Waiting for (Autonomous) Godot

Rodney Brooks, founder of Rethink Robotics and a robotics guru is skeptical of the current claims around AGI and autonomous cars hitting the road anytime soon, much like another technology luminary, Kai-Fu Lee.

If we were to have AGI, Artificial General Intelligence, with human level capabilities, then certainly it ought to be able to drive a car, just like a person, if not better. Now a self driving car does not need to have general human level intelligence, but a self-driving car is certainly a lower bound on human level intelligence. Urmson, a strong proponent of self driving cars says 30 to 50 years.

I guess the biological genes have to live to a 100 to see their arrival.  But, do read Rodney’s essay, to understand his skepticism around the near term claims around autonomy.   That said, I think we need to lower our expectations. Autonomous versus smarter electric cars should be our expectation. Unfortunately, that kind of simple thinking doesn’t prop up the stock.

The Power of Distributed

Talent is evenly distributed around the globe, but opportunity is not.

Nearly 15 years ago, I would often talk to young Matt about many topics including WordPress, the changing dynamics of media and how work will change. He taught me a lot about open source software. I talked about broadband, connectivity, and connectedness. In 2004, I wrote a piece called, Escape from Silicon Valley. In that story, I looked at how broadband was inspiring founders to go “broadband” instead of going west.

I had launched a blog called WebWorkerDaily, and like many of our initial efforts (NewTeeVee and Earth2Tech), it came a little too soon to the market. I believed that the Internet’s killer app would be work and if you look around today, many find work on the Internet. Others find the demand for their skills. And hundreds of millions use the Internet to get the job done.

Matt would eventually help kickstart a movement — WordPress and then start a company, Automattic, and in the process become the biggest escapee from Silicon Valley.

Now here we are in 2019, and Automattic has grown to 900 employees working from 68 countries. I’ve learned so much about distributed work. I know it’s the right path.

Today, he launched a blog and podcast to share the lessons he has learned from being part of a fully distributed company, one which looks beyond the confines of dogma and conventional Silicon Valley thinking to find an edge and a way forward. He is talking to other executives and founders who are using distributed work as a core business philosophy so that others can learn from each other.

How can we work better and smarter in the decades to come—and what’s the moral imperative driving our desire to change? How can we build a more inclusive world, in which everyone has an opportunity to shine?

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Don’t Worry, Blog Happy

I’ve recently seen some tweets expressing the pressure some people feel — understandably — of publishing their thoughts on a blog, fearing what others might say, wondering if it’s good enough to be published on this wonderful thing called the web. I would say treat the web like that big red button of the original Flip camera. Just push it, write something and then publish it. It may not be perfect, but nothing ever is anyway. I write all sorts of crap on my blog — some of it really niche like snippets for Vim. Yet it’s out there just in case someone finds it useful at some point — not least me when I forget how I’ve done something.

When I started blogging back in 2000, I never felt the pressure of making it perfect. And then as my career evolved — from professional journalist to a blogger to a founder of a blog-based media company, the pressure to get it right every single time started to make it difficult to blog. I began to post “pieces” and forgot that blogging for me is nothing more than “thinking out loud.” I will be wrong, dumb and sometimes unusual, along the way. And that is my objective for 2019.