Roger Huang

Roger has worked in user acquisition and marketing roles at startups that have raised 200m+ in funding. He self-taught himself machine learning and data science in Python, and has an active interest in all sorts of technical fields. He's currently working on boosting personal cybersecurity (youarecybersecure.com)

Technology and Society

A Technologist’s Take on Ukraine, Venezuela, and the Arab Spring.

The Obama Administration and its’ allies have successfully scaled democratic ambitions, and American ideals across a variety of theatres. Jared Cohen, formerly of the Department of State and now head of Google Ideas, and Wael Ghonim, MENA manager at Google were instrumental at lighting sparks for Tahrir, and scaling the will of the people.

In Ukraine, many of the NGOs on the field were funded by US aid, and Pierre Omidyar of EBay fame. The breathtaking use of social media to quickly spread revolt from Venezuala, to Egypt, to Ukraine, tapping into the underlying wishes of the people, and multiplying it, has been a revolutionary change in how the people express themselves.

America’s support for these programs is, in turn, a revolutionary change in how America spreads its’ ideals.

Gone are the days where American soldiers died in droves to win international disapproval to “force democracy”. This new way of growing democracy organically is the largest threat to authoritarianism, and the regimes that have the most to lose know this.

The implicit threat is this: if America can help Egyptians occupy Tahrir Square, and Ukrainians occupy the Maidan, what stops her, with enough time and tech-savvy, doing the same thing for Russians in Red Square, and the Chinese in Tiananmen?

The implicit threat is this: if we can help Egyptians occupy Tahrir Square, and Ukrainians occupy the Maidan, what stops us with enough time and tech-savvy, doing the same thing for Russians in Red Square, and the Chinese in Tiananmen?

Putin may have some affinity for Crimea. The larger prize he might be looking for is drawing a red line between what is happening now and what could happen in Russia.

Technology and Society

A Letter I Sent To My Elected Official on Privacy

With the latest revelations on the British security services tapping into webcams and storing video data en masse, I don’t think it’s acceptable that anybody can sit back and not register their voice in the face of our eroding collective privacy.

I highly encourage everybody to send letters to their elected official. Here is mine:

I’m writing because with each passing day, revelations are getting worse and worse about the surveillance capabilities of security agencies. Just today the Guardian revealed that the GCHQ, our British allies, collect webcam recordings en masse, including sexually explicit material shared between two consenting individuals.

We know the Harper administration is stuck as being part and parcel of Five Eyes, and that the CESC has conducted spying for the NSA, using Canada’s good name for nefarious purposes.

I write this in the hope that you are aware of this issue, and to inquire as to what you and your party are doing with this regards, and what active efforts you will be making in the future to shed awareness about this creeping invasion on our privacy. As Canadians, we should be protected under Section 8 of the Charter with regards to reasonable expectation of privacy, but I do not want this to constantly shift because security agencies continually push us down the slippery slope Senator Church so eloquently warned Americans about during the Church Committee:

“If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

“If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny.”

I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Let me know how I can contribute to any efforts with this regards. I hope you are well, and eagerly await any response you have on this topic.

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Why is this debate so important?

 

Defining the Future

Defining the Internet of Things in one line

The Internet of Things is a new innovation that is sweeping into gradual mainstream awareness, if not adoption. It’s become a recent topic of some fascination, especially for Google-watchers who are trying to uncover the latest technological trends by following the Internet giant: surely the $3 billion dollar plus purchase of smart home device maker Nest did not escape notice.

Internet of things with code(love)

Internet of things with code(love)

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down to have a coffee with one of the engineers in the field pushing it forward, Jeff Dungan, co-founder of reelyActive. His startup was named the World’s best technology startup last year by Startup World, and he is a visionary in the field.

The first thing Jeff notes is that what we conceptualize as the Internet of Things can be very exactly defined. Devices that communicate with one another have always existed. Harken back to your childhood when you used a remote control to control a toy car: would that not qualify as being part of the Internet of Things?

Jeff says no. The reason why is because the Internet of Things encompasses internet-enabled devices that can communicate with one another, with one very distinct defining trait: they can do so without any direct human input. As your toy car zips around, you are controlling it directly. However, a Nest thermostat can adjust the heat without you ever touching anything.

