The Singularity

When will the Singularity happen? (infographic)

As digital replaced analogue, perhaps artificial intelligence will one day surpass the brain’s cognitive capacity, a tipping point referred to as the “singularity.” – Andy Haldane

So when might this event happen? Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading thinkers on A.I estimates it could happen as early as 2045. Fortunately he’s an optimist, but let’s hope he knows what he’s doing, because he now works for Google. In terms of what the Singularity is, we can either look at A.I being a separate intelligence to ours, or if you believe in transhumanism, then you will be uploading your mind to a computer, to actually merge with A.I.

After a bit of online research on the history of artificial intelligence, here is an infographic I designed to make sense of it all. Icons come from the Noun Project. Artist credits are here.

I’m at the start of my A.I journey, so please leave your comments on future predictions below!

Singularity infographic

 

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digital nomad Backpack toolkit infographic

The Digital Nomad’s Backpack (Infographic)

There is something great about fitting your mobile office into one backpack, sitting down in a cafe or co-working space and getting down to work. Here is an infographic I made, containing the typical bunch of accessories that I usually have in my Digital Nomad’s backpack. This toolkit of gadgets and apps should be all you need. Now go find some wi-fi! 

Digital_Nomads_Backpack

 

I personally use a 13inch Macbook Pro, which is powerful and portable. If you’re looking for a practical laptop case that’s very light, padded and also waterproof, I use this one by AquaQuest (In case you have the ridiculous fantasy of kayaking with your laptop to do some remote work!)

Aqua-Quest 13 inch Waterproof Laptop Case 

Aqua-Quest 15 inch Waterproof Laptop Case 

 

Read about my experiences working remotely in Myanmar and Hawaii.

 

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The Future of Automated Jobs

The automation of jobs – will my skills be automated?

Will a robot take my job?

The rise of the robots and the automation of jobs is a hot topic at the moment, and countless scare stories have appeared online. The replacement of jobs involving repetitive tasks and decision making with computer algorithms has been happening for years, from data entry to automated phone systems to the stock market, but in the coming Ai revolution the question of whether there will be enough new jobs created from the lost ones is in debate. 

 

There are fears that a skills gap has emerged, in which a tech elite create a wealth disparity, with the highest paid jobs being in software. Instagram was a company with only 13 staff, and was sold for $1 billion to Facebook after only 15 months. There is something ruthlessly inevitable about the tech companies’ facilitation of our lives, and how we suck it up. Uber drivers are just a stopgap before the human driver is replaced by a driverless car within 10 years. 

 

Jobs

 

These startup ideas are great for the customer, but will future generations have any work to do? And seeing the gigantic figures made by tech startups, will they expect money for nothing and their cheques for free? In 1930, English economist George Maynard Keynes predicted on-going technological advance and workers being replaced by machines.  Yet far from being a threat, Keynes viewed this as a huge opportunity.  He predicted that, by 2030, the average working week would have shrunk to 15 hours. Technology would give birth to a new “leisure class”. 

 

Figures are being predicted that as much as 80 million US jobs could be automated, and UK economic policy maker Andy Haldane recently said in a speech that maybe the Luddites “had a point after all”. Haldane cites the issue of automation being different this time, due to the “rapid emergence of smart machines, jet-propelled by modern computing.  These machines are different.  Unlike in the past, they have the potential to substitute for human brains as well as hands.” He also wonders if it would be a good thing if this utopian leisure dream was to come true:

 

“Whether that path is desirable, for individuals or societies, is less clear.  Studies show (work) really isn’t just about the money.  Work creates a sense of personal worth and social attachment.  Its loss serves as a personal and societal blight.” – Andy Haldane

 

According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years. 

 

Which jobs are at risk of automation?

Try out BBC technology’s handy tool to find out your automation risk.

according to the tool, the most at risk jobs are Telephone salesperson, Typist, Legal secretary and Financial accounts manager, but it’s a long list. Doctors and Accountants should worry. I would welcome the automation of accountancy, because I seem to spend days each year on my paperwork, while they charge a fortune for doing the filing! 

automation_accountant

My evaluation as ‘Graphic Designer’ (although this is a very vague great description of what I do) came out at only a 5% risk. But I would disagree with this, as I’m pretty sure even creative skills are at risk too, so look out for that article! 

 

automation_designer

 

My experience of ‘Skills Shift’

As a designer working with ‘new media’ – a term that started when web design became a skill, I have seen the pace of technology change rapidly from the start of my design career. As a freelancer I’ve always been determined to be independent and to carve my own way. This has left me open, but also vulnerable to changing trends in media use. My design career took off when I learnt Flash animation, in the days when personally I found the rich media experience of the web exciting.

