Oct 24 2019

Charles River Scooter AI Video Game

I had a nice run this morning around the Charles River. It’s a version of a run I’ve done many times in the past when I used to live here.

There was one “category” of problem, which I’ll refer to as the Scooter-Bike challenge.

I started at 8:52am, which was at the absolute peak of the “rush to get to work/class/wherever” experience. I didn’t think much about it as I often run at this time in Colorado and rarely notice any humans.

I started at the Charles Hotel, turned right, and headed toward the Charles River zone. 30 years ago, I would have noticed the cars, but not thought much about anything else.

I hit a wall of scooters coming at me with humanoids on them. There were a few bikes, but most were in the street. But the scooters were on the sidewalk. Going 20+ miles per hour. Right at me. In a wall.

I immediately realized that I was in an AI video game called Scooter Bike Runner Survivor. Kind of like rock paper scissors, but involving actual humans. The AIs were controlling us from a parallel universe, kind of the way I used to play Defender or Tempest.

The first fifteen minutes of the run were nuts. I figured that when I got over the bridge onto the Charles River loop paralleling Storrow Drive it would calm down. Nope.

When I crossed the BU Bridge at the halfway point, I hit another wall of treachery. This time it was cyclists who decided that the bridge, sidewalk, and path was a lot more fun to be on than Memorial Drive. There were a few stretches of human-created single track next to the sidewalk that regularly ended abruptly with big orange cones blocking them.

I’m safely back in my room having survived Scooter Bike Runner Survivor, but I’ve recalibrated my expectation around a casual bridge loop around 9am.

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Oct 24 2019

Cellphone Contract for a Child’s First Cell Phone

Recently, a friend of mine told me about the experience of giving his kid his first cell phone (I think around age 11.) As part of the experience, he decided to write up a contract with rules of engagement. He went through it with his kid in detail and they both signed it.

I had stored this away to blog and thought of it yesterday as I was walking to dinner from Harvard Square to Central Square. The number of people walking down the street staring at or typing on their phones blew my mind. While many of them were college-aged (given Harvard and MIT), some were older. I know some of this is the density of the city (vs. where I live), but the dynamic surprised me, especially since it was a beautiful early fall evening.

My walk ended up being more of a “dodging people who weren’t paying attention” kind of drill which could be some bad video game that an AI is using our universe to play. Regardless, it feels like a cell phone contract like the one below might be helpful to kids, and their parents, and everyone else.


I, ______________, understand and agree to the following:

This phone is provided to me by my parents for my responsible use. It belongs to my parents and they may take it away any time, and for any reason they deem appropriate. They have the right to see anything and everything that I do on it.

The reason my parents have provided me this phone is that they believe that I endeavor to act and interact responsibly and that I have worked for and deserve more independence at this point in my life. This phone will primarily be used for: (1) Reasonable communication with loved ones, friends, coaches, and other people in my life; (2) To help me[1] feel safe and act safely as I strive to increase my independence; and (3) as a lifelong and passionate learner, help me better educate myself on the go.  Excessive use of this device for activities outside these three listed could result in the confiscation of my phone and digital privileges.

Possession of this phone carries with it a great responsibility. It is a powerful device that can enhance my life if used properly but has the ability to cause serious problems as well if used irresponsibly or in an unhealthy manner.  I promise to use it with caution and thoughtfully. To aid me in doing so, I promise to be guided by the principles below and to follow both the letter and the spirit of the rules below. My parents have the right to amend these rules at any time.

BASIC DEVICE RESPONSIBILITY

  1. I will ensure that my phone is charged at all times.
  2. I will take proper care of my phone.  If I fail to do so, I will pay for repair or replacement.
  3. I will ensure my phone is with me (and charged see #1) when I am out of the house so a family member can reach me.
  4. I will immediately get off or hand over my phone if a parent tells me to.

PRIVACY

  1. There is no such thing as privacy online.  Anything I type into my phone can be copied, read and spread.  So, I understand that my parents (and possibly government agencies) have the right and ability to review the contents of my phone at any time.
  2.  I will not text, email or post anything that I would not be happy being on the front page of the NY Times tomorrow.
  3. I will not take or receive inappropriate photos/videos. If something is sent to me that I think may be inappropriate I will hand my phone to my parent immediately. If I am not near a parent, I will close out the app and call a parent immediately.
  4. I will not add any app without a parent’s consent.

