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Getting High on Mary Jane

Today, in the String Report, we're gonna talk about the future of cannabis and why it's the new gold rush. The first thing I show in the video below is how mainstream the cannabis industry has become - Cute little colourful candy, such as gummi bear - have reached a new high, because inside of these yummy sweet things are bits of cannabis. 

Written below, we cover:

- the darker side of cannabis
- why cannabis is the new gold rush
- the (not so) secret community and fan base
- and unexpected impact of the cannabis industry

Cannabis has caught my attention on my first visit to America. Walking down the streets of San Francisco, my nose caught a whiff of weed lingering in the air. This micro-moment is a reminder that the rest of the world will soon catch up to California. 

Going deep into my research, I learn there is even a darker side to cannabis like it was used to criminalise black people for weed-related offences. 

Currently, there two things hindering the movement of Cannabis: 

  • One is the regulations on a federal and state level in America. 
  • Two is the social stigma of cannabis itself. People usually think that by smoking weed, you're lazy and dumb af. 

But the reality is, this is slowly changing for the various reason below: 

CANNABIS IS THE NEW GOLD RUSH

I also recently visited Boulder, Colorado, and on every street corner there's a dispensary of cannabis. Colorado, itself, has brought in $1.3 billion in sales last year. 

Just like the gold rush days, what made people rich weren't the discovery of gold, but selling the auxiliary of gold; from picks to shovel - Cannabis is going through the same saves by upselling smoking paraphernalia. 

On demand-startup like Eaze, is making it easier for people to drop cannabis to your doorstep. They recently inhaled 13 million dollars during a recent funding Series B round, making them the largest funded canna-startup.

CANNABIS HAS A SECRET FANBASE

It's an open secret, but there's a lot of people who love weed. 
I remember sitting next to a coder who uses cannabis to help him think and focus, and I caught up with a friend who ate some to help ease digestion, and a CEO friend uses it to sleep better. It shows that there all types of people who fundamentally use it for medical to recreational use. 

I had a great geek'out with a mother, Shifra Klein, founder of Mitzva Herbal Co, who runs a kosher-based weed startup, as a mother she accidentally jumps into the industry to create help provide medical based marijuana to help her kids function better in society. Her son has ADHD and cannabis help makes him focus better. 

Once it does become legalised around the world, there's going to be a be a green tsunami. 


UNEXPECTED IMPACT OF CANNABIS

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Five things to know about AI

AI is the future. AI is science fiction. AI is part of our everyday existence. All those statements are true… Still, here are  5 things you should know about AI:

1. AI is a BROAD umbrella term for it all

Artificial intelligence refers to “a broad set of methods, algorithms and technologies that make software ‘smart’ in a way that may seem human-like to an outside observer,” said Lynne Parker, director of the division of Information and Intelligent Systems for the National Science Foundation.

String’s Geek translation: AI are created with a set of code and commands to “imitate” human behaviour.

Machine learning, neural network, deep learning, computer vision, natural language processing, robotics and related topics are all part of the umbrella of AI.


2. AI is going to kill us on the streets says Elon

The amount of fear for AI is sky high, its as if we are living in the scenes of The Matrix or The Terminator, but I believe that these sci-fi films are being used as part of a bigger moral discussion.Through the morals lens of reality geek’dom; there are two tech titans fighting over AI’s impact on humanity.
 

To explain further, there are two moral discussion - the optimistic and the pessimistic. The optimists hope that we'll one day invent a superintelligence that solves every problem we can imagine and leads us into a utopian future where all of mankind's needs are met and everyone lives happily ever after. The pessimists are concerned that one tiny mistake along the way will lead to the swift end of the human race.

Though Zuck and Facebook had to recently kill off one of their bots because they were developing their own language, bots will bots. They are just being geared to be efficient AF.


3. Chatbots are not AI (yet)

Here's the other reality, currently our bots online don't have the IQ or EQ to be sentiment beings. What you see online are mostly chatbots with a tech stack of a decision tree, just check out the the 30,000s chatbots on Messenger. And chatbots are not AI, not yet anyway. In this String Report video, I chatted about how Chatbots are series of decision trees, think of it as messaging thread that gets triggered by a series of events.

When it comes to real, meaningful customer service conversations, the fact is that AI is just not good enough yet. Just avoid being like TayBot, I don’t blame the Taybot for spewing racist and sexist terms, the creators forgot to factors: that it should have a language filter system, and humans, well we have a history of ducking things up.


4. In the world of AI, there are 3 forms of superintelligence

AI expert Nick Bostrom, in his fantastic book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, classifies three ways a superintelligence can operate:

  1. An “oracle” - where it can respond to questions with a high degree of accuracy

  2. A “genie” - it would do anything it is commanded to do and await for its next set of commands

  3. A “sovereign” - it would be assigned with an overarching goal. They also allowed to operate independently and make decisions about how best to accomplish that goal. 


5. Talk to Me AI

I never liked Siri, but doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what she represents. She was the one who lead way in creating the wave of possibilities of where AI and voice can go next.

Incorporating voice interface will transform product design - and the best examples are Amazon Alexa,  Amazon Echo, Google Home. (watch the video Amazon Alexa vs Home)


Incorporating voice interfaces will transform product design. Now, it’s convenient and faster to give out voice commands to our phone. This year, based on Google, 20% of android users of enquiries were spoken - apparently, there are 20 billion spoken queries being made. That’s a lot of zero’s.

Case Study: Amazon plans to add Alexa to Whole Foods. 


Recap:

Who knew that AI has such a range of possibilities and I’m only scratching the surface of it, from moral dilemmas to chatbots, to super IQ and voice assistants. Currently I’m going in a deep dive on machine learning and neura-link technology.

