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Why 'Fail Fast' Is a Disaster When It Comes to Artificial Intelligence




For typical products going to market quickly and seeing what happens is fine. The implications of AI merit a much more considered approach.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

“Fail fast” is a well-known phrase in the start-up scene. The spirit of failing fast is getting to market with a minimum viable product and then rapidly iterating toward success. Failing fast acknowledges that entrepreneurs are unlikely to design a successful end-state solution before testing it with real customers and real consequences. This is the “ready, fire, aim” approach. Or, if the blowback is big enough, it’s the “ready, fire, pivot” approach.

Consider this quote from Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Related: Ready or Not, It’s Time to Embrace AI

The opposite of failing fast is a “waterfall” approach to software development where a significant amount of time is invested upfront — requirements analysis, design and scenario planning — before the software is ever tested with real customers.

When it comes to the emerging potential of artificial intelligence, I believe failing fast is a recipe for disaster.

Artificial intelligence is here to stay.

Many different types of artificially intelligent software surround us. Most AI has minimal authority today. For instance, Amazon’s software recommends things you might like to buy but it doesn’t actually purchase those things on your behalf — yet. Spotify’s software makes a decision to create a playlist for you but if a song doesn’t suit your tastes, the consequences are benign. Google’s software decides which websites are most relevant for your search terms but doesn’t decide which website you will visit. In all of these cases, failing fast is okay. Usage leads to more data, which leads to improvements in the algorithms.

But, intelligence software is beginning to make independent decisions that represent much higher risk. The risk of failure is too great to take lightly because the consequences can be irreversible or ubiquitous.

We wouldn’t want NASA to fail fast. A single Space Shuttle launch costs $450 million and places human lives in jeopardy.

The risks of AI are increasing.

Imagine this: What if we exposed 100+ million people to intelligent software that decided which news they read, and we later discovered the news may have been misleading or even fake and resulted in influencing the election for the President of the United States of America? Who would be held responsible?

Related: 5 Ways in Which Digital and Artificial Intelligence are Changing Work Dynamics

It sounds far-fetched, but media reports indicate Russian influence reached 126 million people through Facebook alone. The stakes are getting higher, and we don’t know whom to hold accountable. I am fearful the companies spearheading advancements in AI aren’t cognizant of the responsibility. Failing fast shouldn’t be an acceptable excuse for unintended outcomes.

If you’re not convinced, imagine these scenarios as a by-product of a fail fast mindset:

  1. What if your entire retirement savings evaporated overnight due to artificial intelligence? Here’s how it could happen. In the near future, millions of Americans will use intelligent software to invest billions of dollars in retirement savings. The software will decide where to invest the money. When the market experiences a massive correction, as it does occasionally, the software will need to react quickly to re-distribute your money. This could lead to an investment that bottoms-out in minutes and your funds disappear. Is anyone responsible?
  2. What if your friend were killed in an automobile accident due to artificial intelligence? Here’s how it could happen. In the near future, millions of Americans will purchase driverless automobiles controlled by intelligent software. The software will decide the fate of many Americans. Will the artificial intelligence choose to hit a pedestrian that accidentally steps into the street or steer the vehicle off the road? These are split-second decisions with real-world consequences. If the decision is fatal, is anyone responsible?
  3. What if your daughter or son suffered from depression due to artificial intelligence? Here’s how it could happen. In the near future, millions of kids will have an artificial best friend. It will be sort of like an invisible friend. It will be a companion named Siri or Alexa or something else that talks and behaves like a confidant. We’ll introduce this friend to our children because it will be friendly, smart, and caring. It might even replace a babysitter. However, if your daughter or son spends all their discretionary time with this artificial friend and years later can’t sustain meaningful relationships in the real world, is anyone responsible?

In some cases, the consequences can’t be undone.

Responsible approach to AI.

The counter-argument is that humans already cause these tragedies. Humans spread fake news. Humans lose money in the stock market. Humans kill one another with automobiles. Humans get depressed.

Related: Life Coaching Guru Tony Robbins Tells Us Why He;s Investing in an AI Company

The difference is that humans are individual cases. The risk with AI that replaces or competes with human intelligence is that it can be applied at scale simultaneously. The scope and reach of AI is both massive and instantaneous. It’s fundamentally introducing higher risk. While one driver who makes an error is truly unfortunate, one driver that makes the same error for millions of people should be unacceptable.

