Connecting the Dots …

I’m an associative thinker, and perhaps consequently, that made me extremely prone to becoming a nerd. It was really only a matter of time.

This thinking style is the trait that keeps me up at night, and what makes it hard to get out of bed in the mornings because I was too busy thinking through all the never ending connection possibilities. I swear it’s not laziness! Ok, maybe only partially.

In all my endeavors, I’m always trying to connect and integrate things. So here’s a nerd story for the books: when I was a high school freshman, we had a science project that required us to come up with something interesting to showcase. I literally didn’t have a clue what to do, and as usual, procrastinated until the very last minute, leaving the due date to provide the jolt of panicked inspiration I needed. I ended up making a board game that had various lights that would light up whenever the game pieces landed on a certain space. The board game felt too simple, so I decided I needed to do something more science-y… oh, I know! I will make my own battery.

To make a long story short, I somehow got my hands on a jar of sulfuric acid. Two jars if I had to be more precise, because the first one I dropped in front of the public library a few blocks away from my school and spilled all over the parking lot, so I had to request for another jar. It was quite the tragic nerd scene.

The point is, I really liked watching the lights on my board game come up whenever the pieces landed on a space that connected the circuits within the board. That was the spark that really captivated me.

Recently, I found myself similarly pulled in when I attended my first ever ngGirls (the ‘ng’ stands for Angular) workshop in Atlanta that was taking place alongside ngConf, the biggest Angular conference in the world, where Michio Kaku was a speaker!!!

Back to ngGirls. The workshop turned out to be incredibly fun! I was able to dive into the code immediately, and my amazing mentor, Kim Maida, provided real-time feedback to all my questions and tangential musings. Other women in my group also came from various backgrounds in different stages of their coding journey. I have to say that this event had the 3 main C topics covered: code talk, career talk, and cat talk! Even more awesome is the organization’s overseas ties, as it was created by Shmuela Jacobs.

By the end of the day, I had under my tool belt the ability to set up a simple and flexible Angular app in Microsoft Visual Studio. Even better, a random participant also showed me how to find my command line window on my computer, because I’m a total Mac n00b! I really felt more confident walking out of the workshop than I did going in.

After exploring some additional features available with Angular, I found out about Augury and Arduino. (I’m starting to sense a pattern here…) The former is a Chrome extension that will let you visualize your Angular app’s architecture. The latter is an electronics platform, perfect for exploring a full range of possibilities in the world of Internet of Things (IoT). Now the internet can be connected to anything! Just think of that!

So all these lessons in technology has gotten me reflecting on the connectivity of our human-centric world. I’ve always held a more linear mental model of cause and effect, in a controlled, scientific setting. However, given that all things are connected, and it’s really hard to define the boundaries of observation, I can only conclude that everything we do has an impact, like the butterfly effect, if you will. Everything you do is connected to something else, and although its impact may not be statistically significant inside your world, you have no idea how these actions when “crowd sourced” from each of the individual locales can start to make a massive shift of value in our world.

All we have to do is to just keep on connecting the dots…

Just As Certain as Death and Taxes: Change.

People hate change. I don’t blame us, who wants to change? That stubborn stagnation does keep us from spiraling out of control. Yet, to grow requires change.

So, without change, life itself would cease to exist. I’m just going to throw out a theory that change is needed to keep up with our expanding universe (making some general assumptions about causality here), maybe to reach an equilibrium or something…but I’m no physicist.

I was always used to technology changing, but in the last half a decade or so, it feels like the rate of change has really kicked up a notch. I went overseas to graduate school to bury my head in academia. When I finished a year later, ready to get back into the work force, it was very clear things had shifted. I felt like I had time-traveled into the future, and suddenly all around me there were coding schools that allowed students to become coders through immersive course work and projects. The new mainstream path to becoming a programmer had changed completely, and it was available to everybody! I also knew that this was something I had to stay on top of, because it really resonated with me. I had been secretly eye-balling what was once known as “Hacker School”, despite consciously making an effort to get into the nonprofit and social policy sectors at the time. And here I am, now, taking the online version of the full-stack developer program at the Flatiron School. w00t! (Do they even say that anymore?) FTW!

