Amazon’s new bricks-&-mortar bookstore nails what the web couldn’t — from by Pat Ryan


A title from DSC:
How Amazon uses its vast data resources to reinvent the bookstore


Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Amazon’s First Foray into Physical Retail — While Utilitarian — Takes Discovery to New Levels
As a long time city dweller living in a neighborhood full of history, I had mixed feelings about the arrival of Amazon’s first bricks-and-mortar bookstore in a city neighborhood (the first four are located in malls). Like most of my neighbors around Chicago’s Southport Corridor, I prefer the charm of owner operated boutiques. Yet as a tech entrepreneur who holds Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in the highest esteem, I was excited to see how Amazon would reimagine the traditional bookstore given their customer obsession and their treasure trove of user data. Here’s what I discovered…

The Bottom Line:
I will still go to for the job of ordering a book that I already know that I want (and to the local Barnes and Noble if I need it today). But when I need to discover a book for gifts (Father’s Day is coming up soon enough) or for my own interest, nothing that I have seen compares to Amazon Books. We had an amazing experience and discovered more books in 20 minutes than we had in the past month or two.



The physical manifestation of the “if you like…then you’ll love…”




The ultra metric combining insights from disparate sources seems more compelling than standard best seller lists






From DSC:
For you ed tech vendors, programmers, and/or entrepreneurs out there, would you please create the software to do this? By the way, for purposes of equal access, this could be done in class — it doesn’t have to be done outside of normal school hours.




SXSW Announces Winners for 2017 Accelerator Pitch Event — from
Pitch competition showcased global startups featuring cutting-edge innovation in 10 technology categories


The winners of the 2017 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event are:






The freelance economy: Top trends to watch in 2017 — from


Freelancers now account for nearly 35% of the U.S. workforce and the trend is only picking up speed with more professionals opting to create their own jobs in lieu of more traditional full-time employment.

As we head into the new year, we want to shed a bit more light on this burgeoning sector of the workforce. What kind of location, industry and demographic trends are surfacing among the freelance professionals of 2016? You might not know, for example, that a whopping 40% of our freelancers are concentrated in just four states: California, Texas, Florida and New York. Or that more senior men are most likely to take the leap into freelancing.

The time is ripe to be a freelancer in America so we’re revealing insider insights like these to help you learn more about this trending profession. Check out the report below – gleaned from a survey of more than 9,500 of our ProFinder professionals – to see what we discovered.


From DSC:
Besides the workforce moving towards the increased use of freelancers, the pace of change has moved from being more linear in nature to more of an exponential trajectory.




Some important questions, therefore, to ask are: 

  • Are our students ready to enter this type of workplace? 
  • Can they pivot quickly?
  • Do they know how to learn and are they ready to be lifelong learners? (Do they like learning enough to continue to pursue it? Peoples’ overall quality of life would be much higher if they enjoyed learning, rather than be forced to do so in order to keep the bread and butter on their tables.)
  • Are they able to communicate in a variety of ways?
  • How are their customer service skills coming along?
  • How are their problem-solving skills coming along?
  • Do they know how to maintain their businesses’ books and do their taxes?
  • Are they digitally literate and do they have an appreciation for the pluses and minuses of technology?

I sure hope so…but I have my serious doubts. That said, many institutions/organizations representing K-12 and higher education are not doing a great job of innovating either. Though there certainly exists some strong pockets of innovation in some of our institutions out there — and the ability to pivot — taken as a whole, our institutions and organizations haven’t been as responsive, nimble, and innovative as our students need them to be.

After all, we are trying to prepare students for their futures (with the externality effect being that we, too, will also be better prepared for that future).




Some brief reflections from DSC:

will likely be used by colleges, universities, bootcamps, MOOCs, and others to feed web-based learner profiles, which will then be queried by people and/or organizations who are looking for freelancers and/or employees to fill their project and/or job-related needs.

As of the end of 2016, Microsoft — with their purchase of LinkedIn — is strongly positioned as being a major player in this new landscape. But it might turn out to be an open-sourced solution/database.

Data mining, algorithm development, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will likely have roles to play here as well. The systems will likely be able to tell us where we need to grow our skillsets, and provide us with modules/courses to take. This is where the Learning from the Living [Class] Room vision becomes highly relevant, on a global scale. We will be forced to continually improve our skillsets as long as we are in the workforce. Lifelong learning is now a must. AI-based recommendation engines should be helpful here — as they will be able to analyze the needs, trends, developments, etc. and present us with some possible choices (based on our learner profiles, interests, and passions).



