Why SARS Coronavirus 2 is fucking us up so much

I have recently watched the films Outbreak (1995) and Contagion (2011) and am comparing our virus to the fictional viruses of those films. One thing I notice about SCV2 is that it’s not as “violent” as the viruses in the films. The fictional viruses kill their hosts incredibly quickly, within a couple of days. SCV2 is slow. Below is a brain dump of the features of SCV2 that are making it so pandemic-y.

  • Insanely infectious
    • This week, the CDC is recommending that everyone wear a mask (or face covering, whatever you’ve got) any time you go out because SCV2 can be spread just by BREATHING AND TALKING. This statement has filled me with incredible dread. Perhaps up to 50% of people will get infected.
  • Long incubation period that is also a contagious period
  • Sometimes asymptomatic, which means that people spread it unknowingly
  • Pretty deadly
    • I have no idea what the mortality rate is (I don’t think anyone does), but it hardly matters what that rate is considering HALF OF THE WORLD IS GOING TO GET IT.
  • The illness lasts a long time
    • Not only are there going to be an insane number of patients who need professional medical attention to live through COVID-19, but those people need intervention for one or two weeks each. They put strain on hospital resources in terms of quantity AND time.

As far as daily life…. it is the same. Sleeping during the day, being awake at night, watching a lot of videos and playing a lot of Stardew Valley. Boring. I don’t feel like doing anything or talking to anyone. Jacob is still going to work which scares the shit out of me.

Nothing much to report

Today is my 7th day of committed social distancing. I am fully on Jacob’s sleep schedule, which makes sense, considering we are living together in the same space and I have no other forces acting on my life. So that means I am going to sleep between 3AM and 7 AM and sleeping until 2 PM. Not ideal, I know. In fact I used to hate the fact that Jacob lived these hours. But hey, time doesn’t matter anymore.

So far have been cooking, cleaning, playing a video game, and watching TV/videos/movies. I also spend a couple of hours each day on the phone or video chats. I have a whole list of things I could do or study in mind for when I get bored, but I haven’t been terribly bored the last few days. I acclimated to this lifestyle so quickly. In a way, it is easy for me to live this way because there are no responsibilities. It’s quite nice in that aspect. And, as long as I stay in this house. I don’t have to witness whatever mess is going on in the outside world. I can just imagine that it’s another regular weekend day chilling at home.

My dad continues to invite me over to visit him and his girlfriend at their home. He says, we can just sit outside and play guitars, maintain a distance, you don’t have to come inside. I don’t know if I want to do it… what kind of a visit would that be? To be constantly reminded of our current situation? Oh also, it’s springtime and the pollen would choke me.

I don’t feel like writing in a structured way today. So ends this stream of consciousness.

Like a lighting strike.

“So, what are you gonna do tonight?” Jacob asks as he prepares to retreat into his man cave to play Classic WoW. We have come to the point in our nightly routine where we part ways: him to play online video games, and me to– well… a few months ago it would have been “go to bed by 10 o’clock”, but these days it’s usually “watch videos until I fall asleep on the couch”.

Tonight, however, “I’m going to write another blog post”.

“Who are you writing it for?”

“Just myself, in the future. You know, my war diary.”

Jacob rolls his eyes dramatically.

“And that’s going in it,” I say, indicating his gesture.

Admittedly, I’ve been on the “watch videos until I fall asleep on the couch” train for much longer than Corona has been sapping away nearly all of our reasons for being cheerful and purposeful. Following a period of illness in December-January, I have been unemployed. I was having a lovely time going to interviews for some lovely job opportunities, and I really had a good feeling about how things were going to go for the rest of the year. But then this shit happened and now EVERYONE is unemployed. The US economy has shrunk to the size of a pea. Day by day as the social and public health situations worsen, I find myself feeling relieved that I am not currently going through the experience of losing a job and income. What a terrible stress that would be, to be sent home from a new job. My heart aches for everyone who is going through that right now.

