What To Do When You Are Distracted: Investing In Voice Recognition, Studying Futurology, and Falling In Love With Noam Chomsky


[Estimated time to read thoroughly: 20 minutes. This is a long post and may take a while to read. In all, it covers a few different areas of my recent study and interest including: my recent trip, what to do when you are distracted, some of my personal investment guidelines, computational linguistics, futurology, and of course, Noam Chomsky. I’d highly recommend sitting down and reading the entire article as one piece when you have some down time. Of course, if you don’t feel like reading the entire article, feel free to skim as you like and pick apart the sections you find interesting. Let me know if anything strikes your interest in the comments section at the top.]

I am back from my trip!

For those of you that don’t know, I spent the last three weeks vacationing around Bangkok and some of its nearest islands: Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Samui. My trip was super relaxing and I finally got to read Ender’s Game (right before the movie came out!) which was a nice release from all the non-fiction I’ve been absorbing in order to help write my upcoming book.

Island hoping, bungalows, and sunbathing have been a few of my tropical mainstays over the past month leaving me feeling fresh, relaxed, and psyched to go. Reading along the beaches of The Gulf of Thailand provided me a pleasant break from staring at my computer, iPhone, and iPad screens. Retina display can and will never compete with sightseeing in real life. Traveling always reminds me why I love what I do and why I want to continue doing it for a very long time. Doing nothing for a few weeks has rebooted my motivation. Now that I feel refreshed, it’s time to get the working wheels spinning again.

Handling Distraction: How to Turn Idleness into Inspirational Juice

Since returning from my trip, researching and writing has been going full force.

From time to time, usually when I am editing my work, I still fall victim to distraction’s leer. I know I should bar myself down in a room without WIFI access during my writing process, but that doesn’t stop me from turning nature’s resistance into my own productive enjoyment.

I love taking short breaks from my work and running rampantly online for small periods of time exploring all the subjects that I am interested in, but don’t actually have much time to study or know much about. The process of taking these small breaks juices up my inspiration, helps me synthesize information, cure my curiosity, and reminds me why I enjoy being a writer and autodidact.

One of my recent distracting revelations turned itself upon Noam Chomsky, a brilliant man whom many of my friends are always talking about and a professor who I usually avoid discussing in conversation. My avoidance stems from knowing absolutely nothing about Chomsky’s work. It’s not that I don’t respect him. I’ve just never made time to familiarize myself with his countless books, his lectures on everything, and I’m not comfortable giving an opinion on someone I admittedly don’t know a thing about other than his solid reputation as a linguist at MIT and as a political activist worldwide.

I’ve always found it an exciting realization and great comfort when you don’t know something, you can admit it, and actively pursue educating yourself on a subject or situation that interests you.

Not having an opinion is often better than giving your uneducated opinion to the crowd.

Before we dive into my brief love affair with Noam Chomsky, it seems pertinent to understand how we first met.

Derivatives, Basic Investment Guidelines, and The Future of Voice Recognition

[Disclaimer: First of all, I am not a professional investor. I do not work for an investment bank, broker, or any of the following companies I mention. Everything you read below is a personal opinion based on my own research. Before investing any amount of money, you should always be mentally and fiscally prepared to lose your entire investment. Risk is an essential element in any worthy investment. If you are not prepared to lose every part of your investment, you should not be investing.]

One of my favorite subjects to explore whilst procrastinating is researching technology companies or tech trends that I would like to invest in.

For those of you that don’t know: I majored in finance in college. For the longest time, I dreamed of moving to Chicago and trading derivative options (I wanted to work here), but when the economic collapse of 2007 happened, I began reconsidering my career options and trivial thoughts about job security.

When it comes to investing, my decision to buy a company’s stock has a lot to do with a couple of factors: common sense, thinking about the long term potential of a company, if I would buy their product as a consumer, and I also consider the company’s reputation and track record.

Occasionally, I will read a book or two on futurology that interests me. These are always fun to read because they allow me to examine technological trends, expert opinions, author’s assumptions, predictions, and inform me about emerging technologies that may prove to be the spark of future innovation. One of the benefits of studying future theory is that it broadens my imaginative range of thinking about what is possible, however not necessarily what will happen. With a pinch of imaginative spark and a lot of rationalistic thinking, I can begin judging investment considerations that normally I would know nothing about.

Recently, I have been extremely interested in investing in a company that specializes in voice-recognition software.

In my overexcited opinion, voice recognition will be one of the next waves of the future innovation and those who jump on the investment board early may have a chance to bring in huge returns by buying a tiny part of an innovative company. Like the current 3D printing revolution, voice recognition will eventually change the way many of us interact in our everyday lives.

Using our voices to command technologies presents enormous benefits that current formats like texting and searching by keyboard and mouse simply do not possess. Voice is a more natural means of communication. It frees up our hands to do more creative work and we get a break from staring non-stop at our displays.

I honestly believe that voice technology has only touched the surface of its design capacity.

Products like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Search By Voice, and Dragon’s Dictation App are only the beginning. Some authors have even transcribed portions of their books by using speech to text software. And it seems even Hollywood is jumping on board with “Her,” an upcoming movie about a man who falls in love with his virtual assistant. Numerous evidences are clearly pointing the way towards the tech’s next big revolution.