A more responsible approach to AI is needed. Our mindset should shift toward risk prevention, security planning and simulation testing. While this defies the modern ethos of the tech industry, we have a responsibility to prevent the majority of unlikely and unwanted outcomes before they occur. The good news is that with the right mindset, we can prevent the scenarios above from becoming true.

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How to Bulletproof the Internet Connectivity in Your Office




Roaming access points will prevent Wifi dead spots in your building.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do you dread going into work because of the terrible internet connectivity? Is it hard or frustrating to work when pages take seconds to resolve, instead of milliseconds? The problem is likely not the internet itself; it’s the hardware used to broadcast it throughout your office.

It’s easy to want to skimp on internet hardware. After all, a full IT department is expensive, and a lot of MSPs are no better. A home network is easy to set up; why not just buy a few pieces of hardware from the local office store and set up the office too?

In addition to the potential security issues, setting up home networking hardware for a commercial use generally won’t cut it. This is even worse when your office sprawls across multiple floors or has to pipe WiFi through brick walls.

Related: Should Your Business Set Up Shop in Bill Gates’ Smart City?

Weak signal strength or spotty connectivity is one of the most common internet-related problems an office can face, and there are all kinds of devices aimed at solving it. Range extenders and repeaters are common, but they often do more harm than good.

The problem with a range extender or a repeater is two-fold. First of all, they tend to cause additional latency. It makes sense, right? A signal going from point A to B to C by definition takes longer than a signal direct from A to C. The other half of the problem has to do with how devices connect to a network. When a device connects to a network, particularly a wireless network, it saves the information for that network so it can connect automatically again. This is why your phone can automatically use office WiFi without needing to switch away from a home signal. 

When you use a repeater, you have two signal sources broadcasting the same network information. Your device tries to connect to the network, and will preferentially choose the device with the highest signal strength. Wireless signal isn’t consistent, though; power fluctuations, usage and other factors can disrupt a signal temporarily.  When that happens, often your device will attempt to switch to the other, temporarily stronger source of the network. This switching can cause issues with connection stability and latency.

Another problem that is increasingly common with wireless networking these days is signal clutter. There are only so many channels a wireless signal can use, as designated by the FCC. When there are a lot of local offices, businesses, apartments or homes broadcasting their own wireless networking signals, it muddies the waters. So many competing signals causes interference with each other — and with your networking. 

Related: Aluminum Foil Can Actually Improve Your Wireless Signal

How do you solve these problems and make absolutely certain your wireless networking is fast and reliable for your whole office?

The best solution involves stringing ethernet cables from your source to specific areas in your office. A hard-wired solution is infinitely more reliable than wireless repeaters. You can set up wireless access points in each location to broadcast the signal locally. To determine specifically where those access points should be located, you can contact a telecom or MSP for a wireless site survey.

Of course, running hard-wired connections throughout your office isn’t always possible. In older office parks, it can be difficult or impossible to run cable through the masonry walls. Running cable under the floor or above a drop ceiling may be possible, though you can encounter fire code issues if you have to pass through walls or floors. Running cables in the open is unprofessional and can be a hazard if someone trips. You can run conduit along walls above eye level, though that’s not always an ideal solution either.

Even with a hard-wired solution, you can’t simply plug all of those access points into a router. At minimum you will likely need an ethernet switch capable of accepting and passing along traffic from dozens of distinct connections at once. Depending on the level of security you’re enforcing for your business, you might also want a hardware firewall, but that’s more of a security issue than a connectivity issue.

Related: 3 Technologies That Could Win the Battle Against Cybercrime

Keep in mind, when you’re researching solutions to connectivity issues, that most solutions you’ll find are aimed at residential users. Wireless repeaters are fine for stringing a connection up to a child’s bedroom. Power line broadcasting can work in some circumstances, but is far from an adequate commercial solution. It’s well worth the investment to purchase high quality hardware, commission a site survey, and plan out connectivity coverage before you even begin to set up or overhaul your network.

