I finally carved out some time to set up the new version of my dictionary-making app. This week I’ll continue the setup and start working with my language sources.
Kai-Fu Lee‘s AI Superpowers is about being human. I thought it would be about a tech arms race between China and the US, largely because that was the thrust of the Frontline episode I discovered it on. But the book didn’t carry that tone. It was more about the cultural differences in the two tech industries, China’s technical and economic strategies and ambitions apart from exporting communism, AI’s potential benefits and its threat to the workforce, and a very personal look at an alternative to UBI—incentivizing caring occupations that will be more valuable when AI has overrun the others. The last three chapters were the highlight for me.
The Transpacific Experiment by Matt Sheehan was an unexpected gem. I got it on sale sort of on a whim because the topic seemed interesting and the reviews were good. Little did I know it was some quality reporting and directly related to AI Superpowers. Sheehan helped Lee with that book, and the books complement each other well. Outside the topic of recent tech development where they overlap, Lee expands on the AI theme, while Sheehan expands on the other arenas in which the two countries interact. He covers education, technology, real estate, movies, immigration, and politics.
These two books nuanced my understanding of China and raised my interest in its people and its progress.
I’m on my next stretch of The Lex Fridman Podcast. Musicians, podcasters, and Spotify listeners might like his interview with its chief R&D officer, Gustav Soderstrom. I’m still deciding how long this phase will be and what book(s) will occupy the next intermission.
Sunday I played outdoors with the worship team at my church’s second site. It was nice to see people in person and spend some time outside, even though it was windy and a little cold in the shade.
Jacob Collier has inspired me again. A music transcription stream by one of my favorite speedrunners got me thinking about Jacob Collier again and his own streams diving deep into the details of his compositions. Ideas cascaded out of that river (though not really musical ones), and if I can sustain my motivation, we will see what comes of them.
Tuesday I had an outside dinner with Jeremy. We hung out at Panera and talked about books from our childhoods, among other topics. I might try to capture some of those old reads on Goodreads, though I’m very hazy on the dates. It’d be interesting to see how my memory is jogged about books I’ve forgotten. And I revisited the idea of listening to the books we were assigned in school that I never completely read because I was only a fake good student.
I’m pushing myself to nap less. My productivity is disrupted by naps and my sluggish recovery time afterward, so at the end of the week I enacted a plan I’ve had in the back of my mind. I’m resisting the urge to lie down during the day when I’m tired, because it very easily leads to accidental napping. It worked well the two days I tried it. Next week I’ll report on how it went this week.
I’ve been watching animal videos. Intrigued by material I sometimes see about animal minds (e.g., NOVA’s “Bird Brain,” Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds), my attention has recently drifted to watching videos of octopuses and other intelligent animals. (BTW, it’s not octopi, and octopodes is uncommon.) Here’s a giant Pacific octopus communing with her aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here’s a sea life hobbyist demonstrating how to play with a pet octopus. And here are apes with very human-like reactions to magic tricks. Over the years I’ve also been collecting a mental menagerie of my favorite animals, so those are making appearances too. Here’s a pet owl revealing its true nature.