meredith perry's brain

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

2013 was a strange year.  A year mostly characterized by uncertainty, spontaneity, brute force, raw perseverance, and a lot of wild and crazy experiences.   Here are some of the business and life lessons I’ve learned:

BUSINESS: 

  1. Never, never, never give up.  If you believe in what you’re doing and you’re not breaking the laws of physics, then it can be done.  It’s just a matter of how and when.  Pull as many teeth as needed to get there.
  2. When given a choice between cheap & uncertain and expensive & more certain, go with the expensive option.  The cheaper option usually ends up being more expensive in the end.
  3. Be smarter than your lawyers and investors.  Always take a step back and evaluate potential motivations and agendas before reacting.  Always get a second unbiased opinion.
  4. If something or someone feels off, it usually is.  Trusting your gut upfront saves you a lot of time and energy.
  5. Competition validates the market.  Don’t fear it, be better than it.
  6. Build a product for the world.  Don’t build a product to raise money.  Do what’s best for your business, your vision.
  7. Don’t be charmed by anyone.
  8. Not all press is good press.  Not all good press is good press.  Press is distracting when you’re building.  Squash it if you can if it’s not the right time. 
  9. If your employees, vendors, contractors don’t respect you or don’t care about the company’s vision, you will receive shit work.
  10. Always have a 1-2 month trial period before hiring someone.
  11. Always have 2 backup plans. Always try 2-3  approaches in parallel to increase your chance of success. 
  12. Decline all unnecessary catch-up coffee dates.
  13. Never feel pressured to share more information than is necessary.
  14. Never let your age or experience level stop you from standing up to powerful people.
  15. Never let anything slip through the cracks.

LIFE: 

  1. Some routine is necessary for staying sane.
  2. Don’t share too much with anyone you haven’t known for longer than a year.
  3. Be extremely mindful about who you spend a lot of time with.
  4. Force yourself to do uncomfortable things.  Mental strength is a muscle.  Work it.
  5. When people show you who they are, believe them.
  6. Do something everyday you’re proud of.
  7. Experience makes you savvy, but jaded.  Naivete and spontaneity keep you young but can get you in trouble.  Balance.
  8. Always be a student.  That’s the only way to keep innovating.
  9. True lasting happiness and fulfillment come from relationships and environment, not from ego or work.
  10. Life is only what you make of it.  Life is only how you see it.  Shape the future.  Build the craziest shit you can possibly imagine.

We are the music makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams;—

World-losers and world-forsakers,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world for ever, it seems.

—Arthur O’Shaughnessy 

Let’s make 2014 a god damn musical. 


JFDI

It has to start somewhere.

It has to start sometime.

What better place than here?

What better time than now?

 -Guerilla Radio, Rage Against The Machine


We have this bizarre sense that the rest of the world is working on things, fixing our problems, curing our cancer, making sure global warming or nuclear warfare won’t actually kill us all.  It’s the sense that “there are problems, but they’ll all work out, because others will find solutions”. 

This is passivity via false comfort.  I think we tend to feel this way because there are 7+ billion other people on Earth and the issues we want solved are overwhelmingly massive.  Someone else will figure it out – they have to, right? 

But when most of the world has this mentality, you have to wonder – who is that someone?  

We make a lot of excuses for why we aren’t the right people to solve problems, or why it isn’t the right time in our lives.  I get it.  We’re all busy people with crazy lives, and “it’s late and I’m tired, and I have so much to do”. 

Others will solve it.  Others who know more than me. 

We give up on a lot of problems that feel too big for us to tackle.   We accept problems too easily, and let bad things happen to us because it’s easier not to fight. With this passive mentality, problems won’t ever be solved, or they’ll drag on for years until someone else steps up to the plate.   We need to stop relying on others to fix the world, take ownership, and be the pioneers of our future.   

We need to change our mentality to: “If I don’t do this, no one will”. 

Time goes by really quickly.  It’s difficult to feel the seconds pass by but they do.   We need to wake up.  We are aging, our skin is slowly sagging, and we are quickly tumbling forward with time to our deaths.  It’s absolutely frightening.  

What do you care about?   Cancer?  Fossil fuels?   Alzheimer’s?  Clean water?  Your dreadful email inbox?   If you feel strongly about a problem in the world then now is the time to just fucking do it.  Make time.  Dive into the problem and generate 100 solutions to solving it.  I don’t care if you don’t have the right background.   Read as much as you possibly can.  Find people who know more than you to help you problem-solve and validate some of your solutions.  Be a leader and rally your troops.   Find a way to light a fire up people’s asses and push them as hard as you possibly can.  You might not solve the problem, but you could push a problem in the right direction, and that’s massive.  Because if you don’t do it, no one will.



