Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The culture of outrage

Controversially, I'd like to suggest that people are now narrower, less receptive to new ideasm, if not than ever, certainly than they have been since the 17th century.

Certainly they accept the ideas of their group and insist that those show high intelligence, and a moral compass.

What's really happening? We if you look at the evidence immediately people are faced with unfamiliar ideas they assume that if those don't fit into their own camp they must be the enemy - who are by definition stupid and immoral - maybe bigoted or worse. Very little cogntion need occur - they can go straight on to fight or flight. Even reading this many are reacting in exactly that way.

So what happens?

  • The hypothalamus ramps ups and signals the pituitary gland to get to work.
  • The pituitary gland releases hormones to the adrenal medulla.
  • Adrenal medulla releases cortisol.
  • Cortisol promotes muscle contracture; pupil dilation; suppression of GI tract (digestion); increases heart rate; amygdala becomes hyper-aroused which can lead to emotional tagging in the hippocampus This sets them up sets to repeat this response in the future.
  • Prefrontal cortex becomes inhibited (this is where present-time awareness, planning, motivation, decision making etc happens - this blocks any actual thinking about the intellectual challenge that is being presented).
It will be interesting to see where that's taking us - but it hasn't worked out well in the past.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Rural poverty & the brain drain.

So Americans are worried about rural poverty and the brain drain from rural areas. Germans have told me the same and it is implicit in conversations with people who I meet from developing countries. This might just be an urban myth in some countries - urbanite imaging that they must be smarter than people in communities which are following sustainable long-term protocols rather than short-term trends - but overall this seems to be a widespread issue.  Yet I live in an archetypal rural environment in England (with a 17th-century pub and an 11th century Church) - and education and sophistication seems substantially higher than say a typical point sample of New York, Paris or San Francisco. The last conversations that I had in the village have been about dark matter and missing mass, models of the multiverse, and some banter about the science of color vision. Roses are nurtured and grown, horses are ridden on but actually, that doesn't lower the intellect level. Maybe for us though access to a major megacity and the coming of superfast broadband allowing high-value work from home is a key factor. Whatever it is, it isn't a given that rural life is nasty, brutish and short. With an information economy, there is no reason that it can't just be a healthier, more civilized way to live.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Adult ADHD, creativity and organization

The question was recently asked on the website Quora "Do people who have ADHD/ADD tend to be more chaotic?"

My answer was

"No. As an adult with ADHD and four ADHD children, and good knowledge of the background and research into ADHD I’ve learned to spot the signs in other people too.
External controls and structure don’t just help to manage symptoms, they can turn a serious invisible disability into a superpower.

Successful adult ADHD sufferers (rather than those who continue to suffer and have a negative impact throughout their lives) are often super disciplined and have extremely structured parts of their lives. By creating external support structures they can benefit from the strengths of ADHD (rapid thinking, free flow and merging of ideas, creativity). In another answer to the question on Quora, Quoran Travis Brown described what I would call a creative tree function which ADHD sufferers have and can easily be trained to create some very impressive mental benefits in terms of creativity and ability to make good decisions.

However, all this leaves a certain misunderstanding by people looking for limited stereotypes (and they will already be saying - none of this sounds like ADHD - and how can it be a superpower?).

  1. Time management. ADHD sufferers natural timing and time management just does not work in the industrialized world when trying to coordinate with other people. Time drifts by and we’ve either shifted into ADHD Hyperfocus or are exploring some aspect seemingly far from the original task. ADHD sufferers Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, IKEA founder and chairman Ingvar Kamprad, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison were all brutal time managers because of this. By doing that we can capitalize on our speed and efficiency of thinking. We are often under a lot of pressure to break this disciple as being inflexible, uptight or even weird. However, without it things go rapidly go badly wrong.
  2. Keeping in the Flow. Us ADHDers don’t have much bandwidth for distractions or diversions. I’m very aware that if I’m working on something, if my attention is broken, even if I have to wait, my mental buffers will very quickly get filled and I will lose the thread. Badly. This is considered by people unaware of ADHD management to be immaturity or impoliteness. I have to work out extra strategies to manage this but, it’s actually a fundamental part of my mental processing. In normal conversation, as a part of everyday politeness as an ADHDer I’ll listen to what you have to say, focus on you and your thoughts and feelings. But if we are trying to get something done in a professional context we hit the problem that I may have already recursed the decision tree to about five steps ahead and need to tell you where I’ve got to because while I think fast, I can only buffer the same amount of information as my peers - and it sounds odd - but if I break my flow then I lose a cognitive advantage that is basically why you’ve probably employed me to be there. It sounds arrogant but the answer is that I may have a reputation for being able to solve almost impossible problems, but I’ve also got ADHD and they are part and parcel of the same thing.
  3. Focus. Once they have decided on a target and a strategy successful ADHDers are often inhumanly focused ( Certainly in comparison normal capable people seem to have butterfly thoughts and flop over and give up very early in a complex task. When an ADHDer has disciplined themselves to NOT head off at a tangent every few seconds, it can be frustrating to be taken off task by diversions that you have already thought off assessed and discarded along with hundreds like them. I notice MBA do a lot of this, probably through training. So part way through solving one problem they spot one of maybe fifty or a hundred solvable problems and lock onto that losing site of the goal. The ADHDer already knows how complex problems are, has floated dozens of objections but has disciplined themselves to focus on the goal. I can come up with new ideas as fast as I can speak (much faster actually). And because I read a lot (and very, very fast) they tend to be good ones. The fact that when an objection is raised in a piece of teamwork I can see it as just one of scores of problems that are obvious and that we just need to address to overcome the problem.