PHYSICAL SAFETY

  1. When walking in public, my phone will be in my pocket.
  2. I will not listen to music or look at my screen while I am walking or biking.
  3. If I have to do something on my phone while out in public, I will stop moving, move to the side of the sidewalk, take care of it, then replace my phone in my pocket before I start moving again.
  4. I realize that this smartphone makes me a target for thieves, and I will make a point of being aware of my surroundings when I use it.
  5. I will never give out personal information to anyone online without talking to one of my parents first.
  6. I will never answer or ask questions about sex online.
  7. If I ever receive information or messages on my phone that are upsetting to me in any way I will let my parents know about it.
  8. I will not give anyone outside my family the password to my phone unless it is urgent. If I do give such a person my password, I will change the password as soon as it is convenient.
  9. I will always have “Find my iPhone” (or other tracking mechanisms) turned on so that my parents can see where I am at all times.
  10. If I am pressured by anyone to use the phone in a way that violates any of these rules or my own sense of what is appropriate, I will refuse to the best of ability, blame my parents and their rules, and report this to my parents promptly.

HUMANITY

  1. I will acknowledge someone’s presence when they enter a room, even if I am on my phone.
  2. At mealtimes, the smartphone and all other devices are out of sight, both at home and at restaurants.
  3. I will always pick up the phone if a parent calls, provided it is safe to do so. I will always answer a text immediately if they text, provided it is safe to do so. If it is not safe, I will call back or text as soon as it is safe to do so.
  4. When talking face to face with another person I will not be on my phone.
  5. I will not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being.
  6. I will never involve myself in conversations that are hurtful to others. If I am unsure whether something might be offensive or hurtful to someone else, I will NOT text, email, post or otherwise communicate it digitally.
  7. I will never share inappropriate photos, jokes, or websites with others.  If I am not sure whether something is appropriate or not, I will NOT share it without speaking to a parent.
  8. I will not text, email, or say anything through this device I would not say in person.
  9. I will not text, email, or say anything to someone that I would not say out loud with their parents in the room.
  10. At important life moments – for myself or others – the smartphone is out of site so I can be present.
  11. I will not take a zillion pictures and videos. I will live my experiences without feeling the need to document them.

ADDICTION

  1. Technology is compelling and addictive. I recognize this and will not allow it to crowd out the things which are important in my life.
  2. I will never keep my phone in my room overnight.
  3. I will adhere to the screentime limits set by my parents which count across all devices.
  4. I will not use my phone while doing homework unless it is to collaborate with a peer on a specific assignment.
  5. I will not be on social media of any kind.
  6. If I feel that I am becoming too involved in online activities I will ask for help, knowing that I will not be judged or blamed for this.

PAUSE

  1. Before I pick up my device, I will pause and think about whether I need to or whether I could be doing something else more useful or enriching.
  2. Before I hit ‘send’ on any email or text, I will pause and reflect on whether I’m being as thoughtful, respectful and constructive as I can be, and I will reflect on whether I am being true to my beliefs and our family values.

I acknowledge that having a cellphone is a privilege, not a right. I promise to use it with good judgement and to let you know when I make mistakes.

My Signature: _________________________________________ DATE___________________________________

Mom’s Signature: ______________________________________ DATE___________________________________

Dad’s Signature: ________________________________________ DATE__________________________________


[1] And of course, my parents

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Oct 23 2019

Writing More About Women

Following is an abridged email that showed up in my inbox recently that caused me to stop and think for a few minutes.

I took a look back through your posts before I crafted this email.  So much of what you write about is focused on men who are succeeding, that I wonder if you are going to write something about women like Simone Biles.  She is doing some pretty amazing stuff on the mat, bars, vault, and beam.  

I know you support women so I feel a little bad about calling this out but am curious.  Is my perspective so biased that I see fault or bias where there is none?  

You did write about JOMO and that was written by a woman. But that was one post out of 10-15 that I scanned through. 

And this is your personal blog so you can write about whatever you want.  My concern is that you are followed by a lot of men who you could influence with your openminded approach to more than just sci-fi, investing, and health.  I’ve read Snow Crash and thought it was fascinating but it’s definitely not my typical cup of tea. 

Perhaps we women are not your target audience.  To which I will add that it would be really helpful if you could use your platform for the good of women, not just men.  Because in the end, we all win if we have a more level and equal playing field including opportunities, products, and services. 

Even though I think I write in a non-gendered way and try to alternate pronouns when I sat and thought about this email the point being made rang true to me.

I have many women who are examples and role models for me. They start with my mom (Cecelia Feld) and my wife (Amy Batchelor). But there are many more that, going forward, I’ll try to incorporate into the stories and examples that I write about on this blog.

I try to live my life in a non-gender biased way. But, this note was a good reminder that it’s easy to fall into patterns that are not particularly helpful.

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Oct 22 2019

What’s Your Hobby?

Amy and I had dinner recently with Chris Couch, a friend from MIT who I hadn’t seen in 25 years. Before we had dinner, Chris sent us an email with a link to his High Altitude Photography Platform along with the video from Mission 1 of the HAPP.

Chris has a day job, so this has been his hobby for the past two years. It’s pretty epic – both as a project and a hobby. And, it’s reflective of the kind of brain many of my MIT friends have.