 

See you next week for more String Report, where we get high on cannabis.
String from the future

NB: feel free to share this with feel geeks.


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Unicorns in Silicon Valley and Fried Chicken

Currently, I'm chilling at Hong Kong airport and about to fly back to San Francisco, and I'm a little nervious but more excited to share this String Report. This is the first of many. 

In this String Report, I plan to share some of (mis)adventures about 8 startup cities; Silicon Valley love their unicorns, and Shenzhen China is an alien city. 

Since February, I have travelled to 3 continents and visited over 15 cities to organise fried chicken parties, but really, my main interest is to collect stories about the latest innovation of the future. 

So far I visited: 
 

Australia

  • Melbourne - A grid-hipster city that loves coffee and its social enterprise. 
  • Sydney - fintech and Blockchain, it's has become a nanny city-state.
  • Brisbane - the Queensland government is aggressively making moves to be THE tech hub. The strong creative tech exists here.

 

USA

  • San Francisco/Silicon Valley - A dome full of unicorn cultivators - the geek game is strong here. 
  • Boulder - lifestyle and mountains, geek stay for life/work/community balance.
  • NYC - The hustle is real here, bring in the moula. 
  • Los Angeles - Goodbye Hollywood, say hello to New Media. 
  • Austin - Hi quality people, but really it's all about SXSW.

 

Asia

  • Hong Kong - landing pad before going to China 
  • Shenzhen - All roads lead to Shenzhen for hardware. 

 

Silicon Valley - Unicorns, Sexism, And Innovation Bubble

If you like to geek out and be around innovators and smart people, then Silicon Valley (SV) is the place to be. I feel at home, I can go on a deep dive and geek out about Blockchain and learn more about Cybersecurity. 

Did you know that this map below shows you a map of unicorns, each of these companies is valued at 1B+. The US has a stable full of them - 105 unicorns live here, which is roughly equate to $360B (OMG). Unicorns love to hang at California, New York, and Massachusetts.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 10.07.13 pm.png

I was in town when the Binary Capital scandal blew up and it had a ripple effect around the world. I caught up with Gary Vaynerchuk to ask his thoughts on it. At best he skirted around the topic. When I first arrived in SV, I thought it was interesting that acquaintances would introduce me to potential leads would say “keep your eye out for 'x dude' as he has a thing for the ladies.” 

In SV, the male energy is strong, and historically, since the gold rush days in the 1850s, there’s always been waves of men coming to town. It's like a town full of Peter Pans. 
 

Beyond this talk of ism, Beyond this talk of ism, the geek’outs are high here, when it comes to information about innovation - you can find it one step door away. 
 


(video) I recommend watching Alfredo Coppola, co-founder of USMAC, talk about how he built a pipeline that allows foreign startups gain a footing within SV.

(video) Nigel Sharp, a global entrepreneur, described SV as a dome bubble and mentions that opportunities lay in building legacy/infrastructure in developing countries. 

> My top 3 favourite fried chicken places

1. Mary's (Sydney) 

2. Gus (LA, Austin) 

3. Little Skillet (SF) 


All About The Balance

New York has the balance right when it comes to investment and tech. They want it both to profitable and to be scalable. I found a better balance of male/women tech balance and support here. For me, NYC is like old media and LA is where new media is coming to fruition. Vibrant and gritty, the speed was 10x faster than I expected and I can see why the origin of the Hustle comes from here. Slow down, and someone can easily over take you. The appreciation for FinTech in everywhere, but I feel like NYC loves it more. 

When it comes to nature and balance, I found it in; Austin, Boulder and LA. Boulder was a surprise to me, for a small town it was filled with people I can kick back and geek out with. It was like a white Christmas in June, fluffy white snow covered the ground. Geeks prioritises lifestyle over the hustle and prefer the mountains. 

In Los Angeles, I was given a tour by a local and he points to the various building in Venice beach and says "that and that building is owned by Snapchat.” Venice has the beach and I'm excited for the train to connect LA and SF together. I can imagine myself living here for the talent and production value. 

Visiting Austin and Boulder gave me a heightened sense of community - if you want tech, nature and community - a triple combo, then I suggest you check out Boulder. 


Beyond the Western Borders

Hong Kong is not the real China, I matter of fact the same can be said about Shenzhen. Hong Kong reminds of Australia, and how conservative their attitude to investing in startups are. Then, Bay McLaughin got me thinking - most startups gear themselves to suit for VCs, and VCs are the not their users. 

I went down and visited the place using a 5-day VISA pass, and I felt like I entered a familiar, but alien planet. The roads were wider than HK and the locals love their technology, but there was this cultural and language barrier between us.  

It has been said, "All roads lead to Shenzhen for hardware". 90% of gadgets and gadgets are made here. While I didn’t visit the factories, I visited the next best thing Guaing Hwei Bai - 

I recommend having a guide from Access China, I had Nick Zieber be my guide and help navigate the cultural and language barriers. Even cross the border was slightly nightmarish, I lost my wallet while crossing the border and thankfully I found it again. (video of misadventure) 

Though the best way to describe Shenzhen is through this video blog - where we follow a geek create an iPhone from the electronic components found in Shenzhen (watch it here) 

I had two perfect days in USA - one in LA and the other SF. I'm actually debating where I would be based at. When I was in Hong Kong, I felt the pace slowed down by 5x and as soon I was back in SF, the ducks kept lining up - but I'm still debating where to go...


LA or SF? That is the question...

I look forward to sharing next week's tech news - where I chat about the future of bots/AI

IF you think this is useful to any of your mates, feel free to forward/share and let know about The String Report.

Cheers from the future,
String


PS - let me know what you think of my first string report. xx 

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