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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Poor Man’s Single-Cup Coffee

Poor Man’s Single-Cup Coffee

I’ve spent some time sorting through options for a great single cup of coffee.

In a pinch, I’ll drink a cup of Keurig coffee — or any coffee for that matter.

But I have a preference for options that meet the following criteria:

  • Allows me to brew an especially strong cup if I want it.
  • Produces a smooth, rich flavor.
  • Avoids creating unnecessary waste.
  • Costs less than buying boxes of Keurig refills.
  • Doesn’t require lots of cleanup afterward.

My quest has led me to two options, each with its own advantages.

1. Pour Over

Pour over need not be difficult or costly. I’m a fan of good flavor, not a slave to what’s fashionable or expensive.

So here are my favorite pour-over implements:

1a. The Hario V60 02 Coffee Plastic Dripper does a great job, doesn’t break when dropped, and costs approximately $8.00.

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1b. Hario 02 100 Count Coffee Paper Filters, Natural — They’re inexpensive and work great.

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1c. Bonavita Gooseneck Electric Kettle — Simply fantastic, works without a stove-top nearby, and perfectly useful for coffee, tea, hot cocoa, etc.

With these implements at hand, you’re free to choose your favorite brand of coffee.

These basic pour-over instructions work perfectly well:

  1. Heat water to between 190 to 205 degrees fahrenheit (just below boiling, or turn it off at the boil point and allow it to cool for a minute).
  2. Use approx. 2 TBSP of coffee grounds (more for a richer coffee flavor). (Grounds go in the filter, filter in the dripper, and dripper atop your favorite coffee mug.)
  3. Pour just enough heated water over the grounds to saturate them. Allow the grounds to soak in the hot water (“bloom”) for approx. 1 min. (Adjust blooming time as desired.)
  4. After grounds have bloomed, pour hot water over them, swirling from the center toward the outside edges, until the water starts rising above the level of the grounds.
  5. Pause and allow the water to flow through into the cup.
  6. Repeat until your cup is as full as you desire.
    • Takes approx. 5 minutes. Use this time to clear your mind, practice deep-breathing, think thoughts of gratitude, pray.
    • It’s super-easy to produce a fantastic half-cup if that’s all you need!
  7. Toss the filter and grounds.
  8. Store the dripper atop a small bowl.
  9. Enjoy!

It’s that easy. No need to get hung-up with nit-picky details. Just do it. Adjust your method as desired.

For those who want nit-picky directions — here’s a detailed run-down of eight (yes EIGHT) pour over methods for the Hario dripper.

2. Aeropress

If you like bold, rich, smooth flavor, the freedom to let your coffee grounds steep, french-press style, freedom from french-press grit, and minimal cleanup, the Aerobie Aeropress is a truly awesome device (take a moment to read the Amazon reviews). Costs approx. $30.

Aeropress how-to instructions:

  1. Heat your water to your desired temp. (I recommend approx. 190 to 205 degrees fahrenheit — or just a little below boiling.)
  2. I favor the inverted method, so invert the Aeropress by standing it on the plunger with the plunger just far enough inside the tube to create a tight seal. (See the video below.)
  3. Pour in 2-4 TBSP of coffee grounds (start with 3 TBSP, and adjust to taste).
  4. Place an Aeropress filter in the filter cover, and wet it with water so that it sticks to the cover.
  5. When the water reaches your desired temperature, pour into the tube.
  6. Stir for 10 seconds or so with the stirrer.
  7. Let the grounds steep in the hot water for one to five minutes (adjust to your desired flavor).
  8. Screw on the filter cover and filter.
  9. While still inverted, press down on the tube until just before the plunger begins pressing coffee through the filter.
  10. Turn the Aeropress over so that you can press the coffee into your mug.
  11. Gently press down on the plunger for 20-30 seconds (or so) until you press the grounds into a nice firm puck. (Don’t press too hard, or you’ll make it unnecessarily hard on yourself. Give it time, and it’ll do it!)
  12. Remove the filter. (Rinse and re-use if desired!)
  13. Press the puck of grounds into the trash.
  14. Wipe the plunger with a napkin or paper towel.
  15. Store the Aeropress for its next use.
  16. Enjoy a rich, flavorful cup of near-espresso-style coffee!

The following video does a great job of walking you through it.

That’s it.

Which is Better? Pour Over or Aeropress?

Both have their advantages.

When I’m in the mood for espresso, I favor the Aeropress.

When I’m in the mood for a nice flavorful cup of coffee, I favor pour over.

Do you have tips and recommendations for improving the pour over or Aeropress experience, please post them below!