Category: politics

2019: Preparing for Mid-21st Century Humanity

(Two years since my last post? Geez, I need to get on it! Also of note, I’ve now had this blog for half my lifetime! Here’s to another arc of life to come!)

Can’t believe it’s 2020 already — even the number evokes “the future” for me. Yet now it’s here. What will come of the next decade? Not sure, but there will be a lot of work on millenials as we take on the sterardship of the world.

I think at core, I’d still describe myself as a problem solver. That’s why I picked engineering as a discipline; not just because the role solved problems, but also because I like problem solvers :P.

So with that in mind, here are some humanity scale problems that have been on my mind lately:

Sustainable urban development

Cities continue to be thriving hubs of humanity; but to continue to thrive into the foreseeable future, we need to incentivize solutions for sustained development without exceeding planetary boundaries.

Also key is to evaluate our relationship with our communities and develop new dynamism essential for the long term prosperity of our communities.

I only recently realized this but we surpassed 50% of the human population in urban centers back in 2014! This means we’re dealing with the consequences evermore and some of the ideas we had about urban development deserve rethinking. Still, if you’re going to have 7.7 billion people, cities are the way to go.

When in a cynical mood, I do wonder what good it is for humanity to have such a large footprint that we’re undoubtedly going to call this epoch the anthropocene, but maybe I’ve played too many 4X games like Civilization that I see population as potential.

When I first learned of the world population figures, that was back in the early 1990s in elementary school; I think I read a book of records, where I first learned the world had ~4 billion people (1990s figure); with multitudes of people being born every second! In that moment, I think I first became awakened to the idea that humanity was finite, but also immense. I think even during that time, my idea of humanity has shifted from being a dominant player in the game of life on Earth, to being a geo-engineer hitting planetary limits of sustainable development.

This is of course, a concern — but those are problems to be solved. In the mean time, I’ve come to appreciate that 7.7 billion souls means that many more stories, that much more economy, that much more potential to work together; and in some ways, the necessary urbanization has coevolved the means to get along, at least, along the arc of recent history.

Go humanity!

Developing a common human history

Human tribalism at all levels–the bad parts of it, isn’t going to go away–but to mitigate the risks of destructive hate, tribalism, and progress toward a future we can accept and get along, a shared history and understanding of planetary responsibilities need to be developed to ensure we can all coexist and develop peacefully.

Those alive today (especially those with the future they’ll need to live in ahead of them) need to play an active role in preparing humanity for the future, and a foundation to that is needed.

Technology can play a role here, but people have to want to depolarize–how can we incentivize people to be better to each other?

Personal and Commercial robotics application development

Drones, location tech, visual sensors are everywhere, and millions of drones are in peoples’ hands. Yet, why are they not doing things for us? Roombas have only progressed incrementally for the past decade. I got my first consumer drone in 2012, yet the promises have yet to be delivered on. This is still wide open territory.

I’m mostly thinking utility-oriented applications, but entertainment, pets, and the emerging realm of companion robot is are also likely to see mini-revolutions in the near future. (SpotMini is supposed to be a development platform; but at the likely pricepoints, it seems like not the dominant platform in the 2020 timeframe. Commercial use, I can see).

Individual/community driven privacy/security management

My community (Seattle) it seems worries simultaneously about a police state, but also if they’ll be there when the need arises. In my recent experience, the police are great, but it’s become abundantly clear that there’s a realm of crime that won’t easily be mitigated. We also complain about police when they don’t do what seem like obvious activities to disincentivize people/property crime, (To illustrate the climate, then-Seattle major McGinn in 2013 issued a still observed moratorium to police drones.)

To help communities find their own balance of autonomous physical security/privacy without the concerns of a government/police driven surveillance network across residential neighborhoods, I envision the development of privately managed security autonomous agents (likely small aerial drones, but backed by smarthomes) with data sharing controlled by individuals and managed via a community federation. A legal framework perhaps might be needed to ensure active consent and voluntary participation, as well as a general framework for privacy expectations.

The cost structures are likely favorable to 24-7 availability for <1 min deployment across most homes.

Space commercialization of the solar system

Thank you Elon Musk–you have a bit to go to fully deserve the mention in Star Trek Discovery alongside the Wright Brothers and Zephram Cochrane, but certainly, making space more accessible to private (non-government) is probably going to revolutionize humanity at least as much as the internet, and you’ve helped us get a LOT further.

Through 2019 and the decade, I’ll be watching for progress and launch of Starship, the internet satellite constellation Starlink, as well as other initiatives looking to develop human ISRU capabilities across the solar system. This may be the time where a broader set of nations develop space faring capability — it will necessitate an international framework for governance.

Space science is now merging with space current events it seems. The recent developments in planetary sciences and cosmology have been incredible–with humanity’s probes basically have reached all planets across our solar system.

But still, call me an engineer, but what thrills me the most is the possibility for humanity to be on a path to establishing a permanent, self-sustaining presence across space.

We will do this in my lifetime, so it’s worth envisioning the work needed to make this happen.

There are other ideas

  • Ongoing projects: Personal, experimental, etc..
  • Breaking cultural barriers?
  • Korea issues?
  • Simple musings?

I’ll have to start somewhere. ūüėõ

Happy August 2019!

Election 2016 Aftermath

It’s been little over a month since the election; yet the world pre-election day world seems so far away. “Shocked” and “stunned” echoed on all through the week, even from folks in the president-elect’s camp.

Echos

A photo posted by Alexander (@skyrien) on

The populism-derived movement of the president-elect certainly is a disruption of the status quo. I frequently think of how the present will be written in history, and this administration certainly will have an interesting chapter.

