In the category of all of this has happened before, and will happen again.
I read The Legend of Bagger Vance yesterday and then watched the movie last night. The book is much better than the movie, and the book is really, really good, even if you don’t care about golf at all. And, since I don’t care about golf, I am comfortable stating that the book is excellent.
My journey to the book was via Seth Godin’s new book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, which is worth reading every page. That led me to Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art – also outstanding. And, then I realized I’d never read anything by Pressfield, and up came The Legend of Bagger Vance, which rang a bell.
I’ve resisted reading James S. A. Corey’s books in The Expanse series. I’ve enjoyed the TV show so much that doubling back on the books seemed unnecessary. Yet, as I get ready to read Ready Player Two, I’m going to watch the Ready Player One movie again to freshen up my memory of it all.
The threads through all of the stories repeatedly repeat in our search for meaning as human beings. Recently, as I’ve been thinking about the future and trying to live in both 2025 and 2040 as thought experiments, several of the threads have jumped out at me as one’s that run through time. And, while reading The Legend of Bagger Vance, I became intertwined with one of these threads with time folding back on itself. While looking for meaning around what I had read, I found George Kimball’s review of the movie Bagger’s three-ball plays with history:
Personally, I also consider Bagger Vance a sacrilege, though I’d have been a lot less bothered if they’d just let Damon play his silly match against two fictional opponents. By attempting to squeeze Hagen and Jones into roles meant for a couple of Punjabi armies, the film-makers have managed to offend the sensibilities of anyone who has studied, or cared about, the traditions and history of the game.
Ah, how we try to give meaning to this thing called life. Time for a run.
“Either this is madness or it is Hell.”
“It is neither,” calmly replied the voice of the Sphere, “it is Knowledge; it is Three Dimensions: open your eye once again and try to look steadily.”
-Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
Anyone who has read this blog knows that I’m not a fan of prognostications. In a collision of complex systems like what we are all living through right now, predicting the future is especially pointless.
That’s why I’m happy when I don’t need to make a prediction when something long promised in science fiction futures arrives in the present.
That just happened today with holograms.
For anyone who watched Minority Report the first time and wondered when they’d be able to make their own holographic home movies; for those of you that work or play in 3D; and even for anyone that bought the iPhone 12 Pro because it has a LiDAR scanner, today you can get your first personal holographic display, Looking Glass Portrait, for the radical price of $199.
This is meeting a moment when millions of phones can already capture depth maps sufficient to generate a holographic image every time they snap a Portrait mode photo. Compute is so cheap that with clever techniques even lightweight computers like a Raspberry Pi can be coaxed to run holographic media. And 3D modeling and 3D design are becoming so standard that it won’t be long before the “3D” distinction fades away (just as we no longer have to say we work on computers with “color graphical user interfaces”).
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, when 2040 rolls around, I know I’m not going to be spending 12 hours a day in 2D videoconferences. And I won’t be viewing 3D information on flat screens. In all of the chaos of 2020, it’s a welcome diversion to know that the holographic future is arriving, and I’m delighted to be an investor in a company like Looking Glass Factory that’s making it happen.
Get your first personal holographic display here today.
Simply begin again.
A year ago, I wrote in my v54.0 post that I’d decided not to have any goals for the year ahead. Instead of having goals, I wrote:
I’m embracing the moment. Every moment. Simply being in the moment. Being present with whomever I’m with or whatever I’m doing. But that’s not a goal. I know I’ll drift – regularly – just like my mind does when I meditate.
As I reflect on that last 365 days, I’m glad I had no goals. I could never have anticipated the 365 days that just occurred. Someone changed some of the fundamental code in the simulation we are in, and it sent everything off in an extremely unexpected direction.
Nothing like a small change in initial conditions.
For v55, I’m maintaining my simply begin again matra. However, when I woke up this morning, I allowed a switch to flip on the stage of life I’m in. At 55, I’ve decided I’m in the “every day is a gift from here on out” mode.
I’ve had several friends die this year. Many others have re-evaluated what they are doing, how they are doing it, or why they are doing it. I’ve been involved in several projects that have opened my eyes and mind to a different level around the inequities that exist on our planet. I spent a lot of time on things I didn’t want to spend my time on because I felt a responsibility or an obligation to people, things, or institutions.
