For me, 2022 was another year of too much doom and gloom. But—unlike 2021—it was punctuated by many moments of profound delight and optimism.
Let’s get the unhappy stuff out of the way first: Uncertainty about the COVID lockdowns in China. Seeing the US and Chinese governments lumber into a lose-lose cold war like two drunken apes. And a whole lot of disappointment at work. Each spiked last year, and I have trouble shaking them from my mind.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m just evolving into a perpetual sourpuss. Then, eventually, I realize bad moods and negative thinking don't last forever. There is much to be excited for.
After 3 years of COVID in China, I got back to the U.S.A.! Ate cheesesteaks, saw the grandmoms, and hung out with my niece and nephew for Christmas. After news reports describing my home country as a crumbling mess, I was almost surprised that life felt so normal: People held doors for each other. Holiday music blared. Shopkeepers handed out candy-canes to wide-eyed kids. It was refreshing.
But that trip was at the end of a long year. Over the summer, we moved back to Beijing. Flora got a new job with Mars Petcare and I’m still working at Google.
Now that lockdowns are over, we need to feed our hankering for travel. We’re going to not one—but two—music festivals in Japan in 2023. We've even started learning Japanese, and aim to be fluent enough to order ramen during our visit in July.
2022 was also a year of experimenting with new productive activity in public.
In 2020, I wrote of starting a podcast to interview various experts about how they mastered their disciplines. It didn’t take off then, but a friend recently convinced me to start again. Collaborating with Michael Du, The Craft Podcast now has a dozen videos and a slew of exciting interviews coming up.
And last year, I mentioned learning about blockchain from a college friend who held a regular livestream on the subject. Well, I began co-hosting the livestream, Community Service Hour, with Will weekly and we just hit 70 episodes! If you’d like to join us, we’re live every Tuesday at 6pm EST.
I’ve also “gone public” with a few other projects. I’ve started writing code every few days, often contributing to open source efforts on GitHub. I’m also working part-time with OpenESG, a startup that’s making the opaque but important ratings of companies’ Equity, Sustainability, and Governance more reliable and accessible.
Of everything that happened last year, this is the big one. You thought COVID was disruptive? Well, buckle up. It’s not apparent yet, but AI is going to transform human society in the coming years.
When ChatGPT launched, I'd spend an hour every few days asking it to build a little webpage for me. I used just words to explain the type of website I wanted--and it wrote all the code in seconds! I even got the AI to create a gallery of all the little projects I made. My favorite is this game where you're a little white dot trying to jump to a green platform.
Text AIs like ChatGPT can write code, fill out forms, be a coach or therapist, and so much more. There are other AIs that make art, and even videos, based on a text prompt. It’s as if everyone now has access to infinite, instant interns. Except these interns get smarter way faster than people do.
You might be thinking, ‘Come on, Dan, you write about some fancy new technology every year, isn’t this just another hype cycle?’ No, this is more like COVID. I spent a lot of time in February 2020 calling many of you, pleading for you to get ready and buy masks because something huge was brewing. I feel even more strongly about this one.
Fake pictures and videos that look totally real will soon be everywhere. Scam emails are going to sound like it’s your old high school friend reaching out. Hackers and governments will use these technologies to manipulate people in new ways. If you’re not sure of an information source, you really can’t trust that it’s real anymore.
So, this year—right now—you must start paying attention to artificial intelligence. Whatever your profession or lifestyle, AI tools will change it, I believe as dramatically as computers, cell phones, or the internet did. Understanding even a little bit about how AI works and will help you prepare for the coming changes. If you want to get started, I recommend this quick video series from DataCamp about using ChatGPT, this fun tool for making your own AI self-portraits, or digging into Jon Radoff’s Generative AI Canon if you want to go deeper.
I’m also curious: What have been your experiences with AI so far? Are you a ChatGPT whiz, worried about robots taking over, or concerned for my sanity after hearing these wild predictions? Whatever your thoughts on that matter, I’d love to hear your perspective. Reply to this message and let me know what you think.
I haven’t felt more hopeful (or nervous) about the future in my whole life. Despite those times I’m feeling down, I’m increasingly just in awe of the beauty of the world. There’s so much to build and see and do; life is bursting with opportunity. If this AI revolution does anything, I hope it helps all of us get better at seeing that.