Between order and chaos, there is a space.
I sense that classical hierarchical structures are not equipped to deal with a rising level of complexity.
A phenomenon, if it is to be considered true and depending on the scope and complexity of the problem(s), shifts a system towards chaos. That is, systems that rely upon it's own hierarchical structure of control and decision making.
Where, on the spectrum, the system happens to be, is predicated upon a couple of different factors.
If complexity is rising and continues rising, then classical hierarchical structures become this box. In such a box, there are no variables to make sense out of what has just entered into the box.
Frustration creeps in.
This, in turn, results into a reality, where reason could become an after-thought and emotions may kick in.
If you slow down the mechanism by which decisions are being made in such a room, down to milliseconds, then, in the absence of an adequate amount of data, as well the inability to make objective sense out of the situation, the decision maker has no choice but to look nervously around the room, make sense out of the prevailing sentiment by glancing at the facial expression of some of the other decision makers in the room. And then, in the interest of time, acts upon the limited information that is on hand. Not very well aware of cognizant of the potential impact down the road.
All of these interactions occur super fast.
In the absence of no data or data that is skewed in order to meet a certain objective, this can only be the foreboding of bad and terrible things down the road.
Perhaps and most importantly, this phenomenon rolls up into problems much bigger of a magnitude, whereby that much more time/energy/capital is expended upon solving the mutated version of the problem that has been created.
A problem that should not have mutated to this scale in the first place.
If the right kind of a construct would have been enabled, perhaps, such as a, 'network of networks' or another construct that could make objective sense out of a developing situation by leveraging empathy as a lens. Then, the effort could have lead to better things, better designs.
Technology in the classroom will always have my vote. I have always been a big believer in making use of employing just the right amount of tech in the classrooms. In the past, some of these thoughts have taken the shape and form of actual blog-posts. link, link, link and link.
In the words of Thomas Friedman 'It should not be about time spent (in the classroom) but more about stuff learned". Listening to a teacher for hours on end, droning on about any given topic is a very inefficient mechanism for imparting education. Something that I have blogged about.
Now there has been a lot of good innovation, specifically when it comes to the medium. The medium relating to how education is imparted, focusing on the emergence of MOOCs. But when it comes to delivering the 'concepts', the synthesis of what information is supposed to represent. That problem has been addressed in bits and pieces, as we can only innovative so much within a medium that is confined to text/audio/video.
Here, virtual reality is a game changing product. It will give students of all types the ability to pickup and absorb the knowledge in a much richer format. For example: reading something vs actually performing the task has a completely different impact on your cognitive cycles. The chances that you will forget something that you read are pretty high. In retrospect, your brain forms neural pathways and registers how you go about acquiring any new skills. This is precisely the reason why it is next to impossible to forget a skill, like riding a bike.
Also, there are so many other benefits when it comes to leveraging VR for education. No limitations when it comes to physical space, unlimited chances for trial and error without any harmful effects in the physical world, the ability for collaborating with others from any given part of the world e.t.c. Also, since all the interactions are occurring in the digital world, these interactions and the sum total of the outcomes can be measured and aggregated in greater details. This will be particularly beneficial, when it comes to the issue of jobs, skills training and eventually in getting rid of the job/skills mismatch.
Today I decided to Google the term 'Oculus for education' and when you click on the video section on Google, then this is one of the first videos that comes up (below).
This makes me really happy. This can transform education as we know it, entire societies and the world. But why limit it to just the education industry. Virtual reality can transform the world.
What a great invention! Great work by Palmer Luckey (in particular) and the folks at Oculus Rift.
"The Chaos Imperative", written by Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack has got to be one of the best books I have gone through this year.
I recall going through 'The Starfish and the Spider' about a decade ago, so I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect in terms of the writing style and how Ori (in particular) would tackle the subject at hand.
Now, during the past couple of decades a lot of interesting work has been done specially when it relates to the subjects of innovation, creativity and even disruption.
However, what has been missing is some kind of a unified mechanism and principles for harnessing these elements. Although, this is not the intent of this book. That being said, some of the concepts that Ori has shed light upon, could potentially lead to some interesting constructs and way of looking at problems in the near future.
