Meatspace Algorithms

Come for the course, stay for the community

I signed up for David Perell’s Write of Passage class expecting two things: (1) some tips and tricks for online writing and (2) weekly homework assignments that would hold me accountable to start producing content. In short, I was looking for a traditional school experience. So far, that’s been about 10% of the value of the course. I was surprised to find that the other 90% hasn’t come directly from David—it has come from other members of the class. As we’ve engaged in small group video chats and commented on each other’s drafts and started interest groups on Circle, aContinue reading “Come for the course, stay for the community”

From last-mile to last-minute logistics

The great challenge of logistics has historically been the last-mile: in a fractal expansion of road networks, how do you traverse the last bit of distance to every home? It is an under-rated marvel of modern civilization that this challenge has been largely and quietly accomplished in developed countries like the United States (and is slowly but surely being solved even in remote corners of the world). My parents live on a ranch in Texas, a two-hour drive from the nearest metropolis and then miles down a winding dirt road covered in cactus and cow poop. After crossing seven cattleContinue reading “From last-mile to last-minute logistics”

Get ready for gig work

When VC thought-leaders opine about the future of work on Twitter, they mostly just mean that people will use video conferencing more than they used to. And this, of course, is a big change with lots of second-order effects. As people have been forced into a rapid transition to working from home, society is having to quickly answer lots of new questions: what does it mean for second-tier cities? Pay scales? High-end lighting and video rigs? But while it’s true that the future of work is remote, this is a very thin, not-even-wrong two-dimensional view of where we’re headed. TheContinue reading “Get ready for gig work”

Mega-cycles of technological revolutions

I’m reading Carlota Perez’s excellent book Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital after seeing it referenced in several essays by Venkatesh Rao and others. It’s a great read if you don’t take it too literally and just try to play the game of fitting patterns to her framework. She lays out a historical narrative from 1771 to present, walking through five “technological revolutions”: She then goes on to walk through a framework for mapping each of these revolutions (loosely) into a “technological cycle” that follows an S-curve: This cycle has four phases: irruption, frenzy, synergy, and maturity. Irruption phase: Revolutionary inventions areContinue reading “Mega-cycles of technological revolutions”

Boy Scouts bankruptcy is good news for victims, the organization and hopefully, America

[originally published as an NBC News Op-Ed] One of the first lessons you learn as a Boy Scout is how to read a map and follow a compass. Scouts spend a lot of time outdoors, orienting themselves and figuring out the right direction to go. Scouting also teaches us how to read and develop a moral compass, grounded in values and principles that are universal to the American experience. If you ask, any Scout can list off these values: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Difficult though the path may look atContinue reading “Boy Scouts bankruptcy is good news for victims, the organization and hopefully, America”

There’s No Mistaking Trump for a Boy Scout

[originally published as a New York Times Op-Ed] In the middle of his wandering speech before the Boy Scouts of America on Monday night, President Trump asked with a smirk if Barack Obama had ever visited them at a jamboree. “The answer is no,” he assured the crowd. President Obama, who was a boy scout in his youth, unlike Mr. Trump, missed the two national jamborees that took place when he was president (though he did address them by video). But he invited a group of scouts to come to the Oval Office each year, and he gave them a very differentContinue reading “There’s No Mistaking Trump for a Boy Scout”

Siri as the new mouse

A question from Steve Jobs’ 1985 Playboy interview (worth a read!): Most computers use key strokes to enter instructions, but Macintosh replaces many of them with something called a mouse — a little box that is rolled around on your desk and guides a pointer on your computer screen. It’s a big change for people used to keyboards. Why the mouse? At first, the mouse looked like a toy. People claimed that “serious” computer users would never consider interacting with the computer via this device. Later on in the interview, it is called “inefficient” and derided as a “recurrent criticism” of theContinue reading “Siri as the new mouse”

Amazon’s Dash Button and frictionless, invisible computers

This week, Amazon released a small plastic button that you can affix to anything. You press the button, and it orders more of a specific product for you. The device was panned on Hacker News. The general public was so skeptical that journalists had to assure everyone that it was not a silly April Fools joke. It was derided as “an excess of convenience”: Few people have complained, as of yet, about the laborious walk to a laptop where they have to sweat and agonize over Amazon’s “one-click” shopping button. But for those weary souls who are tired of having to pullContinue reading “Amazon’s Dash Button and frictionless, invisible computers”

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