Showing posts from January, 2014

Why Drones Were Invented

High above a mountainous desert pass, a predator drone silently stalks its prey from the safety of the clouds, waiting for the signal to unleash its payload Somewhere in Texas, a Ranger launches a drone from the local high-school football field. It whirrs upwards, heading for preset coordinates to keep an eye on nefarious activity in the bad part of town. It's 3pm on a Tuesday. Jimmy dumps his backpack in a corner near the door and heads for his room. He reaches under the bed and pulls out the quadracopter he got for his birthday. He sets it flying out the window and mercilessly buzzes his sister while she tries to play dolls on the porch with her friend . In a nondescript building at the edge of a prestigious university campus is an electronics lab. The supervising professor carefully monitors an array of screens while his PhD student, wired to a powerful laptop by an assortment of colorful cables, controls a drone with his thoughts. In a meeting room in the headquarters o

The Writer's Dilemma

I have great respect for anyone who publishes a novel. Dedicating the massive amount of time and energy required to bringing an original work to completion is almost enough to win my envy. Or scorn. It's true that writing a book is an impressive accomplishment, but don't waste my time. Novels built on the weak foundations of overused, formulaic writing serve no purpose. A book like that adds no more to the knowledge of the universe,  or the entertainment of humankind,  than does an instruction manual for a chocolate kettle. (Actually, that might be a fun read.) The problem, though, is that novels and stories have been around since, approximately,  the beginning of time. It's difficult to come up with something new. The human race has heard it all before. We are savvy story-listeners. And we are clever. Whether we realize it or not, people are excellent at predicting outcomes. Some of us are better at it than others, but we can often spot a punchline a mile away. Herein

3 Ways to Avoid Being the Prey

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines - the one true motivator to get work done. The problem with deadlines is that even if the promised delivery date falls within the deadline, the Requestor still sweats until the job is done by the person actually doing the work. This leads to the inevitable visits to the worker's office for constant (and unnecessary) progress updates. Last week I was asked to edit a PowerPoint presentation. The requested deadline was "by the end of the week". I agreed to the deadline, but I had a full schedule, so I only planned to deliver it by lunch on Thursday (the last day of my work-week). I knew it was a one or two-hour task, so I wasn't worried about delivering it on time. I suffered through the constant visits and reminders from the Requestor, but I stood my ground and stuck to my schedule – after all, he wasn't the only one to whom I had promised work. I am reading a fascinating book by Nir Eyal called "Hooked" , about how comp