Tag Archives: learning

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Resources for Developers (or anyone “technical”)

Artificial Intelligence is the single most important endeavor ever under taken by humanity. If you care to learn the technical side of this venture, I’ve put together a short-and-growing list of resources to look at for introductory learning and exploration purposes.

Please enjoy and suggest additions.


Artificial Intelligence (MIT 6.034)

from the course description:

“introduces students to the basic knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning methods of artificial intelligence. Upon completion of 6.034, students should be able to develop intelligent systems by assembling solutions to concrete computational problems”

Deep Learning for Self-Driving Cars

MIT 6.S094

from the intro:

“an introduction to the practice of deep learning through the applied theme of building a self-driving car. It is open to beginners and is designed for those who are new to machine learning, but it can also benefit advanced researchers in the field looking for a practical overview of deep learning methods and their application.”

Develop Your First Neural Network in Python With Keras Step-By-Step

Introduction to Neural Networks on the high-level ML platform Keras.

Fast.Ai

trying to make AI less “exclusive”. Practical courses and tutorials. Cool branding.

Gitxiv

from the about page:

“GitXiv is a space to share collaborative open computer science projects. Countless Github and arXiv links are floating around the web. Its hard to keep track of these gems. GitXiv attempts to solve this problem by offering a collaboratively curated feed of projects. Each project is conveniently presented as arXiv + Github + Links + Discussion.”

Machine Learning with Andrew Ng on Coursera

This is the definitive college-level course on Machine Learning. It has nearly 12,000 reviews. I’m working through it presently. Includes a great intro/refresher to linear algebra (that I needed).

Thanks to Stanford for providing the material.

Machine Learning is Fun!

The world’s easiest introduction to Machine Learning

There’s also a video course on Lynda.

Recurrent Neural Network Tutorial for Artists

from the post:

“This post is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of recurrent neural networks. It is intended for readers without any machine learning background. The goal is to show artists and designers how to use a pre-trained neural network to produce interactive digital works using simple Javascript and p5.js library.”

Simple Reinforcement Learning with Tensorflow

Introduction to practical application of Q-learning and neural networks using TensorFlow.

TensorFlow for Poets

How to build an image classifier in TensorFlow for poets.

Why I Produced a Podcast from Scratch

My outline and notes from episode 1 with Michael Alexis

I love talking to people. When a good friend suggested doing a podcast to market my skills, he sold me on the following points:

  • You will learn a lot.
  • You will build deeper relationships with your guests.
  • You will improve at the art of conversation.

These aspirations were so motivating to me that I immediately started scheduling episodes and planning a show around these ideas.

This is how I planned and executed a 14-episode podcast featuring my friends and mentors.

Learning

Throughout Season 1 of Hacker Practice I interview creative people engaged in entrepreneurial ventures. I interview engineers and scientists and growth hackers. I interviewed my coaches and mentors, friends and inspiration.

These interviews have taught me:

  1. Novel marketing tactics for this podcast
  2. What Big Data is
  3. Breathing exercises for strength
  4. About this Haruki Murakami fellow
  5. How to build a nuclear power plant in my backyard
  6. How to find a technical cofounder
  7. A new method for learning complex topics from scratch
  8. The basic elements of photography
  9. To ask for feedback after every “no” in sales
  10. How steel quality is measured
  11. A new strategy for generating leads online
  12. A strategy for being more productive and getting fit at the same time
  13. How successful residential real estate investors consider investments
  14. Which hormones make you hungry
  15. and much more…

Further, the process of organizing, recording, and editing a podcast has taught me a variety of technical skills. I now have an understanding of basic audio recording and editing technologies. To be specific, Season One of Hacker Practice was recorded using Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype and edited on the open source audio editing suite, Audacity.

The show will be published and syndicated through Libsyn. I use the $50 / month tier because the show averages an hour and is published one season per quarter. You’ll find syndicated feeds on iTunes and YouTube as of March 15th.

The Craft of Conversation

Listening to myself interview someone has been like watching game film: Occasionally embarrassing, always enlightening.

How easily do you produce a concise question or decisive analysis?

If you’ve never recorded and reviewed yourself having a conversation, you probably have no idea.

