Sunday, March 01, 2015

Alfidi Capital At The Big Talk Summit Silicon Valley 2015

I looked through my pile of notes from recent events and dug out my notes from attending the BIG Talk Summit in Silicon Valley this past January.  It was okay for a one-day conference and a few of the speakers had provocative things to say.  I am not clear about what Baidu is trying to accomplish by hosting such BIG events.  It may be someone's BIG chance to pick the brain of American thought leaders and piggyback their ideas all the way to the backdoor of a Chinese tech lab.  You won't see my name badge in the photo I took below because it wasn't worth capturing.

One Baidu guy and an MIT guy had stuff to say about deep learning.  I would like the next big leap in mobile UI to be a direct digital thought interface rather than a speech interface (listen up, Siri and Droid developers).  Thought transfer UIs would be perfect for wearables as remote control devices once the IoT launches itself into our wired home appliances, personal robots, and private drones.  Baidu's preference for high-performance computing (HPC) in AI over cloud computing is anecdotal.  I need to see independent confirmation of HPC's supposed superiority.

One of the Web's favorite MOOCs got up and talked about disrupting education.  I did that once in a Notre Dame undergraduate philosophy course by insulting several of my stupid classmates.  Content-based models like MOOCs will eventually have problems expanding into markets of authoritarian regimes (China, Iran, etc.) that control mass media, Internet access, and human thought.  Non-ideological course offerings may be universally allowed but menu offerings of the humanities will face political limits in conservative societies.

There's a local "singular" executive education system that charges a lot of money to talk to VIPs appearing on rolling flatscreens.  These people advocate innovative medicine because the cost per genome performance curve now beats Moore's Law in computing.  If you can handle bioprospecting, biosecurity, bioweather, biohacking, mHealth, eFormulations, and other such buzzwords then you have a future in health care.  It also means you'll be overqualified to run the ACA health insurance exchanges.  I could probably sell these people some solutions for biobonanza once I figure out how to grow cell cultures on a dollar bill.  Can biology be securitized?  Maybe genes can be sold like music royalties or IP portfolios.  You heard it here first at Alfidi Capital.

Speaking of finance, another MIT genius wants to disrupt it with Big Data.  Count me in, I'm all over it.  MIT's Media Lab is pushing the needle on social physics.  They should not mistake correlation for causation.  Idea diversity and social tie engagement density emerge in MIT's research as healthy indicators.  In other words, it's easy to achieve high GDP per square kilometer in Silicon Valley.  They also measure the effects of Pigouvian taxes and subsidies on the relationship between idea flow and ROI.  There's a ton of innovation waiting to spring out of all that research.

RAEL Berkeley can't plan smart communities all by themselves.  It takes ECPA and Cool California to move the sustainability bandwagon down the road to riches.  I expect that magical vehicle to get up to full speed once Apple and Google come out with their competing models of automated cars.  Watch one zoom through your ZCTA at highway cruising speed and try to guess which USDOT automation level it uses to avoid hitting your car.  Seriously, I'm being obscure because the obviously proprietary work of the automakers and their Silicon Valley partners is just as obscure.

The combo of robotics and machine learning was the topic that set some of the gurus on fire at this conference.  The breakthrough in neural nets that can execute pattern recognition 30 levels deep due to increases in computing power is begging for commercialization.  We really need to hardwire Asimov's Laws of Robotics into these things before we design them to breed and teach them to adapt to their environments.  Future generations will thank us for not giving them a real-life Terminator nightmare.

Steve Wozniak, aka the Woz, was last marquee guest at the BIG Talk.  He noted that hardware startups grew so well in Silicon Valley specifically because of its ecosystem, while software startups can grow anywhere due to the proliferation of IT.  His observation about software poses a minor challenge to MIT's social physics discoveries about social density and idea diversity being strongly geolocated.  I may have heard him say elsewhere that finding flaws and gaps in dominant tech systems opens paths to entrepreneurial disruption, but repetition is good when the Woz does it.  The dude has an enormous ability to synthesize diverse intellectual concepts.  He should volunteer his thought process to whomever is mapping pattern recognition 30 levels deep.

What's Woz's impression of Silicon Valley?  It is a frenetic work pace and massive environmental stimulation bringing fast progress, bringing a human price of up/down, happy/sad cycles.  Woz's mind must be a model for how rapid testing and experimentation with multiple technical iterations leads to innovative product functions.  His description of Fusion IO's disk drive development condensed a huge sequence of related analytical problems into something simply amazing.  Such creativity!  People asked him about corporate creativity.  IMHO the most creative companies give employees the most diverse stimuli and the most chances to randomly interact.  Look at the communal bulletin boards at the headquarters of Facebook and Google, where people post classes, clubs, movie nights on "campus," and other things that appeal to perpetual students.

I counted the number of times someone said "game changer" at this conference - exactly twice, and Woz was one of them.  Way to go, Woz.  One of Silicon Valley's living icons is sharing buzzwords.  I missed whatever chance I had to tell him so when we left the parking lot of the Computer History Museum at the same time.  I'm sure he'll have another chance to benefit from my wisdom.  The attractive women at this conference definitely benefited from my genius, especially the two who just had to pose with me at the end of the day.  Keep it coming ladies.  I'm getting big exposure at events like the BIG Talk.