Singularity Hacker

Developer + Futurist
Justice Conder

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies that haven’t been invented … in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.

Karl Fisch

Intelligence Bombs: Dropping WikiReaders from Planes

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This post is about jumping over an industrial revolution straight to a technological singularity. 

Its commonly believed that nations must pass through certain established stages in their move from barbarism to first world status.

This is a mistake. It’s possible to leapfrog developmental stages if given the right external stimulus.

This is evidenced by the the way modern commerce has been made possible in Africa by the availability of cellphones. Prior to cell phones and cloud banking you couldn’t do significant financial exchanges.

So how might one trigger a technological quantum leap in a third world country? I’m going to suggest one way. Drop WikiReaders from the sky.

The WikiReader is an eInk device that holds the entire text of Wikipedia and can also be loaded with the entire Gutenberg archive (about 50k books). It’s searchable, requires no Internet or power grid. It runs for a year on AAA batteries. And to keep this in perspective, these devices are several years old. Something more advanced could be produced for less than $10 a unit now.

We’re talking about putting the equivalent of the library of Alexandria in the hands of every man, woman, and child. Intelligence bombs. Shuffling foreign politicians hasn’t resulted in real change over seas. Real change is cultural and idealogical and can only happen if world views change.

If software is eating the world it’s time for it to start eating war. This decades WikiReader is next decades question/answer expert systems. It’s knowledge based PSYOPS. Drop AI’s not bombs.

It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.

C-3PO

CombatOps: Running Wars from a Keyboard

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There’s no free lunch. Every strength has a cost. The same technologies that enable distributed anonymous communication enable terrorist organizations to communicate unimpeded. Or the same advances in additive manufacturing make it possible to print firearms from the comfort of your bedroom.

This creates a genuine dilemma for nation states trying to enforce the rule of law in a technological singularity. It is, today, possible to start a full blown war from a keyboard.. full stop. I want to talk about three mechanisms that are being leveraged to do that very thing. 

Communication: Who needs dead drops and burner phones when you have distributed social networks. Enter Diaspora. Diaspora came about because people didn’t want Facebook to own their data. Diaspora operates on a node/pod basis such that each pod is autonomous and shares its users info with other pods. Any one can fork the Diaspora code and fire up a pod on any server. Instant scalable social network. Strangely enough, it’s the primary means the terrorist group ISIS is using to communicate now.

Funding: Money laundering is so old-timey. With Bitcoin, or any altcoin for that matter, even high profile figures can funnel unlimited funds to special interest groups anonymously. It effectively becomes possible to crowdsource military operations from a keyboard from within the state you are waging war against using it’s own economy and citizens.

Armaments: Arms dealing is dead. 3D printed firearms have disrupted the scene. Printed firearms are undetectable and untraceable and can be assembled on a just-in-time bases. And it’s not just firearms any more. Printed drones are becoming a thing. I’m envisioning a future where you can have a war kit in a suitcase. Open it up and guns and a cloud of drones fly out. Yesterdays crockpot bomb is tomorrows printed nuke.

Last but not least we have advances in Intelligent Systems. The concept of a DAC (Distributed Autonomous Corporations) can and is being applied to combatant endeavors in the form of assassination markets

Combat DACs can be disastrous to standard counter terrorism techniques which rely on social network analysis (SNA) to ferret out cells and cell  members. Using a DAC would mean there’s no critical communication between cell groups or cell members  and that no single operative has enough knowledge to compromise the operation. Each player would be independently directed by the DAC to achieve the overarching mission. 

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If you haven’t seen Balaji Srinivasan’s talk on Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit then watch it now.  What he describes is an opting out of nation-state citizenship on a technological and economic level. The idea is that you could have cyber nations on top of “real” ones. The interesting part about the above observations is that it’s not only possible to opt out in the Srinivasan fashion but also possible for these cyber nations to wage war against the meatspace nations they inhabit and to, there by, assert their own sovereignty.

The computer programmer is a creator of universes for which he alone is responsible. Universes of virtually unlimited complexity can be created in the form of computer programs.

Joseph Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason

Console Mandala

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Console mandala is the practice of writing code in a browser console and then refreshing it so it’s lost forever. The concept is taken from sand art done by Buddhist monks. They make extremely complex murals with colored sand and let the wind blown them away afterwards. It’s meant to symbolize the transitory nature of material life.

Console Mandala is the same thing but in a browser console. You write code to demonstrate, experiment, or practice and then you blow it away (⌘ + R). The purpose is this: It impresses upon the mind the importance of knowing and doing over having. 

Today, it’s become almost too easy to slap some pieces of code together and get something working without having any idea of how or why it’s working. Mind you, this is not a bad thing. It’s an amazing thing! But it comes at a price. The price of understanding.

Copy and paste is great and having functional code is awesome but you will not learn by having it. You will only learn by doing it. Console Mandala has a few other notable advantages as well.

1. Encourages you to think deeply on the fundamentals
This is a secret to great understanding in any field of study. Know your craft.

2. Develops muscle memory
Code completion is great but forgetting how to write basic control structures is bad. Cultivate your form.

3. Works against stage fright
I think many developers are more afraid of coding on a whiteboard in front of a group of people than of showing up to work with no pants on. Get comfortable in the console and this fear will vanish. Release your fear.

