Friday, November 19, 2010

A New Blog

Lately I have been finding a need to have a voice --- an authentic voice. A voice, which I occasionally expressed in the days when I had the time to be more active on open source mailing lists (SciPy, NumPy, and even Python itself). When I was younger, I didn't have as many endearing entanglements to the future that depend on my present. As a result, I could spend much time pursuing efforts that gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

For as long as I can remember, I have been driven by discovery. Much to their annoyance, I would constantly ask my parents and 9 siblings "Why?" I used to be quite proud of myself as they would relate these stories of my inquisitive childhood at family gatherings. My particular combination of infused biochemistry that led to my knowledge addiction certainly drove most pursuits during my formative years, and this has had a strong impact in my life.

During my nearly 40 years, however, I have encountered an impressive cadre of awe-inspiring people each uniquely different. This has led me to conclude that it is not the particular current physical emergence that I find myself in. Rather, it is the particular use I am making of it. Do I pursue an agenda that barely extends beyond my internal neurobiology, or do I use my combination of skills and knowledge to seek a wider consistency that can harmonize with a beautifully complex society.

Earlier tonight, I listened to technology leaders and entrepreneurs tell their view of what society would be like if their respective companies were wildly successful. I listened to this message in a stunning lecture hall in Peterhouse at Cambridge University. While they each brought a distinct perspective, their unifying message was the power of technology to change the world.

Search for "Silicon valley comes to Cambridge" in a few days to get a summary and possibly even video of the talks. Megan Smith from Google (www.google.org) spoke of the power of big data to solve social injustices such as the sexual exploitation of children. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, spoke of the power of inter-connectedness to solve big problems by bringing the right people together quickly.

Other people spoke and gave interesting perspectives including Mike Lynch, founder of Autonomy, who gave a wonderful talk on the importance of meaningful interaction with data so that our lives are enhanced and not enslaved by the explosion of data and technology. He also gave a tribute to Thomas Bayes. By looking on his site, I noticed that he gives similar props to Claude Shannon. I'm already impressed. These are two thinkers who were able to present important concepts that remain under-appreciated.

I do think it's important what people think. The ideas we carry in our heads are critical. It is these ideas which drive our necessarily individual pursuits and can lead to disharmony. I like to pass along useful information, colored of course by my own experiences and perspective in the simple and perhaps naive hopes that sustainable, lasting solutions can be discovered.

Most of my posts will be technical, as I am hoping to use this forum as a way to write about the thoughts I am having in my own attempt to hone and pare them. In particular, most of these posts will be about technology that I am involved with or have some exposure to. Upcoming posts include "The Zen of NumPy", "7 Heresies of Technical Computing", and "What I've learned from SciPy and Open Source"

If you happen to come across these musings, your feedback is welcome. I would love to hear about your experiences with any thoughts that are covered in my posts.

-Travis

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