Friday, April 25, 2014

Robot Apocalypse Update

I saw a google self driving car for the first time about a year ago.  The guy in the "driver's" seat was blissfully napping.  But it was a wake up call for me.  A crucial boundary between the computer world and my "meat" world is being breeched. The robots are here.   

This whole robots running around, willy nilly, thing makes me a little nervous.  But should it?  We've already lived among them in our online interactions.  We are on their turf online; peering through a tiny window into a world built for them.  On one hand they are helpers.  They try to understand what we are saying.  They help us look for things.   And on the other hand they also spy on us, and use our virtual identities in ways we might prefer that they didn't.  And as we started carrying them in our pockets, computers have extended their reach.  Now they can keep abreast of what we're doing, and interject themselves into our daily activities wherever we go.

But its a whole other thing when Frank Baum's Tic Toc starts autonymously helping (and spying) on our turf, in meat space.  That's where we live.  That's how AI jumps from the screen into our lives.

Shane Legg, one of the founders of DeepMind, the AI company Google just bought for $400M, summed it up this way.

“Eventually, I think human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this,” Mr. Legg said. “If a super-intelligent machine (or any kind of super-intelligent agent) decided to get rid of us, I think it would do so pretty efficiently.”

Google has established an ethics board to oversee their AI work.  I think that that's good news.  But maybe its a dangerous indicator, too?  Or is this all just the same sort of anxiety about an uncertain future that Chaplin was expressing in Modern Times?

Oh, and here are some cool robot videos.  Welcome to meat space, guys!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Visiting the Autodesk/Instructables Workshop with Artist in Residence Alejandro Palandjoglou

The other day I got to catch up with my friend, and former Stanford TA, Ale Palandjoglou.  You might recall me bragging on him when he won the Core 77 Design Award for Social Impact.  Now he's working as an artist in residence at Instructables.  He's one of the many brilliant folks there who are figuring out just what exactly we're supposed to do with the new capabilities that computer controlled making machines have brought us.  Here's Ale with a REALLY big CNC machine.  Really, really big.

Here are some tasteful and good sitting simple chairs that Ale designed for CNC router construction.  A good sitting chair is a beautiful thing, and no mean feat to achieve.  I like chairs that look like chairs!
This is another project Ale worked on--3D printed pictures!  It gets thicker where where it should be dark and gets thinner where it should be light.  That way when you hold it up to the light, it looks like the picture below.

Here are some laser cut records.  You know, the kind you drop a needle on.  I didn't get to take a listen, but I'm intrigued for sure!

 Robot drums, because they can.

In the cube below, the black stuff is a soft elastomer, and the white stuff is hard plastic.  Again, because they can.

Oh and did I mention that they all work on a Pier 9 in downtown San Francisco?  If there are cooler places to have your workshop, I'd like to hear about them!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Man Behind the Curtain

Fear of judgement.  Somehow, we've created a social contract where making sure that we're not making a mistake is more valued than reaching for what's possible.  Reaching for what's possible necessarily involves making mistakes.  But how did we become SO afraid to fail? We all want the outcomes of our work to be successful.  And there's a common assumption that successful outcomes are built from making all the right choices from beginning to end.  But fear of wrongness can be paralyzing.  That paralysis is often confused with "not being a creative person."  But its not the person who's not creative. Its caused by fear.

I talk to clients a lot about separating the generative from the critical.  It is the core skill of ideation.  In the generative phase you have lots of ideas, especially bad ones.  That's because bad ideas, especially really bad ones, often have a kernel of amazingness hiding inside them.  You just have to roll them around long enough to see it.  Those are what I call good-bad ideas.  They seem bad in their current form, but they contain a nugget of genius that failure-fearers will never see.  They want to shut it down before someone sees them near a bad idea and judges them too.  Or as my daughter would say, "awkward!"

Learning not to judge during the generative phase can be profoundly uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially successful people.  But distancing yourself from negativity and judgement while you ideate gives you access to vastly more and wildly better ideas to choose from when the time comes to be critical.

So I'm excited about the Kelley brothers' new book Creative Confidence.  David Kelley was my teacher at Stanford and my boss at IDEO.  And he's been a bit of a Wizard of Oz to a lot of people, myself included.  Remember how the Wizard gave Dorothy and her friends the capability to see the powers they already had?  Somebody had to give the scarecrow a diploma before he realized that he had a brain all along.

David is that kind of somebody.  Keep up the good work, sir.  And thank you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Future Guess

What will the world be like in 2020?  Rudy De Waele is crowd sourcing the answer.  Rudy curated a similar project in 2010 around mobile devices.  And now he's broadening the scope to include big data, social networks, 3-D printing, wearables, etc.  Each contributor was asked to make a prediction, and this was mine.

It started when people stopped taking phone calls.  By 2020 we are more immersed in our virtual lives than we are in the increasingly less-real world of meat space.   Just 14 years after the iPhone, 7 years after Google Glass and 2 years since Google Thought, we are spending more time in on-line worlds than we are in the “old” world.  As we cross the tipping point from mostly actual to mostly virtual experiences, the majority of folks who can afford it are thrilled with the steady stream of novelty endorphins that pour in through their devices.  Our addiction to engaging, snack-sized snippets of social interaction and gossip have left us unsure of what to do when we are not connected.  And that just accelerates the exodus from meat space. 
But as we cross that threshold, some will also be feeling the first spasms of separation anxiety from the world we were evolved to live in.  There will be a movement to unplug, which just further polarizes the camps, and makes resistance to the singularity invisible to those who prefer a virtual existence.  Eventually, the question of choosing between them becomes irrelevant, an inevitably.
Maybe its all of the phone and tablet work I've been doing this year, but it does feel like we're inviting the singularity into our lives (minds?).  Like a vampire, it can't come in unless you invite it.

You can find the whole book here.  Many thanks to my friend and Reallocate founder Mike North for recommending me to Rudy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wall Street Journal Magazine Features Thing Tank Mobiles

It's been a while since we first showed our line of modern mobiles for the home,  years in fact. Originally this was a project for Design Within Reach, but, as it so often does, stuff happened.
So we were thrilled to get a call from the Wall Street Journal Magazine earlier this month asking for photography for an article that they were putting together about Mobiles for the fully grown.  You can find the article here.
And you can see the rest of my mobiles on my website.  Just click on Mobiles!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Student Achievement: Whaletail

Congrats to my former CCA student, Daye Kim, for winning the Core 77 Design Award for student designed soft goods.  Her project, the Whaletail, is a clever way let your kids play on the floor without getting filthy in the process.  By focusing on a specific slice of the traveling population, families with small children, Daye did a great job of discovering an under developed design opportunity.  And she ran with it.

I wish Daye continued success and the best of luck in the future.  Well done!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Barbasket is Live on Kickstarter!

Alright everybody.  The train has left the station.  We're live on Kickstarter! If you like what you see, consider being a backer at whatever level makes sense for you.  Posting our kickstarter link on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. is also MUCH appreciated.  That's how this crowdfunding wildfire spreads.

Thanks to everyone who has helped bring this project to where it is now.  And thanks in advance to everyone who climbs on the bandwagon!