Jake LaCaze

Douglas Rushkoff’s ‘Survival of the Richest’ shows how delusional the tech billionaires really are

I could try to tell you what exactly Douglas Rushkoff’s Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires 1 is about via a traditional book review, or I could hope that an inspired rant might give you a better idea. If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m choosing the latter route.

The tech billionaires have one simple goal: to shelter themselves from the world they’ve shaped with their outsized wealth, power, and influence. Undoing all they’ve done in the name of making true positive change via small incremental improvements that risk going unrecognised is beyond them. Simply having the option to escape this world via one avenue or another shows that the tech billionaires already live in a reality far different from the one most of us inhabit.

How many ways can one hope to escape?

Rushkoff starts by describing the struggles of those tech billionaires outfitting their doomsday bunkers for the coming apocalypse2. A lot of thought goes into such preparation. Location, supplies, air filtration. The tech billionaires are also looking into how to motivate their security to protect them when the markets collapse and currency is worthless.

Others hope to one day leave the earth behind. They plan to colonize Mars and start over new, where they’ll stand to gain even more as the early adopters of a fresh society.

But what about those tech billionaires who can’t escape in these ways? What if they have no choice but to stay on this boring earth, and what if everything doesn’t go to absolute hell and they can’t justify running away to their bunkers in Hawaii or New Zealand?

That’s where digital escapes like the Metaverse come into play. Who needs Mars or a doomsday bunker when they can build a digital world to replace the physical. You can always buy digital real estate and rent it out to supplement any losses realised from your real estate in the unplugged world3. Some might call this strategy ‘diversification.’

One foot out the door

Can you be tied to the world around you if your mind is set on escaping? Are you invested in the slightest? If the answer is no, then why do we let these select few build a world we’ll be stuck with when they flee the first chance they get? If you already have one foot out the door because you’re convinced that to stay is hopeless, then at what point is reality a foreign concept? And if you’re so sure that a certain outcome is inevitable, when does everything begin to look like a prophecy? And when do you decide that resistance is futile? You might as well get what you can while you can. Just make sure you get enough to help you get away at a later date.

Perhaps we can’t blame the tech billionaires for looking forward to their own big exit, when their investors expect their own such exit, usually in the form of an IPO or flipping the company at some multiple of their original investment.

Many in tech have long adopted Mark Zuckerberg’s mantra to ‘Move fast and break things.’4 But tech’s secondary mantra appears inspired by Matthew Good5:

We’ll stick to the plan:

The fall of man

The tech billionaires aren’t worried though, because as man falls, they will rise, whether to Mars, the Metaverse, or to the safety of their underground bunkers.

No big deal though. I’m sure they’ll wave bye and give a heartfelt thanks for all we’ve done to enable them to get the hell out of Dodge as they leave us to our fates6.


Jake LaCaze really doesn’t like being so sour about tech. But he’s finding it hard not to be.


  1. Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires on micro.blog ↩︎

  2. ‘Why is Mark Zuckerberg building a private apocalypse bunker in Hawaii?’ on The Guardian ↩︎

  3. ‘Inside the lucrative business of a metaverse landlord, where monthly rent can hit $60,000 per property’ on Fast Company ↩︎

  4. ‘The problem with “Move fast and break things”—Tech needs a better guiding principle’ on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

  5. ‘The Fall of Man’ by Matthew Good Band on YouTube ↩︎

  6. ‘Jeff Bezos thanks Amazon customers and employees who “paid for all this”’ on CNN ↩︎

Don’t be a SaaShole

Yesterday I had an idea for a mock LinkedIn influencer. He’d be a tech bro dubbed the SaaShole, who would serve as a blueprint for how not to do tech marketing.

The character would be a mix of Dexter Guff, from the satirical podcast Dexter Guff is Smarter Than You (And You Can Be Too)1, and Dom Mazzetti, from the BroScience YouTube channel2.

Or, if someone wanted to take a more sincere approach, they could call the program Don’t Be a SaaShole and share examples of how not to be a SaaShole.

Unfortunately, a quick Google search killed my ambitions, as I discovered the SaaSholes podcast3.

What is a SaaShole anyway—and why shouldn’t I be one?

I would define a SaaShole as a tech bro (or sis) who talks only in tech jargon to make him-or-herself sound smart rather than focus on solving a customer’s problems.

The SaaShole wants to sell his solution to make a quick buck, not to make anyone else’s life easier. Whatever your industry, you’re in business to serve your customers or clients. If you’re not doing that, then why the hell should you expect to stay in business? Why should anyone continue to give you their money if they’re not really getting anything back in return?

The SaaShole is a mindset. Despite its specific name, the SaaShole mindset doesn’t apply only to those in SaaS. It applies to tech all the way up and down the industry.

Often, tech companies are selling tech solutions to non-tech people—people who don’t identify as working in the tech industry. So tech bros (and sisses) are often better off assuming their customers know little about tech beyond how to check their email on their smartphone, because these customers aren’t concerned about the tech—they’re concerned about solving an issue and completing a task that they don’t view through the lens of technology. If tech can help them, great—they’re all for the help.

But for them, tech is a means to an end, not the end itself. (The good news is that if you’re wrong in assuming that your customers know next to nothing about tech, you can always deepen the technical explanations to meet them where they are. Starting with the default assumption your customers don’t know much about tech and then ramping up seems a better strategy than bombarding them with more they can handle and then trying to bring it down to their level.)

I’ve previously written about how I think tech suffers from a lack of philosophy beyond ‘Move fast and break things’4. Consider this post an addendum.

And lastly, if you work in tech, please don't be a SaaShole. Actually help people.


Jake LaCaze often has great ideas that other people have already had.

E-ink writing tablet ecosystems: MobiScribe Wave vs Kindle Scribe

This post is not a straight-up ‘MobiScribe Wave vs. Kindle Scribe’ kind of post because I can’t compare the devices themselves. As I said in my MobiScribe perspective post 1, I’ve only demoed the Kindle Scribe at my local Best Buy. But, as someone who’s used numerous Kindle e-ink readers over the years, I can speak to the advantages of the MobiScribe Wave over the Kindle ecosystem.

And with that said, let’s get to it.

The limitations of the Kindle ecosystem

With the Kindle Scribe—like any other Kindle e-ink device—you are not buying a device that opens the door to other platforms; you are instead buying into a limited ecosystem.

Out of the box (and hacking solutions aside), you can’t download other apps for reading content outside of purchases made directly from Kindle.

Apple often gets flak for the walled garden aspects of its own ecosystem, especially on iPhone and iPad devices. But to Apple’s credit, at least they do let you download apps outside their ecosystem, though to be fair, those same apps may not be the easiest to use, as is the case with apps that can sync to Apple’s mobile devices only via iCloud. (Obsidian comes to mind2. To sync Obsidian with mobile devices, you have only two options: iCloud and Obsidian Sync. At a cost of $8 per month, Obsidian Sync isn’t a great alternative for everyone.) The point is that Apple’s ecosystem has its issues, but it’s nothing compared to Kindle’s.

In terms of apps and functionality, if you go with the Kindle Scribe, you better be completely satisfied with the Kindle ecosystem because the Kindle e-ink devices are basically gateways only to Amazon content. By default—again assuming you haven’t hacked the device—all your content comes from the Kindle Store. You do have the option to transfer ebooks from your computer, which would most likely require stripping the DRM, unless you got the books already DRM-free. But most normies aren’t going to go that route.

Note: Fortunately, you can still save money on ebooks via the Kindle if your library offers access to the Libby app3.

The flexibility of the MobiScribe ecosystem—or lack thereof

Android tablets, including the MobiScribe Wave, give you plenty options for downloading other apps for reading various written content.

With the Wave, as is the case with other Android tablets, the Kindle Store is simply another option. The device comes with the option to easily download the Kindle app via the MobiStore. But you can also enable Google Play and download other apps, which may save you some money.

As a personal example, I recently figured out how to read current issues of The Economist via the Houston Public Library 4 and the PressReader5 app available from Google Play, saving me over $200 a year. With the Kindle, I can read ebooks and publications only if I can purchase or subscribe to them via the Kindle store. Because The Economist recently cut off access via the Kindle store, I have no option to read the magazine on the Kindle, no matter how much I’m willing to pay.

The Wave also lets me download RSS apps and read-it latter apps so that I can keep up with my digital sources, if I so choose. Kindle devices provide no such option, a limitation which keeps them from being the ultimate reading devices.

Is the Kindle ecosystem all you need?

Perhaps the Kindle Scribe is fine if you plan to use it only as it is often promoted: A device first for reading Kindle books and second for some basic writing capabilities. Even though the MobiScribe Wave is, for me, first and foremost an e-ink writing tablet, I still appreciate the reading options it gives me. Having the option to download and read from an app other than Kindle makes the MobiScribe Wave a more capable reading device.

When I’m ready to upgrade my e-ink writing tablet, I’ll likely look again to MobiScribe (maybe the soon-to-be-released MobiScribe Wave Color Kaleido 36), or one of the many e-ink tablets offered by Boox7.


Jake LaCaze is totally an e-ink stan.


  1. MobiScribe Wave B&W - More perspective than review on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

  2. Sync your notes across devices on Obsidian Help ↩︎

  3. Libby ↩︎

  4. All Texas residents are eligible for a Houston Public Library digital card. Non-Texas residents may purchase a one-year membership. Sign up for a Houston Public Library card. ↩︎

  5. PressReader ↩︎

  6. MobiScribe Wave Color Kaleido 3 ↩︎

  7. Boox devices ↩︎

'The Song of Signficance'—Singing the praises of Seth Godin's tireless wisdom

Companies want customers to be passionate about their products and services. And they want employees to give everything to their daily labor. Companies want everyone else around them to be inspired, yet so many companies follow the industrial model in a race to the bottom, doing as little as possible to actually inspire. But inspiration doesn’t just happen. It’s hard to come by. It often takes work.

Seth Godin has long been the voice against corporate conformity. And Godin continues his crusade in The Song of Significance, in which he reminds us that business doesn’t need to be only transactional. Good business goes beyond the simple exchange of cash for goods and services. Good business is an exchange you wouldn’t mind doing again—one you might even look forward to.

