First feelings from SU

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Singularity University GSP13

Hey!

I’m a Finnish girl in the middle of the NASA Ames research center in Silicon Valley, the world’s epicenter of innovation. To be precise, in a place, or mental state, called Singularity University.

To make it short, I got chosen into a ten week intensive program, where our aim is to build or use exponential technologies to positively impact a billion people within the next decade. We are familiarizing ourselves in the fields of the biggest challenges – energy, poverty, water, food, security, global health, environment and education. Sounds like a lot to carry, huh. I couldn’t believe it when the acceptance email came in, but at the same time felt bewildered with the grand challenges. Truly grand.

For the first day, or week, I felt like I was the only one who doesn’t belong in the flock. My “classmates”, as in 79 people chosen to the GSP13 program, were from all fields of arts and science. A participant had worked in the field of weapons of mass destruction, to later found a charity in Senegal, another classmate just exited a well known company, another one tested to be one of the worlds 100 most happy people, fourth left Goldman and Sachs, mentors underpriveled youth.. and the rest are biohackers, inventors, artists, rebels, changers. When I asked a colleague to which area his companies are focused, he answers “most are still on Earth”.

So you can imagine, what it feels like to be in this kind of a company. “They got the wrong person! Must be a mistake somewhere. I hope they don’t find out.” Until in our intro session, they told us that the “imposter syndrome” is completely normal, and when they asked who thinks they just got lucky or ended up here because of a mistake, almost everyone raised their hand. Phew. So just need to let go. All differences, skill sets, experiences and opinions are necessary.

Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil, Founders of Singularity University, 
are really heroic guys. Diamandis wants to ensure humanity’s existence forever and therefore take the irreversible step of taking humans to inhabit the next planet. He always wanted to go to space, and therefore founded, amongst other things, the
XPrize Foundation.. Kurzweil has, amongst other merits, nineteen honorary doctorates and honors from three different US presidents.

A peek to the opening ceremony from The Computer History Museum:

Thank You for taking the time to read! I will tell you about all the adventures and experiences very soon! I hope I can convey the incredible energy and share some of the knowledge we digest here continuously.
So much to tell you!

Henrietta

P.s.
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Embrace Technology.

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I’d like to tell you a few examples of why my love to technology and science grows by the day.

Kids. 
They should have the right to feel familiar and confortable around technology. It already surrounds us, computers are everywhere from your car to education to water wells. In the future, technology will incorporate a lot of things and help us, wether in consuming more efficiently, saving lives or peace treaties. Everywhere. Would you not want your child to have the basic knowledge of a worldwide language? It’s called code and it is already everywhere, in every nation. In the near future, a lot more stuff will be running on computers and so it would be a lot more convenient to at least be literate in code, if not being able to write it. Kids learn in an instant, intuitively. If you let them.
If you think I’m being unreasonable, hear me out, I have a couple of amazing treats we can achieve with technology.

3D printing.
Many people perceive 3D printing as a recreational hobby, or something to simply toy around it. However, the potential is immense. Friends at Intellectual ventures 3D printed a scan of a patient’s brain for their doctor. The patient had to have something removed from the brain, which required an extremely complex surgery. The 3D model helped the doctor actually practise and see in advance how to conduct the difficult procedure.

Graphene.
MIT researchers found a new ability of this wonderous material just last week. It acted as a super supercapacitor, or, bluntly put, as the most effective ‘battery’ ever seen. Unlike any batteries until today (making huge loads of toxic waste), this material could suddenly charge, discharge and store  high amounts of energy incredibly fast. In addition, graphene is far easier to dispose of. Now, at first this could mean charging your phone in 30 seconds. But imagine, if it could be developed further.. to for example harness the power of a lightning. This kind of superability has been hunted like a heffalump (not soon enough). Think (no) energy war and not having to suffocate our planet. Powering your household, sustaining a level without costs for you and the environment?

Mobility.
People who before never dreamed of walking have robotic limbs. People, who used to be regarded as disambiguated can use a computer and a set of gear to now manage their lives- send emails, pay the two employees who help them in daily routine, be in touch with people, do stuff on their own. Move.

Scientific approaches.
The Millenium Technology Prize was remarkably shared in 2012 between Linus Torvalds (open-source software system Linux, Git) and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka for ethical stem cell research. Debated for centuries, this man sought for a solution instead of debating over different viewpoints.