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This Vital Storytelling Principle Is the Key to Producing Great VR and AR Content




Our brains are hardwired to see narrative. That’s what makes the potential of VR and AR for content so exciting.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

By now, we’ve all heard of the immense possibilities of virtual and augmented reality storytelling. If the response to Pokemon GO is any indication, when these technologies go fully mainstream, they will completely revolutionize entertainment content and how it’s delivered.

For millennia, whether it’s a painting, book, film or video game, we’ve been “flattening” our three-dimensional world into 2D stories, whether it’s a painting, book, film, or video game. VR and AR are ushering in a global 3D media infrastructure, which means immersive content at mass-scale. This marks an unprecedented opportunity for creators of all types — from artists to advertisers –but to find success, all will need to understand is a core storytelling principle called “Narrative Potential.”

What is Narrative Potential?

Narrative potential refers to the opportunities in immersive environments that invite user engagement.

Media like film and literature offer us stories with predetermined outcomes; it’s the job of writers and filmmakers to fully deliver the world and the story. But immersive technologies are ushering in a totally new paradigm. Now, it’s the job of creators to build worlds that invite audience participation, which allows them to “create” the story for themselves.

This is true from the lightweight mobile apps to deep-immersion virtual experiences. Every scene, space and object is an opportunity for the creator to make a choice about user engagement. In a film, an object in a room is a visual prop. In VR/AR that same object is a chance for the creator to drive interaction.

It’s important to note here that “narrative potential” is not confined to story-driven experiences; it applies to all types of content, ranging from apps to advertisements. The name has to do with the inherent narrative tendencies of our minds. As was discovered in the Heider-Simmel study seven decades ago, your brain will project story even where none exists. Narrative potential simply puts that to use. Here are three ways you can use narrative potential to ensure that your AR or VR application resonates with audiences.

Related: How Virtual Reality Will Change Storytelling and Marketing in the Next Decade

1. Let space propel story.

Ask any architect or interior designer: every space tells a story. When you walk into a typical classroom, what’s communicated to you? Orderly rows of desks indicate that a group of people will all focus in one direction, rather than talk as a group. Fluorescent lighting and bookshelves imply a space intended for focus and scholarship. These embedded details drive us to make automatic assumptions about what to expect, how we act and ultimately become our “story” of that space in time.

In building our own virtual spaces, we can use these assumptions to further the aims of the experience. If our goal is to make users feel confined, for instance, maybe we tap those childhood memories of never-ending school days by incorporating elements of the classroom — those fluorescent lights, hard angles, tightly packed desks. For good measure we also shrink the scale just a bit, framing participants as too-tall kids in an otherwise normally sized space.

This consideration of users’ relationship with space also applies to AR experiences. If you’re making a tabletop AR game, its size could mean the difference between users playing it from the comfort of their beds or needing to run around a kitchen table. Understanding your target audience’s desires and habits empowers you to use narrative potential effectively — and thereby produce content that appeals to them.

Related: How This Couple Is Amalgamating Virtual Reality with Architectural Visualization

2. Think small. It’s in the details.

Not every immersive app is meant to be a whole world; and even when it is, you’ll win your audience in the details.

Say you’re tasked with building an AR advertisement for a vase company. If you position their flagship vase precariously close to the edge of a table when users begin, you’ll probably make them think about it falling and shattering. This is narrative potential at work, but certainly not in service of selling the vase and generating positive brand association. Had you positioned it in the center of the table you’d be tapping narrative potential differently, letting participants comfortably imagine what the case would look like in their home.

On the other hand, say you’re trying to make an offbeat mobile game. You might again use a vase, but this time imbue it with unexpected properties. What if instead of shattering when it hits the ground, it bounces with a funky “boink” sound? You could make a whole game that involves bouncing vases back-and-forth like basketballs. Here, narrative potential is used to subvert expectations to establish a brand identity that’s quirky and rebellious.

These are just two examples among many; the point is to think deeply about the properties of objects so they can be used to your advantage.

Related: What KFC’s Goofy VR Escape Room Taught Me About the Power of Storytelling in Communication

3. Invite interaction, don’t direct behavior.

So many immersive creators have wondered how to “direct” audience attention in immersive experiences, but a better consideration is how to invite engagement. More than ever, creators need to anticipate audience desires to create resonant experiences.

