Notes #5: Accident Avoided

Cuba’s Internet is More Powerful Than You’d Think

Officially, the internet in Cuba is useless. But a team of data traffickers use USB sticks and hard drives to transport music, movies, and software between Miami and Havana. They get access to content just a few days after it is released in the US. It’s all quite an impressive workaround.

Tesla Autopilot Predicts Crash Seconds Before It Happens

If you’re not convinced of a driverless future yet, watch this Tesla avoid a multicar collision in the Netherlands.

Redesigning the Traffic Light

Speaking of safer traffic, what if traffic lights in the US included countdown timers? These are already present in some other places in the world.

Voice Recognition in an Elevator in Scotland

Voice recognition is improving by leaps and bounds, but maybe an elevator in Scotland isn’t the best place for it yet.

Casio DG-20: It Came From the Future

My friend Max Goldberg (of Five Five Collective) made this stunning video about a synth-guitar from the 80s.

Echo Dot was Amazon’s 2016 Best-Seller

Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home
Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home

The Echo and Echo Dot were the best-selling products on Amazon this year, and the Dot was the top-selling item during the holiday season. The demand was so high that the company had trouble keeping stock. With millions of Alexa-powered devices now in people’s homes, it’s inevitable that this technology will shape our lives in a big way very soon.

83% of US Primary Household Shoppers Used Amazon This Year

A WSJ article pointed out that 17% of US primary households never shop on Amazon, but I think the big news is that 83% did use the site this year.


Notes #4: World Domination

Not Your Average Russian Hacker

Elon and Mark, meet Vlad and Dmitry. I this Bloomberg documentary, we visit the practically desolate Silicon Valley of Siberia and then head to Moscow to meet the CEOs of Prisma and We ponder the implications of an app that can find anyone’s social media profile based on a photo and learn how one company is fighting cybercrime with its own breed of hackers.

Amazon Go Will Dominate Physical Retail

AWS powers a significant portion of the internet. As one of Amazon’s most profitable divisions, it has become the platform for nearly anything online. In a way, Amazon has put a tax the internet. It’s early, but Amazon Go is positioned to become the platform for physical stores of the future. Find out how in this brief video.

Mark Zuckerberg has AI

Mark Zuckerberg built his own smart home powered by natural language processing and image recognition. A bit I found insightful: “In general, I’ve found we use these more open-ended requests more frequently than more specific asks. No commercial products I know of do this today, and this seems like a big opportunity.” How natural will your conversation with Alexa be in the future?

Simian Mobile Disco & Bicep – Sacrifice

This upbeat electronic track has been the background music to some serious heads-down sessions this week.

Site Update

Added The Intelligent Investor to my Book Notes.

Notes #3: China

Inside the World’s Craziest Gadget Market

The electronics industry is centering itself around one city in China: Shenzhen. In just about 30 years, it transformed from small fishing villages to a city of 7 million. It could turn a megacity even more quickly. A great documentary on the subject is Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware.

How China is Changing Your Internet

Despite a user base less than half of Facebook, WeChat is the true Swiss Army Knife of mobile apps. Will it win us over in the West, or will concerns over data privacy halt its expansion?

Amazon Completes First Drone Delivery

It seems like a small first step, but the sky is no longer the limit. Commenter Jerrod P asks “So basically this works if you live on a farm and not like apt 13b?” I don’t think this is meant to be an urban delivery solution in the near term, but rather enhance fast shipping outside city centers. Who knows, though? Amazon has a habit of surprising.

Good Reads

“Artificial intelligence is not about building a mind; it’s about the improvement of tools to solve problems.” Google Translate recently improved by leaps and bounds thanks to a tiny AI skunkworks. Other technologies are poised to get the same treatment in the near future.

Audi releases a car with vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. Right now will tell you how many seconds until a light changes and the speed limit. It’s a step toward autonomous driving, but given the ubiquity of Google Maps and smartphones, could this information also be generated with aggregate data and predictions?

Notes #2: We are in the Future

Legal Shoplifting

Amazon’s newest AI offering is a grocery store with no lines. Just grab and go, and you’ll be charged automatically. The question becomes: just how smart does one need to be to shoplift in the future?

The Ta’u of Solar

Tesla and SolarCity have installed a solar microgrid on the island of Ta’u in American Samoa. Solar arrays and battery storage replace not-so-green diesel generators to supply nearly 100% of the island’s electricity. It would have been nice if they didn’t clear-cut the area, but still, this is undoubtedly a net positive.

Google Speaks Your Language

Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home
Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home

Now developers can write their own apps for Google Assistant. It’s currently limited to just a few devices like Google Home, but this will no doubt expand. It looks like the voice intents are more free-form than Alexa, although I haven’t dug into the API yet.

In the Spirit

One of my favorite light shows is Mike Ziemkowski’s Lights on Display. This year is no exception.

Notes #1: Walking and Talking


Tokyo Reverse

Shanghai Forever

Voice AI: It’s on

Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home
Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home

Move over, Siri. Amazon and Google are killing it with developments around voice and AI. Your digital assistant is about to get much more powerful.

Cool Stuff


The first centrifuge for the kitchen and bar. Clarify juices, make herb oils, concentrate purees, and more. By Dave Arnold, host of the excellent podcast Cooking Issues, founder of the Museum of Food and Drink, and author of Liquid Intelligence.

AWS Snowmobile

AWS Snowmobile
AWS Snowmobile. Image: Amazon

Have billions of gigabytes you need to move to the cloud? Can’t wait decades (literally) to upload it all? Amazon’s got your back. They’ll bring a truck to your datacenter, copy your exabytes, and dump the data on their own servers.

What Autopilot Sees

Don’t believe self-driving cars are the future? Watch this video of Tesla’s Autopilot in action. The panes on the right side highlight objects identified by the vehicle’s sensors.

Statistically Significant

Lighting Energy Use in 2035. Source: DOE
Lighting Energy Use in 2035. Source: DOE

According to the Department of Energy, U.S. lighting energy use will be 75% lower in 2035 than it would have been if LEDs were not popularized.

Blog Updates

35mm in Hong Kong

Fall in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia

Alexa, Repeat This

Hong Kong Guide