The Universe Deluded By The Mind: trying to find logic in an illogical world

The vast macrocosm we live in is frustratingly unknowable.  We can squeeze a lot into our three-pound brains, but trying to understand the nature of the universe is just too enormous a feat.   Logically, the universe is either infinite or finite.  If the universe is infinite, it was not created and it will not terminate.  Contrastingly, if the universe is finite, the universe began and will end with nothingness (zero).  Strangely, neither of these options can be logically worked out.  Since these are our only options, the problem must be in our understanding.  Although we can try to come to logical conclusions, our inability to comprehend the concepts of infinity, zero (as a vacuum), and time, limit our understanding of the universe.

            All knowledge is bound by a three-fold constraint: our physical position in space, the experiences we have within it, and the physical construction of our brains.  As a picture is only understood when viewed as a cohesive whole, we cannot fully understand concepts that we have not experienced.  How can we think about ideas that are foreign to us?  The ideas of infinity and zero are understatedly bizarre and unfamiliar to us.  The associations we have with these concepts are hollow.  The words we use to describe infinity and zero: “always”, “eternal”, “endless”, “∞”, and “nothingness”, “vacuum”, “0” with respect to the latter, are tautologies; they are only reiterations of the definitions of the terms.   We do not experience things arising from nothingness and since we are finite creatures, we do not experience things that exist infinitely. We only experience creation and termination as part of a perpetual sequence of redistribution of matter and energy.  Since the universe can only exist infinitely or finitely, and we cannot fully understand these concepts, we thus cannot understand the nature of the universe.

            In our understanding of the concept of ‘nothing’, “0” can never yield “1”, and “1” can never yield “0”.  If our logic is not fallacious, the universe thus cannot be finite, as it would have to arise from “0” (go from nothing to something), and end in “0” (go from something to nothing).  By deductive reasoning, if the finite is logically impossible, we are only left with the possibility that the universe is infinite.  ‘Infinity’ as a concept isn’t logically impossible as is “0 to 1”, so it must be our understanding of this concept that is crippled.  We cannot represent this idea conceptually, or grasp or exercise concepts involved in its articulation.  We can only represent this idea through mathematics, but here we run into a loop.  Infinite summations can be made without reference to time, whereas the true concept of infinity, by definition, includes time.  It appears that our understanding of ‘time’ could have enormous implications for our understanding of the universe.  Without temporality, ‘infinity’ loses its meaning, which would even further mask our understanding of the universe.  An a-temporal universe would just be in a state of existence.  It would be “1”.  


The Singularity: Technological Phenomenon or Sci-Fi Freak Show?

Over the past 60 years, computers have shrunk from room-sized to pocket-sized.  According to Moore’s Law, technology is improving at an exponential rate.  Futurists like Ray Kurzweil claim that technology is advancing so quickly that in the next 50 years there will be an intelligence explosion, creating an era in which machines will be more intelligent than people. At some point, man and machine will merge.  And, since computers don’t degrade like biological tissue, the worn-out parts could be easily - and endlessly - replaced.  Humans, in machine form, could theoretically live forever. This is The Singularity.

Wait, wait, wait…I’ve totally seen this movie.  Wasn’t Keanu Reeves in it?

But this isn’t Sci-Fi… this is real. And it’s a theory that some of today’s most brilliant minds and innovators support.

WHAT?!  Are these super-intelligent robots going to take over the world and eat our brains and steal our souls??!!  Are we doomed?? 

Not really.  And there isn’t a “point in time” when The Singularity will “hit”. In fact, it’s a process that is already occurring. Think about it. We’ve watched as secretaries have been replaced by computer programs like iCal, and travel agents are on the endangered species list, being replaced by websites.  Even doctors are being replaced by robotic devices. We are on the verge of ordering up an ear or a liver with a combo CT scanner/3D printer!  Someday, these super-fast and super-smart machines could aid in solving the world’s most complex problems, problems too difficult for the current state of human brains to solve.  What if curing cancer could be as simple as a Google search?  The possibilities are endless.  Technology is amazing. 

