The Quest for the ultimate filter

In the digital age, all of us are overwhelmed by information. How do we filter them perfectly?

We tend to assume that the higher our living standards, the more idle time we have.

But what everyone is experiencing is that we are getting short of time. IT has liberated us from many tedious tasks, but we tend to fill those time with media consumption. The rise of the internet has driven down the cost of information to almost zero. As such, we end up with overwhelming information and not enough time to consume it.  

It would be ideal to have a technology that has the ability to guess what information we want to consume and filter out the rest. In fact, this has always been the passion of all major internet companies.

In the past, web portals such as Yahoo! were one of the earliest attempts. However, they were mostly done manually by a group of editors. Amazon has been trying to recommend the books you might want to read based on the buying decision of other customers who bought the same book as you did. Google ranks the search results based on hundred of parameters so that the most relevant ones show up on top. Recently, Facebook is trying to filter the news feed to give us the ultimate place to consume online information effectively.

Personally, I find Facebook filtering technology disappointing. They are trying to automate the mechanism too much that the quality of the contents are being ignored as the primary filtering parameters. The fact that I have engagements such as liking or commenting with a status update does not necessary mean that I value their contents any more than status updates that I have no engagements at all other than merely looking at them. Furthermore, things that are most obsessed by my family members are not necessarily more interested to me than those of my friends and colleagues. Facebook is encouraging media to produce contents that will attract the most likes such as celebrity gossips rather than contents such as articles on sciences or history.  

Recently I have decided not to rely on social media to filter information for me. I visit brick-and-mortar bookstores more often to find new books to read. I search out articles on the internet by typing keywords on the search engine by myself and tell google not to do personalization. I have no idea about the social media in the future, but for the time being going back to the old ways happens to give me a better management of information and a better peace of mind.

 

The Age of AI

It would be weird for bloggers these days not to write about Artificial Intelligence.

There has been some concerns that someday AI or robots will take over all human jobs causing massive global unemployments. For me, I think the world will reach that point for sure. It is just a question of when. There is no need to prevent or delay it.

Instead, what we need to do is to make sure not just the rich but everyone would benefit from this phenomenon. We tend to think that the economy is healthy when full employment is reached. In fact, full employment is not the true goal of healthy economy but the highest level of living standards possible. So, it is a blessing not a curse that robots can do everything for us. But we need to find a way to ensure that every human affords robotic services.

Indeed, this could means giving every citizen basic income to pay those services. It might sound fiscally irresponsible, but if the world has reached that point, the world should be able to afford it. At that time, we should be able to produce energy almost at no costs (solar, wind, etc.). Those free energy could drive robots to work for us 24×7 at almost no costs, too. So, I don’t see any reason why we can give everyone basic income in the future. Now we just have to gradually move along that path.

Let’s cross our fingers.

 

 

The Prospect of Freelance Economy

In the U.S., one third of the working population has already engaged in some types of freelancing. By 2020, the number is expected to reach 50%. In this regard, the freelance economy is becoming the norm.

Freelancing does not mean having to quit full-time job. On the contrary, most of freelancers have multiple sources of income. Many of them do not quit their full-time job. In fact, the so-called “Moonlighter” i.e. those who work full-time job during the day and do the second during the night (and/or weekends) are going to be the main types of freelancing in the future.

In the past, freelance opportunities are limited to professional or specialised tasks such as computer graphics, web design, screenwriting, engineering project managements, etc. With the advent of Uber and the likes, freelancing is now open to almost everyone, skilled or non-skilled. You can work for a company during the day, drive Uber at night and host a group of backpackers at home during weekends.

In Thailand, I don’t see as much enthusiasm as it should be regarding freelancing. People tends to think of stock investing or starting up a business when it comes to earning extra incomes. I personally think not quitting your current job and find some freelancing activities is much more practical for average persons to earn more than those popular choices. It could be because of our own culture that drives people to pursue the more glamorous but less probable paths.

(image by telegraph.co.uk)  

Me-too Startups

When Facebook took off, a lot of people wanted to start a social network site. When Uber took off, a lot of people wanted to start another taxi-calling app. We get sick of these me-too startups.

