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Ask HN: Who is building something that will change the world?
54 points by littlesamana on Oct 4, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments
Who are the Apple's of this generation? What is a young Wozniak or Jobs doing in the 21st century? Where can you find them?

I think I figured out how to transfer 'experience', functionally.

I'm building VR for public safety, (fire & EMS). I'm convinced we can train doctors in 1/3 of the time, maybe even less. (And I'm just a paramedic) I've been a lifelong gamer and in the fire service for over a decade. It wasn't until I tried Google cardboard using a hack I found on Reddit to play Counter-Strike, about 5 years ago, that I realized this could work. (My player character had been killed and fell down and laid in the position of a gunshot wound I had run and looked eerily similar, it was one of those "hmm, that's interesting" moments.

Prehospital emergency medicine, to me, is one of the most challenging skills to learn because it is so difficult to simulate the chaos of a patient as well as addressing so many multifaceted, high level concepts in such a short period of time. You don't have time, really, to look s* up.

But I've paid very close attention to my mind over my career, to the 'before and after' of a call that increased my experience level.

Long story short, I've spent a lot of time delving into this concept, of what experience actually is and how would you replicate the process by which a person becomes experienced.

Most of the time conceptual information is abstracted which adds significantly to the time to learn something. For example, learning how to read a 12-lead EKG, can actually be taught in much less time when the information is presented in the correct format. (Step by step 3D model animated properly)

Instead, traditional learning models abstract information in walls of text and this means that only people who are more intelligent (or more determined) are able to parse out the reality from this abstraction. Even then, time to comprehension and mastery is much longer than is necessary.

Comprehension is not a conscious act. Neither is recognition. You must build a pattern of sensory information overlaid with and assimilated cognitive weight.

-orange and white and black on a large, striped animal means Tiger! And is dangerous, RUN"

It's been a long time because I haven't had any money to really pursue this, and I can't afford to quit my day job. So I've had to learn the Unreal Engine and I do not come from a technical background. But at some point I realized I'd have to build this before I got any real traction.

I'm close now.

If you can actually bring down the training barrier for medical professionals that will be great. Given the critical effect a doctor cna have I see why training is how it is right now - hyper competitive to even get in, lots of book learned stuff and long residencies. However, I've been to terrible doctors so clearly there is room for improvement. I look forward to a show hn, even if it's a work in progress.

It's years out but the slam duck proof of concept will be to take 1st year residents who have just finished med school but have had very limited patient contact and pit them against, honestly, whomever is willing. If you can diagnose any illness faster or more accurately, without having real world experience and you are doing better than a 20 year physician, to me, that puts the concept of "practicing medicine" to a new light.

I've no qualms about the levels of complexity for this endeavor. I remember sketching out my first algorithm for a "simple" heart attack and kept running out of paper and nearly had an aneurysm.

The companies who create things around remote work. If we can get > 30% of people working remotely, cities and countries will change. transportation will change, lifestyles will change, the environment will be happy for it.

I've been working remote for a year now and don't think I can go back to working in an office 5 days a week. The lifestyle flexibility to take care of things around the house and run errands throughout the day while still getting my work done is incredibly satisfying. If I need to run across town to run an errand, I can hop into a coffee shop and get a few hours of work done while I'm out.

I don't sit in traffic for two hours anymore so I have more time with my family and less time burning fossil fuels.

My wife also works from home so I don't feel the loneliness aspect of it as much as others do. Having the dog around helps with that too. I also recently discovered Out Of Office[0], which promotes "work clubs" for remote workers to get together during the day and work together, so I'm looking forward to checking that out.

[0] https://outofoffice.app/workclub

It's a new way of life, a very significant shift in lifestyle.

> don't feel the loneliness aspect

Working from home was the norm until the industrial revolution. Our cities and way of life will need time to adapt.

