Monday, December 30, 2013

Will There Be Pizza on Mars?

Read about a very cool application of 3D printing technology is outlined in, "The Audacious Plan to End Hunger With 3D-Printed Food," from Mashable

Anjan Contractor’s 3D food printer might evoke visions of the “replicator” popularized in Star Trek, from which Captain Picard was constantly interrupting himself to order tea. And indeed Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer.

But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3D printing, envisions a much more mundane—and ultimately more important—use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3D printer, and the earth’s 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store.

Contractor’s vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store. Ubiquitous food synthesizers would also create new ways of producing the basic calories on which we all rely. Since a powder is a powder, the inputs could be anything that contain the right organic molecules. We already know that eating meat is environmentally unsustainable, so why not get all our protein from insects?

If eating something spat out by the same kind of 3D printers that are currently being used to make everything from jet engine parts to fine art doesn’t sound too appetizing, that’s only because you can currently afford the good stuff, says Contractor. That might not be the case once the world’s population reaches its peak size, probably sometime near the end of this century. “I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” says Contractor. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Everything You Wanted to Know about Negotiation

I suspect many of you are dealing with and annual evaluations and asking for end of year raises. I just read an article that will definitely help you get the biggest raise you can: The 10 Minute MBA Course On Negotiation by Eric Barker in Business Insider.

This is an excellent overview of the main principles of negotiating almost anything. Take notes. Practice.

Here is a snippet.

7 Elements Definition Of Success 
You want no deal or a deal that meets your interests, not your positions. Interests are why you want things, positions are what you say you want. (Interests: “I want a job that makes me happy”, Positions: “I want 100K a year.”) Failure is when the result fulfills your positions but not your interests (“Got the salary but also got a crappy boss, little vacation time and a dead-end role.”) 
Leverage negotiation tactics that create value. Work with the other person to create more options and opportunities for both sides to be happy, not just settling on the first thing everyone says. 
All proposals should be supported by valid criteria. What’s the story of why this offer makes sense? 
Know your alternatives and make sure this deal is better than those alternatives. 
Use negotiation tactics that build a working relationship. You end up dealing with the same people often so lay the groundwork for smooth negotiations going forward. 
You want a deal that leads to a clear reliable commitment. The result has to be something they can and will do, not something that will fall apart. 
You want to reach a deal with efficient communication so everyone is on the same page.
Again, read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Harvard creates brain-to-brain interface, allows humans to control other animals with thoughts alone

In the exciting, but scary tech news category goes this little tid-bit...

Harvard creates brain-to-brain interface, allows humans to control other animals with thoughts alone

Researchers at Harvard University have created the first noninvasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) between a human… and a rat. Simply by thinking the appropriate thought, the BBI allows the human to control the rat’s tail. This is one of the most important steps towards BBIs that allow for telepathic links between two or more humans — which is a good thing in the case of friends and family, but terrifying if you stop to think about the nefarious possibilities of a fascist dictatorship with mind control tech.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Good Presentation on Creating Content from Marketo

Marketo, a marketing automation software company, is always creating good content for marketers. They know that they are battling for mindshare and have to position themselves as marketing experts.

This deck is a pretty good example. Take a moment...

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Was The “The Long Tail" Wrong?

Today I read a great article, "Blockbuster" by Kelefa Sanneh in the New Yorker.

This was a dominant refrain in the aughts; commentators mourned the disappearance of small record stores, big bookstores, broadly popular television programs. Chris Anderson, who was then the editor of Wired, had a more optimistic view: in 2006, he published “The Long Tail,” which celebrated the coming demise of “the hit-driven mindset” and the growing importance of online distribution. Using Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes, you could browse what Anderson called “the infinite aisle,” where vast inventories and smart suggestion software made it easy to shun blockbusters and follow your own passions, no matter how obscure. He argued that retailers, too, had been freed from the tyranny of the hit. Technology made it possible for businesses to profit by “selling less of more,” catering to an explosion of niche markets that, taken together, rivalled the size of the mainstream. Consumers were travelling down the demand curve, away from the head, where the most popular products lived, and out onto the tail, home of the miscellany, which was growing longer (as variety increased) and fatter (as sales of non-hits increased). The new popular culture would be more interesting and more efficient, catering to the ever more diverse tastes of a general public that was outgrowing its reliance on old-fashioned hit men...
...He also hailed a researcher named Anita Elberse, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, whose work on Netflix had been “very helpful.” Now Elberse has published “Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment” (Henry Holt), which is a response to Anderson’s long-tail theory, and in many ways a refutation of it.

So what happened?

One of her most persuasive subjects is Schmidt, who revealed himself to be a long-tail apostate in 2008, scarcely two years after Anderson’s book was published. “Although the tail is very interesting, and we enable it, the vast majority of the revenue remains in the head,” he said. “In fact, it’s probable that the Internet will lead to larger blockbusters, more concentration of brands.” Anderson’s book often read like a manifesto, cheering for the triumph of the underdogs while also predicting it. Elberse wants to reassure her readers that a hit—“The Avengers,” an N.F.L. game, a Taylor Swift album—still draws a crowd, showering profit on the corporations behind it. Her case studies are meant to demonstrate that popular culture remains big business, and that, in an increasingly complicated and unpredictable cultural marketplace, hits are more dominant than ever. The story she tells about the entertainment business resonates with a bigger story that people often tell about America, where Elberse sees “a winner-take-all dynamic” increasing the distance between the most economically productive citizens and everyone else. More efficient markets aren’t necessarily more diverse or more egalitarian, and perhaps there’s no reason that music or film or books should be immune from the forces of consolidation. Anderson assumed that consumers, once freed from the limitations of brick-and-mortar retail, would scatter into countless niches. In Elberse’s view, we would rather lump than split, and new technology—amplified by canny deal-making—is making us lumpier.

I highly encourage all of you to read this article...