The internet and the media are completely 100% saturated right now with content about the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s absolutely surreal because there is no other news. No events. No gatherings. No functioning. No working. No traveling. When I first conceptualized this post I was planning to liken the spread of information online to the spread of the virus and comment on how ~meta~ and ~poingnant~ that was. But now I think that likening it to a virus is not right the right comparison at all. It is more like a lightning strike. Every person is looking at the online chatter practically constantly, so when a new piece of news is announced, the whole world knows it at once. It gives a shock; the markets react, the internet reacts, and our worlds become even smaller.

A man crosses an empty highway on February 3, 2020 in Wuhan. – Getty Images
Source (https://www.businessinsider.com/countries-on-lockdown-coronavirus-italy-2020-3)

It’s amazing how quickly my sense of time is deteriorating. I have nothing to tell the days and hours apart. Time passes so slowly when there are no landmarks. Since the Gregorian calendar is now meaningless, I will now refer to my days based on how long I have been in “isolation”. Yesterday, the day after my birthday, was the first day I committed to staying in the house except to go to the store for necessities. Currently in Atlanta we are not on “lock-down”, but I’m sure it is coming. “Lock-down” is what the media is calling it when there becomes some sort of government mandate for citizens to stay in their homes. Right now in Atlanta it is still just a strong suggestion rather than something that is being enforced, but the mandate will come soon. The lock-down goes where the virus goes. It is part of the process. Just a few hours ago we found out that the state of California and the state of Argentina have chosen to lock-down.

Today I am lamenting the terrible scar this will leave on our culture in relation to music. My heart bleeds for all musicians right now. Performing music with and for other people is one of the most primal and beautiful activities we can do as humans. Music has gotten humanity through so many awful things. Music heals us, it connects us. It has never been taken away from us before. I performed music on 7 March not knowing it would be my last time performing. I attended a concert on 8 March not knowing it would be my last time experiencing live music. Now, something that I never even took for granted feels like it was taken for granted.

This is going to be a dreadful time. But some day, it will all come back. The music, the food, the games, the collaboration, the movement, the momentum, the joy.

And oh, that will be a glorious day indeed.

My last birthday before the war

Yesterday was 17 March 2020, my 28th birthday. I spent it with my husband and my sister. In the evening when we sat down to dinner together, I saw everything about that moment through the lens of history. In 10 or 20 years, how would we remember this night? Would it be the last time we saw each other in months? Would it be “the good ol’ days before the world changed forever”? I felt compelled to take a photo of Jacob and Julia at that little dining table in her Atlanta studio apartment. “I want to take a picture of this, just as it is,” I explained. “It’s for my war scrapbook”. They rolled their eyes but complied.

I have lived such a safe, privileged life. For years I had a countdown on my phone marking my 10,000th day alive (3 August 2019). When that day arrived, I thought, this is amazing. I have lived a 10,000-day streak of life with no tragedies. Never has someone very close to me died or been in a major accident. Never have I been in danger of living in poverty or having any of my physical needs not be met. There have been several ‘crises’ in my lifetime (September 11th, the 2008 financial crisis, so many hurricanes, etc.) but none of them affected my everyday activities. I was always able to go to school and enjoy life and walk around without fear that my safety was at stake. In stark contrast to my idyllic existence, history is filled with stories of tragedy and danger. War, famine, societal collapse. These are not uncommon in our world. I have always wondered when it would happen to me.

As of this writing, there are just over 7000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the USA (but we haven’t been testing a lot of people so who the heck knows how many cases there actually are) and 100 confirmed deaths. Admittedly, relatively low numbers. But we have all seen the statistics. I understand the shape of an exponential curve. I’m not here to write about all of the factors that are making this a worldwide concern, I’m just here to write about what it feels like to me. Virologists and epidemiologists knew this was coming. Governments around the world are instituting mandatory lockdowns/shelter-in-place guidelines, and considering enacting some form of martial law. It hasn’t happened here in Atlanta yet, but it has in New York and California.

