This is an important article. Explores some of the second and third order consequences of self driving cars. One more they missed:

Self driving cars will put pressure on countries without the requisite infrastructure or the political will to deliver it. Uber and co will duke it out in those markets if they are disrupted out of the USA and other advanced countries.

Read it. Recommended.

Two roads to the same place: 2016 and the future of self-driving cars | Ars Technica

Fingbox on indiegogo


Just backed this nifty device on IndieGogo.

I’ve used the Fing app to make sense of my home network for a while now. It’s the UI on this post. It’s literally the best prosumer network scanner you can find on both PC, Mac and Mobile, which is saying something. The Fingbox takes it to the next level – proactive monitoring, access blocking for rogue devices, bandwidth usage check and more. I’m a geek’s geek and I haven’t been this excited about a basic device in a long time.

You should check it out.

Most parenting advice is mostly worthless – Vox


THIS: advice is worthless

Key graf:

Remember the research, though. Most of your parenting choices pale in significance to who you are, how much money you make, and where you live. Within those parameters, your choices are unlikely to substantially affect your kid’s Adult Success at all. Whether she succeeds as an adult has to do with her genes, her friends, and a whole boatload of luck and circumstance.

You’re not on the hook for her Adult Success. You can relax.

It’s a weird way to look at things anyway: parents as program managers, kids as important projects with growth targets and deliverables. Nothing is more likely to make parents miserable than that kind of illusion of control, the idea that they can or should be managing their kids’ development, shaping, directing, and maximizing it. Those expectations make parents and children both anxious and unhappy.

Work hard to shape children but don’t labor under the illusion that you alone will ‘change their destiny for the better’. We’re all just not that powerful as individuals. Or parents.

Brain Modes

Brains think differently. You would think this is an uncontroversial statement until you test it. Go ahead, ask anyone. I’ll wait around.

You see most people have a sameness bias – they seem to think that most people experience the world like they do. We think most people see the world as sharply, hear as well or even see the same things that people around us see. This extends to aggregate experiences like that great music evokes the same emotional and physical response in everyone or assuming that police treat black and white people the same because we don’t have the opportunity to observe the difference directly.

Now people generally do acknowledge differences; but only on the edges. Someone is better at math. A few people are color blind. Some people are great at artsy things while others are more logical. Physical ability we distinguish but largely dissociate from brain function (we shouldn’t). On the whole while these should seem like big differences by themselves, most people tend to think on the whole that these are minor deviations from the mean. In reality there are probably major swings in brain modes (note, I did not say cognitive capacity – that’s a more controversial and probably more inaccurate statement). There is a lot of evidence that different brains integrate sensing differently and also process  those inputs differently – a convenient example is synesthesia. It appears these variations can be pretty wide*. Empirically this seems to stand to reason: the brain is basically the original neural net; built from the organic connectivity of neurons through time, that is likely controlled by DNA and nurture. As a result, no two brains are exactly alike even though by some miracle they produce a mean of cognition and a sense of reality that makes us all recognizable as human beings*.

Science has always catalogued brain differences. In memory – eidetic ones; in cognition – IQ; in procession of senses – synesthesia, prosopagnosia. Lately I have come to know one of these that appears to affect me – Aphantasia. Each one appears to be a minor deviation from the mean. However, taken together, you get the impression that a) Brains really do function differently across the population to a surprising extent. b) Some of these variations are clustered in what I shall call Brain Modes – think of this as a collection of variations that seem to apply together and produce a certain kind of experience for those who have it, distinct from the mean. All of this is to say that perhaps it’s about time that we invert our assumption of sameness and think more in terms of statistical variation or just plain assume we’re all different until sameness is proven. In other words, variation is the norm. Maybe this will help us all offers a presumption of empathy instead of being dismissive of people’s way of thinking. This has many implications for pedagogy, dating, working – our entire society.


A few days ago I decided to see if my favorite radio show would help contribute to my understanding of brains by exploring Aphantasia. This is what I wrote to them:

I’d love for you to do a story about Aphantasia and other ‘brain modes’. I don’t know if you have tackled Prosopagnosia yet; but that’s a bit of old news in terms of obscure brain conditions. Aphantasia is the new hotness – the inability to see visual images in the mind’s eye. I think I have it. I’m curious about how my mental life has differed from other normal people. Does it confer any real disadvantages, advantages? For example: I’m very rational and very hard to scare. If you zoom out a bit, there might be a bigger arc about the fact that we all sort of assume that everyone is similar cognitively but we keep finding these weird ways that brains are very different and cogitate very differently in the population. I suspect that Prosopagnosia and Aphantasia are likely just a couple of ‘sia’s and there are probably many more ‘brain modes’ that are statistically significant in the human population

* Actually this might be a trick of the brain. We might just simply keep cataloging new evidence of variation and recognizing them as part of the new normal. Each time a new variation is found, its simply added to the list in order to create an aggregate sense of society and equilibrium. The poor fools who exhibit a new variation are generally sacrificed before it pops up in more places and is recognized as ‘normal’ over time.


I’m going to pre-apologize for being super nerdy, bear with me, it’s my training. Information theory basically says that when message complexity increases or the channel narrows, errors will increase as well. And to fend that off, you deploy error correction strategies. In layman’s terms this means that when the information you want to get across is a lot or complicated. Or when you have limited ways of communicating; you are bound to have more problems getting your message across. And you need to account for that.