People will be less happy though

I don't think there is any evidence to that effect if anything the 2 or 3 big scientific surveys show the opposite effect, a slight increase in happiness.

didn't know that. Sorry for spreading misinformation, I heard a lot that remote workers are more lonely and thought that it means they are less happy

Maybe for single people. For us with spouses and kids it's never lonely.

Surely that depends on the person. There is a lot more competition for remote work than regular jobs.

I think it clearly does.

Personally, if I'm working as part of a team, I'm much happier and substantially more productive if I'm working in the same physical space as the rest of the team.

But I also know people who are exactly the opposite of me on that count.

VR. I thought it'd be cool but we weren't there yet. Tried an Oculus Quest over the weekend...amazing. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect, but the technology is miles ahead of where I thought we were.

I had a truly transformative experience, too. I can't think of another experience, with technology or without, that has made me be so deeply impacted. VR is incredible.

The current generations of VR are, to me personally, one of the most exciting things in technology since wireless internet.

As mentioned in my other comment below, for disabled people VR is a huge huge deal. Until now it hasn’t really been good enough to truly give you that feeling of “experiencing” something, but playing with the current generation is awe inspiringly good and you can actually get lost in it and feel like you’re there.

I’m really excited for the future of VR for people who are stuck at home or in hospital with disabilities.

There is a whole market opening up for nursing homes in this regard. I'm honestly surprised Facebook hasn't pushed that more because it's such a huge untapped segment and you're talking about a demographic that is perhaps one of the loneliest - we're talking about the generation that would never sit alone at a restaurant, if you walked in and found someone else to be alone you would sit with them and have dinner and talk just because it was a polite thing to do.

It is cool. Its actually close unlike every other vr claim since I was a kid in the 80s,but IMO we aren't there yet. It is useful and it is incredibly fun, but we're just scratching the surface.

I can't wait for hardware to catch up in terms of performance and price.

I actually want to learn vr dev and transition from my netsec gig into doing something cool with VR that helps people. Got a long way to go though.

try it for a few weekends and let us know if the enthusiasm is still there. Imho, VR as a medium doesnt have long term potential

You're half right - VR's problem is it ONLY has long term potential. The hardware is holding them back; Oculus is trying with Quest but people still need to see their hands.

People working with VR don't state this enough - your users are BLIND when you put them in VR. No one likes being blind. This feeling is inherent when you can't see your hands and try to interact. Combine this hardware barrier with the lack of deep content, you are going to have to make a product with some serious depth, something that people can't get anywhere else, before you get buy-in on a consumer level. The biggest problem is that VR is difficult to appreciate until you try it.

I think Facebook is onto something with their face scanning and if you haven't tried Big Screen Beta, which let's you watch movies together, it's pretty awesome.

Industrial applications though, are being done right now. There are some concepts that are so much easier to display or skills to train in VR that simply can't be done anywhere else.

> VR as a medium doesnt have long term potential

I sortof agree, with two caveats. I think VR has potential to greatly impact gaming, and I think VR has the potential to greatly impact a few niche areas, like helping the disabled and specialty industrial uses.

Outside of those, I'm really not seeing it, though.

I’ve been using the Vive almost everyday since release in 2016. My enthusiasm is very much still there! Although most VR apps out there don’t really have enough content or quality to keep the medium exciting for long periods, some apps like Beatsaber have changed my daily exercise routine

A certain technology isn't made conceptually or functionally effective by its ability to capture your imagination every weekend. I've only had an MRI once, but that was pretty incredible in terms of effecting my life. I'm interested to see how constructed experiences that are closer to reality change how we learn, entertain and communicate.

I m pretty sure you dont want to have an MRI every day either. IMHO VR is a great medium for short presentations but not world-changing because of the lack of interaction and generally uncomfortable experience.

What do you mean lack of interaction? I agree the experience is uncomfortable after some time. This was using the HTC Vive. I have used the smaller Rift device before though and that was miles better although the visual aspect was much lower in quality. I think once they make the hardware smaller, lighter and cheaper the novelty could have a larger commonplace in day-to-day.