Interviewing my friends and role models has given me an outside view of our dynamic. The perspective gives you a quantum of self-awareness otherwise impossible to achieve.

How many people really see themselves as they are? An easier question to answer is: how many people see themselves at all? The answer is probably close to 0%. Which basically makes self-examination via audio/video a power move.

I’m not saying I’m suddenly a meditative zen master. I’m saying that I’ve now listened to myself have 14 different long-form conversations with people I like and admire. In the process, I’ve begun to eliminate verbal ticks and conversational faux pas (“begun” being key here).

Relationship Building

The people I interview are my friends. I’ve done business with many of them. I respect each one of them for their accomplishments and character.

They have so much to teach me. Normal social calls don’t allow for the kind of invasive questioning possible in an interview format. Interviews can be like conversation on steroids. The act of being recorded engages you. It forces you to listen actively and question incisively.

It’s an intimate act. Both parties cannot emerge without having developed the relationship. This is why I interview people I admire and want to have long-term relationships with.

Because: friendships matter.

How I’m producing, editing and publishing my own podcast.

Here are the steps to producing your own podcast.

  1. Get convinced
    1. It takes some confidence to get started. Commit to doing at least 7 episodes or a season. I started off planning to record and release six episodes. Those six episodes quickly turned into a 14-episode season.
  2. Start scheduling
    1. Call the people close to you first. Everybody I interview in season one is a friend that I admire for some reason.
    2. Choose to interview people you’re comfortable talking to. My nervous ticks smooth out toward the end of season one because I get more comfortable talking to people.
  3. Record a test call
    1. Do a call with a friend that you don’t intend to publish. This is just to get the hang of the mechanics.
  4. Write outlines for interviews.
    1. This is optional. At first I wrote thorough outlines to plan our conversations. I quickly realized that they could be a negative constraint. Great conversations are often non-linear. Most people don’t learn in a strictly linear fashion. Outlines, however, are notoriously linear. If you stick too closely to an outline you will miss big opportunities.
  5. Start interviewing
    1. Use a checklist:
      1. Is your outline printed? Do you have pens and paper and water and coffee?
      2. Call the person. Is the connection solid?
      3. Do you have enough storage?
      4. Are both parties comfortable? What is everyone bringing to the conversation in terms of mental space? Is their expectation in alignment with yours regarding topics of conversation and duration.
      5. Phones and notifications turned off?
      6. Deep breath.
      7. Hit record.
      8. Few moments of silence.
      9. “Hello Michael, thank you for being on the show, how are you?:”
      10. When it’s done, take a few minutes to debrief. Thank the person again. And let them know.
  6. Packaging the recording
    1. Edit the podcast
      1. I add an intro and an outro and that’s it
    2. Take notes
    3. Find links.
    4. Write summaries
    5. Find pictures
    6. Send all materials to the guest for review
    7. Change anything they want changed
    8. Schedule the post
  7. Publishing the recording
    1. Use libsyn to syndicate to iTunes and Youtube
    2. Apple takes a couple days to review and publish your podcast.
  8. Post-publication
    1. Promote on social media
    2. Send to your email list
    3. Thank the guest again
    4. Invite them back on the show (about to start working on Season Two!)

And that’s it!

Conclusion

Starting a podcast like Hacker Practice hasn’t blown up my business. It hasn’t gotten thousands of downloads (hundreds though, not bad). It hasn’t turned me into Tim Ferriss or Oprah.

It has taught me a lot about conversation. It’s taught me about my friends and mentors and the work they do and what they find important. It’s deepened my relationships and strengthened my soft skills.

I’m glad I did it and I hope that this might help some of you do the same.

Good luck!

Johnny Boursiquot on building a software agency from scratch, learning Go for Rubyists, and server-less software architectures.

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes today.

Sometimes you start a conversation with one intention, and digress into something completely different.

This happened to me recently, in a conversation with an old friend and mentor, Johnny Boursiquot.

Johnny and I were supposed to do a deep dive into Go Lang and Ruby in this hour long conversation. Instead we spent half an hour talking about Johnny’s experience building a technology agency from scratch.

Then we got around to talking tech XD.

Johnny is well-known as one of the pillars of BostonRB. He also helped to organize the Boston GoLang meetup before moving to Maryland where he founded Baltimore’s GoLang Meetup.