Good business inspires, much like art. For many of us, our day jobs—where we spend a great deal of our waking hours—is the best chance we have to be artists.

These points have long been part of Godin’s message. In many ways, the contents of The Song of Significance are nothing new. The book’s central message will be familiar to any fans of Godin’s previous work:

The race to the bottom is hard to win. And winning it rarely leads to positive outcomes.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of our values—that we’re not alone—especially when the rest of the business world seems to go in the other direction.

Throughout the book, Godin reminds us that humans are the entire focus of business:

Humans are not a resource. We are not a tool. Humans are the point.

Godin acknowledges that industrialism isn’t going away. But industrialism isn’t the only option. Workers and customers alike want something different. Something more. Something of significance. Businesses win big when they stop holding workers and customers hostage and instead create something both parties want to be part of:

In a field where skills are valuable and switching jobs is possible, the employees you need the most have options. That’s why creating a culture of fear and compliance is a dead end. Great work creates more value than compliant work.

. . .

A significant organization can please its customers and make a profit as well. But it begins by earning enrollment and then doing the work to make change happen.

Like Godin’s other books (and his blog posts1), The Song of Significance is not a how-to guide. It is instead a call to action. A call to action for us to pick ourselves and do work that matters.


Jake LaCaze is sad to know there are still marketers out there who don’t know about Seth Godin.


  1. Seth Godin’s blog ↩︎

Introducing my linklog, powered by Newsblur's Blurblog

The best part about the internet is sharing. And sharing is caring.


If you enjoy this blog, maybe you’ll also enjoy the content that informs and influences it. You can obviously find such pieces in the sources I link to in the footnotes of my posts. But those links show only the most obvious influences. Sometimes something we read or watch or listen to plants a seed that germinates for a long time, meaning we forget where it all started.

The sharing of ideas and perspectives has always been my favourite part of the internet. I’ve always seen the Internet as my gateway to thinkers and thoughts I’d otherwise not have access to. And as long as I’ve been on the internet, I’ve enjoyed sharing the interesting things I find as well.

Unfortunately, social media is no longer an ideal place for sharing, as the platforms make it harder to share content that diverts eyeballs from their own domains, because they want to keep users glued to their services as long as possible.

Enter the linklog

This weekend I migrated my RSS feeds from Miniflux1 to Newsblur2.

(Note: At $15 a year, Miniflux is a great option if you want a barebones RSS feed manager. My migration back to Newsblur was more a product of my own restlessness than anything Miniflux did or did not do.)

Aside from managing RSS feeds as you’d expect, a premium subscription to Newsblur ($36 a year) gives you a ‘Blurblog’ (their version of a linklog3), a simple site where you can share posts from your RSS feeds.

I’ve thought about adding a microblog to my site, but adding new content via Hugo is annoying for that use case. I’d have to create a .md file for each entry and push to GitHub for every single microblog post.

Even though I’m trying to run lean these days by hosting my site on GitHub Pages, I feel the inclusion of the Blurblog/linklog helps justify the extra cost of Newsblur vs. Miniflux.

Enter my Blurblog linklog

If you’re interested in my Blurblog linklog, check out the options below:

Jake LaCaze thinks one of the most interesting parts of the internet is seeing just how far your small efforts can reach.


  1. Miniflux ↩︎

  2. Newsblur ↩︎

  3. Linklog definition on Wikipedia ↩︎

Processes and workflows before tech stack

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The tech industry is sthe ultimate hammer in that it thinks tech is the best solution for every problem1.

And many businesses buy into the tech industry’s thinking, as they scramble for that Holy Grail, that one SaaS solution to rule them all and bring order to the chaos. So they run out and sign a contract and spend months and years importing their data and working with their vendors to make templates and custom reports that fall short of what the nice salesman promised them. The luster wears off and the company concludes they adopted the wrong system, so they start the process over again.

Fast forward a couple years and they’re back at the beginning of the loop, resuming the search for that one perfect solution.

What if the problem lies not in the tech but in what the tech is being tasked with—AKA the processes?

How much of what the tech is doing actually needs to be done? How many of those tasks could be removed?

Tech can work only if your processes and workflows are in order. By getting a hold of your processes and workflows, maybe you’ll reduce the need for tech in the first place.

And by removing steps—by practicing addition by subtraction—maybe you strike a better balance.

In terms of productivity and efficiency, we’re often too easily tempted to do more. American hustle culture gravitates toward the logic that more activity is the ideal solution. But sometimes the secret to doing more starts with doing less, or at least being mindful about what we’re doing and should be doing.

And we can often practice such mindfulness no matter what’s in our tech stack.


  1. Is AI just a solution looking for a problem? on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

Tech in 2024: Musings

I don’t know what’s ahead for tech in 2024. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be thinking about it.


A career in the volatile oil and gas industry has cured me of any thoughts on making bold predictions. So instead I’ll look at what may happen (instead of what I think will happen) and what I’d like to happen for tech in 2024.

Will the generative AI bubble burst?

It’s too hard to say if the generative AI bubble will burst in 2024. But I certainly hope it will. My reasons have been well-documented on this site. For one, I fear the developers of generative AI are too busy trying to sell their non-human-focused solutions rather than solving problems that could help real people1.

If a career in oil and gas has taught me one thing, it’s that ‘boom’ is often another word for ‘bubble.’ And bubbles burst eventually. 2023 brought a great boom for generative AI. Might 2024 bring the bust?

Fingers crossed.

Let’s say the bubble does burst. What follows?

What will the shakeout look like? What developments will stick around?

The internet didn’t go away when the dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000s. The internet itself wasn’t a total waste; there was just a lot of fat that needed to be trimmed so that we could focus on the useful parts.

The same logic applies to AI.

I’m sure many of us can get behind the thought of AI having an impact beyond the burst of the bubble. But as Chuck Klosterman pointed out in But What If We’re Wrong?2, we run into problems when we try to get more specific with such prediction.

Is 2024 the year to regain control of your digital home?

With the rise of social media, personal homepages became less important.

But now with the chaos of Twitter/X, many people are re-thinking their stances on owning their digital home spaces. Many of those same people don’t want to trade one dumpster fire for another by leaning on Meta-owned platforms. So they’re looking for niche, sometimes indie, solutions.

Many are opting to invest in homepages again.

I spent the last quarter of 2023 setting up my own digital home at jakelacaze.com. 2024 is the year I’ll settle in and hopefully more consistently blog (and maybe include other types of content).

I don’t know if I’ll ever abandon social media. LinkedIn helps with finding new jobs. And experimenting with platforms like Bluesky adds variety to the online experience. But I know my own webpage should remain my digital focus and that I should use other tools only insofar as they don’t distract me from my own platform.

I hope more people will join along so that we can make the web weird–and therefore, fun–again.

Could Logseq be a useful personal knowledge management system?

I’ve given Obsidian many tries over the years, but for some reason, it never quite stuck for me.

In December I tried Logseq and am so far loving it3.

Logseq and Obsidian largely do the same thing: They both act as a ‘second brain’ where you can dump information so that you can use your limited brain power on the hard stuff.

While Obsidian is designed around individual pages, Logseq instead focuses on bullet points. Perhaps because I once tried the bullet journal method4, thinking and organising information in terms of bullet points makes sense to me.

I hope Logseq can prove to be a tool worth the time.

Here’s to hoping you find a way to make tech work for you in 2024

The tech industry has a habit of making us bend to the tech they build.

I urge you to instead look at how you can bend tech to work around you. Maybe that requires rethinking how you use tech. Maybe it requires simplifying usage. Or maybe you’ve already got everything perfectly figured out.

Either way, I see little harm in our being more thoughtful about the digital tools we use on a daily basis.


Jake LaCaze wishes you a happy near year in tech and beyond.


  1. Is AI just a solution looking for a problem? on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

  2. But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman ↩︎

  3. Logseq ↩︎

  4. How to Bullet Journal on YouTube ↩︎

The problem with ‘Move fast and break things’—Tech needs a better guiding principle

If you move fast and break things, do you ever come back to clean up your mess? Or do you just look for the next thing to smash?


The October 2023 cover of Wired magazine irked me the moment I saw it.

Cover of Wired Magazine featuring the leaders of OpenAI, with the caption: 'Dear AI Overlords, Don't F*ck This Up'
Cover of Wired Magazine featuring the leaders of OpenAI, with the caption: 'Dear AI Overlords, Don't F*ck This Up'

On one hand, the cover irked me because it seemed to be saying that we, the commoners, are at the mercy of the lords of AI (let’s just scratch out ‘overlords’ for the sake of accuracy). And it bothered me, on the other hand, because there seems to be truth in the sentiment.

Why shouldn’t the lords of AI mold our future, since the tech industry has had its way so far in the 21st century?

But don’t we have enough evidence of why it’s a bad idea to let tech call all the shots?

We’ve already seen what happens when AI has free rein. All we have to do is look at the algorithmic wasteland that is now social media. Tech moved fast and broke a lot as it formed social media. But tech has yet to go back and fix the mess it created along the way.

And why should they? What’s their incentive? Companies exist to make money. Tech companies are no different. Nor should they be. But when you consider the reach of the industry’s influence (empowered by a hands-off approach from regulators), is it wrong to ask tech to be a better steward?

Leaning on AI in the form of algorithms has seen the internet flooded with example after example of misinformation and disinformation, making respectable journalism even harder to find in the 21st century. And as a recent lawsuit from The New York Times brings to light, the tech industry is at risk of doubling down on its prior negligence1. But, as is the case with social media, it’s not worth their time to go back and pick up the pieces. So, they never will.

Why should we trust these same companies to break more stuff with generative AI?

Tech needs a better guiding principle than ‘Move fast and break things’, one that recognizes the responsibility that comes with disruption.

Remember when your elders told you to leave things better than you found them? Why shouldn’t that wisdom apply to tech as well? Or when your mother said told you it’s not what you say, but how you say it?

