2017/2018 — GOALS

Alright mother fuckers 2017 was a dope year and we are moving in strong into 2018. Lots of good shit happened — it’s time to execute and impact even more people in the new year.

 Hosting Eureka! on AI with Dr. Richard Socher from Salesforce

Hosting Eureka! on AI with Dr. Richard Socher from Salesforce

2017 Goals:

✳️ Host 20 more Eureka! shows
✳️ Host 50 more podcast episodes
❌ Finish writing my two books
✳️ Read 1 book per month
✳️ Go another year without alcohol or cannabis
✳️ No refined sugar
✳️ Spend more time with Neil deGrasse Tyson
✳️ Leave the country again
✳️ Attend two more meditation retreats

️I achieved everything besides writing my two books. Luckily one of them is very far along and the other one is in infancy. I need to set loftier goals for 2018. Here is the list:

2018 Goals:

➡️ Get $30k/month Patreon funding & 1M YouTube subs for Simulation
➡️ Finish writing Mars Race & Human Race & read 12 more books
➡️ Host 25 more Eureka! shows & get Eureka! on TV
➡️ Get $200,000 for sponsorship Worlds Fair & book three A-list guests
➡️ No alcohol, cannabis, refined sugar. Run 2x/week, 3 meditation retreats.

Beast mode. I am confident I can make all these things happen.

Books read in 2017:

✳️ The Distracted Mind by Adam Gazzaley & Larry Rosen
✳️ The Book of Satoshi by Phil Champagne
✳️ The Internet of Money by Andreas Antonopoulos
✳️ The Breaking Point by James Dale Davidson
✳️ Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
✳️ Inner Engineering by Sadhguru
✳️ TED Talks by Chris Anderson
✳️ Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
✳️ Behave by Robert Sapolsky
✳️ Unleash Your Inner Company by John Chisholm
✳️ Earth In Human Hands by David Grinspoon
✳️ The Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Make sure to set goals each year and hold yourself accountable for following through on bringing them to fruition. This is one of life’s best practices.

The Crosshairs of Software & Having Hard Conversations

Humans run in loops just like most software.

You need to go to the bathroom every couple of hours just like software parses a database every couple of hours.

Most of our work runs in loops too. Putting together parts on an assembly line, making coffees, inputting numbers into a computer system, driving people/goods from A to B, checking people out at the register, etc.

There are certain lines of code that are only executed once, just like a company is only founded once or a book is only written once. This we call a Rube Goldberg moment.

 An illustration from cartoonist Rube Goldberg — a very complicated way to do a simple thing like use a napkin

An illustration from cartoonist Rube Goldberg — a very complicated way to do a simple thing like use a napkin

Most of our work lies in the crosshairs of software and most of the work that will take a very long time for software to automate lies in the Rube Goldberg moments.

The problem is most people rely on repetitive work to provide for their families — they don’t really see themselves as opportunists to found companies or innovate.

Capitalism produced a child called technology. Technology is causing significant upheavals in economics and human lifestyle. A majority of people are still being trained for repetitive work in the crosshairs of software and re-training people to create Rube Goldberg moments is quite difficult.

It’s inevitable that we are approaching the most influential economic moment of the 21st century where many people with repetitive work will face automation. It’s quite scary to think about people not being taken care of after losing their work to software and robots. This is why 9, 10, and 11 figure individuals in Silicon Valley closest to automation software are the ones propelling ideas like universal basic income.

We may need a future that increases capitalistic rewards and provides more socialism to keep families stable post-automation. A good question to ask for now is, “Why are there so few technical people in government leadership roles?” I think once more technical people take these roles, we’ll better address these problems facing our world.

Another good question to ask is, “Why is every topic so polarized?” Nuanced positions have more depth. For example, maybe I feel that we shouldn’t spend our money deporting illegal immigrants and that we should allow refugees into our country as long as they pass a comprehensive background check and that H-1B visas need reform because they are tethering immigrants to employers. It’s not just in favor or against immigration.