He was listed on New Relic’s list of 18 Go Experts to Follow Online.

In the episode we talk about:

  • Johnny’s lessons learned from founding and building a tech agency, lots of juicy business advice for consulting companies and agencies in the first half of this talk
  • The relative pros and cons of using ruby vs go in different domains
  • How to get started using a new language

  • A quick primer in serverless application architectures

  • How intermediate devs can 10x their workflow

And a lot more.

Enjoy.

Notes

[00:00] What brings Johnny to Maryland after living more than a decade in Boston

  • What brought him to Boston in the first place

[02:30] Major lessons learned from time in Boston running a technology company

  • Running a company means that you’re responsible for other people’s income
  • Many unexpected challenges: biz dev, legal, etc

[05:15] How did Johnny get started in technology business.

  • Started with entrepreneurship in high school

[08:00] Learning how to do business

  • Dealing with clients
  • Managing expectation
  • Touching on the difference between hacking and building a product

[11:00] #1 Lesson? The difference between a service business and product business

  • Agencies do not scale the same way a product scales
  • Most agencies do not end up producing a lot of reusable technology or internal products
  • It’s hard to do internal product development because your staff is busy with revenue generating service activities
  • It’s risky to invest in product development

[20:00] What would Johnny do differently if he could start over?

  • Start a product company: raise money.

[23:00] What about the reverse situation? Making a profitable, successful agency.

  • Protect your margins
  • Be flexible with workflow; Agile doesn’t always work smoothly in an agency environment
  • “They want warez”
  • Your job is to tease out the specifics of what the client actually wants
  • “You’re not in control of your own product roadmap”

[27:30] How to mitigate risk of scope creep

  • Establish a relationship; a partnership to guarantee future work
  • Get a Master Services Agreement

[32:00] Segue to technical discussion. What is Ruby good for vs Golang?

  • Ruby for developing something fast. “Getting a web app out there as fast as possible”
  • GoLang is better for heavy lifting, whenever performance is a consideration

[37:45] What are Johnny’s tips for learning Go (or any language)

  • “Leave baggage at the door…appreciate the differences of Go”
  • There is a “Go Way” of doing things

[41:15] What kind of project should I try using GO in

  • Anything with heavy duty network requirements
  • Microservices (“Something you can throw away”)
  • “Gnarly, performance-critical jobs”
  • Concurrency in Go is super-awesome

[45:00] AWS Lambda and Serverless 101

  • Not actually “serverless”. That’s a marketing term. There is always a server somewhere.
  • Monolithic App > Microservices > Lambda functions
  • Everything is a discrete functional unit
  • Very cost-effective because the server only runs when you call the function

[51:30] What can an intermediate Rails developer to 10-20x their workflow

  • Look past the magic of the language (Ruby) or framework (Rails)
  • Learn the underlying properties of the WYSIWYG
  • Understand how SQL, HTTP, Databases, and CURL — fundamentals of the web — work
  • Learning the underlying complexity enables you to use the higher-level abstractions more rapidly

[59:00] Johnny’s relationship with the command line

  • Used to work in Windows, and mostly everything was a GUI
  • Put together command-line tools to build Flash experiences
  • Started using Ubuntu – understood that there are discrete tools to use and stitch together from the command line
  • Now uses a Mac. Everything can be done from the terminal

[1:05:45] Running swift on the server

[1:07:00] Johnny’s new life hack

  • Modified Pomodoro with a physical twist

[1:10:00] Johnny’s child-rearing hacks

    • Every child is different
    • Reward effort over innate qualities
    • Lots of people squander innate talent. Working hard never fails.

[1:14:00] Johnny’s new job at an education non-profit

  • Serving under-served school districts
  • Exposing diverse groups to the world of technology
  • Bring education equity to the communities that need it most
  • Mostly doing ops work these days
  • The biggest challenge is always dealing with people
  • Johnny loves pairing with more junior members

[1:20:00] Final requests to the audience and where to find Johnny

What now?

Go become a better programmer. And subscribe to the show on iTunes.

Caricature Artist Julia Kelly on Art, Business, and Bookkeeping (e011)

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes.

Julia Kelly and Justus in the Cayman Islands

Do you know somebody who loves to argue?

