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Archive for August, 2012

Being Present

by on Aug.09, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

When the mind is not thinking about something else, but here. This is among the biggest of big ideas, and perhaps the root of happiness itself.

“We become conditioned. We appear to be acting with attention but there is no attention but there is no attention. We are functioning but we are not present. Yoga tries to create a condition in which we are always present in every action, at every moment.” ~Desikachar, Religiousness in Yoga

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Hackercasting — a Big Idea

by on Aug.05, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Project-Related

To all those trying to hack education, I present Hackercasting — a big idea.

I’ve been discussing the concept of hackercasting with Daniel and a few others — basically, TwitchTV for hackathons, a service that allows people to cast their screens while they are coding, also cast their audio/webcam data, and also display what keystrokes they’re making. By putting themselves on a stage, pros enable avid learners to watch and learn how they think, talk, and code. I think this is of utmost importance as it allows transmission of hacker culture, and it’s a keystone in hacking culture and education (not to mention it’s a technically easy and lowhanging project).

The trick is to get people to actually do it. Like recording good conversations, it will start happening if it’s made ultraconvenient. We need to have a boxed tool and get it announced by a charismatic and well-respected person at the beginning of hackathons saying “all competitors! Load up this tool to start broadcasting yourself live and become a coding Olympian, inspiring people all around the nation. Anybody ever wanted a league of skilled minions to follow and work on projects with you? This is the first step to becoming a hero and gaining adoring acolytes!”
This community would scale exponentially, and have the secondary effect of allowing ordinary programmers to try on the shoes of being an inspiring leader. I want my Mouse Army from Diamond Age.————————

Secondly, on the topic of great conversations: these are beautiful balls of neurological patterns of inspiration and a precious resource of incredible sociological importance. Autorecording is a huge incidental benefit of chat as a medium, and I think it would be amazing if we could make it ultraconvenient app/device that automatically records the last few minutes of a conversation and allows me to replay them. One friend (Lucas Hansen) suggested a microphone necklace for this purpose. When the juices are flowing, when you’re in your little bubble, at the wellspring of truth, insights echoing off your brilliant companions, it’s easy to forget how much of society is clogged with negativity, uncertainty, avidya, etc., how the state of an joyful effort high activation that you are now experiencing is not even dreamt of in the philosophies of many. It would change things so much if we could work on including people in these blazing circles I often see form amongst my friends, where all but the most beautiful thoughts are seared effortlessly out of our collective psyche, and our insight leaps forward with ease.

What I’d I really want to do is talk to an anthropologist about this. Anyone know an anthropologist or journalist who would like to talk about this kind of thing (“cultural engineering”?)?

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Does brain structure hint at nature of problem solving?

by on Aug.04, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

I notice that at any point in my life I am capable on reentering the behavior patterns of any previous point in my life if I focus and relax, and that I use this same process of recollecting previous patterns of my life to subsume new patterns empathetically from other people.  While this isn’t news at all, it’s awesome because it means that (at least per my subjective perception) my brain’s functional architecture reflects the fact that spatial and temporal distance are fundamentally analogous concepts. The brain exploits the symmetry for ease of processing! Good class structure -> better and more extendable app/framework! It’s as if it models those fundamental relationships into its application-specific architecture!
I wonder what other hints to the structure of the universe you can figure out from the way the brain’s problem-solving structures are organized? (In general, I’m boggled by the idea that all computers/minds are actually just channeling the computing power of the larger quantum computer of the universe that animates their processing elements)
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Edugaming Scratch Notes

by on Aug.03, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Project-Related

I’ve listed below a tight clustering of educational tools/games that gave me the inspiration/ability to begin creating things. I would unequivocally recommend them to almost any curious kid, and I would absolutely love it if they could be packaged together into something cohesive. That’s what excites me most about Airy Labs might do!
If there’s nothing else on this list that you’ll see, check out Stagecast Creator (video) — an incredible graphical game-making environment for kids that introduced me to programmatic thought. It’s seriously awesome.
Among others things, there is a children’s homeless shelter near MIT that I want equip with toys that retrace the steps of my own learning minus the stumbling blocks. I don’t see homeless children, I see future hacking partners, employees, and employers 😉 I see the Mouse Army from Diamond Age. One of the achievements I was most proud of in high school was that I was able to inspire fellow students to start programming for fun, and subsequently hire them as web developers — I feel like there is huge potential to do the same for many others via life-guiding technology.
Basically, I want to create a series of apps that, like a perfect parent, suggests how you should schedule your day, spend your time, etc. and effortlessly connects you with the software, games, etc. that are  best for you to explore at that point in your life. This  dovetails beautifully with an element of another project I’m working as part of admitsphere.org (a wiki where successful college applicants share essays/advice): the “what to do in high school” pages (2). Imagine there were an app that guided students through high school, suggesting that they explore various contests, that gently guided them into the areas that they would enjoy most.

(continue reading…)

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PoliticalProgressbar

by on Aug.03, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Project-Related

I’ve recently been trying to answer the question “What is Congress is actually achieving?” for myself and others. I’m working on creating a website with a simple graphical user interface  — a set timelines showing important milestones — that voters can use to quickly see what government is trying to accomplish and how far it has gotten towards achieving its goals. More generally, the deeper significance of many news items can be revealed on interface such as this — if a certain piece of sustainable energy legislation passes, how much closer has it gotten us as a nation and planet to actually being energy sustainable for the forseeable future? This system would graph that kind of information on timeline/”progress bar,” the position (% completion) of which could be determined roughly by a consensus of scholarly opinions.
Above all, what we really want to do is make a database of thoughtful people and politicians’ visions/dreams — their collective positive visions for how the world should be — then find the most rational way to make those dreams real (e.g. elect the senators that have the competence, vision, and concrete plans necessary. Are trickle down economics or Obamanomics better for creating a vibrant economy that allows people to live the American dream? I don’t know. Let’s look at the research and find out, and take the most rational action.)
At the very least, this could be applicable to state/local/student government. What does student government actually do? I’d love to see all the goals they’ve set out to achieve and concrete milestones as to how far they’ve gotten. This would help me see who is actually setting the agenda I like most, and who is more successful/unsuccessful at achieving their goals.”

Demos:
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