Engineering is not different from other professions in that we like to make our work sound esoteric. It feels nice when people think what you do is magic. And, to be fair, sometimes engineering is really hard. However, the skills required to create technology exist on a spectrum. There is seldom a clear line between professional engineering and more casual modalities of creation. Over the last couple of decades especially, technology product development has been moving from the former towards the latter. The result is a dramatic expansion in the diversity, accessibility, and creativity of tech applications in the world.

The amount of wasted effort in the US economy is enormous. This game console / fried chicken warmer. Cosmetology school. All those low-cost ventilators that never got emergency use authorization.

In no way do I look down on the people who make those decisions. We’ll go into some of my personal failings in a bit. It’s just often under-appreciated that picking the right problem to solve is often more important than solving the problem itself.

Ask anyone at a school or career transition, or a team starting a product design effort, or a policy maker. There are good career trajectories…

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Sophia, the first AI to gain citizenship (Saudi Arabian) in 2017. Picture from ITU Pictures.

The Turing Test was developed by Alan Turing in 1950 as a benchmark for AI development. In simple terms, the Turing test is passed when a panel of humans can’t tell the difference between a human or a machine chatting through text.

In 2014, a chatbot named Eugene Goostman officially passed the Turing Test for the first time, though it did so by pretending to be a thirteen year-old child from Ukraine in order to mask poor language skills. What’s notable about this, however, is that it’s…

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The latest prototype of Neuralink’s brain-machine interface (BMI). Source: Neuralink product demo, August 28, 2020

I am a big Neuralink fan. Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs) have been a fascination of mine for almost a decade. I even once used a device made by NeuroSky to make a ball move back and forth by meditating. This will very likely not be the last post about neural interfaces on this blog.

On Friday Neuralink gave a product update and demo over livestream. In some ways what they’re doing is very impressive and in some ways they’re a bit behind the cutting edge. I think it’s…

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tl;dr — The way we interact with technology is changing our relationship with our mental and physical health, our politics, our personal relationships, and even our philosophy. And it’s changing me too.

These are, to borrow a phrase from literally everyone, unprecedented times.

This is not a blog about COVID-19, or Trump, or BLM, or Hong Kong or killer bees. Those topics deserve their own spaces curated by people more qualified to do so.

However, it says something startling about life in 2020 that even if…

The inception of Updraft Ventures came in the summer of 2015 as I was watching a friend navigate a tough transitional period in their career and life. These periods are a hallmark of the modern workforce, as many intelligent new workers seek to define their place in the economy, change cities and adapt to new communities. This process is often anxiety-inducing, to say the least, but it might not have to be.

I too was going through a transition. In August of 2015 I became a Co-Founder and the Managing Member of Escape Rhode Island, the first Escape Room venue…

Ethan Carlson

Studying how we interact with the Internet of Things at MIT; former founder and CEO of Updraft Ventures, Escape Rhode Island

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