Measuring the digital divide

How many calculations do I consume per day (or per second), compared to a person with less access to a smartphone or the Internet?

Computation per capita could be a scientific measure of the digital divide.

Computing may forever be bits and powered logic gates. We measure computer output with FLOPS. [1]  We can average total computational power per person. Segmenting by country adds more insight, which would be similar to maps of Internet access.

We make decisions in some parts of the world without much computation. To improve inequality we provide greater access to computation.

Google and other open services are a force for equality. The cost of a search for any user in one part of the world is near equal to all others. The equality isn’t perfect. Google has more data about me and how I live, so there’s more computation done on my behalf. But even if that is true, less Google is likely better than no Google.

We could try to measure computation per “decision”.

Decisions have measurable amounts of computation. What is the average amount of computation that happens when you tap your phone (in the cloud and on the phone)? I don’t know if we could measure the impact of a tap.[2]  But we could calculate the computational output of a click or tap.

How could you compare the list above to one hundred years ago, or one hundred years in the future?

Perhaps the closest analog to the Internet in the last century was the number of telegrams, pieces of mail, or minutes of phone calls;

  • to design and build a locomotive
  • buy a stock
  • buy a ticket on a trans-Atlantic zeppelin
  • decide when to plant corn
  • decide to get married

One hundred years in the future I’m not sure what we’ll be doing, but I hope we will still make useful decisions. Some possible examples:

What could we name “computations per decision”?

Since I’m an unqualified amateur, I’ll make up a term; decision density.

The number of bits used per a unit of time to make a perceived decision.

Note “perceived”. By definition, we must be able to observe when we’ve made a decision. We do so based on the support of many calculations, but most computation is hidden [3] and increasingly ubiquitous.

If we can measure decision density per human, we would have another tool to measure the digital divide.

I look forward to mathy, articulate, and design oriented humans to elevate my prepost-human writing. Otherwise, I’ve got this post until I can ask Her to fix it.

Notes

Elon Musk mentions a “recursive y axis” in the video below as a way to measure progress, over time, of computation.

[1] – Factoring in energy you have performance per watt and Koomy’s law. This doesn’t tell us if the decisions were correct, or efficient (see big O notation or examples of bad code). Nor does this measure tell us how much pre-calculation went into a decision.

[2] – Maybe impact could be measured by how much money flows as a result. Or using HDI.

[3] – A calculation is contained in a function like f(x)=y, and the decision is the output. We could also say a calculation is made by a computer, and a decision is made by a human. (That line is already blurry).

Also – Check out the posts on Quora, the conversation on Hacker News

 

Starting up with Purpose

It’s not news here in San Francisco,  in the most dominant region of the Silicon World – I’m creating a company. I have built a prototype. I’ve tested with users. I’m no miracle worker, and there’s a long, long way to go. And I’ve got just a couple of months to get off the ground.

What makes it worthwhile is the mission.

End the Digital Divide

The Digital Divide will end. The question is “Why?”. Even with rapid, global smartphone growth and internet from the sky, there’s so much important work to be done to learn, educate and protect.

If we work very very hard, and are very very lucky, only a minuscule part of the world will progress because of our efforts. That part matters. 

Starting a company, especially as a parent, isn’t for the faint of heart. I would be grateful for your feedback and support. Reach out to startup@hai.io, follow at @humanassisted or me @hendler

“Soon the digital divide will not be between the haves and the have-nots. It will be between the know-hows and the non-know-hows.” – Howard Rheingold

Sneak peek at early decisions at HAI

Recently launched a site with some basic vision behind HAI.

http://hai.io

But the tech stack is where the rubber meets the road. I’ve been coding about two months now. At the very beginning I went through a fair amount of thinking and ended up selecting a language for the backend based on a number of factors. From languages I knew, C++, Go, PHP, Python, Java/Scala, and Node.js were on the table. Python and Java were the two top contenders, but I ended up going with Python. 

So far I’ve been really happy with Python for both flexibility of the language, the available libraries for both web and machine learning, and the developer community. Ruby / Rails has an amazing community and great web stack, but given my own lack of familiarity and less work being done in machine learning, it didn’t make my list.

Then I started evaluating open source projects that would be the platform. There are 132 on the list below (looked at least 4x that many). It’s been amazing getting up to speed on the projects that are open source. Although Google, IBM, Amazon and others are clearly going to lead in the machine learning space for the foreseeable future, the open source community is catching up.

Open source is a moving target, and there’s no one size fits all when you are piecing together something new. So, I’ve been using the awesome ZeroMQ library to connect services between libraries, languages.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has provided feedback so far. Can’t wait to get what I’m working on out into the world.

More about HAI

For a few weeks I’ve been having meetings with advisors and colleagues. For those I’ve not been meeting, I’ve fallen behind in communicating what I’m working on.

Not a stealth startup, but there’s also a lot that’s yet to be determined. I’d prefer to be open, but there are some specifications that I’ll keep under wraps for a variety of reasons…. When building a stealth aircraft, at the least you can tell people that you are building an aircraft. Skunkworks doesn’t make sandwiches.

Company vision and culture will be in large part determined by cofounders. Here’s where there’s some definition:

  • HAI means AAI (Artificial Artificial Intelligence)  – humans intelligence built into a process that’s usable by computer intelligence
  • Ethical prime directives.  See Friendly AI
  • a sustainable business model early on
  • Company culture of sustainable innovation modeled after Google’s large revenue generating platform supporting R&D.
  • large, very talented, diverse founding team. Diversity is a no-brainer. Large is about five people; I’d rather create value from equity by distributing to founders than funders.
  • Boston still has untapped talent and potential. Even if developers can find jobs easily, what kind of job would an engineer want for the rest of their life?

Oh. HAI.

HAI is the new company I’m working on. Human Assisted Intelligence. HAI will help computers learn about people. I’m so excited to be starting a new venture.

The future is happening right now. How far in the future will a product be relevant if you start developing it today?

Computer software / hardware outperforms humans in many specialized tasks today, and will likely surpass humans in categories reserved for our most revered public figures (scientists, politicians, performers) within 10-40 years. After the Singularity, quoting the WikiPedia main article -“Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is seen as an occurrence beyond which events cannot be predicted.”  Where will humans fit into this future? A question for science fiction, perhaps.

Before the Singularity, what will help us engage effectively with a world increasing its complexity, knowledge, and economic dynamics exponentially? If super computer intelligent systems are used only by the most powerful institutions, what kind of intelligent service represents the individual?

I think these are the most interesting, important challenges around AI. Today, I’m building a team and product prototypes. If you’re interested in collaborating, feel free reach out.

Earning leadership in parenthood and business.

As a leader, control leaves your hands in one of two ways: by consent, or not by consent. Either way it happens. Choose consent.

Maybe this is the opposite of the Steve Jobs. I really don’t know, but feels like Jobs had a great sense of timing, how far he could fight for what he believed, and when to “give in”.

Perhaps there is no way to stop people from putting beans up their nose. Having insight ignored is painful if you care at all about what you are doing.  If the fight is too extended, no matter if right or wrong, you end up appearing arrogant or stubborn, but if you are right it doesn’t matter. And if a company needs focus and either way is right, it doesn’t matter which is chosen, only that something is chosen and committed to.

I read Herman Hesse’s “Journey to the East” twenty years ago. Summary: leadership is service. As a new parent, I think this is especially true.