Artificial Intelligence, Curiosity, And Creativity With Andrew Hogue
The power of the mind is so amazing. If you think about something, you'll live it. And with AI, we can pretty much do anything we want, and it's causing us to ask more questions than ever. In this episode, Chad Burmeister talks with Andrew Hogue, the founder of Alma, about curiosity, creativity, and success. Ever since he was a kid, Andrew has been imaginative and curious. He loved understanding how things work, processing information, and thinking about the future. And he has been putting his love for curiosity and creativity into his company to help others start their day with intentionality through AI. Andrew takes us deeper into his work and the lesson she learned along the way. Listen to valuable insights on what we can do to have better days consistently, all with a little help from AI.
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Artificial Intelligence, Curiosity, And Creativity With Andrew Hogue
I'm here with a fellow AI person who has created a pretty cool app. It's interesting because I created an app at a similar time and it's parallel, yet different. I'm excited to dive into this app. We are talking with Andrew Hogue. He is the Founder of the Alma app. We are going to talk a little bit more about it. Welcome to the show, Andrew. Thanks for being here.
Thanks so much, Chad. I appreciate you having me on.
Before we dive into Alma, I like to understand and help our audience get to know you. The best way I have found to do that is to ask. When you were younger, where did you grow up in the world? When you were first born, what was the thing that you love to do?
I was born in the Countryside, in Prunedale, which is right outside Salinas in California. It's a small country rural. I was pretty curious as a kid. I lived in my own head a lot and imagination. Mine was very busy outwardly. I'm a little quieter and reserved. My parents would ask me questions all the time and I would be like, "What?" After the question loaded, I would respond a few seconds later to give a sense there. I love understanding how things work. It sounds funny. When I was growing up, I was fascinated by the light switches and garage doors. I like tractors, too. It blew my mind that you could move your hand, and then a massive thing would go forward. That was incredible to me when I was a little kid.
The Chief Revenue Officer for my company, we are writing a kid's book and it's coming out any day. One of the chapters is, when he was a kid, he went into one of those things. It was holding a crane that had a 20-foot long concrete pillar. He and his friend were like, "Let's check this out." They were young kids and they pushed the wrong button. It released it and broke into thousands of pieces. He was curious.
The whole purpose of the book is my grandfather wrote ten things in life that are important. It's the two basics, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself," and then eight others. I always think, "If I forgot all the other eight, if I just took care of the first two, we would be okay." We are trying to show these different stories of people who are part of the book of a decision they made, and then what you can learn from that decision. It's funny that you talked about tractors because he was into tractors, too.
That must have been wild as a kid to see that whole thing go down.
Approach things with a sense of curiosity and let go of prior assumptions because creativity flows the easiest from that place.
I'm sure he can replay it back in his mind as if it were yesterday. Thinking about your curiosity and the way you process information, I know one person on the East Coast who processes information exactly like you do. He likes to go into his head and he has a tough time with, "How do I plan the next 10, 20, or 30 years?” I don't know. This sucks. Why is it so hard for me? I don't even like to do that."
What we realized in one of our retreats was, "It's okay. It's a blank slate of paper. Every day you wake up, play with the new blank slate of paper, be curious and learn about life." Thinking about those curiosity days and your fascination with the light switch, tractor and whatnot, how does that tie into the kind of work that you do now?
One of the things that stuck with me is approaching things with a sense of curiosity and letting go of prior assumptions. Creativity seems to flow the easiest from that place because you are not trying to constrain it in any way, at least up front. What I have noticed with AI, especially as it progressed, is taking a curious and open mindset seems to allow that creativity to flow. You can create interesting things with AI from that place. That same curiosity has led me to be interested in the mind itself and how the mind works like, "How do we perceive our day? Why is it that some people are naturally inclined towards planning and others naturally have the curiosity but maybe if you tell them to plan ten years ahead, they are like, 'I'm not there.'"
From there, the curiosity keeps going. The question was, "What things can we generally do to have better days consistently?" One thing I have noticed was, "The less we know about our day, the more room for it to go in any direction. The earlier you start, the more influence you have over how your day is going to go." Morning stood out to me as a prime time to do that. Generally, if the first thing you do in your day is positive, your day is going to be more positive because now you are seeing it from a positive mindset as soon as you get up. That curiosity and intuitive feeling approach seem to have carried forward from the same curiosity as a kid, too.
