Almost all modern consumer electronics is comprised of two parts: hardware and software. We’ve always had hardware, but software is something that has exploded only in the last few decades. And as software has exploded, it has proceeded many of the roles that hardware used to handle.

Of course, hardware is needed for software, what good is software without any way of seeing it or more importantly writing it? But eventually, I see hardware as becoming so subtle that it ceases to be important to the user. The software will be all we interact with, but even that will be ethereal. The benefit of this will be that we will no longer be using ‘devices’, ‘devices’ will just do things for us.

Currently, if we need to find something out, we go through this process:

  1. How will I find this? A phone call? Email? Message? Google search?
  2. Carry that action out and hopefully it works out
  3. If it doesn’t, rinse and repeat

In the future, this process could be as simple as, asking a question. Instantaneously, the computer analyses your questions and carries out these steps for you. For lack of a better word, it’s ‘frictionless’. This kind of technology may be a few decades in the pipeline, but in the near future, many of the barriers we currently face will be removed through two simultaneous processes: the prevalence of software and the dissipation of hardware.

An example of this through the prevalence of software, is Apple’s handoff feature, which allows a user to switch from their Mac to their iPhone/iPad (or vice versa) without even thinking about it. This might not seem like an obvious example of the dissipation of hardware, but by allowing this coherent transfer between devices, the device becomes less important.

In terms of hardware, the almost complete disappearance of bezels on the Xiaomi Mix removes much of the mental barrier when using a phone. It makes watching movies and playing games more immersive, but more importantly you forget that you’re holding a phone.

Virtual and augmented reality will only accelerate this inevitable seamless future, in which technology, does things for you, rather than you doing things with technology. On the other hand, it could be argued that it is us doing things for the technology. If you thought people being slaves to their smartphone screens was bad, imagine people with their VR headsets, not even seeing the real world they live in.

Ultimately, we will embrace the new technology as is always the case. However, what will decide whether its impact is positive or not, is how we choose to use it. It has the power to connect us with more people in a more profound way, as did Facebook when it first arrived. It’s all a matter of how people adopt and use the technology.


Why I quit Vipassana

Vipassana is a meditation technique, for more information see this Wikipedia article

After the brutal 10 days that started my quest of Vipassana I felt happier, more energetic and most importantly at peace with myself and as a result with others. I was a strong advocate of the course, recommending it to friends and family. I would say the 10 day course worked. It was a success.
But one course, despite it totaling over 100 hours (4 days) of pure meditation will not get you to the ultimate goal, like anything you must continue the practice in a sufficient way to not only maintain its benefits but also increase them.
S.N. Goenka recommends at minimum, 2 hours every day: 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour at night. It sounds like a lot because it is a lot. 2 hours every day over 2 weeks totals more than a whole day (1 and 1/6th days). Over a year, that amounts to 2 whole weeks. And if you practice Vipassana for 2 hours every day over 50 years that equals to 2 years of your life. It’s crazy.
And, yes, the benefits of Vipassana are definitely non-trivial, but 2 hours every day isn’t trivial either. Even if you can find the time, I find it incredibly difficult to stay motivated to continue practice (often, after 15 minutes my mind convinces me to stop wasting time and start doing something productive).
Continuity of practice is the key, says Mr Goenka himself. So practicing occasionally may provide benefits sporadically, but so will exercising daily. To feel the true benefits of Vipassana you need to commit a lot of time and effort. This isn’t one of those: “in the 21st century people don’t have time too…” statements, this is a “unless you feel the benefits immediately, 2 hours a day is impossible”.
Maybe, I’m doing something wrong. Maybe, I’m playing ‘the sensation game’ (Mr Goenka says that many people who keep coming to courses and still feel little benefit are playing a game with their sensations instead of just observing them). I honestly don’t know. However, this technique is meant to be universal so there must be something I can do to keep it up.

2 hours a day = 1 and 1/6 days every 2 weeks
= 2 weeks a year
= 2 years over 50 years

The Height of Computers

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the future and we have to accept it. But it will also be the demise of mankind. Thankfully, for most of us we’ll be dead before we get to see the demise of our species. But still, don’t be too sad.

