AGI — The Latest Force for Human Creativity

OpenAI’s most recent model, GPT-4, continues to defy expectations and demonstrate how disruptive it will be in our daily lives. An artificial general intelligence (AGI) arms race has begun—on both private and national levels. How it will affect us on a macro-level remains to be seen, and whether we will see this as the Borg or Data is similarly uncertain.

Unlike many, I’m not convinced this marks the end of human creativity or the wider understanding of humanity itself. No, this marks the beginning of a new Gutenberg press age. Reducing the barriers to entry for creatives to create content in mediums they haven’t mastered isn’t unique to AGI; it’s not even really that unique.

Humans have consistently increased the speed and ease of data transfer while drastically reducing the need for intense labor as a whole. Let’s think about another equally disruptive technological breakthrough that humans have already experienced.

The Internet? Too soon. Dream bigger.

What about the industrial revolution? Getting closer, but not what I’m thinking of here.

Okay, what about the advent of writing that I’m so fond of rambling on about? Not even that (I know, I’m surprised too, dear reader).

Stumped? Let’s talk about agriculture.

About 10,000 years ago, humanity largely shifted its subsistence strategy—how we generate food—from foraging to agriculture. This allowed for many things: less land needed for food production, the ability to remain more sedentary, higher concentrations of people in the same place, and higher yields of food with fewer people working fewer hours.

This was a liberating moment for human creativity and ingenuity. We could dedicate more time and resources to pursuits not directly connected to figuring out our next meal—literally. Art, literature, innovation, markets—all the hallmarks of life as we know it now started with the introduction of a technology that we now take for granted: placing a seed in the ground.

But it’s not all rainbows. Closer proximity to one another and animals meant disease could fester more easily. Concentrations of wealth gravitated toward larger populations, and power became less distributed. There were many downstream consequences, both good and bad.

So what about AGI?

It will likely be very much the same. While some jobs may become redundant, even more work will become redundant or trivially easy to do. Hobbyist coders like me will be able to increase the sophistication of our code by simply knowing what we want to do and will be better at coding as a result of learning how AGI compiles it. Writers will be able to check for spelling, grammar, and more in the blink of an eye—or even use prompts to help overcome writer’s block. We’ll be able to increase our creativity and devote our brainpower to things greater than tedium.

However, I would caution not to see the future as utopian here, but merely the next iteration in a long line of humans realizing their latent capacity for technologies and using them to increase their quality of life—without ever knowing the full scope of its consequences.

What Will AI Do?

In November 2022, OpenAI released a new program known as “ChatGPT” and has since generated a great deal of attention. Its ability to present compelling content beyond the literary uncanny valley has even garnered the attention of tech giants like Google – bringing into question what web2 will do in the face of yet another disruptive technology.

Spoiler: this is not a post written by ChatGPT, there is no “gotcha” at the end of this article showing off the capabilities of ChatGPT3.

There are already numerous articles and podcasts exploring the technical side and the employment side of this technology, so I figured I’d contribute my expertise here: communities & culture. 

As is typical with nearly any new disruptive technology, folks are making wild speculations on both its ability to enhance or end humanity. Whenever attempting to understand something new, I often like to find science fiction works relating to it. Science fiction is a wonderful mirror to how we understand our world and negotiate our feelings about future technology. Star Trek, specifically, is tremendously useful in helping us understand our feelings about our future selves from a prospective lens. 

Don’t believe me? The communicator from 1964 inspired the invention and guided the heuristics of the mobile phone today… but here, I’d like to focus on two characters and one question. 

Will human cultural acceptance of AI be closer to Star Trek’s Data or more like The Borg? Both of these integral parts to the Trekian universe embody our deep anxieties and high hopes we have for this kind of technology. 

Data represents an ability to interface with other humans, cultures, and technology seamlessly. They’re an expansion of ourselves and what it means to be human – rather than replacing humanity itself. This is true of almost all the androids found in Star Trek, a necessary and ultimately inevitable step for humanity to take. We are our technology and always have been. 

In fact, modern humans got to our preeminent status on this planet through technology and advancements to it. Here’s an analog example.

Wonder why Neanderthals are dead? They were supposedly extremely similar to modern humans – with a capacity for language, similar physical builds, potentially similar societal capacities, freaking religion, and even an ability to produce viable offspring with us. They were so close to us that the distinction is almost meaningless – yet there were important differences: look at their tools. 

