Bigger Than Google


Human beings spend our lives in a fog bank formed by our own beliefs, attitudes and experiences. If you and I are in the same room, at the same time, for the same event, we may have extremely different experiences.

I may view the event as threatening; you may consider it to be slightly amusing and a bit inconvenient. The difference is not reality; the difference is because we each view the world through our own personal fog bank.

Now imagine the potential of starting to lift that fog away. Imagine how human potential might be enhanced if we increasingly dealt with reality, instead of our own distorted view of reality.

I’m talking about an entrepreneurial opportunity bigger than Google. Let me explain.

Imagine a Google-scale venture, drawing on the sum total of human knowledge about human emotions and perceptions. The venture would create apps that make it easy for you to apply this knowledge in your daily life… on these five levels:

1.    Provide you with self-insight: Instead of taking a self-assessment test and then forgetting it, imagine if you could have an ever-present, 100% confidential virtual assistant to warn you that [today at 11:15 a.m.] you are likely to be [overly cautious] and [too slow to act], and that your stated goals will be realized faster if you [respond to your boss’s email] by [3 p.m.].

2.    Provide you with insight regarding your self-esteem: People are complicated, so much so that few of us understand why we act the ways we do. Much of it has to do with how we think others perceive us, and many of our conclusions are just plain wrong. This tool would provide much-needed objective feedback.

3.    Support your most vital personal relationships: To paraphrase a popular book, if men are from Mars and women from Venus, we really need a translator. There is already more than enough data in existence to recognize common relationship problems at home, work and among friends. But the trick is to take this knowledge from the abstract and make it accessible in the course of your daily interactions.

4.    Help you deal with groups: How does your company perceive you? What can you do to interact more comfortably with members of the opposite sex, or with subordinates? The opportunity is to help you take accumulated human knowledge and use it on a day-to-day basis.

5.    Help groups deal with other groups: How many times, in how many places, has management clashed with labor? How many times have two political parties dragged each other down into partisan bickering, and both lost? It makes no sense to repeat strategies and tactics that history has proven to be flawed.

Across each of these five areas, this venture would help one person at a time. That is, even when helping groups deal with other groups, the focus will be on helping the individuals within each group. The culmulative effect will be that group interactions improve, but the method is to help individuals within these groups.

The venture I’m describing would draw on:

  • A wide variety of sacred texts and ancient wisdom
  • Modern knowledge in psychology, philosophy along with cutting-edge thinkers in related fields
  • Hard scientific research in neurophysiology, genetics, quantum theory, noetics, and countless other disciplines
  • Millions of studies and surveys of how people actually act versus how they claim to act

While it’s beyond the scope of this article to tell innovators how to solve the challenges inherent in this vision, it’s safe to say that such a venture would distill relevant data by revealing patterns, and that it would never stop evolving. In doing so, it would help humanity to evolve in a clear-headed manner.

As I implied at the beginning, the killer app here is the potential to clear the fog away from each of our eyes. Society has to make sobering decisions in the coming years, many of which we are ill-suited to make. Some societal issues are so complex that our public policy is to have no public policy. For example, this is true for euthanasia. As technology advances, we must acquire the ability to make clear-headed decisions about immensely complicated issues.

Each of these decisions involve human beings, and each of us struggles to overcome our own biases.

Just to be clear, we don’t need a software system to tell us what to do. We need a system to reveal our biases, so we can better see reality and better cope with an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

Ultimately, I’d hope that the venture I’m describing will:

  • Become a highly positive tool to support human development and even evolution.
  • Help create a space in which scientific advancement can continue to be safe in the hands of humanity.
  • Develop a paradigm to leverage – in a healthy way – the increase of collective cognitive bandwidth that could result from the automation of basic needs.
  • Support individual development to elevate the collective ethical health of the world population.
  • Make vitally important information consumable across all levels of personal development.

It’s time to lift the fog away from our eyes. We have much to do in the years ahead.


Peter Torrellas is a former CTO of Siemens and is now Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Optym, a technology company dedicated to transforming the world through increasing efficiency in our built infrastructure.


Image:  KrzysztofTe FotoBlog/Flickr

6 Responses

  1. Stephen Jackson says:

    Peter, how can we use this information to make this possible?