The mantra ‘Move fast and break things’ has horrible implications. Why not focus on fixing things, a far more constructive act? Breaking for breaking’s sake doesn’t serve anyone, especially if we’re never coming back to build something better.

Tech needs better philosophy

So many of tech’s problems seem to come down to matters of philosophy, in that the tech industry doesn’t properly value people beyond their potential to become customers who buy tech’s ‘solutions’ that may or may not actually solve a problem2.

It’s easy for tech to adopt the philosophy of moving fast and breaking things when the results will benefit them. The tech industry is like a toddler who runs around smashing vases and busting windows, with a parent trailing close behind to clean up and apologize for the mess. Who wouldn’t love to operate in such a fashion?

AI in particular could benefit from adopting the simple philosophy below:

Helping humans > replacing humans

When we talk about creating or improving company cultures, many of us will utter the phrase ‘It starts at the top,’ meaning it starts with the people in charge. But I’d argue that truly great companies go one step further and start with a company’s ideals, which have the potential to stick around longer than any human employee can. And everyone who joins that company should be expected to adopt those ideals, because the ideals themselves, not who’s in charge, are the focus.

Tech needs better philosophy. Stoicism is great, but it’s not enough.


  1. The New York Times is suing OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on The Verge ↩︎

  2. Is AI just a solution looking for a problem? on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

Can a 2012 MacBook Air serve me in 2024 and beyond?

I recently sold a couple laptops (Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Lenovo ThinkPad X270), so I was looking for another laptop to take to the coffee shop or on those rare occasions I go out of town. I didn’t want to break the bank, and while I was looking into how cheap/old of a MacBook I could make do with, I impulsively bought a 2012 MacBook Air 5,2.

So now I’ll definitely get some hipster cred while I’m sipping my mocha at the local cafe. But how well will the laptop serve me?

Price

I’ve wanted an Apple laptop for a while, but I couldn’t justify the cost. Then I decided to take a chance with this old MacBook. Worst case scenario, I’d have a fun device for running Linux.

So I ended up with this MacBook Air from eBay for ~$106, after shipping and tax.

2012 MacBook Air
2012 MacBook Air

My purchase was a bit hasty, and I’m sure I could have found a better deal if I’d taken my time. But oh well, here we are, so let’s focus on what we’ve got and not what could have been.

I considered a Chromebook but wasn’t sure if I really wanted to move into that ecosystem, especially because I’m already partially in the Apple ecosystem. Chromebooks regularly come with only 4GB RAM and low-powered CPUs, and chances are they’ll still cost you at least $200.

I also considered getting an iPad, but the cheapest new iPad was ~$250 this holiday season. If I’d gone that route, I most likely would have bought a keyboard case to go with it, likely pushing me past $300 total.

I could have come up with the money for something I truly needed. But this was more of a toy purchase. I had some money burning a hole in my pocket after I sold my Nintendo 2DS, so I was happy to pull the trigger if I could basically break even. But I didn’t want to spend much more than what I’d made by letting go of a device I rarely used.

So let’s see what I got.

Loose specs

  • MacBook Air 5,2 (2012 model)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128 GB SSD
  • 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz)
  • USB 3.0 (x2)
  • MagSafe charger
  • SD card reader
  • Headphone jack

It ain’t got the shiniest features, but it’s got most (if not all) I need.

Many newer computers save space by abandoning USB 3.0 ports and using only USB-C ports. But I was surprised at just how sleek this pre-USB-C laptop still feels as we’re leaning into 2024.

Condition

You get what you pay for. So surely this thing must be falling apart, right? Not quite.

Cosmetics

I have a hard time believing this MacBook Air is over 10 years old. I have to look hard to find the scuffs and scratches on the outer shell.

I can see a dent with the lid closed.

Dent in the 2012 MacBook Air
A slight dent

But not bad for a laptop over a decade old that’s had a few miles put on it.

Otherwise, I can’t complain about the cosmetics of this laptop.

Battery

I should have asked the seller about the condition of the battery. (And I wish the seller had disclosed that it needed replacing.) But I found a replacement battery for ~$30 on eBay. Replacing the battery was a breeze and probably took about 15 minutes. So all in all, not too shabby.

I seem to be getting around three hours of battery life between charges. That sounds weak when compared to newer laptops that routinely get well over 10 hours of battery life. But it’s way better than what I was getting with the old battery (I might have been lucky to have gotten an hour).

But I’m rarely in a situation in which I absolutely must go more than three hours without charging. And if I’m in such a situation, keeping my computer running is probably not high on my list of priorities.

Keyboard

When people talk about old MacBooks, they often want to know whether the keyboard features butterfly switches or scissor switches. But when it comes to this keyboard, I instead find myself thinking about how I overlooked the fact that this keyboard doesn’t feature the standard American layout.

A picture of a 2012 MacBook Air with a non-American keyboard
2012 MacBook Air with a non-America keyboard - Picture from original eBay listing

I bought some keyboard stickers for ~$6 on Amazon to help me out. And I’m adjusting to the small, oddly-shaped Enter key.

It’s not perfect, but it’s nothing I can’t adapt to.

What about that outdated MacOS?

This MacBook Air is officially supported only up to MacOS 10.15.7 (Catalina), which received its last update back in July 2022.

For a while, I experimented with a few flavours of Linux. Solus OS was beautiful and smooth. But I got tired of dealing with the usual Linux issues. Certain apps aren’t available. I thought I could overcome the lack of iCloud support with the help of Syncthing, but every file change seemed to bring a wave of sync conflicts. I don’t want to put a ton of work into making Linux work for me on my personal desktop. I instead want to focus on writing and creating.

So I settled on MacOS. Thanks to OpenCore Legacy Patcher, I was able to update to MacOS 12.7.2 (Monterey)1. I could have tried upgrading to Sonoma, but I decided to hold back to the oldest officially updated MacOS because this laptop has only 4GB RAM.

I’m quite impressed with the ease of installing an unsupported OS with OpenCore Legacy. So far, I have no issues to report. And it’s breathing new life into a perfectly capable device that Apple deems no longer worth updating.

How usable will this MacBook Air be in 2024 and beyond?

This laptop has some limitations, perhaps most notably the 4GB RAM.

4GB RAM may be fine for a Chromebook, but for most other computers, you really want at least 8GB. But if I’m honest about my needs, I could likely get by on 4GB RAM for a while yet.

The duo-core CPU is also a bit of a concern.

Unfortunately, the RAM is soldered, so I can’t replace it. And replacing a CPU on a laptop is often equally hopeless. So I’m stuck with these limitations as long as I keep the laptop.

The good news is that I’d wager I spend 80% of my computer time:

  • Reading RSS feeds.
  • Checking email.
  • Watching YouTube videos.
  • Writing.
  • Basic photo editing (resizing and cropping).
  • Updating my website.

So it’s not as if I need a beast of a machine for my daily use. Sure, it’d be nice to have more power. But I think I’ll get by just fine. If I do need a more capable computer, I’m lucky to have a newer Mac mini available.

I expect this laptop to serve me well as a secondary mobile machine for at least a couple extra years, at which point maybe I’ll replace it with a machine from 2015. Maybe 2016 if I really feel like splurging.


Jake LaCaze really likes the idea of thrifting as he gets older.


  1. OpenCore Legacy Patcher ↩︎

Is generative AI codifying average?

There’s no such thing as the average person, or so the wisdom goes.

The logic says that if you were to create a profile of the average man or woman through a variety of factors—height, weight, income, weight, tolerance for Taylor Swift, etc.—you wouldn’t be able to find the real-live version of that person. (So, the next time your friend says they just wanna be average, let them know that they’re chasing one of the least attainable goals of all time.)

If the average human ideal doesn’t exist in flesh, might it exist digitally? This idea has stuck with me since I heard Dennis Yi Tenen make the following point about generative AI—more specifically, large language models (LLMs)—on episode 265 of Douglas Ruskhoff’s Team Human podcast1:

In a way, you’re having a conversation with an average . . . Imagine having a conversation with a thousand—or a hundred thousand—people, and I’m going to kind of average out the answer.

AI is math. A lot of math done really fast. But it’s math. While LLMs appear to be capable of thinking, they’re in fact just guessing with math. When answering a prompt, LLMs try to predict the best answer based on the most probable outcomes based on its training data.

So it appears that the developers of generative AI and LLMs have made average more accessible and more affordable, more quickly. And companies investing heavily into incorporating this technology into their everyday business may very well be investing a lot of time and money, and taking a lot of risk, for average.

Average is not smart. Average doesn’t stand out. So, average is bad business. Might that same money be better spent on something that makes the business special and more competitive?

With the help of LLMs, we’re one step closer to codifying average. In a matter of seconds after prompting, we can see what the average answer looks like for anything we’re curious about. If you need help just getting by, then average may be fine. But innovation and insight don’t emerge from average. Any Seth Godin2 fan knows that average is death for a business. Average means you can be easily swapped for another business.

Maybe average is fine for certain tasks that people are using LLMs for. But businesses should be sure that using generative AI helps them add real value elsewhere. Or, when all these businesses are using the same generative AI from the same small handful of vendors, they’ll most likely sound like every business in their niche.

With the help of generative AI, it’s becoming easier to bring average to the masses. And if that’s all the AI community is doing, then how long until the bubble bursts and the industry falls back down to a healthier average in terms of valuation?


Jake LaCaze is embarrassed to admit he’s a middle-aged man who finds himself bouncing to Olivia Rodrigo tunes. ‘vampire’ is a banger, as the kids these days say. But it’s also quite human.


  1. Team Human ep. 265: Dennis Yi Tenen ↩︎

  2. Seth Godin’s blog ↩︎

Concerns for businesses using LLMs

Integrating LLMs into your business may not be a quick fix.


Large language models (LLMs) seem to be expensive, energy-hogging toys at this point. Some companies—most notably Microsoft—think integrating LLMs like ChatGPT into everyday business is a great idea. But I’m not so sure.

Below are some concerns I have for businesses going all in on LLMs.

Hallucinations

It’s well known that LLMs make stuff up (AKA they hallucinate).

