A search related to the topic of IoT or 'Internet of Things', eventually led me to a book called 'The Zero Marginal Cost Society' written by Jeremy Rifkin.
In this book, Mr. Rifkin has built a case, when it relates to how the cost to produce most things in the near future will be virtually zero (0). That there will always be a 'fixed cost' associated with launching any new product/server. However, increased efficiencies, automation and a combination of other things (mentioned below) will drive the marginal cost (cost to produce more units of the same) will be driven to virtually zero. Not zero, but almost zero.
Now, I have heard of this concept of 'zero marginal cost' before. I cannot find the actual clip on Youtube. But I have heard, at least one leading Venture Capitalist making a brief mention of it in one of their talks.
There are a bunch of technologies and phenomenon that Jeremy has mentioned in this book. From what I can recall at the top of my mind. Since the book has been returned to the library and this blogpost has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a month now. Anyhow, in random order:
Alongside the introduction to these technologies (and more), Jeremy then builds a hypothesis whereby we will witness the emergence of two major trends.
The author goes into a fair bit of detail, when it comes to the History of the Capitalist economic model and also how a 'commons' model used to predate this model. The author hypothesizes that the combined effect of the technologies that have been introduced and some of the other factors will usher the return to the commons era for our species. However, in my opinion the author could have spent a bit more time hypothesizing a future systems model, whereby resource distribution can be done in an optimal fashion for 7 to 10 billion people using a 'commons model'. Maybe an advanced form of AI and certain efficiencies can help us achieve that goal.
Now, I can't say that every (technological) phenomenon mentioned in this book was something new to me. But then again, that's coming from a person who has a hacker mindset and is always on the lookout when it comes to new and upcoming technologies.
This book is a hopeful, optimistic aspiration of what part of our future could be. An interesting read. I would recommend it.
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.
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.
It's interesting to see developments in the world of robotics and to think and wonder about the different possibilities that such a movement could power in the near future.
I've been casually observing the work done by companies such Boston Robotics. Also, as I have shared on my blog before, Boston Robotics acquisition by Google is very interesting.
Now, Boston Robotics have this one product and it's called Petman. When I look at a product such as Petman, I can't help but wonder:
Petman can change a lot of things across a very wide spectrum.
Also, Petman reminds me of C-3PO and I never thought of C-3PO as a robot. It was just another character. But what a great enabler it was!
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!
Creation of a subset within a Social Network with a specific focus on v 2.0 of the 'Dunbar’s limit' that is dynamic in nature and continually evolves
Amongst other things, I've also been thinking about the Dunbars limit. I think this area, or rather ‘the logic encapsulated within this theory’ needs further research. So, that the main tenet being proposed can be broken down analytically, reconstructed and reapplied to a wide and varied dataset. With the eventual goal of having these newly defined concepts, for them to be reapplied in new and unique ways. I am thinking ‘influence’ (1:1 ratio) and how that can be monetized at the very least.
Now, it seems to me that, some subset of the 150 people that we can have stable relationships with, that this subset and the subset within this subset, that they keep evolving on an ongoing basis. If that even makes sense. Maybe the second visual below will make some sense.
What I mean by evolution in this respect, is that the individuals within some (if not all) of these subset, that they keep changing and are constantly being replaced by other individuals on an ongoing basis. That there are different gradients within each of these categories.
It true, I would suspect that this can be attributed to the new and emerging forms of communication. Whether it be social media, new ways of getting work/projects done etc.
So if we can visualize what I'm actually saying right now, then what I’d do is to look at the total number of people that an individual could have some kind of association with.
Since I'm not an expert in this field, what I've done is to simply come up with some simple categorizations. For simplicity’s sake, let’s go with the frequency of communications between an individual, let’s call this individual Jane and the group that Jane would interact with.
Here is how I would visualize these very interactions. Obviously these numbers are made up.
Hence, this (above) could be considered as a very basic model and framework for depicting a logical breakdown of Jane’s association with others, in her network. The percentages would be governed by the recency and frequency of the various interactions.
But, what if this framework could then be broken down into different layers. A sample visualization has been provided below with my very limited photoshop skills at play.
Now these layers would contain data relating to the frequency and recency of interactions with each and every individual that Jane would interact with. We don’t care if this interaction is in the offline world (in-person, phone e.t.c) or the digital world. As long as it can be measured, it can then be applied within the constructs of the system being discussed.
Now you may ask, what's the benefit of such a model? Well, for starters, such a model would allow the ability to calculate, with some level of precision, the ‘influence’ individuals have over one another.
Aggregating the sum total, of this influence, in it's different forms, may also allow us to have a better gauge over an individual's influence over a group or groups.
But, in a Donald's Rumsfeldian way, one would have to be mindful of the fact that we can't measure what we can't measure. As in, offline communications that cannot be measured, but may have powerful influence, relating to one individual over another.
Overall, it begets the question why would you want to do something like that? As in, measure influence that individuals would have over one another in their own group settings.
To go back to the very instance, where I came up with the thought of connecting the different gradients (hypothetical) and layers (hypothetical) within the Dunbar’s limit and connecting them with the spheres of influence (also hypothetical). I think that's where the money is.
We have now come to a point where we can measure the influence an individual can exhibit over their network (Linkedin, Klout e.t.c). I think the time has come, to be able to measure these 1:1 interactions and to then be able to aggregate and measure them holistically.
I can think of a lot of different ways this mechanism for measuring influence can actually be monetized. Some examples that I can think of right now:
I can think of many other ideas along these categories. But the time has come to call it a day and hit the gym. Overall, this idea needs more time, research and thinking. As frequency and recency alone are not a good indicator of measuring influence.
By the way, I've been working on a project in this area that I have just elaborated upon. Something that could potentially morph into a subset of this very idea. A very tiny subset.
Details to follow.