When you ascribe anthropomorphic qualities to things like "the future" and COVID-19, it leads you to faulty analysis and conclusions. The future doesn't care. COVID-19 isn't revenge. You're layering your own view of the world onto it.

One could say that certain societies that tend toward collectivism are more resilient to some kinds of threats. Of course. The ways and mores of societies develop to protect them from existential threats, and to advance the adherents. There are a lot of ways that those things can be tuned over time. It makes sense that some societies and cultural traditions will be…

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Most of the reporting and government statements I see in the U.S. about COVID-19 focus on two things: the number of new infections per day and the total number of deaths. The problem is that for now, neither of these numbers are really meaningful in determining what state governments should do, and more importantly how much each of us is truly at risk of infection right now.

Until we get robust testing with positives down around 3% of the total, we should be looking instead at the trends of daily deaths.

Why we can’t rely on “new infections”

The “new infection” numbers that the Federal and state…

Photo by Mikail McVerry on Unsplash

I noticed something a couple weeks ago. A significant proportion of my co-workers were walking the halls of the office with their heads tilted downward, reading their phones as they went along. Now, I work for Google, and I’m going to guess that we have a higher percentage of introverts that are into personal tech than your random company. Still, it was a lot of people, myself included.

I wasn’t looking at anything useful when I did it. Sure, I would occasionally be messaging someone in the next meeting to tell them that the room had changed or giving them…

He can’t really fly, but I guess it’s okay to use a picture like this to trick people because the movie’s pretty good.

So after watching the momentous events in Avengers: Checkmate, I was really ready for the next chapter in Marvel’s Movie Universe. This review will be spoiler free, so you don’t need to worry.

Overall, the movie was pretty good. I saw the cartoon one a couple of months ago, and I kept wondering when the pig guy or the girl Spiderman in the white suit were going to show up. Alas, they did not. What we do get — and maybe Marvel is losing its touch with its actors — is an unexpected recast of Dr. Strange. I guess Benedict…

There was a lot of legitimate talk about Thanos being the protagonist of Avengers — Infinity War. While Thanos is clearly not a hero, from a storytelling perspective, he certainly is. If we set aside our moral framework and value judgments about Thanos’ means to his end, we can see what we’re watching — a superhero movie about someone trying to save the Universe from the tragedy of the commons. He makes sacrifices. He loses things that are important to him. But most importantly, his story follows the classic structure of the Hero’s Journey.

There are different expressions of this…

Confession: I’m afraid of both the ocean and the woods at night. I can’t help it. Nothing horrible has ever happened to me in either place, but when I stand there facing that dark expanse, my brain sees giant things slithering and creeping and waiting for me to turn my back. For the life of me, I can’t stop it.

That never bothered you. Twenty pounds of softness that would turn into the same amount of savagery at the right provocation. I called you beautiful the first time I saw you, and I wasn’t wrong. When we fenced the yard…

I just saw Pixar’s Coco and thought it was full of great storytelling. I wanted to apply Dan Harmon’s analysis of the Hero’s Journey to it to see if it fit. Full spoilers ahead for the movie, so if you care about that, only read if you’ve seen it.


We’ll be using the Hero’s Journey breakdown found on Harmon’s Channel 101 site. Let’s take a look!

1. You — Establish a protagonist. We get this right away in Coco, as Miguel performs the opening narration and tells us a story about his family history. Immediately afterward…

IBM Research/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Do computers think? Yes. No. I suppose it depends on what you mean by “think.” That’s the crux of it, really.

Hi. I think, and if you’re reading this, so do you.

I’m going to walk you through a series of steps around the thing we call “thinking” that recently happened to me in the real world, and you can see at the end if your opinion on the topic has changed.

One of the things that I do at work is to manage and maintain a piece of software that a bunch of Googlers use to track their tasks…

I work on side projects in addition to, you know, work-work and writing. This is one of them. It’s a single-page website that shows some fun stats about IQ as it relates to the overall human population. The fact that there are 7.5ish billion people in the world right now has some unexpected implications. For example, “superior intelligence” is rated as something like and IQ of 110–119. Want to know how many people in the world have an IQ of 115 or above (i.e. termed “superior” or higher)? Over a billion.

Yes. More than a billion people.

Pretty cool.


I should have mentioned that my thoughts on writing (and creating in general) as expressed several posts ago in Now Go Away were inspired by my daughter’s own ruminations on why she writes. You can read her take here:

Originally published at .

D. Roland Hess

Roland Hess is a TPM helping to lead Google’s compute infrastructure area. He writes techno/urban/dark fantasy novels, draws, and makes music.

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