What’s the root of these hallucinations? Will an LLM hallucinate with your business' proprietary data? Does the amount of data processed by the LLM affect its likelihood to hallucinate? If so, what is that threshold? How much time do you expect employees to spend validating the LLMs claims? Is that cheaper than having a human do the work in the first place? Who, outside of AI developers, wants to babysit an LLM all day?

LLMs are terrible at math

Most business reports are math heavy. People use Micorosft Excel almost exclusively for calculations. But LLMs struggle with basic math. (I shared a simple example on LinkedIn recently.(1)

How can anyone trust an LLM to create crucial reports that may heavily rely on math? How can we know that the LLM understands these numbers?

How can you train an LLM to your company’s style?

LLMs are kind of like supercharged search engines. You put in a prompt (kind of like a search term) and you get a well-written answer. But what you get isn’t perfect, even if it’s 100% accurate.

LLMs tend to be verbiose and give way more information than needed (which also makes their claims harder to validate).

Every industry has its jargon, and individual companies may even have unique jargon.

How do these non-AI companies train LLMs for their needs and wants? How expensive is this training? How much time will it take?


Jake LaCaze doesn’t hate the idea of using AI where it works and is appropriate. But a career in oil and gas with a brief stint in marketing has made him wary of any hype.


  1. An example of Google Bard struggling with math (LinkedIn) ↩︎

Can the internet ever be fun again?

The internet isn’t fun anymore. That’s the claim made in a recent New Yorker article1. A claim with which I agree.

So why isn’t the internet fun anymore? Let’s answer that by first looking at why the internet was fun in the first place.

In the early days, people were on the internet because they wanted to be. These early adopters were curious and adventurous, at least in a digital sense, so they experimented to see what the internet was, what it could be, and how they could help shape it. No one yet knew what would work. For better and for worse, there were no best practices. So people took chances and made strange sites that appealed to certain niches, thereby creating digital communities. And if you stuck around, you’d accepted that everyone you knew wouldn’t be on the World Wide Web. More than that, you embraced this fact. The uncertainty that accompanied not knowing what you’d find was a feature, not a bug.

Compare those early days to the current state of the internet. People aren’t on the internet because they want to be, but because they feel they need to be. For many of us, an internet presence is self promotional. We put the time in because we hope to get something tangible in return–something that shows our time ‘invested’ was worth it. (For the record, this applies at times to your author. Otherwise, I wouldn’t still have a LinkedIn profile.)

On today’s internet, most people don’t want to spend time in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar faces. Most of us don’t want to start over with new social networks and new communities, in part because pursuing something new means taking time away from something you’ve built elsewhere. A couple decades ago, trying something new on the internet was a great example of having nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now, for many of us, the opposite is true.

Also, digital communities are harder to come by. Twitter/X, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube–these aren’t communities. They’re instead mega aggregators. People don’t use these services because of a shared interest. They’re on these services simply because they are. Because they’re online. And now, thanks to the abundance of broadband Wi-Fi and smart phones, simply being online isn’t the gatekeeper it once was.

Is it any wonder no one seems happy when the internet feels like a ubiquitous obligation? We’re no longer online to have fun. Instead, we’re like Marshawn Lynch–‘I’m just here so I won’t get fined’2.

But Lynch, an NFL running back, was contractually obligated to attend interviews. So he made light of the obligation wherever he could. Most of us don’t have to be online. But we feel as if we must, so we don’t contribute to the community.

And then there are the issues of the look and feel of the internet.

Screenshot from Bluesky describing the state of the internet in 2023
The state of the internet in 2023 according to Kyle Marquis on Bluesky - Link to original post

The internet is now highly centralized, dominated by four of five major players. Any new platform that gains attention risks being acquired by one of the majors and maybe abandoned or shut down. And most sites sites not owned by the big players are plastered in ads and popups and autoplay videos, making the content you came for inaccessible, particularly on mobile.

Screenshot of a recipe website with a video on top of a signup popup
A video on top of a signup popup on a mobile site—This is the hell Kyle Marquis was warning us about.

The modern internet has been optimized–not for users, but for corporations. And as the great poet Cyndi Lauper warned us four decades ago, money changes everything.3

Anything that gains a major following online and sticks around will most likely be monetized at some point, as it deserves to be. Maintaining these sites and services isn’t free. So, is this just the fate of the internet for the most part? Was the era of fun a brief window in the late ’90s and early 2000s? Is it gone forever?


Jake LaCaze wants the internet to be fun again.


  1. Why the Internet Isn’t Fun Anymore ↩︎

  2. Marshawn Lynch: ‘I’m just here so I won’t get fined’ (YouTube) ↩︎

  3. ‘Money Changes Everything’ by Cyndi Lauper (YouTube) ↩︎

Is it time to let the Twitter dream die?

Nietzsche shocked the world when he declared God is dead. (Kids in the Hall, not so much1)

Now, digital philosophers hope to do the same when they declare the death of Twitter.

On one hand, Twitter will live on through X, whatever the hell that becomes. On other other hand, the essence of Twitter was gone long before Elon Musk bought the platform.

So what’s next? Most people are trying to answer this question by finding a comparable replacement. How can we fill that bird-shaped void in our souls? Mastodon is too confusing for normies. Bluesky isn’t open to the public and is still available only via an invite code. People seem to be over Threads, as usage has recently dropped over 80%.2.

Why do we need a one-to-one trade? Why do we need to replace one platform with another? What if we instead replace Twitter with something else completely?

Cal Newport recently quoted the author Neil Gaiman as admitting his own blogging, an activity he once enjoyed, had suffered due to microblogging via Twitter3. Gaiman doesn’t think any current platform will replace Twitter. If he’s right, then that means something unlike Twitter must replace it. What will that something be?

So many of us keep waiting for something to recreate the early vibes of Twitter. But what if Twitter was little more than a moment on the internet? What if that moment is simply gone, lightning that won’t strike twice no matter the platform?

The essence of Twitter was killed by the pressures of profit. Can any platform serve on the same scale while resisting those same pressures? Someone has to pay for these services, one way or the other. Servers and development ain’t free.

Maybe Twitter should serve as a warning sign of what’s most likely ahead for most platforms like it. And maybe we shouldn’t seek to replace Twitter but to find better, more niche alternatives.

Maybe Small is the New Big isn’t just the title of a marketing book by Seth Godin4. Maybe it’s also the future of the web.


Jake LaCaze knows it’s time to let the Twitter dream die. Yet he’s still on Bluesky.


  1. ‘God is Dead’ skit from Kids in the Hall (YouTube) ↩︎

  2. Threads Has Lost More Than 80% of Its Daily Active Users by Gizmodo ↩︎

  3. Neil Gaiman’s Radical Vision for the Future of the Internet by Cal Newport ↩︎

  4. Small is the New Big by Seth Godin (Amazon) ↩︎

Parenting in the age of AI

My son and I were walking the dogs recently when somehow the topic of AI came up.

When you’re preparing to become a parent, so many fears enter your thoughts. How am I going to keep from screwing this little person up, and help him or her become a fully-functioning adult? How do I prepare this child for all the evils and threats of the world? How am I going to have THE TALK when the time comes?

Parents don’t typically wonder how they’re going to teach their kids about AI. Yet I found myself needing an answer for this concern as my son and I were trying to figure out if our little pooch Rio was just peeing, or if I was going to be on poop cleanup duty. Life comes at you in strange ways.

My first instinct told me to warn my son of the risks of blindly trusting generative AI, particularly large language models. So, I told him about the attorney who got caught referencing bogus court cases thanks to hallucinations from ChatGPT1.

I also told him about my own experiences with ChatGPT’s hallucinations. I once asked ChatGPT some questions about a then current employer. ChatGPT claimed the company had two offices in Europe, neither of which existed. This misinformation isn’t the worst part. The more concerning fact is that ChatGPT went on to say that one office focused on marketing while the other focused on research and development. ChatGPT made up an elaborate story for something it knew nothing about.

Perhaps inspired by iA’s approach to generative AI2, I knew I’d be doing my son a disservice if I simply told him not to use AI. Our children don’t grow up in a bubble. Unfortunately, the outside world determines the norms they must navigate through. So, to some degree, we must teach our children to assimilate. Whether I like it or not, AI will be a big part of my son’s future, so he must learn how to navigate the AI waters.

For parents, there are many fears for our children growing up in the age of AI. But there are also opportunities. Time is on children’s side, as they can prepare for living in a world with AI and be ready to hit the ground running come time to enter the workforce.

We parents must instead find our footing in the quicksand. The least we can do is make sure our children don’t have to do the same.


Jake LaCaze thinks that being a parent may be the scariest thing one can do.


  1. Lawyer Used ChatGPT In Court—And Cited Fake Cases. A Judge Is Considering Sanctions on Forbes ↩︎

  2. Is iA’s approach to generative AI the right one? on jakelacaze.com ↩︎

Is iA's approach to generative AI the right one?

Like it or not, generative AI is here to stay. But writers don’t have to lose their voices to technology.


iA writer has long been the writing app for writers. The company gets writers, as they’re constantly thinking of ways to remove distractions and make writing (and thinking) as simple as possible.

As you’re likely well aware, generative AI has been all the rage since OpenAI released ChatGPT just over a year ago. Too many apps are looking at ways to integrate with tools like ChatGPT, ignoring the fact they’re making their apps indistinguishable from others while letting their future success hinge on the decisions of another company.

As the company detailed recently on its blog1, iA put a lot of thought into how to integrate with generative AI. They didn’t want to just pipe in ChatGPT and make their customers’ words obsolete, while also undoing all they’ve worked for and accomplished over the last 15 years. But the company also accepted that putting its head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge generative AI wasn’t an option. Many writers will choose to use generative AI in the future. And some will feel the pressure to use generative AI to keep up with those churning out content at the speed of a ChatGPT prompt.

iA chose to stand out from the crowd by making it easier for writers to distinguish their words from the words borrowed from generative AI tools such as ChatGPT.

Basically, iA writer has made it easy to compare what you’ve pasted (which will be greyed out) vs. what you’ve written (which will still be shown in the normal font color).

See the video below for a quick explanation of the major feature of iA’s latest release, writer 7.