    • Peter Torrellas says:

      It’s not possible to build the application with the information in the article, the purpose was to introduce the idea openly and at a high level in order to start a discussion. There also key aspects required which are not covered at all in the article.

    • Peter Torrellas says:


      I will try to share the key information to make this possible, or at least the work that needs to start:

      Five pillars of production (I will share the fifth one later):

      1. Information architecture (The requirements team): This is the body of work which would catalog, parse, and sanitize the available information. This tactical work would be incorporated into an architecture of the networked ideas. The system should be designed to adapt as the system learns from its internal feedback mechanisms or it should be possible to make external modification to the system from observed feedback.

      The architecture would also include a system for assigning attributes to the ideas or concepts is order to account for volatility, maturity, usefulness per stage of learning, and additional unforeseen attributes that would be required for the evolution of the system. The system would also allow for annotation as to the reasoning of the entity which placed an idea within its respective position in the network.

      The system would need to allow for regressive instances of itself which coordinate with each other, as an example when a major change to the system would change the sequence in which a collection of ideas is introduced, for users who are already following an antiquated sequence, the system would have to deliver both sequences while maintaining any new learning in each system that would need to be fed back into the master data set. This body of work would also create a baseline collection of use cases for the system which would create the part of the input for the AI team basis for the AI team. The team should ensure that one base case in unstructured access to the master data set and its architecture, for users who would be better served by self-sequencing the introduction of ideas.

      This group would also be responsible for ongoing content research, updating the system with new ideas maintaining a base group of experts, scientist and researchers. They would also be responsible for strategic alliances and partnerships in order to ensure content entry criteria, freshness and validity. Included would be the development of metrics for system from individual to regional maturity levels, absorption rates.

      This team will would also be responsible for creating a “call center” where users could have ideas explained, or a user needs help with incorporating ideas into their daily life or intermediate incorporation of ideas. They would also design the delivery mechanism for this service including consideration for peer networks, expert networks, and mediums such as chat windows, voice, txt, etc ..

      The team would also be responsible for creation and maintenance of assessment questions.

      2. Human Machine Interface (The UX team): This would be the work related to how a user would experience the data as well how the machine would experience the user. The work would be divided into three categories:

      a. It would be important to ensure that the information interface can account for populations and individuals which have different levels of access to technologies either by choice or circumstance (i.e. apps vs. txt). It should make the medium configurable by the user to account for different generational segments of the population which may have different preferences as well as different economic or geographical circumstances (i.e. rural, arid, and humid) could present constraints that must be met.
      b. There should be work focused on system input from the user, including video analytics, bio sensors, audio, orders, environmental information such as chemical composition of the air, temperature, etc.
      c. There should be a research team allocated to experimenting with bio feedback, regulating bio chemistry, and generally finding ways to determine and accelerate the absorption rate of new ideas of belief system including more efficient delivery mechanism for introducing new ideas such as biological or quantum delivery mechanisms.

      3. The infrastructure (the IT team): This would be the team allocated to developing the required SW applications and constructing, administering and maintaining the infrastructure required to host the system in terms of HW, IT, Communications, and SW architecture. They be responsible for the systems requirements including nonfunctional requirements such as its security design, reliability, performance, etc. It would also include SW development process and functional requirements such as the system should make all users interaction anonymous and secure.

      4. The AI team: This team would work closely with the information architecture team to develop the algorithms and machine intelligence which at first accomplish at least:

      a. Automatic tailoring of the master data set to the individual or customer
      b. Allows for learning by self-learning and manual input
      c. Data architecture and integration with external data sources
      d. Data sequencing
      e. Version control between instances of the system and s system of record
      f. Relationship of assessment questions to tailored information and metrics.
      g. Ensure the system will be able to be tailored for a variety of belief systems to deliver, measure, and progressively elaborate the corresponding doctrine.

  2. Stephen Jackson says:

    Is this possible? Well, if it’s possible then it would be awesome, imagine how this venture will help user develop their emotions and perceptions in their daily lives.

    • Peter Torrellas says:


      I believe it is very much possible, and curiously missing from our educational systems. We have the information, the ability to build the intelligence required, and the infrastructure to distribute it at scale.


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