I'm an entrepreneur, most recently with Lore. Starting something new.

  1. The Internet is a Human Evolution

    Human anatomy hasn’t changed in 200,000 years. Instead, humans evolve with tools. Language, global commerce, and print are inventions that augment our cognition, allowing us to think with abstractions, learn new things, and create a better world. The internet is our latest evolution.

    Interacting with software—apps, art, games—requires a human brain. Hand a dog a tennis ball and it will play, but give it an iPad and it’s lost. Like animals, we live in physical space. But unlike them, humans reason, create, explore, and converse. Our intellectual process defines us.

    Software allows us to use that intellectual process while transcendingphysics. In the digital world things move instantly, copies are free, scale is infinite, work is distributed, and personalization is the norm.

    Steve Jobs once said that the computer was like a “bicycle for the mind.” But it’s way more like a motorcycle.

    When you connect computers to each other the metaphor expands exponentially. It’s not just a motorcycle for the mind, but billions of motorcycles traversing infinite, intricate roadways.

    For a long time, the realm of software was severely limited by available hardware. But we’ve hit escape velocity. We have a giant surplus of hardware technology: everyone has a connected smartphone in their pocket.

    Networked software is analogous to the mind’s evolution with language, an empowering abstraction that allowed us to communicate concepts and form far more complex thoughts. With words and sentences we construct intricate ideas in ways that other people can understand and expand on.

    When we engage with the internet our brains similarly rewire; they evolve. Without the limits of physics or biology the realm of possibilities becomes virtually infinite. Our learnings are limited only by our drive and curiosity. Our creations, by our imaginations.

    Artists can share songs with the world instantly, a lone traveler can navigate a foreign city to find the best izakayaand students can learn about spacefrom astronauts while they’re in orbit. We don’t have to remember random facts. We work at the mind’s pace. When a digital solution will do, it will always win.

    It’s as if we discovered this alternate universe that has these magical properties. We just got to this place. We are adapting, evolving, to understand it and construct a new home.

    The internet is the world’s nervous system. Every node on the network gets smarter and stronger as the network expands. What isn’t connected will die. The synapses create an integrated system, a collective, exponentially smarter brain.

    We’re just beginning to see the effects of this. Google answers any curiosity instantly. Uber moves people cheaper and faster than ever before. Facebook lets you keep in touch with a 1000 people at once.

    Quality of life goes up. People get access to the whole world from anywhere. And they can contribute to it.

    Our current internet is in its infancy, though. By the end of the decade the number of people with smartphones will triple to 6 billion. We’re just scratching the surface of what can be done in this new environment. How will we create, learn, eat, heal, live, love?

    Imagine a world that evolves with the internet.


    In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more about the state of software, its history, and where we can take it. Thanks to Luke Crawford and Eddie Cohen for feedback and insights on this post. You can follow me on Twitter @josephcohen.

    TAGGED: writing



  2. Free College for Starbucks Employees →

    The New York Times reports:

    Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday.

    The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition.

    […]

    Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.

    This is a prescient and inspiring move by Starbucks. It’s particularly interesting for three reasons: 

    • The company knows that in this era education is our limiting factor. Fast food is historically a people-powered industrial machine. As computers replace humans in those roles, employees will need to be more skilled.
    • Starbucks is the latest corporation to step into a role traditionally occupied by the government. As the US government continues to languish with education, I suspect we’ll see more of this.
    • This is only possible because of online education delivery. The incremental cost of an additional online student is orders of magnitude lower than that of an in-person one. 

    I don’t know much about the experience of this program, and I’m naturally skeptical of a “get-a-degree-in-two-years” education, but it’s a step in the right direction. The content and process of college needs an overhaul, and I think we’re more likely to see improvement with corporations getting more involved. 

    I fully expect other large companies to follow in Starbucks’s wake—and I’m excited to see where that goes. 


  3. Field Notes: Mod

    image

    This is Ground have designed a wonderful carryall for the modern explorer. Their words:

    The Mod is a full design system — not a singular item. It’s a new space to stow and carry items that are in your life. The concept was inspired by those old vintage portfolios that allowed for tricking out the interior with phone books, pencils, notebooks and little things. The Mod takes that concept and updates it with respect to modern day gear and today’s adventurer. ‘Mod’ifiable means you’re covered for your day job, after hours, weekends, alter ego, and dreams.

    TIG sent me one as part of their beta program. I’ve had my Mod (“magnetically modifiable folio”) for a few days and already love it. Some notes:

    Read More

    TAGGED: writing themod thisisground

  4. Vignelli, 1931-2014


  5. Blockchain for Good

    A thought. Could we use the blockchain to create an alternate currency that captures non-dollar wealth? For example, EcoCoin: a fungible, transferrable measure of positive environmental value. 

    Corporations have historically been far more effective vehicles for change than non-profits. (Governments live somewhere in the middle but lately have been doing a terrible job). The thing that makes corporations structurally great—a focus on the bottom line, measured in dollars—often doesn’t account for other interests like human welfare, future generations, the environment. So what if you could create a currency for those externalities?

    TAGGED: writing thought cryptocurrency

  6. Ocean Unknown →

    Inspiring, and alarming, talk by two ocean explorers:

    “Life came from the oceans,” Thys concluded. “And the life in them continues to nurture life everywhere. We owe them some nurture back.”

    And check out this excellent short that prefaced the talk.