Brotopia (vs Personal Responsibility)

There are a few ways out of the despair loop. The what?

The despair loop. That completely engaging cyclic thought train that keeps one occupied with no benefit. The wallowing in how things didn’t go the way they ought. The deepening of the dilemma by taking in more negative perspectives that reinforce the one you already hold. The doomscrolling of the newsfeed that feeds you more of what you engage with – and because you engaged with the negative-bias perspectives, you get more of that.

That loop. Ever been there? Me too.

For me the despair is usually related to climate and complete dysfunction of the political apparatus when it comes to dealing with climate issues. Lately my despair has been hijacked a bit by AI and robotics related concern. Take a look at any of the entries under ‘On Climate’ and you’ll see some of the despair on your screen. Nonetheless, optimism > pessimism and of course, optimism is the path to solution-focus. Optimism, however, can get us into trouble too. Pragmatism lies somewhere in the middle.

Dangerous Pessimism

This one is easy. Its the default position for many. See the danger. Shut down. Decry there is no point in trying.

When it comes to climate, this usually looks like “they do it too, so why do anything” (blamists), or, “its too big for me to deal with” (fatalists), or “human presence is too small to affect climate” (denialists), or “well I’m just one person, my changing won’t do anything really” (solipsists).

I’m guilty of at least 2 of these over the course of my life. I’ve been aware of and concerned about climate change since I read about it in my “Weekly Reader” back in 5th grade (i.e. in the late 70’s!).

But not anymore.

Dangerous Optimism

Some think climate change is all just natural cycles and will work itself out eventually, and if humans are not part of that future, so be it. I list this under optimism because they still think it will sort itself regardless, and seem to think that if humanity largely dies out, that’s just how it was supposed to be.

Others think climate change just isn’t really an issue and we’ll all be fine and don’t worry about it. I think this is becoming more rare as more folks are directly affected, or someone they know is directly affected. A friend whose house burned down or was smashed by a tornado or worse, lost a loved one to the ever-more-common weather catastrophes.

The scariest perspective is “technology will save us, so I don’t need to do anything”. Whether you think its AI, Robots, Science and Technology in general – there is a naive, myopic, self-centered rationalization going on that helps you disregard your impact, and the impact of the companies who make/sell/deliver the products that you buy. This perspective I am calling Brotopia. A completely irrational and unjustified reliance on the silicon valley bros to somehow row us out of the ever-deepening swirling vortex of climate hell that we have found ourselves in.


Don’t buy into Brotopia. All of you who think that these billionaires and billionaire-hopefuls have your best interests at heart, have the planets wellbeing in mind – for the love of all that used to be clean air – stop it. Greed leads to power. Power corrupts. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this just about everywhere in American corporations and politics (and abroad but…home is here in the US for me).

Yes I love that Bill Gates wants to do more nuclear stuffs and fusion stuffs, as does Sam Altman and others. Absolutely love it. You can love it too. Even believe it!

But do not believe that this releases you from a duty to yourself, your community, and your world to do your personal utmost to minimize your potentially climate-impacting activities.

The pragmatic person takes action. Action is the antidote to despair. The pragmatist would do everything they could, AND remain hopeful/optimistic that it matters. The pragmatic person would recycle even though the latest news tries to convince them its pointless. The pragmatic person would drive an electric car even though the news says they don’t fare well in deep cold. The pragmatic person would write and call their congress-person and lobby for legislation that moves the needle on the problem. And more…

So don’t be pessimistic. Be cautious with your optimism. Be pragmatic.

Above all, let go of the magical thinking. Don’t rely on those who profit from fear-pandering to save us all and usher in a new era of climate wellness. It’s really not in their best interests.

AI for Fun and Profit, and Augmentation?

There’s a lot of debate on how to capitalize on the success of generative-AI large-language-models like ChatGPT. While clever scientists and engineers are working to optimize the cost-basis of running these models, content creators and patent/license/copyright trolls alike are worrying about how they get paid. Content creators worry when the possibilities for competition just went exponential, or their past content is repurposed within an AI that largely obfuscates the sources. Patent trolls worry for the obfuscated sources.

Are we looking at it all wrong? If we simply accept AI-generated content as the statistically-amalgamated regurgitation-machine-expulsion that it is – can we stop looking to extend old ideas of revenue and instead use the shiny new tools to enhance our own capabilities and create new paths to revenue? After all, Napster vs Record Companies still concluded with iTunes, Spotify, Pandora…

Creativity is dead. The rebirth of creativity. AI seeds, not trees.

Maybe we need to cite an “alternative reference” concept of where to get these ideas? As a musician I can often list which bands I liked whose general vibe made it into a new song I wrote. Sometimes not. As a software architect I can usually very roughly trace a path through the various things I’ve learned and how they inform a new design – but I also realize some of the dots being connected are uniquely mine. So – they are all “influences” for me.

Rather than citing references in an AI model, we could instead consider them influences as a writer or an artist would see it?

Another thought. If the AI became equivalently proficient in the creation of music as it has been of late with words and then perhaps we would see/hear this argument differently.

Once, stories were told from one person to the next, and knowledge was passed.

