#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This regulation was alway problematical and is going to bite ordinary Texans until it is repealed.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

Why “us versus them” is failing America

I hadn’t seen this before, it is well worth listening too and or watching.

Change is hard, everyone is always afraid things will get worse for them personally. That’s why politicians always strive to divide people, the more they can label and brand you as something, the more fear they can install in you about change, the more likely you will cling on to what you’ve got and what you know.

This is why politics is failing the USA, and while it continues this way, America will continue to slip backwards both conceptually and in real wealth terms and everything that flows from that.

See this for more.

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…

RIP Darkus Howe

Darkus Howe was more Malcom-X than Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t expect most of my American friends have ever heard of him. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s he was the “Devil’s Advocate”.

For me, as far as black civil liberties go, he was the most influential for me. This debate. argument was typical of his style. He died on Saturday.

School choice can put some rural districts at risk of losing funds

Marketplace catches up with the possible impact of school choice on America’s rural communities. As observed in my post, Can America afford it’s rural communities, it’s way much more than the funding for the rural school itself.