O’Connor and the Doctrine of Discovery, part 1

I have been reading the various articles that are discussing the life and work of the recently deceased supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Each article attempts to assess her judicial significance.

Curiously, nobody seems to have mentioned the one ruling of hers which perhaps had the most far-reaching impact, in terms of what it says about the very nature of our society.

I still need time to organize my thoughts about this, so more tomorrow.


Sometimes it feels as though software development is a process of enfolding. You start out with a fairly simple system, and then you think “Hey, what if I try to add this cool feature?”

So you build a demo of that feature using your system. But after you get it working, you realize that you want that capability to work everywhere within your system.

So you move it inward. Instead of a demo, it becomes a core capability, implemented in one of your system’s internal libraries.

What’s nice about this transition is that once something has become enfolded — made the transition from demo to core capability — it is then able to work together with all of your system’s other core capabilities. And that’s a lot more fun for everybody.

Wondrous things

There was a time before indoor plumbing, before electrical outlets in our walls, before wireless phone reception everywhere. What fascinates me when I think about this is the knowledge that nobody missed these things before they existed.

People didn’t think “Gee, I wish I could have clean running water magically appearing in my kitchen whenever I want it.” And people didn’t think “I wish I could just flip a switch and my home would suddenly be filled with light.” And people didn’t think “I wish that I could have a conversation right now with anyone, wherever they or I may be in the world.”

Yet it is now hard to think of living without these things. In the future, I wonder what wondrous things we will not be able to live without.

Dynamic furniture

There are two things we generally care about when it comes to furniture: How it looks and how it feels. Because of the limitations imposed by physical materials, these two are often linked.

However, there may come a point where we are mainly seeing the furniture in many rooms through the lens of extended reality. In public places, in particular, it may eventually be considered rude to remove one’s XR eyewear, and so in such places we will be “wearing” all the time.

When that happens, how a chair looks and how that same chair feels can be completely decoupled from one another. But is this a good thing or a bad thing?

In the words of Rufus E. Miles, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”


I hate deadlines, but I admit that without them I would probably not get much done. So you could say it’s a love/hate relationship.

That final crunch can help you a bunch.
The thing you dread is what gets you ahead.
What makes you scream puts you on the team.
What drives you crazy helps you not be lazy.
What prods your ass makes you top of the class.

I deal with my fear, as deadlines near,
And the pressure climbs, by making rhymes. 🙂

Future board games

In order to play a board game like Monopoly or Chess or Scrabble, you need just the right equipment. Alas, most of the time when you are hanging out with friends, you don’t have a Monopoly or Chess or Scrabble board with you.

But soon that won’t be a problem. As soon as you and your friends put on your XR specs, the board will materialize on the table in front of you.

On the one hand, this seems like a step backward. Instead of a being tangible experience, these games will become ephemeral.

Yet there is another way of looking at it. Many more people will be able to play them. And that can’t be a bad thing, right?

A room with a view

Right now the value of real estate varies tremendously with whether or not it has a good view. Alas, no matter how much money you pay, you always get the same view.

At some point, when extended reality specs become as numerous as smartphones are today, that will change. You will be able to decide what view out of your window that you want on any given day, whether of The Eiffel Tower, or of the Grand Canyon, or of a lunar landscape.

I wonder what that will do to the value of real estate.

A.I. Etiquette, part 2

Our understanding that we are dealing with a fellow human is not something intellectual. It is instinctive, innate, part of our biology.

We don’t reject the humanity of chatbots because they are insufficiently capable. We reject their humanity because they are not human.

It means nothing to us if they are turned off, or duplicated, or altered in various ways, because there is nothing really at stake.

In contrast, we view each human life as inherently precious, and the loss of a human life as a tragedy. This is not intellectual. It is tribal, it is
primal, and it is baked into our DNA.

The rate of A.I. development is not relevant here. In this realm, there are larger forces at work.

A.I. Etiquette, part 1

Today I wanted to confirm whether I already needed to make payment on a bill, so I called the number written on the bill statement. Not surprisingly, the call was answered by a virtual person.

“She” was very polite, and she asked me some questions to verify it was really me, guiding me through the process. At some point she said “Your bill is not due until November 30. Would you like to pay now?”

At that point, I just hung up the phone. The bill was not yet due, so I didn’t need to pay anything, and there was no point in continuing.

Had I been talking to a real person, I would have exchanged some sort of pleasantries before hanging up. Presumably I would have thanked the person for their time, wished them a good Thanksgiving holiday, and so forth. But in this case, since there was no actual person on the other end, I simply hung up.

Afterward, the question occurred to me as to whether A.I. will ever advance enough to change my behavior. In other words, in that same situation, given a sufficiently advanced A.I. agent, would I ever feel the need to first exchange pleasantries with that agent, rather than simply hanging up the phone?

I suspect that the answer is no, and I think the reasons are profound and important. More tomorrow.