#TEDxBoulder2017

I got to attend my first TEDx Boulder yesterday, it was a good mix of both motivational speakers, those talking about lessons they’ve learned from personal experience, and some professional development speakers on the topic of CLIMATE and CHANGE. Overall an excellent way to spend an afternoon and early evening.

I’ve curated my tweets from the event into a Twitter Moment. If you have any questions, or feedback on the subjects, feel free to leave a comment or email the usual way.

You get what you want in Texas

The Austin American Statesman today published a frank review of the Texas rules on disclosure of chemical storage “Information scarce on chemical plant blasts — just like Texas wanted“. I wrote about this issue precisely back in “The Texas Freedom Illusion” and after the “West Disaster” report.

In essence, under the veil of “security”, Governor Abbott has effectively just stopped individual Texans from finding out about these storage facilities, and in the same way as you are much more likely to be shot by a gun owning family member, than a jihadi; you are much more likely to get killed, poisoned, or otherwise impacted by a local company than you are by terrorists exploiting the freely available information.

This regulation was alway problematical and is going to bite ordinary Texans until it is repealed. The idea that people have time to go around to each and every high fenced industrial lots within a mile or so of their home and ask what chemicals they are storing is just nonsense, more so in large cities.

 

The machines are coming – 2049?

It is notoriously difficult to predict the future. I lived my life at IBM, following Alan Kays 1982 aphorism

The best way to predict the future is to invent it

In my career I got many things right, and many things wrong. While Amazon was still a small time bookseller, and Youtube for the most part didn’t exist, it was obvious both business models would thrive. While I couldn’t convince IBM to pursue either of these opportunities with ny success, we demonstrated the technology perfectly. My “Wired for Life
Presentation contains some of my wins, and many of my losses.

It was much easier to build on these, especially the societal impact in my 2003 “Trends and Directions” presentation.  Societal impact is much easier to predict as you can demographic data, current trends and it’s pretty easy to extrapolate. Technology adoption is much harder.

Many of these predictions are not useful, after all who needs  a robot to write high school essays? Many though will continue to fundementally change work and life as we know it.

What they are though is a signal in the way the World Economic Forum predicts the technology will develop, and to some degree it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Watching this and reading many of the “machines are coming” articles that have been published over the past 5-years, it’s easy to become depressed about the rise of automation, AI, and robots. In a year when the sequel for Blade Runner will finally appear on our screens, there are some key things to remember.

  1. There is no magic, no silver bullet – If they can’t explain it, or worse don’t understand it, they have not invented it. Machine learning is great, but the machines can only learn with the machine learning constraints they have.
  2. Listen to the doubters – Doubt is very different to dismissal. People who dismiss possibility out-of-hand either don’t understand the opportunity and the potential, or are afraid of the change. It’s the doubters who have thought things through and understand the problems and the weaknesses.
  3. Don’t fear automation – If you do, you will be left behind. Learn, adapt, change; if possible work to invent the future By all means be a doubter, don’t be a dismisser.
  4. Find a problem, don’t start with a solution – AI, Robotics, Big Data, Machine Learning, Algorithms, Neural Networks are all speciality fields, grabbing onto them and asking how can we use them isn’t useful. The more specific you can be about a problem that needs solving, the easier it will be to identify the correct technology.
  5. Be Human – the more we automate, the more important human interaction becomes. The more empathy you have for someone who has a problem, the more likely you are to be able to understand how to solve it. Empathy, the arts, sports and human interaction are all fields where robotics and automation are least likely to take over.

More Human than Human – Dr Eldon Tyrell, The Tyrell Corporation

What to do if you can’t find eclipse glasses?

It’s like the end of the world is coming, and people want to watch the eclipse to be part of it.

The rush to buy glasses has reached such a fever-pitch that there are news stories about what to do, “What to do if you can’t find eclipse glasses in Northern Colorado“. Amazon has had a mass recall of glasses that are not safe and the locals here are having a meltdown because the stores have, apparently, run out.

My advice

isn’t having very dark safety lenses going to defeat the point of the experience? Kinda like those people who go to live concerts and spend the gig holding up a mobile phone to record video?

Surely we know the moon is going to pass the sun and completely block it; we know the news media is going to be recording it for broadcast, there will be dozens of videos on youtube within an hour you can rewatch it on.

Isn’t the point to find somewhere outdoors where the impact of it becoming dark much more quickly than normal and then becoming light again, much more quickly than normal the main part of the experience?

You don’t have to look directly at the sun to do that, you can sit with your back to the sun and watch all those other weirdos who are missing the fun of watching people stare directly at something that can damage their eyesight for good, while missing the way the birds, animals and quite possibly the traffic goes into meltdown not understanding what’s going on?

Have a nice eclipse y’all…

Trains, horns and taxes

I’ve been  frustrated that my blog has been withering but I just didn’t want to be an endless stream of rants about the #potus45 administration.

