Category Archives: artificial intelligence

Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2020

According to my Goodreads stats (which I use to track every book I read), I read 95 books in 2020, which is down slightly from last year (114). Though that includes comic books, which are shorter and quicker to read, plus audiobooks, and I read less comics, so more full-books in all. My increased reading was not due to being stuck at home during quarantine as that didn’t affect my lifestyle much—it’s primarily because I severely cut down on reading Twitter and other online news. I previously wrote about the futility of following the daily news closely, but I still clung to Twitter—a little too much—sometimes a lot too much. I will expand upon how I broke my Twitter addiction in a future post, but suffice it to say, these days I check Twitter just once a day (at night after getting my work done) for only a couple minutes—if at all. This immediately reduced my stress levels and gave me much more time to read more valuable things that will stand the test of time, such as the following books.

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Best TV of 2020: Too Many Shows

The theme this year is that, due to the abundance of streaming services, there is simply too many good TV shows to keep up with. I don’t have time to watch shows that are merely “good”—they must be great. Perhaps it’s just me, and other people (especially during COVID lockdowns) have more free time to devote to television. I used to have lots of time to waste watching TV before I became a writer. These days, the vast majority of my time is spent writing and doing other writing-related business. The second-most amount of time is spent reading. Books, especially science fiction, are generally better than TV. Then there are the daily essentials like exercising, eating, and other errands, during which I listen to podcasts. That leaves me about two hours at night before bed to watch a TV show, movie, or documentary. I’ve cut down on my television watching this year, focusing more on movies and documentaries—again because I don’t have the time to watch multiple multi-season series. I can easily get through a mediocre movie when it’s only an hour or two, but watching a mediocre TV series can take dozens of hours, which is time I don’t have to spare. In the past, whenever I started watching a TV series I’d see it through to the end no matter what, but I’ve been cutting the cord early on TV shows more and more.  My patience for mediocrity evaporates over time. Having said that, there were at least ten shows I saw in 2020 that were worth my time. 

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The Self-Driving Car Conundrum

Self-driving cars are inevitable. Tesla, Ford, BMW, Nissan, GM, Google, Baidu, Apple, Amazon, Uber, Lyft, and many more companies are all working on developing autonomous driving systems for their vehicles. It is not a matter of if, but when. Self-driving automobiles will be ubiquitous in the future. There is one core conundrum with self-driving cars, however. Self-driving cars will only work if there are only self-driving cars.

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Death by Self-Driving Car

Death by Self-Driving Car is a collection of three short stories about the near-future prospects of autonomous automobiles and their potential impact on society.

“The Autonomous Trolley Problem” is a new spin on the classic philosophical thought experiment. What was originally proposed as an insoluble ethical dilemma may soon need to be solved when programming self-driving algorithms in the real world.

“Redundant Truckers” is about the mass unemployment former truck drivers could face in the wake of self-driving semi-trucks such as those being developed by Uber’s “Otto,” as well as the possibility of Universal Basic Income (UBI) to address that issue.

Finally, the titular story, “Death by Self-Driving Car,” is a Sherlock Holmes-style detective mystery about an insurance investigator hired to look into a rare self-driving car accident that resulted in the death of a human passenger.

Death by Self-Driving Car is now available as an ebook on Amazon, free to read for Kindle Unlimited members. You can also buy the ebook from me directly via PayPal, Cash App, Bitcoin, or other cryptocurrencies at any price of your choosing (including free if money is a problem for you). Just email me with your preferred file format (PDF, EPUB, MOBI) and payment method.

Recommendation Algorithms Rule Your Life

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Cultural critics used to be essential curators of music, movies, books, and art. When there were only a couple of newspapers or radio stations or TV stations, the select few professional critics had enormous power in telling the public which art they should pay attention to. Then came the internet and everything changed. With blogs, message boards, and podcasts, anybody could become a critic. Both the creation and critique of art became more democratic. Traditional critics became less important. People preferred to take recommendations from like-minded people in their specific cultural niche. This gave real cultural power to bloggers and amateur critics on the internet who developed a following. Continue reading

The Power of Science Fiction

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There are essentially two types of science fiction: hard and soft. Soft science fiction is more like fantasy, not obeying the laws of physics (Star Wars) while hard science fiction aims to be scientifically accurate (2001: A Space Odyssey). I love Star Wars, but my real favorite genre is near-future hard science fiction such as Blade RunnerInterstellar, The Martian, Ex Machina, and Her. I think those kinds of stories—built around accurate science and technological innovations that can conceivably happen in the near future—are perhaps the most important form of fiction. Continue reading

In Defense of Elon Musk

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Elon Musk’s appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast will go down in history and be rewatched forever by whatever form of humans/AI exist in the future. I love podcasts and have listened to thousands over the past dozen years, but this one may be my favorite yet. It’s better than the best science fiction movies because it’s not science fiction. High-speed maglev tunnels, self-driving electric cars, solar-powered roofs, AI brain interfaces, space exploration, Mars colonization, and VR simulations are the reality of our present and future. Continue reading

The Greatest Invention in Human History

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The greatest invention in human history is written language. Before writing, to convey any information to anyone, you could only do it through word of mouth to people you saw face to face. For most of human history, we lived in small tribes as hunter-gatherers, so knowledge was only passed on to fellow members of one’s tribe (family and close friends). A son would only know what his father remembered from what his father directly told him, and so on. Continue reading