The Free-Range Technologist #19

October 2021

Discoveries and Lifehacks


Annette K turned me on a method called Zettelkasten, a way to create a database for unstructured information, such as the notes from articles and books. Once entered, It allows you to quickly search and assemble those notes into valuable content (for example, an email, paper, or other content). This database can be in a physical form with notecards, but I am building my database using a program called Roam Research. [Obsidian is a popular alternative to Roam Research, but I dont think it matters much which program you use.]

This Youtube video explains the basics.

The long-term benefits of building up a "second brain" seem well worth the time and effort. For me, adapting my thinking to the Zettelkasten method was not easy, and I found that Roam had a steep learning curve since I am used to databases that are obvious in terms of structure (think rows and columns). It took me about two months to really get it. I love it now and have used it to produce several pieces of content, including a letter published in the Financial Times.

This Youtube video explains how Roam can be used for content creation.

Loving Vincent

This fascinating 2017 movie focuses on the death of Vincent van Gogh. It is an animated filmanimated by rotoscope and painting (a team of over 125 artists painted 65,000 frames for the movie)!! Loving Vincent was written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, and I highly recommend that you check it out. Below is the Youtube preview and link to rent (it is also available on Kanopy and a few other streaming platforms).


LuLaRich is a four-part documentary on Amazon Prime that "chronicles the unraveling of LuLaRoe." What started as an excellent little clothing business became a multi-level marketing (MLM) business (all of which should be illegal, IMHO), then became an outright pyramid scheme. Once regulators caught on, the founders tried to change their business model back to an MLM. It illustrates many principles I teach (churn, quality control, market saturation, etc.). The story of LuLaRoe is a sad tale: it could have been a great little business if they had not been so damn greedy.

Amazon Prime Link

Book Reviews

Futureproof by Kevin Roose

An excellent book that takes a balanced approach to developing a mindset for coping with a future in which AI is more and more part of our life. A short read but highly referenced and researched (I think I got an additional ten books to read from his bibliography!). Roose lays out the issues that AI and automation pose for society and the individual. Moreover, it makes it clear that 1. Changes to our personal and work lives are happening right now, and 2. It is up to humans to decide how much we allow AI and automation to change our lives.

  • "This is the truth about the AI revolution. There is no looming machine takeover, no army of malevolent robots plotting to rise up and enslave us.... It's just people, deciding what type of society that we want."

  • "Executives, not algorithms, decide whether to replace human workers. Regulators, not robots, decide what limits to place on emerging technologies like facial recognition and targeted digital advertising."

Highly Recommend!

Amazon Link: Future Proof

Featured Talks and Articles


In the last couple of months, I have been diving into the area of deepfakes, learning more, and sharing what I have figured out. So far, most of what I know is not good. While this technology might have a few promising applications, the risks are significant. Deepfakes are just one way humans are weaponizing AI against other humans (A clear and present danger compared with fears of Skynet like AI hurting us).

I had the opportunity to teach a Master class for the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation #AfriJam event: Deepfakes and the future of content creation, society, and business. The talk is below (I should have used more graphics in the latter part of the video). The students were excellent and clearly understood why Deepfakes are dangerous.

I also talked with local TV and radio host Paul Pepper about Deepfake Technology in September.

If you want to learn more about Deepfakes, this California Law Review Article does an excellent job of explaining the issues: Deep Fakes: A Looming Challenge for Privacy, Democracy, and National Security by Bobby Chesney and Danielle Citron.

And here are a couple of recent articles that should convince you of the dangers this technology poses.

列entral Bank Digital Currencies (CBDB)

I am super excited to be able to announce that I will be co-presenting with one of the rising stars of the University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business Finance Department: Matteo Binfar癡 ! Matteo will be talking about Defi, and I will do my best to explain the current state of affairs in Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). Mark your calendars and I hope to see you there. Email me if you have any questions!

Links of the Week

Important and/or fascinating links, stories, and technologies. (Share your links with me! Just drop me a line or tweet them to me.)

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!

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Take care,