Artificial Intelligence as a Platform

With much talk these days about platforms, I wanted to put down some thoughts around the platform as a concept, their evolution as well as future implications around artificial intelligence as a platform tool.

What is a platform?

The dictionary defines a platform as:

“a raised level surface on which people or things can stand”

So what is the purpose of an elevated level surface on which people or things can stand?

I think the most obvious benefits would include some variation on the following:

  • To see or be seen
  • To hear or be heard
  • To access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible

To see or be seen

Taking this metaphor further, the obvious examples are applications like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The power of these platforms, barely 10 years old have enabled people around the world to accomplish some pretty radical feats, previously difficult to reproduce.

I ran into an old acquaintance this week who I haven’t seen or spoken to in over 5 years. We knew all about each other’ families, recent vacations and accomplishments before the first sentence could be uttered. We’ve quickly integrated and normalized these now ordinary capabilities into our everyday lives, but this is as close to omniscience as I can imagine we’ve ever been.

To hear or be heard

Back in Mozart’s time, the people who were able to witness his musical talents were limited to the fortunate few who were able to fit into his concert halls. Platforms such has iTunes have leveled the playing field giving anyone on the planet with a smartphone access to billions of ears.

To access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible

Uber and Airbnb are the newest members in a string of platforms creating a near perfect matching of supply and demand. To match “I have a car” with “I need a car” without the need for any searching, or struggle is an extremely powerful use of the platform model, and I think this is a preview of what is to come over the next few years.

Artificial Intelligence as a platform tool

In terms of technology, a calculator in its simplest form is a platform which enables more advanced, accurate and efficient calculations, allowing its users to achieve greater and possibly more advanced results. I can remember doing our multiplication tables in elementary – getting the number combinations driven into our heads so that they came to us intuitively.

However, from the standpoint of cognitive load, one could argue that the time spent memorizing these tables took away from practicing more advanced mathematical calculations at an earlier age.
A handful of schools in Finland have taken this concept to heart and allowed calculators in the classrooms from the outset. They have the viewpoint that these platforms will create space to focus on more advanced and practical problem sets earlier on, giving their students a leg up on the traditional model of learning.

Comments like Elon Musk’s recent musings on the “non-benign” apocalyptic fate of our AI future are having people take notice. However, I am of the mindset that AI is  going to play out as a more advanced version of the calculator. I believe it will allow us to access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible – leading to a world of abundance, as Peter Diamandis puts it.

Our “Massively Transformative Purpose” at our company 3D Print Western is to help accelerate progress through technology. At the core of this idea is the elimination of waste. Wasted effort through automation, wasted time through digital manufacturing, wasted money through unnecessary advertising and marketing. Focusing instead on delivering greater value through research and innovation.

Artificial Intelligence will be an incredible tool which will enable the elimination of these wastes helping us instead to focus more energy and resources towards creating a better future.

My Recent Conversation with an Uber Driver

The last several weeks have been heavy travel months for me, and I’ve had the opportunity to use Uber a handful of times before they were kicked out of the province of Alberta. I am not a fan of parking at the airport, and so I frequently will catch a ride to avoid taking my car. Below are a few of those experiences.

Uber driver #1

My first time ever using Uber was about 15 minutes before I had to head to the airport. 6 minutes after downloading the app and setting up my account, there was a friendly driver in a brand new, immaculate black Honda Pilot in front of my house. 

I struck up a conversation with the driver (Bruce) as I was curious about the type of people using the app as drivers. It turned out that Bruce is a father of 3, and an entrepreneur who owns a big truck for his livelihood. In the winter time he clears snow for the city, and in the summer he hauls gravel. With this current winter being unuasually mild, Bruce’s truck has sat dormant for most of the winter while he continues making payments which include storage. In order to make ends meet, Bruce has enjoyed the convenience of driving part time through the use of Uber.

Uber driver #2

For my second trip to the US this year, I was greeted in less than 5 minutes by a clean and welcoming mini-van. My driver this time (Dan) was a single dad with a young boy around the age of 8. I noticed hockey sticks in the back of Dan’s van and learned that when he is not selling medical equipment to hospitals he is coaching his precocious 8 year old son. With the tough economic conditions, Dan’s regular gig has taken a hit, and Uber has been a convenient method to make extra cash to help out with his son’s financially demanding hockey activities.  

These were just two of my at least 6 experiences using Uber, and with each trip I noticed something interesting. It occurred to me that the typical driver profiles were pretty average Albertans wanting to get ahead in the face of the many challenges we’ve faced as a province over the last year: namely…

  • More than 100,000 oil related jobs have been lost
  • The price of our oil, our key economic driver has fallen by more than 70%
  • Our economy has hit a floor not seen since the early 80s

Attempting to turn Uber into a taxi company

The types of drivers that I met using Uber were not full time taxi drivers, and I think that is the beauty of the platform. And this is a point that I think our government is failing to realize. Uber is not a replacement for taxis, it is a disruptor of taxis. I understand that this comes across as alarming for many people. But we have to take a step back and understand why it is that Uber is so disruptive. 

In my previous post I wrote about disruptive businesses leveraging technology to become extremely customer-centric. Uber has accomplished this feat, and its success is merely a reflection of the masses voting with their wallets. 