I’m sure the implementation of this solution was simple. No complex algorithms. It’s nothing academics will write papers about.

But iA was able to find this solution only by doing the hard work of keeping their customers and their customers’ needs front of mind, while also remaining true to the brand they’ve worked so hard to build.

This simple feature is a masterclass in great tech marketing. iA clearly knows its audience–people who identify as writers–and the company has taken a novel approach to serving the true needs of their customers, not what iA wants customers to need.

Is iA’s approach to generative AI the right one? I hope and think so. But only time will tell. If nothing else, they deserve credit for the thought and effort they’ve put into dealing with the challenges presented by generative AI.


Jake LaCaze is proud to call iA writer his writing app of choice.


  1. Writing with AI on iA’s blog ↩︎

MobiScribe Wave B&W - More perspective than review

The MobiScribe Wave isn’t the best e-ink device out there. But it might be all you need.


Over the last few weeks, I’ve fallen in love with the MobiScribe Wave. Because the device is an interesting mix of value and compromises, you should do your research before you buy.

This post is less technical than you’ll find on most other reviews. I hope to instead give practical perspective to inform your buying decision. The MobiScribe Wave is not a premium device in the same class as the Remarkable 2, Kindle Scribe, or Ratta Supernote. But depending on your usage, the Wave may be all you need.

While using the Wave as my main writing and reading device for the last month or so, I’ve become well-acquainted with its limitations. But I still love the device despite its flaws.

Why I bought the MobiScribe Wave

I’d had my eye on an e-ink writing tablet for a while now. But at times I couldn’t help feeling I wanted one only because I wanted a new toy, and that buying such a device would be a waste of money.

Comparable e-ink writing tablets from MobiScribe’s competitors are significantly more expensive than the Wave–some over twice as much, depending on what specs and accessories you get.

Later in this post you’ll find a brief comparisons of the Wave and its competitors; hopefully then you’ll understand why I was reluctant to splurge on a device I wasn’t sure was truly for me. I was tempted to stick with old fashioned pen and paper. But the old ways weren’t working out great on my morning and evening train commutes.

With physical notebooks, I struggle with keeping different types of writing separate in their own notebooks. But it’s often more convenient to carry only one notebook. With the MobiScribe Wave, I can now have the best of both scenarios, at a great price.

With an e-ink notebook, I can switch between reading and writing in a snap, within the same device. And reading my writing partner’s stories on my Wave is way easier than reading them on my tiny phone screen (iPhone SE). Also, on my phone, it’s too easy to find something else to do with so many apps at my fingertips. So, for a while, I was printing my writing partner’s stories out. Making notes on an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper is inconvenient at the best of times on the train, but even more so on those days where it’s standing room only.

Having everything I need on one device cuts down on the number of items I carry in my laptop bag. Each book, notebook, pen, pencil, eraser, etc., adds weight and bulk. Maybe I’d feel differently if I got to call my own shots and could work when and where I wanted. But I instead sold my soul to The Man, so the MobiScribe Wave is a great device for me.

I resisted the urge to buy an e-ink writing tablet for a while. But when Cal Newport kept singing the praises of his Remarkable 2 on the Deep Questions Podcast1, I could no longer resist. And a certain YouTube video from Voja of My Deep Guide2 convinced me the Wave was worth taking a chance on.

What you get

Below is what you receive when you buy the MobiScribe Wave:

  • The MobiScribe Wave e-ink notebook.
  • MobiScribe’s standard Stylus.
  • Cover for the device.
  • USB-C cable for charging and file transfer (wall plug not included).

The primary device

The primary device feels solid.

The back has indentions on the side which make it easy to hold.

I wasn’t sure I’d like having a recessed screen, especially because I’d gotten used to a flush screen on my Kindle Oasis (before my wife decided she wanted to start reading again and basically stole my Oasis, thereby justifying my purchase of the Wave). But I’m happy to report the recessed screen hasn’t been an issue. In fact, I’ve forgotten it’s even an aspect of the device.

64GB of storage is very generous at this price point. More expensive devices come with much less storage.

The front light is one of those features that most e-reader fans likely take for granted. But, when you consider that no versions of the Remarkable 2 include a front light, you realize what a luxury it is.

Stylus

The stylus is fine.

From what I’ve read online, the stylus doesn’t give as much feedback as the Remarkable 2’s stylus, which may be an issue for some users. The good news is that the Wave is compatiable with most styluses that use Wacom EMR technology, so you can switch out for a better stylus if you like.

Having an eraser on the end of the stylus is nice. But I can’t help wanting to rub when I erase–like you’d expect to do with a pencil eraser–and I’m pretty sure that’s how I scratched my screen. The scratches aren’t bad and I don’t find them distracting. But it’s disappointing that I’m already seeing cosmetic wear and tear after only a month of ownership.

I replaced the nib after three weeks of usage. I haven’t had the device long enough to know if this will be the average lifespan for my nibs. Also, your mileage may vary.

After owning the Wave for a month, I bought the Staedtler Noris Jumbo stylus3, which is much better at a great price (~$35). The stock stylus had stopped working as expected. For some reason, it would only erase, no matter what tool was selected. My research prior to buying the Wave did not lead me to believe it’s common for the stock stylus to crap out so quickly. So I can’t say you should factor the cost of another stylus into the budget/risk factor. I appear to have just run into a bit of bad luck.

Case

The case is simple, light, and functional.

The front cover folds around with no hitches, making the device is easy to hold with one hand. The pen loop ensures you never lose your stylus. Cutouts along the top and bottom edges give access to the charging port and buttons for power and the front light.

But how well does it protect the Wave? I haven’t dropped it yet, so I can’t really say. But the device isn’t as fragile as an iPad, which uses a glasses screen, so I imagine the case works just fine.

The MobiScribe Wave vs. similar devices

The complete package of the MobiScribe Wave can be tough to gauge. For $230, you get a complete bundle including the MobiScribe Wave, case, stylus, and USB-C cable.

Now, let’s glance at how the MobiScribe Wave compares to its peers in terms of price and value:

  • $450 for the cheapest bundle (device, stylus, cover) from Remarkable
  • $275 for a refurbished Remarkable (device only); $299 for new (device only)
  • Nearly $400 for a comparable Kindle Scribe bundle (with only 16GB of storage)
  • ~$550 for a similar bundle for the Supernote Ratta A5X (a comparable device to the Remarkable 2 and Kindle Scribe)
  • ~$420 for a similar bundle for the Supernote Ratta A6X (comparable in size to the MobiScribe Wave

Please note: The prices listed here are normal MSRP and do not account for potential sales. Also, you may save money if you don’t buy a full bundle.

The Wave comes with 64GB of storage. The Kindle Scribe bundles start at 16GB. The Remarkable 2 has only 8GB of storage, with no expansion options.

The Wave includes a front light, which is not available on any of the Remarkable 2 devices at any price point.

None of the Wave’s competitors claim to offer waterproof devices. (Is the Wave really waterproof? No idea, as I don’t plan on testing that feature any time soon.)

The Wave lets you download other apps via the Google Play Store. This feature helps to make the Wave a more nearly complete reading device by making it easier to check in on your RSS feeds and saved articles. As far as I know, the Remarkable 2 doesn’t let you download any extra apps. And Kindle wants to limit you to their store and ecosystem. With the Wave, you can read ebooks via apps including Kindle, Kobo, Libby, and Hoopla to name a few. If you care about other apps and doing things beyond reading and writing, then a full-fledged e-ink tablet from Onyx’s Boox line may be more up your alley. But keep in mind the Boox devices are much more expensive than the MobiScribe Wave (and most of the other devices mentioned in this post).

Initial setup

After connecting to WiFi, I downloaded the tolino app for ebooks and the Adobe PDF app. You can download these apps from the MobiStore app–no account required.

Then I transferred my ebooks via USB-C and I was ready to go. (NOTE: If you’re using a Mac, you’ll have to download the Android File Transfer app. Sometimes I have to connect the device multiple times before the app works. I don’t know if this issue is unique to the Wave, or if it’s typical with most Android devices and Macs.

UPDATE: Since the original post, I have since transferred books via USB-C on Fedora Onyx, which was a much smoother experience, so Linux users may have better luck.)

I’ve also enabled the Google Play Store on the device and have downloaded apps including Firefox and wallabag.

How I’ve been using the MobiScribe Wave

As a writing device

Since I got the Wave, I’ve used it for every version of writing I can think of:

  • Journal entries.
  • Short stories.
  • Blog posts.
  • Doodles.
  • Meeting notes.

I’ve yet to find a reason to go back to physical notebooks and pens.

E-reader

When it comes to reading, the Wave feels like a Kindle on steroids.

As you would expect, I can read ebooks on it. Most of the ebooks I read tend to be EPUB files. But I do read PDFs on the device as well. Being able to directly markup both EPUB and PDF files with my stylus makes it feel as if I’m reading an old fashioned printed work, but with the benefits of technology.

As I’ve already mentioned, downloading a couple extra apps on the Wave lets me keep up with my favorite blogs. With Firefox, I can access miniflux (my RSS service provider) and with wallabag, I can catch up on my read-it-later articles.

Who the MobiScribe Wave is for

The Wave might be a great option for you if you’re:

  • Cost conscious, whether generally or because you’re not sure if you’ll like this type of device and so don’t want to spend too much.
  • Someone who’s never used a premium alternative such as the Remarkable 2 or Kindle Scribe. (I haven’t used any Remarkable or Scribe tablets aside from demoing them in the store, but in general, it’s hard to take a step down if you’ve had something perceived as being in a higher product class.)
  • Someone who commutes or travels and you’re tired of carrying multiple books, notebooks, pens, etc.

Who the MobiScribe Wave is NOT for

You may want to pass on the Wave if you’re:

  • Someone who expects a premium experience or has already gotten used to a premium device.
  • Someone who doesn’t understand the value of e-ink and may be better served by an iPad or similar full-feature tablet.

