#firstworldproblems or An Internet Meme Changed My Life

You’ve just flown across America. You walk up to a rental car counter to pick up a convertible you reserved. It’s not ready. You’ll have to drive a loaner Civic for a few hours. When the car you reserved is ready, it will be delivered to you.

This happened to me two days ago and I thought, what a #firstworldproblem. And in stead of being irritated at the digital infrastructure fail, I laughed.

A good meme is like sunshine on a cloudy day or a delicious new flavor of ice cream. It dashes your day with a split second of surprise awesomeness.

Recently I have taken the meme “first world problems” to the next level. I use it to catalyze optimism. When I think about it, 99.999% of would-be daily frustrations are not a big deal. They’re basically irrelevant. Like the convertible situation. Or a few hrs delayed flight. Traffic. My latte tastes burnt..and the barista didn’t even put a fern leaf in the foam. Fail. I’ve established a habit that even BJ Fogg would be proud of. I’ve figured out how to turn frustration into laughter. The answer (to all life’s problems) is a meme. Try it.

Next time you’re frustrated ask yourself if you are experiencing a first world problem.

Potential #firstworldproblem indicators:

– anything related to paid vacation
– inconveniences. Expensive healthcare is a firstworldproblem. No healthcare is not.
– Involves Internet (AT&T..terrible..yet 100000x better than Nigerian Internet), electricity (low battery already?!), technology (damn it, forgot to turn on the dryer again), spare money and time (my Mercedes only takes premium fuel)

It goes on. And on. Really this post is to say that the next time you feel frustration welling think of #firstworldproblems. I do. It changes my perspective. I think and interact differently. It also influences others. Laugh at problems. If they won’t matter in 100 years, shift focus and see frustrations for what they really are: future funny stories.

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Quantified Curiosity

I’m speaking today at Quantified Self Conference 2012 about Quantified Curiosity.  Below are my slides as well as some videos referenced in my talk. [UPDATE: presentation video now included]

Amy Robinson – QS Conference 2012 – Quantified Curiosity from Steven Dean on Vimeo.

Beautiful, scientific technological videos:






XVIVO Making the Complex Simple.

Want to play with the data?  Email me amyleerobinson at gmail dot com.

Gephi Graph of Ideas PDF.

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Healthy Mind (and what is a mind, anyway?) Presentation

Yesterday’s presentation at Redstone Federal Arsenal about building a healthy mind also touched on how a mind comes about from matter.  The slides below have been reformatted with added text to be more slideshare friendly.

Presentation opened with a video by XVIVO Scientific Animation used with permission.  Copyright prevents embedding but you can watch it here.

Slides:

Presentation ended with Jason Silva’s The Biological Benefits of Being Awestruck:

The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck – by @Jason_Silva from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

Enjoy!

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TEDx Music Project on Soundcloud

Few things make me excited to be working after 10 pm on Saturday.  The TEDx Music Project is one of them.  I’m thrilled to share the next phase and give a quick update on our progress since TEDxSummit.

TEDx Global Music is on Soundcloud!

The first phase includes 17 tracks.  Follow us to be among the first with access to the latest music from TEDx.

Our team is hard at work building the next generation of TEDxMusicProject.com.  It will go live in a few short weeks and feature TED API integration.  The new site will showcase both video and audio versions of the best live TEDx performances.

Listen to the tracks, download them and share with friends. Which track(s) do you like most?

Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who has helped make this happen and supported the TEDx Global Music Project along the way.  Major props to Souncloud for featuring us alongside audio sources such as The Economist and David Guetta.  We managed to gather well over 1,000 followers..in our first 24 hours public (June 22).  It’s only going to get bigger.

Follow the TEDx Music Project on Soundcloud.

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What are the best TEDTalks?

On Quora: What are the best TED presentations?

The best TEDTalk, in my opinion, is a 6 minute presentation by William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed the wind.  A 16 year old boy couples science and determination, building a windmill from junk parts that irrigates his families fields, saving them from starvation. It just gets better from there.

Daniel Kahneman, founder of the field of behavioral economics, discusses the riddle of experience versus memory

Steve Keil’s Manifesto for Play

Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex

Finally, Carl Schnoover: How we see inside the brain

More favorites.

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crazy awesome, quora

“Sweet, intense and cool all in one.”  Urban Dictionary thus defines “crazy awesome,” solidifying the phrase into infinite internet existence.  Yes.  It doubles as a description of Quora.

My last three blog posts have featured Quora.  Why?  Because it is impacting how I think and I think I should share the process as it unfolds.

Stats:

I’ve asked 68 questions and contributed 65 answers.  I follow 51 topics and 11 boards,  6 of which I curate.  2358 credits. 152 followers, 109 following.

My most popular board is How to entertain an intellectual with 106 followers, 26 posts and 2636 views.

Yesterday I woke up to 85 notifications.