Saving cities.
The amazing Rachel Armstrong has been developing a life-like, programmable matter which can alter according to its environment and task. Venice, the Italian city of gondolas and pigeons (and a Unesco world heritage site entirely), is sinking. This material is able to float the city if sinking, and if sea level declines, solidate itself around the wooden pillars supporting the structures, also stopping the wood from rotting.  Check out the  video.

How many more possibilities do your kids have if they see technology and science as a good thing? How many more years of life will you have, if they find a new kind of medicine?

War. Energy. Water. Food. All interlinked.
Every person on the planet should read Plan B: Mobilizing to save civilization by Lester R. Brown.  I’ve never read such an extensive, scientifically assembled PLAN on how to preserve this world and why we are destroying it to doom at this moment. I used to think food war is yet to come. That erosion doesn’t happen. That we don’t have money to save the word. That it’s hippie stuff. If you identify yourself, read it. If you don’t, read it. Brown so clearly explains how everything is interlinked in ways we didn’t imagine. Take, for instance, global warming. Sound boring? Not affecting your oranges in Florida? As that 0,6c is melting the Tibetian ice plateaus, vast areas of China will soon be without water for agriculture as the rivers dry. (Not to mention they are already using a non-renewing “emergency” water compounds.) Equalling to not enough food. For some hundreds of million of people. Meaning, opting it from elsewhere. Think China having about 1,1 trillion in US public debts. Get the point?

Did you know that to execute the whole “plan b”, or “restoration” of a living, sustaining planet would cost 13% of the world’s (2008) annual military budget? Military? With the ~13% we could not only eradicate hunger and drought, stop global warming (which is seriously really really bad, and not out of fashion) but also stop the ongoing conflicts in the race for food and land to harvest as food prices soar (due to lack of fuel, erosion, water resources diminishing).. ?

We need more technology. We need our children to understand and further develop technology.
It shouldn’t be a distant and scary thing, like those “IT-courses” in high schools, where you learn how to use exel (mah) or watching scary cyborgs on tv, but exciting adventures and discoveries, life changing possibilities. To me it is. I suggest to start by watching wall-e!

The unrefined art of the balance

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“The perfect balance of challenge and skill.” I’d rather like to call that riding one-legged on a rail you can’t stop.

Do you know the feeling of going so fast that you don’t have time to look up at where you’re heading? It takes a master to lift their head up for that crucial second, and here meant, a day off the grid. But it’s not easy. Email push notifications on your iOS 5, scheduled conf calls -12h from your time zone, Airbnb rental reviews, articles to publish, never-ending to-do list. Got the point? Laundry is peanuts here.

One day, I was thinking of taking kickboxing on again. I had somehow managed to steam out for a 12K run, and kept biking from meeting to meeting, and as I couldn’t move my legs anymore, my head was still running at 6K RPM. I was so pissed off for letting people let me down. Trusting people too easy [again]. But what’s there to do? Without faith, one is dead.

Then again.. Developers love problems, right? Problem solving is why devs like what they do- problems and challenges, and building something new that never existed. If you’re just fixing other people’s sh** and doing monotonous robot jobs, (you could write a script for it I guess), it’s no fun. So, why am I doing what I do? Or you? Cause you love the thrill. It’s just, that sometimes I feel like the thrill turns to a Google earth picture where you see yourself, and then suddenly it zooms out real fast until you’re so small that you get lost in the universe.

[Which can be magical, if you’re with Nancy Ellen Abrams – watch this.]

I am being honest here, there’s a lot going on. Like I’m sure you have too, and you’re wondering if you want to finish reading this before shuffling through your tabs and emails. You should. What’s two minutes?

So I’ll tell you how I’m navigating away from all the bad feelings one gets overworked.

Being happy:

To be happy, you don’t need anything at all. You just need to notice exactly what you have. You have to think you’re happy in order to be happy. Life is Good. It really is. Think. Would you change places?

Look up. Jump and hop. Smile. You can’t feel bad anymore.

Think like a 4-year old. Be curious. Discover.

Problem solving I: 

This is from the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (also. You should read it.)
“Zen Buddhist monks meditate on Koans (question or statement that can’t be understood logically) as a way to abandon dependence on reason in their pursuit of enlightenment”.  e.g. Virginia Woolf: ‘She always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day’.

I can’t master this art yet, so I’m trying the Elon Musk tactic. As in, what if everything was possible and there were no restrictions, what would I build? Like, what would be an evolved alternative to the Internet? (It has been here since the 60’s, if you didn’t notice.)

Problem solving II: 

Just do it.

Nothing is going to take that pending thing off the list unless you do. Just do it quick. If you are procrastinating all the time, you might want to have a think if what you’re doing is what you want to do, or are you waisting your time, skills and mind.