There are so many questions right now. How will society continue to function with everyone staying in their homes and not going out? The economy has all but evaporated in the last week; all events of every sort are canceled. The DOW is losing thousands of points a day. I was looking for a job before all this went down, and now I know I won’t be employed any time soon. Huge swaths of the world population are facing unemployment while everything is paused. How will we get the resources we need? What will happen to the supply chains of food, medicine, and other essentials?

Some people are not nearly as nervous or concerned as I am about what is about to unfold. My sister Julia is studying macroeconomics and public health. She believes this will blow over with (relatively) little impact. My husband Jacob is still going to work at this time, he is a chef at a restaurant down in the city, and although they are not serving customers in the dining room, they are still doing pickup orders. Jacob already likes to live a rather socially isolated life on a normal basis, he just goes to work and comes home and chats with friends online. So besides the fact that traffic is lighter and the restaurant isn’t filled with customers, his life hasn’t been changed much yet. He is not bothered. Meanwhile, I have the TV on and am watching commercials that feature people enjoying sporting events and concerts; it seems like a cruel taunt. The fact that everyone is reacting differently to this pandemic makes me feel confused and guilty. Yesterday did we do the wrong thing by taking a walk in the park and visiting my sister? Of course I wanted to see my mother on my birthday, but I simply can’t visit with my parents right now.

Joking about the ‘impending war’ has been a common jest among young people for years. I know I really started thinking about it in 2014. This, however, is the first time I’ve felt it might be genuinely imminent. I have visions of people resorting to violence because they can’t afford/find food. I see soldiers guarding the streets making sure people don’t move around. I see food, water, and energy rations. I see field hospitals overwhelmed with sick and injured patients, I see so many deaths. These fears are NOT unfounded; as I stated earlier, these things happen all over the world. We have been extremely lucky in the United States, but we are not immune… pun intended.

Will my fears play out, or will this indeed all blow over? Time will tell. I will keep writing while this pandemic is part of the zeitgeist.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years

Prologue: I had severe Beatlemania from about age 8 to age 18. It’s amazing what sort of extreme obsessions a young human brain is capable of creating. Moving on…

“It was … important to try to tell a story that would convey to people who really have no idea — I’m thinking of the millennials, I suppose; people who have grown up with the music and think they know something of the story — the intensity of the journey and the impact they had,”

Ron Howard on his new documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years”.

Now, I am always skeptical of any film named with TWO subtitles, but I definitely did not anticipate that Ron Howard’s documentary would make me think of the Beatles in a new way. Surely I, who for 10 years devoured every possible piece of information about them that I could find and thought of nothing else during my waking hours, would have considered everything there was to consider about the Beatles. But no. In fact, Howard’s generously titled film provided me with not one, but TWO new perspectives on The Beatles.



TB:EDAW-TTY, whose title contains a ridiculous number of letters even as an acronym, finally allowed me to comprehend something about the Beatles that I had heard dozens of times but somehow never fully considered: their scale of their phenomenon was MASSIVE. Indeed, it covered the entire globe.

I was born into a world with internet. Even in it’s 20-ish years the internet has grown astronomically to dwarf its former self. Events on a global scale are commonplace in the 21st century, and they are part of the world I have always lived in. It wasn’t until I saw the film which should have just been called “The Beatles: Touring Years” that I understood that such a cultural phenomenon of that scale had never taken place before. Never! They did the first ever stadium tour by a musical group. 250,000 people turned out for their arrival in Australia. The volumes of their album and ticket sales were unprecedented. A lot of unprecedented things happened in the 1960’s that caused a sea change in youth culture and put it on course for how we live today. One of those cultural events was the Beatles. The Beatles were the first of their kind; and they did it without any internet at all.

This revelation blew me away. Maybe I felt a scrap of how blown away people were to be actually witnessing it then, in the 1960s. People that are still alive!