Eventually, letters and words and it got easier. People would read and summarize, reference and write anew. Their ideas were magnified when the printing press came around. The snowball was rolling down the hill.

A bit later the internet dramatically shifted how knowledge and creative endeavors could be shared. Suddenly everyone could publish their ideas.

Enter generative AI. It’s been trained on all of the above. Good and bad. Right and wrong. Smart and dumb.  It doesn’t know the difference. Don’t be fooled into thinking it does.

A part of me initially worried about this scary new world. If people stop creating and start simply using this extra clever regurgitation/synthesis machine, it will be the death of creativity, right? Of original content! And for lazy folks, that may be true, but what would they have achieved anyhow?.

What if, instead, the basic building blocks of knowledge and creativity have been leveled up in a nearly incomprehensible way?

Setting aside all the lawyers who have drawn their swords. Leaving behind all the content creators who think they deserve a piece of any wins they can get on a suddenly, much longer content derivative versus fair use argument.

Allowing all of that to be the squeaky wheels of real change, can we envision a reality where the baseline of knowledge, or at least awareness of knowledge, has been exponentially leveled up?

This is only the beginning. Run toward the explosion to succeed.

No generative language models were used in the writing of this post, including ChatGPT.  Though maybe it would be better if they had.

And except for the top image, which was generated via Invoke-AI Stable-Diffusion invoker.

More Than Our (Social) Network

Our social world is our network. Always has been. “Tribal” was a kind of network, and it still is. Rolodex was a kind of network, and no longer is. It has been replaced by digital integrations. 

We still have Tribes but in some cases they have reshaped around whatever creates the most “engagement”, as measured by profit from those providing the algorithms to ‘show us what we want’. 

It was never supposed be the case.  While I don’t believe that it was ever unbiased, at one time the masses listened to the same voices at the national level, and at the local level, voices representing their region. That is now broken for many. In part due to unavailability of truly ‘local’ news, and in part due to the faction-oriented (think cnn, fox) spin introduced by the replacements.  So we’re all hearing a different message, one that resonates with us and those who ‘think like us’. 

Is it any surprise that the systems that ‘give us what we want’ match us up with people who ‘think like us’?

The dangers of “group think” are well documented. Though if you use that link I can’t guarantee what you’ll see, because what you’ll see is biased to what it thinks you want, unless you are in “private mode” and in a region similar to where this is being typed.

So how do we get away from group think? I’d say stop reading social media, but that is just part of it. I’d say stop watching your mobile news feed (be it google news, apple news, or pretty much anything else!) but that is just part of it.  I’d say stop watching the TV news…but that’s is just part of it.

All of the options I listed, that most of us are consuming, are financed by biased opinions, either for or against certain key political issues. In other words, the richest finding ways through sprawling unbelievable influence chains to put their ideas in our heads – or stop ideas from coming to us.

Or maybe you are the big social media user “I get my news through Facebook” type. That’s even more filtered, still highly influenced by ad dollars but also fine tuned to the things that inflame you because anger is the strongest attractor and retainer of the user. That’s what the ad buyers like.

You know what is missing? What can’t be bought? Honest, critical thought in conversation. Heated? Sure. Angry? Sometimes. It is unfortunate that so many of us, this author included, dislike having conversations about political things and the like. Perhaps this is why it is generally seen as impolite to discuss in all but the smallest of gatherings. Or the largest such as rallies of already-like-minded constituents.

Of course we ARE more than our social network. Yet I fear our social network is “just enough” for us to feel the barest need for connection has been met!  Too often we’d rather not work harder and have larger social interactions. It takes guts and faith to be an activist.  It takes guts, grit, vision and confidence to be a concerned citizen willing to sit and listen to the merits, not the emotions of arguments; to decide and follow through on action.  This level of nuance is nearly always lost in social media posts and feeds.

“The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance. …  How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!”

Autobiographical dictation, 2 December 1906. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2 (University of California Press, 2013)

Why It Is Impossible For Tesla To Fail

Why do technologies languish? Why do they boom? What happens in between? 


While each story of technology growth carries its own unique details, it is commonly perceived that wildly successful tech “came out of nowhere”. Of course this is nonsense, and whether you check in now, a decade ago, a hundred or a thousand years ago, every “leap” is a painstaking endeavor of many years, usually by many people. So far as I know, this is without exception. Edison had 2,332 patents to his name. Brilliant man to be sure, but everything he produced he started by learning from the writings of his predecessors in his fields of interest.

Most of “the greats” were of course brilliant. Leaps are leaps because of these abilities to connect dots. But by and large any of the amazing things you take for granted are the effort of decades and even centuries of research, learning, trying a thousand things, and finally making an inch of progress.

That’s the way apparent “leaps” take place. What about the other situation? The case where the key components of a “leap” are all present, but the will to make the leap is suppressed by the inertia of existing industry? This is not referring to the case of modestly equivalent technologies succeeding simply because of better marketing plans or downright dirty tricks – e.g. the VHS/Betamax debate et al. This is not the case of “both are good, some like one more than the other” – coke vs. pepsi, android vs iphone. 