I went to a mindset event with Gerhard Gschwandtner from Selling Power Magazine. It was his first inaugural event in Los Angeles. He brought in some good experts in mindset, meditation, yoga and all of it. One of the stories was, this guy they said envisioned putting a hot penny on your hand. This didn't happen in this event. I will say I didn't firsthand witness this but it was through a firsthand story. There wasn't a penny. It burned the hand and made a mark of the heads of the penny on the guy's hand. It proves to you the power of the mind is so amazing that it can even cause you to burn your hand without experiencing a burn.
The other thing I learned is that the average human, I'm sure you have researched this in all your studies, 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day. For most people, half of those thoughts are negative. When you look at that analytically and say, "What could I do to influence it to have a more positive day?" Who wouldn't want to have a more positive day? Most people want to do it. That's what the Alma app does. Tell us a little bit more. There's part automation and part AI. I signed up right before this conversation and it's neat. I can see the value. Talk to us about it.
I’ve got curious. When OpenAI came out with their GPT-3 AI model, it's text generation effectively. You give it a prompt or script, and then it will write the next few sentences. It's pretty simple to play with but it's incredible what it can do. I have been playing with their beta and it has evolved since then. Did you want to hear more about the AI side of things?
I have heard of that with people using it for email writing where they want to personalize their email. I'm starting to hear that particular code pop up. Tell us about it at a high level in the app. Someone signs up and Alma.am, is the website. When I went through to sign up, it asked me a series of 3 or 4 questions. What happens in the configuration? Once I start getting the messages daily, how do I interact with the AI on daily basis?
The way it works is you will put in your name and phone number because it's a text-based app. As opposed to getting notifications from apps, there's a very different experience when you receive a text message. As someone in marketing, you know the response rates to text messages are much higher than notifications, emails or any other channel. Having it as that personalized medium or channel is a lot more an effective way to get communication flowing in that sense.
The idea is you sign up, give your name and job title as well. You can choose whatever themes you want to work on, whether it's your creativity, patience or assertiveness. Whatever things that you want to work on, you pick from those. You get to personalize it to voice to whatever you want it to be as well. You can choose its tones of voice from a list of tags.
The way that configuration works is it will send you a journal prompt that's personalized based on what it is you want to work on. If it's creativity, it might send you like, "Imagine you could fly or read people's minds, which one would you choose and why?" It will send you personalized journal prompts based on where you want to grow and the tones of voice that you chose in ways that will positively impact the way you go into your workday as well. From there, you respond to the journal prompt over text and it will send you feedback on your journaling. Also, it will send you a personalized link.
There are about 5,000 to 10,000 different pieces of mindfulness, meditation, and inspirational content that I have indexed using OpenAI's search model. It will pick the one that's most relevant to your journal prompt and send that to you. It is to get from a very early part of your day to be able to introspect in a way that's most beneficial to you, and then receive content that's most beneficial and aiming you into your day, given what's going on for you now.
That's maybe one of the key differences from that versus other mindfulness or inspirational apps. It's extremely real-time. Whatever you have journaled about at that moment, it's responding to. Also, it's capable of remembering what you have journaled about in the past and asking about those things too but it's contextual to what's going on now. What we found so far is the recommendations and feedbacks it gives are very relevant to what's happening now for you.
How did the name Alma come about?
The earlier you start your day, the more influence you have over how your day will go.
That's a long story. In my last company, I built an app that was more on the social media verification space. It would help influencers verify that their audiences were active, engaged, legitimate and all these ways. The app went viral in Brazil for a week. It had 120,000 users out of nowhere and that was a special time. With this, I wanted to name it something that gave homage to Brazil in some way, and then also tied into what the essence of it is.
The site is titled Alma.am. The meaning is, Alma in 5 or 6 different languages, Portuguese, which is what they speak in Brazil but also Spanish, Latin and a few others. It means of the soul or what is nourishing for the soul, and then .am is because you use it in the morning. I want it to be simple. There are layers to it from where it came from in that sense, too.
I participated in this app called 75 Hard. You work out twice a day for 45 minutes, drink a gallon of water, read ten pages in a book, and no drugs or alcohol for 75 days. The drug part is not a problem. The alcohol part, that one we had to let go of a little bit. The clearness of your mental state when you are getting in that shape and all of it was fabulous but I found that it was missing the component that you have launched here the mindset piece. It's so powerful.
To me, if you believe something, you can do it. If that's the thing you are after is the creativity, perfect. Use this app and it will put your mindset in that state but you don't just have to pick creativity. That's what's neat. It's based on where you are at in your life at the stage of life and you can pick, "I want to go in this direction."