So this isn’t about them, at all. While I have in mind a summery I’ll steer clear for now. So, meanwhile back in beautiful Colorado, the natives are getting worked up over a plan to install “quiet zones”  for all the railroad crossings in town.

As much as I can’t envisage enjoying the horn blowing, and we can barely hear them in the night, apparently many can and do like them and have a nostalgia for them.

Well the whole thing went  awry went Rene posted, she said.

If you don’t like the trains, don’t live near the tracks. No body would build within spitting distance of a rail road track if nobody would live there, then no body would be bothered by the noise. All the high density housing along the tracks is ruining my wonderful, small home town. I resent that people come in and then start to try to change it.

Which of course completely misses the point that most of old Town was built around the railroad out of economic necessity, which made people want to live there, rather than people who loved the sound of the horns and built a house there.

Rene, change is not only inevitable but essential.

For the most part the city carries most of its infrastructure on its book as assets, which means they depreciate it over its lifespan, and they have scramble to find ways to replace it.

In essence the only way they have to do that is to raise property and sales tax, or get new residents who make up the difference. Bonds are indirectly taxes.

If there is some road, building or other city or state asset you’ve been using since you arrived here, that hasn’t been rebuilt or replaced, then you have been subsidized by either earlier generations or the new residents. This is especially true for water, sewage, and roads.

As has been previously articulated here, essentially the quiet zones are really doing no more than returning the crossings to pre-2005 safety and horns for post 2015 traffic volumes.

It’s not the new residents that are to blame, I’m one of them. If anyone is to blame its the people that have lived here for 25+ years.

They’ve not been accounting for city resources as liabilities, not taxing enough to support those liabilities, and then selling property off to developers to make a buck for themselves.

Unfortunately development in America, not just Louisville has been a ponzy scheme for 100 years. You either keep growing or you’ll wither and die, or become Boulder. Louisville is headed for the latter since it’s mostly built out.

Edit:8/02/17 12:40 – Add links, change @potus45 > #potus45 and correct typos.

Dystopian Future it is then

In his acceptance speech, President elect Trump said, among other things:

We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

This from a man, who tweeted:

I’ve no idea what to expect now from the Trump Presidency, but it’s an amazing  coincidence that the original Blade Runner film was set in In Los Angeles in November 2019, just two years from now.

Hopefully Blade Runner isn’t a metaphor for a Trump Presidency; the weather and the blade runners, especially Gaff, do not foreshadow Trumps Immigration cops; and hopefully the Los Angeles in the film, nothing like the real LA in 2019; and the replicants not an extreme of the automation I wrote about yesterday.

blade-runner

What we don’t know is how Trump will do this. Just running up the deficit doesn’t seem likely given he’s from the GOP/Republican party. Taking much of what he’s said, closing tax loopholes, defunding Nato, closing overseas bases in place like Germany, Japan and more won’t likely save enough money. Your move President Trump.

The appearance of impropriety [Boulder Weekly]

It’s still hard to imagine the whole Donald Trump Presidential run is serious, but it is. At the same many other communities are fighting, or trying to fight the Oil & Gas Industry over fracking; at the same time  a record-tying 5.6 magnitude earthquake took place in Oklahoma early Saturday morning and state officials have ordered the shutdown of 37 disposal wells used for fracking. Meanwhile, in Colorado, voters were unable to get meaningful measures to protect Colorado from the results of fracking.

What do these three have in common? Little on the face of it! In the current Boulder Weekly, before the Oklahoma earthquake, Joel Dyer writing an OpEd, captures in one article I think the dissatisfaction people feel with the current political system, but have been unable to express.

wreckball_590_476[1]If you take time to read the piece, don’t read about Colorado, don’t read about the failed fracking measure, read about the about the political system where everyone is an insider; and because of the way big money works, there is little difference between the people, the parties are just labels.That’s the frustration that I think most people feel.

Our state government has a very real credibility problem and it doesn’t matter if it is the result of impropriety or simply the appearance of impropriety, because both are equally destructive when it comes to the political process.

whatever you think of Clintons campaign, or Clinton personally it does matter if you believe what’s said about her, what matters is the appearance of impropriety. The opposite seems to be true of Trump, no matter how much he lies, because he is not seen as an insider, they are prepared to cut him some slack.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Boulder fractivist, a gun-rights proponent from Grand Junction, a religious conservative in Colorado Springs, an environmentalist in Durango or a fifth-generation farmer from the San Luis Valley, as long as the oil and gas industry and its millionaire backers are deciding who gets elected in this state, you lose.

This is bigger than any one issue. This is about whether we are going to choose to restore our democracy or continue to be governed by a handful of the state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. And it’s our choice not theirs. So follow the money before you check that box on your ballot. It may be the most important thing you’ll do this year.

 

Source: When it comes to the Secretary of State’s office, the appearance of impropriety is a big deal – Boulder Weekly