📬 The Free-Range Technologist Oct 2019 🎃

I hope you are having a great fall! 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!

And, thanks to everyone who provided suggestions on a better name for my monthly newsletter. JScott's Monthy Missive is now The Free-Range Technologist! -Scott

In September, I had an opportunity to visit the University of Western Cape in South Africa and talk about IoT, blockchain and supply chain projects.

Mid-Oct Edition

Discoveries and Lifehacks


  • An exciting program in which experienced founders and entrepreneurs volunteer to help startups and young entrepreneurs located in incubators around the world. Expenses are paid, and mentors are expected to contribute 20 hours per week to guide new founders. More information here.

Book Reviews

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff (Amazon Link).

  • This is a dense book, but also thorough and insightful. Dr. Zuboff did extensive research for this book, and she presents the development of the surveillance business model in sociological terms. Google and facebook's product is the ability to predict and modify human behavior based on their data collected by surveilling us. I learned a lot and see the collection of personal data from a new perspective. One (of the many) insights I gained was that we don't ask the question "who decides" what is done with data about us, be that posts on facebook, likes on twitter, data about the history of our travels from a mapping app (google maps, apple maps, etc.), or even the image of our face as we walk down the street.

  • This book is heavily referenced. I hope it will be used by policymakers and entrepreneurs who are thinking about how technology is changing our society and affects our ability to determine our future. If you are interested in the policy and societal implications of persistent data collection and surveillance, this a must-read book. However, there are not a lot of stories in the book to carry you through the text, and I could only read about ten pages at a time as I was often looking up information or re-reading sections to make sure I understood the text. Before you tackle it, you might want to check out these podcasts and radio interviews:

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee. (Amazon Link).

  • A good intro to the current "AI arms race," with ideas for how to mitigate the potential job loss due to AI. While this is a popular book, it is only useful if you have not been following the developments in AI, and you need to catch up quickly. It makes some good arguments, namely:

    • There will be a race for AI superiority, and once 2-5 players in the world have AI that is better than any other, it will be difficult for other countries or companies to compete. Instead, they will have to license or use the AI developed elsewhere.

    • We need to consider how AI will affect jobs, where it will create more jobs, where it will change the nature of a profession, and where it will eliminate an entire class of jobs. Lee opposes a "universal basic income" but instead proposes his own solution that involves paying for the work that many people do for free: taking care of a parent or spouse, sick child, or helping your community.

  • If you are not interested in reading the entire book, you can check out these videos and podcasts with Kai-Fu Lee:

Must Read/Watch/Listen

The 100 Years Show (Documentary)

  • At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can view a painting entitled Equilibrio that was painted by Carmen Herrera in 2012 (right). I saw this over the summer and while it caught my eye, I was even more impressed when I read that Ms. Herrera is over 100 years old and is still painting in her New York studio. Her life and art is the focus of a short short documentary called "The 100 Years Show" which is currently on Netflix

  • Those of you interested in the creative process will find it fascinating. Ms. Herrera was overlooked in the 1960s and 1970s when others who were doing similar work became famous. However, she continued to develop and refine her art. I wonder if not being famous in her youthful 50s was a blessing? Did it cause her to continue her development instead of stagnating in fame?

  • If you enjoyed Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant or The Curiosity Muscle by Andy Fromm and Diana Kander, then I highly recommend that you check out the 100 Years Show.

The Interface By Casey Newton (Email Newsletter)

The Great Hack on Netflix (Documentary)

  • This movie is a detailed documentary about the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Great Hack details how Cambridge Analytica enabled the Brexit Leave and 2016 Trump campaign to use psychological operations and tactics to modify voter opinions and biases during these elections. A must watch anyone who cares about the future of democracy and the public's ability to shape the future. And it might even convince you to join me and delete your facebook account! Highly recommend!

Bill's Brain on Netflix (Documentary)

  • This three-part documentary looks at how Bill and Melinda Gates are using their wealth, power, and intellect to tackle some of the significant challenges of our time: clear water, disease, and energy. I came away inspired to think more deeply about how I can think bigger and focus on these grand challenges that face humanity. And that I need to read more every day! Again, highly recommend for everyone.


Trying to keep to the habit of Exploring-->Learning-->Building--> Sharing. Recently I shared what I have learned about AI and its weaponization on social media platforms on some programs. I also created a page with resources for those who are interested AI: http://learnabout.ai Here are my interviews that have been published recently:

  • Talking on KOPN about AI and Surveillance Capitalism, click here to watch.

  • Paul Pepper: Scott Christianson, Artificial Intelligence Specialist, "Face Recognition," click here to watch.

  • Paul Pepper: Scott Christianson, Artificial Intelligence Specialist, "AI in Medicine," click here to watch.

I also got to share my insights about Bill Gates and great books with Forbes and Reader's Digest.

What I Am Looking Forward To

  • Getting responses to this email, hearing about the cool stuff you are doing, and the resources/lifehacks you are using!! Just hit the reply button and fill me in! I'll continue to share back the best with everyone.

  • Getting to share and teach in new venues! On my November Calendar:

    • Speaking about Blockchain Basics with the Global Sourcing Class (MGMT 4201/7201) on Tuesday, Nov 6th

    • Speaking on "The Impact of AI and Social Media on Our Lives" with Fundamentals of Globalization and Digital Technology class on Nov 12th

    • Discussing Adversarial Machine Learning/AI on Radio Friends with Paul Pepper on Nov 13th

    • Speaking at Global Entrepreneur Week: Intro to Blockchain: Let's play the BlockChain Game. On Nov 20th.

    • Speaking at Global Entrepreneur Week: Accelerating Innovation with Open-Source Hardware on Nov 22nd

Thanks for reading and thanks for your insights.

Take care,


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