This is the magic of the Internet of Things. Jeff imagines a world of “smart spaces” where entire houses, and even neighbourhoods could shift to be adapted to you. A house could be heated at the right temperature, with the lights dimmed for the right ambiance, without you ever doing anything but the initial setup.

Smart Spaces with code(love)

Smart Spaces with code(love)

Jeff’s company works on allowing for devices to identify you. reelyActive uses hardware RFID devices to tag you as you move through multiple spaces, therefore allowing for the possibility of “smart spaces” to grow, sooner than later. Already, Jeff is working on realizing a Google Analytics for retail at a low enough cost and without significant friction, perfectly suited for smaller retailers—this was a pipe dream just a few years ago. The world he imagines is coming sooner than later, and it can be summed up in one line.

The Internet of Things is a network of internet-enabled devices that can communicate with each other without direct human input, allowing for the evolution of smart spaces that can adapt to you without you doing anything at all.

The Internet of Things is a network of internet-enabled devices that can communicate with each other, without direct human input, allowing for the evolution of smart spaces that can adapt to you without you doing anything at all.

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Interested in hearing more about Jeff’s story? Support my efforts to write about him and other entrepreneurs. 

Life Hacking

Three Critical Tricks to Hack and Win Meetings

If life is a series of never-ending wait rooms, entrepreneurship is a set of meetings. A successful meeting can often determine the difference between failure and success for a startup. It’s critical for every growing organization that as many meetings as possible are successful in order to keep the momentum of the organization going. Future customers, investors, donors, and partners often hinge on a contact point as low as half an hour.

A successful meeting can often determine the difference between failure and success for a startup.

I’ve been through a lot of meetings on a lot of projects, so I know what it feels like to go through each and every calendar invite on your list. It is tiring, but hang in there. You’re winning your way to success.

You want to make sure that those short, crucial meetings turn out to your mutual benefit. To that end, here are three critical points to ensure you hack and win your meetings.

1-Get a good space. Don’t just grab the nearest coffee shop. You want to be able to hear what the other people are saying, and you want to be able to communicate effectively: that becomes exponentially harder with a bunch of other people hanging around yelling about their lives. Make sure you spend a lot of time picking out just the right place: it can make all of the difference.

I live in beautiful Montreal, and I often freely explore coffee shops, and restaurants, and keep them held in a spreadsheet. I make sure the meeting I am going for is set to a place where I know the ambiance, and backdrop is just right: from meetings with investors to first dates. It works wonderfully when without even saying a word, you have already struck the right note with your meeting partner.

The space matters with code(love)

The space matters with code(love)

2-Come prepared with at least three meeting points. A lot of meetings get stalled because neither person has prepared exactly what they want to say, and that is the cardinal sin of meetings: wasting time. Bring points, and an agenda to the table, otherwise it will be a waste of time for both of you. Three is a solid set of items to consider, and even if you don’t bring everything up, you’ll be prepared in case it looks like the meeting is about to lag.

Make sure your points are organized thematically, and in a timeline that makes sense. It’ll help you look more prepared, more confident, and your message will be crisper.

Set the agenda with code(love)

Set the agenda with code(love)

3-Make sure you know what you’re willing to give, and what you’re looking to get out of a meeting. A meeting is often an exchange between people who would look to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Make sure you have an idea of what you want out of your first meeting, and what you’re able to give the other people, and be prepared to state it honestly. Show how you can pay it forward in return.

Oftentimes, this is the trick to getting meetings in the first place: you need to be able to clearly state what you’re able to give. I have gotten a lot of meetings by enumerating what I was able to offer: either new insight, my story, or some service like writing about their startup. Steve Blank, credited for launching the Lean Startup movement, and therefore a very popular target for meeting requests put it best in his piece “How to get Meetings With People Too Busy To See You”. Make sure you offer something of yourself if you’re expecting your meeting partners to do the same.

You don’t want to be known as the person who calls meetings just because they can.

You don’t want to be known as the person who calls meetings just because they can. Make sure your meetings are focused, productive, and mutually beneficial by following these three tricks. You’ll be able to hack and win your meetings, on your way to building and scaling that next great idea.

