Now that my career is over…

Reading “The Scarlet Letter: A Romance,” back in high school in the early 1980s I never imagined I’d have to wear a letter of shame on my chest while moving around Silicon Valley (don’t understand? Just Google my name and you’ll see my “Letter A.”)

That book tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and then struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity, says Wikipedia. Hester’s “Letter A” stood for adultery.

My “Letter A” stands for that, along with abuser and, mostly, asshole. Shame is a heavy thing to bear, for sure. A little heavier than those new Apple headphones. 🙂

Lately, I’ve come to accept that I’m an asshole and that my career is over.

One part of that acceptance is coming to understand that my shame has given me so many gifts, including a 9,000-mile road trip with my kids and a life that doesn’t include traveling. Now that is gone I see just how hard it was to stay sane on the road. So happy we did that road trip in 2018.

Last year was pretty tough, though. At Christmas Maryam and I remembered all our family and friends we had lost. The year took my dad and one of my best friends, along with five others I used to know. I have a feeling more losses are ahead, as COVID keeps going up exponentially. Yesterday alone America lost 4,500. On top of that I was still learning to deal with my new roles as the kids were home all the time, and Maryam was home for the first time in a number of years too. I am tasked with getting them up most days and onto Zoom school, which is what I call distance learning, since both kids are on Zoom.

There was also a problem popping up in my mental health, though. Depression got a deeper hold on me.

Some days I couldn’t get up. I just didn’t want to do anything. And when I was up I had a ton of household and emotional work to do, which just took my energy. Of course that strained relationship between me and my company cofounder, Irena Cronin. I was unfair to her, and sinking because I just couldn’t tell anyone what was going on.

My wife asked me to see a therapist again last Fall because she could see I wasn’t dealing with life well. I did, and he put me on depression medicine. That helped me a lot. In just a few months I’ve lost more than 20 pounds, now more than 50 down from my high four years ago, and it feels like it filled in a bunch of potholes in my soul.

Another part of what I didn’t like about consulting work is that my stock market investing was doing a lot better than what I was doing with Irena. The last year was extraordinary in the market, and brought us good fortune, even while my mental health suffered. Over the last year my investment returns were 15+x times higher that my other income, despite writing a critically-acclaimed book about Spatial Computing and doing a lot of consulting for big companies and small.

Which brings me to what is next. In talking about the changes with tons of developers and entrepreneurs I see that the changes are going to be extraordinary and quick. Autonomous cars will become much more available in 2022. Tesla’s Cybertruck will be next-level in all ways. So much new tech is being readied for it. Apple is readying what I have heard is the biggest product introduction of all time. So big that it will come in two parts. Part One comes this year. More on what Apple is up to soon. It’s big and most people, even the smart analysts, haven’t figured it out yet.

Anyway, that brings me to my next project: a science fiction ebook about what life is like in 2022. The premise of the book? That the next 24 months will see more new technology ship than human beings have ever shipped and deep change is about to hit. Not to mention you will give companies a LOT of new data from these things. Privacy will radically change over the next 24 months due to new devices from Apple, Facebook, Google, and others.

I always wanted to try my hand at science fiction but most science fiction, like Star Trek, depicts a future that’s either way off, or unattainable. I wondered if I could write about something much more short term. A family who gets 2022 technology early. That morphed into a fictional neighborhood that Apple, Tesla, and other companies, are using to test out new devices, services, and more.

I’m noodling around, still at the beginning. It might massively change as I write a new ebook between now and June. And, yes, my “Letter A” is helping me build characters with some depth in human experience. I’m lucky that I don’t need to make money at the moment, so can take the time to do that and continue figuring out how to be less of an asshole. It’s a work in progress.

Anyway, now that my online media career is over it’s OK. I have these new Apple headphones which really rock. Most people haven’t figured out how much Apple is using neural network here. Last week I was talking to someone and a lawn mower started up. The guy on the other side of the conversation told me that the lawn mower was “turned off” within a second or two and he couldn’t hear it, despite it running right next to me. Here’s my son, Milan, wearing a pair. He loves them. He hates VR. Which tells you just about the kind of human factor work Apple is doing and the kinds of things we’ll have to go through as we enter a new paradigm of computing.

As I write the book I’ll be online a lot less. Hope to be done by June. As for the “Letter A” I am wearing around town? Well, I’ve found another gift it gives: it helps other people deal with their own troubles. Helping others is the only real way out of the burden it brings. I have a long way to go.

Milan wears Apple's new AirPods Max headphones.
Milan wears Apple’s new AirPods Max headphones.

This full-body MRI scan could save your life

This summer a 40-year-old friend and brilliant software engineer, Brandon Wirtz, died due to colon cancer and my dad died of pancreatic cancer too. At first neither of their doctors diagnosed properly (Brandon was frequently getting sick and my dad kept having more and more problems). Ever since Brandon discovered his cancer, I’ve started taking healthcare more seriously, wondering if there’s a way to diagnose such diseases earlier.

Last week a new clinic, Prenuvo, opened near San Francisco, that promises to do just that by doing a full-body MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). This is like a high-resolution X-ray machine except it doesn’t use radiation to make its images.

I was lucky enough to be one of the first to be scanned in its new location (it has been doing such scans for a decade up in Vancouver, Canada) by founder, Dr Raj Attariwala. Here I filmed the consultation with Dr. Raj right after my scans were done.