Motivation & Opportunity vs The Bottom Line

What I’m talking about is real industry inertia, fealty to near-term bottom lines, the root cause of unethical exercise of capitalism. For years, even decades, we possessed the ability to make electric cars. The technology existed. Prototypes were made. I’ve seen cars that run not only on electricity, but also on compressed air, steam, kinetic flywheels, and hydrogen. I’m sure there’s others. Some of these designs were truly viable. None were mass produced or even attempted a consumer market push. 

Why did Tesla succeed? Because co-founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning did not ask permission. They didn’t try to convince one of the big auto makers to start making the product based on their designs. They sought buy-in from investors with vision. They found the money, the vision, the desire, and they got to work. They made electric cars sexy, premium, desirable. Expensive. 

Now, they are trying to make them affordable. Now they have proven there is a market. They are stumbling. The cars aren’t rolling off the line like they thought they would. People are buying, and waiting 18 months for a car. Crazy! What if they can’t get it together? What if they go bankrupt trying to staunch their production woes, and simply can’t pull it off? What if all the silly press about them failing becomes a reality?

They still succeeded.

Not to their shareholders, not to their employees I’m sure – but to history. To the planet. 

What is the Measure of Success?

Ford, Toyota, GM, Volkswagon…etc – the big car companies – the ones who couldn’t stave off profits and shareholder payouts for the duration it would have taken to retool their amazing production line capabilities to produce electric cars – these guys now realize they are losing business because of Tesla. So [just about every single one of them is producing, or has produced, at least one model of electric car]( The race is on to make electric vehicles viable. To make distribution of charging stations as commonplace as fuel pumps. Finally, these guys have been hit hard enough in the bottom line, or at least can see it coming, that they are galvanized to action.

If they can’t react to fears of global warming and planetary destruction, at least they can react to market share reduction and government restrictions on emission levels.

So even if Tesla goes belly up, and Elon Musk has to come and sleep on my couch while he writes the next Paypal, Tesla has succeeded beyond my wildest imaginings. They moved an immovable object. Galvanized an industry (by becoming the competition). Proved a market. One might even say, in the longer term, they have changed the world.  

So whether they are historically seen more in the light of Lise Meitner, a crucial scientist in the understanding of nuclear fission, and who is completely unknown by the general public, or Thomas Edison who invented half of modern technology, I can only see them as a wild success. 

Why I’m Hyped About Augmented Reality

As quickly as possible: Augmented Reality is the experience of projected information into/onto the physical world, as perceived by a user with an AR-capable device such as a handset or headset. This information can be anything a computer can generate: directions, names, a pretend cup of coffee, zombies. Anything.

Augmented Reality (AR) is the sleeper/creeper technology of the last decade. While VR took off on the Great Technology Hype Rocket, AR has languished in the public space. Giant companies with lots of money quietly worked on things that they needed for their business, or in some cases like Microsoft Hololens, just bit the bullet and decided to be first to market with a super high cost giant-headset solution. This is NOT a knock to the Hololens, which is perfectly cool in its own right – but – somebody had to be first. Somebody had to just start developing this technology commercially so it can start the cycle of improvements.


Because AR is the future. AR is not a toy, a gadget, hype, a parlor trick, a kiosk widget, or a new gaming platform. AR is the future of the human/machine interface. We have been seeing the potential for this in the movies for a long time. Minority Report comes to mind for many when they hear about AR. Maybe even something like Robocop with the bio readouts and intent of the people in front of him. 

Regardless of which fictional scenario comes to mind, the advantages of this “virtually” unlimited new paradigm of interfacing with machines should be self evident.

Imagine instructions that build the thing you are making while you are making it, always one step ahead, removing the guesswork.

Imagine seeing the building across the street that is just a bunch of beams, in it’s projected final form.

Imagine glancing at your ingredients for dinner and being able to watch them come together, or perhaps a nice suspended alert that lets you know you are overcooking the carrots right now.

Imagine a world where people all wear contact lenses or glasses that superimpose useful information/graphics into their daily experience in ways that enhance their own interests and capacities – you know, like a cellphone except everybody doesn’t need to be walking around with their heads down anymore.

It should be mentioned that AR capabilities alone are not the only reason this technology is cresting. The massive improvements in Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that have enabled voice-to-text to not suck, and impact most areas of our digital life in ways we don’t even know, also power the AR capabilities that make it a viable consumer solution/medium.

For all that AR + AI sounds like a big scary electronic future, if you really consider the effective result – it is giving us our humanity back from the dominance of the handheld – in particular once headsets are viable, reasonably priced, and socially acceptable. It gives us back looking at each other, and looking around our environment. It gives us back eye contact – although one probably can’t be certain the other person is making eye contact with you, and not a superimposed AR alien…

This year saw the release of Apple’s ARKit, and Google’s ARCore, and with those, the recognition that “hey, attractive AR-enabling eyeware isn’t yet available – but AR can still be useful, lets get to it!” We build on these tools, and the hands free version can’t be far behind.

So let’s all get really good at AR so they stop trying to build chips that wire directly into your brain…