Sam Altman and Y-Combinator

Tad Friend at The New Yorker has just published a great snapshot of Sam Altman’s leadership at Y Combinator. It is worth a read for anyone interested in topics like:

  • technology and human progress
  • generating the next phase of economic growth
  • A.I. and transhumanism
  • crowd-funding a smart city
  • etc.

The following excerpts give a hint at the full contents of the article.

On Altman’s ruthless enthusiasm for big, future-transforming ideas:

“Altman is rapidly building out an economy within Silicon Valley that seems intended to essentially supplant Silicon Valley—a guild of hyper-capitalist entrepreneurs who will help one another fix the broken world. Everyone has cautioned him against it.”

On A.I., human limitations, and technological possibilities (embracing the Singularity?):

“On  a daylong hike with friends north of San Francisco, Altman relinquished the notion that human beings are singular. As the group discussed advances in artificial intelligence, Altman recognized, he told me, that “there’s absolutely no reason to believe that in about thirteen years we won’t have hardware capable of replicating my brain. Yes, certain things still feel particularly human—creativity, flashes of inspiration from nowhere, the ability to feel happy and sad at the same time—but computers will have their own desires and goal systems. When I realized that intelligence can be simulated, I let the idea of our uniqueness go, and it wasn’t as traumatic as I thought.” He stared off. “There are certain advantages to being a machine. We humans are limited by our input-output rate—we learn only two bits a second, so a ton is lost. To a machine, we must seem like slowed-down whale songs.”

On the idea of a crowd-funded smart city:

“Recently, YC began planning a pilot project to test the feasibility of building its own experimental city. It would lie somewhere in America, or perhaps abroad, and would be optimized for technological solutions: it might, for instance, permit only self-driving cars. “It could be a college town built out of YC, the university of the future,” Altman said. “A hundred thousand acres, fifty to a hundred thousand residents. We crowdfund the infrastructure and establish a new and affordable way of living around concepts like ‘No one can ever make money off of real estate.’ ”

On the preference for action over caution:

“For Altman, the best way to discover which future was in store was to make it. One of the first things he did at OpenAI was to paint a quotation from Admiral Hyman Rickover on its conference-room wall. “The great end of life is not knowledge, but action,” Rickover said. “I believe it is the duty of each of us to act as if the fate of the world depended on him. . . . We must live for the future, not for our own comfort or success.” Altman recounted all the obstacles Rickover overcame to build America’s nuclear-armed Navy. “Incredible!” he said. But, after a considering pause, he added, “At the end of his life, when he may have been somewhat senile, he did also say that it should all be sunk to the bottom of the ocean. There’s something worth thinking about in there.

5 Reasons to choose Python for your first programming language

5 Reasons to choose Python for your first programming language

Aspiring programmers often ask the question, “What language should I begin with.”

The first answer is: the first programming language you learn doesn’t matter much. Learn the principles. If you keep programming, you’ll learn more languages anyway.

But the question returns: “I still need to pick a language to begin learning the principles.”

This is where it gets messy. The recommendations come flooding in:

  • C
  • C++
  • C#
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • Python

Each has its advantages.

Among these Python is a standout, for a few key reasons.

Why Python?

1. Python is fun.

Python is a relatively efficient language, requiring fewer lines of code to produce results.

2. Python is easy to set up.

Some languages, such as Java or C#, have much higher setup and maintenance overhead.

3. Python is not going away anytime soon.

In fact, Python has become the most frequently used teaching language at major universities.

4. Python is a tool of choice for doing some very big things.

For instance: YouTube, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Quora, Reddit, Dropbox, Civilization IV, and more. It’s also widely used for penetration testingdata analysis, scientific computing, and more.

5. Python jobs pay well, and python programmers are in high demand.

Yi-Jirr Chen has gathered a number of relevant statistics in an excellent article comparing benefits of several languages here.

Ready to get Started?

For all of the above reasons, I’ve elected to add Python to my own repertoire, and it’s what I’ll be using to teach Intro to Computer Programming in our Information Systems program at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

If you’d like to learn more and get started, here are some resources, below.

For Further Reading

Python is Now the Most Popular Introductory Teaching Language at Top U.S. Universities – ACM.org

If I had to choose between learning Java and Python, what should I choose to learn first? – Quora?

What Programming Language Should a Beginner Learn in 2016? – CodeMentor

Which Programming Language Should I Learn First? – Lifehacker

Courses

Complete Python Bootcamp – Udemy

Learning Python for Data Analysis – Udemy

Python for Programmers – Udemy

Python at Cybrary

Apps for Learning

Learn Python by Sololearn – iOS App

 

 

Why you should be more excited about your local school bond than about Trump vs. Clinton

Why you should be more excited about your local school bond than about Trump vs. Clinton

A great piece by a friend and fellow Bartian.

 

joshuamcnall.com

This week, my fellow citizens in small-town (Bartlesville) Oklahoma, go to vote.

Yet the choice is not about Republicans or Democrats.

It is a bond issue that will attempt to shield our local schools from crippling budget cuts.

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Turnout is expected to be very low.

And that’s a shame, because there are lots of reasons to be FAR more excited about a local school bond, than there are to excited about either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Here are five:

  1. BECAUSE TRUMP IS GOING LOSE, NO MATTER HOW MANY FACEBOOK POSTS YOU WRITE.

He just is—and for lots of reasons. But mostly because we haven’t seen this kind of mind-numbing self-sabotage since Ryan Lochte called his mom from Rio. Given this, it would make more sense to direct your political passion to other votes at the state and local levels.

  1. BECAUSE UNLIKE THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE, THE MAIN OPTIONS DON’T FEEL LIKE A REQUEST…

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Mourning the Decline of American Conservatism

Witnessing the continuing decline of American conservatism, I can’t help but think — what if the Bush-Cheney administration had shown Colin Powell the respect he deserved as Secretary of State in 2001-2004?

Powell could easily have gone on to be the Republican nominee in 2008. Win or lose, he would have represented American conservatives well — and we would be a better country for it.

For a reminder regarding the circumstances of Powell’s resignation, here is a good read: From “The Truth About Colin Powell” — Brookings Institution, 2004:

“On Iraq, Powell made clear … that he had real reservations about the war and that he warned the president and other Cabinet members how costly an intervention in Iraq could be. But once it became clear that Bush was going to act, Powell decided to try to shape the strategy rather than oppose it. As his friend General Anthony Zinni put it, Powell concluded that ‘we’re going down this road and he wants to keep steering the train.’

“The problem, however, is that Powell did not end up steering the train but simply going along for the ride. The administration used Powell’s credibility and public relations skills to help oversell the case for war and to reassure worried allies, while the Pentagon ideologues violated the ‘Powell Doctrine’ by sending too few forces, ignored State Department advice on postwar planning, and mismanaged the occupation.”

Cheney-Rumsfeld’s disregard for Powell’s wisdom began a trend that has led to years of conservative decline. Rather than admitting their own mistakes, conservative leaders and media have consistently opted to cast blame everywhere else, finger-pointing and lashing out at whoever’s available.

Trump is the perfect manifestation of the resulting conservative style — devoid of substance, unwilling to take responsibility for its own mistakes, surviving only by fear and resentment.

If American conservatism has a future, it’s going to need to begin with repentance for past mistakes. (Especially for the years 2003 – 2016.) And it’s going to have to rebuild on the basis of leaders — and arguments — demonstrating seriousness, substance, and character.