Now, there are some really interesting insights packed into this book. This is the kind of book that gives credence to this range of gut feeling. Specifically the kind of gut feeling that relates to how work is conducted and how issues and challenges are generally tackled. And specially how most of the times, people and organizations tend to get stuck in a rutt. When there is so much focus on execution that you start missing the forest for the trees (big picture).
The contents within the book help shed light on unique and interesting insights such as:
There are tons of examples and use cases along the way. From leveraging examples throughout history and even using the findings from some of the work Ori has conducted himself. Most notably, the work that he has done with the US Army.
Now this blogpost has been sitting in my drafts folder for far too long and I am having difficulty finding an adequate amount of time for writing a descriptive blogpost. However, if you are a leader, a problem solver and would like to read up on some new/interesting and super simple ways of looking at problems, defining them and would like to leverage simple constructs for helping solve these problems. Then this is a great read.
Two of the many random thoughts that emerged in my mind while I was going through this book.
Coming back to the original book review. 'Chaos imperative' is a great read. I definitely want to read it again!
In May 2014, I made a blog-post that details the conceptual design (how things work) when it comes to my latest startup. Since then I have received a steady stream of questions and some feedback related to the work I've been doing.
Now, most of the feedback that I have received is positive, specially when I paint the vision of the (potential) features that can be introduced in a fitness/outdoors related interest based social network.
But I have also received some criticism. The criticism usually comes in the form that this area is overdone. Specially with the emergence of other interest based social networks like fitocracy, pinterest, yaamo and mighty bells e.t.c. Overall, It begets the question, is there really a need for another interest based social network?
First of all, let me state that I find this criticism really valuable. In the words of Vinod Khosla, the most important thing is a reality where "someone disagrees with your point of view". I completely agree with this disagreement statement and I live by these words. I live by these words as this 'reality' forces you to challenge your own assumptions. There are two important reasons for having your assumptions challenged.
1. It creates synergy.
2. It helps shed light on the narrative from a point of view that you might have missed. And doing this could save you time and effort in the long run.
So paying attention to criticism is absolutely necessary for the survivability and success of your initiative.
That being said and to get back to the topic at hand. I'm creating TriboApp for a couple of simple reasons. These are questions or rather hypotheses in my mind. I have come to these hypotheses after observing the social media scene and also society at large. So in essence, what I am trying to do is test my different hypotheses. I believe that helping test these hypotheses is important, as getting the answers to some of these questions could help society at large. There is also the obvious and hugely important benefit of connecting individuals and bringing joy in their lives.
Now, these hypothesis that I have been referring to can be categorized into two groups:
1. Tribes vs Systems - Is that a good model?
I suspect that in most respects the potential for harnessing the collective capability of tribes or smaller teams is overlooked. I don't want to get into the actual cause, as this is just a hypothesis in my mind. Meaning large monolithic systems vs tribes. Although, that would be a very good thought experiment. But if this is true, then this is a major design problem. You'd have to go deeper and look at this problem from a biological (evolutionary), anthropological and societal point of view (psychology, group dynamics). Overcoming this design problem could mean a new way of conducting our lives and solving problems that confounds societies and entire civilizations. Also, overcoming this design problem would result in less waste. Waste that currently exists in the form of human capital that is not utilized, under utilized or utilized for the wrong endeavours as there is a skill mismatch. (task to individual/teams).
2. The social paradox
a. Social networks should be an enabler for connecting people. Not just people who you know, or friends of a friend or someone who you may benefit from (new job, new contract, new project e.t.c).
b. If an individual feels lonely then there should be a social network out there that helps solve that problem!
The emergence and popularity of 'interest based social networks' may be the driving force that gives credence to the two points that I have raised above. Or in other words, these are the problems that are driving growth in this space and will continue doing so.
Overall, I suspect that the way social networking has been done all this time could merely be the tip of the iceberg. There my be a huge untapped market for connecting people. Connecting people based on their interests seems like a logical start. And in a future state this reorganization of groups could fundamentally alter the way we conduct our lives, the nature of work and how society tackles problems big and small.
