Self Improvement Everywhere

Technology has always been there to make our lives easier. Get things done quicker, with less hassle and of course with better quality. But today, with a smartphone being a lot of people’s personal savior, apps do almost everything, everywhere.

However, something that can be noticeable and trending in the last few months is self-improvement. Being apps, or gamification features in certain brands (like Nike +), their ultimate goal is to make you stick to your goals and always be looking for self-improvement. This results in a win-win situation: you get things done in a better, faster way and brands have you engaged.

As mentioned before, Nike + has a very interesting gamification plan. It gets you to buy the appropriate gear to be in the game, or at least download their Nike+ app for iOS (iPod nano, touch and iPhone included). Personally, I’m hooked with this game plan. Not only do I now save Gym money, but I actually use my gear and run 15k a week. What keeps me going? The fact that I can track my progress and share my results with my friends via social networks. It’s nice to see a histogram of your performance and then compare the actual results in your every day life.

Now, as far as self-improvement apps go, there are several start ups with this idea in mind. For example Lift. As described in Venture Beat, Lift is a one-year-old start up in San Francisco that is looking to make people seek self-improvement –guess post it notes on your mirror aren’t cutting it anymore–. You set up alarms and tasks so you know what you have to do, when you have to do it; and of course, it exposes you in front of your friends via social media. Avoiding the judgmental finger perhaps? Well, apparently with this and many other examples, it does help to be in the spotlight, whether you’re doing things right or wrong.

Brands call it engagement, people call it motivation. Whatever the point of view is, in the end, you achieve your goals and thank a brand for it in the process.

TEDx Zapopan, Independently Organized

My dedication to watch TED talks started at an Innovation course when I was in college. The main idea behind these talks (even mentioned in their logo) is to share ideas worth spreading. All kinds of speakers with different backgrounds, topics and fields of study have spoken here. Anything from religion, to innovation; from ancient history to modern and advanced technology. The beauty of these talks is that it recognized work done by thousands of people around the globe.

Adalberto Flores - Director of Operations Ooyala Mexico

TED started out being specially organized conferences that had tremendous logistics and organization. However, many people around the world felt like they needed such an event to be close to them, to be hosted in their cities and countries. Thus, TED developed TEDx – Independently organized events.

Darius Lau - My Ex classmate and CISCO prize winner

One of my former teachers from college, Daniel Pandza, decided to go forth with this independent license here in Guadalajara (or Zapopan, the neighboring county). At first it seemed to be a longshot project. But like all things innovative, there was disbelief at the start and complete confidence in the end.

Jorge Sánchez - Agencia Espacial Mexicana

Finally, twenty speakers from all of Mexico were gathered under one roof at Tec de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara (my alma mater) to speak about their struggle in life, and how they followed their passion to become who they are now. Every speaker that went by just made the event more and more interesting. It was as if like the passion fever was spreading from one person to the next.

Rodo Padilla - Mexican Sculptor and Designer

The room was filled with an entrepreneurial audience (yours truly included). I met many of my old classmates (it was like a mini reunion after graduation), I met with other entrepreneurs from the area, and even former co-workers. All of them had but one thing in common, passion for what they do.

Patricia García Torres - Steinway Artist

Although the event started at a little past 5pm, I was there earlier to help out with the logistics and get a bit of an inside scoop behind the scenes. One by one, the speakers came in and were redirected to the make up room (yes, believe it or not, they also have their make up privileges). I spoke with a few of them and was amazed at their current projects (many of which were not exactly spoken about during their talks).

And so, the event was a complete success and ended until 10pm. An event that we usually saw in class through the Internet, one that seemed so far away, was finally here and I was part of it. Here are some of the speakers who were present at the conference, and you can watch the entire talk here. Cheers!

Technology: Friend or Foe?

As we were finishing up on some details at the office the other day, I turned around and asked my partner, “Do you think technology is causing a greater gap between developing and developed countries?” His answer after thinking about it for a few seconds was that it was closing the gap rather than making it bigger.

Then recently, quite a cultural mishap occurred while at Latin America’s largest book fair. You may have read about it by now and the thousands of jokes that derived from the incident. But the true point in this situation (at least for me) was not the fact that a public figure was embarrassed and perhaps even humiliated in front of millions of people. The true point is that he was mocked by people that are just as guilty as he is: lack of lifelong readership background.

Makes me wonder, that even if we do have modern gadgets like the Kindle that will carry thousands of book titles for us instead of pounds of physical books, we are still not motivated to get involved with culture or education. Developed countries still read in average 30 books per person, per year. A recent study even said that 1 in every 10 Icelanders, there’s a published author. In other words, developed countries not only get involved with culture, but actually produce it.

Technology is being distributed all over the world. Even Latin America has sky rocketing numbers on smartphone usage. So what are people using smartphones for (or other gadgets for that matter)? Technology might be a great tool to simplify tasks and get better results, but in the end, that’s just it: a tool. A tool cannot do the job itself. A tool cannot think; a tool cannot set goals and pursue objectives.

So to answer my own question, yes, technology will help (and is helping in some cases) to close the gap between developing and developed countries. People aren’t. Words of change and action can be spat out over and over again, but it takes people to do it in the end. People, make yourselves proud.

iPad just Graduated as a Therapist

The parody song “There’s an App for that” featured on Sesame Street at the end of last year doesn’t quite describe the full extent of all the possible uses we can get out of technology. Just recently scientists at the University of Iowa found a therapeutic use to tablets.

Although the song has been subject to several conversations, and even used in the benefit of discrediting technology at large, there are more benefits than we could possibly imagine. According to the University professors, they have been using the tablets as a communication device with children having interaction problems. On the article, there’s an example about a boy who barely speaks to his own family for an unknown reason. However, they use the tablet as a means for the child to express himself through a drawing app.

It’s not bizarre to find these miraculous “cures” thanks to technology, even if it seems outrageous for certain individuals. It’s important to keep in mind that they are used as important tools to deliver results. However, just because I describe this article as “iPad just Graduated as a Therapist” doesn’t mean that the iPad or any other technological for that matter can replace the understanding and analyzing skills of a human being. After all, it is the University’s professors in this case who are conducting the boy’s therapeutic treatment.

The same thing happens with Robotic Surgery. Yes people, in this day and age robots are used to operate on patients. Don’t be frightened though, the robot doesn’t do everything on its own, it doesn’t even “think” on its own. It is only a medium for surgeons to have more accurate movements at the operating table, but the robot is guided 100% by the human surgeon himself.

Although some may think we are bound to be the product of an Isaac Asimov novel, technology has been the sole tool for so much progress not only in health but in so many other aspects; even ideological advancements and evolution have been possible because technology. How many more things will we be able to do in the near/far future?