Defining the Future

Defining growth hacking in one line

Growth hacking is a buzzword. As soon as somebody says it, the fury of meaning nothing, but signifying everything envelopes any situation you place it in. It’s mysterious and ambiguous, but it really doesn’t have to be.

It’s always been hard for me to figure out this term, and yet it’s been a necessity because I’ve always wanted to work in the field. I think part of what compelled me to get into building and scaling web platforms was the mystery of understanding what growth hacking was about: even the  mysterious bits I could get out of it sounded cool. Some sort of marketing meets technology was something I thought would be ideal for me.

So, what I did was take a target list of everywhere I thought growth hackers might be, from mentoring sites, to tech entrepreneur networking sites—most notably FounderDating—to good old LinkedIn. I get familiar with the big names in the field. I reached out to many of them systematically, seeking the same insights: what exactly is growth hacking, how do you go about growth hacking, and how can I go about growth hacking? I then recorded the answers, and compared them, looking for some sort of pattern or formula that defined the concept.

In doing so, I realized that what I was doing embodied what growth hacking was all about. Trying out new stuff, and then measuring whether or not it was more efficient than what I had been doing before is the core of growth hacking. Every one of the answers pointed me to a direction, a direction that I can sum up in one line.

Growth hacking is being creative and trying new stuff, anything, to try to acquire new website users, measuring the effects of each individual outreach on the numbers of new engaged users, then determining whether it’s more efficient than what you were doing before on a monetary and time basis, and if so, piling as many of your resources as you can into those new channels.

To summarize even further: To growth hack, try new stuff, and measure whether or not you’re being more efficient driving users to your webpage in doing that new stuff.

To growth hack, try new stuff, and measure whether or not you’re being more efficient driving users in doing that new stuff.

Next time someone brings up growth hacking, make sure you share, and send them here. I’m measuring whether that works.

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Want a great resource to getting you started with the kind of actionable measures you can test and measure with growth hacking? Check out this list of 21 Actionable Growth Hacking Tactics.

Learning Lists

Create Your Own Webpage in Under Ten Minutes

The biggest obstacle for most people when they start getting into web development is that it seems obscure how to go about creating a reasonably nice-looking webpage, nevermind a website.

These insights will help you create and flesh out your online projects infinitely faster than it took for me to start initially building mine from scratch.

1-Get yourself a better text processor than Notepad (should take about 2 minutes)

Sublime Text is a great resource for this, and while you think you’re getting it for the evaluation period only, the fact that it’s not compulsory to register basically makes this freeware. Do try to help the makers if you can with a tip, as this is a great code processor that works so much more efficiently than Notepad for code: it can match your opening, and closing tags, and autofill in certain code functions. It should take you about 2 minutes to set it up.

Open it up, and you’ll see it’s a flashier version of Notepad, that can be used accordingly. If you’re on a Chromebook, try Caret instead, or look around for any text processor.  You can even stick with Notepad if black text and white space are your thing.

Sublime with code(love)

Sublime with code(love)

2-Start a new file in Sublime Text or your word processor, save it as index.html (should take about 2 minutes)

Now it’s time to do some coding work. You can begin by starting to type with a <HTML> tag, then a <head> tag, then wrapping in the title of your webpage by writing as follows: <title>Your title</title>. Then end it with a closing head tag. Finally wrap it up with a closing </HTML> tag—but always make sure that is your last line! Your head should look like this:

<html>
<head>
<title>Your title.</title>
</head>
</html>

Save your new file as index.html, in a folder that comprises your project name.

 3-Copy and paste some front-end template elements in, link to the template at hand, and play around with the text (should take about 4 minutes)

You’ll want to download a front-end CSS framework if you want to build things rapidly. CSS frameworks style things for you, so that you can just refer to already existing style classes and IDs located in the files you downloaded. Popular frameworks include Bootstrap, Foundation, and Semantic.

For our purposes, it will be good to use Bootstrap, but the others will work according to the same theory. Bootstrap is one of the most popular front-end frameworks, developed by Twitter programmers to simplify their work with Twitter’s interface.

Bootstrap with code(love)

Bootstrap with code(love)

Download Bootstrap here. Unzip all of the files into the same folder as you saved index.html. Now, modify index.html, by including a link to the CSS bootstrap style sheet in the head.