Modern humans had the edge (literally) in part because we had developed and were consistently able to produce blades and higher quality edged tool culture. Though Neanderthals may have learned this skill from us eventually, not before we were outcompeting and interbreeding with them. The writing was on the wall. Tool culture, better known as technology, propelled us past other species. 

Back to Star Trek. 

The Borg, among other AI antagonists from the series, is (are…?) particularly useful as a reflection for our anxiety around technology. It represents the stripping away of our humanity in the most terrifying way: by removing the individual. 

Think of how often you’ve heard folks agonize over aggregate big data. Anonymized, collected information driving decisions about how best to place an ad in front of you or recommend content based on interests. Maybe worst of all, store your data alongside everyone else’s in vulnerable places with only virtual containers in data architecture differentiating you. 


The truth, as always, is somewhere between these two extremes. There are fringe cases for each, of course, but the vast majority will find degrees of middling between Data and the Borg. Why? Because technology is agnostic by nature, it is human through our latent capacity to use it – and it shares all the worst and best qualities of people because it is a reflection of ourselves. 

Our tools are not only a reflection of us, they are an extension of us. Given the introduction of this new and disruptive technology, it makes sense that we humans are ambivalent about ChatGPT – because we are and always have been ambivalent about ourselves. 

I’ll end this here for now, but be on the lookout for a follow up article in the coming weeks.

Post-Holiday Thoughts on Blockchain Technology

“But Darek, you’re going to have to find a new job at some point. This [blockchain technology] stuff… nobody wants it.” 

I peered over the slightly tilted cup of coffee I was sipping at my mother-in-law. This was not the first time that she had expressed her concern over my professional interest in the industry. Typically a very supportive woman, she and I still couldn’t see eye to eye on this particular issue. 

“She just doesn’t get it.” I thought to myself, and even reminded her of the last time she shared this sentiment with me – a time when bitcoin was well below 5,000USD. 

The conversation moved on, but the thought stuck with me. With a new year upon me, I owed it to myself to reflect on my choices to date and analyze them critically. Was I in the right industry? Do I still believe in this technology? Will the promise of a decentralized world come to fruition?

Overwhelmingly, the answer was and continues to be “yes”.

The industry recently took a huge reputational hit. SBF and FTX shook confidence in this industry the worst I had seen – and even that was only months behind the collapse of the entire centralized crypto lending sector following 3 Arrows Capital imploding. While these may not have been as existentially threatening as say, Mt. Gox, it provided salacious ammunition to industry critics. In fact, the prominence of these recent bad actors within the space did make me feel a smidge embarrassed to be associated with an entire industry at all. 

However, despite these enormous (read, over $10 Billion dollar) frauds, blocks on major networks kept propagating. DeFi continued on almost entirely unaffected. It was the centralized actors, the ones that required trust, that pulled the wool over the eyes of so many. Make no mistake, these criminal actions hurt countless people and they are certainly justified in renewed skepticism and/or rage. My hope is that they receive some sort of restitution from the damage these criminals inflicted. 

But the thing that blockchain technology itself stood up to the task of working without trust, without humans. The principles of decentralization and self-custody prevailed. That’s the truly impressive thing that happened here. 

This fundamental, censor-resistant layer is the foundation that the next great human-centric applications will be built upon. From finance, to art, to games, to identity (in so many senses of the term), the juggernaut that is blockchain technology supercharge everyday people’s ability to participate in a system without the whims of centralized actors. Actors who, time and time again, have proven their lack of concern for or inability to safeguard the interests of their users beyond an anointed class. 

The future is developing now, as we speak. The greatest challenges this new technology faces will come in the form of regulation that is ignorant to how it works – willfully or otherwise. 

It is not a question of if this technology succeeds, but rather to what degree and when. That certainty reminds me that, yes, this is a good use of my professional time. 

Unexpected Days Off

Today, I had forgotten that my company, Atmos, was observing New Year’s Day – an unexpected day off. It felt a little like a snow day back when I was a kid, but there was one big difference: I wanted to be productive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with taking time off to relax, but I was a little stressed thinking about how to downshift. There were a few things weighing on me. 

