🪐 Free-Range Technologist #22 🚀
Late December 2021
NASA got Earth a new Telescope!
I hope you got to watch the James Web Space Telescope launch on December 25th! It was especially inspiring for some of us at Mizzou, as Mizzou Alumni Micheala S is part of the communications team on the James Web project! She kindly talked to my large undergraduate class in the spring about her role at NASA and managing social and digital media. If you want to learn more about the project, check out:
Where is Webb (Tracking its progress to Lagrange Point 2).
And if you need a refresher on the Lagrange Points, this is a good explainer (remember, life is a cumulative exam!!)
👨🏫 Upcoming Talks
I will be presenting a short course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Mizzou: The Future of Money: Central Bank Digital Currencies. Monday, January 10, and Monday, January 24 from 1-2:30 pm. Registration details will be available at: https://extension.missouri.edu/programs/osher-lifelong-learning-institute
I will be presenting at the Mizzou Teaching Renewal Week: Teaching Machine Learning and AI, Hands-on exercises for non-technical audiences. Registration details will be here.
I will be presenting a brown-bag session for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Mizzou: Deepfakes and the future of content creation, society, and business: January 21 from 11:30 - 1:00. Registration details will be available at: https://extension.missouri.edu/programs/osher-lifelong-learning-institute
I will be presenting a lecture at the College of Business International Week: Balkanization and Borders in Cyberspace on Monday, February 21st at 1 pm in Room 205. Let me know if you are interested in attending and I will get you the details (and perhaps even free parking!)
I will be hosting a number of events via on.zoom.us . These are optional events for my online class that I open up for the public via the on.zoom.us platform. They include:
📚 Book Review: Information Doesn't Want to be Free 👍
Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow
This book is an excellent collection of essays that focus on intellectual property and copyright. The author makes his living as a science fiction writer and has a vested interest in seeing writers benefit from their work. However, Doctorow provides a clear view of how distributors and other intermediaries use technology and regulation to subvert the ideas of copyright to increase their profits and power.
I found the ideas in this book to be especially poignant, given the changes that are coming surrounding electric cars and vehicles. While I am happy to see more car manufacturers turning towards making electric cars, I suspect their motives are more about turning the car into a purchase that also locks in the customer to a subscription service (A so-called Rundle or reoccurring revenue bundle).
Consider the recent case in which Toyota was planning to require users to subscribe to a monthly service to continue to use the keyfobs that come with their cars: Toyota will make you pay to start your car with your key fob. Just as my HP printer rejects all print cartridges made by a third-party, so will your vehicle reject a new motor, battery pack, windshield, or side mirror from another maker. And forgot being able to subscribe to Waymo's self-driving service if you own a Tesla.
This short book is well-written, and I recommend that all creators pick up a copy as they consider how they want to distribute and license their creations, be that videos, music, technology, or art.
📚 Book Review: Talking to My Daughter 👍
A Brief History of Capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis
This short book offers a rapid and accessible introduction to economics, money, the banking system, and why human economic and political history has unfolded as it has so far. Varoufakis also does a great job of showing how the richest and most powerful of our species maintain power and control by bending our democratic institutions to their will. Along the way, he busts several myths and uses mythology, science fiction, and literature to provide memorable lessons and analogies.
In this extended letter to his daughter, Professor Varoufakis also casts his eye on the challenges on the immediate horizon, such as heightening automation may inadvertently shut down the recycling of commodities and money:
First automation of production pushes costs down. Second, the ruthless competition between producers stops them from charging prices above their falling costs. This has the effect of squeezing profits to a bare minimum. Third, the robots that have replaced human workers do not spend money on the products that they help produce. This has the effect of reducing demand...That's the moment when, like Icarus, market society finds its wings melting.
He emphasizes the failing of economists and economic theories, which are explained away with another theory when found to be lacking or unable to predict outcomes.
Whenever they fail to predict properly some economic outcome, which is almost always, they account for their failure by appealing to the same mystical economic notions that failed them in the first place. Occasionally new notions are created in order to account for the failure of the earlier ones.
Most importantly, this book offers a clear call to action by young people. If you want to address climate change, pandemics, education, or human rights, you can't leave the economy up to the economists.
..the truth is that there are no real experts, and the economy is too important to leave to the economists. As we have seen in this book, economic decisions decide everything from the mundane to the profound. Leaving the economy to the experts is the equivalent of those who lived in the Middle Ages entrusting their welfare to the theologians, the cardinals, and the Spanish Inquisitors. It is a terrible idea.
I ordered four copies to have on hand to give out to students (I also keep extra copies for Scott Adam's "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big" in my office). This is a good primer on economics. And the author does an excellent job of pointing out where his ideas and opinions differ from those of other economists. Highly recommend.
🎙️ Featured Talks and Articles 🗞️
I had the opportunity to be on some brilliant podcasts recently, including:
Grow Money Business
Give you the Biz with Michael Brewer
The Optimal Life with Nate Haber
I was recently quoted in an article on cryptocurrency in the Columbia Missourian (local paper):
🔗 Links of the Week
Visualization of the world’s population density on a spinning view of the earth (with a script for modifying or using for your own purposes: https://github.com/sundellviz/dataviz/tree/main/popglobe
Rolls-Royce | Spirit of Innovation - the world's fastest all-electric aircraft
Why Electric Planes are Inevitably Coming
Springboard: the secret history of the first real smartphone (Full Documentary). I used to have one of these….
As always, be sure to hit reply and tell me what you have been up to, what you are reading, and what neat stuff you have discovered lately! I always look forward to getting responses from you all, hearing about what you have been creating recently, and the resources/lifehacks you are using!! And thanks to the 900+ colleagues and friends who read my monthly emails!