Singularity Hacker

Developer + Futurist
Justice Conder

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.

Soylent and The Future of Cloud Food

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Soylent is awesome. It’s basically internet food. I’m calling it ‘cloud food’. If shopping, cooking, cleaning up, and going to the *bathroom are cutting into your computer time, then Soylent is for you. It contains every single thing your body needs, is cheap, and takes thirty seconds to prepare. 

People tend to moan and complain when they first hear about Soylent, but life is about priorities. Pick two:

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If Soylent is cutting edge, personalized cloud food is bleeding edge. I envision a day when your ‘Soylent’ isn’t some generic nutritional substance but something completely personalized to your body’s immediate needs. Got an allergy, vitamin deficiency, unique or obscure dietary requirement? Your cloud food will be customized to those ends. With the rise of fitness trackers and the emergence of advanced biometric wearables (Apple’s new iWatch), your body’s physical needs will be communicated to the cloud in real time. This, in turn, will be the basis for your cloud food recipe which will be delivered to your house on a recurring basis. Think ‘just-in-time nutrition’.

*You still go to the bathroom, just less often.

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

George Bernard Shaw

The Bitbay

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The Pirate Bay is the most famous fire sharing brand in the world. It wasn’t always that way (remember Napster) and it wont be that way for much longer.

File sharing technology has evolved over the years and, with each iteration, has increasingly immunized it’s self from the threat of seizure and shut down. The next generation of P2P technology has just arrived in the form of a DarkMarket and Dark Wallet. The technology now exist to run a fully distributed and anonymous marketplace impervious to any attempts to shut it down.

The technology may have arrived but the next great file sharing brand has not. I think that The Bit Bay could be that brand. It springboards off the brand recognition of The Pirate Bay and yet, would be built on a surer technological foundation. I’v been speculating that Bitcoin could be a means of monetizing file sharing for some time and I still think that the first person to execute on this idea will be stacking more benjamins then Kim Dotcom.

A fews years ago, I developed a prototype demonstrating the concept. This prototype has no backend because something like DarkMarket didn’t exist yet but it does use a Java applet from bitlet.org that enables users to download torrent files without installing a client. All the code is inline so it could be posted to a paste bin or an anonymous static-file host.

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I’m giving away this blackhat startup idea in hopes that someone with more savvy than I will run with it. Do amazing things!

I’m selling thebitbay.com domain for a very reasonable rate and my website prototype on Gumroad for $5. Happy hacking!

Kids born today will never have to drive a car.

Dr. Henrik Christensen, Roboticist

Master of the keyboard

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The keyboard is the developers palette. A keyboard, to a programmer, should be like an ax to a lumberjack. The keyboard is THE tool of the trade.

I think Atwood and Yegge are dead on in We Are Typists First, Programmers Second.

"I can’t understand why professional programmers out there allow themselves to have a career without teaching themselves to type. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s like being, I dunno, an actor without knowing how to put your clothes on. It’s showing up to the game unprepared. It’s coming to a meeting without your slides. Going to class without your homework. Swimming in the Olympics wearing a pair of Eddie Bauer Adventurer Shorts." - Steve Yegge

Pondering on that post and that quote give me resolve to get better. A lot better. To be a  master of the keyboard. I don’t merely mean typing speed either. I’m talking ‘efficiency of expression’. 

The goal is to achieve the shortest possible distance between your thoughts and their instantiation. The aim is to create and construct at the speed of thought. 

The two most impressive and inspiring things I’v seen on typing efficiency have been talks on Vim and Stenographic programming.

Note that these are not competing approaches. The stenotype (corded type) method builds directly on top on Vim.  

What good is your proficiency on the keyboard if you’re constantly going to the mouse to adjust windows? I noticed this a few years ago and was ushered into the world of window managers. 

Using a window manager is a game-changer. It was for me. My personal favorite is Moom (Mac only). I can now fully manipulate my environment without wasting time constantly fiddling with window sizes. This is why I’m a big fan of Alfred too.