The new normal

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The week before last, my in-laws were hit by a truck while crossing the street after dinner.

The time since has been a disorienting whirlwind of sadness, fear, hope and thankfulness.  My mother-in-law suffered a very serious brain injury, and while she has cleared the first hurdle of basic survival, the outlook won’t be clear for quite some time.  It’s been enormously trying on the whole family, and will continue to be for a long time; maybe forever.

The issue I want to reflect on here is how, in the face of previously unimaginable circumstances, we seem to have the ability to quickly reset to the new normal.  Two weeks ago it was unthinkable that this would have happened and she’d be in this condition, and now, that’s just how things are — that’s where we’re starting from and it’s what we have to work with.

I find that encouraging, and also a little bit scary.  On the one hand, it shows how adaptable humans are, how we can handle more than we might think.  On the other hand, it shows how fragile any current environment or situation can be.  I’m inspired by our ability to take things in stride, and also a little bit terrified by the reality of how quickly things can change.

For instance, lots of the talk this election cycle has been drawing parallels between now and the WWII era, in particular looking at what people did or didn’t do to stop the rise of Hitler.  As with Trump today, Germans of the 1930s didn’t take Hitler seriously, and I’m sure couldn’t believe that such a radical change in national character could happen so quickly.  Whether or not you find that comparison fair, the point is that things can change quickly (or seemingly quickly).

Given that, I’m thinking about two things:

First, man you gotta appreciate what you have when you have it.  Looking back at photos from two weeks ago, or thinking about the last time we saw each other a day before the accident — that’s a lifetime ago now. And it’s cliche, but realizing how quickly things can change really helps you motivate to appreciate what you have.  Whether that’s family, friends, democracy, or the environment (however imperfect each may be).  For the past week, every time I’ve been snuggled up with my kids & my wife, or enjoying a moment with a friend, or tackling an interesting work-related issue, I’ve been hyper aware of how awesome is to be alive and doing that.

Second, maybe change isn’t so scary after all.  Someone once explained this to me as pain x resistance = suffering.  We burn a lot of effort and energy worrying about what might happen and what it might mean, resisting any exposure to pain.  But this is ineffective and counterproductive, and in fact only increases our suffering.  When bad things actually do happen, we face the pain and move through it, and only then are then able to build up.  This is hard to internalize, especially with smaller things on a day-to-day basis, but I think there’s something there to grab onto.

To sum up, I just want to say thank you to everyone that has been supporting us through this time, and also thank you to everyone out there putting one foot in front of the other to get through every day, no matter what issues are dogging you.

Getting out the vote

Yesterday, a fabulous new tool launched — HelloVote: HelloVote makes it easy easy easy to register to vote.  Sign up w your phone number and do the whole thing over text. This is great for a lots of reasons — from its immediate practicality, to its more general lesson that it’s possible to build new,… Read more »

Alternative Compliance

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Summary To better support small businesses operating in regulated sectors, we should develop “alternative compliance” mechanisms — parallel regulatory regimes that achieve the goals of existing regulations but take an alternative, data-oriented approach to achieving them.  Such an approach would be especially friendly to the smallest of small businesses, and would take advantage of available… Read more »

Regulating with Data

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At this year’s Personal Democracy Forum, the theme was “the tech we need“. One of the areas I’ve been focused on here is the need for “regulatory tech”.  In other words, tools & services to help broker the individual / government & corporation / regulator relationship. In a nutshell: we are entering the information age, and… Read more »

Cable boxes, ridesharing and the right to be represented by a bot

Here are two tech policy issues that don’t seem related but are: the FCC’s current push to open up the set-top-box, and the lawsuits challenging Uber’s and Lyft’s classification of drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The way to see the connection is through the lens of control vs. competition.  More specifically, they are… Read more »

Crypto debate: separating Security from Control

For the past few weeks, I’ve been following the FBI / Apple phone unlocking case, and digging deep into the debate around encryption, security and privacy. This debate is as old as the sun, and the exact same arguments we’re going through now were fought through 20 years ago during the first crypto wars and… Read more »