I've spent more gaming time in my Rift S than not.

For the type of games I play it's a step change in enjoyability.

Racing and space sims basically

As a physically disabled car nerd mostly stuck at home, VR car sims changed my life. It lets me “experience” racing and has drastically increased my quality of life. Even just PSVR with Gran Turismo was absolutely incredible, and I’m now building a full motion PC/Rift based sim that takes my disability into account.

VR has immeasurable amounts of potential for disabled people alone, not just with racing sims but with giving is the ability to “get out” more and experience new things.

Sorry to hear that, I have some serious health issues that while not impacting me much physically often leave me drained after work (and the meds while amazing don't help) and escaping into VR feels so much more relaxing than playing the same game in front of a screen (in part because I spend all day in front of a screen for work I think), it's hard to describe to someone who hasn't done it but after an hour in a good VR title (my favourite example been Project Cars 2) your brain accepts the VR as something close to reality.

I was playing the other day driving around le man in a thunderstorm and when I took the headset off and it was beautiful sunshine outside I was sorta surprised.

I've found using a good set of headphones really helps, the Rift S is a cracking bit of kit but the built in speakers are weak as hell (but they put a 3.5mm on the side so who cares, headphones are great).

I think the most interesting future work will be around communication. Communication encapsulates all the places I want tech to have a positive benefit in society and my life: education, thinking, invention, people.

(I don't mean connecting people, I am thoroughly unimpressed with that directive)

In this space you have the onset of design systems/languages. Information design and interface design. Education reform and restructuring. Programming education reform.

Look at Bret Victor and other researchers through CDG, VPRI, Dynamicland. Rune Madsen and other artist developers at NYU. John Maeda formerly at the MIT Media Lab with Design by Numbers and Casey Reas and Ben Fry with Processing and Lauren McCarthy with p5js. Mike Bostock with d3. Chris Granger with Eve.

Ink and Switch is a research lab with a number of interesting developers involved working on the future of power user design workflows.

If you want to find the interesting people you have to follow connections around. Start with the one most interesting to you and go backwards through their work, lookup every group they worked with and their members. Look at GitHub stars and find small blogs to follow, read their history and the one strange project they did which can lead you to the maintainer of some other interesting project. Build a picture, learn the space.

Xerox parc is responsible for the GUI plus a ridiculous number of other personal computing workflow essentials. There is no place with the breadth of Xerox parc today, but there are labs with incredible focus. University of Washington IDX. Stanford's HCI lab. CMU, UCSB, MIT. Transportation labs and BOOM at Berkeley. Delft, Aarhus, University of Paris Sud.

The next big thing will be giving power to users through protocols, not platforms. Through live environments and powerful conversation tools rather than consumption tools.

Excuse the mobile formatting, thanks for the question.

I just found out about this last night: EnviroMission[1] is looking for funding to build solar updraft towers that could radically change the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. The design is very simple, and at scale could generate massive amounts of power. They’ve been having trouble getting off the ground, unfortunately, but the technology is so promising that it should not be ignored. More info in [2].

1: http://www.enviromission.com.au/IRM/content/default.aspx

2: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower

We're creating a network of robotic service locations providing automated, always-available, meaningfully personalized food prepared on demand directly from fresh ingredients, which are automatically restocked by a transparent supply chain.

Of course we want to make money, but we also feel this may (1) enhance humanity's ability to confidently feed rising urban populations, all else being the same (2) reduce food waste (3) reduce single use plastic packaging (4) reduce needless road mileage for millions of grocery trips (5) provide an adaptable distribution channel for seasonal and organic produce that typically doesn't get the mass-distribution of generic mass-produce seen in supermarkets due to non-homogeneity, reduced or non-guaranteed availability.

We could fail at half of these and still be happy. Optimism is part of the game!