I’m one of those people. So is Julia Kelly.

We’re great together.

Julia is the most renowned caricature artist west of the Mississippi. She built her business from scratch and is currently starting business #2.

I guess I caught her at a good time.

When I asked her to do an interview with me. She made an interesting request: “Let’s wing it!”

She’s been on some pretty awesome podcasts including: Entrepreneur on Fire, Double your Freelancing, and Afford Anything. She says: the less scripted the show, the more fun the interview.

My old college buddies would agree: Justus loves “doing it live”. So I agreed to do the episode with ZERO PREPARATION.

Typically I prepare for interviews with rigorous research and outline a list of topics to talk about. In this case I did no such thing. Shoot, I didn’t even take notes until after we recorded the conversation.

The result was a fascinating conversations that covers art, business and everything in between. Enjoy 😀

[00:00] This is an unconventional episode. Julia explains why.

[01:55] How Julia introduces herself as

  • A Bookkeeper
  • A Caricature Artist

[4:30] How to be a success without trying very hard

  • Morning rituals and meditation are for the birds
  • How to be successful without them: Show up, do good work, and keep your word.

Sine qua non noun

  1. an essential condition; a thing that is absolutely necessary.

[07:00] Some ways Julia and Justus are different

[10:00] Why Julia is moving into the bookkeeping business

  • Recurring revenue, predictability, stability
  • Partnership

[13:30] Julia shoots down the concept of “following your passion”

  • It’s a fleeting feeling

[16:00] How Julia developed the craft of caricature art

  • Time on task is the most important aspect of developing artistic ability
  • Got a job at LEGO Land
  • The job had a 6-hour training program where everything was done in a marker
  • No erasing
  • Don’t be a perfectionist (“If it’s 80% good, ship it!”)

[24:00] Julia’s and Justus’ artistic influences

Julia Kelly’s Bust of JRR Tolkien

[32:30] The story of the Captain’s hat and lessons Justus learned from an experiment in fame

  • Fame is cheap
  • Anonymity is priceless

[37:30] Julia’s struggles with identifying her strengths

[40:30] Julia’s friend who knows Tom Cruise

  • Confidence is extremely valuable.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it

[42:30] Julia’s story getting started freelancing

  • Market focus made all the difference

[45:30] Selling to trade show marketers

  • Tracking ROI is important
  • “Connect what you do to the outcomes they want.”
  • Attract traffic
  • Create follow-up opportunities
  • Create the right marketing language and identify with their needs
  • Get one customer and drill them for what sold them
  • Get feedback to improve (Peter Dunbar echoed this in episode 8)

[53:30] What lessons from caricature art transfer to bookkeeping

  • Pricing for bookkeeping is more custom, so don’t advertise fixed prices
  • Longer sales cycle for bookkeeping

[56:30] Successes and failures in bookkeeping

  • 3 client since August
  • Cold email works!

[57:30] How to cold email effectively using LinkedIn

  • Julia sends 70 canned emails a day
  • The 556th email hit!

[1:00:00] Justus tells a story about canned cold emails that worked on him

  • Follow up 4 times!
  • Follow up again!

Yet Another Mail Merge Google Sheets Extension

[1:04:00] Julia’ Bookkeeping goals and differentiating factors

  • 7 figure business
  • Totally remote
  • Flat monthly fees

[1:05:45] Julia’s ideal client is hands-off, casual, comfortable with remote bookkeeping, and wears plaid

  • Rapidly growing startups are a good fit in many cases

[1:08:30] Julia wants everyone to go read Slatestarcodex and talk to her about it.

Check Julia out at

Also, Julia thinks GMO’s are safe. That is all.

What else?

That’s all. Actually, wait, no. Go to iTunes and subscribe to the show. And leave us a review 😀

Life at the Bleeding Edge of Technology (AI) and Education (MIT + Nuvu) with David Wang

Listen to Episode 7 of Hacker Practice on iTunes.

I met David Wang at a vegetarian restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was introduced to me by our mutual friend Naf Visser (episode 008). David and I sat outside in the sun. It was hot and I practically shotgunned my ginger turmeric smoothie.

I was working on a project and wanted his feedback. It was an artificial intelligence testing platform. David is one of the leading experts on autonomous systems, so who better to talk to?

