From 41 Shades of Blue to Material Design: The Evolution of Google’s Design Sensibilities

Way back in 2009, the exit of Google’s then design chief, Douglas Bowman, resulted in an unexpectedly entertaining look at the inner workings of one of the fastest growing companies the world has ever seen. In his eloquently worded goodbye letter to Google, Bowman described his frustrations.

As Google was a company of engineers, founded by engineers, and managed by engineers, even simple decisions become futile exercises demanding empirical knowledge before proceeding. The epitome of this “paralysis by analysis” was highlighted in a New York Times article at the time focusing on Marissa Mayer, who was leading Google’s search team before later leaving for Yahoo. Mayer infamously required empirical evaluation of 41 different shades of blue for a toolbar. Continue reading “From 41 Shades of Blue to Material Design: The Evolution of Google’s Design Sensibilities”

“Existential” Risk Management for Artificial Intelligence (or just a little too much navel gazing?)

One of the great themes in science fiction is the fear that the machines we humans have created will someday lead to our own enslavement or even extinction. As research into artificial intelligence (AI) exploded following Turing’s breakthroughs, the concept of self-awareness in non-organic manmade objects elicited a sort of existential dread.

Update: See below for yet another take on the existentialist implications of future AI developments…

If advanced reasoning, self-awareness and abstract thought are considered to be primary distinctions between the cognitive abilities of humans and animals, what would it mean if our machines attained similar function? In my mind, this mental exploration is similar to what the existential impact of receiving clear and unambiguous evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Continue reading ““Existential” Risk Management for Artificial Intelligence (or just a little too much navel gazing?)”

Do energy efficient building practices result in better feedback loops and better workmanship?

My wife and I have been lucky to have three kids that (so far) haven’t ever played with fire, or knives, or consumed dangerous cleaning supplies, or anything like that. It didn’t take burning down the house, stitches, or stomach pumping to teach each of them the danger inherent with certain things—a quick touch to a hot oven provides instantaneous feedback.

This is the primary concept of the feedback loop, explained by Wired Magazine: Continue reading “Do energy efficient building practices result in better feedback loops and better workmanship?”

Growth in demand for Consulting demonstrated in stock price of publicly traded ICFI

There are a lot of small businesses that self-identify as consultants. Like quality and beauty, the definition of what a consultant is depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. Most so-called consultants are actually just independent contractors or subcontractors providing outsourced labor. In my opinion, a true consultant is one who improves their client’s situation.

In the same way that few parents actively encourage their children to skip college to pursue joining the building trades, not too many folks pressure their offspring to become management consultants. Continue reading “Growth in demand for Consulting demonstrated in stock price of publicly traded ICFI”

The real reason iPads aren’t disrupting education more: The Textbook Mafia

My kids are at the exact right age to be subjected to the ongoing experiments to bring education into the 21st century. Two of them have each had at least one full year of using iPads daily as part of instruction, while my youngest used an Android tablet as part of her first grade experience last year. All three of my kids are incredibly tech-savvy so it is interesting to see their perspective on technology in the classroom.

According to LA Times, the Los Angeles Unified School District is ending their program to provide iPads to every one of its 640,000 students. Continue reading “The real reason iPads aren’t disrupting education more: The Textbook Mafia”

Windows 8: An “Unprecedented Opportunity” or an unprecedented missed opportunity?

I recently started a new job at a consulting firm that is heavily invested in Microsoft products. It has been nearly 13 years since I’ve worked in such an environment. While one would have to pry my MacBook Air from my cold, dead hands, I still have to use Windows on occasion to perform certain … Continue reading Windows 8: An “Unprecedented Opportunity” or an unprecedented missed opportunity?

Don’t sacrifice ergonomics, just because you’re working from home

I hear a lot of people say that they could never manage working out of their house—they say they’d never get anything done, too many distractions. For me, the opposite is true. During the day, I have the house to myself, which makes my current “office” the most spacious and luxurious I have ever had. … Continue reading Don’t sacrifice ergonomics, just because you’re working from home