With President Obama’s first post-election press conference, I’m reminded of¬†how stark of a contrast these administrations will be; as much as he tries to reassure that the federal government is “like an ocean liner” in that it’s not very nimble; I suspect that rule only applies to those that understand and respect the institutions’ history. That said, I’m all for moving the country forward in the right direction,¬†with so much yet unknown,¬†we’ll just have to see how things go.

This election is one that prompts some introspection, about what my role in this democracy is, but also what kind of America we’re living, and sometimes fighting¬†for.

As one that’s only lived in reliably blue states of¬†Illinois, Washington, and California, and even at that,¬†mostly close to (sub-)urban¬†metropolitan areas of Chicago, Seattle, and the Bay Area, it’s been all too easy to fall into a bubble mindset about¬†to what extent¬†progressive values are shared.

Despite this, having grown up in a largely conservative environment, I considered my now-adult views relatively balanced, While I feel I can understand the motivations behind the Trump phenomenon, upon inspection, the balance of risk-reward did not seem to measure up.

I am starting to understand though, that underneath his strategy’s blatant appeal to populism — which perhaps suggests the president-elect will be able to leverage this bias to advantage — lies a sensibility about disruption and chaos and the¬†ability to land successfully (and even better) than others around him.

This is a mindset I share, and though I probably wouldn’t risk the world order for a chance at disruption, I¬†am cautiously optimistic that the results will be a net positive.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/24397320205

Election 2016: Some Thoughts

In¬†November,¬†for the first time, I will cast a vote for the head of¬†state! Exciting!¬†I’ve voted in every election I could since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2013 and the¬†election of this year will be the¬†first with one for POTUS. (Non-presidential years are important as well, particularly those involved in¬†state, county, and local governments!)

Having grown up in the¬†United States,¬†and being one that’s¬†long been a fan of US¬†History,¬†it’s impossible to ignore the weight of history evident in the¬†long road it’s taken for citizens to fight and win the right to vote and participate in their governments. The history leading up to the independence of the 13 colonies, to the twisting tortured road within American history itself of ¬†the slow spreading over two centuries¬†of the right to vote across to more and more of the living human beings of this country, all of it is powerfully in memory as I think about the upcoming decisions for November.

But what an election season…

After¬†the past two years of ever-increasing media blitzing,¬†election fatigue finally hit me earlier this month, and it’s clear that it’s not just me. Though to take a optimistic¬†note, I¬†note that democracy is messy and¬†I think this election will teach us to treat our republic¬†with a little more care.

We’re finally coming down to the last few weeks of this election cycle, and while¬†I await the first¬†the sigh of relief after election day (when normal media life, which seems so far away, may resume), this being such a significant election in the terms of my life and America’s future,¬†I feel more like a marathoner at the end of a long race, and¬†in a way, I think¬†we’ll all remember it for the rest of our lives.¬†Maybe we’ll even miss it when it’s over.¬†Not necessarily in the nice kind of way, but more like a shell-shocked flashback to an alternate universe,¬†where a ridiculous caricature of America almost became president. (And ridiculous is being nice!)!

I take the responsibility very seriously.¬†Many have asked me who I intend to vote for and while the right decision seems ever so clear on every possible measure, I’m going to take in all the information I can until election day before¬†I mail in my ballot (also while I try to decipher California’s 17 statewide measures).

But let me take a break and look back at these past eight years. I’ve had my own criticisms, but I’m going to miss Obama as president after he’s gone.¬†While not perfect, I think he’s done a great job as anyone could as president in a challenging time. But democracies and presidents are human, and¬†I’ve considered him authentic to critical values that represent¬†a more inclusive America. Obama represents more than just the first black president; his upbringing and activist empathy is¬†critical in how he accepted the¬†responsibility and of the presidency;¬†I feel that¬†for the first time, we’ve had a president that¬†was able to understand cross-racial issues in a way that shows the true¬†power of American diversity.

This is cool too:

Can’t believe it’s (only+already) been three years! #usa🇺🇸

A photo posted by Alexander (@skyrien) on

The mid-21st century is going to be a very interesting time, and with the rise of the right in Europe, I can see¬†that part of the world¬†turning inward; it seems inevitable, as social media and populism combine to form coalitions on “making xyz great” again, which¬†in code terms mean going back to nationalism and a tribal mindset about the world. This has other consequences, which I mentally associate with a devaluation of the individual and a reinforcement of in/out markers such as race, creed, color of one’s skin, or life choices.

It may not be the America that everyone wanted, or one that was going to wait until everyone was on board. But without a doubt, despite the problems, old and new, that have come up through these past eight years, as a society, as a people, as a world, we have moved forward. This is in stark contrast to the darker elements of society that have risen during this time; starkly evident in the coarsening political discourse in America and across the world.

It almost seems inevitable that diversity (in Europe) will take blow in this shift to the right, as the center of gravity in Europe certainly seems to tend toward less diversity, even in the 21st century after decades of European Union:

Americans more likely to say growing diversity makes their country a better place to live
Rather than be depressed by this, I consider it an even stronger mandate for those of us in the New World to reject these Old World notions of racial nationalism and fight for a more inclusive society.¬†We say today that to become American is to accept a set of values (and of course, meet plenty of legal criteria).¬†Of those values, many of which were taught, generally include a¬†validation of intrinsic value of the individual; enshrined in the¬†Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and reinforced through the American story over the past two centuries. I love¬†great stories and the America that I’m proud of, the America that I feel compelled to help move forward is the one of freedoms and citizenship to one’s community and fellow neighbor,¬†a respect for the strength of our diversity, and the innovative drive that I still see all over the country.

We have many challenges¬†that we’ll need to overcome in the next eight years¬†and we need a president, party, and political platform that has a rational eye toward the real world and what can be accomplished via the limited levers of the presidency; one that believes in the strength of the individuals and welcome all to better the American spirit.

 

 

AND GO VOTE!!! =)