So once you learn to manage the big challenge of ADHD I’ve found that you tend to look super calm and in control to people (and in fact, other people seem sort of ADHD-like).
I’ve spent most of my life quietly learning to manage ADHD. If you learn to manage it, it becomes an invisible disability. But, if you undermine my support structures (and people really like to do that - maybe because they think it reveals the truth), that’s very much like taking a paraplegic's wheelchair away because you find it offensive. People find it very funny or go around saying “there - he’s not so smart” - but the analogy with the visibly disabled is closer than you might imagine.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Graduate/PostGraduate/Post-Doc Engineering/Software Position in Silicon Valley

A number of positions available at

We have a number of roles for highly motivated, smart graduates, new PhDs and Post-Docs based partly in the UK and subsequently in Silicon Valley. Internships are also available.

Company Healmet Inc

Healmet is a Silicon Valley start-up with a Oxford/Cambridge/Imperial Alum founders revolutionizing Cardiac care and stroke prevention with a smart home device. We are building a young, smart, hardworking team aiming to change peoples lives in a very meaningful way.


68 Willow Rd, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA
800 El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040, USA

Roles include

  • Artificial Intelligence - Take leadership in learning and applying Hewlett Packard Enterprise Haven OnDemand systems to make our IoT devices smart
  • Algorithms - help us detect critical signs of disease at the earliest possible stage
  • Big Data - manage and store vast quantities of user data and extract key parameters
  • Circuit board design, Firmware and Embedded devices
  • IoT (ARM Healthcare etc)
  • Sensors - EEG, ECG, PPG and more
You need to move fast, be independent and able to take responsibility and new challenges.

Package includes relocation, accommodation, and starting salaries well above UK average (£35K-£50K for graduates, more for PhD/PostDocs)

email: to proceed

Friday, 24 March 2017

How to call police if it isn't safe to speak on the phone.

I found this out recently and thought I'd pass it on

In the UK Silent Solutions (also know as the Police Voice Response system) is an agreed protocol which decides whether or not police are dispatched to any silent emergency call. In the UK the emergency number is 999.

If you dial 999 the BT Operator will ask which emergency service you require. If there is no request, the operator will ask you to cough or make some form of indication that the call is an emergency.
If there is still no request then the call will be put through to an automated system which asks the caller to press '55' if the call is an emergency. If this is not done then the call will be terminated and police will not attend.

A police spokesman said :"Please do not think that just because you dial 999 that police will attend. We totally understand that sometimes people are unable or too afraid to talk, however it must be clear that we will not routinely attend a silent 999 call. There must be some indication that the call has not been mis-dialled."

Alternatively 112 is the pan European standard number for contacting the emergency services and runs in parallel with 999.

You can also register for Emergency SMS in the UK

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

On the Great Alkaline Plains

I recently went to a little ecologically balanced art self sufficient art festival in the desert in Pershing County, Nevada. Other than food and water I carried everything in and out that I used (including shelter) in a pack. The location certainly encouraged community spirit and I greatly enjoyed talking to the artists involved in the creative projects.  Must go on to Soleri's Arcosanti next time I attend.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf

Has anyone noticed that the whole area between North Beach/Marina area and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is an almost empty paradise just a short walk from Fisherman's Wharf much of the time?