This entails copy and pasting <link href=”bootstrap.css” rel=”stylesheet”> somewhere after the </title> closing tag, but somewhere before the </head> closing tag.

Your head should look something like this:

<html>

<head>

<title>Your title.</title>

<link href=”bootstrap.css” rel=”stylesheet”>

</head>

</html>

Now let’s open the body tag. <body></body>. Always remember that the closing </HTML> tag has to end the whole thing, so move that to the bottom.

Stick a Bootstrap template in between: in this instance you can go Jumbotron mode, right click and then click on view page source, and copy/paste everything between the <body> opening tag (at line 29) to the </body> closing tag (at line 98). If you don’t like that look, check out the rest of the templates. Customize it by playing with the placeholder text within the body tags, and by adding components.

Your last two tags should be </body> and then </html>.

 4-Save on Google Drive, and manipulate your new webpage! (should take about 2 minutes)

The entire walkthrough can be accessed here.

Create  a public Google Drive folder. You can do this by right clicking on the folder, and then clicking the Share button on the dropdown menu that pops up, then switching the settings so you are sharing with everybody on the web by changing the default private setting.

Upload your HTML document along with all other files in your project folder (which should include your CSS files) on a Google Drive folder. These files should take on the public properties of their parent folder after Google prompts you to ask if you want to upload and share—click on the blue button as this is the case. If you do not, you will not be able to preview your documents.

Preview your document by clicking on the file in your Google Drive, then clicking the blue “Open” button at the bottom right, then clicking the preview button on the top left corner of the HTML Google Document. The corresponding hyperlink on top can then be copy & pasted and shared with others, so that they can view your work as well!

Google will be doing all of the legwork of hosting for you. It may take a while for Google Drive to process everything, so be patient if it doesn’t work at the beginning. Check back in half an hour or so.

Waiting with code(love)

Waiting with code(love)

If you want to see what I did with this walkthrough, click here.

You can right click and view source to see the code behind the webpage.

This is a very basic primer, and there is so much more you can do beyond this, from scripts (which you can see in the last few lines of what we copy & pasted from Bootstrap), to learning how to host on your own domain. This is only the first step, but I hope it inspires you to code, and build out those great intangible ideas you’ve had into tangible web products.

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Are you excited, and want more resources to practice coding? Click here.

Longform Reflections

An Open Email to the NSA (CC Supreme Court)

Dear NSA,

Twenty years ago, you would have had the pleasure of receiving this in a nice white envelope, but now we know worse. I’m sending this to you virtually, as many of us will, because it only me one click of a button to do so.

We know worse: a large number of us have chosen to sacrifice privacy for convenience or vanity, and I am no exception. I post everything from the most banal to the most profound about myself online. If someone were so inclined, they could build a pretty complete sketch of who I am from the different digital portraits I have constructed over the ages.

I have also connected with more people than ever online. Studies will show that this probably makes me more stressed, and more narcissistic. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that the number of connections I and everyone around me have make it increasingly likely that our digital metadata will be snagged into your watching eyes.

Using a nifty digital application, also one click of a button away, I’ve ascertained that if anybody in my network of 22 million friends of friends…of friends is up to something potentially nefarious, you could come knocking. That’s if I was American. As a Canadian, I don’t even get this courtesy before you share the data with my domestic security agency.

It’s a funny thing when you make laws that protect only domestic citizens, because everybody is a foreigner somewhere. I wonder if the GCHQ in Britain, with which you are closely collaborating with, have the same respect for the privacy of Americans as you espouse when they are rifling through Gmail for you.

Five Eyes with code(love)

Five Eyes with code(love)

Perhaps, however, your intent is benign. After all, you are balanced by law that binds you only to search for metadata: the fact that you can’t rifle through the actual data should count for something right?

I work in technology. I’m keenly aware of how metadata can be used to trace connections between people, their location, and their habits. It’s perhaps why you and a million other companies are finding it valuable to scoop out this data.

The same technology that allows us to hail cabs at the push of a button, can also be used to track us within meters. If I were to go to an abortion clinic, or a therapist, my parents might not know, but you will.

The connections between me the peers I choose to connect with most frequently can also be equally revelatory. They can reveal the organization I work for, but also my political affiliation or sexual orientation, even if I have not revealed them to anybody.

