On Consciousness 2

Posted by joshp Tue, 25 Jul 2006 16:27:38 GMT

Talk today turned to the rather astonishing fact that humans (or animated meat, as we were referring to them) seem to have consciousness. How is that possible, and if possible (and we all agreed it does seem possible), why couldn’t other meat (or, because we are all computer dorks, machines) be animated with consciousness.

The first clue that nobody really knows anything about this topic is that there isn’t even a settled spelling of the subject. We have the “conscious” mind and we have our “conscience” and both refer to the same thing, right? Or do they? In practice, the former is used to describe our self aware mental state, the latter, the virtual organ we credit with moral judgement. But these are the same right? Etymologically, we are looking at words with the same roots, and interestingly, they talk about common knowledge - con scientia - that is “knowing with”.

Explaining how consciousness could exist seems simple until you try. Is consciousness a fundamental aspect of reality - some basic element of life - or does the existence of consciousness depend on other non-conscious elements be they physical, biological, computational, or neural. If you go with the latter - where does the spark come from that turns the ingredients “on” and why couldn’t we reproduce that process to animate some other collection of parts. If you go with the former, prepare to get called a hippy by your co-workers.

Anyway, Todd helped Bob break his losing streak yesterday, and paid for our Thai food. Bob managed to break our blogging streak by going passive aggressive and refusing to pick anyone to write the last blog post - let’s hope we don’t have any more of that. Such emotional robots!

Where's your favorite place to eat? 7

Posted by bob Fri, 30 Jun 2006 21:37:56 GMT

This post almost never came to be. The decision of where to eat lunch turned out to be one of the most divisive yet. Unable to come to a generally accepted suggestion, we strayed uncomfortable long into the lunchtime hour. As the pangs of hunger became almost too much to bear we finally departed to separate destinations. Some last minute negotiations, however, brought four of us together to Cafe Septieme. Dr. Brain was the last holdout, enjoying instead a tasty burrito on his own at Tacos Guaymas.

The focus of the lunch conversation today was favorite places to eat. Josh recounted his disappointment with date night at Cremant. The food was, by his own account, excellent but the service and atmosphere seemed a bit off.

What is it about a restaurant that encourages you to return time and time again. Is it the quality of the food, the variety of the menu, the familiarity of the staff, the type of clientele seated next to you, or the prices of the dishes? Can you look forward to going to a restaurant that consistently delivers lower quality food? Do you find yourself resisting attempts to visit a restaurant even if you know the food will be well prepared and delicious?

Daniel asked me for my favorite restaurant and I didn’t have a ready answer. I didn’t even have an unready answer. I suppose I’m more of a utilitarian eater. Go in, eat food, and get out. I rarely go to fancier restaurants. Sometimes I think this is because I tend to eat alone and the time between when the order is taken and the meal arrives can be uncomfortably awkward without the diversion of talking with friends.

Even more casual restaurants aren’t necessarily any better. The Robot favorite Baguette Box doesn’t hold much fascination for me. It’s small, the seating is relatively uncomfortable, and let’s face it, after all it’s just a sandwich. Todd reeled in disgust at this outrage, but truthfully, I think I actually prefer the less pretentious sandwiches at The Honey Hole. This drew even more shock from Todd. “That’s one of the most wrong things you could ever say” was his only response.

I actually enjoy the quick service and mostly ordinary (although some might argue in actuality rather bad) food of the typical take away fast food from your average food court at the local mall. When I need a bite to eat on my way home from work, I would much rather grab some phad thai or chicken curry at Westlake Center than fancier fare at El Greco or La Spiga.

So where do you like to eat?


Oh, yes, and we also continued the discussion of whether money can make you happy. If happiness is eating at fine (and usually very expensive) restaurants, then maybe yes it can….

Speaks for itself 1

Posted by joshp Tue, 04 Oct 2005 03:15:00 GMT

43 Things Entry of the Day

139 people want to Help test 43people.com: the next new thing from The Robot Co-op

It’s, um, rad., an entry by jbitely:


Cheers to London 7

Posted by josh Fri, 08 Jul 2005 16:56:00 GMT

We are heartened by the stories we are reading of 43 Things users in London. The interweb is amazing for bringing us closer together, where we can cheer folks on across the big pond, and share the photos together on Flickr.

