I wonder if there will ever be a business that rents "man caves" for guys who just need to get away from the house. I imagine these man caves to be about the size of a small storage unit and infinitely customizable. You'd have your big screen TV and Internet connections, of course. Beyond that, you can customize it with beer on tap, video games, moose heads, and whatever else your guy-brain desires. The basic items, such as seating and the large screen TV, would be directly provided and installed by the operators. But you could bring in your own furniture and finishes too.
I would think $200 per month would be the right price for this little paradise away from home.
Along a similar vein, I wonder if there will ever be a business that offers "artist condos" in a large shared space. I'm seeing this as a large open space with plenty of sunlight and views, with each rented area delineated by short walls. Each renter would have a storage locker for valuables, but items such as easels would stay in place. Security cameras and a security guard at the door would keep things safe.
I can imagine a coffee shop in the middle of the chaos. Everyone would be doing their own art thing - from quilting to sculpting to painting to whatever - and meeting near the coffee shop for social time.
While I'm at it, I also have in mind the perfect bedroom design for a young boy. Imagine a rectangle with the door on one short side and a bed on the far end. The bed would be raised like the top of a bunk bed, with a desk area below.
On the two longer walls, I'd put ground-level car seats (or booth seats) facing each other. Directly above both seats would be flat screen TVs. While gaming, you would be facing your friend(s) and looking at the screen above their heads. They would be doing the same. I see a two-seat bench on each side. The TVs might need to be slightly angled down to make the viewing work.
I'd also add accent lights along the ceiling because small spaces benefit a great deal from the right lighting. And of course you'd have a good speaker system in the room.
I'd also build into the room some way for the lights and music to be controlled from the kitchen, so mom and dad can summon the kid away from his distractions. Just push a button and the lights blink and the music stops, so the kid knows it is time for dinner.
Imagine if most of your kitchen surfaces were covered with thin panel TV technology. The front door of your refrigerator would be a TV. Each cabinet door would be a TV. The microwave door would be a TV.
This idea would be impractical with current technology. But I imagine we aren't far from having some sort of bendable screen material we can glue to any surface. It might be something like this.
Let's say the kitchen knows who you are by the phone in your pocket that is communicating via Bluetooth. Imagine that you walk into the kitchen and all the TVs come alive. Perhaps the starting channel is nothing but scenery. Or perhaps each member of the family has a default channel that comes up when they are the only ones in the kitchen. If you have a home security system, perhaps it shows all of your camera views.
You can control everything in the kitchen by hand signals. Point to one monitor and "toss" a TV show to it. Pull up a recipe on another screen, a shopping list on another, and the family calendar on the fourth.
You'd have speakers in the ceiling, of course, so if you play music videos the kitchen will become a concert hall. If a Skype call comes in, it pops up on screen and the music cuts off automatically. Emails and texts would pop up on separate screens. Just face the screen to which you plan to respond and use voice commands.
Now mom or dad can prepare dinner while catching up on some TV shows, answering texts and emails, and organizing the family schedule.
I can also see the kitchen screens being synchronized to dinner plans. When it is time for something to go into the microwave, for example, the screen on the microwave door would turn into a picture of that item. When it's time to chop some vegetables, a screen would show you the size of the cubes you want. I can imagine every step of the menu being visual and interactive. No more reading wordy recipes. Just watch the pictures and follow along.
The kitchen might need some sort of sound-proof doors to keep the rest of the house quiet while the kitchen is rocking.
Making a shopping list would be as simple as speaking the items you want. A picture of the item would pop up on screen for confirmation. When you're happy with your list, just send it to the cloud and your groceries will be delivered to your door.
When you need to check on the kids doing homework just make a video call from the kitchen. By then all homework will be done on a tablet or device with a camera. If your kid takes longer than five seconds to answer the call, he wasn't doing homework.
When it is time for dinner, call up a map that shows the location of all family members by their phones. You can see your spouse is only halfway home on the commute and your kid is still at soccer practice, so you time dinner accordingly. (Here I'm assuming privacy is a relic of the past.)
When it's time to eat, tell the kitchen to automatically text each family member and show any replies on the screen.
You should also have cameras on the stove top so you can walk away and still keep an eye on whatever is boiling via your smartphone. Better yet, the smartkitchen should keep an eye on boiling pots on its own and adjust the heat as needed.
The kitchen is already the fun place to be in the house. But we're nowhere near the limit of how cool the kitchen can become. And I didn't even mention robots.
A number of you forwarded links to a story in which Larry Page describes for the first time his voice problems.
In prior posts I had guessed his voice problem was caused by spasmodic dysphonia, a condition I once had. Evidently I was wrong. (For the first time.) But what Page does have is similar in a few ways.