Amy met Chris on a flight from Boston to Dallas. She was flying to Dallas to meet me and my parents for a holiday weekend and Chris was flying to Dallas to meet his parents. They were sitting next to each other and Chris started writing equations on a napkin. Amy asked him what he was calculating and he said: “the amount of fuel the plane will use on this flight.” It was friendship at first sight.

While we hadn’t seen each other in many years, we reconnected as though no time had passed. While we’ve aged, the playful and curious spirit that we all had in our 20’s shined through during our long and winding conversation at dinner.

I love that Chris’ hobby (the HAPP) is a reflection of his brain. Is yours?

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Oct 21 2019

Techstars Sustainability Accelerator Demo Day on 10/30/19

Last week David and I spent some time at the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Their demo day is happening on October 30th in Denver and you can register here if you’re interested in attending. 

If you want to see what actual world-changing startups look like, you’ll love this particular demo day. The ten companies that you’ll hear from are working on problems like how we remove carbon from the atmosphere, better manage our water, make valuable products from waste, and keep companies accountable for critical supply chains like coffee, seafood, timber, minerals, cotton, and palm oil. Each company is a venture-backable for-profit that has the possibility of creating both big financial and impact outcomes.

You’ll also hear from my wife, Amy Batchelor, about the important work The Nature Conservancy is doing and how we’ve been supporting them since 1990. My partner Seth Levine and his wife Greeley Sachs, who is currently a trustee on the TNC Colorado board, have also been long-time supporters of TNC as a key shared value of ours is protecting our planet following TNC’s science-based approach.

If the event is anything like last year, you’ll leave inspired about what a new generation of entrepreneurs is doing to help and protect our planet. The partnership between Techstars and The Nature Conservancy is combining disruptive technologies from startups with proven science from conservation in powerful ways. 

As a bonus, there is also an investor-only event that morning for accredited investors. If you want more details, email hannah.davis@techstars.com.

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Oct 18 2019

Engage in the New Colorado Digital Service

One of the many great things about the Governor of Colorado is that he’s an entrepreneur, having started multiple successful technology companies, including BlueMountainArts.com (acquired by Excite for $800m) and Provide Commerce (IPO, then acquired by Liberty Media for $500m). He’s also a co-founder of Techstars with me, David Cohen, and David Brown.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of Jared Polis’ relatively early new initiatives as Governor is the Colorado Digitial Service.

The founding team includes several entrepreneurial friends along with extremely capable technologists around Colorado. The idea is to do “civic service tours of duty” to rapidly improve a number of citizen-facing applications that millions of Coloradian’s use on a regular basis.

I much prefer this approach, with a highly functional agile team of experts, rather than yet another $100 million contract with a large consulting firm, government contractor, or legacy technology company that will result in a three-year build and deployment of a system that never actually sees the light of day.

If you have deep technical, designer, or application development skills and are interested in a civic tour of duty helping improve the software that Coloradian’s use to interact with our state government, go apply to help out.

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Oct 14 2019

The Roger Federer of Marathoning

Eliud Kipchoge runs on his way to break the historic two hour barrier for a marathon in Vienna, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Eliud Kipchoge has become the first athlete to run a marathon in less than two hours, although it will not count as a world record. The Olympic champion and world record holder from Kenya clocked 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds Saturday at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, an event set up for the attempt. (Jed Leicester/The INEOS 1:59 Challenge via AP)

I love the idea that Eliud Kipchoge is the “Roger Federer of Marathon Running.”

If you are a marathoner or a fan of the marathon, you likely know how amazing Kipchoge is. If you don’t, following is his marathon performance history.

The performance level – both time and place – is almost unfathomable in contemporary sports. It’s reflective of Roger Federer in general, or Rafa Nadal, especially on clay.

While I don’t know Kipchoge, I’ve been hearing for a while about how wonderful he is as a human. This New Yorker profile prior to him running the INEOS 1:59 Challenge was beautifully written and included the line:

He is, perhaps, the sport’s Roger Federer

If you are a tennis fan, you know what this means.

Simply put, in addition to being an extraordinary athlete, he is a human that wants to use his success to make a substantial positive impact on the life of other humans on this planet.

The hashtag that he uses on Twitter is #NoHumanIsLimited. I have deep appreciation for that.

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Oct 13 2019

ProLon Day 5

Today’s the last day of my ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet. I wrote about my start in a post titled ProLon Day 1. I was a little nervous about trying this so I figured I’d blog about it to bust through any anxiety I was having about trying it.

I find myself very happy with it on Day 5. I’m not hungry and have only had a few stretches where I was hungry, and I think most of them were a result of someone (where 50% of the time that someone was Amy) saying “Are you hungry?” which then caused me to think about it.

