First Principles, Tackling Cybercrime, Cortana Awakens + more

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When you go about thinking through a problem, how do you typically do so?  If you’re like most people, you will tend to try to solve the problem through analogy.  By doing so, however, you end up basing “new” solutions on old ideas.  While that will work in many cases, there are times when we have to break that model of thinking in order to truly challenge how a task can be completed or a problem solved.  Hearkening back to the writings of Aristotle we’re led to the concept of first principle, searching for a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.  This kind of thinking is how we can go about breaking a problem down into its base issues without letting other solutions get in the way of finding a new, novel solution.  James Clear has a good summary of this process, and captures how both Bill Thurston and Elon Musk have used it.

You may have heard the Verizon/Yahoo news and thought back to other internet and communications mergers of the past that failed and wondered as to why the “can you hear me now” network is buying an out of touch internet company.  Well, it comes down to Facebook and Google.  The question is, will Verizon be able to make some magic happen by adding another logo to its brand.

We’re heard a lot about Amazon’s drones and plans for filling our skies with scores and scores of them, but this week there was news of another sort of drone.  If you recall, both Google and Facebook have been working on how to bring the internet to people that don’t have the infrastructure in place to access it by standard means.  Well, this week Facebook’s solar-powered internet drone Aquila took off with great promise.

Part of the reason why there is such a push to bring the internet to the estimated 1.6 billion people in the world who don’t have it today is the belief that free and open access to the internet can change those people’s world for the better.  To that point, there’s a great article this week from The Guardian on whether the internet can reboot Africa and another about the top ten tech entrepreneurs on that continent.  Then there’s this article from HBR on what Africa’s banking industry needs to do to survive.

Today we’re more likely to have our money stolen not by someone in the street but by a hacker half way around the world from us – 20 times more likely, in fact.  While there are no easy solutions to this problem today, many times we simply ignore the issue, frankly because it is so complex and not top of mind until it happens to us.  Just as we need to be vigilant about our physical safety, we have to guard our online presence as well.  While it doesn’t offer discrete solutions, this article from The Conversation does start that dialogue, and awareness of trends and then there are both personal and professional steps one can take to start. Side note: the Internet of Things isn’t helping things.

Did you know that only 3% of venture backed companies have female CEOs?  Sarah Lacy recently spoke to one of them, Julia Hatrz of Eventbrite, in a wide-ranging conversation including her own journey to CEO and the confidence gap that is holding many women back.  Why do I bring this up?  Other than it the critical need to bring all voices to the table when it comes to innovation, there’s this recent article on how Facebook is still failing at hiring a diverse workforce (spoiler: Facebook then blamed those results on a lack of available talent).  Contrast that with this article on the growing number of women in technology.

It is a Facebook heavy week, but here’s an interesting look at what their plans are for Virtual Reality as a follow on to the VR post a few weeks back.

3D printing had been slow to live up to all that was promised when it debuted at SXSW a few years ago.  It was the darling, and there were so many theoretical applications that just haven’t seemed to materialize.  Well, now the head of the French fashion industry has called it “the new industrial revolution,” so perhaps change is finally coming.

If you have an hour to spare, there’s an excellent Google Talk available on the past, present, and future of Blockchains.

“If you want to guarantee your kids have a job when they grow up, teach them to code!”  How many times have we heard those words or uttered them ourselves?  Well, this week there’s a great article from Venture Beat that posits that learning to code isn’t what employers need, but instead we need people who can analyze data.  While it’s a similar set of skills, it doesn’t go as deep on the coding side and adds a focus of data analysis.

HBR has a great article this issue on how to create an exponential mindset for digital business models.  It focuses on what you need to launch, build, and grow to create the opportunity for innovation.

The last article I want to share this week is more for the title than the content.  It’s good to get an update on Microsoft’s virtual assistant, but really, who can resist a title like “Cortana Awakens?”  That can only be the title to a bad 90s tech blended horror film, however it’s still a good read to get insight into how the company that wanted to put a computer in every home in the world thinks about humanizing a digital assistant.

We often find ourselves with labels, labels that we accept as who we are, including the labels of introvert and extrovert.  In this TED talk, Brian Little explores the moment when we transcend those labels and the traits that go with them, the differences between introverts and extroverts, and the malleability of personality.

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