A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Innovators: a counterpoint

I finished listening to The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Unabridged) by Walter Isaacson, narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris on my Audible app. Try Audible and get it free: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B00M9KA2ZM&source_code=AFAORWS04241590G4

Walter Isaacson is my favorite biographer, but in The Innovators Isaacson departs a little from his focus on a singular genius, in order to extract the zeitgeist of the digital revolution.  In brush strokes evoking the genesis, development, & future of the digital revolution, Isaacson presents an argument for the primacy of symbiotic relationships, teamwork, and evolutionary bootstrapping in fostering the innovation and spread of digital tools that will continue to augment human capabilities instead of the nightmare of robots replacing us.

Isaacson contextualizes the philosophies, breakthroughs in hardware, software, networking, and Artificial Intelligence , as well as individuals and teams who have made significant contributions. He presents a view skeptical of visions of Terminators and super intelligence, and emphasizes more of a human-machine partnership, with humanity providing the creativity, hopes, and dreams to the partnership moving forward.

Isaacson only briefly addresses the premise of futurists such as Ray Kurzweill, Yuval Noah Hariri, and Max Tegmark, that within a few decades a highly competent super intelligence will evolve, sparked by advances in processing power and the reverse engineering of the human brain. Because of this limitation, Isaacson 's work shoukd be supplemented. Life 3.0 presents a plausible scenario in the first chapter of a superintelligence escaping a pandora's box that is must reading. How To Create a Mind provides a layman's technical overview of the development of AI alongside the reverse engineering of the human brain. Homo Deus, similar to Life 3.0, places the development of AI in an biological and post-biological evolutionary context.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

American Gods: Poetic Insights

I finished listening to American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (A Full Cast Production) (Unabridged) by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes, full cast on my Audible app. Try Audible and get it free: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0055274U2&source_code=AFAORWS04241590G4

American Gods was recommended by a friend,  I had recently read the author's book about Norse mythology, and I needed some fiction - so I was curious enough to dive in. Some of the character names and scenarios initially made it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief. The plunge was worth it, because Neil Gaiman was able to capture the intersection of banal American pragmatism and mythic exceptionalism in a light-hearted, entertaining American spirit.

Gaiman's liberal employment of cultural icons including a road trip, a down on his luck ex-con hero, prestidigitation, a murder mystery, a small town, conspiracies, fast food, folk music, poetry, and shared legends, chipped away at my disbelief. Despite the improbability of my suspension of disbelief  about a mythology set in a place where it can be difficult for gods to survive, Gaiman managed to hook me. He weaved in a plethora of anticipation and surprise, which kept me curious enough to take in a whale of a tale.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Behave: not my favorite, but as important as any

I finished listening to Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (Unabridged) by Robert M. Sapolsky, narrated by Michael Goldstrom on my Audible app. Try Audible and get it free: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B06XW3MVNF&source_code=AFAORWS04241590G4

Behave is not my favorite book because it casts such a wide net, yet it is so important precisely because it casts such a wide net. Sapolsky proposes a grand multifactorial theory evidencing how complicated behavior is, largely in counterpoint to a proliferation of oversimplifying single factor explanations skewing public debate about what causes the best and worst of public behavior. The author's command the nitty gritty of neuroscience, endocrinology, and primatology lends gravitas to his pointed challenges to sociology, theology, and legal traditions. The skeptic in me revels in the mastery with which the author pops intellectual balloons, but my pragmatic side, always seeking prescriptions to daily and longer term problems wonders: how can I use this? It reminds me of an all-in-one tool when I'm in need of a hammer.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Kardashians go to Washington

I finished listening to Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Unabridged) by Michael Wolff, narrated by Michael Wolff, Holter Graham on my Audible app. Try Audible and get it free:


Timely, obviously. Entertaining, like junk food. Wolff's fly on the wall methods give insights worth considering, but the book is not a revelation, as anyone following #trumprussia for the past year already knows the story. What has emerged in drip, drip, drip fashion was simply poured in a Big Gulp cup for quick consumption.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Life 3.0: Essential Reading

I finished listening to Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (Unabridged) by Max Tegmark, narrated by Rob Shapiro on my Audible app. Try Audible and get it free: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0742K1G4Q&source_code=AFAORWS04241590G4

Max Tegmark's Life 3.0 is probably the most important book I've read since I read Ray Kurzweil's Age of the Spiritual Machines over a decade ago. Having recently read Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, Yuval Noah Hariri's Homo Deus, Sidhartha Mukergee's The Gene, among a fairly extensive list of books on Audible converging on developments in AI, Biology, Neuroscience, biographies of scientists and engineers, Life 3.0 offers a way forward through a confusing thicket of possibilities. The questions the author raises in Life 3.0 are reminiscent of Sir Francis Bacon's admonition at the dawn of science that science be used for the purposes of life.

Visit Max Tegmark's Future of Life Institute

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Walter Isaacson's Delightful Leonardo DaVinci

I was surprised to experience so much delight in listening to an audible biography of Leonardo DaVinci. So much about the master I did not know, including his philosophy and how he worked. Even without the visuals, I have a better apprecation of the power of his curiosity and observation skills. While I have studied the Renaissance, I did not have an intimate feel for how the artist / scientist might study and apply what he learned from natural phenomena such as rivers, light, and even ringlets of hair. Nor did I appreciate the humanity of his various family and social roles. Now, I can try to think a little more like Leonardi Da Vinci.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Net Neutrality

Re: Net Nuetrality

Dear Mr. Pai, Mr. O Rielly, and Mr. Carr:

I urge you to vote no on any proposal that would weaken or eliminate Net Neutrality regulations. An open Internet that requires Internet Service Providers to ensure equal access to content providers; i.e., a level playing field, on the basis of 1st Amendment rights to free speech and 14th Amendment rights to equal protection, and because it would destroy that which is greatest about the Internet. An Internet with Net Neutrality ensures an equal opportunity for all people to get their message out to the global marketplace of ideas and conduct discourse, including children, the elderly, and all others. Please preserve Net Neutrality regulations to continue the free flow of ideas in a time when the need for a free flow of ideas has never been greater. Vote no.


Daniel Kurland