The team behind Viv hopes to change how we interact with just about everything — and build a new economic model for the Internet along the way.
About halfway through a 90-minute exploration of Viv, the recently debuted and much heralded next-generation smart assistant platform, I started to experience a bit of deja vu. Here were two highly intelligent and credentialed founders, animated by a sense of purpose and a shared conviction that there Had To Be A Better Way, extolling the virtues of a new platform that, if only it were to be adopted at critical mass, would Change The World For the Better. It reminded me of my early days covering Apple in the 1980s, or Google in the early aughts. And I found myself believing that, in fact, the world would be a better place if Viv’s vision prevailed.
But that’s a very big “if.” What Viv is trying to create is a platform shift on the scale of Google search or Apple’s app store — a new way to interact with the Internet itself. Yes, the interface is an intelligent agent that you talk to — much like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. But for Viv to truly flourish, the Internet would need to reorganize around a new economic model, one that looks dramatically different than the current hegemony based on the big five of Search (Google), Commerce (Amazon), Social (Facebook), Enterprise (Microsoft), and Mobile (Apple/Google).
Artificial Ethics The Trolley Problem is an ethical thought experiment in which sending one innocent person to his or her death saves many lives. If you’re curious about such things, a query on Google Trends shows that interest in the Trolley Problem, until recently relegated to academics, has shot up in recent years. Turns out the Trolley Problem’s underlying issue — pitting human agency against decisions involving life and death — serves as a fruitful way to examine our forthcoming relationships to intelligent and actualized machines such as self-driving cars. In a survey (re/code), Kris Hammond, chief scientist at natural language startup Narrative Science, concludes we’ve nothing to fear. In fact, he argues, the AI-animated machines will likely make better decisions than we might in such situations. Hammond uses the ending of the film I, Robot as an example. In the final scene, a robot has to decide between saving the heroine and saving all of humanity — and chooses the former. Hammond points out that machines coded with our best and most thoughtful logic will of course save humanity. Only in Hollywood are machines experiencing moral lapses.
Crowdfunding What the Rest of the World Recognizes As a Right Crowdfunding can lead to breakthroughs that propel entire industries. The need for it can also show us parts of ourselves we might not want to see, like women having to crowdfund their maternity leaves (Vice). As with legal aid in New Orleans, paid maternity leave is squarely in the category of things that shouldn’t have to be crowdfunded. The U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only countries in the world where paid maternity leave isn’t law. That’s shortsighted and it costs businesses money. A lot of money: Women who lack maternity leave are more likely to leave their jobs and turnover of this sort costs American companies $19 billion a year.
AI and the Internet of Things Have Arrived. Andy Rubin Wants Them To Play Together Nicely.
Smack in the center of Palo Alto, Calif., sits a huge warehouse featuring three-story ceilings and at least 15,000 square feet of open space. Standing as it does in the very zip code that gave birth to Google, Facebook, and HP, this building represents some of the most valuable real estate on the planet. Inside, a platoon of workers bend metal and install soundproof glass, readying the structure for its rebirth. If Andy Rubin and his backers have their way, this former apricot canning facility will become ground zero for a massive shift in how society and business understand not just data, computing, and the Internet, but the very workings of the world around us.