Category Archives: cool stuff

Alexa and Her 10,000 Skills

First, the news. Alexa toolbox of skills is growing at an accelerating rate.  From Wired

While 10,000 may seem like an arbitrary milestone, it’s an instructive one, especially when you consider how fast it’s come. Last June, a full year after the ASK launched, Amazon announced that Alexa had reached 1,000 skills. By September, that number had tripled. In January, Alexa’s skills catalog swelled to 7,000. It took just over a month to tack on another three thousand.

Unfortunately, as Alexa becomes more skillful, it becomes more difficult to figure out what Alexa can and cannot do. In other words, Alexa is not getting much smarter.

Sadly, I think that we will be stuck in this paradigm for a while. The reason is that the skills that Alexa is getting generally link us to suppliers of pre-fab solutions. So, for example, Alexa can adjust the oven temperature for a GE device as needed. Alexa can order a pizza, as long as it is form Domino.

Using Dan Kahneman’s line of thinking, this enables us to do things faster. It does not enable us to think of better ways to do things. Can we get better ideas from AI powered bots? Of course we can. But to get that, we will need a paradigm shift. Instead of the AI  imprisoned by a given supplier, like GE or Domino, the AI needs to be free to serve our needs. So when we ask Alexa a question, Alexa should give us the BEST possible answers, not just the one that a given company wants us to hear.

And when will this happen? The first step is not technological. It is devising a new business model where we can make money by giving and getting best possible solutions to questions — solutions that open the door to further discussion, not just a one off transaction, like ordering a pizza.

Will this happen? I think so and when it does, it will shake up the world as we know it.

Everything You Want to Know about Thorium

No, thorium is not a new character in the Avenger movie series. it is a a potential nuclear fuel.

Before you start reaching for your “No Nukes!” protest banners, check out this article form BI on how thorieum reactors are different. For one thing, they are safer. For another, they could provide nearly limitless energy for mankind.

This sounds to me a bit like the shift from coal to oil  that fueled the 20th century. Pretty exciting stuff!

Metallic Hydrogen?

This one raised an eyebrow!

I am pretty used to the idea of hydrogen as a gas. But as a metal? Hmmm … that would be weird. At the same time, it would be pretty cool! As a metal, it might be superconductive at room temperature. And it could be used as a super dense fuel.

But it is impossible to convert hydrogen gas into a metal, right?

Maybe it is possible. Wow! Here is the story.

Hold on to your hat for this one!

Thinking of an SSD Computer Upgrade?

My computer — my baby! — is around a year old now. And unlike a year old baby, it is starting to show a few signs of wearing down. It crashes now and then while I play video, and it runs a bit slow, stuff like that. T

There are ways to speed things up. And I may be experimenting with one of them. is to replace my hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive). BI has a cool article about t what to expect. And, one big benefit — I will have to invest as well in a back up system.

More in this later!

We Can Do this: End Traffic!

Traffic is one of those things that we hate but accept as normal. What if we could get rid of it? Wouldn’t that be awesome?

It turns out that we have the tools to do it. All we need to do is to figure out how to get people into ride share options. Here is a proposed solution.

Consider these two factoids

  • on average, ca car is in use only about 4% of the time. The rest of the time it just sits there.
  • The average American spends around 3,000 hours in his lifetime sitting in traffic.

This is a perfect example of what Jeff Bezos called “kluge” – something that really sucks but that we accept. Here is Jeff talking about kluge