Time management: 

A good friend of mine had wise words last Sunday, as I was going up the wall for not remembering those follow-ups, looking desperately at a pile of business cards that had been laying on the corner of my sofa for two weeks, waiting for action. (I dragged them in my bag for a week until I noticed I didn’t have time to go through them anyway.) He asked: “What’s the worst thing that could happen, if you never reacted to those cards?” When I realized I dug my own grave again. Nothing. I can find the people again, and they can find me. (Sorry.) Lesson learned: don’t do everything at once, don’t do everything and don’t be that harsh a judge on yourself.

Time management II: 

Schedule time for yourself. Really. If it’s yoga, run, reading, a walk, whatever. Sometimes, lose your charger for a day.

Time management III (mental health): 

Make to-do lists that you’re able to accomplish. You know the Nike fuelbands? It seems lots of people hit their goals almost every day. And it makes them happy.

Reminding yourself to be happy: 

Make others happy. Leave post-its. Make coffee. Laugh. Be happy, and others will be.

Once in a while, I see that I make time to do crafts, paint, sew and play. Or I hang the stuff I made up. It makes me happy. Accomplishments, what ever they are. I glued Marimekko’s mantras on my analog self-made calendar. AH! The joy. The front page one says:

Hidasta. Halaa. Hihittele. Hassuttele. Hellitä. Hymyile.

Slow down. Hug. Giggle. Goof around. Let go. Smile. Read the above out loud.

Adventures

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Desperation. It’s my last day at the countryside and I’m trying to wrap up all I thought I had time to do this week. No more bare feet getting dirty, being scared of bears and sun-glistening sea view whilst working, sauna, and dragonflies. 

Off to new adventures. Every day is an adventure. Never underestimate what can happen in a single day. But those things don’t happen when you don’t take care to notice them. 

Spending time with children is great, because children are magical. [And full of energy.] If we could all keep that childish adventurous mischief and be eager to notice, listen and see, the world would be a much better place. 

You can have ANYthing you want, but not EVERYthing. So enjoy ALL the things you get. 

Traveling light in life

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My friends asked me from an early age on, “how did you have the guts to just go” and “weren’t you scared at all?”. And I don’t mean this in a bragging way-it’s mostly ignorance and the recklessness that helped me from not thinking at all. (I packed my bags to go work in India, a country I’d never been to at 19, and after that, moved to Vienna to study in German, a language I didn’t master, amongst other irrationalities.)

There is something I keep telling myself though, and them: anywhere you go, you can always buy a ticket back. And if you make it in place a, you can do it in place b. You need an open mind and curiosity, but at the end, the world is getting smaller day by day, and we are quite similar anywhere in this world. At the end of it, I believe you can do anything. Beginning is the hardest part, and not letting the fear control your life.

By the fear, I mean that sensation that keeps you from doing what you really want to do in different forms. Call it peer pressure, expectations, society, ego, security, jadijadi. Do you want to sit back and think “why didn’t I ever” and “I wish I could”?

Now this doesn’t mean I’d live everywhere. The more years go by, I start calculating. Brr. What’s a good place to move on workwise, where do I not have to start from zero, what fits. But whilst traveling, you learn to feel the vibe of places. It’s mostly due to people and attitudes, that’s why a familiar language or culture similarities make you feel more comfortable.

Some cities just hit you harder than others. And it’s true that a weekend break can be wonderful, and living there completely different, but imagine yourself doing your thing there, and if it feels like a right image, and you think you could smile, it does seem like a good option.

My roots are very much in Finland. And a major part of me will always belong there. But the best of friends are scattered around the world. Guess what. If they’re real friends, it doesn’t make a difference how long you’re away. When you’re together, you’ll make the effort of finding quality time. And.. do you really see the people who live in your city that often, or is it just the sensation of facebook and similar time zone? We live in a global, digital world.

P.s. this doesn’t mean you should quit everything and move physically. I’d rather see that this applies to anything- your work, school, place and habits. Happiness comes from devotion, devotion from passion. Are you passionate about what you do?

Here’s a great article for brainfood. 

Moral

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All that is gold does not glitter;
all that is long does not last;
All that is old does not wither;
not all that is over is past.
Not all that have fallen are vanquished;
a king may yet be without crown,
A blade that was broken be brandished;
and towers that were strong may fall down.
Christopher Tolkien 

Hello world!

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Hey there! Don’t be a stranger, I’ll put up some posts soon enough.

Why don’t you take a look at the links in the meantime ;]