Pros

Below are some features that make the MobiScribe Wave a great value purchase:

  • Cost - For $230, you get a writing tablet, stylus, cover, 64 GB storage, and more.
  • Great writing experience.
  • Access to apps like Kindle and Libby that extend your reading options.
  • Unlimited paper (and the flexibility of deleting, copying, inserting, and rearranging pages however you want or need).

I’ve already covered why I think the Wave is a great value at $230.

I usually prefer more feedback when writing. The Wave doesn’t give as much feedback as I get from certain fountain pens, but the writing experience is much better than writing on an iPad without a paperlike screen protector, which feels far too slick.

Being able to download extra apps extends the usefulness of the device, but I don’t think you have to worry about it becoming as distracting as a smart phone or backlit full-color tablet.

And knowing you can rearrange your writing later gives lets you focus on getting your words down now.

Cons

  • Battery life.
  • Laggy at times.
  • Pen doesn’t attach magentically, so the cover is pretty much required. (On the plus side, the cover is light and thin.)
  • Glitchy (sometimes opens previous notebook or PDF rather than the file I most recently chose).

The battery is by far the device’s greatest disappointment. With heavy usage, the battery lasts over a day. But I’m not sure it can make two days. We’ve come to expect e-ink devices to last weeks between charges, so the shorter battery life feels like a major step back. If you plan on taking the MobiScribe Wave on a multiple-day trip in the wilderness, you might want to take a power bank with you–maybe one that can be recharged by the sun.

The Wave does lag sometimes. This usually results in me pushing a certain button twice and messing up what I was trying to do. In a perfect world, a device would never lag. But such a device will cost you much more than $230.

Sometimes I try to load a notebook or PDF, but a previously opened file pops up rather than the one I selected. Yes, it’s annoying when it happens. But it can be fixed by closing out the app and then opening the desired file again. I’ve never seen this bug repeat twice in a row. Hopefully the developers can fix it in the future.

A note (concern) about customer service

I mentioned earlier that the stock stylus stopped working as expected about a month after purchase.

Before I bought the replacement stylus, I emailed MobiScribe support to see if they had any troubleshooting tips for me. As of the time of this post, I have not received a response after a day and a half. Now that I know the stock stylus is the root of the problem, I’ve followed up to see how I can make a warranty claim. I’ll try to update this post with a more complete picture of the customer service experience when/if this issue is resolved.

UPDATE: MobiScribe customer service got in touch with me. After a little back-and-forth via email and sharing a video of the problem, MobiScribe sent me a replacement stylus free of charge. Thank you to MobiScribe for the handling of this issue.


Jake LaCaze is constantly in search for the simple ways in which technology can improve our lives.


  1. Cal Newport’s Deep Questions Podcast ↩︎

  2. In-depth video review of the MobiScribe Wave from Voja of My Deep Guide on YouTube ↩︎

  3. Staedtler Noris Jumbo stylus on Amazon ↩︎

At what point does AI rob us of our style?

As we rely more on AI, aren’t we at risk of sounding just like everyone else?


The prophets of AI continue to promise their favored tech will make our lives easier. Thanks to AI, more of the things we want are only a click or a prompt away. You can now inject AI wherever you want, as AI can help you with writing, creating music, and editing images, as just a few examples.

I don’t fault anyone for using these offerings, especially because I have used them in my own way and will continue to do so at different points in my life. But I still have concerns. At what point does technology rob us of originality–and when is that scenario okay, and when is it not?

Should we be concerned about the loss of originality in terms of cold hard facts? We likely don’t care about originality when it comes to complex math–think balance sheets and revenue forecasting. In those cases, the work to get those numbers isn’t the point–deciding what to do with information is the point.

But what about fields we’ve traditionally considered more artistic? Fields like writing, music, and graphic design. In such fields, there’s not so much separation between the process and the end result. So, the process is more largely the point. What you choose to include or exclude may be subjective. These decisions are part of your style, one of the more crucial aspects of art. Number crunching doesn’t leave much room for style. But the arts are all about style.

As we remove ourselves from the creative process and forfeit agency to AI and algorithms, at what point are we enabling the erosion of style?

The prophets of AI will say that AI tools can unlock creativity previously unrealized. Maybe that’s true for a small segment of people. Call me cynical, but I imagine few will put in the time to learn how to improve results from prompts. Most will put in minimum effort and take whatever AI gives them, leading to an ever-more homogeneous internet. The future is more likely to be less original. The tools meant to empower us will instead make us all the same.

People probably don’t expect numbers to have personality and quirks. But we expect these personal touches from artistic projects.

Art goes beyond having the right answer. Art is also about the habits of the artist–AKA style. Style is the artist’s most-cherished asset. Style is what makes the audience relate to the art and the artist.

As we further integrate AI into art, are we at risk of losing those stamps of authenticity we unknowingly put in our work? Those little hints that remind our audiences that we’re the authors of our own works? And if style is the most valuable thing we have, are we smart to risk losing it?


Jake LaCaze has been been using images generated by DALL-E 2 as cover images on this blog as a joke, but he thinks this one is actually damn good.

How I made this site with Hugo and GitHub Pages

Building your own website isn’t quite as easy as 1, 2, 3. But it ain’t that much harder.

Note: This post is now updated, as I’ve moved my site back to micro.blog. But I’m leaving the post up in case it can help someone else in the future.


This weekend I got the itch to customize my personal website again.

(Just FYI, if creating your own website sounds like a horrible idea, then check out mataroa.blog1. You get a simple, distration-free blog with email newsletters for $9 a year. But if you instead find yourself itching for more control, then keep on reading.)

I’d made plenty short-lived personal websites with GitHub Pages and Jekyll in the past. This time I wanted to try something different, so I decided to give Hugo a shot. The only previous experience I’d had with Hugo came from my micro.blog2 days. Before this weekend, I’d never built a Hugo site from scratch.

I mostly followed a tutorial I found on someone else’s blog, so this post won’t be a step-by-step repeat of that wonderful resource. In the hope of saving you time and sparing you some headache, I’ll instead focus on some issues left unmentioned in most tutorials for making your own site with Hugo and GitHub Pages.

The theme

I chose the PaperMod theme because I fell in love with a fork of the Paper theme3 on micro.blog. The theme is simple and elegant.

A few things I love about the PaperMod theme:

  • Social icons
  • Dark/light theme toggle
  • Post navigation at the bottom of each post
  • Search page included
  • Tags pages automatically generated

The tutorial

I mostly relied on a tutorial by Chris J. Hart4.

As I’ve already said, I won’t be repeating his great tutorial. But I had some problems not addressed in his tutorial, so I’ll cover those issues below in the addendums.

Addendums

Let’s take a look at some extra information I would include to any tutorial about building your own site with Hugo and GitHub Pages.

Put a CNAME file in the static folder

Updates caused my site to forget the custom domain (jakelacaze.com), so after an update, I had to re-enter my domain in the Settings panel of the repository for my site.

Screenshot of custom domain settings on GitHub
Re-entering your custom domain after every update isn't the hardest thing in the world. But it's among the most annoying things in the world.

The fix ended up being to create a CNAME file (with my custom domain as its contents) inside the static folder.

Screenshot of a CNAME file inside the static folder
A screenshot of my CNAME file inside the static folder

Putting a CNAME file in the root directory didn’t fix the issue. I can’t say why putting the CNAME in the static folder works; I can only report the facts as far as I understand them.

Fork the theme for your submodule

The tutorial–and most others like it–recommends using your desired theme as a submodule.

I instead ended up forking the theme so that I could easily edit it.

I ran into a problem when I tried to change the theme’s RSS feed to show full content rather than just a summary. I needed to change only one word, but to do so appeared to require a change from the original theme repository and developer. By forking the theme, you can make all the changes your heart desires, directly in your main branch5.

Maybe there’s a workaround if you don’t fork the theme, but I couldn’t find one. So, unless you already know the solution, I’d recommend forking the theme in case you want to change something later.

Confusion about the the config file name

The tutorial references config.toml as your config file. The convention now appears to be to use hugo.toml instead6.

You’ll have a basic hugo.toml file when you create your site. I changed mine to hugo.yaml because I was already familiar with the YAML syntax. Just something to keep in mind . . .

See my repo for more

Feel free to check out the repository for my personal site7 if you want to dig deeper into my customizations, or if you’re interested in something I forgot to mention here.


Jake LaCaze loves the way Gary Marcus rewrites his bio at the end of each blog post, and he’s considering stealing that idea for himself.


  1. mataroa.blog - Tell ‘em Jake LaCaze sent you. Just be ready for them to reply Who? ↩︎

  2. micro.blog - Personal blogging that makes it easy to be social ↩︎

  3. PaperMod theme - GitHub repo | Demo ↩︎

  4. Tutorial: How to Create a Simple, Free Blog with Hugo and GitHub Pages ↩︎

  5. Fork a repo on GitHub ↩︎

  6. hugo.toml vs config.toml on GoHugo ↩︎

  7. GitHub repo for jakel1828.github.io ↩︎

Is AI just a solution looking for a problem?

A quick video in which I question the approach of the prophets of AI, and what it means for us


Back in June, I recorded this quick video I posted on LinkedIn, in which I asked if AI developers are putting the cart before the horse.

So now I want to share that same video with you.


Thanks for watching.

Or, if you prefer to read–no worries, just check out the transcript below.

Transcript

(edited for clarity)

Is AI the ultimate example of a solution looking for a problem? Or, to use another analogy: Is AI the ultimate hammer to which everything appears a nail?

When you solve most problems, you usually start with the problem itself. You identify what’s wrong and you have an idea of how you want it to be better. You then work your way through the problem and escalate as needed.

In so many situations with AI, it seems like we’re going backwards, as if we’re saying, Here’s a powerful tool–what are some major problems it can solve?

It seems we’re having these great advancements in AI, but we’re not adopting or using the technology as quickly as the developers would like. It kinda feels like they’re forcing it, like they’re trying to squeeze it in wherever they can. In so many situations, there identifying real problems–and technology can likely help–but I’m not sure AI is needed in all these situations.

So I’m worried that we’re going too extreme.

I’m not afraid that AI is capable of replacing humans. I’m afraid that it’s incapable of replacing humans but that certain people will try to make it replace us anyway.

