Categories
Big Stuff (Life Management)

Brene Brown — Allow Yourself to be Vulnerable

Brene Brown gave a number of very powerful presentations about how to be vulnerable and listen to others. Check out these animated shorts on Empathy and Blame that are taken from her presentation at the Royal Society of the Arts. She also gave some great TED talks on The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.

Categories
Life Hacking

Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation

Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation — The first 12 or so lectures on Mindfulness from the Great Courses is the best introduction to mindfulness that I’ve seen. After lecture 12 it gets a bit too Zen for me. Get it for to get for $15 with an Audible membership.&

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Uncategorized

Man Computer Symbiosis

Earlier this year I was working on our online banking platform and kept thinking about the question, “Will we need people in the finance function in the future or will it all be done by computers?”

I’ve come to the conclusion that people will be around for a long time. Humans and computers can do a lot more together then they can alone. J. C. R, Licklider (the founder of the internet) discussed this concept a long time ago in a paper called Man-Computer Symbiosis. Essentially machines do the grunt work, allowing humans to focus on things that are more important. Today humans work together alongside computers almost constantly. Think about driving to dinner by using the computerized maps and GPS on your phone. Or making a call on that phone (another computer). Or even driving the car that is stuffed with tiny computers to help with steering and measure your tire pressure.

I found a wonderful example of Man-Computer Symbiosis from Garry Kasparov — one of the best chess players ever. He gave a lecture on how humans and computers can partner together when playing chess. I’ll summarize the key points below or you can also view a great piece that Kasparov wrote in the New York Review of Books or watch a video of Kasparov’s lecture.

  • The End of Human/Computer Chess? In 1997 the IBM computer Deep Blue beat the world chess champion Garry Kasparov. This was the first time that the best computer in the world beat the best human in the world. Most of the world considered this the end of human/computer chess. Computers would continue to get better each year much faster than people — leaving human players in the dust.
  • But A New Type of Competition Emerged: The website Playchess.com held a “Freestyle” competition in 2005. People could compete in teams and use computers. Traditionally the use of computers by human players would be considered cheating. There was substantial prize money offered which enticed many of the world’s greatest grandmasters and IBM’s newest supercomputer “Hydra” to enter.
  • A Surprise Winner: As it turns out, grandmasters with laptops could easily beat Hydra and the other supercomputers. But the overall winner was a pair of amateur players with 3 laptops. These were neither the best players, nor the best machines, but they had the best process. As Kasparov writes, “Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.”

Another example is the company Palantir — a software startup that helps “good guys” (e.g., governments, banks) catch “bad guys” (e.g., terrorists, fraudsters). Most people attack this problem from the perspective of “How can we get computers to find the bad guys?” Palantir takes man-computer symbiosis point of view by providing a tool that makes the good guys much better at their job.

Considering how pervasive computers are to the very fabric of our lives, thinking though the model of Man-Computer Symbiosis is critical to both building the best machines and also deploying and training people most effectively.

Categories
My Writing

My Magazine Writing

After college I did some magazine writing including an imaginary history of Christmas, a visit to Geoge Lucas’s ILM right before the release of Star Wars: Episode 1, the world’s most entertaining calculus professor, a guide to the Great American Movie Theaters and an interview with the Editor of The Onion.

Categories
Life Hacking

Fitness Hacking — Fitstar

Fitstar is a wonderful app that keeps me doing 20 minutes of exercise each day. Since starting with Fitstar I’m much stronger and am in much better shape than I’ve been in for years.

Categories
Big Stuff (Life Management)

The Sunscreen Song

If you were in college or thereabouts in the late 90’s, no doubt you’ve heard The Sunscreen Song based on the fictitious MIT commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s simple, humble advice for everyone and only a few minutes long. It actually wasn’t by Kurt Vonnegut but a hypothetical address (if she were to give one) by a Chicago writer named Mary Schmich. It was later turned into an international hit song by Baz Luhrmann. I like to listen to it for advice every so often. Remember that many things in this site are my opinion, trust me on the sunscreen.

Categories
Kids

Placemats

We found it fun to have some reference materials for the kids to look at while they eat. Some of our favorites are: Addition and Subtraction, Presidents, sight words, map of the world, and map of the US . It’s not quite a placemat but I’ve found the the most useful thing for teaching kids basic math is a Hundreds Board (get 10 for $5 here).

Categories
Kids

Kid Electronics

Another favorite in our family is Snap Circuits. We have the basic kit, the extreme kit (with case, learning guides and almost everything you can imagine — though missing some light and sound items) and the deluxe rover. The Snap Circuits Jr. (basic kit)  has plenty to get started. Snap Circuits Jr. Select looks even better but seems harder to find (it’s not available on Amazon).

Categories
Books / Audiobooks / Podcasts / Articles

Radiolab

Radiolab is a more sciency take on podcasts (“lab” is short for laboratory). They do episodes on hard topics like logarithms and chirality. They’ve also done more lighthearted bits like the transformation of Professional Wrestling. They also did a great episode on a man who took a very different approach to the prisoner’s dilemma (for anyone who loves game theory, you’ll really love this!) Abigail and I saw them live. It was amazing. I learned about Radiolab from This American Life – Ira really likes them.

Categories
Life Hacking

Never Be Stuck Without an Umbrella

This one is from Mark Hurst. Buy two umbrellas, and keep one at home and the other at work or school. (Perhaps store another in the car.) Then grab an umbrella whenever it’s raining, and – this is the only hard part – remember to put the umbrella back in its place afterward. I find it best to leave the umbrella with my bag or whatever I’m taking back in the other direction.