Saturday, October 22, 2016

The “Millennials” -- The Disconnected Connected

The “Millennials” are marked by an unnoticed plague. Social media is this generation’s ignored toxic habit adversely affecting their  social and mental health, just as smoking was in the ‘60s to our bodies.

We can all observed this generation’s dependance on mobile communication.  We think of it lightly and we only see the surface of its disruption. In fact, we are often outraged by this singular consumption that occupies our youth’s myopic attention and focus.  We see the peril of the experiences they are missing for being unaware of their surroundings as they have their heads buried in a dimension that makes an abstraction of the here and now.  We can also argue, if we dig a little more, that this lack of awareness is weakening their ability to learn the patterns associated with the movement of life itself, and detect the opportunities and threats that lurk around them.  How many fall while texting? How many can’t recall the landmarks from home to school?  How many feel helpless recollecting basic knowledge they can’t reference on their smartphone?  Have you seen a young police officer texting instead of looking at the traffic patterns? — Ok, that one might be useful. I recently witnessed a flight attendant, about 25 years old, so consumed by texting that she was not responsive to her duty to open the doors despite being summoned over the PA. These are only a few first degree examples and observations.  But what about the ramifications of these behaviors?

What happens when a child has unfiltered communication with its peers?  What happens to the mind’s ability to memorize and learn when instant gratification occurs when seeking information on Google? What happens to parenting when parents tolerate their children’s subterranean life as an excuse to find relief from their busy schedule?  Technology only accelerates time and space in our physical and social reality.  It is far easier to measure technology’s disruption in the physical world.  In contrast, the social ecosystem is far more complex because it is an arbitrary reality that we accept according to beliefs, protocols, socio-economic pressures, and the search for a relatively happy life.  Just like our planet, our social system and its mechanisms have evolved over time.  Our need to establish a social protocol through rituals to collectively transcend our ephemeral individual existence is the primary and most common driver for the growth of humanity.  We have created methods and disciplines around our ability to co-exist, find peace and trade — I would postulate that religion is an early social tool created for governance as humanity expanded.  But what happens when we accelerate and fragment the tapestry of what connects us?  A simple example is the practice of politeness as a necessary tool to facilitate a possible trait through mutual respect.  Isn’t it interesting that the more we feel autonomous and fulfilled, the less we observe polite behaviors?  Have you noticed that often young Millennial adults are rarely polite and have a strong sense of entitlement. Are we surprised, or do the parents amongst us feel a sense of responsibility?  Have we bought tranquility by purchasing mobile phones, video games, and praising their mediocre accomplishments?  We knew better as parents, and we simply allowed this to occur as so many of our own parents allowed a great deal of us to watch television as the alternative babysitter.  No one is innocent.  The fact is that the fast adoption technology occurs without consideration for its social and mental health impact.  Technology’s acceleration of communication is of course a disruptor and will force change.  We know enough about the adverse impact that technology brought when we crossed the Atlantic, invented the phone, and exposed our beliefs and lifestyle through television to cultures that exercise control in areas where we have freedom.  Yes, people are threatened by change because change worries us.  It is unavoidable and our respective social models are designed for self-preservation.  But here is the real issue.  The more we isolate ourselves, and surrender to providers, the less we understand what it takes to evolve and survive.  We are being distracted and fulfilled by the seductive value proposition of unfiltered communication and creating silos of social media friends that look like us.  The result is that we are building a false certainty of ourselves and the world.  The system narrows our view to those like us, and consequently it diminishes our ability to grow, to create and to find opportunities from differences.  Humanity only evolves through necessities.  Remove it, then certitude and provisioned comfort will simply atrophy our ability to make decisions, and ultimately, survive.