As with any project, there are many problems that need to be solved before we can get to a future state. Trust relationships, identities and reputation scores (more in the form of tribal knowledge) come at the top of the list.
Personally, I chose to launch a fitness/outdoor focused interest based social network because it has always been an area of passion for me. There are four things that I have done consistently throughout my life and that would be:
As a keen observer, I have always thought about how these interactions can be optimized. That is why I have decided to launch this venture. I chose to go with a fitness/health/outdoors focused social network, because I believe that this market is underserved. And like I've mentioned on my blog before, no one is focusing on 'group-cohesiveness' and 'group-dynamics'.
Can meetup.com or any other interest based social network guarantee that a significant majority of the members within each group get along with each other?
I figured I would take some time to shed a bit more light upon what I'm doing and more importantly why I'm doing it. As always, it will be great to get some feedback as I continue along this path of entrepreneurship. Thank you for reading and a big thanks to everyone who has provided support and feedback to date.
P.s: Please don't forget to signup for the Alpha release, if you haven't done so already. Signup link has been provided below.
Earlier in June, I found myself going through another book that goes by the title of "Gravity's Arc: The Story of Gravity from Aristotle to Einstein and Beyond". I think the title does justice and I don't have to elaborate much on what this book is about.
I managed to go through half the book and I intend to finish the other half.
Now one of the many things they talk about in this book is this concept of a Space Gun. John Hunter's Space Gun.
I wasn't exactly sure if this project was technically possible. But then I wondered, if this guy (John Hunter) has been mentioned in a book that contains names such as Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein and even some of the modern day scientists. Then there has got to be a reason for that.
This got me a bit more interested in John Hunter, the inventor and the scientist. So I ended up spending the next 45 minutes to an hour looking up this guy on the web. I couldn't find many references, but I did manage to find this one interview that has been posted on medium.com and I found it to be quite informative.
According to John Hunter:
Those numbers alone warrant further analysis when it comes to the claims that John Hunter has made. Also, it's worth noting that the proposed space gun is reusable and it is powered by hydrogen. Two very solid advantages over traditional rocket based technologies.
This is a very interesting proposition. I can't help but think of the different ways such a system can be leveraged for purposes other than shooting cargo in space. For starters, a modified version of this invention could help revolutionize the delivery system that will potentially be powered by drones. That requires a fundamental redesign of the urban landscape. As you don't want to shoot projectiles over populations.
John Hunter is an interesting fellow and it seems like he has enough experience to be able to backup a revolutionary invention such as a space gun and help make it see the light of the day.
The conceptual designs for the O’Neill Colonies and the subject of Nanotechnology have always managed to capture my attention.
At least when it comes to the O'Neill colonies, often I find myself going back and observing the designs as envisioned by Gerard O'Neill. Also, I keep thinking and wondering about the enormous potential nanotechnology, in a developed form can offer for our species.
To cut to through the chase, large scale sustainable colonization of space is impossible, unless and until our species gets a much a better control over how to structure and positions atoms.
A thought related to this conceptual merger between space colonies and nanotechnology, led me to this very question.
So I started searching the web, and sure enough, my search soon led me to this very book called ‘The Visioneers’ written by a gentleman by the name of W. Patrick McCray.
I was very surprised to observe, that the entire book is a historical record when it comes to the developments related to the two concepts that I was thinking about, namely space colonies and nanotechnology!
As you might have noticed from the front cover (image above), this book is about “How a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies and a limitless future”.
Now, since the 60’s, a number scientists and visionaries have been trying to build a case for the colonization space. But, this vision has been met with a fair bit of resistance. Largely, due to the fact that the technology just wasn’t ready. And even if it was possible, then there has always been scare mongering that has been attached with these concepts (at the time) and how it had the (supposed) potential to destroy the world.
But in fits and starts, this movement has also gained encouragement from certain segments of society, academia and the Government. Namely, the United States Government and from what I can gather from this book. I’m sure that (since the 60’s) other governments have also invested in both nanotechnology and the colonization of space, but that is not in scope when it comes to the contents of this book.
