Friday, March 7, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Self-Flying Planes Long Bet
In 2002 Eric Schmidt (then, CEO of Google) made a bet with Craig Mundie (then, Chief Strategy Officer of Microsoft). The bet was:
"By 2030, commercial passengers will routinely fly in pilotless planes."
Doesn’t sound too surprising of a bet, right? Except, Schmidt took the negative side of the bet! He doubts this outcome, and put his money behind his doubts. Google is pioneering self-driving cars, acquiring robot companies, and experimenting with drones, and yet Schmidt doesn’t believe in the prospect of automated, commercial flights.
I wonder if 2014 version of Schmidt would change his position on this bet today, given the progress we have seen in autonomous navigation of all kinds.
I’m also generally surprised that Schmidt would take any form of pessimistic view on technology in general. I guess, it’s really more of a pessimistic view on the FAA and government regulation to be fair, when you read the rationale for his bet.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Satoshi Nakamoto’s Identity
I feel very torn writing this blog post, and thought hard about deleting it a couple times. But, in the end, I’ll just put it out in the ether… because this blog is little more than me thinking out loud, and this is what I’m been thinking about for most of the day.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s (Creator of Bitcoin) identity has been revealed in an article by Newsweek. The article feels very voyeuristic, as the reader takes on the role of the author, stalking Satoshi and trying to piece together circumstantial evidence in a painful, stretched way. Despite no clear proof that the author has correctly identified Satoshi… it feels quite conclusive when you look at all the small pieces and connections through a holistic lens.
I’m not linking to the article in this post because, in the end, I don’t like the ethical lines the author crossed. She acquired Satoshi’s email address through social hacking a model railroad retailer. She stalked Satoshi to the point he had to call the police. She seemingly mislead friends and family in interviews. Worst of all, as a result of this piece, I’m certain both Satoshi and the Newsweek author will need 24-hour protection (Satoshi needing protection from weirdo Bitcoin criminals that want access to his $400MM in private keys… and the author needing protection from libertarian Anonymous-esque weirdos that hate the methodology of her exposure of Satoshi… or just hate that the mystery is over).
But all that crap didn’t stop me from reading the article with perversely piqued interested. Cue self-loathing.
The real story here that has been rattling around my brain the most is the story of innovation at the fringes beyond normalcy. Chris Dixon said when he made the investment in Coinbase that Bitcoin, “is one of the 5 best computer science ideas from the last forty years.” I agree. And, the idea that this brilliance came largely from one guy, acting in isolation, motivated largely by paranoia and distaste for existing financial infrastructure, is just wild. In this light the profile of Satoshi is the profile of an artist, or better yet, a maker. And like all makers, he is quirky, weird, one of the crazy ones.
More so than any of the circumstantial facts provided by the author, this is what makes the Satoshi identification story so believable. He looks and feels like other edge people that have made dents in the universe. Watching the ripples from a sole savant’s splash build into global tidal waves is mesmerizing.
Being a Team Player
There is a natural three-phase pattern to working on a team.
One phase is decision making: which way should the boat be pointing.
The second is execution: it’s time to row the boat, so pull your oar hard!
The third is the post-mortem: we have arrived (more or less), so did we go the right way?
Phases one and three should involve a good balance of gut and data. There should be diversity of opinions, and disagreement can be a feature.
The second phase has only one appropriate approach: Row! If you as an individual contributor on a team don’t agree with the direction formed in phase one, and you lost the argument, then reserve your dissent for phase three. Phase two is not the time to grumble or backtrack. It’s time to row.
To me, this is the core of being a team player. Much more so than the typical definition of being selfless or helping other teammates around you. It’s about being big enough to put aside your disagreements when it’s time to row. It’s not easy.
This team play approach applies to everyone: from a mid-level engineer to a board member, or even sometimes a CEO. No matter your title, when it’s time to execute, you have to stand strong with your team and row.
I suffer from this flaw from time to time. I am writing this post as a nice reminder to myself and for all the teams out there rowing hard right now.