NSA Listens with code(love)

NSA listens with code(love)

You may ask why we care less if Google has our data but not you.

Until Google gets the robot army they are seeking to build, and has the power to imprison me by force, me and many others will care, but care less that Google has that information about us.

Google buys robot firm Boston Dynamics. ruh roh

You may ask why we should care about this metadata being revealed about ourselves.

The first reason would be because as we relax privacy constraints around all of our information, it is highly possible that financial information, and health information will fall into your hands as well: this has already happened to a certain degree.

The second reason is because you have a history of tracking notable political and business figures for reasons that do not correlate well with national security. In fact, your sister agency, the FBI, often still tracks people for their political beliefs.

The third reason is because, with lax oversight, your propensity to lie to elected representatives, and consequently to the American people, makes you a hard agency to trust with anything.

These are harsh truths, but the American nation was built on these truths. And one overriding truth is the following: absolute power corrupts absolutely. While it is far from me to suggest that you have absolute power at the moment, it is certain that your agency could help somebody obtain it, and it is certain that right now, you are playing around the lines of a balance of powers that has served the American people well for centuries.

“[If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.

-Senator Church of the Church Committee

You may ask why it matters if you are authorized by elected representatives to do what you do, even barring how unclear that is given how legislation has been warped to fit your needs.

On this, we do have an agreement of sorts. I do think it sad that security has come to override every other concern, and perhaps it is right that America needs a change in her elected officials if they have allowed you to get away with this. However, I also do know that you are being sly on this point. Consider your interpretation of Patriot Act Section 215 and how you have overstepped it.

So I write this in the open spirit you have abandoned for the American people: please consider reining yourself in. We live in a new age, and there should be new rules.

We live in a new age, and there should be new rules.

If you ignore this advice, I have kindly CCed your friends at the Supreme Court. I am sure they have much more to say on this than I do.

Sincerely yours,

(Well, you can probably figure out who)

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For a look at how the Supreme Court might respond, click here.

Longform Reflections

The Supreme Court on Digital Privacy

In a talk at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer summarized the “mechanistic” formula the Supreme Court uses to determine which cases it rules upon: the case has to pose a important legal question with federal implications that different federal courts have inconsistently ruled on, with differing opinions on the same issue.

With the recent ruling of Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia that decried NSA surveillance programs as “almost Orwellian” and most likely violating the Constitution, and another ruling from Federal Judge William Pauley that declared the NSA programs essential on the war on terror, and therefore legal, the path towards the Supreme Court is now clearer than ever. The Department of Justice is appealing Judge Leon’s anti-surveillance ruling, while the ACLU is appealing Judge Pauley’s pro-surveillance ruling.

The likelihood of yet another landmark Supreme Court case on par with New York Times Co. v. United States—-when the Supreme Court ruled that the New York Times could reveal the classified Pentagon Papers which bluntly laid out how the government had lied to the public about the Vietnam War—-has never been higher. Daniel Ellsberg has often been compared to Edward Snowden. He boldly announced “there has been no more significant disclosure in the history of our country” than those of Edward Snowden—including his own leak of the Pentagon Papers. If a ruling on the matter from the Supreme Court is forthcoming, he will be proved right.

“There has been no more significant disclosure in the history of our country.”—Daniel Ellsberg on Edward Snowden

While President Obama has rejected most of the substantive findings of his own commission on the NSA—mostly maintaining the status quo on privacy in the digital age—if there is a privacy-affirming ruling from the Supreme Court, subsequent legislative action may also follow from Congress, reining in the powers of the NSA to collect and analyze large amounts of digital metadata. It will be one of the most significant rulings in modern legal history, and the definitive opinion that will shape privacy in the digital age.

The Importance of Privacy with code(love)

The Importance of Privacy with code(love)

Is such a ruling even possible?

Let us consider the simplifying rubric of liberals and conservatives for dividing the justices. This is something that the justices themselves do not like, and one that often falls to the wayside on a myriad of different issues, but it is a good rubric for an overview for this case. Let us also assume that the Supreme Court will accept the duty of considering this issue.

The liberal justices would consist of Associate Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, all appointed by Democrat presidents Clinton and Obama.