The quantitative impact of it is pretty dramatic. My side by side weigh-in data (pre and post) is:

I generally only weigh myself once a week (usually on Saturday or Sunday morning). I don’t expect the weight loss to persist at the same level (e.g. I expect it’ll go back up a little when I start eating again). I haven’t run in the past five days (I took last week off) and am surprised that most of the weight that I lost was Skeletal Muscle Mass. And, it’s even more fascinating that my Body Fat Mass actually increased in the last week. I’m not really sure what to make of any of that, but my measurement in a week will be interesting.

If I was judging this only on weight loss, it would be a win. By seeing the type of weight I lost by doing the diet but not exercising, it feels like it wasn’t a win. But that’s perplexing to me so I’m interested in the next measurement a week from now.

But ProLon is about a number of other things besides just weight loss. I found their clinical trial data fascinating and their marketing summarizes it as:

Amy was right when she told me to get a bunch of blood work prior to starting ProLon and then do it again after I finished. I didn’t listen to her, which is usually a mistake on my part.

I’m going to try ProLon again in a month (they recommend you do it twice) and next time I’ll get my bloodwork done before and after.

In case you are wondering, my ultimate weight goal is 190. I’m 6’1″ and have a lot of lower body muscle mass from my running. It’s time to get down to 190 while working on both upper body muscle mass and flexibility.

I’m committed to that, although I’ve always had an extremely hard time with upper body exercise. If you’ve got any suggestions for a runner that hates going to the gym, loves to be alone, and has trouble getting into a weight lifting or yoga rhythm, I’m all ears.

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Oct 11 2019

Randomness

I love randomness. It’s an essential part of how I live and work.

Today’s example of randomness is the book event for Do More Faster that David Cohen and I are doing at the Barnes & Nobel in Boulder at 4 pm today. It’s open to anyone and we have no idea who is coming or what the actual agenda will be, but we know that even if it’s just the two of us sitting at a B&N together, we’ll have fun and learn something.

My goal with randomness is to always be learning. Sometimes I have structured randomness, like the Random Days that I used to do all the time and now occasionally do. Other times it’s just a random event (like the one this afternoon), a random visit to a company/organization (like something I’ve decided to do on Saturday afternoon), or a random new thing to play around with.

One of my favorite Neal Stephenson anti-heroes is Raven from Snow Crash. Raven has the phrase “Poor Impulse Control” tattooed on his forehead as a punishment for some crime in his past. I’ve always loved this phrase, but use it in a positive way around randomness.

There are endless examples in the 53 years of my life in the power of randomness. When I’m asked about how we ended up in Boulder, I answer “it was random – we wanted to try it out and see if we liked it so we just moved here from Boston.” We knew that if we didn’t like Boulder, we could try someplace else. Another example is my Goodreads My Books Read list, which is a little less random than the infinite pile of books that I’ve actually bought and are sitting on my Kindle to read. My email is another example – the number of interesting things that have come out of a reply to a person I don’t know who cold emailed me is remarkable to me when I reflect on it.

There is an endless structure that is imposed on my life, either by me or others. All you have to do to see it is look at my calendar. So, in addition to the Joy Of Missing Out, I encourage you to embrace some randomness in your life.

And yes, I am very aware of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s thoughts, anecdotes, and warnings about randomness. Rather than being confused that luck is skill, I prefer to allow luck to just show up while I’m learning and exploring lots of different things.

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Oct 10 2019

JOMO – The Joy of Missing Out

Recently, I discovered a neat new acronym, JOMO, which stands for the “Joy Of Missing Out.”

While FOMO is an endless part of all things technology, entrepreneurship, and investing, I’ve actively tried to ignore and avoid FOMO across all dimensions of my life. On balance, I’m more successful than not on this dimension, but it’s an endless challenge.

I find it entertaining to turn FOMO upside down, backward, and inside out and actively experience JOMO instead.

When I’m depressed, I describe the feeling as “the complete absence of joy.” In general, I self-identify as a “joyful” person. I smile, a laugh, I’m entertained, I’m playful, and I’m generally happy. Even whenever I’m under incredible stress, I still feel, at my core, joyful.

When I think about missing out on things, my joy meter goes to 10. One of my favorite things in the world is reading on a couch in the same room as Amy. For hours. And hours. Or running, alone in the mountains, for hours. Or sitting in front of my computer and writing. For hours. And on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, if I can get in a 90-minute nap, that’s extra joyful.

When I’m doing these things, I’m missing out on a lot of other stuff. And that’s just fine with me since I’m getting enormous joy from the things I’m doing.

I realize that by this description I’ve made JOMO apply to me. I imagine others can apply JOMO in many different ways, depending on what they do that brings them joy. Ponder this for a while.

Not surprisingly, there’s a book on JOMO titled The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. As is my way, I’ve bought a copy, if only to support the author, but I expect I’ll read it soonish.

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