The annual Singularity Summit, an academic symposium for Singularity dialogue, was held in New York City last month.  I’ve been going to Singularity conferences over the past couple of years.  What’s interesting to me is that rarely is there talk of brain-uploading or human/machine merging or any of that “crazy Singularity stuff”.  Rather, it’s always an intellectual smorgasbord of some of the world’s most renowned thinkers and doers.  Yes, there are the weirdos that want to live forever– but are they really weirdos?  The life-extensionists that are there are just trying to help you live longer and healthier (What’s a little cryogenic freezing between friends?).  Robotics professors like Professor James McLurkin came to discuss their latest inventions such as tiny cheap robots that operate in sync.  “We need to RockStar-ify science and technology,” McLurkin mused, “It should be cool to be a geek.”

 <— Alcor/Cryonics “Emergency ID” bracelet/necklace (in case you die). 

Investors like Peter Thiel talked about the importance of innovation and uniqueness. He commented on Steve Jobs’ recent passing with a startling true remark: “We shouldn’t be content with there being one person in our society who tries to invent things.” He’s right - we should ALL be feeding society with ideas.

Ray Kurzweil mused about how he’d rather have the smartphone on his belt be embedded inside of his body.  And, of course, there was the dude whose presentation seemed an awful lot like an acid trip (Take the trip yourself, but make sure you’re in a safe place with some friends you trust).

But overall, the people “involved” in the so-called Singularity are simply brilliant thinkers and innovators looking to push the bounds on what’s possible in their respective fields of science, technology, and engineering. The Singularity University itself (founded by Kurzweil) does not at all aim to write code for every neuron in the brain or try to stuff their students inside of supercomputers. Rather it brings students together to try to solve global problems like poverty and the energy crisis.

If you told your friend that you wanted to send 2,000 cockroach-sized robots to Mars to search for life, they might check you in to the nearest psychiatric ward. But so many of these seemingly wacky ideas lead to game-changing inventions that change the world. (“Here’s to the crazy ones…”)  By embracing a world that thinks outside of the box - one that questions, is perpetually curious, and shuns repeat and “me-too” technologies - we’re allowing the universe to become a vastly more innovative place.

With this in mind, it’s odd that the Singularity concept is still taboo. One of my computer science professors at the University of Pennsylvania told me he thought the Singularity is as real an issue as global warming.  He also stressed that if a professor admits that he or she “supports” the Singularity, they will not get tenure. What does it even mean to “support” the Singularity? It’s just supporting technological advancement– and who doesn’t support that? The US government and corporate America both cry out for a more innovative society and try to interest young students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Does this make us all “Singularitarians”, “futurists”, or “transhumanists”? Does it matter? Labels like these, which many of the people involved in the Singularity dialogue like to call themselves, might be fun and exclusive-sounding for them. They make them feel like they belong to something, but if public involvement is the goal, then these labels might do more harm than good.

The overall spirit/sentiment of the Singularity is to make the most of our fleeting lives on Earth – to see how much we as toolmaking humans can make, how far we can possibly push, how long we can possibly live. We’re explorers, makers, movers, shakers, doers, thinkers, tinkerers and this is a group that’s doing exactly that. Taking risks on new technology and “crazy” ideas will lead to a more advanced and exciting universe that appeals to all, not just the Sci-Fi nerds that sign themselves up to be cryogenically frozen at 16-years-old.

After all, it is only 2011 – and there is so much ground left to break.


My life is ridiculous and some of it should be recorded

2011 has been the craziest year of my life.  It has been absolutely amazing and absolutely horrible.  My experiences this year have been overwhelmingly intense - but because there have been so many of them, compacted in such a short amount of time, the experiences/memories I’d normally NEVER FORGET have easily been swept under the rug and forgotten about.  

This is a time in my life that I want to remember.  I’m here to share some of my experiences. 

My story is odd, as is my life.  To keep it short: over the past 10 months, I’ve (in no particular order): started a company, filed a patent, been sued, fought with lawyers, flown around the country, flown in zero-gravity with NASA, researched extraterrestrial life, played drums in a band, learned the entire US legal system, hosted a radio show, fought technology thieves, been on CNN & NPR, been to the White House, moved to NYC, graduated college, demoed my invention at All Things D…………and so much more. 

Life’s insane.  From all this, I’ve learned: to trust no one, to keep pushing, to never give up, to take risks, and to believe in myself even when no one else does. 

I’ll end with this Apple quote, just because it resonates with me so much.  

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Thanks for stopping by!  I’ll try to post only when I REALLY have something to say.  No BS.  

Godspeed, 

Meredith