Despite the fact that there is still a huge portion of our population who was alive to witness The Beatles, and the fact that they remain hugely popular, the Beatles are not, in fact, a modern band. I saw the 1960s with fresh eyes as it was presented in The Film. All these years I had thought of the Beatles as timeless, still relevant today, not having diminished in popularity. I imagined myself in the 60s all the time; I imagined them just like the present.

But it was plain to see by the grainy faded analog footage of the era: the Beatles happened in a completely different world than ours. Fifty years have passed. Fifty! The changes that have occurred in the world are immense. The Beatles are truly part of history now. Certainly more than enough time has passed to observe their sprawling effects on modern music and culture. Fifty years, in that way, was a long time ago.

I have always found it incredible that a cultural phenomenon that happened decades ago in a different world could play such a huge role in my life and development and so many millions of others’. And that, indeed, is the massive legacy of The Beatles.

A literal waste of life.

This month, legislators in North Carolina and Mississippi have passed anti-LGBTQ+ (emphasis on the T) laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

In case you are wondering what mental gymnastics are involved in rationalizing actual discrimination, they call it “privacy”.

So clearly, these people take pleasure in damaging other peoples’ lives. But do they not realize they are literally wasting their own lives too?

In 1862, dozens of politicians voted to maintain slavery. 250 years later, they look like fools to us, but at the time they thought they were doing a reasonable thing. They didn’t know any better.

In 2016 we DO know better. We have seen society completely transform and become unrecognizable over and over again thanks to technology. Compare 2016 to 2006. To 1996. To 1986. Completely changed. We cannot picture what our lives will look like in 10 years. In 50 years, technology and society will have advanced beyond our wildest dreams, the same way a person from the 1960s could not in their wildest dreams have imagined Snapchat 2.0 (which is INCREDIBLE btw)

The future of humanity is so, so vast… in time, in knowledge, in population. Each one of us only has one lifetime to be alive. Just one. And then for ALL OF THE LIFETIMES AFTER THAT, we take our true place, in history. You think you are important because you are alive right now, but no! You will be dead infinitely longer than you will be alive. Life is tiny.

These legislators are wasting their tiny stupid little lives trying to deny LGBTQ+ people their rights while anyone who can recognize patterns or execute logic can see that transgender rights will be granted in less than one lifetime. We’ve seen this occur several times in the past 100 years.

For THE REST OF TIME, these legislators will become like the 1862 democrats. Primitive, foolish, shrouded in shame as the passage of time swallows them up like it does everyone else. We are so small! Anything we try to do to stop change is ridiculously futile. Passing these laws is like an ant trying to hold back a glacier. The future is always coming and it is so, so big. And yet they still spend their precious time on this.

What a literal waste of life. Some people’s stupidity knows no bounds.

Four concepts you have about space that are actually wrong

This is my lengthy and not required introduction. If you’d like to skip to the four concepts, click here.

Let’s be real, most people don’t think about space that much. They know the names and orders of the planets in our solar system, they know the name of our galaxy, and that’s about it. The average citizen doesn’t know, say, the distance from Earth to the sun (8.2 light minutes), the diameter of the Milky Way (100,000 light years), how gravity works (distortion of space-time), nor even a general idea of how far the moon is from the Earth (nor any other celestial bodies for that matter)!

Now, I am NO astrophysicist, but this is pretty basic stuff. Honestly, if we consider ourselves to be an intelligent species that may some day be able to travel freely off of our planet, we should at least have a general concept of how big space is. Unfortunately, such things are not taught in our public education system and therefore most people go through life never even pondering it.

Reader, I encourage you to learn about space. Watch some videos on YouTube. There are thousands of them, too many to list, about every topic, and they are incredibly informative. (If you are already a space video watcher and are ready for extreme hard mode, watch “The Inexplicable Universe” lecture series by Neil Degrasse Tyson, available on Netflix as of this writing. It covers literally everything.) When you start venturing into this topic, you start to realize that space is EVERYTHING. Earth is so damn small, knowing only about Earth is really not an accurate understanding of our universe.

