Coding so hard I cried

I was just staring at my code so intently I forgot to blink. I noticed because when I finally did look up for a moment I got a weird look from someone in the coffee shop I am in coding in. I had been absent-mindedly wiping my eyes, but my best guess is that it looked like I was softly crying while typing in public. Thinking about that got me to pause long enough to realize that my eyes do indeed hurt.

Sometimes I really do wish someone would hurry up and invent a neural jack. Until then – more coffee.

The up side of AI

With all the crazy advancements in the technology in our daily lives it is easy to miss the fundamental fact that we are near the trough of the wave of crazy changes coming and not anywhere the crest.

More often than not I hear smart people saying that AI is going to come along and make humans obsolete. The problem with that fear is that it has as its premise the belief that everything, or at least most things, have already been invented. That’s been the fundamental fallacy throughout most of human history, but in this case it hides within the abstraction that AIs will invent everything for us, while robotics will manufacture everything for us.

Its true, making real AI could go seriously wrong for humanity. Thing is – as much as humans suck – we are also awesome. Case in point – this guy building a suit to let him fly.

Now look at that suit – he is using a bunch of tech preventing it from having been build-able just a few years ago. The cool part though is not what he is doing with the new tech. Once he has the suit working with him basically using his upper body to manually maneuver the jets – more sophisticated control and flight can be thrown at software and some machine learning.

So while a Skynet is something to be cautious of, humans plus AI to help them make crazy stuff has the potential to make it worth while exploring. I have a dish washer, a washing machine for my laundry, a phone, all sorts of incredibly powerful things that free up my time as a human. Because of that I live better than most kings did even 150 years ago. Rather than “take our jobs” – a human and AI collaboration has the potential to free humanity to explore a crazy and exponentially increasing number of things.

Whatever else it is, the future is going to be weird and awesome.

Starting over with a black belt

It is funny, rather than feel like I accomplished something by getting a black belt it feels more like I am just starting out. For comparison it was as much shear work and learning as obtaining a college degree. However, rather than closure or accomplishment the primary result is an increased self imposed pressure to improve my technique. Rather than “whats next?”, the feeling is more like that of the minimum acceptable quality bar being raised significantly.

I think the pressure to improve comes from having new people starting to watch and copy your technique. Seeing your own errors mirrored in someone trying to learn is horrifying. At the same time the quality bar gets raised and you start getting more fine-grained feedback from peers and seniors. The net result is this feeling of looking at your own technique and going “ick”. I don’t think it is just me feeling that way either.

blackbelt_March2017

The other day I was training with a friend who had just gotten his second-degree black belt, and who was nice enough to work with me to correct a bunch of mistakes in one of my kata. A little while later when I looked up from practicing what we had gone over – and I saw he was working with one of the third degree black belts on one of his kata. After noticing that I started paying attention, and it turns out all the black belts in the dojo regularly take time to come in early, or stay late, and doing extra training with each other. I mean we all do that – it’s the entire point of training – but the black belts have apparently been doing this whole extra level of training I was unaware of the entire nine years I have been at this dojo. I am embarrassed that I never really noticed before. I am still wondering what else I have missed.

blackbelt_test_March2017

The other weird thing is that I think I had been worried about quitting after getting my black belt. I had not really acknowledged that worry, but it feels a bit like exhaling after having held your breath. People don’t talk about it much, but post belt quitting happens a lot. Some people say they just lost interest, others that they had finally “mastered” enough of the art and were ready to move on to something else. Most just disappear. I have trained at a lot of different dojos, and if I had to guess I would place the drop out rate in the first year at 30+% on average. Luckily our dojo seems to retain people, but we have still lost a few over the years. So I think I feel quietly relieved that it seems like Karate is going to be one of those life long pursuits, and that I can ask “What’s next?” without first giving something up.

Thank you to all the amazing teachers I have had in my life, both on and off the mat. For anyone looking to train I can’t recommend Koei-Kan enough.