Firstly, between stressful travel for the holidays, seeing family, and more, the days I hadn’t taken off between Christmas and New Year’s felt less productive than I wanted. Many folks take that time off, so internal communications were slower and my industry as a whole was less active than usual. I was ready to get after it on Jan 2, but now I have to wait until the 3rd. This was more difficult than I had thought it would be.

Secondly, as a leader and a manager, I needed to set an example for others in my company and for my direct reports. You need to take time off and really unplug to keep your sanity. It would have set a bad expectation if my colleagues saw that I was online the whole time, working as usual, on a company-wide observed holiday. 

Finally, I had language lessons at my usual time – meaning I had to wake up early anyway as if it were a regular Monday. All of these things were factors in how I was going to approach my day. 

I’ll be honest, the first hour or two, I acted much in the same way as I usually would have. I spend time chatting with community members in our discord in addition to other tasks. My mind was working to think about how to take the information from the community to build exciting content and (more importantly) better understand how our community works. Even in Slack, I sent a few articles that I read off of LinkedIn in case people were a little confused with how to spend the day off like me. 

But then that second point from before really started to sink in – I needed to be a better example for my colleagues. What if they hadn’t silenced notifications on Slack? My pinging could’ve interrupted their day off, or worse, made them feel as if they weren’t being sufficiently productive. I needed to stay away from my office. 

I decided to compromise. A walk around the block while listening to a podcast about my industry and thinking about how I could start to help build the data consultancy my friends and I recently incorporated. The new venture is something I’ll only be able to devote my spare time to, but it’s something I want to support my friends by doing the best I can. 

That walk was amazing. It hit on a number of the resolutions I set for myself this year and met my needs for both time away from the primary job on my unexpected day off and my need to feel productive. Hell, it even led me to write this post, which also satisfies one of the ongoing resolutions for the year. 

The point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is that time spent on something else worthwhile is often just as good as doing nothing. It’s not a binary productive/not productive even when one isn’t working for their primary income source. Sometimes, you can just take a walk. 

Welcome Back – 2023

Well, 2022 was a hell of a year. Personally and professionally I grew a great amount. I traveled a decent amount and my organization launched some truly incredible things – with more greatness on the way. But it’s a new year, and there have been enough retro’s done on the previous year. I want to look toward the future. 

I’ve always found the idea of a New Year’s Resolution to be fascinating. It’s a humbling recognition that we need to improve ourselves – and an empowering realization that improvement is possible. These can run the gambit, and often do. I’ve always found it best to categorize my resolutions, giving each an earnest try but acknowledging the varying levels of difficulty. 

This year, I’ve decided to share publicly what my resolutions are (to the extremely limited audience this site may retain) as a way to hold myself more accountable. I’m also providing myself with concrete KPIs to determine if I’ve actually hit my goals – as a way to prevent hand-waving during weak moments. 

In 2023 I want to:

  • Write at least 500 words a day for myself – on top of any writing from work 
  • Read for at least 30 minutes a day – likely right before bed
  • Take language lessons twice a week – and do Duolingo at least 15 minutes a day
  • Eat out or do take out a maximum of once a month
  • Do dry January with a maximum of 3 cheat days – the cheat days represent prior engagements made well before these resolutions
  • Reduce drinking to weekends only following dry January 
  • Work out twice a week – with 10 push-ups or sit-ups each time before using the toilet
  • Spend an hour a week speaking to someone new – through something like lunchclub
  • Learn enough about starting a business to have at least one successful client engagement by the end of the year

While I recognize this is a litany of resolutions, I feel they are all doable, and I want to challenge myself more this year. While I’m not getting younger, I want to make sure I’m still exercising my brain – and begin exercising my body more earnestly. 

Many of these are also the process of correcting bad habits I picked up over the course of the Covid 19 pandemic and all of its lockdowns (both actual and mental). I wasn’t as active as I should’ve been, I didn’t socialize a tremendous amount, I drank more than I wanted to, and I spent more money on someone else making my food. That last realization is particularly painful as I thoroughly enjoy cooking and hate spending money.

The final resolution sort of fits into the first point – I want to get back into journaling more. While writing for this blog (and I will be writing for this more often, dear reader) will help satisfy my word count requirement, there will be many times I hit those 500 words in private settings. 

