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Humans vs Robots, a series of Podcasts produced by NPR’s Planet Money Podcast that are nothing short of amazing. The first one I listened to on the way to presentation in Saskatoon, I used one of the stories in my presentation. It was that good!
As the human race progresses, we invent easier ways to do things. The lightbulb put the candle makers out of business. They were outraged. Why wouldn’t people support the candle makers anymore? Doesn’t society have a duty to support the candle makers?!?
The car put horse and carriage drivers out of business. The Better Business Bureau put the snake oil salesmen out of business. Cassette tape put the record stompers out of business, the digital camera put Kodak out of business, Napster put 60% of the record industry out of business, Google put the phone book out of business, what do you think will be next? Are you in that industry? Better yet, are you in the industry that’s going to displace a current market?
In this podcast they lineup three competitions of the epic showdown, HUMANS vs ROBOTS!
Battle 1: Who can fold a towel better?. At MIT there’s a project that has students developing an algorithm that allows a robot to reach into a load of laundry, grab a towel, and fold it in to a prefect square. The students did just that, but it took the robot 18 minutes to complete the task. They also had a young child try folding a towel. It took less than a minute.
Humans 1 Robots 0
Battle 2 was Ellie. Ellie is a computer program that interacts with people. It was made for people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression. The theory was that some people just won’t open up to another human, what they’ve been through sometimes it too traumatic to tell someone. But it’s easier to talk to a machine that won’t judge you.
This part in the podcast is worth listening to alone. They have a war vet from the Canadian Military talking about his experience with Ellie, it was a positive one. His story is a moving one, I won’t ruin it for you. Go listen to it!
Human 1 Robots 1
Battle 3; who can write faster a machine or a journalist from the BBC?
Yup, they’ve created a machine to write the news. All the major websites (Reuters, Yahoo news, Huffington Post, etc.) have stories created by WordSmith, a software program that can write news articles. All you need is a companies annual report (the competition in the story was based on Denny’s annual report) and WordSmith puts together an article that isn’t fancy but gets the point across.
The result? WordSmith took two minutes to finish the articles, the journalist took just over seven minutes however the journalist had a little more flare to his article.
The judges had to give it to the robots.
Humans 1 Robots 2
This is a story about a small town in the US that’s slowly being taken over by factories, and no, not traditional manufacturing factories, robotically run factories. This is completely changing the job landscape for many people in North America. It’s scary but you can’t stop technology, some how you have to get a head of the curve.
The future of restaurants will involve this thing called Ziosk. It’s like an iPad for your table where you can order on, get a drink refill, and order dessert. What will happen to waitresses and waiters? They interviewed some of the staff at an Applebee’s that has Ziosk’s. The wait staff hate it, not surprisingly, but it shortens table turnaround (very valuable in casual dining) and increases dessert sales by 30%.
Just think, you may be ordering your next meal from a machine, who will you tip? Do machines need tips? The future will tell.
This podcast is a fictional story of “the last job”. It’s kind of funny, but also somewhat erie. What will we do in the future? We won’t all be working. What will we spend our time doing? It’s an interesting thought.
The New York Times (on purpose or not) leaked an innovation report which ended up being a scathing analysis of how far behind the times the Times really are. From one of the worldwide leaders in Journalism comes a humble look at their own efforts digitally. They recognize how behind they really are but it seems that they have a plan to become more relevant to a larger audience in the future.
Some important highlights of the 90 page report:
The NewYork Times Audience:
This seems more like a game plan for ANY organization that wants to grow in this new digital world. They’ve identified that is has to start at their core if they hope to have any chance of surviving the disruption that the journalism/publishing industry is facing.
Some important quotes from the report:
“Digital staffers want to play creative roles not service roles.”
“We need makers, entrepreneurs, reader advocates and zeitgeist watchers”
“Evergreen content is appealing to readers if resurfaced in a way that is smart”
“The newsroom can fall into old habits about experiments like this one, raising concerns about turf, quality control and precedents.”
