Turn off your Monkey Mind and cede the reins to your inner sage

I’m a thinker. Or perhaps overthinker would be the more accurate and honest self-assessment. When faced with the unknown, I like to think things through. A lot. Too much. I have a gift for visualizing a potential scenario in my head from beginning to end before it’s even started unfolding. I can imagine exactly how someone is going to react or respond to the thing that I have not yet said or done. I can whip myself into a frenzy worrying about every detail of an event that may or may not come to pass in a very distant future.

My brain is wired like those “choose your own adventure” books: turn to page 13 to enter the haunting caves of your cerebrum; turn to page 30 to dive into the sea of hopeless confusion. Except I choose both adventures. At the same time. …

Being Alone Together

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A big thanks to Momo, Boo, and Andrew (@andrewknapp) • Instagram for letting me use their photo!

Yesterday, in a slightly wine-infused haze, I wrote to my favorite Instagram dogs. I hadn’t anticipated a response. They’re dogs. But their owner responded. After a shameless fangirl moment (these are proper celebrity pooches!), we had a brief back and forth exchange.

I told him how people on our online neighborhood platforms were offering dog walking services: primarily to help out those in high risk groups, but also, admittedly, to have some companionship. We exchanged a few more funny messages. I apologized to one of his dogs for misspelling his name. …

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Why the Debate Over AI Ethics Is Getting Nowhere Fast

“Do you want your children to grow up to be Uber drivers for Chinese tourists?”

That was the opening question posed by an ethicist at Q Berlin, a conference on freedom and responsibility. This quickly segued into a doomsday scenario of AI weapons run amok and the dangers of universal suffering triggered by artificial consciousness.

Anyone with just a limited understanding of artificial intelligence most certainly left his talk with a palpable sense of dread. This can hardly be considered a responsible approach to the debate around AI.

And it is certainly not the tactic one would have expected from a member of the EU Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (HLEG-AI), a body assembled to develop the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI. …

A Visit for the Curious and Adventurous

As we roll by ‘my uncle*’ points out the quarry.

“It’s filled with stones but there are never any lorries. That’s why we say the trolls are throwing them down from the mountain”.

This is a big part of the magic of Iceland. The way history, saga, Norse myth, and folklore weave together to tell the stories of people and places. How the lines between fact and fiction are blurred. Or perhaps just irrelevant.

The rest of the magic is of course Iceland itself.

If the world was indeed birthed from the giant Ymir through the cunning of Odin, then Iceland was certainly his heart. After just eleven days of exploring bits of the north and south, it becomes quite clear why history and lore are so deeply intertwined. There is simply no better way to rationalize so much unblemished beauty than through fantastical legends. And there are plenty of them! Which is why I feel quite lucky to have ‘my uncle’ give me the insider story of Iceland complete with fact, fairytale, and family anecdotes from his Icelandic childhood and adulthood. …

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Photo by Lilly Rum on unsplash

Turns Out It’s My Smart Watch

Check your rings!

Three of the cringe-worthiest words in my digitally-dictated “smart” life. It’s the reminder that pops up about midday if I haven’t progressed as far as predicted with my daily goals.

Even though it’s ultimately just measuring me against myself — how I’m faring today versus my average — it always feels a bit judgmental. Like my watch expects better of me. Like it knows that I’m not trying as hard as I could be. And though I know that just a few clicks would turn off all notifications, there is something deeply gratifying about complying. Like some sort of primal, schoolgirl-esque satisfaction at performing my best and basking in the praise. Or in this case, a red, blue, and green laudatory firework display once all my goals have been reached. …

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Photo by Rishabh Pammi on Unsplash

Rethinking the age old question to define our professional goals

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Whereas chit chat around the water cooler revolves around the inane: the weather, vacation plans, that new Netflix series. We reserve one of life’s most fraught questions for children, deeming it perfectly normal to pepper them for insight into their future professional aspirations.

For the most part — I hope — we do this for our own amusement. Children are working with a very narrow scope of knowledge about career paths: hence the ubiquity of would-be child astronauts, ballerinas, firefighters…So it can indeed be entertaining to delve into their brains. …

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franki chamak for unsplash

Diminishing Bias with ADM

It is with a sort of helpless resignation that we have spent so many decades bearing witness as imbalanced power, wealth, and race and gender dynamics have skewed access to our most fundamental basic rights: freedom, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, jobs, and even a roof over our heads. And with economic disparity, racial profiling, and gender discrimination so intrinsic, we often forget to see them for what they are: the result of systematic biased decision-making stemming from centuries of inequality, racism, and misogyny.

So… ages of faulty data accumulated in the ‘data sets’ that have trained our human thinking.

This past week at the AI Summit in Berlin, ethics was a hot topic. …

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Saving Lives and Opening New Doors

Foreign language. Black and white. No-name cast. This is the perfect storm of descriptives to turn me off a film. But, Netflix matched it to me with a score in the 90s.

Although the online streaming behemoth is privy to all my dirty viewing secrets (full disclosure: superheroes and space wars), so am I. And I would not have opted for Roma of my own volition. But, Netflix was presuming to know something about me that not even I did. So I gave Roma a go. I was not disappointed.

Now I don’t profess to understand the inner magic behind algorithms. I suppose the in-the-know crowd is a pretty elite club of tech wizards. But there is one thing that I do get. Algorithms power machine learning and deep learning tools that make it possible to process and analyze an infinite set of data points. Something impossible for my brain, your brain, and even Einstein’s brain to fathom. And the trove of data Netflix amassed from my addictive binging habits, and then plugged into its algorithms indicated I would like Roma.

Dear President Trump,

This might be difficult for you to imagine. As you putt around on your golf courses. As people in your administration rampantly abuse taxpayer dollars for unnecessarily lavish trips. As you play a real life game of Risk with one of the world’s most troublesome and unpredictable dictators.

Nevertheless, try to fathom a life in which everything has been stripped from you. Not just the luxuries. Your home, a means of transport, clean clothes. Compound that further. You have no electricity and limited means of communication. It is near impossible for you to contact your family and loved ones. …

A couple of years ago when I started a job with a not unfamous global platform, I was introduced to a network of tech savants. Fast forward to today, and I’ve become a bit of an expert in IoT, AI, VR and AR. Any idea what those stand for? If not, you’re not alone! So, I’ve decided to break down the latest tech revolutions for the less tech-minded. An IoT for Dummies so to speak. A little insight for grandma or that agenda-toting analog friend.

If any of your friends belong to the 87% of people who do not know what IoT is, this article is for them.[i] For those of us in the know, this seems like a pretty hefty number. Especially when we consider the rampant spread of IoT applications. However, just because grandma has graduated from clapping off her bedroom lamp to swiping it off with her smartphone, she doesn’t necessarily understand the significance of this innovation or where exactly this technology is headed. …


Melissa Maldonado

Reporting on digital innovations. Communicating digital policy. Predicting digital trends.

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