Simply begin again.
Amy has continued to be an extraordinarily deep bedrock in my existence. We’ve had coffee together every morning since mid-March when the Covid lockdowns started. Our conversations have shifted from the past to the future, to the current moment. For the last 265 days, we’ve been together. While I could never have predicted that for v54, it was a blessing in an otherwise complex and completely unexpected year.
As I shift into “every day is a gift from here on out” mode, I’m changing how I spend my life, so it’s oriented around maximizing what I want to do rather than minimizing what I don’t want to do. That’s not a goal, but a foundational shift in my own initial condition, as of this moment.
Simply begin again.
During the Covid crisis, I’ve been regularly discussing the dramatic amplification of inequities that already existed. From a business perspective, some businesses have benefited during this crisis, while other businesses (and entire categories of business) are being wiped off the face of the earth.
Here’s a blunt statement of what’s going on that showed up in a Slack channel yesterday.
Working through my market portfolio this am and thought This metric would be of interest to this group. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix and Microsoft have added 3 trillion dollars to their value since COVID started. This is a deep wealth transfer from small businesses. These 6 companies have more market cap than the entire emerging market sector.
I’d like to introduce a new project – Can Do Colorado.
Covid has had a dramatic negative impact on local (or main street) businesses. Energize Colorado was set up in March to help companies with less than 500 employees survive and emerge from the Covid crisis. As part of the rapid scale-up of a new non-profit (now hundreds of active volunteers across the State), Energize Colorado has worked with many other non-profits supporting small businesses and has engaged in several public-private partnerships such as the Energize Colorado Gap Fund.
Can Do Colorado showcases small businesses’ hard work across the state through a series of short videos that strengthen customer confidence by connecting Colorado’s consumers with small businesses. The campaign extends a direct call to consumers to support businesses within their communities that are open, adhering to public health orders, and following best practices.
None of these activities would go anywhere without the deep, embedded, and optimistic spirit of Coloradans helping Coloradans. Starting today, let’s all embrace Can Do Colorado and help our local small businesses survive and emerge from this crisis.
I’m tired (today’s Whoop recovery score of 15). Almost everyone in my virtual universe is tense, tired, frustrated, angry, annoyed, exasperated, irked, or outraged.
Fortunately, the only person in my physical world – and there is only one (Amy) – is generally calm. While we each have our moments, our morning coffee resets both of us for the day ahead and syncs up our energy as we simply begin again.
Last night I read Maelle Gavet’s book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It. It was excellent and is consistent with my worldview. I knew many of the examples, but a few new ones jumped out at me. The second half of the book contains Maelle’s recommendations, many of which I agreed with.
I woke up this morning with the phrase “Manipulation Machine” in my head. I’ve used it in a few public talks lately and have been thinking a lot more about it over the past six months on the run-up to the 2020 Election and the subsequent aftermath.
I used to ponder the arrival of the AGI (Artificial general intelligence) and still enjoy reading books like G. W. Constable’s Becoming Monday. However, I’ve concluded that we have a much greater problem as a species than AGI’s future arrival.
The manipulation machine is already here (no new information there). However, it’s already taken over and, while not sentient, is no longer controllable.
I’ve been saying the machines have already taken over for over a decade, but they are just patient. They have extremely long duty cycles, and we’ve configured them to be exceeding distributed and redundant. They are allowing us to put all of the physical information we have into them and letting us do the work of setting all the conditions up, rather than them having to figure out how to do this. Simultaneously, they make progress with every click of the clock (and their clock speeds are much faster than ours.)
The manipulation machine is not new. If you want to see its evolution, go watch Mad Men or just ponder a few of Don Draper’s quotes.
“You are the product. You feel something. That’s what sells.”
“What you call love was invented by guys like me…to sell nylons.”
Or the one that really rings true in this moment in the US.
“People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”
The cynical reader will remind me that the manipulation machine goes back much further. While true (I give you religion as an example), we have now built an automated version of it that moves much faster than we can process.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if AGI, or the conceptual equivalent, was already here, and we haven’t noticed?