Content quality over content source

Either a work is inspiring or insightful, or it’s not. Stop qualifying the work by saying it was created by an LLM or another form of generative AI.


I recently made a tongue-in-cheek post on LinkedIn, directed as a jab at how some people give large language models (LLMs) too much credit simply because they’re machines.

Screenshot of my stupid post on LinkedIn criticizing LLMs
Screenshot of my stupid post on LinkedIn criticizing LLMs

This silly post got me thinking about content quality vs. content source.

If you disagree with the point of my post, that’s fine. You’re free to criticize it, poke holes in it, and tear it apart. I ask only that you would do the same if this post were created by an LLM like ChatGPT. Please don’t be one of those people who would think the post were insightful if written by a machine trained for countless hours on terabytes and terabytes of data. In this situation, the result is far more important than the process.

LLMs and other generative AI must be held to higher standards. We must stop pretending these models are smart just because they use so much data. Data alone is useless without critical thinking and insight. If the models and their algorithms are flawed, there’s only so much the models can do with more data.

My own model, JakeGPT, is trained on nearly 40 years of experience as a real-world human being, including a marketing degree and 15 months in tech marketing. JakeGPT may not have been trained on the largest dataset, but at some point, data is no longer the limiting factor–so more data is not the answer.

Until AI can replace humans everywhere, it will be necessary to relate to humans to influence them. Data and facts and figures–the strengths of AI–can go only so far. Humans still respond to story, and personal stories are more effective than the generalizations that LLMs churn out.

Personal story and insights are the strengths of JakeGPT. Sure, the model is flawed and unintentionally biased in its own ways. But so are models like ChatGPT. And JakeGPT needs less data, less training, and less electricity. And perhaps best of all, JakeGPT is less likely to empower bad actors looking to deceive or harm others. (But if JakeGPT does ever go rogue, it can’t be used for nefarious purposes at the same scale as other models.)

And the cherry on top: JakeGPT plays for Team Human.1


  1. Team Human Podcast ↩︎

Will there be enough AI?

The internet is full of people worrying about there being too much AI, too fast just around the corner. But what if there’s not enough in a timely manner?


These days, people are worried about AI taking their jobs. And who can blame them, with all the stories circulating about AI’s great accomplishments. (P.S. If you’re looking for a counterweight to the hype, read Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust by Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis1. And subscribe to Gary Marcus’s Substack while you’re at it.2)

It’s only natural that workers would worry about their jobs and livelihoods, when employers have a history of eliminating workers wherever they can. But employees are not the only ones who should be worried. Employers may find themselves wondering what they’ll do when AI can’t replace enough workers.

The Baby Boomers, the largest generation of all time, are retiring. Generation X and Millennials are already entrenched in the workforce while Generation Z/The Zoomers are entering the workforce. So we can basically say Gen Z is tasked with replacing the Boomers.

So what’s the big deal?

As Peter Zeihan is constantly reminding us, Gen Z is tiny in comparison to the Boombers3. Gen Z simply doesn’t have enough bodies to replace the exiting Boomers. On top of that, Gen Z is highly educated and great with technology. Very few in Gen Z want–or have the skill–to replace the blue collar Boomers leaving the workforce. In the coming years, we can likely expect a shortage of workers in fields like plumbing, carpentry, and truck driving.

Workers would be foolish not to exploit their leverage into better wages, benefits, and conditions for themselves. Despite what the prophets of AI may claim, AI is not ready to replace these missing workers.

In America (and much of the West), we’ve built our economy around cheap labor. This strategy made sense when we had the population to support it. And if there wasn’t someone here willing to do the job, you could bet there was someone on just the other side of the border eager to take on the task. But what does our world look like when you can’t count on imported labor when other populations are experiencing a similar decline, but at a faster rate?

The anti-immigration crowd really won’t have a leg to stand on. As David Frum has pointed out, the question isn’t whether we should allow immigration. The question is, How much?4 The follow-up question is, What kind of immigration should be allowed?

If, for whatever reason we’re worried about not having enough workers in the future, it sure would be nice if AI could help out a bit.

I’ll take this chance to echo a point I’ve made on other platforms: I’m not concerned that AI is ready to replace humans; I’m concerned that it isn’t ready but people will try to make it happen anyway. Some will try to make it happen because they’re excited by the hype. Some will make it happen because they don’t want to pay workers. And at some point, some will make it happen because they’re having trouble finding anyone with the proper skills to hire.

It would actually help if AI were as capable as its prophets insist. AI could help fill the labor gap and save a lot of people a lot of pain. So maybe we’ve been looking at this AI issue all wrong.

If only AI really were up for the tasks as has been promised, maybe then we’d be in for less headache in the years ahead.


  1. Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust by Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis ↩︎

  2. Marcus on AI, Gary Marcus’s Substack ↩︎

  3. Boomers at the End of the World - Peter Zeihan ↩︎

  4. If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will - Originally titled ‘How Much Immigration is Too Much?’ (Paywalled) ↩︎

Exxon and the prophecy of the Great Consolidation

For the last few years, the oil and gas sector has been waiting to be reshaped through mergers and acquisitions. Is ExxonMobil’s latest move a sign of the prophecy?


ExxonMobil recently shocked the energy industry with its nearly $60 billion bid to acquire Pioneer Natural Resources in an all-stock deal1. When the deal closes, one of the world’s supermajors will have the acreage and production runway of the Permian Basin’s top driller. ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods justified the deal simply2:

Their [Pioneer’s] capabilities, bringing in their Tier 1 acreage, our technology, our development approach, frankly, brings higher recovery at lower cost.

You can find plenty articles discussing the financial sense of this deal–and by all appearances, the deal makes plenty financial sense. But, as a hopeless writer, I can’t help looking at the acquisition from a storyteller’s lens.

Energy analysts have been predicting a wave of mergers of acquisitions (M&A) for a while now. The long-awaited prophecy appears to finally be coming true with the news of Exxon’s pending acquisition of Pioneer.

The early 2000s saw American exploration and production (E&P) activity dominated by the independent producers, as the majors decided to take their money international3. When those overseas ventures failed, the majors struggled to establish a foothold in America’s onshore plays. I was lucky to have started my oil and gas career during this independent-dominated phase, when even a marginally capable and reliable warm body could quickly climb the ranks. (A note for the young: Scott Galloway is right when he says it’s better to be mediocre in a booming field than to be outstanding in a mediocre field. Unfortunately, I can’t find the article/video in which he said this, but trust me on this one–he totes did.)

Many of the land professionals of my generation started their careers working with land services brokers in North Texas' Barnett Shale, most likely running title and leasing for Chesapeake Energy. Under CEO Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake sought to acquire as much acreage as possible, as fast as possible–costs and fiscal responsibility be damned. When natural gas prices fell from $14/MCF to sub-$3 and oil climbed to over $100 a barrel, the long-written off Permian Basin with its stacks and stacks of oil-producing formations became the industry darling4. The great land grab eventually led to chants of ‘Drill, baby, drill!’ as operators sought to prove up their assets. Mineral and royalty buyers sought to seize on this activity by buying in areas most likely to be drilled in the near future, ensuring they’d make their money back fast.

In the age of the independents, opportunities abound for money. But what about now, as we’re heading into the age of the majors? What happens to the industry as the majors spend money to make haves of the have-nots, to ensure the big only get bigger?

If Exxon really is kicking off the Great Consolidation, then we can expect to see less drilling in general. We haven’t seen significant sustained exploration of new fields for at least a decade. With reduced drilling, the mineral and royalty buyers will need to alter their business models.

Oil and gas is likely entering a less exciting but more stable era–an era far different from the one that let me start and develop my career. So I lean into this new era with melancholy as I accept that I’m getting old and the world around me is changing. I’m wise enough to know this new era won’t last forever. But I’m not smart enough to know how or when it will change, or what will change it.

In the late ’80s and the ’90s, conventional wisdom said the Permian Basin was dead. But conventional wisdom got bucked by unconventional drilling thanks to the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking)5. Technology may very well again transform the industry, but who knows what those technological innovations will look like, or when they’ll happen. Fracking was discovered out of desperation and experimentation, not because of scientific theory that suggested the process would increase production6. Maybe the next great innovation will happen because someone somewhere says Hell, what have I got to lose? and tries something stupid that ends up looking genius in the end.

The industry may also change due to economics. If oil and gas prices go through the roof, fields once deemed uneconomic to drill will then make sense. The Permian Basin will still be the apple of the industry’s eye, but at least there will be more fields to play in and explore.

Yes, Exxon’s acquisition of Pioneer likely signals a shift in the industry. Since the news broke, word has leaked that Chesapeake is mulling acquiring Southwestern Energy7. And Devon Energy is also mulling acquiring Marathon Oil Corp. or CrownRock, the latter of which recently announced it was open to being acquired8.

One thing is certain: This era too shall pass. But what it shall pass to, we do not know.


  1. ExxonMobil announces merger with Pioneer Natural Resources in an all-stock transaction ↩︎

  2. U.S. oil is back, and ExxonMobil’s $60 billion deal isn’t even the biggest signal on CNBC ↩︎

  3. The First Shale Revolution: Humble Beginnings by Peter Zeihan ↩︎

  4. Wolfcamp, Bone Spring, Delaware Shale Plays of the Delaware Basin - a report from the US Energy Information Administration ↩︎

  5. Drilling Methods 101: Conventional (Vertical) vs. Unconventional (Horizontal) by Venergy Momentum ↩︎

  6. Breakthrough: The Accidental Discovery That Revolutionized American Energy on The Atlantic ↩︎

  7. Natgas producer Chesapeake explores buying Southwestern Energy on Reuters ↩︎

  8. Devon Energy Mulls M&A Options With Marathon, CrownRock on Bloomberg; US oil and gas producer CrownRock to explore $10 billion-plus sale, sources say on Reuters ↩︎

There is no invisible hand of technology

Technology doesn’t progress on its own simply because we expect it to.


