Virtual Reality, Not What We Have Imagined

Computer interfaces have stayed the same for very long. Virtual, remote, locked in a glass screen and interacted with via a mouse cursor. This kept the 3D world separate from the digitized world. The dream of fully immersive virtual worlds is still years away.

Computers are changing. The new mobile devices, such as the iPhone, are portable computers fully aware of their location in the physical world. They can act as a portal into a virtual layer of information on top of the real one. A virtual, digital space that we can all tap into, pull and push information from and to it.

The revolution starts with applications on the mobile phone. Applications such as Layar. Layar has a whole slew of geo-located layers of information, that will hover in front of you whenever you need them. Here’s a sample of a real-estate information layer, used to find a house to rent:

Not Good Enough

This is all fun and games, but not really useful. I don’t want to have to walk with my eyes on my device at all time. I want to act naturally in the real world, and I want the information available to me at all times.

I want a pair of goggles with built-in LCD. I want a glove with a controller in it. I want it to know where I’m looking at. In his very compelling book “Daemon“, Daniel Suarez* envisioned a D-space, a digital virtual layer of information to which everybody is connected. It is the ultimate blend of reality and virtual.

The technology is still far for perfect, but it is on it’s way. Minority Report style controlling gloves just turned into a reality, thanks to some very clever fellows at Oblong. These are the guys who designed the original Minority Report gloves for the movie, and in the past few years have developed the system for real. They claim it will be commercially available for every computer within five years.

Last Piece In The Puzzle

The only missing piece right now are the goggles. Creating a display system that is both lightweight and can accurately tell where your head is directed is still far away. Devices are available, but they seem cumbersome. They require too much power, too much equipment. They’re too expensive, too big, too obtrusive.

I mean, if you were to wear these goggles all the time, you would be more in the virtual world than in the real.

Wearing them you’d be stuck in the virtual world. There is no way to anyone talking to you would feel comfortable.

“Is he listening to me, or is he updating his Facebook status right now?”

No. It has to be much more subtle, much less intrusive. I want to be able to look the other person in the eye, and have him look back at me. What I want will look exactly like seeing glasses or even contacts. Most of the time, the display will be minimal. When going to the grocery store, I can review my shopping list. When buying a book, I can read reviews. Most of the time, I need additional display, not alternative reality. It would be nice if the display was good enough to read the news on the bus. Most of the time, however, it is the real world I want to dominate. I’d just like to have the Internet available at my fingertips to put an extra edge on reality.

OK. Daydream is over. Back to work. Where did I put my phone, anyway? Can somebody give me a call so I can hear where it’s ringing?

* Read it. No, seriously. Read it.

Fung Shui Of The Fittest

This is just a short post about modular furniture. Just a tiny post about reusable space. A small piece on an over populated planet.

It’s gonna get crowded

Population overflows. There’s no surprise real-estate prices were on the rise. Land is getting expensive. It’s all urban and industrial and agricultural. There’s so little wild life left. In twenty years, will the average family live in a five room apartment with a garden or in a room and a half? We will be required to become more efficient.

One man has designed his one-room apartment to be so efficient, it can become any one of twenty different configurations: a living room, a kitchen, a bath tub and even a home cinema. Give it a peek:

Jumping the curve

One weirdo in Honk Kong designed a cool aparatment. Good for him. But really, most of us can’t do it. We don’t have the skill set to rebuild our entire house to be more efficient. I can hardly fix an electrical socket on my own. Unless I can find this sort of furniture in IKEA, I’m gonna do without.

Most furniture companies are making average products for average people. People that buy things they don’t need, and need more space to store things they bought. People seeking bigger houses, because bigger is better.

One company is jumping the curve. They are specializing in efficient furniture. In a sofa that folds. A table that extends. A chair that’s a shelf. A shelf that’s a bed. All the furniture is cleverly designed to support more than one function – without surrendering aesthetics, not even one bit.

Learn How To Cook Code

Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise…

—George Gershwin

Jamie Oliver is the jazz players of cooks. If you have ever seen his show, you know he never measures anything. He throws in a bunch of ingredients very rapidly into a pot. He puts the pot in the oven, and he gets a great meal. Does he know exactly how much salt has he put in? Sure. Just enough. But how many grams? He doesn’t have the faintest idea. He shouldn’t. Cooking, for Jamie Oliver, is an art form, an act of improvisation on a familiar theme.

Jamie Oliver is passionate about food and health. He is appalled by the obesity epidemic, and he attributes it to the lost art of cooking. The relationship between what we eat and who we are is inseparable. In his passionate Ted Talk, Jamie presents us with a mother of two. She can’t cook. She isn’t able to find her way in the kitchen enough to make even the most basic meals. Her children are eating too much fat and too much sugar, the main ingredients in cheap, ready made fast food.

If we are what we eat, we should learn to cook. We need to take control over our lives.