I’ll make this promise to myself with you all as my witness, I’m going to do everything I can to make these resolutions work this year. 

It’s 2023. Let’s get after it. 

It Takes Practice

Writing is an appreciable skill that, too often, can seem exclusive to gurus and savants. While it’s true that there will always be those who are naturally good at something, some of the best writing comes from those who needed to earn their accolades through near-constant practice. This is not to say that naturally gifted writers do not need to practice – of course they do. The vast majority of good writing, however, comes from those who honed these skills over countless hours. 

The old saying is “practice makes perfect,” but this is misleading. “Perfect” cannot exist for writers – and any writer who believes they’ve achieved it probably is not that good of a writer. Writing is a wholly iterative process, a forever-unfinished sort of work. Such an idea is hardly unique, but one worth remembering at all times: practice makes better.

Coming to terms with unending work may sound daunting, depressing, and taxing – compounded by the realization that perfect cannot exist. With the end result of any piece inherently imperfect, one must choose to see the beauty in one or both parts of producing content: 1) the accomplishment of progress or 2) the joy of the journey. 

The first choice is somewhat simple to grasp: recognizing the improved quality of one’s work. Using one’s past work as the benchmark for current work is the only fair way to grade one’s writing. While it may be tempting to grade against others, there are already third parties doing this. An individual can draw inspiration or drive from others, but the only true judgement they can impart is on their work compared to past work. 

Assuredly, comparing current work against old work can also be frustrating at times. Writing may be an appreciable skill, but it is also one that atrophies quickly. To judge against old works may irritate, but it should not discourage. 

The second choice is a bit more abstract: enjoying the process. Each writer must determine for themselves what this could mean. It’s likely that most writers do enjoy the process, but what they enjoy about it can vary wildly between individuals. One can take pleasure in researching, drafting, outlining, revising, or any other part(s) of their process. 

Some writers, however, may see the process as a means to an end or even suffer through their process. The work “passion” comes from the Latin “pati which literally means “to suffer.” Consider that for a moment, one’s passion requires a level of suffering. 

Whether one takes joy or simply endures through writing, all who choose to write have their own mandates. One thing remains clear, though – to write well means to write often. 

Practice makes better. 

On Work, Life, and the Balance We May Seek

So it’s been a little while since I’ve last posted. As I get settled in my new work, it’s been harder to find time to work on some of my side-projects – be it Wall Brew Co. or ETHNO-ISS. Mind you, I’ve loved my new job. I’ve learned so much already in the short few months I’ve worked there. I’m back in the blockchain technology space and fighting the good fight for it. 

However, the time spent getting settled and spun up on my new position have made me (re)consider what a work/life balance is. After all, this time is formative in negotiating this balance. While there aren’t hard and fast rules this balance it’s important that I set expectations here so that the busiest times aren’t normalized. I’m not seeking a strict 9-to-5, but I’m also not looking to consistently work 10 hour+ days routinely.

This has always been a particularly difficult task for me – one that only gets more challenging during remote work. When physical spaces have ambiguous work and life assignments, it’s even more important to compartmentalize these sanity-saving disambiguations. 

It’s not the easiest task. 

The ability to keep one’s composure while balancing the important things in life is a deeply personal task. While I wish I could offer better advice here, this is something we must all learn and relearn on our own. 

The Future for Cryptocurrency

In a number of interviews I’ve had recently the same question came up: What is the future of cryptocurrency? It’s an intriguing question and I can only earnestly approach it with my community expertise. In my opinion, there won’t be a single “a-ha!” moment for crypto.

Disruptive systems, particularly the ones that occupy similar spaces as institutions yet untouched by technology, cause friction. Disruption is uncomfortable for people – it creates uncertainty and potentially requires one to adjust. For many, this disruption and lack of familiarity make them suspicious of and slow to accept new technologies.

Generally speaking, we can approximate disruption by weighing the significance of a new thing over time. The more significant something is over a shorter period of time, the more disruptive it will be. With that said, the longer something is around the easier it is for people to accept – it appears less disruptive.

The incredibly disruptive nature of blockchain technology, in my opinion, means that it will likely need a fair amount of time before it becomes ubiquitous. It is still very young. Again, this is why I doubt a single moment we can point to as the marker for crypto-success.