Bill Gross , founder of idealab (not the same person as the famous fixed-income fund manager) systematically analysed key success factors of several highly successful startups in the past (Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Google, etc.) and found that the most common key success factors of these unicorns was not ideas, teamwork and so forth but timing. The right timing actually explained the highest chance of success for startups. Steve Jobs failed once with Newton, but he got successful with iPhone because wireless/mobile network  technology was ready when iPhone was invented. Uber would never be successful without mobile apps.

He made me think twice about those me-too startups. Perhaps when the first unicorn of a type of business has taken off, it means that the timing of that type of business is just about right. Perhaps those me-too entrepreneurs might not be terribly irrational, after all.

 

A Confession of a self-employed

As far as I remember, for some reason, I became obsessive with freedom since the very early years of my first job. And in my late twenties, I quit the job once to follow my dream. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much saving at that time and more importantly I was not prepared myself to cope with emotions and social pressure. After nine months or so, I had to get back to work, feeling like a failure.

A few years after that, I got a chance to write books and sell them as part-time business. It was relatively so successful that I reckon it could become a full-time business quite easily. So, I quit the job for the second time. This time I had larger saving and more experience to cope with my own feeling. I became an independent writer and continued to be so until now.

The first four years of being self-employed went very well. I was very enthusiastic, waking up every morning excited to do my work. I also love the feeling of being one’s own boss whereby you were in charge of yourself and fully responsible for it. I exceeded my financial targets. It was one of the best times in my life.

Anyway, I got bored with the book business after that. Sooner or later, every career became like a routine. I realised that passions are a type of emotions and all emotions are subject to change.

I could live with my saving doing nothing but then I discovered that such a lifestyle is even worse than being a salaryman. You could go shopping everyday or travel around the world, which sounds like a terrific life, but sooner or later you would feel very empty. There was a study showing that most of the people who retire early to travel around the world stop traveling after no later than four years. They end up stay home everyday and regret that they retire early because they will have to live a boring life for longer period than ordinary people.  

These days I really hate the concept of early retirement and financial freedom. People don’t really need these things. What people really need is a career that they can enjoy in some way and take pride in it. Being totally free is not enough. We need to feel useful, too. And your work is the primary source of your own self respect. That sort of work does not have to be a self-employed at all. If you already enjoy with the career path at your current employer, you are already on the right track. If not, you should plan how to move to a more enjoyable and fulfilling career in the future. This has nothing to do with being or not being a self-employed and/or having or not having financial freedom.

To me, the luckiest person in the world is the person who has and enjoy and take pride in his career for his entire life. That’s all.

Fin Techs of Thailand

Here are a few interesting fin tech I encountered in Startup Thailand 2016 

We have a few kickstarter platforms such as Dreamaker crowdfunding or sinwattana.com . The former has gone live for quite some time. The good news is Thailand SEC is pushing the concept of equity crowdfunding and is supposed to get materialised by 2017. This is actually one of  my dreams. Let’s cross our fingers.

A startup called DeepPocket is solving the problem of the youths who need to buy online but do not have a credit card. They can deposit money with DeepPocket and receive a virtual MasterCard numbers to buy anything online. Previously, this problem was addressed by True money. Now they have a rival.

Coins.co.th is a Thai bitcoin dealer in which you can buy and sell bitcoins with them starting at just 100 baht.

There are many others fin techs and startups in this event as well. Anyway, the one I was anticipated but missing from this event is a P2P-lending company. This kind of fin techs must have a very very big potential in Thailand, but I guess the biggest obstacle must be the Bank of Thailand.

 

 

 

Thailand’s TV formulas

Soap operas get the most eyeballs on television in Thailand. Altogether they reap over half of advertising revenues of the TV industry.  

Over the years, the soap opera producers have discovered secret formulas. The most successful ones must involve a very rich or blue-blood family, so rich that the male protagonist does not have to go to work. The female protagonist must be misunderstood or defamed by her competitor who is usually overtly jealous and like to scream. The family servants are very intrusive, etc. Soap opera actors in Thailand are like gods. They are highly influential.

All other TV programmes aside from soap operas must incorporate practical jokes in some way in order to get high ratings. Game shows should have co-hosts who keep telling jokes on and off. Talk shows must have the celebrity guests play comedy dramas with the clowns. Even the news programmes have to report news in light-hearted manners. They say fun-loving is one of the most distinctive characters of Thai people. Considering what we see on Thailand’s television. This must be true.