Where film can rely on cuts, zooms, and camera moves to dictate story, VR and AR grant participants too much agency for these techniques to work. Instead, “guiding cues” and “points of interest” can be used to invite participation. For example, if you hear a sound behind you, odds are you’ll turn around to look. Same goes if someone gasps and points in a certain direction. These are examples of guiding cues, and why characters who function as “hosts” can be extremely helpful, though they’re not the right solution for many experiences.

Meanwhile, awareness of how audiences respond to shapes, colors, and patterns will lead you to use points of interest (POIs) in service of your creative goals. As Jessica Brillhart writes, “[POIs] could be extremely obvious, like bright red dots, or more nuanced, like lone mountaineers climbing Icelandic glaciers.” You want to mine these attention-grabbing features for the greatest impact. Sometimes that will mean positioning other information around them to be certain audiences noticed it, other times it will mean letting them stand alone to avoid overcrowding.

In a broader sense, inviting interaction comes down to a simple question: is this an experience audiences could have had any other way? If the answer is “yes,” you might need to go back to the drawing board. Movies aren’t just “plays on film” — they’re a totally separate medium. By the same token, VR and AR are new media that bring novel opportunities.

In particular, VR and AR can spark interactions among people that could never occur IRL. If you’re in a VR journey with your dad and he’s a tiny blue bear with a high-pitched voice, you’ll both be adapting your understandings of each other to fit the current reality. He’ll be toying with his new identity, exploring parts of himself that maybe don’t emerge in real life. If he’s five times smaller than you, the two of you will have to discover ways to interact that couldn’t occur in reality. The outcome of the experience that you’ll both leave with will still factor in to your understandings of each other.

Even though all the options in these emerging formats can seem overwhelming, the good news is that everybody is still learning the rules on the fly. At the end of the day, your best bet is to start experimenting while the bar is still low. And by keeping these three basic tenets in mind, you’re outfitting yourself with the potential to one day create unforgettable experiences.

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With Offices Across the Country, This Entrepreneur Keeps His Team on the Same Page With These Apps




In today’s tech-driven world, these tools can help you get ahead.

1 min read

If you’re leading a company, it’s more important than ever to take advantage of the technology that’s out there today.

Related: How Successful Leaders Communicate With Their Teams

Just take it from Nick Devane, the CEO of Pilotworks, a co-working space and commercial kitchen rental company that caters to food entrepreneurs and startups. Because of the company’s continuous expansion into different cities, Devane has employees, teams and projects scattered across the country. Devane uses tools like Slack and Asana to stay on track and keep his team on the same page. 

Whether he’s traveling or leading a new construction site, these tools help the company communicate, stay current on initiatives and be able to react to any new changes that might come their way. “Staying up to date with one another as things get done or new tasks develop is extraordinarily helpful,” Devone says in the video.

Related: Five Tips to Communicate Better as a Leader

To learn more about the tools Devone uses to run his business, click play.

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3 Technologies That Could Win the Battle Against Cybercrime




Considering how fast internet and wireless communication technologies advance, you would think that we’ve beaten cybercrime by now. Instead, the world continues to witness massive breaches after massive breaches that cost businesses and consumers trillions.

According to the Official 2017 Annual Cybercrime Report by the Herjavec Group, the cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021 — that’s twice the recorded cost of $3 trillion in 2015. These estimations are based on the most recent year-over-year trends, growth in state-sponsored attacks and other historical cybercrime data.

Related: 3 Biggest Cybersecurity Threats Facing Small Businesses Right Now

When it comes to the actual incidences, the many, ugly forms of cybercrime came into full view — from “ransomware” to Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS attacks.

Make no mistake, strides are being taken by the government and cyber security firms to combat these threats. As of now, there are many ways for you to avert most forms of cyber attacks. It’s just that some organizations, like the National Health Service in Britain, fail to observe even the most basic of security practices, including keeping their software applications up-to-date.

And that’s exactly where businesses and individual users can make a difference — by being vigilant and proactive in their cyber security.