Having all the information at our fingertips, when the same system further isolates and atrophies us, is the paradox that cripples our awareness of the risk ahead.  When knowledge is not needed, and when we are content with the way things are, we will stop to evolve.  Generation X owns some responsibility for indulging and turning a blind eye for the sake of convenience. The outcome is palpable when we try to educate and challenge our youth. We are disliked and rejected for not being a BFF and the unconditional provider they see us as. Many Generation X parents and employers simply resign themselves by looking for ways to reach the Millennials on their terms. In doing so we sink them further in the certitude of disfunction. We need to buckle up and bring real discomfort to the Millennials because necessity is a necessity for humanity to move forward.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Pokémon Go Walk of Shame

When Pokémon Go was released, my geekiest developer had an awakening.  In fact, he used his shoes in a manner unseen before and left his bat cave to venture in the real world of virtual rewards.  
He ventured in Montreal seeking acquisitions and fame.  He discovered new leg muscles, walked all over the city late at night.  He arrived late in the office every morning. But this time from a physical exhaustion - not his usual fatigue acquired from playing all night on his uber gaming platform. He even met other hunters - giving him a new hope for connecting with mortals.
Of course I too took a puff of this most addictive form of treasure hunt.  But it is when I reached level 6 on July 22nd at 12:23pm, and upon lifting my head in our very hip tech neighborhood of the Mile End,  that I observed a crowd of people engaged in Pokémon Go on their way to lunch (the picture).  The zombification was real and palpable to those who had not been bitten. Then a feeling of shame came over me.  I did not want to be accused of being a Mareep .  I then opened the application in a manner that was discrete and concealed. The Pokémon Go had become an expression of personality weakness and blind conformism. Surely enough, the use of the application was dismissed dramatically in Montreal's ground zero of geekiness.  By the 26th of July Pokémon Go screens were rarely seen, and those who were engaged a week ago are now mocking and looking down upon those still using it.  It is so yesterday - the shame of being a week-old late bloomer.  

This is a fascinating tale of  how "too much too fast" can lead to a dramatic failure.  But it is so revealing of human nature.  This need to collect, lead, and be on the bleeding edge of the latest thing, is a demonstration of the recipe that drives us.  Even the most savvy techies were caught in this plot to exploit a generation's emotional childhood attachment to the Pokémon brand as a viral accelerator.  We don't mind being played, but this time the exposure was too great.  We now know that we can be truly aware of what seduces us.  We just don't like to be played and exposed for it. But more importantly, we demonstrated that we can reject it and remain in control.  But I challenge that it is the visible fast speed of change that fueled this rejection.  We are still vulnerable to the change that we can't notice - it creates a new normal that is unseen.  That is what gives an older individual perspective and retrospective to see the danger that lurks in the de facto acceptance and certainty of a younger generation.  We need cross-generational communication to protect our humanity and rights from a deliberate and undetected change designed to take advantage of us.  Not every innovation is delivered as rapidly as Pokémon Go for us to notice the absurdity of collective frenzy and blind buy-in.  We do conform and seek to be part of communities as a way to have a voice that is amplified to protect our rights, desires and some time unfortunately our sense of entitlement.  But in this case if and when I decide to open Pokémon Go, I will paradoxically raise my head to avoid the walk of shame.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Democratization of Business Intelligence

Business intelligence (BI) is associated with methods and tools capable of extracting useful information for business insight and analysis. The methods applied are often complex as the technology needs to process large amounts of heterogeneous and unstructured data, all with optimal goals in common — revealing unexpected opportunities and providing a competitive advantage.

Who Benefits the Most from Business Intelligence? Any business can be the beneficiary of this practice. Business insight exists within all employees in the form of tacit knowledge, yet only a few employees have access to BI tools and methods needed for capitalization. Humans are the best in performing BI, yet the tools and methods are complex for the majority of the work force. This complexity is reaching a tipping point with the awakening of computers being able to perform more Artificial Intelligence (AI) processes that are powered by Big Data and cognitive technology. Alas we can start to put the complexity in the back-end of our systems, and reveal the benefits to more users.