What seems obvious to electrical and software engineers seems not so obvious IRL. This nerdy stuff is true. As you grow older, the burden of communication increases. When you’re a kid, you start by communicating what you want and what you need. And then graduate to explaining your wants/needs to your parents and negotiating with them. Soon you have to evolve negotiating play with other kids. Add your teacher and mentors. Soon you’re including employers in the mix; girlfriends, wives, extended family and your own kids. And the weird thing is that the level of difficulty keeps increasing because at every point the stakes are higher than the last time you had breath. All of this constant communication brings the possibility of being misunderstood. And the price of being misunderstood gets expensive because the stakes are higher now and getting higher every day.

I was chatting with my CEO the other day. Hours after I was agonizing about whether something I mentioned was too racial for what I intended. Just intention is no longer enough, in my role you have to have the presence of mind to deliver communication like a surgeon or a ballet dancer – with precise control and to achieve the right impression. The margin for error is so small sometimes (cumulatively, you do get to slip up now and then).

But it’s not just career stuff. Your personal life is even more pressing. My own communication style verges on the blunt and direct. I’m sure people who don’t know me well could describe me as curt and impatient. In my head I charitably refer to it as curmudgeonly. I can be charming but for me that’s a choice and not an ‘always on’ situation. The point being that those close to you are even more worthy of care and attention about your style and content of communication. Especially since they constantly stay in proximity to your bullshit and vacuum up an inordinate amount of your vocal and expressive emissions. And here’s the rub – nonverbal communication also becomes crazy important to the health of your relationships. And who can keep that s&@! together all the time amiright?

However, this blog post isn’t to burden you with one more of the many terrors of the grown up life. Instead it offers a reprieve. One thing I’ve crystalized as a good communication strategy to help me cope with communication complexity is Telegraphing:

a. To make known (a feeling or an attitude, for example) by nonverbal means: telegraphed her derision with a smirk.

b. To make known (an intended action, for example) in advance or unintentionally: By massing troops on the border, the enemy telegraphed its intended invasion to the target country.

In electronics, once error is introduced into systems, they can stop working. Imagine your fancy large screen TV winking out occasionally in the middle of a high definition broadcast; the digital equivalent of a signal storm. Remember that show is usually transmitted from half a world away on satellites, fiber and finally cable. For YouTube, its coming over the same network where your kids are streaming Call of Duty on the Xbox 360. To deal with this, information systems use error correction strategies. They have ways for the sender and the receiver to check to make sure the signal that is received is the one that was sent. Either they do it through talking to each other (called a handshake) or including a part of the signal that will change if there are errors and by changing lets you know that the rest may be inaccurate (called a checksum). In reality information systems usually contain both strategies at multiple layers in order to make sure Tom Brady beats Eli Manning in glorious high definition on your Tee vee.

Telegraphing is a bit like error correction. The kind of telegraphing I advocate is the verbal kind. The conversion of non-verbal cues into explicit verbal statements. This sort of follows the principle of ‘no surprises’. With Telegraphing I try to explicitly remove any of the various vacuums that can be left in the detritus of daily communication – your attitude, your intentions, your frame of mind, the meaning of your elevated voice range, etc. Usually in personal life it looks like the following: “My voice may be a bit angry because I’m feeling a bit attacked right now but …” or “This is coming out more confidently than I intend….”. At work I even try to telegraph things that would take months to learn about me that are core to my style but I can’t afford to be discovered organically: “I have a resting bitch face when I’m trying to solve a problem, I get pensive. It’s nothing personal, I still like you when I get like that…” or “My style is direct and questioning. I’m not attacking you, just really getting into the problem, ok?”. Even in intimate situations, Telegraphing can be a good way to have a good relationship and make sure you get an affirmative ‘yes’; “Here’s what I am going to do to you…”. For kids here’s an example of what works – “…my voice is raised right now because I’m really angry but I still love you.”

Half the problem in communication is vacuums – people using past history or their own orientation to draw conclusions about intentions, tone and style. Things that can be pretty involuntary to most people except maybe actors and psychopaths. I find that Telegraphing gives me a fighting chance to head off some of these vacuums. Obviously good communication is not just up to us, it takes at least two. But explicitly acknowledging that its hard and deploying human forward error correction will help you cope.

I hope. What do I know?!, this stuff is hard.

Why I never bought a Kindle device

I remember the original kindle with the blocky edges. My boss, at that time, @rickeames bought one. As a fellow early adopter, I was sorely tempted. But I had my reservations. I already loved books to pieces and the Kindle was NOT going to replace the sheer joy of rustling paper and dog earing a hard cover or a paper back. I also had philosophical problems with the issue of ownership. My Dad’s library was a big factor in my love for books and I wanted to make sure I could leave a legacy of a library to my offspring and I wasn’t sure I could do that with the Kindle.

So I waited for the next gen. And while I was waiting, the kindle went cross platform on Windows, iPad, Android and more. So I could dip my feet into the Kindle store without buying a device and that is what I have done since then. Because when it comes down to it, e-readers have underwhelmed me. They took away a ton of the tactile pleasure of reading & owning a book and replaced it with conveniences that I only had a so so appreciation for – lugging a book around is not that painful and you can only read one at a time really. What I really wanted was adding more value along non-traditional dimensions:

How about embedding the sounds from a scene into an e-book to make it more immersive? Almost like a light score that changes from chapter to chapter or scene to scene inside a book… Or how about olfactory sensors that can help you smell the grit in a scene? Of course these advances should be subtle and tastefully expressed and the file formats for e-books should allow easy encoding of these additional elements. Additional advanced features could include social reading. Why can’t lovers who are a continent apart or even a block apart read a book at the same time and share their enjoyment in real-time? Or a group even.

It just seems like there should be more™. And when it comes, then it will be easy to make the decision to buy a dedicated e-reading device instead of emulating it on a phone or a tablet. Now, it’s more a toss-up.