Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Future educational assets

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Every time I teach now, there is a Zoom recording. This is a fundamental shift from the former status quo, in which each lecture was something of an ephemeral thing.

It is clear that all across the world, educational content is being recorded and archived, in quantities never before seen. That is potentially a wonderful global-wide asset.

Shouldn’t there be a complementary effort to aggregate and organize all of these new-found intellectual riches? We are sitting on top of an educational opportunity that the world has never before seen.

I, for one, am excited by the possibilities.

A good start

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

This morning I woke up with the energy to get a number of things done that had been hanging over my head. Maybe it’s because of the approaching Thanksgiving break, but I really wanted to get those things out of the way and off my plate.

There is something wonderful about getting your day off to a good start — just getting everything squared away and being able to clear your mind for whatever comes next.

Annoying shadows always lurk at the corners of our lives, telling us “I know I really should…” (you can fill in the rest of the sentence for yourself). It is so nice when we can shine a nice bright light on those shadows, and watch them disappear.

At least for a while. :-)

Future physical appearance

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Suppose we end up standardizing, as a social norm, on not being physically co-located. What will that mean for fashion and appearance?

When the “normal” way to interact with another person face to face is through the intervention of technology, will we start to change our views of appearance? Will standards of beauty change when how we look in a social situation becomes a fashion accessory rather than an endowment from nature?

Will there be brave and hardy souls who buck the trend and insist, even generations down the line, on appearing in their natural form, the way nature created them? And if so, will other people tolerate this?

Or will being a “naturalist” become something shunned. Or will it even become illegal, the way it is now illegal to walk around in public without clothing?

I guess only time will tell.

Time management

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

How much of life comes down to time management? Given that we usually don’t know how long we have left to live, this seems like an important question.

Assuming a fixed (but unknown) number of years X remaining in your life, how should you use those years? One perspective would be to be as efficient as possible, planning everything out and not wasting a moment, so that you can wring as much out of your time as possible.

Yet another perspective would be that you should do almost the opposite: Relax, enjoy, savor every moment. Rather than spending your time building like a busy ant, you should treat yourself to a sip or two of wine and some good chocolate, wander among trees, spend your evenings simply contemplating the beauty of the sunset over a lake.

I know a number of people who hew to the first philosophy, and others who embrace the second. Both types seem quite certain that they are on the best path.

Meanwhile, there are other factors to consider. While the remaining time X may be unknown, it is not immutable. There are lifestyles that tend to extend life, and others that shorten it.

So I guess a proper answer to my original question involves weaving together these two variables: How to spend your moments, and how to increase the number of years that will contain those moments.

Maybe this requires more thought. :-)

A tree

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

a tree has wisdom
Reaching upward it knows to
Hold fast to its roots

Working backward

Friday, November 20th, 2020

If you want to explain the benefits of electricity, you don’t start with the design of an electrical outlet, or the way electrical networks are organized. Instead, you might talk about the benefits of refrigeration, air conditioning or electric lights.

We have a similar obligation when talking about a future technology. We should not start with how it works, but rather with the impacts it will have.

This is generally not easy, since a technology can change lots of things, particularly when combined with other technologies.

For example, Uber and Lyft required both Smartphones and affordable geolocation. To make a proper prediction about those services, you would have needed to anticipate several different technologies.

But the principle remains: in order to properly talk about the impact of future technologies, you need to work backwards: first understand the potential impact, and only then move on to details about how the thing works.


Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Change is almost never bad
But losing old words can be sad
These days we say “fresh” or “rad”
For things we once called “groovy”

Yet for the new we must make room
And leave the old ways to their doom
The day will come we’ll think of Zoom
As like a silent movie

how often

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

how often does life
surprise you in just one day
and turn on a dime?

Dog gossip

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

Have you ever noticed that when people take a dog on a walk, the dog usually gets really interested in any poop it finds from other dogs? A dog will nearly always stop and sniff with great seriousness, as though the poop contains important information.

It’s as though there is a secret language, transmitted by smell, which only dogs know. A way for them to communicate which seems useless to anyone else, but is apparently of great importance to them.

So maybe smelling poop is how dogs gossip.

Or it could be the other way around. Maybe when we humans gossip, it’s our way of leaving poop for other people to find.


Monday, November 16th, 2020

I wonder whether there will be a backlash from the right against the current temporary resident of the White House. This whole “sore loser” thing is doing the one thing that people never tolerate, whatever their political affiliation — making them look bad.

We might end up getting something healthy out of this — a conservative wing that is not in thrall to a wacky cult of narcissism. I think that’s a great thing, because any democracy needs a balance of power.

But when one side of that power balance loses its dignity, and is held hostage by a character straight out of a Loony Toons cartoon, things don’t go well for anybody. Maybe now things will be better.