The process? You pay $2,500. You spend an hour inside an MRI machine. For me, it was a chance to hold perfectly still for an hour, while I listened to the machine whir and buzz around me. After the hour, it takes a few minutes to process your images and then you sit down with a doctor, like I did here.

Luckily for me I got a pretty clean bill of health but you can see this is a powerful diagnostic tool to help doctors find dozens of problems before they become untreatable. Everything from heart disease to a variety of cancers. You can see how Dr. Raj walks through my entire body, including my brain, looking for problems that I’ll need to work on. He did find one with me, my mom had a bad back, and it looks like I’ve been blessed with the same problems, and he told me to do exercises to strengthen my core muscles to minimize that problem in the future.

In talking with cofounder/CEO Andrew Lacy the company has developed its own MRI machine to do these scans. He told me that most other MRIs are used only for specific body parts, usually after a cancer or problem has already been found. Prenuvo, he told me, has modified the software running the MRI machine to do specialized full-body scans that other machines can’t do easily. Also, his team is using these images to build machine learning to assist the doctors in helping find various problems and, also, in its plans to scale this to more people over time (the San Francisco location has two scanners that can do two people an hour, the company has plans to open more locations and do more scans per hour, but that will need more AI work, and a training of doctors to look for problems when they are early, rather late-stage like they usually see).

For me it’s amazing to see inside your own body for the first time and the company gives its customers all scans on a mobile app that you can explore on your own time later. It also sends the scans to your primary-care physician, or to other doctors for second opinions.

You can learn more about this service at https://www.prenuvo.com.

Getting ready for VMworld with AI deep dive with 14-year employee

Business of the future will need to be more predictive.

That’s what VMware’s Justin Murray, a long-time VMware employee told me here as he explained the latest in AI and Machine Learning that he’s seeing evolve.

The folks who run VMware’s huge conference, VMworld (happens September 29-October 1), got interested in me after reading my latest book, “The Infinite Retina,” which is how augmented reality and artificial intelligence, along with a few other technologies that I call Spatial Computing, will radically change seven industries over the next decade.

You see this predictive nature of AI in things like robots, autonomous cars, and, even, other things like Spotify, which uses AI to build playlists. That predicts what kind of music we would like to listen to. Autonomous cars predict the next action of both people and other cars on the streets. The AI inside is always trying to answer questions like: “will a child walking on the side of the road try to cross the street in front of us?” Properly predicting what is about to happen on the road is important and, I ask Murray, if that same predictive technology is what he’s thinking will be used elsewhere in businesses?

Murray says “yes,” but then goes a lot further, and predicts what some of the hot discussions will be at VMworld next week.

For instance:

1. Every major cloud provider, like Amazon’s Web Services, Microsoft’s Azure, or Google’s Cloud Services, is buying tons of NVidia’s powerful GPUs for their datacenters to support these new, predictive, AI services that businesses are starting to build.

2. The AI architecture and tooling stack that runs on these is seeing sizeable changes, and NVidia and VMware will make some announcements there next week.

3. Powerful new AI supercomputers are now being built because NVidia cards are being “connected together” in a powerful new way to make new workloads possible.

Why do I care, especially since usually I’m interested in new startups or consumer electronics gadgets?

Well, let’s walk through my life. Recently I got a June Oven. You put a piece of toast in it, or a piece of salmon, and it uses a small camera and an NVidia card inside, along with machine learning-based software, to automatically recognize what food I am trying to cook or bake. It’s magic. Plus, I never burn my toast anymore the way we used to because I often didn’t get the settings right.

Or, look at the new DJI Osmo 4 I used to do the intro to this video. On there is three little motors, and the instructions for how to move those motors is generated, in part, by machine learning that is constantly evaluating how best to steady my iPhone.

Finally, look at my Tesla. Murray told me that there’s more than a dozen AI-based systems running on that, and it drove most of the way to VMware’s headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, which makes my drives more relaxing (particularly in traffic where my car does all the stop-and-go duties) and safer.

Already AI has radically changed my life and most people in the industry say AI is just getting going. One reason VMware is compensating me to do this series of posts is because about a decade ago I was the first to see Siri, which was the first AI-based consumer application to come to market. My posts back then kicked off the AI age but a decade later AI has started deeply falling in price and is getting simpler to do, so it’s being used in a lot more new workloads.

You might not realize just who VMware is, but you probably use one of its services everyday, or, rather, the companies you deal with everyday use VMware to run their businesses. When I worked at Rackspace, a major cloud computing provider, for instance, we used VMware all over the place in our datacenters. “VM” stands for “Virtual Machine,” and VMware is the one that popularized that term for technology that can split up a physical computer into tons of “virtual” computers (or join them together with millions of other machines to build a supercomputer). Today that technology is used to do a bunch of things, from letting you manage your laptop better and run it more safely, to managing huge businesses, to soon managing new Spatial Computing infrastructure and devices (I wrote about such in my latest book).

All of this will be discussed at VMworld, which is a huge free virtual event, with more than 100,000 attendees and hundreds of sessions, covers not just what is happening here in AI, but across a range of technologies that businesses use everyday, from security-focused ones, to data-center-management focused ones. If you like this conversation, which is just one out of thousands of VMware employees or customers you will meet at VMworld, register for your free attendee badge here.

I don’t even need an AI to predict that you’ll find at least a few of the sessions out of the 900 offered useful for your business, see you on the 29th!