The conservative justices would consist of Chief Justice Roberts appointed by Republican president George W. Bush, and Associate Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, appointed by Republican presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

The liberal justices voted as a bloc together in CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, ET AL. v. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA ET AL. to try to challenge the constitutionality of warrantless wiretaps, and one should expect much the same from them in any future case.

Of the conservative justices, Roberts, has a tendency to try to attempt home-run majority rulings for his legacy of being a “by-the-rules” arbitrator—-the most notable case being his majority opinion upholding Obamacare. His pronouncement of privacy as being the paramount constitutional issue facing the Supreme Court would seem to define him as the most likely conservative justice to deliver an opinion with the liberal justices. With that said, his previous defense and work on behalf of controversial Supreme Court nominee Bork—-whose originalist theory of the Constitution claimed a lack of basis for a constitutional right to privacy—-may indicate otherwise.

Justice Kennedy—the typical swing vote for landmark rulings—cannot be counted on when it comes to privacy issues. His majority opinion on Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives granted a “special needs” exemption that allowed the Fourth Amendment to be ignored if it was deemed to be in the overriding interest of public safety. This is the basis of the NSA’s metadata collection program.

Justice Alito subscribes to a mosaic theory of privacy that argues that a search is a collection of aggregated actions: so, while use of a GPS device to track a vehicle in one case may not be construed as a “search” under the Constitution, the long-term of use of said GPS device could be considered a “search”. This would seem rather favorable to Justice Alito’s tendency for a pro-privacy ruling, given what we know about the metadata collection capabilities of our phones, which can track our location within meters for months or years.

However, Justice Alito also shows a strong deference to executive power, and national security agencies, part of the reason why President George W. Bush had him confirmed in the first place. While working for President Reagan’s Justice Department, he argued that the attorney general should be immune from prosecution for wiretapping Americans.

Justice Thomas and Scalia agree with Justice Alito on this point: all three share an ideological bent that presupposes that the “national security agencies” know best for the nation’s security, and should therefore not be overly constrained. Justice Scalia has also called a general constitutional right to privacy “blah, blah, blah, garbage.”

“Blah, blah, blah, garbage.”—Justice Scalia on a general right to privacy in the Constitution.

The votes might be there. It probably hinges on Justice Roberts, or maybe Justice Alito. Significant legislative and judicial changes to how the American government deals with privacy issues could happen within a couple of years. We could see national security agencies that are more accountable and transparent to the people they are serving.

Barring that, the discussion sparked from a transparent argument in an open court of law about privacy issues will bring much reason and thought on a topic that is critical to all of us in our new digital age. To quote Justice Brandeis, a historical giant of the Supreme Court, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”.

Technology and Society

Accelerating Forward

Are you thinking of the day you can go online, download a set of prints for your cup, print it out, drink from it with juice you have purchased with a virtual currency generated by machines?

That day is today.

To have lived one hundred years in the last century would have been generous. The next one hundred, including the time we live in now, will be positively thrilling.

As much as airplanes were thrilling years ago, the concept of personalized genetic sequencing, and medicine, interstellar travel, and technological singularity—the evolution of smarter-than-human artificial intelligence—have been fascinating: and now, very, very realizable, with several enterprises on the cutting edge of delivery— SpaceX, 23andMe, and IBM with Watson.

As the Wikipedia entry ominously predicts of technological singularity: it is a theoretical moment in time that will “radically change human civilization, and perhaps even human nature itself.” We are going to be living through several of those moments as technology in different fields progresses. What will this mean?

Countdown the Singularity with code(love)

Countdown the Singularity with code(love)—originally from http://www.singularity.com/

It will mean a new shift in the slow biological evolution of mankind towards an accelerated technological and moral evolution, based on knowledge. Moore’s law of doubling processing power every two years has become the norm across a variety of scientific fields.

There are reasonably few things that are near-certain in this, here are just a few:

Those who grasp how technology is advancing in different fields will not be surprised, and will benefit the most from it.

A premium will be placed on those who understand science, engineering, and technology. Learning those things and working with them is boss.

Shit is going to get real. There are going to be huge changes.

Keep calm and keep coding with code(love)

Keep calm and keep coding with code(love)

Humanity has held on by bridging the gap between cheap fossil fuels, and finite resources, and massive problems. Those are going to have to be tackled head-on soon.

