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Solving real-world problems

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

With the start of 2021, I have decided to restart this blog with new content and a new focus on these buzzword items.

You see, I have held a lot of different titles over the past 15 years. I've worked as a researcher, an author, a professor, a coach, an analyst, and most recently as a research operations and site director. In all of these years, I have come realize one very important thing.

Your greatest contribution will only come once you apply what you know to solving real-world problems.

Peter Diamandis famously once said, "The best way to become a billionaire is to solve a billion-person problem." When I hired my first batch of interns into the Procter & Gamble Smart Lab, I told them that 30% of their time was to be dedicated to learning about and working to solve some interesting problems. I've seen them work on some pretty interesting things - but I've been rather selfish. I've saved my focus on "interesting problems" for one that I think is a true billion-person problem.

I believe that the biggest billion-person problem in our days can be found in the intersection of improving human life through intelligent machines that can sense what we are doing, predict what will will do, and work to optimize the results of what we wish to do. Some call this the "Internet of Things" or "Artificial Intelligence", though my mind is thinking so much broader than these two buzzwords.

We've all heard the buzzwords - IoT, 5G, Smart Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning. But do we really know what these things mean?

With the start of this new year, and the re-launch of this blog, I plan on addressing each. Together, I hope you and I will learn more about what it means to build the internet of things in a way that improves the overall quality of the human existence.

Imagine with me:

  • People all over the world don't have access to the collective wisdom of the internet because they are illiterate. What if they could interact with technology in such a way that it helps them realize their potential and then work to build that potential. This is THEIR potential - not something I get to decide for them, but something they wish for themselves.

  • The expansive growth of sensors is impressive in many ways. If predictions are accurate, the world is on track to have close to 1 trillion connected sensors in the coming years. That is a lot of data being generated. We would be foolish to be collecting so much data and only use it to create auto-reorder capabilities with Amazon or to optimize the temperature in our homes. Yes, these are cool things to have - but what would your life be like if you could build your own sensor solution that improved the quality of your personal life - without the worry of someone else owning your personal data.

  • Speaking of data privacy - what if you knew exactly what your data could be used for and who had access to it? There are two categories of data that I am considering here - 1) personal data that is identifiable to me as an individual and 2) personal data that is used in aggregate. We are currently sharing masses of personal data with large companies that are figuring out a lot about us. While I feel confident that these large companies are not interested in type 1 data, I am pretty concerned about how detailed type 2 data is. Getting me to consume more is not my view of an optimized life.

  • With all of the data being collected, how do we automate the process of intelligence? We ultimately want to be able to reduce the amount of time we have to spend on non-essential items in our lives and focus on what matters most. To me, what matters most is my family. I want to be able to focus on my children when I am with them. I don't want to have worries and concerns in the back of my mind. I want to give them focused and deep attention. Having an intelligent assistant that I can rely on is one thing that I think will help me focus on what matters most.

There is so much more to talk about. So I hope this post whets your appetite to dive into this arena with me. Let's do it together - because together our greatest contribution to the world will happen once we apply what we - collectively - know and learn together.

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