While on the subway…
Avi Loeb | Our Interstellar Visitor (Rob Reid’s Podcast)
I’ve been wanting to share Rob Reid’s podcast for a while because some of the episodes are mind-blowing such as the evolution of beauty but they were a little too dorky. This one is equally as mind-blowing and extended my realm of thinking and possibilities. Harvard’s chairman of the astronomy department, Avi Loeb, wrote a paper about a mysterious object observed in space called Oumuamua (this sounds like it’s from outer space), which is the first interstellar visitor (i.e. not bound to a star and from a different solar system). Loeb projects that because of its movement (has accelerated in an unnatural way), its peculiar shape (potentially 20 meters long and a millimeter thick), and for other reasons beyond my understanding, this may be an artificial (i.e. alien) object! He believes it may be a solar sail (a method of travel where you exert light to propel an object), which of course he is an expert in, and is building one that travels 1/5 the speed of light. He explains one reason we haven’t seen aliens yet is that it’s likely highly advanced civilizations may not exist for very long because they reach super intelligence quickly and soon end up destroying themselves. I also was enamored with his way of thinking and here are some excerpts that got mind in motion (yes, that was an astronomy pun).
He suggested this could be a fully operational probe on a reconnaissance mission sent intentionally (keep in mind this is the head of Harvard’s Astronomy Department). In order for us to see this is a one in quadrillion chance. Every star in the Milky Way would have create one quadrillion objects in order for us to have the chance to view this. Like Sherlock Holmes, he rules out the impossible and whatever remains what must be true.
Scientists (professors) have the privilege of maintaining childhood curiosity with tenure (i.e. they can’t really be fired). Children ask questions and are willing to be wrong. When you become an adult you lose that because you fear being wrong.
We are limited in our imagination by what we know but that doesn’t mean what we imagine is not true.
While in bed…
Alexa, Should We Trust You? (The Atlantic)
Yes, not only is everything we do on our computers and cell phones being monitored but we’re now being monitored at home. I’ve always been wary of my Alexa device but it turns out there could be some really compelling positive arguments for monitoring what we say. Amazon may not just be able to know what you want to buy but doctors soon may be able to analyze your voice patterns and detect if you are depressed. As Yuval Harari says, Amazon may start to know you better than you know yourself by interpreting every facial expression while you are reading each word on your Kindle. Anyway, I think there is a compelling well-being element here where Alexa could play my favorite song if I feel down, tell me a joke, or notify a loved one to reach out. According to one research firm, in a few years there may be more voice activated assistants than there are people. Why do I need to tell the kids to stop fighting when I’m on the phone? Alexa can handle that. If you are concerned about your privacy, Europe has better data policies according to a compelling 60 Minutes segment, and that made me want to consider using the search engine duckduckgo.
Preview: “A 2017 study published in American Psychologist makes the case that when people talk without seeing each other, they’re better at recognizing each other’s feelings. They’re more empathetic. Freud understood this long before empirical research demonstrated it. That’s why he had his patients lie on a couch, facing away from him. He could listen all the harder for the nuggets of truth in their ramblings, while they, undistracted by scowls or smiles, slipped into that twilight state in which they could unburden themselves of stifled feelings.”
While on a walk…
What would you do if it was your last day in NYC? I’m thinking about piloting this event for my upcoming birthday. Friends would be welcome to join for any part. Here is what I would do.
Sunrise looking at the 59th Street Bridge (from Sutton Place). Some early morning soccer in Sara Roosevelt Park. Then breakfast at Russ & Daughters. Stop by the Patagonia store and check out the new gear. Spend some time people watching in Washington Square Park. Walk down Bleeker Street and have a slice at Joe’s. Buy a slice for a stranger too. Head over to Taverna Kyclades for lunch then McSorleys for a beer (dark). Share a table with random tourists there. Head uptown and stop by Green Acre Park for a mindful moment followed by a visit to the MoMA. Stroll over to Central Park and hit up my favorite secret nature spots (you’ll have to join to find out). Stop at the Met (impressionist wing) then go to the northern path of the reservoir for sunset (looking south is breathtaking). Walk over to the UES to my favorite kaiseki Japanese restaurant which seats only 12 people. Van Leeuwen for some amazing vegan ice cream (with a candle) and a beer (Old Speckled Hen) at Jones Wood Foundry.
While drinking tea…
I was super impressed with this Eric Schmidt interview because he seems to know everything about every subject. I loved his closing advice on what someone should do who wants to be the next Eric Schmidt.
“It goes back to the question of luck. I was lucky because I had good taste in friends and it helped me out. The best things in your life will come from the people who you hang out with. I mean the people who you love to work with, who you have passionate talks with all night. If you can find those people, sign them up on your ship. The quality of the people you work with will determine an awful lot about your outcome. Success is a team sport. Those are the people who work the 16 hour days and did so because they love the founders, the vision of the company, and cared a great deal about that. They went home to their family exhausted and they said they were proud to go to work. Those are the people you want to associate with. Those are the people that will change the world.”
Oh and I love how modest he is that he attributes his success to luck (being friends with the other founders).