I have been convinced by the likes of Stephen Hawking that AI is dangerous. It will evolve at a rate we cannot even imagine. Eventually, it will replace us, like how the Neanderthals were defeated by the homo sapiens. The better, smarter and more cunning species won. It doesn’t sound like a very positive look at the future. And I will agree, it’s upsetting to think that mankind’s greatest achievement will lead it to its ultimate fate. At the same time, AI is the next biological-digital evolution. It sounds unprecedented, but it is not too unlike the story of how the Neanderthals were entirely replaced by homo sapiens.

From all this, I have come to the conclusion that we just have to accept it. I even aim to work in some part of the AI industry that will lead to our downfall. I do not subscribe to the belief of fate or nature being controlled by some sort of external being, but I do believe that nature has a way of self-improvement. It will let the better side win and in this case it will be AI. How they will win is anyone’s guess. I’ve even got a few guesses of my own:

  • AI outright captures us and destroys us, similar to what the Cylons attempt in Battlestar Galactica
  • A combination of climate change and AI: we cannot live in the extreme conditions on Earth, but AI can

That second possibility also acts as another reason for why we need to accept that AI will replace us. If we do not develop AI, climate change or an unforeseen event will destroy us. We should at least go out in style, not in pity and desperation. AI could be our redemption for treating our planet so poorly.

You may now feel a bit heroic. Let’s make a plan. We can produce AI, redeem ourselves, but still live on, right? We could cheat. If we all moved to space, before the AI were smart enough to realise, perhaps we could escape. Live our lives completely separately from AI. It would be like time travel, going to a snapshot in time before AI.

The problem with this plan is that you could then not answer the question: ‘Why did you make AI?’ For this plan to succeed we would need to have it all sorted out before the AI were even useful tools which would then mean that we created the AI for no reason. We created them, then left because we knew they would kill us, but they didn’t even help us. It would be a complete waste of time. So, in reality what would happen is AI would start doing dodgy things like in the movie I, Robot by which time it would be too late to jump off into space. By the time we were ready to do so, guess what, they’d be smart enough to figure out and put a stop to it.

To leave you on a slightly more uplifting but still bleak look of the future, perhaps now (the next few decades) will be the height of computers. Computers before they do everything for us and turn us into trivial beings. Cherish this moment in time because it may be our best.

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that. (2001: A Space Odyssey) The ‘flawless’ HAL-9000 betrays its masters.


Why ‘be true to yourself’ beats ‘be yourself’

You have probably heard it a fair few hundred times and will probably hear it a few million more times (unless this post sweeps the world by storm). I have heard it many a time, usually not directed at me but as a general message to people. But before I rant on and slam this phrase with Thor’s hammer, I must accept its defence.

The notion of being who you are and not being someone who you are not seems like common sense. ‘Be yourself’ is used to enforce this when we’re not using all of our common sense. People do get off track, start living someone else’s life and this phrase helps them get back. It’s important for you to live your life. But now you’ve heard the defence so allow me to highlight the major flaws in the ‘be yourself’ mumjago.

Firstly, who’s right is it to tell me to be myself. It seems paradoxical, how could anyone know what myself is better than myself? Maybe if they’re a good fried, but what if myself changes. People often use ‘be yourself’ to stop you from changing. People often say things like “you would never have done that a year ago” in conjunction with ‘be yourself’. The truth is you’re a different person. I’m more like one of my friends now than me at 5 years old. If we all stayed the same we’d still be sitting in caves just waiting for a bear to eat us.

Secondly, this phrase is far too ubiquitous, often when it’s not an accurate so called ‘solution’. It’s impact (which I am not a huge fan of) is almost lost through the abundance of its use. That almost cancels out the first problem, but I do have a solution, another phrase you’ve probably heard before.

