Ants and the Superintelligence

I’ll start with my bias – I’m very optimistic about the superintelligence.

Yesterday I gave two talks in Minneapolis. One was to an internal group of Target employees around innovation. In the other, I was interviewed by my partner Seth (for the first time), which was fun since he’s known me for 16 years and could ask unique questions given our shared experiences.

I can’t remember in which talk the superintelligence came up, but I rambled on an analogy to try to simply describe the superintelligence which I’ve come up with recently that I first saw in The AI Revolution: Our Immortality or ExtinctionI woke up this morning thinking about it along with one of the questions Seth asked me where my answer left me unsatisfied.

I’ve been reading most of what I could get my hands on about current thoughts and opinions about the superintelligence and the evolution of what a lot of people simply refer to as AI. I’ve also read, and am rereading, some classical texts on this such as Minsky’s Society of the Mind. It’s a challenging subject as it functions at the intersection of computer science and philosophy combined with humans efforts to define and describe the unknown.

My ants and the superintelligence rant is a way for me to simply explain how humans will related to the superintelligence, and how the superintelligence will relate to humans.

If I’m a human, I am curious about and study ants. They have many interesting attributes that are similar to other species, but many that are unique. If you want to learn more in an efficient way, read anything written about them by E. O. Wilson. While I may think I know a lot about ants, I fundamentally can’t identify with them, nor can I integrate them into my society. But I can observe and interact with them, in good and bad ways, both deliberately as well as accidentally. Ponder an ant farm or going for a bike ride and driving over an ant hill. Or being annoyed with them when they are making a food line across your kitchen and calling the exterminator. Or peacefully co-existing with them on your 40 acres.

If I’m an ant, there are giant exogenous forces in my world. I can’t really visualize them. I can’t communicate with them. I spent a lot of time doing things in their shadow but never interacting with them, until there is a periodic overlap that often is tragic, chaotic, or energizing. I get benefit from the existence of them, until they accidentally, or deliberately, do something to modify my world.

In my metaphor, the superintelligence == humans and humans == ants.

Ponder it. For now, it’s working for me. But tell me why it does work so I can learn and modify my thinking.

It’s All About The Entrepreneur

I’m in Minneapolis with my partner Seth. We had a meeting at Best Buy headquarters, met with a gang from the Mayo Clinic who drove up from Rochester, spent the afternoon at the Techstars Retail Accelerator which is at Target headquarters, and had dinner with Revolar. We are at the Techstars Retail Accelerator again today, then at Leadpages for a board meeting, and wrapping up with an internal Target event and an external startup community event put on by Beta.MN.

It’s two full days of immersion in the Minneapolis startup community. As I crawled into bed last night after jamming through my email, I smiled and thought to myself that Seth and I had a good day with a bunch of people talking about the power of entrepreneurship – and how the entrepreneurs are the leaders – while getting to work with a bunch of entrepreneurs.

I woke up to Fred Wilson’s post Understanding VCs and nodded my way through it. I particularly loved how he started.

VCs are not heroes. We are just one part of the startup ecosystem. We provide the capital allocation function and are rewarded when we do it well and eventually go out of business when we don’t do it well. I know. I’ve gone out of business for not doing it well.

If there are heroes in the startup ecosystem, they are the entrepreneurs who take the biggest risks and create the products, services, and companies that we increasingly rely on as tech seeps into everything.

What Fred said.

VCs – go read his post and reflect on it.

Entrepreneurs – go read his post and take it to heart.

Fred – thanks for saying it so well in your inimitable direct style. Understanding VCs is one for the books …

Book: Dark Matter

An annoying thing about Twitter Search is that it’s not good enough to help me find who tweeted at me that Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is something I should read. I scrolled through my @mentions until I was annoyed after trying to search but not being able to figure out how to scope the search so I could only search @mentions = bfeld (or maybe my problem is that it should be @mentions == @bfeld).

Whoever it was – thank you! Dark Matter was awesome. It’s the first book I read Saturday as part of my decompress from the week and feel better from trying to eat yogurt maneuver that I ended up playing out throughout the day.

I love near term sci-fi. I especially love right now sci-fi – stuff that happens in current time but incorporates a scientific breakthrough that is currently being explored.

Dark Matter is all about the concept of an infinite number of parallel universes. The scientific breakthrough is the notion of quantum superposition easily explained by the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment.

The book is a magnificently fast romp that includes kidnapping, research institutions, love, family, death, religion, the nature of the universe, psychological intrigue, really complex relationship dynamics, and a whole bunch of other stuff that makes a novel irresistible to put down. There were a few plot twists that I anticipated or figured out before they came, but generally I rode the wave of the book.

If you are a sci-fi fan or just like a great action adventure novel with nerdy underpinnings, this is for you. And if you are wondering whether we are actually just part of a computer simulation, this book will help you understand that theory better.

Book: String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis

I love tennis. I love David Foster Wallace. And I needed a book on the couch day after a gruelingly long week where I started feeling better and then was flattened this morning by a few spoons of my yogurt and peach breakfast.

String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis was the second book I read today (the first was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – more on that in another post) and it was delightful.

DFW was a tennis player and a pretty good one, especially as a junior player. If you’ve read Infinite Jest, you know that in addition to playing tennis, he is uniquely remarkable in how he writes about it.

String Theory was a collection of five prior long essays (or whatever the long essay equivalent of a novella is) about tennis. The first is about his childhood tennis experience titled Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley. Next is a delicious, curious, and sad essay titled How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart. The meatiest story is the third one titled Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Limitation, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness. I could have read this one twice and still not milked all the juice out of it. I paused after it and got some pretzels to munch on.

Having been to the U.S. Open a half dozen times, I completely identified with Democracy and Commerce at the U.S. Open. And the I remembered reading the last essay – Federer Both Flesh and Not – when it was published in 2006 as Federer as a Religious Experience in The New York Times PLAY Magazine. It used the Federer / Nadal Wimbledon 2006 final as the backdrop for its focus on Federer.

Once again, the footnotes are often better than the essay/story, as DFW lets his hair down (such as it was) and really lets loose on what is going on – unfiltered – between his ears.

I loved this book. If you are a tennis player or fan, do yourself a favor and get String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis (it’s only in hardcopy and worth reading the old school non-digital way.) If you are a DFW fan, you’ve probably already read it (if you haven’t, prioritize!)

Fitbit Pole to Pole Badge

I love getting this in my inbox. Over the past few years I’ve walked from the North Pole to the South Pole. That’s 12,430 miles.

Pole to Pole Badge

If you are counting steps, it’s 23,882,806 as of this morning. And my best step day ever was April 7, 2012, when I ran a 50 mile race and covered 96,442 steps.Lots of Steps

Ok – back to work …