Whoa.

One month ago those numbers were halved or quartered.  Notifications were virtually non-existent.

It’s safe to say that Quora is a little addictive.  Thankfully, if you’re intelligent and interactive (or famous in San Francisco), Quora’s community will love you back. Why?

In the words of Jason Preston, “Quora is curiosity, never satisfied. ”

…at the core I think I find Quora addictive because it is a targeted attack on human curiosity.

We’re all wired, somewhere in our brains, to be turned on by new knowledge. And Quora is designed to constantly surface new answers about topics we are interested in, without us having to ask the questions.

And when we do have questions the crowd is there to help.  Curiosity fuels me on Quora.  It fuels people to reach out and interact with each other.  Here are a few examples.

Inbox notes from strangers:

Going through your quora answers, I see so much energy, optimism and straight pointedness.

Love it !!

another came in while I was writing this post:

I’m a recent graduate who took the plunge into the polluted fires of China and recently came back out to seek greener pastures States-side. Many of the experiences I’ve had are once-in-a-lifetime, so your outlook on career-life balance definitely resonates with me.

To fulfill my long-term goal of becoming an entrepreneur and achieving financial freedom, I’m making a career transition–I hope into an entry-level sales position. Yet, in the back of my mind, I know that rationalizing what I want to or should do doesn’t have much to do with reality, so I want to ask you a simple question:

How did you get onto the road of being absolutely happy with what you’re doing?

I know it’s a big question that probably has an equally big answer, but if you have the time to distill your experience, I’d really love to read your reply.

Awesome.  I will reply to him.

I need to think hard to venture out, to be uncomfortable and unconventional. Great people like you make this world interesting!

You can see why why Quora makes you feel good.  Strangers spontaneously light up your day with kind words, useful answers and entertaining ideas.  This week I unexpectedly discovered that caffeine is a natural insecticide and that hippopotamus milk is pink.  Useful?  Probably not.  Delightful?  Definitely.  I love surprises and ideas, two things which Quora is full of.

I often get on Quora to achieve a thoughtful interlude between projects during the day.  And ok, in honesty, I’ve also been losing too much sleep to the epic Quora news feed (it’s 1 am now).  So what’s the point of all this?  Quora is a story.  It’s unfolding now.  It’s influencing my daily activities, my perspective.  Right now I’m not sure how to think of it.  I do think about it, though.. why Quora is valuable and how that value transfers to other parts of life.

Quora is a dose of “hm, that’s interesting!” every time you open the app.  After a brief spurt of ADD-ish idea tangents, I return to life refreshed, inspired, and might even shape projects in a different way than before the influence of Quora.

It inspires me to diversify creativity and share outputs, like autotuned voice memos, and experiences by responding to the occasional college grad looking ta build a life he loves.

In closing, here’s a little creative challenge for you, noble reader:

What is the most epic day you can imagine?

Tony Nguyen sets the stage:

Here goes nothing.

You wake up in a time machine 3 days in the past on a deserted island somewhere in the Atlantic, and upon walking out, you discover that a feast fit for a king is laid out, catering to whatever culinary desires you possess. Finishing the last of your decadent meal, you fly using your newly available superpowers and perch atop a double rainbow.

You discover that all the women of your fantasies are lined up waiting on command to do whatever you wish. After you have completed most if not all of your fantasies, you ride a neon robot giraffe to the start of EDC, a massive rave with your favorite producers/Djs. You then proceed to party until the end of your most epic day ever.

This all took place while accompanying theme music followed you around.

I laughed out loud when I read this and it made me happier for the rest of the day (small joys go far).  Maybe it was the imagination or perhaps the surprise that someone actually answered.  Either way, it’s crazy awesome. I can hardly wait until tomorrow – a new day, the sunny end of this night.  New ideas and discoveries await on Quora and beyond.

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Be Inspired on Quora

How do you discover the web?

I’ve become a big fan of Quora, a Socratic social network.  In the words of its founder, Adam D’Angelo:

When you want to know more about something, Quora delivers you answers and content from people who share your interests and people who have first-hand knowledge — like real doctors, economists, screenwriters, police officers, and military veterans. On Quora, it’s easy to create a personalized homepage of everything you want to know about by following topics, questions, people and boards.

UCSD’s Neuroscience Department shared Quora with me on Twitter about a year ago.  Yes, that’s right.  Neuroscience labs are on Twitter.  Follow some.  But back to Quora.

If you already use it, do so more frequently.  And connect with me.

If you don’t use Quora yet, it’s pretty simple.  Like Twitter, you follow people and they can follow you back.  Link with Facebook and your “likes” automatically become Topics you follow.  This means that when someone adds a question to a topic you follow, it shows up in your feed.  You can also follow questions.  Play around with Quora.

Ask questions.

Add and explore answers.

Shuffle and discover random and hilarious questions, like

Create boards.