The project never materialized, but I made a new friend.

We hit it off. David is a great listener with a kind demeanor. It’s probably apparent in our conversation here; David is as good with people as he is with technology. And he is very good with technology.

He has multiple degrees from MIT including a PhD in autonomous scheduling and planning. He worked on the F-35 fighter jet and his thesis code was used on the Mars Curiosity Rover. He’s worked everywhere from DARPA to Boeing to Pratt and Whitney. He knows as much about computer science and software development as anyone in the world.

Now he’s a co-founder at a school that’s redefining modern educational paradigms (Learn more about NuVu here). I’m so glad he had time for this conversation.

In today’s talk we go over:

  • AI – Past, present, and future.
  • How to learn complex topics quickly
  • Education and how David is fixing it.

Enjoy episode 7 of Hacker Practice with David Wang:


[2.45] David explains how we have come out of “Artificial Intelligence Winter” and why AI is about to take off

[5.10] AI ethics and morality and the end game

[5.45] David discusses how codifying algorithms lead him to forging a career in AI

[7.15] David discusses why following your hobby is a very important step in figuring out what you are on this planet to do:

  • David enjoyed building computers from scratch
  • Built a processor from logic gates in his spare time after studying

[13.30] David describes what it’s like working on research projects with DARPA – Advanced research project agency of the defence department. ARPA is most famous for creating the internet.

[14.45] Learning interesting topics – PHD automated planning and scheduling – AI subcategory

[16.45] David describes AI planning and scheduling in detail!

  • Ask how would we describe the world to a computer with true or false statements E.g. is the coffee cup on the table? True/false
  • We then have a language which we can use to describe the world as is and how we want it to be (known in the AI world as “the goal”)
  • Describe an action with a set of preconditioned statements that create a set of effects. Planning and scheduling involves sequencing these actions to get from your starting point to the goal.

[21.10] David describes planning system projects he worked on at MIT involving decision making algorithms to block malicious hacking tactics.

[23.20] David discusses the two types of hackers that are most dangerous

[25.00] David describes his experiences of working on AI robotics projects for Boeing

  • Why programming frameworks haven’t innovated until now

[34.20] How video gaming was David’s gateway drug to programming. David also describes how we can take learnings from video game construction to the real world and contextual AI applications.

[38.20] David discusses the concept, “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything”

[40.40] David describes personal hacks he has for learning

  • Start by asking why something is the way it is and understand the reasons behind something. Is there an intuition that is extractable that will allow you to remember why something is the way it is.

[42.45] David talks about working on Augmented Reality applications in smart homes

[44.30] Hacks to remember the names of people you meet

[49.00] David gives an example of how AR in the smart home context, could be used to help a non-technical person, solve a technical problem, without the need for a technician

[50.40] David gives his insights on Virtual Reality (VR) applications

[54.00] Discussion on learning and facing adversity

[56.40] David discusses his experiences working on the F-35 jet fighter

  • David would essentially imagine all the different ways the plane could fail and reverse engineer solutions to prevent failure
  • How David used the spiral development cycle to understand how the F-35 worked

[1.04.00] Complexity comes not necessarily from the technology but from the number of moving parts

  • David talks space exploration applications

[1.08.10] How David deals with the isolation of being at the top of a field

[1.10.20] Why it is so important to understand students underlying motivators to learn

[1.13.20] Why it is important to decide if college is the right medium for students. College shouldn’t be used as the only time to decide what you want to do with your life.

[1.16.45] David discusses why he started NuVu and shares his insights on teaching intuition

  • By realising that the projects that really piqued his interest during studies were all based on extracurricular activities, David went out to challenge the existing education model.

[1.20.30] What it’s like to run a school which has no classes, subjects or grades

  • Students need to come up with an idea they are super passionate about. They are then taught how to turn it into a great idea.
  • Students skills are then develop to turn this idea into a solution. The difference from formal learning here, is that they are invested in learning these skills because they are passionate, as opposed to being forced.
  • Encourage students to understand the fundamental concepts of human centred design thinking when ideating and developing their solution

[1.25.20] Justus gets David to deconstruct an idea using his teaching methodology. Spoiler: There is a lot of asking “why”

[1.31.30] How to not avoid losing sight of your original idea in the face of pivoting

[1.34.00] What someone could expect as a new student at NuVu

[1.37.10] How to start a school like NuVu on the cheap

  • NuVu is a private educational business that is not accredited. How important is accreditation? In the case of NuVu, it isn’t.
  • Ask, what does success look like for students leaving your school?
  • NuVu wants to create the innovators of the future. There is a strong emphasis on soft skills.