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Healmet is now shortlisted for the prestigious Code 16 contest out of over 380 entries.

You'll remember that I'm involved in a highly innovative tech start-ups Healmet which is developing a 'one touch' home healthcare platform. Well, thanks to the excellent work of our Germany team member Julian Klutke, Healmet is now shortlisted for the prestigious Code 16 contest out of over 380 entries.

This means that Healmet will participate in CN16 and will be physically present at the new.New Festival  at CeBIT 2016 in Karlsruhe every day (September 20-22, 2016) for the entire day (8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.). 

The awards are administered by in GFT Innovations GmbH, Schelmenwasenstr. 34, 70567 Stuttgart, Germany.

For more about Healmet visit

Here is what last year's CeBIT constest looked like

Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Matrix of Musk

The ever ingenious Elon Musk claimed that "There's a billion to one chance we're living in base reality,"  on stage at the  Recode's Code Conference,and that it is "overwhelmingly likely we're just characters living inside a simulation". I'm glad we both enjoy the same type of science fiction - first "Foundation" and now "The Matrix"!

However, if that is the case it mean that his life's work, especially his excellent achievements with SpaceX and his Mars colonization thoughts, are essentially wasted. If we are in a simulation - an idea considered by Bishop Berkeley in the 18th century and perhaps more practically by Plato's Allegory of the Cave, then achievements in this world would essentially be hollow and arbitrary.

If you do actually act on such beliefs it dangerously leads to solipsism  - so for example, being a sociopath is a perfectly reasonable and justifiable option (after all other people are not really real and don't have feelings of lives in a solipsistic world view) and any evil inflicted is just part of a game.

Alternatively  one's own efforts could be much better put into hacking the sim - either to find out more about it or if you were resigned to existence in this universe to 'break the game rules' to achieve knowledge, immortality or faster than light travel. Just when I see a new game can't help but try to work out what the underlying algorithms are and then reach for a hex editor. To be consistent, now, Elon needs to start thinking this way about the universe.

So, if we were in a simulation, how would we know? Well, simulations fall into two broad categories, complete and incomplete. In a complete simulation every action, every item, in simulated in as high or higher fidelity than the laws of physics being simulated can exist. There are no approximations. An example is a chess simulator which fully simulates the laws of chess. In this sort of simulation all observed features emerge following rigorously applied laws from starting conditions.  Complex features of the universe are not explicitly coded. There is no stating condition of complexity (like a flower or a 747) at the start or 'creation'.

In an incomplete simulation compromises are made. Typically but sometimes whole sections of the simulated system are approximated. Almost every simulator which we are familiar with falls into this category. Games and flight simulators are good examples. If we look closely enough at the screen, or indeed any object we can see pixels, building blocks of the simulation. In a complete simulation these should be subatomic particles. If we follow a timeline back in "Call of Duty" or indeed in a flight simulator, we get back to the start of the game or exercise. Everything before that is assumed and programmed into the simulator. In a complete simulation we would go back to see the protagonists breakfast, his or her birth, the emergence of their species, the origins of life etc. . .  A simulation of this type would be like the one in the film "The Matrix" or like the belief that God buried the fossil bones of dinosaurs in the rocks in order to test the faith of sinners. Observed features of the universe would be explicitly coded rather than emerging following rigorously applied laws.

So what is Musk's hypothesis - that we are in a complete simulation, or an incomplete one?
Observed features of the universe

  1. Observed features of the universe emerging following rigorously applied laws. (and no granularity of simulation coarser than the in-universe features (like quanta) that it simulates). In that case we simply can't tell, we can never tell, and it doesn't actually explain anything (as we have to ask - does the simulator have to follow 'laws' of it's own - and if so is the simulator being simulated?)
  2. Observed features of the universe explicitly coded rather  emerging. This is testable and it would be interesting to formulate the series of test that would allow us to recognise it.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Digital Transformation Istanbul 2016 Edition

For a limited time only there is a special edition of my book Digital Transformation published for the  E-Commerce 2016 Exhibition in Istanbul. There is special, additional material covering the latest in

  • The On Demand Economy and Uberization: Transforming your market and determining factors determining hyper-growth and sustainability.
  • The Internet of Things: Security & Utility 
  • Predictive Analytics - and turning $10 visitors into $100 ones and multi-million markets to multi billion ones.

Click on each book to purchase.

Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: 41 dead and 239 injured in 'hideous' suicide bombings in Turkey
This s the same airport and indeed the same arrival area that I went through just a few weeks ago.  