 

Look how robotic websites are now – most sites, including this one, are templated and grid-like, in order to satisfy the need to be responsive to both desktop and mobile devices. The iPad was the initiator of change: a device that blocked the Flash experience for its web browsers, so that web design and development was forced to change to the web standard Html5.

 

Ironically this sudden death of Flash on the iOS devices brought me a better opportunity. I had made my living from animating Flash banners for years, which I hated. I took my Flash skills, learnt basic AS3 coding, and started to develop kids apps using Flash with the Adobe Air plugin for mobile devices. I was now an app developer and publisher of my own content, selling my apps through the Appstore, Google Play, Amazon and Nook store. Flash may have died as a platform, but it’s still the most versatile creative software. It can be used for drawing vector graphics, animating, making interactive presentations which are exportable to video and html5. So when media changes, there’s still a chance to transfer our skills.

 

I had my fair share of success and failure on the Appstores, and it’s been a huge learning experience. The market was saturated when I started, and it changes exponentially, so that while one is developing an app, the market can completely change when it’s ready for launch! While it’s not a good place for indie developers to make a living, it’s a great platform for long term royalties and reaching people, even if most apps are now free.

 

And here I am now, learning new skills all the time – infographics, WordPress, Html5 animation, in the spirit of trying to keep up and reinventing myself once again… Just like everyone will be doing in most industries in the future.

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Remote Working Digital Nomads

The Pros and Cons of Remote Working in Paradise

Hawaii_View

Waking up to the sound of tropical birds cooing and chirping outside, it’s clear I’m a long way from home again. I picked an Air bnb room in a house (which turned out to be a mansion) in the Manoa valley area, a little way out of town from the touristy Waikiki beach. The guy who rents it is in the US military, and says that doing Air bnb works out so well that it covers his rent. The key-code on the front door means that when you book the room you get emailed the door code, so that he doesn’t even need to be there to give you the key. Now there’s an example of smart automation in action!

Hawaii_suburbs

Looking through the blinds I can see tropical plants and mist covered hills. The sun is out but it’s also raining. This is why it’s called the rainbow state. Take a hike into the hills and you’re bound to see one as we did yesterday in the light and refreshing rain. So where am I? Oahu, Hawaii of course. This place, with lush volcanic valleys and paradise beaches and Jurassic park jungle trails has been an obsession of mine since I had a little taste of it last summer on my honeymoon, and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The reality of Remote Working

The concept of remote working is now a reality, thanks to the increasing internet speeds in most developed and developing countries worldwide. The freedom of travelling whilst working on a laptop in exotic locations is a dream lifestyle that I put into practice exactly one year ago. I moved with my wife, who’s Burmese to stay with her family in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) for 6 months to escape the English winter. Birds migrate for the winter to warmer climes, so why can’t humans?

 

Remote working is becoming a growing trend, and the movement for people who live this way are called ‘Digital Nomads.’ Because working remotely is dependant on internet, digital nomads can usually be spotted in coffee shops and co-working spaces around the globe, and it’s been truly noted that these people travel thousands of miles to sit in Starbucks. 

 

The Dutch designer, programmer and entrepreneur Pieter Levels set up the website Nomad List as a great resource to track the best countries to work remotely in. The top world cites, ranked by cost, weather, air, fun, safety are Chang Mai (Thailand), Taghazout (Morocco) and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), out of a list of 484 places. The local cost of living, from the price of an Air BnB apartment to a Cappucino are detailed. Levels has no fixed address. Instead, he lives out of a single backpack and works from coffee shops and co-working spaces around the world.

nomad1

nomad3


The social media tool Buffer is company that has sewn this idea into the heart of its company ethos. Its career page reads: “work in the place that makes you happy, that inspires you daily, and helps you to become the person that you wish to be. You will work daily with team members scattered around the world and across time zones to build a better culture and product.” 

 

“In the future every knowledge company could have a distributed workforce” – Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress

 

Scott Stohler, the travel blogger of Roamaroo describes his travelling lifestyle as ‘Vagabonding’ – which I thought was a hilarious modern twist on the phrase. A vagabond is a person with no fixed home. Swap the coal faced Dickensian urchin of Victorian London with a beach dwelling freelance programmer in Bali and you have a very modern vagabond!

 

Why travelling makes me feel alive

So why do I do it? The answer is simple. When I travel to new places I’m not on autopilot. I’ve stripped away the repetition and clutter of my home life in London and I’m forced to reinvent, learn and survive in a new environment. Everything’s different – an even the day to day mundane things become interesting. I find even going to the supermarket in a foreign country is exotic, particularly in flip-flops.

 

Hawaii_Hike

 

Comparing prices and finding new foods to take back to your temporary home feels a bit like camping, but with the added luxury of a real bed, bathroom and desk space. Living in someone else’s house is like being in someone else’s shoes for a while, before things become routine.