With spasmadic dysphonia, the vocal chords clench shut involuntarily. Page seems to have the opposite, in that his vocal cords are partly paralyzed. There is a version of spasmodic dysphonia in which the vocal cords open involuntarily, and that might sound very similar to how his voice sounds -- breathy and weak. What makes Page's situation different, and also indicates to me that the problem isn't spasmodic dysphonia, is that his two vocal cords went bad in different years. I've never heard of that.
Interstingly, my voice problem was fixed by a surgery that clipped my existing nerve connection from brain to vocal cords and spliced in a new route. Page's problem also seems to involve nerve damage from brain to vocal cords. So his voice problem and my ex-problem are entirely different, but it wouldn't surprise me if the solution was similar: Nerve rewiring by surgery.
Interestingly, Page's voice problem was triggered the same way spasmodic dysphonia gets triggered, by a common cold or respiratory illness that causes laryngitis and simply never improves. I'm surprised there are two conditions with that same trigger.
Anyway, if Larry hasn't yet spoken to Dr. Gerald Berke at UCLA, he hasn't finished investigating his options. I'd be happy to make an introduction.
Sequestration refers to the automatic spending cuts that the government of the United States passed into law in 2011, and which went into effect March 1st of this year. The original idea was that the impending meat cleaver approach to the budget would force a contentious Congress to reach agreement on smarter and more targeted cuts for the good of the country. Common sense might tell you that making intelligent budget cuts would be better than reductions across the board. Most people held that view.
But my common sense argues the opposite. I say dumb cuts are every bit as good as intelligent cuts, at least for cuts of the size we are discussing. I'll explain.
For starters, consider how often common sense is wrong. My most-used example is that common sense tells you that investing in individual superstar stocks would give you a better return than buying the market average. But we know from studies that buying individual stocks is a sucker's game unless you have insider or special knowledge. Common sense often steers you toward calamity.
The thing we call common sense is in reality some mixture of bias, fear, self-interest, ignorance, misjudgment, emotion, and about a dozen other psychological malfunctions. Common sense only operates well in simple situations, and the budget of the United States is far from simple.
When the sequestration was originally contemplated, the hope was that by 2012 Congress could get past partisan politics and agree on intelligent, common sense cuts. The flaw in that plan is that intelligence and common sense aren't real things when it comes to the budget. If you fired everyone in Congress today and replaced them with new folks, you would end up right back where we are. In the context of massive complexity, common sense and intelligence are nothing more than the soothing sensations our brains provide so we'll feel less frustrated and confused. Our tiny brains prefer simple statements such as:
Cut that defense budget!
Stop giving those freeloaders my money!
Yay for solar power!
I have a bit of insight about across-the-board budget cuts because I was a budget manager for a bank and then a phone company during a portion of my corporate career. My job was to present management with enough information for them to make "intelligent" budget decisions. Management would look at my information, assume it was nothing but a compilation of lies from department heads, and proclaim a 10% budget cut across all departments.
And oh how the department heads squawked about the irrational budget process. But they made the cuts, after much complaining, and life went on. As the budget guy, I got to see how many doom and gloom stories transpired because of the "dumb" cuts. Answer: none. I never saw a real business problem that could be traced back to the budget cuts. People simply adapted to the new constraints.
I would go so far as to say that sometimes the best way to improve a department function is to cut its budget. Constraints generate creativity. People will only try hard to improve if it is necessary. A fully-funded budget removes that creative energy.
Consider this highly simplified example. Let's say a government-funded medical procedure costs $1,000 per patient, but the budget cuts make it impossible to spend that much for the coming year. Once the constraints are in place, you might see more effort in searching for cheaper solutions across the globe. Before the cuts, there was no reason to even look for a cheaper solution. Now folks might do research and discover that India has a procedure that costs $100 and produces the same result. Or you might do a study that results in a better understanding of which patients will respond to the treatment, so you can skip the people who wouldn't have been helped. For the best results in the long term, you need a healthy balance of both funding and constraints.
The best way to ruin a good program is to overfund it until everyone involved gets fat and lazy. One could argue that the best way to improve a program - once it has reached a massive national scale - is to cut its budget and force some creative energy into the system.
So while most of the country was worrying that the dumb budget cuts of the sequestration would lead to doom, I was thinking it was a brilliant work-around to a failed Congress. The dumb budget cuts would be no worse than intelligent cuts, and we'd gain some degree of predictability about the fiscal future. The economy loves predictability.
This is another situation in which the Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters comes into play. The law states that any looming disaster that the general public recognizes years in advance will be solved. For example, if today the government proclaimed that Social Security would go away in the year 2040, the country would adapt. And the solution would likely have many advantages over Social Security in the long run. For example, perhaps it would trigger a massive wave of home upgrades as people add in-law apartments to their existing homes. The economy would boom, grandma would be close to the grandkids, and you could easily feed her with the money you saved by not paying Social Security every month. When she dies, you have an extra space to rent.