The term artificial sometimes can be misleading. I'm almost wanting to rebrand my show as Augmented Intelligence because, with artificial, it's like, "It's fake." It's not fake. It's real. There are good, big data behind it that's scientifically proven to cause you to have a more happy and fulfilled life if you do these things. I'm sure there are some people that are like, "What do you mean? I'm going to be talking to an AI bot?" With the combination of the knowledge that goes into those 5,000 pieces of information and the ability to serve the right piece of information at the right time, there are humans behind all of that. The AI is the distribution network to get it to you at the right time.
That's a good way of putting it. It's more of a personal assistant in the morning. It's not like it's constrained to the one task of like, "Let's get you in a little bit more of a mindful place, and then let's give you content that will help you go further into that." It's more like, "How are you doing? Here's what will help?" That's it.
Your day is on the right track first thing in the morning. Think about if you didn't have AI, so OpenAI doesn't exist. There would be a way to do this but it would be very manual. You probably wouldn't have even created the technology. You didn't have it. You wouldn't have done it if AI wasn't around.
It's funny that you say that. The first version of the app was before OpenAI came out with their GPT-3. It was based more on personality type and those things. I was manually writing stories for each personality type and then doing my best. It got to maybe 20 to 30 stories, and then I was like, "This is helpless now." To answer your question, AI makes things way more efficient to create content. You can create 1,000 stories like that with code. It's incredible to have that augmented capability at your fingertips.
The other thing is it makes things easier to be very relevant and helpful, and also to service many people at once in a highly contextual way. It's wild to be getting to the place where it's like, "What if a business with 1,000 employees could have a personalized morning mindset mentor for each of their employees that talks to all of them completely differently?" As opposed to maybe there's a service you can go to for counseling but there's a limited number of people you can talk to and the reliability is not there.
If the thing is always at your fingertips and it's highly contextual to you, it's mirroring what you are doing. The other cool thing with AI is there's no bias. It doesn't have an agenda. What you tell it to do, it does. It's like, "I want to have a good day. I want to be more creative." It's like, "Here's your prompt. Here's the thing that will help you to be creative. Go enjoy your day."
I think of being a Manager for sales teams and I have had up to 100 people before. Even on a team of ten, my very first team had 8 or 10 people. Knowing the difference between Greg, Jim, and all of these different people, and what makes them tick, I bring my unique, competitive, driven, KPI-based values to the equation. I'm like, "Andrew, have you done your calls yet for the day?" Someone is like, "Why are you asking me about my calls? Just ask me about my quota."
You ask the other person, "Have you hit your quota?" "Why don't you ask me about my calls? I did everything." The ability to custom-fit the conversation to the individual is hard. That's pretty deep. I'm excited about what you are doing and there's a big up. What comes to mind would be, how do you get this in front of all of the life coaches and mindset coaches so that they can say, "Part of what we do together is leveraging this app or their strategy?"
That's a brilliant idea, so far, it has been more about refining the experience. No matter how many people I'm connected to, if the experience doesn't match the expectation, it starts, and then it fails. Now, it's getting to the place where it's like, "This is doing something." In terms of reaching out to life coaches or businesses, they could see this as a way to positively impact their sales team, development team or whatever that might look like. Honestly, I'm looking into a go-to-market strategy at this point because the product seems to now be at the quality where that seems feasible. I'm very curious. I would love to speak with you more about that at some point, too.
Also, influencer marketing. I started doing business with a local company here in Colorado. These guys are 19 to 22 years old. One of the girls on the team lives in the dorm next to where my daughter went to school. We had a sales call for 45 minutes. She was like, "I have a million and a half followers on Instagram." She posts something like this and I was sharing the 77Pray app with her. She was like, "I just started coming into prayer. The mindset app will be equally or more powerful to a lot of people." To me, ultimately bringing together mindset with belief in a higher power, that's where you've got peanut butter and jelly together.
If the first thing you do in your day is positive, you see things from a positive mindset.
There's something to be said for, it's not getting out of your own way but a little bit. When you step back and allow that creativity to come through you or you allow that higher power to speak to you, there's some real magic in that. It's unmistakable.
It's so exciting to hear people like yourself that are stepping into this. There are a group of people in the world that have but the days and times that we live in with the pandemic, and everything else has caused people to wake up to, "What else is out there? What does infinity mean? How do I play in infinity?"
