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Issue 34: We All Start As Strangers

If you got a chance, take it!

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Ye Olde Newsstand - Weekly Updates

My apologies for missing last week's issue. Last Sunday I spent the entire day on a plane crossing the country for OpenAI's Dev Day conference. The conference was extremely well done, the company put a lot of thought was put into every detail, down to the font choice on the ID badges, was just fun! Fun to meet new people, fun to learn new technologies (I rode in a self driving car for the very first time), and fun catch up with old friends.

I think, though, that this event had deeper meaning for me than most attending. For many present and watching online, the advent of LLMs go back to the launch of ChatGPT. They may have heard of AI from a colleague at work, or a neighbor's kid using ChatGPT as the newest method to circumvent doing math homework. Perhaps they even saw the South Park episode. But for me and the rest of this group, DevDay was a victory lap of sorts...

Food For Thought

See, the people pictured in this photo (Andrew, Abran, Natalie, Russ) and those not pictured (Lucas, Vlad, Yash) have spent years as a really unique Dunbar's Number-proof group. I don't know how Ashley did it, but she formed a sustaining cabal of friends and collaborators in a world that, at the time, was very hostile to the idea of new friendships (Covid Zoom era malaise + unproven bleeding-edge technology of GPT-3 + the freneticism of keeping up with the Internet social media trends and "influencing"). The group from the photos above – met over three years ago because of our shared fascination of what a future entwined with LLMs might look like. In other words, we were (and are) a ragtag group of computer geeks! But because we were also blessed with the ability to act upon these fascinations, applying our unique talents and resources, we actually have affected the change we hoped to see in the world, through our careers, leadership, etc. and we have all made some really cool stuff. I've learned countless lessons from these people, lessons that I don't think I could have gotten from a more rigid group such as co-workers who come and go as their careers dictate; or a less rigid group, such as the kids I grew up with from my peer group who happened to share the same zip code.

Here's the deeper point – the lesson, I suppose.

Some values only reveal their relevancy – and perhaps fragility – in hindsight. One of these values is the ability to enjoy the journey – while you are in the middle of journeying.

As an analyst "type A" (read: neurotic) human, I spend most of the conscious part of my day plotting and executing, and in the quest to automate, it seems what I really seek causal control – to feel like I had some leadership role in the hurricane whirlwind that is being alive. But, if you become so focused on your goal, blinders will prevent you from picking up positive surprises in life. This group here in these photos is testament to this. The ambassador group is my prime example of a positive unexpected externality, not borne of intention directly, but borne of effort applied to something with no guarantee of "payoff". And what is a goal if it is not "achievable"? What is a journey if it doesn't end? Does it matter? On my FAQ page, I list Ging's quote about side trips to be one of my commandments of sorts. In a way, this is a lie. Or perhaps, more self-compassionately, an aspiration. I have yet to enjoy the journey while journeying, or pausing to appreciate the small things in life. I am a breathing thunderstorm, a maw that requires constant winds and debris to stay afloat, to stay raging and punishing.

The ambassador group was/is the first time in my life that I am forced to stop and marvel at what we've done, where we are going and who we are. There's nothing to do, but sit by the shore of the lake, and appreciate as the waves lap gently at the sand. That, and make really, really, cool stuff.

We all start as strangers, but we forget that we rarely choose who ends up a stranger, too.

101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think (affiliate link)

But, perhaps I'm just feeling nostalgic. I have been on a country music bender lately.

Thanks for reading, and see you next Sunday!

ars longa, vita brevis,


P.S. This issue will be public. Next week is back to members only!