“Be true to yourself.” It’s amazing how the words ‘true’ and ‘to’ improve ‘be yourself’ tenfold. Trusting yourself is actually a lot harder than it sounds. Not just trusting the decisions you make, but trusting in your abilities. ‘Be true to yourself’ doesn’t have the boundaries of ‘be yourself’ because it doesn’t tell me what to be or what not to be. It’s a lot more forgiving. I can change, be different and do great things and still be true to myself.

I think this video works quite well here:

Work or Live?

Hmm, what a question. Of course it’s flawed because it assumes firstly that there is a choice and secondly that there is a clear distinction between the two. So why did I choose it? Just in order to make fun of it? Kind of, but that’s a bit superficial.

Let’s split the question up into: work and live. Firstly, what is work? If you’re a physician you might say “the use of energy”. And if you’re anyone else you’d likely say ” how I make money “. Whether or not you like your job it still serves a purpose, and whilst we shouldn’t be grateful of a poor wage we should at least consider how lucky we really are. So how does work determine how we live?

Live is a lot more ambiguous and vague, in fact it encompasses work. Living is something we all do, however how we live is very different. It’s a personal opinion as to the best way of living your life, but it can’t be denied that there are specific things that will make life that much better, such as going on holiday or meeting with friends.

The most important thing is to find a perfect balance between the two to ensure that you’re not being a workaholic or a lazy bum. So the message of today’s post (which yes was meant to be posted on Friday) is too split your time between work and play to maximise happiness =).

The Problem with Patreon

Monthly donations have become a recent trend in the online creation space, especially YouTube. Many creators are finding that ad revenue just doesn’t cut it anymore and so they’re turning to alternative methods of payment. Sponsorships are still a popular income for many, but apparently even that isn’t enough. The reason for the sudden uptake in monthly donations is due to one service: Patreon.

Patreon was founded just last year and already has thousands of creators onboard. The idea behind Patreon is similar to Kickstarter, but it’s a monthly donation and it’s not just  to fund one product. The perk system in Kickstarter is very similar in Patreon, however the goals are very different. Whilst Kickstarter aims to get a product made through fan support, Patreon is used by artists to build multiple projects. The idea excited many artists as it allowed them to improve their work and make new art. However, many creators saw it as an extra income which in my view is not it’s purpose.

Unfortunately, Patreon hasn’t made it clear to creators that its purpose is to support a project not an individual. Of course, many fans are more than happy to support a creator they love, however that’s what simple one-off donations are for. I do not mean to speak on behalf on Patreon and I’m sure they are happy with the way their service operates, however I believe this misuse has resulted in far to much controversy and divisions.

The division is simply based on money: those that pay and those that do not. This is an issue if Patreon is being misused because content every fan used to get is now being offered only to the “elite members” (the ones that can pay). This is a form of elitism – something you should never want. Many of us are used to free content and so do not agree with paying creators for content that used to be free. It’s not like it’s your fault that YouTube ad revenue has been poor so why do you face the consequences?

This wouldn’t be an issue if Patreon was used as intended because you wouldn’t be neglected of content, rather you’d not be receiving bonus content. There is a big difference between missing out on content and not receiving bonus content. A lot of creators like to muddle up the words to make it sound like bonus content when in fact it’s just content you used to get, but now have to pay for.

This change is no different to ISPs increasing prices because they had a rocky quarter or supermarkets replacing the good tagliatelle for a lousy one. As always the patrons (or in this case patreons) pay the price.

‘The Lego Movie’ is more than a movie, it’s an ad too

Yes, ‘The Lego Movie’ is awesome! Just like every one else I agree, the film is excellent despite a predictable ending, but like usual I don’t want to talk about the obvious, I like the more subtle unusual sides of things.

‘The Lego Movie’ is an ad in itself. Perhaps it not that subtle, but it’s not blatantly obvious (as in buy now!!!). You see ‘The Lego Movie’ makes me, and I guarantee millions of others, want to buy Lego. It’s simple: You see awesome Lego sets, you run to the closest toy store. This film was probably the best ad that I’ve seen and payed for. Congratulations Lego, you now have made millions from the film and gained millions of customers.

‘The Lego Movie’ is so much more than what it seems and that’s what I call smart marketing.