Don't get too caught up in my examples. I'm just making the case that budget constraints fuel creativity. And that trade-off is sufficiently unpredictable that common sense simply can't tell you whether to cut a particular large program or not.
So how do you make budget decisions in the face of massive unpredictability? That's simple: You pick the path that is cheapest. And that is roughly what the sequestration did.
Problem 1: Grandparents enjoy watching movies, but they don't enjoy the hassle of going to the movie theater.
Problem 2: Grandparents want to see more of their families.
Problem 3: You feel obligated to visit your parents/grandparents but it can be mind-numbingly boring. And you don't want to sit in the living room for hours listening to medical complaints.
Solution: Suppose the AARP (a seniors organization) worked out a deal with the major film studios to allow seniors to stream new movies to their homes on the same day the films are released to studios. And let's say the price is high, perhaps $100 for a two-day streaming rental.
Now you have a situation in which the grandkids might want to visit the grandparents just to see the new movie that is out. That's doubly true if the grandparents have a huge screen TV.
A typical grandparent would have twenty-or-so family members and friends who might be interested in a new movie. That brings the cost down to $5 per viewer if everyone wants to pitch in. Or grandpa could pick up the entire tab to sweeten the deal.
Professional movie theaters would still have a huge quality advantage over home theaters, especially for 3D. And some people simply prefer doing things with crowds because it makes the event more exciting. So theaters should continue to do fine. My guess is that the revenue stream from grandparents would more than compensate for lost theater attendance. And the grandparents would be happy to see more of the grandkids.
It would be easy enough to test this plan in a limited market. Pick one theater and draw a circle around it on the map. Market this new streaming service for seniors within the circle and see how the theater performs compared to its peers.
You'd have cheaters of course. Young people might add grandma's name to their house deeds just to be able to watch new movies at home. But I think the cheating could be in the 10% range.
I want a computer interface that is built around the idea of actual faces on every file and file folder.
It occurred to me the other day that everything I do has some sort of human associated with it. Some stuff might be for my editor, other stuff for my startup partners, and so on. Everything I do is ultimately for the benefit of at least one human, even if the human is me.
Humans are wired to spot faces quickly. If you open a folder with fifty faces, you can spot the one you are looking for in a second. With our current computer interfaces I have to read all of the file names, or sort by date of creation. It's doable, but not natural.
The most natural way to sort files in a folder is by "target person," as in who will be the audience or beneficiary of the file. The second filter would be by date last opened. So if I want to find the document my lawyer sent my last month, I pick his face from the crowd on my desktop, click on it, and view the documents in the order they were last accessed.
This sort of idea wasn't practical before Facebook, LinkedIN, and smartphones with cameras. In the past, you wouldn't have access to photos of people to create your filing system. Now you can find a picture of most folks with a Google search, or a Facebook or LinkedIN search. And your family and friends are probably on your smartphone already.
I don't know about you, but I often lose files on my computer because I can't remember the file name or the folder I put stuff in. If the application I used to create it has opened too many "recent" files, I have trouble finding my target file that way either. My hypothesis is that humans are so wired for social living that we would remember what "face" we filed something under more easily than we would remember a file name or folder.
In some cases you might need to use fictional faces. Let's say you pick Shrek as the face for your "miscellaneous" files. Even though the association of Shrek with random files makes no logical sense, I think you would still easily remember what face goes with which files, much the same way you can tell me what kind of car each of your friends drive. We easily remember what objects are associated with different personalities.
Taking it one step further, I imagine my desktop looking like a model of the solar system, except instead of planets you would see floating faces representing various files and folders. Let's say there are a dozen-or-so face-planets around a sun, and the sun represents you. You can rotate the face-planets around the sun by swiping your screen in any direction. As the face-planets rotate, the ones in the back come to the front and vice versa. You might arrange your personal face-planet solar system by time of day, so the work-related files are nearest you in their natural orbit during the day. At night, from home, on a different computer, you see the same face-planet solar system but by the time you get home, your personal files (face-planets) are nearest you.
The idea is that you would sit down, think of the file you need, immediately associate it with a face, and know instinctively where the planet would be in your interface. Swipe once and it starts spinning until you tap to stop it. Then tap the face-planet to open.
I got this idea from my dog, Snickers. She has herding genes and we can see that she keeps a mental model of who is in which rooms of our house at all times. There's a lot of coming and going with a busy family, but by her actions we can tell she knows where everyone is at all times. If two people leave by car, but one returns, she always looks for the second person. She is hardwired to think of her world in terms of the humans in it and where they are. I think you and I do the same thing.
I am always acutely aware of the location of my loved ones, although obviously I am sometimes wrong. They have a tendency to move without telling me. But I automatically keep a mental map, accurate or not, of the physical location of everyone I care about. I think that natural brain wiring can be used to keep track of files too. That's all I'm saying.