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Using experts as dynamic knowledge resources and structured learning processes.

The poet Valéry tells us that the purpose of human intelligence is to create anticipations and expectations that will guide an organisms actions along paths that avoid harm and capture good. The philosopher Dennett describes this a Mining the past for the Future. Most peoples models even radical ones such as 70:20:10 learning still treat this as a passive process, listening to the wise authority and perhaps occasionally challenging treat this as a passive task occasionally challenging or refuting if new information doesn't fit with apparent 'truisms'. Questions to experts often then simply duplicate text book knowledge and learning tends to be a linear process. I've used a number of other processes which greatly enhance the take-up of knowledge.
  1. Baker Class I: Testing a structure of knowledge. Specific questions used both to test the structure of knowledge. Often seem either dopey or very acute as they typically probe the fundamentals. 
  2. Baker Class II: Building a structure of knowledge. Specific questions used to add to a the structure of knowledge.Sometimes seem oblique as they may not seem like key questions (those may already be known), but are testing specific limits to the system to understand it more deeply or from a different context
  3. Baker Class III: Veracity testing. May be consistency testing or testing against known benchmarks. There is not a dogmatic approach that the benchmark has to be right - but if you do contradict known benchmarks then the questions may get rapidly more philosophical  to see if you understand and appreciate the implications of your statements.
  4. Baker Class IV: Backfilling questions. These are the questions you ask when applying retrograde analysis. In chess problems, retrograde analysis is a technique employed to determine which moves were played leading up to a given position. There is a whole subgenre of chess problems in which it is an important part; such problems are known as retros. The same applies in understanding real world problems where the questioner is either building a scaffold of knowledge, building enough background to understand the concepts or carrying out an actual formal retrograde analysis.  Often combined with Class III to validate the veracity of the tutors knowledge or of the system of knowledge being imparted.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

NeuroSky develops cost-effective, secure medical monitoring solution to improve remote patient care

NeuroSky develops cost-effective, secure medical monitoring solution to improve remote patient care: Leading brain-computer interface and healthcare sensor company NeuroSky has created a cost-effective and secure medical monitoring solution that could radically improve remote patient care for people with long term chronic illnesses.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

I seem to be a Quora Top Writer for 2016

So I've just received this from Quora

"Congratulations! You've been named as a Quora Top Writer for 2016. You should see a red Top Writer icon on your profile page that indicates you are part of the most recent class of Quora Top Writers. Quora has chosen you as a Top Writer for 2016 in recognition of your unique contribution to the Quora community."

Interesting - it seems to be at - nice to know. Laura Hale says it is a honor as it put you at the top of over Quora has 80 million users and apparently I get a gift, and get to be invited to Quora events organized exclusively for the Top Writers in Mountain View.

[UPDATE] The prize turns out to be a very nice Quora laptop bag. Thanks guys!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

KallDoc Spring & Summer 2016 Internships [Notice]

KallDoc is still recruiting for the Spring and Summer 2016 Internships.

Ideally we will have talked already or you will have attended one of our online intern tele-conferences, but if you want to progress your application (even if you have not done the above) please follow the instructions below.

Business Development Interns

  • KallDoc is growing rapidly and at the time of writing this includes an expansion partnership that will add 20,000 users in the next six weeks or so followed by a further 80,000 users.
  • For the Business interns we have a number of projects developing materials and collateral including building partnerships with doctors, clinics and insurance companies. You can also work on our venture capital and crowd funding programs if you specify an interest. Here is an example of information about out clinic outreach program  and clinic deck 
  • Interns generally work in peer teams with mentors communicating by Skype and meeting up occasionally when in the bay area 
  • January part-time interns will work remotely.
  • In June interns will work in Menlo Park.
  • Our aim is to form a long term relationship with interns offering positions to suitable ones on graduation.

If you are interested please do the following:

Send us the following information 

  • Start and end dates and number of hours available per week (these are all important).
  • Your resume
  • The names and contact details of two referees. Ideally one will be from your university, the second from the most suitable former employer. References are normally from the most senior person who knows you and your work well.
 Send everything to and

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

How Graham's hierarchy of disagreement allows us to objectively judge media and politicians.

I'm not sure if anyone has thought of this before, but Graham's hierarchy of disagreement gives us a quantitative way of objectively assessing the quality of journalism and political debate.