Other things interesting of note was that while working at a consultancy, building custom applications under tight deadlines, we naturally adopted a lot of agile and scrum methodologies. Except back then, I was a “Data Analyst”. In a similar fashion, when I was a “Finance Manager”, I was the sole technology person on my team. Since I understood the finance tool, I served as the liaison to the technology team to build out the online tool that covered the whole spectrum of product development including the layout and usability for the global team. A decade later, these roles have evolved to become more specialized, and descriptors like Agile, Lean UI and UX have evolved to be more distinct and intentional.

But even in change, there are patterns (perhaps more on this later), and we needn’t balk at all the perpetual extra work required to keep up, and some of it’s natural and organic anyway. But keeping up is becoming ever more crucial, especially in the fields that technology touches (which is pretty much everything). There is now this concept called the Adaptability Quotient (AQ) to surface alongside the well known Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and its brethren, Emotional Quotient (EQ). AQ may just be a new catch-all term that would probably describe someone who can just roll with the punches, if the said punches were rapid technology automation replacing workers in a competitive market economy, bombarded in the media by polarizing politics, general iffy attitudes about immigration, amongst other things. (Even this is constantly cycling through time: ‘What Do You Think Is the Most Important Problem Facing This Country Today?’)

I think this post about Why Adaptability is More Important Than IQ and EQ addresses this phenomenon with good equanimity for people whom change brings about a sudden onset of panic. Everyone will be covered, so as long as our government remembers that it’s not jobs that we want to protect, but rather, our workers. Put simply: if your company isn’t training you with the right skills to keep up, take matters into your own hands to do it. Here’s a helpful 4 Steps to Develop Your AQ. If you are having trouble finding the mental wherewithal to tackle all of this, especially for those of us who are churchless, a step into Taoism or Zen can serve you well. Here’s an article that talks about the distinctions to start you off: Zen minus Buddhism equals Taoism.

ASIDE: I also quite liked this post for many reasons, one of which is this awesome polar-grizzly bear.

This post on Tackling AI-driven job displacement: A Primer discusses solutions and reminds us to stay proactive, since change is inevitable. Yet, amidst all the frenzy to keep up, we must also not forget that new knowledge cannot be accumulated without mastering the basics. And finally, it’s always important to look at the dates of articles and blogs, but this somewhat dated post about the end of coding humbly reminds me I’ve got ways to go, so keep learning!

Going back to my speculation of the technology/biology inverse relationship, I’m going to suggest that if technology out-paces biology in change, brain power (or some alien force) is our only savior. When the machines outsmart us, we will be doomed for sure!

Of Chimeras and Cyborgs

In a previous post, I mentioned I believed that software is the inverse of all things organic. So if I took that premise and abstracted with some mathematical heuristics, I get the following equation:

This means that the interaction of technology and biology gives us not annihilation as all those doomsday AI fear-mongers would have us believe, but rather, the collision begets a single entity! Numerologists regard the number 1 as a symbol of creation. It’s pure and strong, much like mother nature. It is an elemental building block.

All of this could very well be part of the next step in our evolution, according to this article about The Rise Of The Biobot: Mixing Biology And Technology. What a great thing, since many people are benefting from the advancements micro and nanotechnologies that can now interact and replace central body functions. Humans are now truly pushing the boundaries of what we consider “cyborgs”, which is a portmanteau for cybernetic organisms.

The article also mentions that the mixing of two systems like this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. Cyborgs are essentially a new form of chimeras that have long been observed in genetic research. Chimerism range from naturally occurring organisms having both male and female sex organs like this lobster, to this human-pig hybrid created by scientists. Obviously, the latter raises lots of ethical concerns, and the same concerns hold for these biobots. Policies and regulations are needed, like any other human endeavor.

Or is this unity like an unachievable universal dream, and the number 1 merely marks a limit, that of which we may never reach? Whatever the case may be, I hope cyborg research stays a step ahead of AI, or else that math equation might end up being equal to 0! Then we will have to bring in the likes of Elon Musk to get us out of that pickle.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of a chimeric mouse I found on wikipedia!