The internet is basically filled to the brim with resources that can teach you how to protect against cyber attacks. Better yet, innovators in spaces like blockchain and machine learning also present new opportunities that could potentially put a stop on the never-ending war against cybercrime.

1. Preventing zero-day attacks.

The most dangerous form of cyber attack is the one that you don’t see coming.

It’s reasonable to assume that your business network is already protected by your very own security software. This typically includes an antivirus, anti-malware and a web application firewall. However, these layers of defense depend on software updates that contain threat definitions, which will then enable them to detect and eliminate infections.

A “zero-day attack” is an exploit executed by hackers before these patches are rolled out. For example, if a developer releases an app with an unknown security flaw, hackers can take advantage of this vulnerability before it’s even discovered.

Today, cyber security enterprises and organizations are looking at machine learning as the potential, long-term solution to zero-day attacks. One particular example is the system built by a team at Arizona State University that monitors websites on the “deep web” that markets security exploits as a service. Using machine learning, the researchers were able to capture an average of 305 high-priority threat warnings each week.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are also known as the underlying technologies behind the Chronicle — a new cybersecurity company launched by Google X. Touted as a “digital immune system” by Google X chief Astro Teller, the platform presumably runs on a detection-based ecosystem that also utilizes the massive infrastructure of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

Although the nitty-gritty of the Chronicle product is still unclear, the product is positioned as a proactive threat prevention, analysis and intelligence platform. These are the kind of functionalities that wouldn’t be possible without some form of machine learning as the backbone.

Related: This Is the Year of the Machine Learning Revolution

2. Self-sovereign identities.

The internet is easily one of the most important inventions in the last generation. It propelled us into the future and now permeates every single facet of modern life, including, but not limited to business, education, entertainment and communications.

But as people grow more connected, bigger pieces of their identity are stored online, thanks to businesses, online services and government entities that collect personal and financial information.

Inadvertently, this created opportunities for hackers to commit “identity theft,” which can incur huge losses to consumers. According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study, consumers lost to the tune of $16 billion in identity fraud damages.

Some of the ways hackers can steal sensitive information is through phishing, website spoofing and card skimming. The most lucrative method, however, is to breach a central repository with a deep pool of identities. One example is the infamous Equifax data breach where over 145 million Americans had their personal information stolen.

With a self-sovereign identity, identity theft can be averted by granting the full control and possession of identities to their rightful owners. A blockchain system like or DID, for example, allows users to store their personal information on a decentralized, public record. They can then access and verify their identity to avail services via their personal device.

For example, suppose you signed up for a subscription service. Traditionally, your account details will be stored in the company’s own database, leaving you with only your login credentials for access.

A self-sovereign identity, however, is stored in an immutable blockchain that you can access and verify through your own device. It can be a driver’s license, bank account or online account information. Once stored and encrypted in a blockchain, platforms like DID allow you to manage your IDs and use them for various transactions, like logging on to web services or making purchases.

3. DDoS mitigation.

Finally, DDoS attacks are the most common form of cyber attack, and they still present a big problem to businesses in 2018.

The 2017 Worldwide DDoS Attacks & Cyber Insights Report indicates that businesses lose up to $2.5 million per DDoS attack. Apart from revenue losses, it can create a window for further breaches, such as data leaks and malware infections. And as a result, it may also cause irreversible damage to the company’s reputation.

A DDoS attack works by flooding an online service with traffic using a network of computers infected with Trojans, also known as “botnets.” This would consume most, if not all, of the available bandwidth that the server can support, thus, denying access to real users.

Due to their compounding effects, DDoS-as-a-service providers see up to 95 percent in profits in deep web markets, according to Kaspersky Labs. Fortunately, these attacks can now be easily fended off with DDoS protection services like Cloudflare. There are also web hosting services that feature network-level flood protection, screening and blocking traffic from suspicious sources.

Related: How a Genius Teenage Hacker Turned Tech Entrepreneur Solves Problems and Saves Lives

Final words.

Ultimately, all it takes is a proactive approach towards cyber security. Throughout the war against cybercrime, there never really was a shortage of security tools that can respond and repair the damage done by cyber-attacks. But with the technologies mentioned above, you can assume a proactive stance and take the battle to the hackers.

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