 

Making the remote working lifestyle ‘work’

I’m currently experimenting with this lifestyle, but I cannot yet claim that I’ve cracked it. I do get itchy feet every few months, and like seeing what it’s like to live in a new place, but I’m not one for travelling for extended periods. There must be very few Digital Nomads who can stay on the road for years without feeling homesick, exhaustion from moving around and the inevitable ‘beauty fatigue’ that hits you’ve seen all too many spectacular beaches, mountain ranges and waterfalls. Simon Fairbairn & Erin McNeaney are a Digital Nomad couple who manage it – they have been travelling around the world since 2010! They run a great travel blog called neverendingvoyage, in which they write about the locations they have lived in and share info on how they make a living.

 

“There must be very few Digital Nomads who can stay on the road for years without feeling homesick, exhaustion from moving around and the inevitable ‘beauty fatigue’ that hits you’ve seen all too many spectacular beaches, mountain ranges and waterfalls.”

 

What are the difficulties? 

You’ll need some cash saved up for the first part of your journey. Some people sell all their possessions in order to travel around until they have got their online business setup and bringing in revenue, which can take a year or more. If you’re moving around a lot, you will spend so much time researching, planning and getting from A to B, since everything will be unknown. In a foreign country, just getting a single thing done, such as printing out and sending off a CV (resumé) might take you a full day or more! It can also be lonely, and doubts will hit you early on in your journey. Our minds like security, and yours will be saying things like: “Where the hell have you taken me? What is your big plan now?” If you’re like me you’ll also be asking yourself if you deserve to be in such paradise! Shouldn’t I go back and brace the winter like everyone else? You’ll need to push through these kinds of thoughts constantly. If you’re in a relationship, this will need both of you to be happy with moving your stuff from place to place, and that isn’t an easy thing to balance. 

 

The next issue is the type of work you’ll be doing. If you’re lucky enough to have a steady flow of client work, then your issue is simply to be in a place where you can get the work done in time over a good wi-fi connection. In this case it helps to be in a time zone ahead of your client (e.g work in Asia if your client is in europe or the US). In my case I’m mostly self employed, so my issue is keeping up the motivation – which is very hard to do in a hot weather country. I’m used to cold and rain, and when there’s nothing much to do outside I think that may be the reason why I turn to creative projects in the first place. So if that doesn’t put you off and you’re up for trying something, then read on. Depending on where you choose to live, your experiences will be wildly different to mine..

 

Nomad Location 1 – The suburbs of Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

North Dagon

 

Staying with a friend or relative is a huge help if you have the option, so my wife and I could stay with hr family without worrying about rent. Getting a social visa took several trips to the visa office in the centre of town, which is still without a computer system. In Myanmar, the main hurdle for me was getting used to the extremely poor internet. Picture me walking 20 minutes in the blazing heat to the nearest internet cafe to upload files on a USB stick across an unstable 0.5 meg internet. Life became a constant search for internet, which meant going to 5 star hotel lobbies at first and having to buy expensive coffees! But soon after I arrived, cheap mobile sim cards (which have dropped in price from $2000 in recent years to $1.50!) with pay as you go internet packages were rolled out, allowing me to tether my mobile to my laptop from our home in the Yangon suburbs. Considering the location, it felt like a miracle. 

 

Burma_office

 

After 3 months of working for myself, mixed with travelling trips I was pining to get some outside work. I managed to pitch the idea of an ‘App Club’ to a local school, and they agreed, and I then got some great freelance work making video sequences for a Design company fairly near where I lived. It felt like I’d taken a risk and was miraculously rewarded with just what I’d hoped to achieve. Phew! Read more about my Burmese App Club here.

 

Nomad Location 2 – Air bnbing & Co-Working in Honolulu, Hawaii

So here I am in my next location and settling into my Hawaiian adventure. The most populated island of Oahu has less than 1 million permanent residents, but it has about 5 million visitors each year, mostly from Japan and the US mainland. It’s ethnically very mixed, and is a melting pot of cultures – East meets West, and while it is a US state, the street names are still in Hawaiian, and the original language and ‘Aloha spirit’ still remains. But it’s extremely expensive. Only 50% of residents own their home. The average house is $700,000+ and rents are high. The price of supermarket food is shocking – a loaf of bread is around $5, and 2 litres of milk is $3 or more. A locally grown Pineapple is as much as $8! There are many foods that we just won’t buy here, and it’s actually more cost effective to eat out, rather than cook. One benefit of hot weather countries is we have less appetite, so we eat less anyway. The islands of Hawaii are stunning. There are countless hikes to do on, and of course the islands are surrounded by great beaches:

DSC00745

I’ve been through the usual worries that come with the upheaval of being in an unknown place, and I’m ready to get down to work now. Fortunately Oahu has incredible internet, considering it is brought in through incredibly long undersea cables, stretching from Australia to New Zealand, all the way across the Pacific to Hawaii, to join the mainland USA in a loop. Check out this amazing map of the World’s undersea cables.