How To Become A Jazz Artist In The Kitchen

Learning any new skill is basically the same. I’ve learned to cook only a couple of years ago. I’m still a lazy cook, but I can get by if I have to. It’s a simple, four step system:

  1. Lose The Fear:  The thing that prevents you from cooking is fear. You have never done this before, so you think you can’t. Before you start, you need to lose this fear. Remember, you don’t have to study twelve years at the Sorbonne to make an omelet. Imagine the worst that could happen:
    The food will not be tasty. You will burn it. You will throw it away and order take-away.
    Hey, you were planning to take-away anyway, so why not try to cook first? You’ve got nothing to lose.
  2. Start Simple: Buy some fresh vegetables. Cut them. Go online and find a salad dressing that requires only three ingredients. Mix the three ingredients and put them on the vegetables. Congratulations. You have just cooked your first healthy dinner.
  3. Add complexity: Tomorrow, a tasty toast with cheese, a tomato and some ketchup. The day after, an egg. After a week, try baking a cake. In three weeks you will have created a dozen different dishes. Some you will like. Others – not so much. It doesn’t matter. You are now able to follow instructions in the kitchen. You are a almost a cook, way better off than you have started.
  4. Improvise: This is where learning becomes mastering. After you feel more comfortable with recipes, you can start improvising on what you know. You’ve been eating your entire life. You know about tastes. Take one of the dishes you have created in the last month, and improvise on it to create something new. Remember step one: what’s the worst that could happen? Not much. Go on. Try it. If you fail, try something different next time. You are on the way to being a cook.

Why You Should Learn To Code

Most people today feel about technology the same way as the woman in Jamie’s talk felt about the kitchen. They don’t understand it, and they don’t trust it. They buy technology but feel helpless whenever anything goes wrong.

I see people feeling helpless about technology everyday. They don’t understand how the computer works, and they are afraid they’ll terribly mess something up, so whenever there’s a problem, they run for the hills (or the nearest geek).

We have computers everywhere. Our laptops and our cellphones are obvious, but there are computers in our TVs, refrigerators and cars as well. We will soon have computers in our shoes and clothes and in our blood. It is imperative to have at least basic understanding of computation and code.

Our relationship with technology is as necessary and complex as our relationship with food. Learning how to code, even some basic stuff, will help people feel in control over their environment. Technology is not magic.

Code Jazz

The steps in learning to code are the same as learning to cook, the same as learning how to play. Lost the fear, start simple, grow complexity and improvise. You may never be a jazz player, a chef or a chief programmer. That’s OK. It’s not about mastering the art. It’s about becoming self reliant. It’s about being able to do, on your own, things you have to get help for. It’s about control.

Start today. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Here’s something to get you started:

Hey, it's dad. How do I print the flowchart?

Social Media Vs Social Commitment

If a million people join this group, it will have a million people in it

It’s easy to start a group on Facebook. It’s easy to join. But does your group have meaning? Does it move people to action? Opening a new group is easy, creating a movement is hard. Creating a movement requires commitment.

Most people are afraid of failing. Some think they will lose the respect of their friends and families. Some can’t risk the financial costs. So we need validation from the group for everything. That’s why most Facebook groups use weak language. The creators don’t want to link their reputation too tightly with the failure to achieve the goal.

If X people will join, Y will happen – the creators of these groups leave themselves a nice exit route. If X doesn’t happen, we’re off the hook. We don’t promise to do anything. Oh, and we really don’t have much contorl over Y either, we just kind of hope Y will listen.

Example: If 100,000 people join this group, Nike will stop child labor in China. The language sends a message, and the message is: we’re not serious about child labor. Instead, try Help us stop Nike from using child labor in China. Now we have to be active. Now we are about change. Now we have started a movement.

What’s in a movement?

There’s a video going around the internet about a guy dancing at some music festival. This video is used as a perfect metaphor for a movement in three minutes. It depicts all the stages of a movement, from inception to full blossom.

  1. The Leader – every movement needs a leader. The leader is not afraid to stick out, to be different, to do what he believes even if he has to do it alone.
  2. The True Fans – the first to join the leaders are true fans. They believe in the movement, they just aren’t willing to take the risks. The risk of no-one joining. The risk of failing. They are not alone. They have a leader. This is very important. We’re not all fit to be leaders. If you believe in something, find who else does, and join them. You don’t have to open a new movement to make change.
  3. The Tipping Point – notice what happens after the third guy joins in. This is the tipping point, the critical mass. This is the point where change begins. Suddenly, there’s enough energy in the movement to challenge the status-quo, to be noticed.
  4. Change Complete – as more and more people join in, it becomes riskier not to join. As change builds, which were once the heretics are now the in-crowd, and those still sitting on the sidelines are conservatives, holding on to a fading life-style.

Notes from the trenches

In 2008 a group called Improv Everywhere created an event in New York’s Grand Central Station. The 200 or so participants of the event froze in place for five minutes in the midst of one of the busiest places on earth.