The rest is very uncertain, none more than the element of what definitive path we choose to embark on together, and the classic question: will we do good, or will we do evil with our new capabilities?

The two stories that have struck me the deepest on this are when Oppenheimer took the scientific wizardly of splitting an atom, and was forced to construct a weapon that evaporated and damaged hundreds of thousands of people. Intelligence and technology do not grant immunity to evil.

The other story is about Ray Kurzweil, a fervent advocate of technological singularity, and his burning motivation for advancing technology: the reincarnation of his dead father in a virtual avatar, for one infinitely long conversation, transcending the time they had lost together parted by death.  Technology is not something that cannot humanize, and be used to explore the complex emotions and motives that power human nature.

Ultimately, what we do with the possibilities afforded to us will determine whether the upcoming century will be one of the brightest or darkest in human history. The only certainty is that those possibilities are coming, faster than ever.

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You’re interested in printing out your design for a cup. Click here.

You’re interested in buying your juice with bitcoin. Click here.

You’re interested in learning to keep calm,  and coding. Click here.

You’re interested in a deeper reflection on Ray Kurzweil. Click here.

Learning Lists

Six Valuable Resources for Learning and Practicing Languages

Up in frosty Montreal, there’s often a need to learn different languages as it is quite a diverse city, and also a need to stay inside, as it is quite a cold city. Teasing out ways to learn languages while not freezing, using technology and the power of the internet, has been a very useful exercise for me. Here are some of the valuable resources I’ve found along the way. 

1–      Babbel

www.babbel.com

I’ve always found Babbel’s mobile application to be ideally balanced, as the levels are not as long as other language applications, and the method of answering by point, and click, is simpler which makes it an ideal travel companion, and a way to practice a language without dedicating too much active effort to it. Do a download of the mobile application for your phone or your tablet, and try it out. Very useful for those constantly on the run.

2–      FluentU

www.fluentu.com

Have you ever stopped to think that if only Game of Thrones were produced in Mandarin, you’d be a lot further along in learning Mandarin? They say necessity is the mother of all invention, and FluentU hits that niche nicely. By taking real-life videos that are entertaining in other languages, overlaying subtitles and the meanings of the language behind it, and then quizzing you on what you just watched, FluentU is a new technology startup that manages to build quite a compelling and immersive experience for you to have fun watching your favorite K-Pop videos while learning a language.

3–      HackingChinese

www.hackingchinese.com

The title itself is enough to fall in love with. This blog has a ton of resources on how to attack learning Mandarin, and consequently, a bunch of other languages. Instead of focusing on rote memorization of one language, it focuses on the process of learning language, a crucial distinction that makes it incredibly useful. It’s well-written, substantive, and a very valuable resource.

4–      Linguee

www.linguee.com

Ever felt you were a little too expressive for Google Translate? Linguee is your solution. Its’ sheer genius is that it will take your query, then crawl through the work of professional translators on legitimate sources such as government websites that must translate across several languages for their people, to return a result for you. You can put in jargon-laden terms or even sentences, and see how the best translators would have tackled those tricky translations. It’s the only site I’ve ever gone to where I could make sense out of my random economics rants about externalities in another language—for that I will forever love Linguee, and in time, you will too.

5–      Italki

www.italki.com

I don’t think there’s any language learning experience more immersive than talking, and connecting with someone in their native tongue. Having coffee with someone who speaks the language you want to learn is pure gold in terms of learning languages. Italki finds people around the world for you to do this with online, and makes it awesomely easier for you to connect with people around the world who are looking to learn languages just like you.

6–      Duolingo

www.duolingo.com

When you clicked on the link, did you think Duolingo would be front and center? Yes, Duolingo is great, but it’s very well-known compared to some of the other resources above, and it’s good to shine the spotlight on other resources. However, I’d be remiss not to point out the gamified service where I am refining my French and learning Spanish. Its’ desktop web platform is very hard to beat in terms of a complete interactive experience learning languages.

There you go, you have no excuses now. Go forth, and start learning how to connect with people around the world. You’re only a couple of button clicks away from starting, as I was months ago. Bon voyage!

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Interested in similar resources for learning how to code?

http://www.code-love.com/2014/01/26/five-brilliant-resources-for-learning-how-to-code-design-and-think/