Tech for change – from by Jade Perry

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

At this year’s WIRED conference, technology entrepreneurs were dialed in to how they might tackle world issues.

Over two days of sessions in London, speakers celebrated technology’s latest developments in fields ranging from healthcare to finance, from energy to art. Throughout the event, the notion of ‘humane tech’ emerged to describe the ways in which technology is being used to improve the state of the world. Increasingly, technology startups are harnessing the latest advances, including virtual reality and mobile technologies, to solve societal problems and tackle real issues.

Alexandra Ivanovitch, founder of Simorga, presented the company’s mission to develop VR apps that combat prejudice. The work follows research from BeAnotherLab which demonstrated that racial and gender biases can be reduced using virtual reality. When a user experiences the world as someone else, essentially swapping their body for a different one, empathy increases and bias decreases. Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab has created a similar experience in which participants encounter racism while embodying someone else. The project’s mission is reminiscent of Sandy Speaks, the chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to educate people about the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a world where 26% of countries are described as ‘not free,’ technology is increasingly coming into play to empower citizens.

Another human rights issue that technology can seek to tackle is access to education. With approximately 250 million children globally failing to learn even the basics, there is scope for teaching through a range of technologies.

In addition to social issues and human rights, technology is being used on a broader scale to fight climate change…

Renewable energies that transform the everyday were another key focus.




Why deep learning is suddenly changing your life — from by Roger Parloff


Most obviously, the speech-recognition functions on our smartphones work much better than they used to. When we use a voice command to call our spouses, we reach them now. We aren’t connected to Amtrak or an angry ex.

In fact, we are increasingly interacting with our computers by just talking to them, whether it’s Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or the many voice-responsive features of Google. Chinese search giant Baidu says customers have tripled their use of its speech interfaces in the past 18 months.

Machine translation and other forms of language processing have also become far more convincing, with Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Baidu unveiling new tricks every month. Google Translate now renders spoken sentences in one language into spoken sentences in another for 32 pairs of languages, while offering text translations for 103 tongues, including Cebuano, Igbo, and Zulu. Google’s Inbox app offers three ready-made replies for many incoming emails.

But what most people don’t realize is that all these breakthroughs are, in essence, the same breakthrough. They’ve all been made possible by a family of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques popularly known as deep learning, though most scientists still prefer to call them by their original academic designation: deep neural networks.


Even the Internet metaphor doesn’t do justice to what AI with deep learning will mean, in Ng’s view. “AI is the new electricity,” he says. “Just as 100 years ago electricity transformed industry after industry, AI will now do the same.”






Graphically speaking:






“Our sales teams are using neural nets to recommend which prospects to contact next or what kinds of product offerings to recommend.”



One way to think of what deep learning does is as “A to B mappings,” says Baidu’s Ng. “You can input an audio clip and output the transcript. That’s speech recognition.” As long as you have data to train the software, the possibilities are endless, he maintains. “You can input email, and the output could be: Is this spam or not?” Input loan applications, he says, and the output might be the likelihood a customer will repay it. Input usage patterns on a fleet of cars, and the output could advise where to send a car next.





From DSC:
Consider the affordances that we will soon be experiencing when we combine machine learning — whereby computers “learn” about a variety of things — with new forms of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) — such as Augment Reality (AR)

The educational benefits — as well as the business/profit-related benefits will certainly be significant!

For example, let’s create a new mobile app called “Horticultural App (ML)” * — where ML stands for machine learning. This app would be made available on iOS and Android-based devices. (Though this is strictly hypothetical, I hope and pray that some entrepreneurial individuals and/or organizations out there will take this idea and run with it!)


Some use cases for such an app:

Students, environmentalists, and lifelong learners will be able to take some serious educationally-related nature walks once they launch the Horticultural App (ML) on their smartphones and tablets!

They simply hold up their device, and the app — in conjunction with the device’s camera — will essentially take a picture of whatever the student is focusing in on. Via machine learning, the app will “recognize” the plant, tree, type of grass, flower, etc. — and will then present information about that plant, tree, type of grass, flower, etc.


