What I’m playing with: After a few frustrating nights, I finally figured out how to work with FCC Form 477 and Census Block data. Great success for someone who’s scared of numbers and a baby still learning the ABCs of computer languages. Managed to put together a terrifying map of the Cleveland broadband situation:
Clearly, something fishy going on here. The data is broken down by advertised download speed in Mbps as displayed on the side legend—dark is fast, light is slow. While the three dark red blocks are the most obvious, I think the white cluster on the top right of the map is most troubling. East Cleveland is the poorest neighborhood in the county and has noticeably worse access than its neighbors.
Hopefully, I get to explore with more of these in the coming weeks—partly for school, but mainly because I’m a nerd and this is fun. And yes, I know the National Broadband Map exists and has all the same information. But I didn’t sleep for two nights dammit! I’m proud of this little thing I created with bloodshot eyes, Stack Overflow queries, and many cups of tea.
What I’m listening to:Black Panther: The Album. Kendrick Lamar curated… need I say more? While definitely not his best project—Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, baby! —it is incredibly well produced and considering its purpose of supplementing the eponymous movie I’d say that the TDE crew did a phenomenal job. Favorite tracks: Opps (Vince Staples!), Bloody Waters, and Big Shot.
Instagram post of the week:
I still can’t believe ol’Musky decided to build a giant net on the back of a boat so that he can catch a piece of falling space rocket. But I guess given that this is his decision-making process then there should really be no surprise at all. What a madman, I love it.
Podcast episode of the week: Networks, Power, and Chaos – A Conversation with Niall Ferguson. It’s known that Niall is not the most well-liked person on either side of the political divide, but his conversation with Sam Harris provided an interesting and dispassionate interpretation of the 2016 election and Trump. Even if you’re not a fan of the network science stuff, the Donald analysis is still worth a listen. Main takeaways: networked phenomenon is nothing new, the Internet just scaled up the effects. The whole Russia interference/collusion thing? Not really the most important issue, nor will it lead to much (unless Mueller unearths some extremely incriminating evidence against Donald himself, which given what’s been revealed so far, probably not going to happen). The historical grounding of these issues should dispel some of the feelings of uncertainty/anxiety people are having with the president. It’s hard to view the world through an impartial lens but focusing on the fundamental factors driving trends can be more enlightening than the repetitive and self-reinforcing news articles that most of us are exposed to on a daily basis.
Highlight of the week: 12 Maroons dinner. The Student Alumni Association at UChicago held a few dinners bringing together two faculty members, an alum, and nine students to just have good conversation. And boy, this has been by far my best experience in college, this is exactly the sort of conversation, curious energy, and fun I came to Chicago for. We had some deep discussions on freedom of speech, blockchain, and the word “space” in addition to a wonderful recounting of the school’s history and administration dynamics. There was some pretty juicy stuff, but although I didn’t have to sign an NDA, I probably won’t talk about them here.
Commonplace book entry of the week: My grandparents could probably have told you how many electric motors they owned. There were one or two in the car, one in the fridge, one in the vacuum cleaner, and so on, and they owned maybe a dozen total. Today, we have no idea how many motors we have (or even how many are in a car), but we probably know how many things we own with a network connection or some kind of digital intelligence. There’s a phone, a tablet, and a laptop, and the TV, and… but again, our children will have no idea. It won’t be an interesting question. “How many smart devices do you have?” will be like asking how many incandescent light bulbs you have. — Smart homes and vegetable peelers, Benedict Evans.
In this thoughtful post, Ben explores the structure of the burgeoning home IoT market given his observations at the most recent CES. And I just love this preface, given the ways technology gets deployed I’ll eventually become the old man on the sofa scratching my head trying to figure out why I can’t find the box score for the Patriots game—obviously still quarterbacked by a youthful eighty-year-old Brady.
At its current state, it doesn’t seem that Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri are going to achieve the same lock-in power that Google has on search or iOS and Android have on mobile. The marginal difference between the voice assistants is not as dramatic as Google over MSN Search or iOS and Android over the Windows Phone. Furthermore, voice still functions as a supplement and is tethered to the smartphone or speaker—acting more as a friction-removing intermediary to use IoT devices. Finally, accessories such as smart fridges, door locks, and toilets don’t have the same network effect that Facebook, Amazon Prime, or the iPhone have. The switch to these new physical assets requires a greater commitment than signing up for an online service, and really, how much better can the Samsung smart fridge be than your current dumb one? Lord Bezos’ world domination plans are on hold in the consumer IoT space… for now.