I think this is inevitable and not a bad thing but I wish we were able to talk about this better as a society.

What you are describing is a "transition" to post-scarcity, as everything becomes automated and jobs are eliminated.

And for marketing, you don't call them robots. Call them appliances. Automated Appliances maybe. Robots go berserk and Skynet over the world; appliances just cook your food :)

Robot, n. A machine that doesn't work yet. (Because if it worked you'd name it after what it does, like a dishwasher or a vacuum cleaner).

... via https://github.com/globalcitizen/taoup

We call them 'service locations'.

Metal-organic frameworks that can pull water out of the air passively hold promise to completely reshape our relationship to the land.


Irrigation without building canals, water generation at the point of use... If this is as good as they hope, this is the solution to the most fundamental of our political problems.


We are developing Japanese Complete, a rapid fluency acquisition platform. Not "change the world" as in put more stuff in it, but "change the world" by allowing more humans to interact meaningfully in/through/about Japan/ese. Check it out! (https://japanesecomplete.com/overview)

Hi Sova, Super cool! I'm presently learning Mandarin Chinese and prototyping some series of language learning tools that try to use the user's surroundings to deliver context-aware lessons. I'm very passionate about this space and would love to connect!

Right on! I've added my e-mail to my HN profile. Please contact me and let's have a discussion! Mandarin is also a challenging language, and I'd love to hear about your vision for teaching it.

Awesome! I'm not seeing your email on your profile, but feel free to drop me a line at zphillipsgary8@gatech.edu if you're interesting in talking more.

I'm in the Digital Built Environment industry, so I strongly believe that it's one of the less developed industries and has a lot of potentials.

Construction technologies are outdated

Facility management and Real Estate technologies too

Also, there are some hot topics like Digital Twin(s) and Smart Cities which everyone has her/his own understanding about them

So, we've chosen the Facility Management industry, with $1.5 trillion annually TAM globally and are planning for the first step have one million users in our B2B contract which will cause we become a unicorn with $3 billion value just with one contract

Brilliant people come from the most unexpected places. The one thing that stands out about Jobs/Gates/Wozniak et al. is that they came from unconventional (for the time) backgrounds with unique skills and talents.

It would seem that to change the world, you first need to be in a position of "being outside the world" - not literally but from a perspective point of view. Those who are immersed in the status-quo or are imitating some personal hero, are unlikely to ever come up with something truly radical and new.

Steve Jobs grew up in San Francisco, one of the world's tech hotbeds, Bill Gates grew up in a rich family and attended one of the world's most prestigious universities before starting Microsoft. No offense but I wouldn't call those "the most unexpected places".

I think we can see from history that key ingredients for a push forward were language, axe (as a tool) and wheel.

That's why I think evolution in these areas should be the the change that will transform our world in big way. Transportation as in (Boring/SpaceX/Tesla), tool as in (Boston Dynamic) and communication as in (VR/AR).

But like I said this is more of an evolution than revolution. There might be something new that I cannot comprehend and that will radically change the world. (AI?)

Language, Axe, Wheel, Coffee, Beer, Printing Press, iPhone. Inventions or discoveries that change the world have the common thread of usefulness and suitability. Thinking historically is pretty, it's hard to weed out bad ideas this way. AI is an idea like a "wood cutting implement" is an idea, but it's still no axe.

There's a small community currently looking at the home fabrication of semiconductors that I'm loosely associated with.

I honestly don't think it's possible to know in advance what will change the world and what will not with any real degree of confidence.

The best that anybody can say is that what they're working on has a chance of changing the world, and even that is pretty shaky. The world has been changed by things that even their creators didn't think were that impactful at the time.

I think the next Wozniak opportunities will require a lot more funding so will be controlled if you like by investors and corporates not two men in a garage. Nowadays you’d need a lotto win to afford the SV garage. For example quantum computing needs a lot of money. It’s not soldering chips anymore.