After some research and contemplation, I decided I wanted to invest in Nuance. The price point is affordable and I believe the company has a viable future with a huge potential for future growth. Their current strategy and corporate partnerships seem quite stable and their lock on holding numerous patents are a potential key to unlocking future invention.

Computational Linguistics, Futurology, and Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity

During my research of Nuance, I was intrigued to find out more on voice recognition development. I wanted to know what type of degree a person would need to work for a company like Nuance. It seems a popular choice for graduates interested in working for companies that specialize in voice recognition software development is the field of computational linguistics. (Another field that looks super exciting and I wish I had more time to study!)

As I was still sidetracked from my writing process and stuck in caffeinated-induced search frenzy, I tried my best to establish a basic grounding in computational linguistics before forcing myself to get back on track. Somewhere in the midst of skimming, scanning, and taking another sip of coffee, I met eyes with Noam Chomsky.

His face first appeared in a video entitled The Singularity Is False.

The video’s subject line caught my eye as I had read a little about the theory of a technological singularity in one of the  futurology books I’d read. I wanted to know more about what Chomsky had to say, so I procrastinated further by watching it.

In the video, Chomsky dispels Ray Kurzweil’s theory about a future singularity as myth. Though I haven’t read Ray’s The Singularity is Near, the book is a favorite among future theorists. I did, however, see his documentary which I was highly entertaining and I’d recommend interested in learning more about his theory to check it out.

Being that Chomsky is such a distinguished scholar, his side-sweeping critique of Ray’s work doesn’t come lightly to those sold on Ray’s predictions. He shrugs off the possibility of a singularity as merely science fictional wishing and brings the discussion around to more relevant and realistic issues like global warming and political activism. Chomsky’s ability to bring attention and awareness to more critical issues during the discussion is a quite admirable trait regardless of the validity of Ray’s predictions or not.

You see, it doesn’t matter if Ray’s theory proves true.

Chomsky’s brilliance is that he doesn’t want us to rely on machines.

He wants us to invest in ourselves.

How to Really Invest In the Future

The future of machines, technology, and their evolution is neither help nor hindrance.

Everything always boils down to what we do, how we do it, and the choices we make.

It is here that Chomsky and I fell in love.

His continued emphasis on choice and the awareness of our own choices is a constant theme throughout many of his lectures online.

The future depends on the decisions we make today.

We can read about futurology all we want, we can talk about global warming until the Earth freezes over, we can invest our money as we please, and we are free to believe any theory or ideology that we want.

However, until we put conscious action over idle distraction and develop enough awareness to realize our own ignorance, or cultural conditioning, or the limits of living in fear, we cannot act to surpass it.

If we continue to be distracted because the job at hand is too difficult, too challenging to solve, or because we just don’t want to do it, distraction becomes downfall.

If we cannot make the right decisions without technology, how can we be sure we will make the right decisions when we are technologies are significantly advanced?

Forget About The Future

I’m actually glad Chomsky dismissed Ray’s theory so quickly. In his wit, his sagacity, he is teaching that we should never  wait or rely on machine innovation or some future theory to save the human race from destruction or progression, but we need to learn to save ourselves now by improving the choices we make today.

It seems Chomsky’s genius is his ability to immerse himself in an outsider’s looking glass that focuses on immediate action, the next best step, and the present moment. I guess this is how he has refrained from being distracted over all these years. His productivity was a matter of choice and by choosing to be productive, he has.

Most of us are so distracted by thoughts of our futures, other’s pet theories, or investments paying off, but the real key to investing in ourselves is focusing on what we do today.

With over 60 years of research at MIT and having written over 100 books, there is plenty to read on Chomsky and his work alone without even considering any of the other intellectuals in his field.

I’m planning on reading a few of Chomsky’s book in the near future, mainly his work on linguistics (another field I’m interested in). And even though I’m not planning on reading Chomsky anytime soon or giving out any opinions on his work, I still wanted to leave you with some wise words that I have really come to appreciate from this intellectual juggernaut.

Wisdom From The Lips of An Old Man

A reporter asked Chomsky the question:

What is the most important thing you have learned?” (The video is only 3 minutes long.)

His reply:

“The answer to the question I think… is we have little bits of understanding glimpses, a little bit of light, here and there, but a tremendous amount of darkness which is a challenge. Life would be pretty boring if we understood everything. It’s better if we don’t understand anything and KNOW that we don’t; that’s the important part.”

If you can’t tell by the tone of this article I’m stoked to be back writing and working. I’m looking forward to posting some more great articles for everyone on this site over the next few months. There will be more people to read about in The Human Potential Protocol section. I’m also excited to share some more insight and writings from my personal life. Hopefully, at some point, I will also be slightly redesigning the site as well.

If I still haven’t convinced you that Chomsky is a genius, the first 17 seconds of this video are the wisest words you will hear all week.

I hope you are having a wonderful day.

Looking forward,



Image Source: tartanactivist’s Flickr (Thank You!)