Solutions to Three of the World’s Hardest Problems

December 17, 2018 § Leave a comment

The Problems

(Drawn from the list identified by Social Capital on December 15, 2018)

  1. Disrupting Programming
    1. Can we enable people who don’t know programming to build applications?
    2. Is there a way to structure, pipe, and manage data better?
  1. Disrupting Education
    1. Can we educate humans in interesting ways so that they learn to think in multi-disciplinary ways?
    2. Can we educate people in small, continuous ways so they keep learning throughout their lives?
  2. Disrupting Urban Transport
    1. Can we build new transportation methods that enable us to take someone form point A->B faster?
    2. Is there a way to build better, cleaner cities?

The Solutions

1. Disrupting Programming

“Helping non-programmers create applications” is a wicked problem because we as an industry have a confused understanding of programming.  Because of our infatuation with Aristotelian logic (see #2, below), the fact that computers could also do Boolean inference led us to believe all we needed to do to emulate humanity was teach them language and mathematics.  And so we invented complicated human-like languages for programming computers to perform mathematical calculations.

This paradigm works tolerably well for data-centric programming, but breaks down completely for human-centric programming.  A much better paradigm is that computing is about abstractions for sending signals to systems (which, as it happens, is also closer to what actually happens at the electrical layer).

From this perspective, we only need two things:

  1. The non-obvious but easy challenge is replacing programming languages with an appropriate data format (which also becomes the new pipe format)
  2. The obvious but hard challenge is a visual UI that enables language-like creation and reuse of abstractions without the complexity of actual language.

The good news is that the second challenge is much easier after you solve the first. I have prototypes if you’re interested.

2. Disrupting Education

Modern schooling evolved out of medieval studium and guilds, which in turn were built on the Benedictine monastic system, which itself can be considered a fusion of Jewish mysticism with Greek philosophy. The essential core was a mimetic desire for learning stronger than that for money, sex, or power — with student failure as the essential scapegoat.

To outcompete that would require a mimetic desire even stronger, to attract teachers willing to become the scapegoat, i.e. relational martyrs. I can only think of two candidates — parenting and religion — neither of which is accessible to a venture-backed startup. But I’m happy to share my notes if you’re curious.

3. Disrupting Urban Transport

One word: micromobility. I hope you are already plugged-in enough to be attending the Jan 31 conference in Richmond. I believe they are right that a post-automotive future is coming next decade, and I’d love for you to be a part of that.

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