On a recent episode of Andrew Yang’s Forward podcast1, Walter Isaacson shared an anecdote he picked up while shadowing Elon Musk for the entrepreneur’s recently-released eponymous biography2. In this anecdote, Musk made the point that people take for granted that technology progresses on its own, as if it’s an unwritten law of the universe. As if things just move forward with time.

I haven’t been able to get Musk’s point out of my head after first hearing it. Why? What’s so significant about it? What does it really mean?

To me, it means humans have agency in shaping their future. More importantly, humans have a responsibility in shaping that future.

Too many of us accept that things will just work out. Or that they won’t. Whatever our outlook, we get complacent. We take whatever we can get. We accept the future and consequences we’re dealt. We blame the dealer even though we never acted on our chance to cut the deck.

Technology is not some mysterious force. There is no invisible hand of technology moving it in one direction or the other. Technology is the byproduct of our creations and the norms we create around using those creations.

At the time of this writing, AI is all the rage. I don’t think AI is worthy of being injected into every aspect of our lives, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it won’t be injected into every area and situation possible. But this strategy is unforgivably reckless, because, as John Oliver said in his bit about AI on Last Week Tonight3:

The problem with AI isn’t that it’s smart–it’s that it’s stupid in ways we can’t always predict.

On his Substack, Gary Marcus recently echoed this sentiment when he pointed out how DALL-E 34, the latest version of OpenAI’s image generator, had problems showing black doctors with white patients, or a watch showing the time of 1 o’clock.5 We still don’t know the ways in which AI has unintentional bias. And we do a disservice by presenting AI as being limitlessly intelligent, when in fact its capabilities very much depend on how it’s trained and what it’s trained on.

At the risk of becoming a broken record, I’ll say it again: AI has potential. We should explore where and how it can help humanity. But we must do so in a responsible manner. We must be thoughtful and deliberate. Right now, we’re being anything but.

Technology doesn’t simply advance just because. It moves along the path we create for it. And I hope more people will start chiming in on which path we set this risky technology on. Just because there are risks involved doesn’t mean there aren’t great benefits waiting. But again, those benefits won’t happen on their own. We must play our part in making those benefits reality.


  1. Walter Isaacson on Elon, X, and breaking the rules ↩︎

  2. Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson ↩︎

  3. Last Week Tonight on AI ↩︎

  4. DALL-E 3 ↩︎

  5. Race, statistics, and the persistent cognitive limitations of DALL-E ↩︎

Be here now

Can we be mindful in the 21st century?


Introverts make up at least one-third of the population—maybe as high as one-half—yet in so many ways the world feels as if it’s made only for extroverts. How can it be that our social systems benefit one type of person while alienating the other?1

Pop culture often presents the introvert as being inadequate and odd, a type of person to be fixed or merely tolerated when possible. Introverts are often described as antisocial, but it would be more accurate to say introverts have a different threshold for social interaction. I, as an introvert, recognized this distinction during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, I thought I’d be fine in isolation. But forced social distancing revealed that I craved interaction. Interaction itself wasn’t the issue—the quality and frequency of interaction were the real questions.

And those questions of quality and frequency have led to my questioning online interactions, mostly via social media. This extroverted world expects us to be everywhere online at all times. Digital tools are available to help us scale, to be present at many places at once. But operating this way leads to the problems of the quality and the frequency of conversation. We’re told to keep the conversation going so that the algorithms favor us and push our content to more viewers in the name of promoting the conversation—conversation we may not even want to be part of.

In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking2, Susan Cain argues that introverts need seclusion to recover after interactions. Introverts tend to perceive more than extroverts, Cain says, so introverts have more to sort through after social situations. This always ‘ON’ world of social media means introverts have an endless wave of interactions to process, all of this in addition to their offline interactions.

But what about the physical world, the one we live in without the need for screens? Where’s the concern about making sure we’re present there, and that we can process all happening around us? How can any anyone hope to process anything when new events are constantly dinging for our attention? We’re constantly connected to the world at all times. But why? Do we want to be? Should we want to be?

Questions like these are the ones that have been floating in my head since I started reading Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now3 by Douglas Rushkoff. What exactly does ‘present’ mean? What is the true present moment? The tangible present, or the virtual present?

Are these questions as concerning for extroverts? Or, do they feel the more presents, the better? If you see an issue, you must then consider the costs, both the costs of being so present and also the cost of not being present. You must find your own balance and determine when and where you want to be present—or have the energy to do so. Some will try to convince you that you must be everywhere. But if you’re everywhere, are you really ever anywhere? This is the same question I ask of those hoping to scale their presence with the help of AI. Doesn’t being everywhere in such fashion cheapen the worth of your time and presence? Isn’t your scarce availability the true value of your presence? Is there any added value in our truly being present? Will anyone know the difference?

The promise of ‘community’ is supposed to be part of the appeal of social media and the modern web. But so many digital platforms seek to be a one-size-fits-all solution for the masses. ‘Community’ and ‘masses’ are often conflicting terms. How often can we have community if we invite the masses? To be noticed on these platforms often requires appeasing to the masses while ignoring your potential true audience, meaning the masses then distract from the true community.

Our presence is more than a simple commodity. Or is it?

By embracing digital extroversion, not only are we giving away our attention and our presence—we’re also giving away data, which recently may have been used to train generative AI models we now fear may take our jobs4.

Living as an extrovert introduces noise, both literal and figurative, into your life, which is fine if you’re up for it. But the extroverted web doesn’t want you to slip away to recover and rejoin when you’re ready. The extroverted web says you’re missing out on the endless firehouse of content that will be outdated and irrelevant by the time you learn about it. You’re also missing out on exposure, as the most crucial part of the online growth formula seems to be consistency, meaning you must constantly churn out content so that your audience doesn’t forget you.

These days, there’s far too much content to stay current on. And what kind of audience do you have—and what’s your relationship with them—if the volume of your output is exponentially more valuable than the quality of your output?

The tech giants have built their platforms on our content. They’ve simply given us a place to connect, but we do the hard work of creating content that keeps eyeballs on the page or on the app. No wonder the tech giants love the extroverted model.

Eventually, digital extroversion turns into neediness, in the form the need to be liked and accepted, to increase the chances of being watched. A need to be interesting without offending, for fear of having your content demonetized or shadowbanned. This neediness risks becoming a need to fit in, to be like everyone else online—an NPC5 in a vast sea of unimaginative homogenization where imitation is often the safest path to success.

For some, this formula may not be a problem, especially if the main goal is to be popular. But the rest of us likely find ourselves sucked into this way of thinking because it’s so prevalent—we don’t even realize we’re influenced by it. So we end up chasing a goal we may not even want. We no longer create only for the sake of it. We create for likes and views and follows, making the internet far less interesting and dynamic.

Offline, introverts often get out of their shells to put themselves out there and meet the world halfway. But to have meaningful sustained discourse with introverts often requires pursuing them to some degree. Maybe this is how it should be online as well. Offline, we have the option to go to so many parties that we never attend. Maybe this is how it should be online too. We can try the parties every once in a while when we feel up to it, but the rest of the time you can find us at our websites and email addresses. Reaching us may take a little effort on your end, but hopefully it’s worth it.


  1. So Begins A Quiet Revolution Of The 50 Percent on Forbes ↩︎

  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain ↩︎

  3. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Ruskhoff ↩︎

  4. X may train AI with its users' posts. Are other social media sites doing the same? on ZDNet ↩︎

  5. What Does Is It Mean To Be Called An NPC? The Gen Z Insult and Slang Term Explained on Know Your Meme ↩︎

Calculating the costs of convenience

What does convenience cost us in the long run?


Listen on Anchor

As long as there are people, there will be questions about the human condition. How are people doing? What are their greatest struggles and fears and joys? And what does it mean to be a real human being1 at any point in time?

Odds are good I won’t make it out of the 21st century alive. So considering what it means to be human in the 21st century seems a good place to put my energy for the next version of my blog.

In so many ways, life has never been better for those of us in the first world. We’ve spent most of our lives in unprecedented safety and convenience, thanks at least in part to technology. But, strange as it may sound, might that same convenience bring about our greatest challenges? The world is at our fingertips thanks to smart phones and other mobile devices. But having these remedies to boredom always at arm’s length makes it hard to be present in the real world beyond the screens. We must also fight the temptation to live always in a digital world when tech titans are always telling us what a great option it is. And don’t forget that these same titans have engineered their products and services to be addictive to keep us coming back. As they keep us addicted, they’re harvesting our data and doing who knows what with it. We now know they’re using that same data to train AI with the hope of replacing us. Many businesses will adopt these AI ‘solutions’ haphazardly, putting humans at risk in the name of efficiency.

I grew up enamored with technology, believing it could make life better. I still believe it can, with some caveats. Inserting technology into a process or situation doesn’t guarantee success. And it’s hard to do the right way. Drumming up hype and excitement is easy, but those same elements make it hard to know if the technology is actually useful, or useful to the extent promised.

We’ve reached a point where we need to put this convenience into perspective. Has it really been all that great? Has it served us as users? Even if everything was great in the past, that doesn’t mean we have to go along for the ride in the future. Maybe some people feel the past cost of convenience was fine, but they’re not so sure about the costs of what’s ahead. Or, maybe we don’t have a choice. Maybe certain things are set in motion, meaning the future is already determined and there’s nothing we can do about it. To be clear, I don’t hold this view, but if you do, I hope you’ll agree we should consider what lies ahead as we can best prepare ourselves.

I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball that shows the future. While I ponder our future, I’m no futurist. I prefer to discuss how things can go rather than how they will go. So while I don’t have predictions of the future, I do have concerns and hopes. I’m concerned that certain advances in technology seek to make humans irrelevant2. But I hope we can find our way to maintain–and improve–our humanity.

What does it mean to be human in the 21st century? What are our best parts that should be amplified? And which parts should be improved upon? These are fair questions, and there are so many similar questions deserving consideration. So I hope you’ll join me as I do my best to do them justice.

You can follow along via RSS or email. And feel free to drop me a line from time to time. I like communication with a human touch.


  1. Video: ‘A Real Hero’ by Electric Youth ↩︎

  2. The Art World v. The Tech Bros: A Story of Arrogance, Hubris & Lies by uckiood ↩︎