I haven't taken the dive on Alexa or Google Home yet, but there is no doubt that those things look goddamn cool.
Yes --Tony Stark's Iron Man suit fights crime and saves the world, but I think the thing we all really take away from those movies is a burning desire to have our own snarky yet unquestionably obedient AI who will literally do and build anything you might need based on casual conversations you have with them while you're walking around your apartment.
Unfortunately, from what I can tell -- the reality is far more humbling and simplistic.
I have an XBox One in my place, and one of the features of that overpriced toy is that it will respond to voice commands. I can tell it to watch TV and it will dutifully switch on the local cable feed I have wired into it -- but literally anything else you want it to do for you is a comedy act that usually involves me and my son standing two feet in front of the thing, repeating over and over the name of whatever application or web search we want it to do while the little circle icon in the corner just spins idly by doing nothing.
Maybe the new home assistant software toys work better, who knows -- but the actual practicality of such technology doesn't seem all that useful. More than anything, it seems like the main selling point of those things is finding out how much fun it would be to have something in your house to talk with that actually talks back.
All of these gadgets and wearables are a part of what they call "The Internet of Things." This collection of smart devices that help gather and extrapolate data in ways you can use. At its utopian best -- it bridges the speed of the internet and analytic power of modern computing into a consumer use package that will make you a more informed consumer, a smarter shopper, a more streamlined traveler, exerciser, or whatever.
The reason I bring this up is that I have this new app on my phone that I've been really getting into lately that's helped me do things that I honestly never thought I was savvy or smart enough to do. It's called Stash -- and it's essentially a simplified investment app that eases you into the idea of building a portfolio of exchange-traded funds.
Now here we are a few months later and I check the app 5-10 times a day.
For those of you who have one, remember that first few days with a Fitbit where you would obsess over your numbers and tap at the thing on your wrist constantly to see how many steps you could get from typing? That whizbang first month where you'd realize you hadn't quite hit your daily goal yet so you'd pace around your house, swinging your arms wildly in the hopes of getting to 10,000 steps faster?
I'm not trying to sell you on it (I know this is starting to sound extra click-baity), but the experience for me has been pretty fascinating. Just putting a little money in it now and then and picking different funds to invest it in -- and then just watching the pennies add up.
Really, even though it's an investing app -- it seems the best way to use it is like a high-interest savings account, where your best strategy is mostly leaving it alone and letting the returns come in -- but the nerds who designed it made the app just interactive enough that it kicks your dopamine receptors every time you refresh it.
The numbers (and the risk) are nowhere as insane as bitcoin or any of that nonsense -- but it's the same sort of appeal.
But like any online community (especially on Facebook), we are easily swayed by shiny objects -- and right now this particular group is starting to divide itself up into arguing factions ready to verbally tear each other's throats out over one topic in particular.
The Weed ETF.
Basically with the rise of legalized medical marijuana and the various places where recreational use has been decriminalized, businesses have cropped up to answer the sizable demand. And with business success comes incorporation, and with incorporation comes investment -- so apparently any day now we'll be able to diversify our portfolios with all the skunky nug business they can handle.
Which, great -- sounds like a cool way to get in on a growth (see what I did there) industry as it slowly legalizes across the country.
But maaaan, do these two worlds not mix well in social media conversation.
I've said it a lot of times before -- the fact that marijuana is still illegal in large sections of this country is stupid. Every time Jeff Sessions gets behind a podium and talks about pot as if it's a criminal scourge that threatens the safety of the entire world I think even the most batshit of right-wingers can't help but throw him a sideeye. It's 2018 -- you'd like to think the world is a little more open-minded now.
That being said, I'm not really sure we're ready for legalized pot businesses to become the next McDonalds.
Which is probably why it seems so strange to think about it being invested in and traded on the stock market. Which is a weird thing to say -- these are businesses like any other, and it's not like I really get all worked up about any of the other evil corporations I've surely been investing in with this app.
I guess the difference is in the conversations that are being had around it. In the way that people choose to talk about being excited about investing with a stock fund based around corporate cannabis companies that just sticks out in contrast to how they talk about investing in clean energy or telecoms.
Seriously, how many puns can people make about adding weed to their Stash?
[Now Playing: Paul Simon - "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" ]