 

Find a Co-working space

Due to being unable to work in my stuffy apartment in the back streets of Honolulu, I’ve joined a slick co-working space called BoxJelly. If features the usual co-working vibe: quiet techies, start-ups, fancy furniture and gourmet coffee next door. Everyone gets on with their work here, so I’ve barely had a chat yet, but at least the music is unobtrusive and I’m getting stuff done (“Get Shit Done” is actually their motto). I’m getting into it.. Let’s hope the local gods of creativity send me a rainbow. 


BoxJelly

BoxJelly Coworking Space

The upsides of remote working

  • Freedom and flexibility to work when you want
  • When you work abroad it still feels like you’re on holiday
  • Excitement of discovering new places
  • Taking new risks can make you more motivated
  • Not being online all the time is healthy


The downsides of remote working

  • Internet can be terrible in places (but this can also be a healthy way to cure your net addiction: see upsides).
  • It can be hard to work in a tropical paradise with no air con 🙂
  • It takes time to settle in and find jobs / new clients
  • Flights are expensive if you have to leave for a visa run
  • Having no fixed address means no home deliveries, print-outs and stationary. Be prepared to spend a whole day finding a print shop, post office etc. It takes a lot of time to find your way around a new place, especially a city. 


Tips for getting work in a new place:

  • Sign up to local forums such as Google groups, Facebook work groups etc.
  • Post that you’re new in town, listing your skills and that you’re looking for work.
  • Send out your CV to related jobs. Even if they don’t get back to you, they may forward your CV to someone else. This happened to me.
  • Use Meetup.com to find local groups matching your interests.
  • If you have work to get on with, join a co-working space – which allows you to work with people, coffee and a stable internet connection.

Things to consider when working remotely:

  • What time zone are you on in relation to where your client is? If your client’s time zone is many ahead of you, then this can make things difficult. This is why Asia is a good place to be. When your client starts their day, your previous day’s work is already finished! 
  • There are 2 types of remote worker – the person working for clients, and those working for themselves. The former will need to try out whether their time zone will be an issue, while the latter will face a motivational struggle. 
  • Co-working spaces are useful, but they can feel lonely at first. People are generally there to work, not socialise. The vibe can completely depend on work space and the co-workers who happen to be there at the time. 

 

remote working in paradise with a laptop

 

Conclusion – can you really work in paradise?

It’s very difficult. This is an honest blog and I don’t want to peddle a lifestyle that’s not feasible. I’m still very much experimenting with the digital nomad thing. My first two locations were not at all ideal, as I had my own reasons for going there, and if you check the nomadlist site, there are plenty of good, more affordable options. It also depends on where you’re from and whether you can get used to working in a very different climate. I’d definitely recommend trying it over the winter like I have. Good luck to you, and please tell me about your locations in the comments 🙂

Finally, check out my infographic for a Digital Nomad’s backpack. Don’t leave home without it!

 

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Computer Error Haikus

Computer Error Haikus

From the vaults of the web: here’s a retrospective look at a creative alternative to automated 404 messages, in the form of poetic “computer error Haikus.” The short Haiku poems were created for Sony’s 1998 Vaio PCs.

Computer Error Haikus

 A file that big?
 It might be very useful.
 But now it is gone.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Yesterday it worked
 Today it is not working
 Windows is like that
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Stay the patient course
 Of little worth is your ire
 The network is down
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Three things are certain:
 Death, taxes, and lost data.
 Guess which has occurred.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 You step in the stream,
 but the water has moved on.
 This page is not here.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Out of memory.
 We wish to hold the whole sky,
 But we never will.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Having been erased,
 The document you're seeking
 Must now be retyped.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Rather than a beep
 Or a rude error message,
 These words: "File not found."
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Serious error.
 All shortcuts have disappeared.
 Screen. Mind. Both are blank.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 The Web site you seek
 cannot be located but
 endless others exist
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Chaos reigns within.
 Reflect, repent, and reboot.
 Order shall return.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 ABORTED effort:
 Close all that you have.
 You ask way too much.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 First snow, then silence.
 This thousand dollar screen dies
 so beautifully.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 With searching comes loss
 and the presence of absence:
 "My Novel" not found.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 The Tao that is seen
 Is not the true Tao, until
 You bring fresh toner.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Windows NT crashed.
 I am the Blue Screen of Death.
 No one hears your screams.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 A crash reduces
 your expensive computer
 to a simple stone.
  - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Error messages
 cannot completely convey.
 We now know shared loss.


-- Anonymous Author
 

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