If we give each level a score of 0 to 6 and go through a media resource like a political speech, or a newspaper article which contains a criticism of a political action (for example) or a magazine or chat show in it's entirety as a source we can quickly create an average score for each media resource by summing the scores of 0-6 and dividing by the number of assertions scored. It can then be expressed as a percentage which give a quality score to any article, journalist, program, magazine or even channel.

In fact you could actually do this creating a crowd site to assess the quality of media assets and news sources and let discerning users chose the best. It would give an independent, quantitative view of quality.

Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement-en.svg

Saturday, 5 December 2015

SPOB The Single Point of Blame

This weekend I had a delightful conversation with an old friend and a rather senior British civil servant who told me about a new management concept, the single point of blame or SPOB. For large or complex projects the team, or superiors find a single individual who any and all failure can be allocated to regardless of source. It is an extremely powerful concept for complex and risky projects and a formalization of a set of concepts that have been employed in a less structured way since the time of Niccolò Machiavelli, and such a class of formulation is truely worth of masters such as
Stephen Potter and Laurence J. Peter.

In common parlance the SPOB is identified when the potential SPOB articulates the decision to "take ownership" of the project.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Medical Graph: Not Just An App: The Front End Of The Trillion-Dollar, Full-Stack Revolution

I've been thinking about this for some time, but conversations with Colin Simpson of Triscribe, Stephanie Zhan of Sequoia, Robert Leong of KallDoc and Vinod Khosla,  have made me come up with the concept of the Medical Graph as a dataset by analogy with Zuckerberg's concept of social graph.

So when you look at concepts like KallDoc what you are looking at is Not Just An App: it is in fact The Front End Of The Trillion-Dollar, Full-Stack Revolution the access point to patients at the point of primary healthcare delivery. The thin end of the wedge if you like.

As you remember, the social graph in the Internet context is a graph that depicts personal relations of internet users. In short, it is a social network, where the word graph has been taken from graph theory to emphasize that rigorous mathematical analysis will be applied as opposed to the relational representation in a social network.

The medical graph, by analogy would be a multidimensional graph (and more importantly the underlying data) depicting medical relationships not just of a single individual, but of groups, pathologies, treatments, outcomes etc and encompassing both deep personal data and epidemiological data. Again the word graph has been taken from graph theory to emphasize that rigorous mathematical analysis will be applied as opposed to traditional medical methodologies like case studies (which would be a single vector on such a graph).

Currently much of the information that would form the Medical Graph exists but is not connected such as current (2o15)  electronic medical records (EMR) as well as the corpus of medical literature and more global data such as the data derived in the Human Genome Project (HGP) and data sets such as the Icelandic Health Sector Database (HSD).

Ethically it is likely that "ownership" of personal data on the medical graph data will be primarily by the individual patient but to participate and benefit from shared sets patients will need to take part in sharing arrangement. Of course  interpretation of big data is a key part of the medical graph and the key value will be in the combination of algorithms, data and insights, as is always the case.

A number knowledgeable people have told me that the Medical Graph market is not big enough to excite their interest, much as I was told that downloadable music and video was too small a niche by a number of angels and VCs funds, but as before I beg to differ.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Natural Philosophy Society NPS Oxford 30 Years On

It's now the 30 years since the Natural Philosophy Society was formed at Oxford University. It was an "experimental philosophical club" run weekly (latterly bi-weekly with a weekly speaker meeting and a second discussion meeting) and styled on the  Oxford Philosophical Club which it succeeded.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Characterizing the Google Books Corpus: Mitigating the effect of putative influencers who have a low dissemination level.

Pechenick, Danforth & Dodds PS recently suggest [1] that treat frequency trends from the Google Books data sets as indicators of the "true" popularity of various words and phrases and that a single, prolific author is thereby able to noticeably insert new phrases into the Google Books lexicon, whether the author is widely read or not. They say that this call into question the vast majority of existing claims drawn from the Google Books corpus.

I'd like to humbly suggest a new methodology - that such claims are weighted by the citation index of the book which should mitigate the "unread influencer" syndrome. I.e. Each occurrence in the frequency count is multiplied by the citation index of the publication or book in which the phrase occurs. If it is never cited it does not count. This should correct for the prolific, unread (or at least uncited) author.

Post Script: "Neuroskeptic" observes quite rightly that the "books dataset" as expressed in the NGram viewer does not contain this information. The primary data are, of course, the books themselves rather than the "books dataset", and, as is often the case, we have to go back to primary data rather than a flawed subset of the data.  At the very least, the books dataset could be used alongside Google scholar - hardly a great challenge for serious work.