The main characters:
Coming back to the book, most of the content revolves around the work performed by:
Gerard K. O’Neill: An American physicist, inventor and space activist. O’Neill tried to champion the cause of giant space settlements that could hypothetically be used for the colonization of space, using materials used from mining asteroids and the moon. O’Neill’s designs weren’t just an artistic rendition of what the conceptual models for the space colonies and manufacturing sites could look like. In fact, these designs were backed by a lot of research and what really distinguished them from science fiction was the meticulous amount of calculations that went into effect, in order to support the overall models.
Eric K. Drexler: The other amazing individual is Eric K. Drexler. An engineer from MIT (at the time), who in my opinion, is the rightful father of nanotechnology. Drexler, took the ideas as envisioned by Richard Feynmann for manipulating and controlling atoms and molecules and helped nurture and guide those ideas towards a path where they could eventually turn into a science.
Drexler’s book ‘Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology’ (published in 1986) is considered to be the first written record that hypothesizing the designs and details of machines that can be operated on a nanoscale. To quote from Wikipedia, Drexler envisioned a world where: “Molecular robots can be used for any purpose, from medicinal robots that can be guided for helping clear capillaries to environment scrubbers that can clear pollutant from air.” To even molecular robots that come together, in order to build lighter and stronger materials. Drexler worked closely with O’Neill, to see how the overall vision for the colonization of space could be supported with the aid of nanotechnology.
Obviously, there are other characters mentioned in this book as well. But like I said, most of the content focuses on the work performed by these gentlemen.
Meat and Potatoes
The overall narrative is really all about the dreams, the vision (backed by engineering designs) that these individuals continued to pursue, sometimes in the face of resistance and setbacks.
Also, after reading this book, I believe that the present day planning and activity when it relates to space exploration, colonization and mining can only trace it’s roots back to the work that individuals like O’Neill and Drexler helped envision and also champion.
Not only were these gentlemen the original dreamers, they were also the very first pioneers who dedicated a significant chunk (if not the entirety) of their lives when it comes to taking certain ideas and concepts from a fuzzy area and help bring them to a place where they could become very tangible in the foreseeable future. It is my wish that society will look back in time and always be indebted to individuals like O’Neill and Drexler and the fine work they did and sacrifices they made.
It’s also interesting to see how things are interconnected. Starting in the 60’s, from the origins of the L5 society and the whole world catalog and even individuals like Timothy Leary. To the emergence of social networks (in the absence of the internet) in the form of telephone networks e.t.c.
Or on the flip side, in a modern day context and to quote from the book “It’s impossible to ignore a certain homogeneity among this book’s characters. O’Neill, Drexler, Raymond Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Ted Nelson, Freeman Dyson, and even Richard Smalley: all men who graduated from elite schools with technical degrees.
This book is a great read for anyone who is interested in the following:
Also, there is a silver lining to the resistance that visionaries like O'Neill and Drexler had faced. As it can now serve as a lesson for new age visionaries. Namely:
It seems like a lot of things in life, kind of go back a full circle. Towards the beginning of this book, they were talking about this movement of sorts in the 60's where there was a lot of emphasis on 'Limits'. And supposedly, how limits had to be imposed on the continued advancement and development of society, if we were to continue living on this planet in a sustainable way. This was precisely the time when creative and intelligent engineers like like O'Neill and Drexler had decided to tackle these challenge head on. Their ideas and designs could help potentially help the human race leap frog these limits and such a movement could also (potentially and theoretically) help usher in a new age of abundance.
Now, some 50 ++ years later, the human race finds itself confronting a somewhat similar scenario. Where, among a host of other problems, we also have the looming threat of climate change. Luckily, for us, the debate this time around is not so much around the imposition of limits. There isn't much of a debate, the way I see it. But the one good movement I have noticed is the very nascent framework that is beginning to develop around space exploration, manufacturing and mining.
Hence, the vision as it was conceived by Gerard O'Neill and Eric K. Drexler, is still alive. It was dormant for a while and now it is slowly beginning to materialize. These individuals performed all this intelligent work decades ago, sometimes in the face of resistance, so that one day humanity could benefit from it. That era is getting closer with the passage of each day.
Overall, great read. Backed by a lot of research. Great work by Patrick McCray!