[1.43.30] The goal of working in a team is to create a giant brain

[1.46.30] David discusses a seasonal effective disorder (SED) project some of his students are working on

[1.48.20] What a parent who wants to send their child to NuVu need to know

[1.49.30] How David plans on scaling by helping existing schools adopt the NuVu education model

  • Use Maker Spaces more effectively

[1.53.20], David asks us to think about what success means to you and is college critical on that path to success?

What’s next?

If you enjoyed today’s episode, subscribe to Hacker Practice on iTunes (and leave a review please :D)

The Beauty of Self-Education

Questioning your assumptions is a good thing. It fosters critical, logical thought. It is the cognitive manifestation of natural selection. A Darwinian ecology of ideas — in your head.

A good strategy for questioning your assumptions is to engage in debate. It gives you opportunities to voice your opinions and challenge them with opposing ideas. Those opposing ideas usually come from other people who disagree.*

If two people hold contradictory ideas to be true, at least one of them must be wrong.

Today’s liberal arts universities preach to students, advocating that they “think for themselves”. This is ironic, because the structure of American schooling generally fosters the opposite of independent thought. When your teacher tells you to “think for yourself” what they actually are saying is “think about yourself”.

Young people often get into trouble with their friends. They will justify themselves by saying “Everybody was doing it”. The authority’s response will be: “why don’t you think for yourself?”

What they are really saying is: “Ignore your friends, think about your own well-being.”

To map it out: herd mentality is an instinct. Young people following an imprudent trend is the result of a natural inclination towards social activity. The counter-argument is to “think for yourself” or  “think about your own well being” or really just “THINK“.

This isn’t really advice at all, since for most people, thinking isn’t optional.

Traditional education seeks to educate us so that we can think for ourselves, but only succeeds in preventing us from thinking at all. This is why we have universities with strict safe-space policies and required coursework that is totally irrelevant to the student’s chosen area of study.

In The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Howard Roark is expelled from architecture school for thinking independently and challenging existing architectural paradigms. The novel is fiction, but in reality people are expelled from institutions for all sorts of reasons all the time. Often, the reason is not academic, but ideological.

“What am I going to do after high school?” – Average students everywhere.

If you don’t want to think too hard about it, just go to college. It’s the safe bet, says your every single one of your advisors, counselors, teachers, parents, and mentors, ever.

They all advise the same thing, because they have invested heavily in traditional education structures. To advise otherwise would basically be admitting that there was a better investment to be made and that the advisor invested incorrectly. Consistency bias is the University-system’s greatest free marketing tool ever.

One effect of traditional education is that it relinquishes you from responsibility over your own beliefs. If you are a liberal, it is because you went to an Ivy League school. If you are a conservative, it’s because you were in a Greek Organization in the south. It makes sense that we are a nation of conformists, since we are all taught the same mantra: Think about yourself. And whatever you think, just remember, it’s not your fault if you’re wrong.

The beauty of being self-educated, is that you are liberated from the group-think. You are free to pursue whatever ideas you like, in whatever order you choose. This forces the student to be intrinsically motivated.

Individuals are outliers. Individuality produces the Mahatma Gandhis, the Elon Musks, and the Buddhas of the world. The United States has a culture of ambition which provides the most prolific breeding ground of individualists in the world. Unfortunately, the Soviet-Harvard mission is to enhance collectivism and raise the average as opposed to support the individual.

You’ll often hear liberal philosophasters wax about the superior education systems of Scandinavia and south-east Asia. They will tell you about “average test scores” being higher in these cultures.

Here I will state unequivocally that I am unconcerned with average results. I am only concerned with extraordinary results, which is what the United States is really good at. We are really good at it, because of individualism and a culture of ambition. We are good at it despite the constant collectivist morality-warp.