Hat tip to @Nabeel for our hallway conversation yesterday inspiring a lot of this post.
(Photo Credit crew by emurray)
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I like this @paypal Twitter ad a lot because it is A) timely and B) true. Until we move to an authentication based approach to credit information transmission, we will continue to see security breaches like Target. Security through obscurity is a joke.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Connectivity in Emerging Markets
Facebook is potentially buying Titan Aerospace. The purpose of the acquisition is to help bring Internet connectivity to emerging markets by flying Internet-bearing drones repeatedly back and forth over developing nations. Facebook’s master plan regarding free Internet connective in third-world countries is called Internet.org. Similarly, Google is working on their own third-world-country-connectivity project, called Project Loon which would distribute Internet via hot air balloons.
These both are interesting initiatives. I’m in favor of anything that helps make the Internet more widely accessible. I applaud both Facebook and Google for their altruistic efforts, even if the primary goal is just to get more people to use Facebook and Google at the end of the day.
However, I don’t quite understand why emerging market Internet penetration isn’t just going to get better naturally?
Given global Internet adoption curves and nearly ubiquitous accessibility in developed nations, why do these projects assume it won’t be better over time in emerging markets through private business competition? Is there something fundamentally wrong or difficult about building a wireless Internet carrier that serves emerging markets? If so, I feel like that would be the more important issue to fix first. I’d love to hear from people that actually know a thing or two about wireless Internet infrastructure.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
My parents gave me a copy of Brazzaville Beach for Christmas this year. I finished it about a month ago and loved it, but am just now getting around to blogging about it.
As usual, I’ll try to avoid spoilers. The book largely deals with the fine line between the calculated, methodical scientific process and its messy human participants. Set in a combination of London and Africa, there are bountiful juxtapositions of raw animal id vs restrained superego, and how a person must be a balance of both to be human.
The book uses time as a device to tell a story from multiple perspectives, a trick whose origin I don’t know, but every time I see this device used in entertainment (Memento, The Sound and the Fury, Infinite Jest…) I always enjoy it.
My only reservation is that I’m not sure whether or not William Boyd writes well from a woman’s perspective. I think he was successful… but there was a some dry, matter-of-fact reporting to his protagonist’s tone at times that skirted the line of verisimilitude. I’d love for a woman to tell me whether or not Boyd was actually successful on this front.
It’s a fairly quick read. It will pull you in with an engrossing plot, and will keep you thinking about it for weeks with its candy bites of philosophy. I definitely recommend it.
Having a bunch of fun exploring Lightroom this morning. Here’s another photo from Africa.
Friday, February 28, 2014
2000 people own 75% of all the Bitcoins in the world. That’s a dramatic statistic.
I personally am bullish in crypto-currencies and the role they will play in verifying ownership in the future. Crypto-currency = “Internet of money” is a very compelling thesis.
But this chart is the 2nd most compelling reason to be *bearish* on Bitcoin specifically as a sole crypto-currency winner.
The 1st most compelling reason is the still crippling difficulty of use. (Only an engineer could have thought to use hash keys as names !?).
(Hattip to martinvarsavsky's twitter acct for helping be find this chart from Coindesk)
Pew Survey Question - Which Would Be Harder to Give Up: TV or Internet?
This is a fascinating comparison to me because the Internet and TV serve such different purposes. TV is 98% about entertainment for me. The Internet is 70% about communication for me, and then 30% a mishmash of other things (entertainment, research, logistics, etc…).
I can give up a distribution vehicle of entertainment (TV) fairly easily, but giving up a distribution vehicle of communication is nearly impossible due to network effects.
In other words, if I give up TV, I can replace it with streaming Netflix…. but if I give up the Internet, I cannot replace it with snail mail or a fax machine because many of the nodes that I talk to on the network don’t support those vectors.
Sidenote: I highly recommend following pewresearch on Tumblr. Their stream is full of fun nuggets like this one.
Could you give up the internet? What about television?
Our new report looks at the lifespan of the World Wide Web, which turns 25 years old this March. Is the internet older than you?