“One-offs are laborious, so we should focus on making such efforts replicable and scalable.”
Surprise surprise. Another social media platform is gaining steam. But can you really call Snapchat a platform? I suppose you can but, for those looking to grow their own platform, can it really be of any use? In a recent Six Pixels of Separation podcast (which I highly recommend you check out), Mitch Joel discusses the permanent internet vs. the impermanent internet. Snapchat falls under the category of impermanence.
Here’s a quick rundown for those unfamiliar with Snapchat:
1. A user takes a picture (or short video) using the app (the user can’t use pictures that already exist in your camera roll as you can with Instagram).
2. They can then add rough animated sketches or text to the pictures.
3. A time limit/expiry time is set for the picture – making it only available to be seen for that length of time while the viewer holds a finger on the screen.
4. If a viewer decides to take a screenshot of the picture, they can do so successfully but the viewer will be notified.
5. The picture is then deleted forever.
In a world where many of us work hard to create content that will help us find our voice online and give us permanent credibility, Snapchat seems to be much too fleeting to be instrumental. This skepticism is met with even more pessimism from those who scoff at the app, calling it “sleazy”, “controversial”, and “obviously only for racy photos”.
Let’s consider the good, the bad, and some possible uses.
The Good: Snapchat has continued to bring enjoyment (on somewhat of a surface level) to its users who enjoy giving people a glimpse into their daily lives without worrying as much about how they look or how the Toaster filter affects their like count. And of course, fuelling our dopamine-driven social media world, is the busy nature of a person’s Snapchat inbox due to the ability to mass send pictures. The fact that Snapchat connects people can’t be disputed. It can brighten a boring workday, enhance an event, and give you a laugh you otherwise wouldn’t have had (and who can put a value on that?). My initial concerns were that Snapchat would become everyone’s default photo app – limiting Instagram use and hindering the spread of video apps like Vine. I’m starting to become more optimistic about its effect on apps like Instagram which, in my opinion, are bombarded with those low-quality-look-at-me-now pictures. Now these pictures can be shot out into the Snapchat world and expire like they should – increasing the overall quality of pictures posted to the ‘Gram.
The Bad: As you’d expect, and as the naysayers will attest to, Snapchat does get used for pictures that would otherwise not be taken or sent. It’s almost like “don’t worry, i’ll just snapchat it” will begin justifying things that shouldn’t be justified. Also, the “humour” sometimes goes a bit too far and “fun” is had at the expense of a person being photographed by adding cartoon drawings of things I’m sure you’ve seen or could imagine before the picture’s sent. Here’s a controversy resulting from inappropriate use of the app: Teens’ Nude Photos From Snapchat Lead to Investigation Also in the category of “bad” falls the fact that Snapchat’s impermanence makes it more easily classified as a time-wasting app – increasing doubt as to whether a business could use it in a positive, meaningful way.
Possible Usefulness: On that note, here’s where I’ll make a quick argument regarding its usefulness for a business. I ran into the organizer for the Regina Folk Festival the other day. She was carrying a roll of posters of the 2013 summer festival’s lineup on them. The lineup was to be announced the following day and the group of us sitting near her did all we could to convince her to give us even a one second glimpse. And now I’m sure you can see where this is going. How easy is it for a major festival to encourage people to add them on Snapchat with the incentive of advanced lineup “glimpsing”? I’ve spent minutes looking at full lineups for festivals and failed to notice a band that later sparks conversation with a friend. The amount of conversation resulting from a multitude of people each getting a one second glance at a small picture of the lineup would be an interesting thing to attempt to measure. Even if someone manages to take a screenshot, the idea of a “leaked” schedule can create even more conversation. It’s these kinds of things, that actually add some value for viewers who give companies the permission to speak to them, that will endure as we become more selective about who we follow, like, and listen to.
Conclusion: Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think. Would love to hear your thoughts!