The Freedom to Innovate and the Freedom to Investigate

Earlier this week, I was at SXSW for CTA‘s annual Innovation Policy Day. My session, on Labor and the Gig/Sharing Economy, was a lively discussion including Sarah Leberstein from the National Employment Law Project, Michael Hayes from CTA’s policy group (which reps companies from their membership including Uber and Handy), and Arun Sundararajan from NYU, who… Read more »

Internet meets world: rules go boom

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Since 2006, I’ve been writing here about cities, the internet, and the ongoing collision between the two. Along the way, I’ve also loved using Tumblr to clip quotes off the web, building on the idea of “the slow hunch” (the title of this blog) and the “open commonplace book” as a tool for tracking the… Read more »

Big innovation and small innovation

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Yesterday at one of our bi-monthly team deep dives at USV, we got into the conversation of essentially “Big Innovation” vs. “Small Innovation”.  Those who have followed USV for some time know that at the core of the investment thesis is a belief in “decentralized”, “bottom-up” innovation — the kind that really became possible with… Read more »

Beam should have a hardware API

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We’ve got a few Beam telepresence robots at USV, and use them all the time.  Fred has written about them here.  We had a team meeting today, and we had two beams going at once — Fred and I were the first to arrive, and we were chatting beam-to-beam — he in LAUtah, me in Boston,… Read more »

Learning to skate

For the past few winters, I’ve been teaching my kids to ice skate.  Above is my son Theo at hockey practice a few weeks ago. At a certain point along the way, I got the bug and realized that skating was awesome and hockey was a beautiful sport.  So for the past year or so,… Read more »

Zero-rating: putting Net Neutrality to the test

It’s been an intense 10 months since the FCC approved its latest Open Internet rules (aka Net Neutrality). On the wired side, we’ve seen the unbundling of content, as channels such as HBO (via HBO Now) and ESPN (via Sling TV) have split from cable to go “over-the-top” with direct-to consumer offerings.  These are a direct result of the… Read more »

Hello, 2016

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Breaking the ice — been off the blogs for quite a while now. Looking forward to this year, the way I tend to every year.  2015 was a tough one for me personally — went through a bunch of shit on the family front that both demonstrated how tough life can be and also how… Read more »

As Massachusetts ponders ride-sharing regs, where’s the data?

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Today, hearings begin at the Massachusetts state house over how to regulate the budding ride-sharing / on-demand transportation industry (Uber, Lyft, et al). Adam Vaccaro over at Boston.com has a good summary of the various competing bills — a pro-Uber bill that welcomes new Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) with relatively light-touch regulation, and a pro-taxi… Read more »

Supporting workers in the gig economy

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my years as a human, it’s that life is hard and people need help in order to make things work. That help can come in many forms: family, friends, co-workers, teachers, unions, healthcare providers, agents, assistants, coaches, therapists, strangers on the internet, you name it.  Point is, we… Read more »

Pain x Resistance = Suffering (the case for throughput)

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For the past nine months or so, I’ve been seeing a therapist specializing in mindfulness. Perhaps the best decision I’ve ever made. One of the things we spend a lot of time talking about is resistance – everyone has their own quirks and issues, and that’s one of mine.  The tendency to hit the brakes when… Read more »

Brutal honesty delivered kindly

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On my way to SF this week, I stopped over in Boulder, visited Techstars and then had dinner with Brad Feld, where got to talking about the dynamics inside and around venture firms.  He has obviously been doing this for a long time, and for me, less of a long time (3-1/2 yrs at this point)…. Read more »

The Blockchain as verified public timestamps

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Two weeks ago at USV’s annual CEO Summit, Muneeb Ali from OneName explained the blockchain in a way I hadn’t heard before, and which I thought was really helpful: the blockchain is time. That’s a somewhat abstract way of saying it, so more concretely we could say that: The blockchain is database of verified public timestamps. Every… Read more »