The most interesting conversations are usually the most nuanced and it’s crucial to develop equanimity and practice being non-biased. We’ve become so sensitive to getting offended that Google fired James Damore for trying to start a conversation about diversity. He argued that gender disparity can be partially explained by biological differences between women and men expressing things like men take dangerous jobs, accounting for 93% of work-related deaths. He was fired and shamed for harmful gender stereotypes. Imagine a thought-provoking fireside chat discussing this topic. It would be super interesting to learn from biologists, psychologists, etc.

Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right.

Why does Terry Crews feel pissed off right now? Because he’s a black man who got groped by a white man Hollywood executive who isn’t facing any repercussions compared to when a man violates a woman. If you live in the Bay Area and you can’t have a conversation about Trump possessing good characteristics, then you have a problem. Same thing goes for people who live in rural parts of the US — if you can’t have a conversation about Sanders or Clinton possessing good characteristics, then you have a problem. The first step to addressing the problem is to admit you have a problem and go through the steps of practicing having hard conversations with people who think differently than you to try and learn from them.

Have you ever seen the movie Kung Fu Panda? It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. It teaches about grit, eccentric learning styles, self-confidence, among many other things. There are so many kids today that are diagnosed with ADHD or Dyslexia or Autism and we categorize them as having disorders instead of fostering their unique learning styles — they could have the next big creations if we just better understood how to help them.

At the end of the day one of the most important things I can leave you with is the idea of semi-reliable communal sense making. If we can work together as a civilization to have thought-provoking discourse about the sustainable and harmonious trajectory of our species, it will drastically improve our lives. Lastly the idea of memetics over genetics — focus on developing great ideas and sharing them with as many people in the world as possible.

I want to personally thank mathematician and economist Eric Weinstein for stirring up much of this thought-provoking conversation within me and being a leading figure in the industry for catalyzing the important conversations so few are having.

25

After 25 orbits around our star, the most profound thing I’ve learned is that there have been over 4.5 billion orbits before mine with over 100 billion people that have lived and died before me to build this beautiful world we all live in today.

We are made of the most abundant elements in the universe, lucky to have evolved in a star’s habitable zone and been gifted consciousness, enabling us to eradicate suffering, maximize flourishing, and have a fuckload of fun while we do it.

The ubiquity in clean water, food, energy, education, and healthcare is mind-blowing and continues to inspire us to improve the quality of live for everyone.

I am fanatic about bringing thought-provoking conversation, world peace, and sustainable interstellar colonization to our civilization, which is why on days like my birthday, you can catch me helping produce TEDxSF, because there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than my mission.

25.jpeg

Emotional Intelligence in Politics — Becoming a Maverick

I remember when I first discovered the need for empathy in politics. I was 16 years old in high school having a discussion about abortion when one of my friends, Grace, explained to me why it should be a choice whether to keep a child or not. She laid out several examples which connected me emotionally to her perspective, enabling me for the first time to actually absorb the reality that there was another viable perspective on the same political issue.

Fast forward eight years and this is now an essential part of what I do for my career as a science communicator. I have come to the complete realization that political issues are complex and in many cases suffer from human oversimplification through reductionism as well as lack of empathy and open-mindedness. How can one possibly reduce a political issue like Healthcare that has thousands of variables to either being in favor of universal care or privatized care? There are now 7.5 billion perspectives to take into account, minus the ~two billion perspectives between the ages of 0–14 that are too young to have enough life experience to make a decision on the subject matter.

“How can one possibly reduce a political issue like Healthcare that has thousands of variables to either being in favor of universal care or privatized care?”

In order to better understand this, one must be willing to ask empowering questions, show genuine empathy, and take in thousands of perspectives. Think about the last time you met someone new. Rather than asking surface level questions, take a deep dive into their life journey. Here are some of my favorite empowering questions: “What are you passionate about?”, “What impact do you want to make in the universe?”, and “What was the last thing you did that scared you?” Asking these types of questions enables stronger connection between people but it cannot be done without genuine empathy, which is best explained by LifeHacker in The Importance of Empathy.

Understanding what life experiences led someone to their current worldview leads to cross cultural conversations that take stock of people’s specific personal and historical contexts. A crucial part of this process is recognizing the types of answers different people give, and building a more developed worldview. As an example, what do Chinese or German people think of Healthcare? What do Baby Boomers or Millennials think? What does someone with cancer or someone that’s completely healthy think of Healthcare? How do people from different descents, age groups, and life experiences approach the thousands of variables that go into making Healthcare decisions? How are their perspectives formed over time?