We spent yesterday arguing in our office about how to make the world a better place, while our world was reminding us it needs us all to share our ideas.

Sure, it is naive to think that 43 Things, Flickr, Wikipedia and all the community driven sites can change the world by helping us better understand each other and share experiences. But perhaps it is not naive to think our world needs exactly this sort of naiveté.

On background 20

Posted by josh Wed, 09 Feb 2005 07:10:00 GMT

Some folks have asked for more details on the sequence of events to our funding. Here’s a bit more of the story as to how 43 Things came into the world.

If the beginning is when you sit down with friends and decide to start a company, Amazon wasn’t there at the beginning. We started the company in Daniel’s basement with a list of crazy ideas we’d been kicking around for months. We started building the prototype using instiki - not even writing code - and then enlisted the help of DHH to start thinking about developing the site using Ruby on Rails. We roped in our friends at 37 Signals to help. And we started recruiting more of our friends to work at the co-op. Along the way, friends at Amazon heard me out on some of my ideas, but all was very casual at this point.

As we congealed around what we were building and how it might come together, I started conversations with various people in a position to help. I spoke with folks at Amazon (I worked there from 1996-2001, and Microsoft from 2002-2004) as well as several other angel investors and VC firms. We decided to self fund until we worked out a deal with Amazon.com. That came together in the Fall of 2004. We were working toward a public announcement on the investment next month, but the story came out ahead of the announcement.

We are committed to what we call The age of the amateur and if that means we are going to make missteps as we build the company, so be it.

We don’t see Amazon’s investment as defining what we are doing. It just helps us do it. We are focused on building 43 Things, and other products that create networks of shared experiences to borrow John Udell’s phrase. Some would like more detail on terms, and others want to craft conspiracy theories about how this came together. We don’t really have a shared interest in either topic.

So thanks for the congratulations and support. I hope you’ll try out 43 Things and send us some feedback on the product. We’re listening to your suggestions and evolving the site to make it more fun and useful.

it's working

Posted by josh Fri, 07 Jan 2005 11:42:52 GMT

Giving thanks for the nice things you're saying about 43 Things 5

Posted by josh Thu, 25 Nov 2004 09:50:00 GMT

Steve Garfield said “It’s like Flickr for ideas” and Steve Reubel called us “the next great blogosphere meme”. Well you are all too kind. Emily Thorsan raves that Twinkler is “an addictive site” and says “Its brilliant design shatters some omnipresent myths about user interface and design.” That’s 37signals for ya! We are thankful for Jason, Matt, Ryan and David as well. Jim Coudal too.

We are really enjoying the experience of sharing this with all of you. Thanks for your kind words and your interest. We spent 18 months thinking about this project, 3-4 months working on 43things.com (which we’ll start inviting Beta testers to soon) and 2 days working on Twinkler as a way to give you a taste of our idea.

We can’t wait to see what you think of the real thing. Make sure to save your list with an email address if you want to get notified about the Beta . . . and Thanks again!

What are we all working on? 3

Posted by josh Mon, 22 Nov 2004 07:39:00 GMT

43 Things user Noah Mittman shares his list and these kind words about what we are trying to do.

The nice thing about 43 Things is that while the collaborative pieces are growing organically in the new folksonomy model of Flickr, delicious, and the like, the product itself is growing organically as one of the developers writes, this development is being done in stages, and one of the major stages is asking people what the tool should be. I’m not sure anything like this has happened before, even in the realm of open-source software.

43 Things is just another sign of the new breed of internet user who seeks not only community but also aggregation. It’s not enough we want to see our data, but we want to see how many other people share our data. It’s a strictly objective way of seeing how we belong beyond meatspace. It’s also a further extension of how we innately like to work with others, because 43 Things is a simple enough idea which is easily duplicated. However, the authors are being transparent in the development of the tool, so it’s extremely comfortable for us to put our interest into the site and see how it evolves. Over time we will feel a shared ownership in the result, and huzzah, you have a regular user base with real attachment to the site, and a site that assuredly answers the needs of its users.

Thanks Noah! It is inspriring to hear from folks who see the potential in this idea and this way of working.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and hopes for 43 Things drop us a line at [email protected] or better yet, post your list on your blog with some ideas to share.