04 Apr 4 Technologies that Keep Me Up at Night (In a Good Way)
As a self-proclaimed geek and lover of all things technology, I really enjoy inspiring (annoying?) my co-workers by sending a steady stream of articles about cool new products and technologies. Here are just a couple of ideas stealing my attention right now, the unifying theme being how technology can make us ever more human. Hopefully you’ll be inspired, too!
Bitcoin. Bitcoin is both the best and worst idea ever. The media frenzy around it is insane, but I can’t look away. If you’re looking for a primer, the most comprehensive (albeit biased) piece I’ve read about Bitcoin is this New York Times op-ed by Marc Andreessen. What fascinates me most about all the energy around Bitcoin is that it shows how humans won’t settle for the status quo, even when that status quo is a centuries-old currency system that’s globally traded and government-backed. If people see a better way, they’ll go out and make it happen. Even if the IRS tries to stand in the way.
Soft Robotics. I’m a sucker for both robots and cute things, and soft robotics is a discipline that combines the best of both worlds. According to MIT professor Daniela Rus, as robots interact with humans and the environment more and more, the need for them to be flexible is rapidly increasing. With Rus’s help, MIT recently built a soft robotic fish, which Popular Science dubbed the “Robo-Fish.” While the prospect of a robotic pet is pretty exciting, there are also tons of practical applications. A couple of years ago, I attended a robotics panel at RedStar Union in Kendall Square, which focused in part on programming emotional responses into robots. It’s easy to imagine how this effort, combined with soft robotics, could completely change how robots interact with humans. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Everything Physics. Math isn’t really my thing (if you’ve ever had to split a tab with me, you know that already), but physics? Now that’s some cool stuff. Aside from the amazing D-Wave “dream machine” segment, the best physics-related video I’ve watched recently is this one of physicist Andrei Linde. Researcher Cho-Lin Kuo drops by his house to share an incredible discovery: he has validated Linde’s Inflation Theory from the 1980s. This realization provokes a pretty amazing reaction from Linde (spoiler alert: it’s a tear-jerker!) Even if you’re not into science, this video will make you feel better about the world, knowing that those who dare to dream the impossible can live to see it come true.
Side note: if you’re interested in some longreads about quantum physics and the universe, here are a few of my favorites from the archives: Harpers — The Accidental Universe: Science’s Crisis of Faith and The New Yorker — Dream Machine, a story of quirky-famous quantum scientist David Deutsch.
The Open Source Movement. If you made it through my physics recommendations, it’s about to get even dorkier (believe it.) Get this: there are entire communities of developers around the world who are not paid to do what they do, yet they spend their time creating some of the most progressive and interesting software of our time. These are open source developers; they are altruistic, talented and possess the intrinsic motivation to create amazing things (often without pay). Open source software today powers everything from The White House’s website to Intel. When it comes to this type of software development, the process of building can be even more interesting than the final product. At LaunchSquad, we’re lucky to work with companies like Joyent and Acquia that have sprung out of the vibrant open source communities around Node.js and Drupal, proving that great things can happen when humanity comes together for a common purpose.
I could talk about this stuff all day, but I’ll stop, since you’re probably busy. If you’re interested in more, check out my Twitter feed or drop me an email anytime!