Above image via




In the production version of this app, a textual layer could overlay the actual image of the tree/plant/flower/grass/etc.  in the background — and this is where augmented reality comes into play. Also, perhaps there would be an opacity setting that would be user controlled — allowing the learner to fade in or fade out the information about the flower, tree, plant, etc.




Or let’s look at the potential uses of this type of app from some different angles.

Let’s say you live in Michigan and you want to be sure an area of the park that you are in doesn’t have any Eastern Poison Ivy in it — so you launch the app and review any suspicious looking plants. As it turns out, the app identifies some Eastern Poison Ivy for you (and it could do this regardless of which season we’re talking about, as the app would be able to ascertain the current date and the current GPS coordinates of the person’s location as well, taking that criteria into account).





Or consider another use of such an app:

  • A homeowner who wants to get rid of a certain kind of weed.  The homeowner goes out into her yard and “scans” the weed, and up pops some products at the local Lowe’s or Home Depot that gets rid of that kind of weed.
  • Assuming you allowed the app to do so, it could launch a relevant chatbot that could be used to answer any questions about the application of the weed-killing product that you might have.


Or consider another use of such an app:

  • A homeowner has a diseased tree, and they want to know what to do about it. The machine learning portion of the app could identify what the disease was and bring up information on how to eradicate it.
  • Again, if permitted to do so, a relevant chatbot could be launched to address any questions that you might have about the available treatment options for that particular tree/disease.


Or consider other/similar apps along these lines:

  • Skin ML (for detecting any issues re: acme, skin cancers, etc.)
  • Minerals and Stones ML (for identifying which mineral or stone you’re looking at)
  • Fish ML
  • Etc.


Image from


So there will be many new possibilities that will be coming soon to education, businesses, homeowners, and many others to be sure! The combination of machine learning with AR will open many new doors.


*  From Wikipedia:

Horticulture involves nine areas of study, which can be grouped into two broad sections: ornamentals and edibles:

  1. Arboriculture is the study of, and the selection, plant, care, and removal of, individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants.
  2. Turf management includes all aspects of the production and maintenance of turf grass for sports, leisure use or amenity use.
  3. Floriculture includes the production and marketing of floral crops.
  4. Landscape horticulture includes the production, marketing and maintenance of landscape plants.
  5. Olericulture includes the production and marketing of vegetables.
  6. Pomology includes the production and marketing of pome fruits.
  7. Viticulture includes the production and marketing of grapes.
  8. Oenology includes all aspects of wine and winemaking.
  9. Postharvest physiology involves maintaining the quality of and preventing the spoilage of plants and animals.





If you doubt that we are on an exponential pace of change, you need to check these articles out! [Christian]



From DSC:
The articles listed in
this PDF document demonstrate the exponential pace of technological change that many nations across the globe are currently experiencing and will likely be experiencing for the foreseeable future. As we are no longer on a linear trajectory, we need to consider what this new trajectory means for how we:

  • Educate and prepare our youth in K-12
  • Educate and prepare our young men and women studying within higher education
  • Restructure/re-envision our corporate training/L&D departments
  • Equip our freelancers and others to find work
  • Help people in the workforce remain relevant/marketable/properly skilled
  • Encourage and better enable lifelong learning
  • Attempt to keep up w/ this pace of change — legally, ethically, morally, and psychologically


PDF file here


One thought that comes to mind…when we’re moving this fast, we need to be looking upwards and outwards into the horizons — constantly pulse-checking the landscapes. We can’t be looking down or be so buried in our current positions/tasks that we aren’t noticing the changes that are happening around us.




LinkedIn ProFinder expands nationwide to help you hire freelancers — from


The freelance economy is on the rise. In fact, the number of freelancers on LinkedIn has grown by nearly 50% in just the past five years. As the workforce evolves, we, too, are evolving to ensure we’re creating opportunity for the expanding sector of professionals looking for independent, project-based work in place of the typical 9 to 5 profession.

Last October, we began piloting a brand new platform in support of this very endeavor and today, we’re excited to announce its nationwide availability. Introducing LinkedIn ProFinder, a LinkedIn marketplace that connects consumers and small businesses looking for professional services – think Design, Writing and Editing, Accounting, Real Estate, Career Coaching – with top quality freelance professionals best suited for the job.



Also see:




Also see:



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