Doing all of this leads to becoming a maverick.

 Now imagine each political issue is like this! There are thousands of perspectives and variables for anything. Illustration credit: Alex Pike, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

Now imagine each political issue is like this! There are thousands of perspectives and variables for anything. Illustration credit: Alex Pike, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

A maverick is a freethinker. A nonconformist exuding eccentric behaviors like walking down the path very few take in order to come up with novel ideas very few have thought. Their free-spirited perspectives typically form over decades of analyzing thousands of different perspectives, variables, and critically thinking to create unique solution propositions to complex political and nonpolitical issues. To maximize one’s success as a maverick, training emotional intelligence skills like empathy and open-mindedness are major keys, as is training polymath skills like wide-ranging learning.

“A maverick is a freethinker. A nonconformist exuding eccentric behaviors like walking down the path very few take in order to come up with novel ideas very few have thought.”

When we take time to slow down to understand the breadth of possible perspectives, how could we possibly be so rushed to believe our perspective is right? In the illustration above, you can see the true magnitude of how difficult it is to become a maverick by understanding thousands of perspectives and variables that go into a political issue. Mavericks challenge themselves by being comfortable with the uncomfortable. They show people vulnerability by expressing unguarded openness to another’s perspective and by being genuinely interested in learning about how this person came to believe what they do today.

The task is a call to action, a challenge: Challenge yourself to learn from people who have different perspectives than you. This may be as simple as asking your parents what their opinion is on Healthcare. Or asking your friend why they voted a certain way. Or propose a political empathy exercise in your next hangout with friends. For five minutes you pair off in groups of two — preferably with the person in the room you know least — and have each person pass two minutes explaining their perspective on Healthcare while the other listens without judgement, with just the intention to understand. Another example: When was the last time you learned what the current economic situation is like in Djibouti or Senegal? Sometimes all it takes is asking an empowering question or two to the person that’s driving the Uber you’re riding in to learn about a perspective you’ve never heard of before.

I’m sure many of us witnessed conversations during the 2016 US presidential campaigns where it seemed like people with differing perspectives on a political issue weren’t actually listening to one another. Neither party was asking empowering questions. Neither party was showing genuine understanding. They were just both waiting for the other person to finish talking so they could have their turn. In the future when you catch yourself in this situation, try what my friend John and I call the empathy check. Interrupt the conversation and ask each person to summarize what the other person’s perspective is on the issue they are discussing. If they can do it, give them high fives! If they can’t, help them better understand how to ask empowering questions, genuinely empathize, and truly learn the perspective of the person they are conversing with.

If you genuinely attempt to increase your understanding of different perspectives, there is more love, compassion, goodwill, and equanimity for all. It is enlightening to learn from a seemingly never-ending array of diverse global perspectives, in all their contradictions and negotiations. By asking people empowering questions and showing genuine empathy as we learn from their perspective, the feeling of mutual growth we receive is unparalleled. It must start with a humble acknowledgment that our perspective isn’t the only perspective and that we have not taken into account the thousands of variables that go into complex political issues. Without this immersion into thousands of perspectives and variables, we cannot rationally form solidified opinions. It truly takes decades of analysis.

“It is enlightening to learn from a seemingly never-ending array of diverse global perspectives, in all their contradictions and negotiations.”

Becoming a maverick may just be the right recipe for resolving the growing problems of political polarization and cognitive dissonance. Practice learning from people with different perspectives. Analyze more of the variables that go into these complex political issues. Ask empowering questions, show genuine empathy, build trust with people, and change the way we experience global politics forever.

Looking back at ‘high school Allen’ eight years ago, I’m so grateful for Grace’s story and the emotional connection to her perspective. It induced empathy and humility in me at an important point in my life. I’m so grateful that I started to absorb different perspectives back then and that I didn’t just start now. This experience has helped catalyze a tremendous amount of success in me today and I challenge us all to build a world where young people, even as young as elementary school, aim to learn from one another’s perspectives — feeling empowered to bring their stories together, making a more empathetic world.