4. Available in any browser
Do you really need an IDE, a server, and two dozen plugins to do something cool? No way. Master your space! Drop into any browser and wreak havoc with your skills. Be always ready.

Two pointers in conclusion. Check out JSEnvy to easily try out different tools in the console and consider using a separate browser, like Chrome Canary, to play in lest you find your self crashing your primary browser with an out-of-control process.

A Surefire Way to Save RadioShack

The news is bleak. RadioShack is pretty much doomed and will soon be filing for bankruptcy. While this isn’t a surprise (the company has been dying slowly over the last couple of years), I think they can be saved by a pivot. That pivot entails serving and catering to the maker community.

Dump the phones and set up a couple 3d printers for on-demand printing. Turn the space into a consumer maker space. Customers would be able to come in and watch as their request is printed right in front of them and/or the option to pay for a monthly membership that includes discounted rates and maker classes.

Why this would work:

1. Opportunity. Its an untapped market. Nobody is doing this. Where can you find hardware components, servo motors, and electrical blueprints besides online? Nowhere but RadioShack. Leverage your strengths and the brand recognition you already have!

2. Demand. Geeks are tripping over each other to have something like this. The maker scene is so hot that people band together to pool their money and rent space and equipment to launch their own maker spaces. The market is begging for a commercial maker spot.

3. Position. It’s in line with RadioShacks historic origins: I remember Steve Wozniak talking excitedly about getting hardware components and schematics as a kid from RadioShack. Embrace your identity! Your future is in the back of the store where the Arduino boards and soldering irons are, not in the front with the feature phones.

4. Price. The price of 3d printers is plummeting. This means RadioShack could buy higher end models for cheap and sell the basic models at high margin.

Picture the new RadioShack commercials…

A guy wearing expensive sunglasses leans over to another guy wearing really cool original shades and says “Dude, where did you get those amazing shades?” Second guy replies “Thanks, I made them. Where’d you get yours?” First guy, crest fallen, replies “Oh, at the outlet for $200.” He then notices that several other guys are wearing his exact same shades in the background. #radioshack

A kid walks past a billboard advertising Google Glass and stops to ponder inquisitively. He goes home and searches relentlessly online, furiously taking notes [beautiful mind music starts]. Now you see him walking into RadioShack, grabbing things off the shelf, a friendly RadioShack employee assists him while his creation is being printed at 3d printer station. He’s now walking out the store wearing and talking to his homemade Google Glass. He passes an elderly woman on the sidewalk who looks and points at him, whispering to her husband in utter befuddlement. #radioshack

Mark my words RadioShack. Do this and you will not only be saved, but you will thrive. You will be reborn. Reinvented. What do you have to lose?

In 1986, the McKinsey consulting group was asked to forecast the number of cell phones that would be in use in the United States by the year 2000; their model predicted fewer than one million, but the actual figure was more than two orders of magnitude greater at 109 million. How could one predict in 1986 what technology would look like by 2000?

The Singularity Mindset

If you don’t grasp the idea of the technological singularity, or are not informed as to its driving laws, then you are not prepared to make good strategic business decisions. 

There are a lot of approaches and methodologies that organically flow from a singularity mindset. But it’s possible to adopt many of these philosophies without understanding the big picture of why they exist. This often manifests in wooden dedication to methods without understanding the spirit and purpose behind their inception. This happens all the time. Companies adopt agile in a way that makes them less agile or they incorporate a particular device because it’s the new thing without taking into account that there will be a new new thing in another week. Here are four essential characteristics of the singularity mindset: 

1. Accelerated and unpredictable change 

There are people who actually believe that the future is going to be pretty much like the past, that we’re all going to be using smartphones and driving cars just like we do now, 20 years from now. If you fall into this camp, you should NOT be making strategic business decisions for anyone. The new will not be like the old. We don’t know what the future holds, hence the need for a short feedback loop and rapid iteration. This is why agile and post-agile development strategies exist. 

2. Unlimited form factors 

It always makes me shake my head when I talk to another technologist and mention either HUD’s or smart watches and they say something like, ‘I’m not so sure that will catch on.’ You’re not seeing the big picture here bud. If we can put a computer in something, we will. The end game is having all matter in the universe become “smart.” All dust will be smart dust, and all resources will be utilized to their optimum computing potential. See: A computer in every particle 

This is why responsive web design exists. It’s not just about making web pages work on phones. It’s about providing a functional pipeline over any channel imaginable. Without this mindset, you will design products that don’t utilize their full expressive potential. 

3. Algorithmic domination 

Be very skeptical of any position that relies upon the premise that a task can’t be done or improved upon by a machine. I was speaking excitedly to a finance graduate some years ago in a coffee shop, when he scoffingly told me that an algorithm could never invest as well as Warren Buffet. Bad call. If your idea of scaling a business means adding more bodies and paper shuffling, you’re in deep trouble. We are the bottleneck. Bet on the algorithm. 

4. Inevitability 

There is no stopping the machine uprising. Don’t ask stupid questions like, “How do we stop it?” You can’t stop it. No one can. See: You can’t regulate the singularity. Legislation has never been able to trump pure technological innovation. You don’t like it? That’s fine. But there’s one certainty in this whole thing, and that’s that you ain’t seen nothing yet. Prepare for futureshock.

Code is not an asset. It’s a liability. The more you write, the more you’ll have to maintain later.