Business people are not waiting for BI tools, in fact it is an intimate part of everyday work. The problem is that it takes time if we have to deliberately think about it. Many will search the Web, collect RSS feeds, probe social media, do or have assistants doing the work of curation, and repeat to be up-to-date. Others will just detect a risk or opportunity as it reaches them serendipitously. That basic set of tasks is exactly what can be automated by the latest technology. The Darwin Awareness Optimizer (DAO) is such a solution.
I believe that revealing and detecting patterns in a comprehensive manner to anyone is the first step in changing the enterprise’s corporate culture into an efficient cognitive business culture. This evolution is also acknowledged by IBM’s Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty, when she said that “a new technological era is upon us, one that marries digital business with digital intelligence. It's what's known as cognitive business.”

As BI and AI become more integrated into 21st century business methods, today’s businesses can’t allow the chasm between data science and business workers to grow. This why not every BI solution needs to be complex, and limited to a few experts, to keep a business alert and resilient.

To limit this capability of BI to a few experts as is the current model of operation in the business culture, not only puts a huge burden of accountability that slows down insightful BI, but also omits the outliers’ detection and expertise of the workforce in everyday activities. The democratization of business intelligence offers a wider and more comprehensive, and more insightful, awareness at every level of the organization.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Youfie is now the Apple App Store - And its purpose for anyone to figure out.

When we think of social media and the internet nowadays, we also think of our known footprint and accept that our identity, and its persistence in systems, is what is used to better target us.  This is the reality that, in some countries, is being scrutinized to protect privacy as much as figuring out the economy of releasing such information.  Of course capturing our identity and proclivity has been built by design to support the industry that give us these wonderful tools that "make the world a better place" (dixit every start-up and silicone valley companies).  And not too long ago came a simple sharing tool called SnapChat.  They decided to make pictures and messages private and ephemeral.  That simple decision is not based on any system limitations, but instead it is an intentional feature that gives an element of privacy that has been lost in the era of FaceBook and Tweeter.  This simple element of privacy and disappearance of content is reminiscent  of a simpler time.  But perhaps more importantly of the freedom that comes with it.

It that same spirit, we created Youfie, which is now available in the Apple App Store for your IOS device.  Instead of dealing with an ephemeral limitation, I chose the anonymity as the shield to freedom and privacy.  In fact with Youfie no registration is required and every picture taken is simply dropped at its location with no trace to the author.  Furthermore, the author relinquishes rights to the picture as does Youfie.  Basically the picture has been taken and abandon in its location for anyone to view with no knowledge of its author, and no one knowing who has viewed it.  I felt that this would encourage many different use cases.  Imagine taking a picture of a political situation and knowing that you won't be traced for bringing awareness.  Or walking in Yellowstone park and seeing what was taken by others on the spot you are standing.  Perhaps just knowing what has been captured in your neighborhood.  No application capturing identities could reveal this unfiltered reality.

As simple as taking a polaroid and dropping where you took it for others to see.  Now do with it as you please and no one will know who took that crazy picture of ...  Try Youfie capture, abandon and explore.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

This TED matters for Darwin Ecosystem's research.

I always encourage our team to see every TED talk available to ensure that our outlook on technology is challenged and inspired by thought leaders.  But when David Eagleman, a well known neuroscientist and writer, showed up, I was exited to see what he would say to enlighten the general public with his fascinating work.  I consider him to be the most influential person dedicated to our field of research, and soon to be a promising industry.  This is possibly the most relevant TED Talk related to the work of Darwin Ecosystem.  The umwelt expansion, pair with the generic pattern processing capability of the brain, makes total sense.  Set aside the use case, this why it resonated with the TED audience (standing ovation).
Darwin Ecosystem has been working on awareness and discovery enhancement, as well as pattern detection, using organic paradigms where the inference of meaning is left to the user's innate ability to detect relevance - not the machine.  As a matter of fact, for Darwin Ecosystem, the machine is a catalyst and accelerator of senses and reach.  But to go further, we are now working on a Collective Memory Project in our Montreal R&D office to expand the umwelt from a single individual to a collective.  We are working with IBM's Big Data and Cognitive Technologies (Watson Bluemix) to deliver solutions today, and support our research in building a Virtual Cortex.  Well done David Eagleman for bringing this science to a larger audience.  It is sure to boost our own research initiative and interest.
Thierry Hubert, CEO