could merely be the tip of the iceberg. There my be a huge untapped market for connecting people. Connecting people based on their interests seems like a logical start. And in a future state this reorganization of groups could fundamentally alter the way we conduct our lives, the nature of work and how society tackles problems big and small.
As with any project, there are many problems that need to be solved before we can get to a future state. Trust relationships, identities and reputation scores (more in the form of tribal knowledge) come at the top of the list.
Personally, I chose to launch a fitness/outdoor focused interest based social network because it has always been an area of passion for me. There are four things that I have done consistently throughout my life and that would be:
As a keen observer, I have always thought about how these interactions can be optimized. That is why I have decided to launch this venture. I chose to go with a fitness/health/outdoors focused social network, because I believe that this market is underserved. And like I've mentioned on my blog before, no one is focusing on 'group-cohesiveness' and 'group-dynamics'.
Can meetup.com or any other interest based social network guarantee that a significant majority of the members within each group get along with each other?
I figured I would take some time to shed a bit more light upon what I'm doing and more importantly why I'm doing it. As always, it will be great to get some feedback as I continue along this path of entrepreneurship. Thank you for reading and a big thanks to everyone who has provided support and feedback to date.
P.s: Please don't forget to signup for the Alpha release, if you haven't done so already. Signup link has been provided below.
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!
Excerpt from the Asteroid Mining page on Wikipedia.
Didn't doubt the numbers when I first heard about this, which was a couple of years ago.
Space exploration, colonization and mining can offer unimaginable opportunities for our species.
Originally published on Feb 21, 2013
There are two resource groups on this planet, that can offer enormous and unimaginable benefits to society at large. However these groups are severely under-utilized. As you might have guessed by the title of this blog-post, these resources are:
However, considering how under utilized and under supported these groups really are. It begets the question, how do we re-design the new world in order to leverage these two resources:
I’d say, in order to tap into these two under-utilized resources we need to fundamentally re-shape our societies.
Gender-balanced institutions will help make this world a safer, less violent and more rational planet to live in. I can already envision some of the social benefits by just having more women at the helm.