At some point, it seems like we are reaching the limits of our intellect in some way, too. We have the ability to do pretty much anything we want with technology now. It's causing us to ask more questions than ever somehow. Eventually, the question starts going from outwardly like, "What is this?" to like, "What am I? What's the meaning of all of this?" That switches a profound and powerful one when you start to look for meaning and significance as opposed to like, "This is why things are the way they are."
You have graduated from, "How does the tractor work," almost to, "Why does it work?" That's cool. I will give you one more example, and then I will ask you the question. I talked to someone on the show who is building conversational AI for restaurants when you go through the drive-through. It makes perfect sense. The same code can be used. They had to get it to where it was quick enough to respond because you wouldn't want a queue behind you where you wait ten seconds for placing your order.
If my wife gets in line and says, "I want ketchup only. No pickles and no bun," you could stump the AI at times but we are there. They can have a human in the loop on the backend but thinking of a person at a drive-through, they are doing multi-jobs now. They should be just, "Let me fulfill your order and take your cash," versus, "Let me take the order on the headset." Thinking of that as an example and what you are working on, where do you see augmented intelligence going in the next five years?
It's headed way more towards personalization in this way. It's powerful. It offloads some of the busy work that's more transactional. It will allow human beings to be more present in their work, more focused on the essence, high-level details and being warm with each other. Taking an order, and then having to take someone else's cash, get them a drink and everything, it's a lot of things to think about at once.
Imagining that on a more macro-scale, if people have an assistant that can do more of the transactional stuff so that they can focus on more of the essence and the relationships side of things, it seems powerful. There's an incredible product called Balto that's being used in call centers now. It will listen to the call in real-time and make suggestions on what to say back to representatives in that way. To have those guides and the support in that sense, it's exciting to imagine what's coming in that way.
I have had their CEO Marc on this show twice, in fact. It's neat and amazing technology. As a person, I was fired from my first sales job out of college, and yet I'm a good person and seller. It turns out, in the long scheme, I have written four books on it. I didn't have the training wheels that I needed at that time. With this day's augmented intelligence, you go back to then, "If I could have gotten that training wheels quicker because I'm a quick study but aligned to the way that I learned, and the world can be a better place." It will probably tell me if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing, AI is going to get smart enough to be able to recognize that and say, "You might be a little out of your lane in this job. Maybe you want to try something different."
It's interesting. We can only see so much as human beings because we have our own incentives, desires, and things that we want but with AI being able to step back and say, "Random question, have you ever tried this before?" It's like, "No, I never would have thought of that but now that you say it, and then you try it," and surprised you enjoy that. It opens up all kinds of avenues the more it continues to evolve at scale, too. It's code, which is such a crazy thing to think about. That means it can touch everyone. It's an inspiring space to be in for sure.
The final thought is the ethical side of all of this because, to me, once the code base is out there, who is playing god on the back end of the code? If it's tethered to something that's not ethical, then it's easy. If it's 1 or 2 degrees off and coming from a bad place, then things could be negative. If it's 1 degree in the other direction, it could be positive. You think of the yin and the yang of the world and how you keep that in balance. I have thought there needs to be a new role called the Chief Ethics Officer that is side-by-side with the Chief Executive Officer.
It's such a layered problem. I look at AI as a mirror in some sense where it doesn't have good, bad or malevolent intentions of any kind. If it falls into the wrong hands, then that can be a real problem. Two things probably can help in the future with that. One, we are ready for more of a mindset revolution in some ways or changing the way we see the world. If people are coming from a compassionate place, it's much easier to sense when that intention maybe isn't the most aligned.
The other one is it's cool to see blockchain starting to creep into identity NFTs and all those things because, as we develop better systems for reputation, it's probably a lot safer to deploy AI-type applications at scale. The scariest part is probably if something is being deployed and you have no idea who is deploying it, what their track record is or what their perspective on the world is. The more transparency we have and incentives we put in place to guide things in a positive direction, the more assurance we have that AI will mirror the positive qualities in us.
It's a deep and profound conversation. Thank you very much for sharing the story of Alma. For those who want to visit, Alma.am, is the website. It took me a couple of tries and it's very easy. It's a simple sign-up. It's all done through texts. What a cool concept and great thing you are doing. I would love to have more conversations with you. I might be able to help you get the word out to a lot of people.
Chad, I appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation. I have found it incredibly refreshing and insightful. It has been wonderful.
We have been talking to Andrew Hogue who is the Founder of Alma.am. Check it out and there's a three-day free trial I noticed. Have fun and see if your thoughts changed in the direction you want them to and I'm fairly certain they will. Everybody, thanks for joining and we will catch you on the next episode.