I realize I’m not the only person who says this – indeed, many blockchain technology leaders have surmised as much. Interestingly, it follows a formula that dates back for as long as humans have existed.

Remember when the internet was dismissed? When television was bemoaned? When radio, the telegraph, and railroads elicited the loudest eschatological cries? Or how about when even the written word sent shock waves through society?

All of the examples above were highly disruptive because of their immediacy in upending the status quo. Their integration into everyday life required time. While every new technology has important milestones in their development and deployment, to say a single moment can define success is too reductive.

Strategy vs. Tactics in Chess and in Life

Given the CV universal of demanding “Strategic Thinking” for any communications, content, or storytelling position, strategy is always top of mind. Rightly so, well-planned and executed strategy shifts paradigms considerably.

However, from my experiences and those my communications peers have shared with me, it’s apparent that there can be some confusion about this terminology. Just because one uses the word “strategy,” it does not automatically make it so. For whatever reason, confusion can seep in and complicate strategy creation, development, and execution.

So how do we address it? Each in our own ways, I think. Let me share mine with you.

I’ve been a lifelong chess player. I credit my love of the game for helping me keep these terms, and their meanings, straight in my personal and professional life. Put simply, a tactic is a single move. Pawn to d4 – that’s a move, a tactic. It does not even need to be an absolute or realized move. Take capturing a piece, for example. This is a single move, but abstract in that it can happen in any game at any time. It’s still a tactic.

Alone, moves (tactics) do not seem like much. On their own, they really aren’t. They lack motivation, goals, and support. This is where we can start talking about strategy.

Strategy is the overall, abstract and real approach(es) to accomplish that goal. Back to our chess example – cornering an opponent’s king before they corner yours is the ultimate goal, but how a player gets there is what we celebrate. There is no single way to do it with fewer good strategies than bad ones.

As a simple definition, a strategy is the intentional, harmonious cohesion of one’s total tactics. It’s the ways in which a player (or a professional) will seek to solve a problem. All moves and tactics need to serve the strategy to further it along. If a move doesn’t serve the overall strategy it distracts, dilutes, and even endangers the strategy.

The opening move I mention before, d4, is part of a wider strategy I like to use in chess called the “Queen’s Gambit.” In it, the player looks to gain an advantage in controlling the center of the board. One move supports the game-winning theme of controlling the center. It is a devilishly aggressive strategy. The Queen’s Gambit constantly puts pressure on the opponent, denies center control, and opens up numerous well-supported attacks against the opponent’s king.

This is how I remind myself of the difference between strategy and tactics – and hopefully you’ve found it helpful as well. Or perhaps it inspired you to think of examples you more closely identify with, if you’re not a chess player.

Finally, let’s remember this: with literally only one objective in chess, players have spent centuries perfecting strategies. What I mean to say here is that the quality of one’s strategies will get better with time. Sometimes that means identifying bad ones. Don’t be hard on yourself when something doesn’t work out, but recognize when it’s a bad strategy by knowing when it’s not just one move.

Guided Improvisation is an Important Life and Professional Skill

I know what you must be thinking from just looking at the photo: “He’s literally making booze in a bath tub.” You’d be right – partially. In the photo, I’m cooling unfermented beer in a bath tub. How I got to that point exemplifies the creativity and guided improvisation needed to accomplish tasks.

So how did I get here? Well, I’m a homebrewer – have been for nearly a decade. While commercial brewing runs like a well-oiled machine with cutting edge technology and equipment, homebrewing lacks that level of sophistication. I’ve made some pretty tasty beers, but each time even the best-made plans have required some type of agility.

But what about the bathtub? Part of the process for making beer is cooling down the wort (unfermented beer) quickly. As a person who has never had access to garden hoses or faucets that accept that fitting, I’ve always relied on ice baths in sinks as opposed to wort chillers. Having recently moved to a new apartment, I didn’t realize my 10 gallon pot would not fit in my sink – where I’ve historically made ice baths. However, I do have a bath tub, and so it was.

What I’m trying to say is that limitations force creativity and guide improvised solutions. Our environments, professionally and personally, all have certain constraints to accomplishing tasks. The most successful of us can look around at the resources available to solve a given situation. Sometimes that’s leveraging existing executive visibility, sometimes that’s putting a pot of hot, sugary water in a bath tub.