How to Autodidact

Hopping from topic to topic on a whim fosters creative connections that most students never get. It is a joy for myself to write this essay based on my independent research and reasoning for my own purposes. 

When I attended schools, I wrote other people’s papers for money. Papers on economics and sociology and anthropology. Papers on altruism for cheaters in theology courses. Most of the time I wasn’t in the course I was writing the paper for. I was in school to learn whatever I wanted — or whatever I was paid to. I thought the advised course requirements were silly so I strategically declared majors that had fewer first and second year requirements.

The system is a game, so game the system.

Even now, when my primary areas of study are human behavior and computer science, I have a simple framework for determining my daily study:

Identify, research, plan, synthesis.

Identify

I ask myself questions like: What will the next game-changing technology be? What do I know, at the highest level about this technology? What domains am I especially weak at? What is sparking my excitement to learn at this precise moment?

Sometimes the answer is obvious. Today, I am rereading Antifragile  by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I was reminded of a letter I wrote to my inner circle on education and I decided to revisit the idea.

When I’ve completed this essay, I will move to a new context and begin some technical pursuit. Lately I’ve been exploring the automation of organic 3D models. This satisfies the engineer in me.

Research

[Warning: Super Unpopular Position)

Research is continual and virtually passive. Normal scholastics would consider the process lazy. Frequently neglect to cite many sources. Simply don’t maintain that sort of trivia. The important learning is a learning of principle not a learning of source.

I derive great enjoyment from the flow of reading and exploration sans maintaining a bibliography.

Planning

Most interesting projects take a proportionate level of planning. Designing  a better calendar takes years of calendar use, sketching, math, analysis, knowledge of various tools and principles of design.

I learned each of these, except math, from my own self-study. The basic math I used to turn 365 days into almost-a-perfect-square is something that could be taught in one day of concentrated study. And that’s the worst case.

All great works require planning to synthesize.

Synthesis

Doing the work. This is where at least half of my learning comes from. I wouldn’t understand square roots as well as I do if I never put 365 days into  square blog. I wouldn’t understand web technologies if I hadn’t built a few apps. I wouldn’t understand design if I had never mocked a product design.

Centrally Planned Education Kills Creativity, Begets “Normal”

The most popular Ted Talk of all time agrees with me here.

The trouble with a homogenous nationwide curriculum is the same with a homogeneous nationwide food system: quality suffers. If most people grew up learning cookie-cutter ideas, most people will have cookie-cutter minds and cookie-cutter aspirations.

“I want to have a house with a big yard. Two kids, a refrigerator, and two cars…”

You’ve all heard that refrain, it’s the “American Dream”. By now, we’re all tired of hearing it. An American dream only comes about through an American Indoctrination, or, an American Dogma. When I was in school we would say the pledge of allegiance to our flag every day. This is a “blue ribbon” public education. Yet, I frequently hear of my classmates OD’ing, dying in preventable accidents, committing acts of violence, or spending their lives on “average” pursuits (An interesting effect of a gaussian distribution: a disproportionate number of outliers in one direction will pull the bell-curve in that direction).

What many don’t realize, is that even as they’ve architected their lives to be “normal” but what is “normal” for them is a Black Swan in the universe. Life will change and one day their ideas will become abnormal.

The self-educated person does not fear abnormality. They have not been conditioned (or were resistant to the conditioning) to see failure as a bad thing. When the self-educated person discovers that they were wrong, they adjust their premise. They do not cling to beliefs that are objectively untrue when faced with incontrovertible evidence. They are free from self-consciousness and free from self-doubt. Failure is a good thing because it equates with additional education. In traditional systems, failure equates with less education: “If you fail, you’ve learned less.”.

When the self-educated person is wrong there is no one to blame but herself. She can never rationalize away her own responsibility. She selected her curriculum, if it turns out to be false, it’s because she did not consider the alternative. She cannot blame society, her teachers, or anyone else for the falseness or her beliefs.

So, not only does the self-educated person gain more from their failures. They also get to take responsibility for them. The most successful people take responsibility as much as they can. The least successful people avoid responsibility as much as possible.

* I challenge you to comment and disagree with any of my assertions. It is one of the ways I learn and if I am found to be wrong I will learn much from the experience.