The video was so powerful it attracted many followers. In fact, there were over 70 similar events worldwide. I was lucky enough to help with the organization of the event in Tel Aviv (shameless plug). We weren’t the only group in Israel trying to create such an event. Why were we the only ones to succeed?

  • We made decisions. When you lead a tribe, there’s always a chance people won’t like your decisions. Do you take a risk and alienate some people? Do you put everything to voting? In a lot of groups, everything was up for vote and consensus was a must. Most of them couldn’t even choose a date. In our group, we’ve set the date up front. Even if your tribe is a democracy, the tribe elects a leader that has the power to make decisions in the name of the group.
  • We inspired confidence in the tribe. We had to communicate to the tribe that the event will take place as planned, and it will be a huge success. Once we earned the confidence of the first true fans, the tribe grew organically.
  • We engaged and empowered the tribe. Participants were asked to do whatever they could to improve the event. We asked them to bring friends. We ignited their imagination. We accepted their suggestions. We joined forces with others who wanted to help. We kept going until due date, and we came back to the group and published the results after the event.

The Tribes We Lead

We are bombarded with a contradictory message: You are unique, just like everybody else. We are supposed to express our uniqueness by buying branded shoes. We are supposed to wear our own style, as long as it’s skinny jeans. Brands spend billions shouting at people who don’t listen. They try to be noticed even though we don’t care. A lot of us go for it. It’s easy to be part a movement when someone else tells you what to do.

That’s OK. Most of us aren’t built to lead a tribe. Think about it. If we were all leaders, who would we lead? A tribe has leadership and followers. Followers don’t have to be passive. We can be passionate and active. We can recruit our friends. We can organize events. We will take risks for the cause.

We don’t need millions to create change. If we are a thousands active fans, we can reach a hundred thousand people, easy. Maybe even a million. That’s a lot of power, a lot of awareness, a lot of movement. In order to lead, find followers who are passionate and create a platform for them to spread the word.

Help us realize we can be part of a tribe that believes in something more than skinny jeans and branded shoes. Don’t be afraid. We need you to lead us. It is easy for us to find you, now more than ever. We are looking for you. We are connected. We want to help. We just need you to empower us.

Some Are More Equal Than Others

Same Basic Design, Novel Use

We are not as unique as we believe. The human mind is not a blank slate. The way we think and behave has a lot to do with our primal ancestors. A lot of what is commonly argued to be a human trait can be found in other animals as well. At most, we can claim to use the same basic principals, and take them to the extreme.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others – Animal Farm

We are not the only species that goes to war to protect our territory. We are the only species who go to war to protect our ideology. We are not the only species with understanding of self and other. We are the only species that can understand multiple levels of other (“I know you know that I know he knows about…”). We are not the only species who practice Tit-For-Tat. We are the only species who understand the difference between the means and the end.

There is a lot we can learn from other species about ourselves.

Understanding The Dopamine High

Dopamine is

closely associated with reward-seeking behaviors, such as approach, consumption, and addiction. Recent researches suggest that the firing of dopaminergic neurons is a motivational substance as a consequence of reward-anticipation. This hypothesis is based on the evidence that, when a reward is greater than expected, the firing of certain dopaminergic neurons increases, which consequently increases desire or motivation towards the reward.

Or, in laymen terms, Dopamine what the brain pumps when it is anticipating reward. This is not unique to humans. What is uniquely human is the extent they can hold the Dopamine high. We can hold on to our dreams for years.

You work hard to get good grades, so you can get into a good university, so you can get a good job, so you can retire to the nursing home of your choice.

The Nursing Home Of My Choice

I'm With Stupid

I am a very competitive person, but I only compete with one person. Myself. In fifty years, I’ll be old and wrinkled. And I’ll smell of cabbages. There’s nothing I can do to stop it from happening. Nobody can (although, some try). One afternoon, as I sit in my rocking chair, wishing my grandchildren will holo-visit me more often, I’ll look back on my life, and what I have accomplished.

Although there is only one of me now, there are many possible outcomes to my life. There’s Lonely Wolf who never gets married. There’s Lucky SOB with millions of dollars in the bank. There are also Family Man, Poor SOB, Happy Hippo, Fat Bastard, and a lot more. Every choice I make moves me closer to one of these.

In my head, I hold dear to one of these old geezers, and I try to aim there. He is my competition, as he will have succeeded in everything I do, even though I will probably not. I don’t mind. I need a target to aim at.

Although my motivational source is very personal, I realize it’s easier to stay motivated by sharing stories with other. That’s why I was so happy to sit with a few entrepreneurs for a fascinating dinner, something I hope doing again. That’s why I’m writing here.

In It For The Long Run

One last point.

Our days are cluttered. We have too much work, too much dept, too many commitments and responsibilities. Keeping the target far in the future forces me to stop every once in a while, raise my head above the water and look ahead. I’ve learned this moment of self-awareness can do wonders for your sanity.