 By imposing regulations such as mandatory background checks as well as license and insurance upgrades, it no longer exists as a ride sharing app. We are creating another taxi business. As an entrepreneur, I see a service and business model that is near perfection when it comes to connecting supply and demand. Drivers who want to give rides being matched seamlessly and automatically with drivers who want a ride. A driver validation and rating service in my mind is more than adequate to give me confidence in the person picking me up.

What does this mean for Alberta?

In the face of our numerous economic challenges at present, I remain incredibly optimistic about the spirit and capabilities of creative entrepreneurs who will innovate their way out of this situation. What I am apprehensive about is that our government has demonstrated a level of bureaucracy signaling to businesses and investors that Alberta is not a progressive province. As a result, what we are seeing and will continue to see is a mass exodus of talent and capabilities from our province by people with good ideas. As an example, I have met more Canadians than I can mention who have moved to California and seen incredible success. When polled, every one of them cited that they didn’t think their ideas stood a chance of succeeding in Alberta.

We have incredible and very capable people in our province and in our country, and I do see a bright future – eventually. I agree that our oil rich privilege has created some apathy that we will need to push through in order to return to prosperity. But this will take a change in mindset, especially on the part of our elected representatives. I see Uber as a first strike, and we’re now sitting 0 and 1. It’s not too late. 

In the meantime, I hope to see more than a dozen Uber drivers in Edmonton when the platform returns this summer. 

5 Tips for Managing Decision Fatigue

It has been said that the quality of decisions that we make deteriorates throughout the day. In fact, a 2011 study in the National Academy of Sciences found that judges who were responsible for granting prisoners parole became increasingly less lenient as the mornings approached lunch. On an empty stomach their decision making capabilities were actually compromised. 

Thankfully most of the decisions that I have to make throughout the day are slightly less significant. Nonetheless below are a few strategies that I have experienced real success with that could help put you back in the driver’s seat.

5 tips for managing decision fatigue

1. Choose your clothing the night before. 

Our brains when faced with choices throughout the day move closer towards a state of cognitive overload. Removing that first decision of the day is a surprisingly powerful trick to help conserve brain energy in the early hours of the day. I’ve taken it one step further by loading my closet with a dozen of the same black shirt to help remove one last decision. A word of warning though, this advanced move may lead to people questioning your bland wardrobe.


2. Meditate first thing in the morning



Prolific author Robert Greene compares our brains with icebergs, in that the majority of cognitive reasoning is buried within our subconscious. But this potential can often get drowned out by our monkey minds. The daily intentional practice of quieting that chatter in our minds can have huge benefits towards setting us up for success and happiness. Even 1 minute each morning is a powerful small step towards achieving the numerous benefits of meditation. A good entry point that I’d recommend is an app called Head Space


3. Write in a journal for 5 minutes each morning

The Five Minute Journal has been one of my best purchases so far this year. Each morning (most mornings if I’m honest) before looking at my phone or scanning e-mails, I jump straight into my journal to jot down 3 things I’m grateful for, and 3 things that would make today great. Sound simple and trivial? It’s actually more difficult than you would think. But it forces me to exercise that same muscle as the meditation to give me laser focus on 3 things to achieve each day.


4. Exercise each day even if just for a few minutes

This is an obvious one, and I won’t get into the myriad of benefits of daily exercise. But I’ll put it in as a reminder to stop making excuses. The body and mind are so linked that it would be impossible to aspire for a balanced life without tending to both. And if you have troubles finding the time, start out with an app like Seven Minute Workout.


5. Break your world into 90 day chunks

Chris Anderson illustrates the exponential curve of choice in his book The Long Tail. There are so many avenues of choice in our world these days that they are literally trending towards infinite. One only needs to visit the supermarket to count the amazing abundance of choices. Who knew there would be demand for Lobster Roll flavored chips? Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach recently wrote a book called the 25 Year Framework, in which he has succinctly mapped out where he wants to be 25 years from now in all aspects of his life. He then breaks it down into 90 day chunks. Each quarter effectively equals 1% of 25 years. A great way of dealing with the overwhelm is to write down 5 multipliers or goals that you can work on each 90 days that will move you closer to that 25 year target. And if you have one bad quarter, no sweat. It’s only 1% of the picture.


Whatever your situation, there are a tonne of intentional hacks that can help you regain control of your days. What tricks have you found to be successful?

Top 5 Major Updates in New Tesla Software

One of the coolest technologies that Tesla has built into their cars is their ability to support over the air software updates. Typically they release these small over the air improvements every month or so. They take about an hour to download once your car is parked and plugged in.

Here are the most recent updates as of this morning (January 12, 2016).

 

1. Perpendicular Parking

IMG_1190

2. Enhanced Autopilot Visualization

IMG_1191

3. Autosteer: New Safety Restriction

IMG_1192

4. Garage Door Auto-Open/Close

IMG_1193

5. Vehicle Lock Improvements

IMG_1194

Welcome

My name is Tim Yewchuk.

I’m an amateur runner and triathlete, entrepreneur, 3D Printer, COO at Thermo King Western, student of life and continuous improvement – especially around productivity and technology.

My Kolbe Profile is 7 Fact Finder | 4 Follow Through | 5 Quick Start | 5 Implementer.

What you will find here

This site is a living archive of lessons learned and ideas around:

  • Productivity hacks
  • Technology
  • Books that I’m reading
  • Business; lots on Lean and Scrum
  • Parenthood
  • And other things that I find inspiring and worth sharing