Today I built “Be Inspired” featuring ongoing questions like

(The crowd loves Euler’s equation)

Quora rocks.

Share links to your favorite Quora questions in the comments.  Add the most delightful questions to Be Inspired.

Amy

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Whoa! #lifebonus

About a month ago I shared #lifebonus, the first installment of an ongoing series designed to incite surprise and discovery in life.  Or at least my inbox.  Today, here is another round.

On Friday, the following Facebook status went live while a more personal email went out to a few friends:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subject: Life Challenge

Are you having an awesome day?  Yes?!  Yes.

This week’s Life Challenge:

Share something that made you say “woah!!! ..but is it too geeky to share?”
Due Sunday at noon, or earlier if you’re an intellectual baller.
Response could be a great article from 3 years ago or a photo you saw yesterday or a crazy fresh resource, such as

AskNature.org

Browse nature’s solutions to challenges such as network cooperation (think interwoven trees and UV protection from bacteria), physical integrity (think bones and trees) or mechanical energy (think spider legs using hydraulic lift and how honeybees fly).  Browse around. You’ll be surprised how exciting it is.  Covert learning.

via Nicholas Sykes at TEDxSummit

Cheers, have a wonderful weekend and take three deep breaths right now (seriously it’s good for your biochemistry). I’ll blog some replies and send out a post on Monday so that your week will start out with a little bit of epic.  And if you are curious for more Wow!Geek discoveries, let me know and I will be happy to share a few more.

Amy

Try this with your friends.

Who knows what you might discover?  I do.

The scale of the universe.

History meets Quora and Reddit:

Ask about any era of history and get answers from professional historians!

Keep in mind that this forum is for asking questions about what did happen, not what could have happened had something gone differently. For those types of questions, check out /r/historicalwhatif

Images from the Boston Globe Big Picture‘s Earth Day Gallery.

Science and Tech

Rockets that breathe.  SABRE engines “use atmospheric oxygen in the combustion process.  The engine achieves this with its two modes of operation: its air-breathing and conventional rocket capabilities.”

 

Magnetic Fields light up ‘GPS’ neurons. Findings allow scientists to infer that birds, like compasses, can determine both direction and relative position.  Importantly, this research adds to evidence “showing how single brain cells can record multiple properties or complex qualities in a simple way.”

Get your own Galaxy Cube (image right). 80,000 stars from the Milky Way laser etched into glass. As seen in Design for a Living World.

Philosophy

12 Things you should be able to say about yourself:

1. I am following my heart and intuition.
2. I am proud of myself.
3. I am making a difference
4. I am happy and grateful.
5.I am growing into the best version of me.
6. I am making my time count.
7. I am honest with myself.
8. I am good to those I care about.
9. I know what unconditional love feels like.
10. I have forgiven those who once hurt me.
11. I take full accountability for my life.
12. I have no regrets.

Awesome tapes from Africa:  “music you won’t easily find anywhere else—except, perhaps in its region of origin.”

Popularity data:

Curious world!

At Wikipedia, it always interesting to see traffic on various articles, Some are constant while others are “One-Day-Hero” articles, receiving 1million views in one day, and that’s it – nothing after that.  The world acts in curious ways.

Here is an example: Google Launched Zipper Doodle few days back on Gideon_Sundbäck‘s B’Day. (Click here to see the doodle) You can see his article received 1m+ views on that day, and almost negligible traffic today.

For me, its something interesting, how the mind works and how someone [or something] gets popular overnight, and then is again forgotten over the next few days.

I hope this post contains something cool for you to think about.  The way I see it, your mind is a world. You are a wold abundant with resources like intelligence, stories, experiences, perspectives, curiosity..  Your self resources can be – and I think are best when – shared.

Be creative in your pursuit of extraordinary interactions.  Send out a Life Challenge or other playful yet serious opportunity with which friends can spice their minds.  Think of it as a game.

What should I send out next week?  I love discovering innovations and ideas you are passionate about.

Finally, this last image came as a Life Challenge response, too.  What does it mean to be happy, anyway?

In the words of my friend Carlos,

“Love this!  Nothing is too geeky, Amy.”

I concur.  Bring on the geek.

 

 

Thanks to Marconi Pereria, Rio de Janeiro; Antonella Broglia, Madrid; Will Sterling, Nashville TN; Mosab Abulkhair, Amman Jordan; Cody Marx Bailey, Austin Texas; Ramy Nassar, Waterloo Canada; Terry Pollard, Oxford UK; Kevin McClure, Birmingham Alabama; Shreenath Regunathan, San Francisco California; Philip Kovacs, Huntsville Alabama; Chris Palmer, Huntsville Alabama;  Kat Haber, Vail Colorado; Hugo Schotman, Zurich Switzerland; Abhishek Suryawanshi, Pune India; Nicholas Sykes, Doha Qatar.

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