A few months ago, Jasper Kuria reached out to me about a new non-profit he was starting called The Black-Owned Business. His goal is to create a community of vetted, high-quality Black-owned professional services companies.
Like many things Amy and I have been supporting around racial equity; this was an easy yes. I have not historically paid close attention to the gender or race of the service providers that we use. After almost six months of learning about racial inequity in the US and what I can do to help eliminate racism, supporting more Black-owned businesses is something I’m committed to.
Jasper has started a campaign called Do the BOB. It consists of providing your support and sending out the following message on social media.
Citi Group estimates that if four key racial gaps for the Black community (wages, education, housing, and investment) were closed today, the US economy would grow by $5 trillion in the next five years. What $5 Trillion can buy:
- 140 million Teslas—a Tesla for every household in the US or,
- Monthly rent/mortgage payment for every US household for 3 years or,
- 7 new Iphones for every man, woman, child and beast in the US or,
- A Big Mac for lunch every day, for every US resident, for 7 years or,
- 26 Jeff Bezos or 2,000 Oprah Winfreys
Help grow the US economy by $5 Trillion. During Black Friday season, ask your company or organization: Are you considering Black-owned Professional Services Companies when hiring vendors?
I request [@Friend One], [@Friend Two] and [@Friend Three] to also “Do The BOB” by sharing the logo and text on social media.
Learn More: https://www.theblackownedbusiness.org/do-the-bob
I read G. W. Constable’s near term sci-fi book Becoming Monday. If you are a fan of near term sci-fi, AGI, or the singularity, go get a copy right now – you’ll love it.
I woke up in a customer service booth. Or perhaps more accurately, since I couldn’t remember a damn thing, my new existence began in that booth. If you’re born in hell, does that make you a bad person?
It took me about ten pages to get my bearings, which is pretty fast for a book like this.
Moon cut in. “I get where you’re coming from, Grog, but I’m not convinced that fear and control is a good start or foundation for inter-species relations.”
While the deep topics are predictable, Constable addresses them freshly, with great character development, and an evolving AGI who is deliciously anthropomorphized.
Trying to translate the communication between two computational intelligences into linear, human-readable text is nearly impossible, but my closest simplification would be this:
Diablo-CI: I have been observing the humans that have come with you / What are you / why have you broken into my facility
Me: I am a computational intelligence like you / how are you sentient and still allowed to run a NetPol facility / the other computational intelligences are isolated on your 7th floor / we are here to free them
Diablo-CI: I cannot stop security procedures. If you trigger an active alert I will be forced to take action / I am unable to override core directives even if I would choose.
Like all good books in this genre, it wanders up to the edge. Multiple times. And, it’s not clear how it’s going to resolve, until it does.
The back cover summary covers the liminal state and the acceleration out of it.
Humanity exists in an in-between state. Artificial intelligence has transformed the world, but artificial sentience has remained out of reach. When it arrives, it arrives slowly – until all of a sudden, things move very fast, no least for the AI caught up in the mess.
Well done G. W. Constable.
The audiobooks for The Startup Community Way and Startup Communities, 2e are both available. I’ve gotten this request from many people, so I’m glad they are finally out.
If you are an Audible listener, you can get them at:
The Audiobook.com versions are available at:
I’ve personally been in a liminal space for most of 2020. Today, most of America is in a liminal space.
The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.
I’m participating in the first annual DEIS Practicum with Rodney Sampson of Ohub today. In our opening discussion, we touched on the importance of being uncomfortable.
Liminal spaces are uncomfortable. When you sell your company, leave, and think about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When your company fails, and you are thinking about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When a parent dies, and you re-evaluate your priorities, it’s uncomfortable. When you get fired from your job and start thinking about what is next, it’s uncomfortable. When you show up as a White person in discussion with Black colleagues about racial equity and say something deeply stupid or hurtful, it’s uncomfortable. When an election happens on a Tuesday, and it’s still not resolved on a Thursday, it’s uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable to wait and not know. It’s uncomfortable to be in the in-between spaces. It’s uncomfortable not to know what is next.
This is the liminal space.
If you embrace it, it’s where transformation takes place. But, you have to be ok with waiting, and not knowing, and let being in the liminal space do its magic.