I disagree. I think the potential for a couple of people working in a garage to do something with serious impact is as great, or greater, than it has ever been.

There are, and always have been, things that are incredibly capital-intensive, of course, but economics change and things that once required multiple millions of dollars are now affordable by normal people. This was true in the past as well -- those couple of guys working in a garage couldn't have done it a decade or two earlier when the costs of such electronics were stratospheric.

Things that are costly now, such as quantum computing, will very likely follow the exact same trajectory.

Someone who can make it possible to store the energy from windmills. Now the windmills are taken out of the grid when producing more than what can be consumed. Which is a complete waste. If this energy could be stored for a while - then this switch of would not be needed.

Just curious, why are you asking. I think the most exciting industry are the old ones, there are some interesting projects out there, if you want just let me know specifically what sector

Everywhere :), you are looking at the people a few rounds back who got lucky + worked hard + played some hands. Look at startups all around!

Airbnb? Facebook? YC classes?

How many of these startups actually change the world though?

It seems more and more like "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads."

Well, I'd say two things:

1. A lot of them are changing the world in small ways and some in big ways. And, some are just getting started and it is going to take another 10 years to see their impact. We like big narratives of x changed the world but I think it is more likely change by a thousand cuts.

2. Ads get a lot of attention but I'd say that is also hugely important to change the world. Adwords is amazing in that it is has democratized advertising significantly. Now small businesses can go buy ads without any contracts huge spend or so on. I know for me 10+ years ago it was a game-changer for getting one of my first businesses off the ground.

I think Facebook has clearly changed the world. I don't think we really know if it's for better or worse overall, though.

I can't really come up with other examples, though (although my gut tells me that's due to poor memory). I don't think Airbnb or RC classes qualify.

Totally agree on FB :), might not find out for another 10 to 20 years.

I think AirBNB does big time, huge amount of income for a lot of low to medium income earners. Enough to build wealth, put a kid through college, or pay the morgage. And, on the flip side it has enabled millions of people to travel and exp other cultures/places in a new and more intimate way. I've personally live out of AirBNBs in other countries for multiple years.

I think this bar to world changing is way too high, little changes can make big impacts over long periods. Especially on cultural values.

Regarding AirBNB -- you may be right, but I'm not so certain. It appears to me that the amount of impact it has depends a great deal on where you are. In my area, AirBNB isn't a significant factor at all -- but in a city a couple hundred miles away from here, it's had a significant impact. Facebook's impact is obvious to pretty much everyone, everywhere. AirBNB? Not so much. Which is not to say it's had no impact...

> I think this bar to world changing is way too high, little changes can make big impacts over long periods. Especially on cultural values.

I agree entirely with this.

I stayed in a cheap Airbnb for an SF Bay Area internship. I met a lot of interesting people and made a lot of interesting connections. I would recommend it

I'm building the equivalent of a Heroku for batch processing. Should save an obscene amount of developer setup time, and megawatts of power with more data locality.

Imo nowadays most interesting stuff is solved, so in nearby future won't be some great innovation. But in 10-20 years ai maybe will be capable to translate text like human.

I think that people are ruining good stuff. They abuse openess and post shit on fb, youtube, twitter, etc. And it's all happening because a lot of ppl has internet. I mean bad ppl and retards post shit, for bigger reach. When not many ppl has inet there was no point of shit posting.

So I expect more websites will allow ppl to post after some barriers. Not the best days to surf internet.

Ignoring the offensive language used, it should be noted that at every point in humanity (without being able to see into the future) the argument that “interesting stuff has been solved” could’ve been made.

I think we are actually at a very interesting time in history. World changing things like robotics, AI, space exploration have made huge advances recently, and there are still many industries that haven’t even invested in/been disrupted by software.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented" -- goes back to an 1899 joke about closing the patent office and has apparently been oft repeated.


> Imo nowadays most interesting stuff is solved


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