The unfortunate consequence of the public lacking this general knowledge is that false information and unrealistic ideas about the universe get spread and accepted by people because they’ve got no knowledge against which to judge it. All of this information is available to us thanks to the glory of the Internet but people just don’t think to seek it.

Example: the film Gravity (2013). Y’all, this movie is so damn inaccurate I actually cannot believe it got made. Literally every scene is impossible yet I’m pretty sure it is supposed to portray real astronauts in the real future operating under real laws of physics. I have included a list sampling of three scenes from Gravity and how wrong they are. Feel free to skip if you are not interested in this film.

  1. Early in the film, the astronauts’ space walk goes wrong. Everyone dies except for the characters portrayed by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Luckily for George Clooney, he is on a tether and that tether is being held by Sandra Bullock, who is safely anchored to the spacecraft. George’s momentum is stopped by the tether. The energy of his motion is converted into rope tension.
    1. What should happen next: The tension is absorbed by Sandra’s muscles and reverses George’s direction and he is moving back towards Sandra, who can safely pull him back in. This isn’t even a space thing, that’s just how energy and force works. We have this on Earth.
    2. What happens in the film: The tension STAYS in the rope even though there is no force acting on George in that direction (????? magic?) and he says “Sorry Sandra you have to let me go die in space” and she regretfully lets go and he FLIES OFF INTO SPACE! Kinetic energy is spontaneously manifested. Jesus be a fence.
  2. Sandra manages to jet-pack her way through space (lol) from the Hubble Telescope to the ISS which is a convenient 100 km away (LOL). She manages to get inside (LMFAO). Unfortunately the parachute for the Soyuz capsule has been damaged so she can’t take it back down to earth, and also there is a fire on board and she must evacuate.
    1. What should happen next: Well dis bitch would already be so dead. You can’t just navigate around space freely like you can on Earth so she wouldn’t have been able to jet-pack to any point in the first place. Also you can’t just get inside the ISS with your space suit on without assistance from the inside. OK so forgiving ALL of that, she gets to the ISS, can’t escape in the Soyuz, there’s a fire, she would die. End of story.
    2. What happens in the film: She sees in the distance a fictional Chinese station called the Tiangong. In real space everything is REALLY far away from each other so IRL it would be too far away for her to actually see. It’s also likely that the Tiangong could be around the horizon and thus not visible from the ISS. But anyway she spots it and then DRIVES THE SOYUZ OVER THERE. HOLY CRAP. I already mentioned how you can’t ‘drive around’ in space, right? Like on Earth, I can see a building in the distance, get in my car and drive (effectively in two spatial dimensions because I am not flying) to that building. But ok in space we are in 3 dimensions also you and your destination are both orbiting AKA falling at like 5 miles per SECOND. No honey you can’t just scoot on over there in the Soyuz capsule you snatched that is not even designed for space flight but is actually built for returning to Earth.
  3. Ok so Sandra drives to the Tiangong. FINE. Then she gets in an escape capsule and finally, praise God, falls towards Earth. This is unplanned, there is no trajectory. There is no mission control. She just hopin’ for the best.
    1. What should happen next: Earth is 70% ocean so she should land somewhere random in a random ocean and then drown. Alternatively, she crashes on land. Bye bye Sandra.
    2. What happens in the film: She does not land in the ocean. She does not land on land. Dis bitch lands in like FIVE FOOT DEEP WATER ON THE BLOODY COASTLINE. I wonder what % of Earth’s surface is shallow coastal water in an area that happens to also be in a nice (read: not arctic or dangerously hot) climate like where she lands. I don’t know the exact number but I’m pretty confident it is near to zero.

Geez, I hate that movie. The point is, this film is accepted as a realistic portrayal of space and propagated huge amounts of false information to the public. The public is not able to spot blatantly false information about space. And that is sad. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are some spacey things you may believe but have not given much detailed thought to.

1. Humans will be able to travel outside our solar system.

Let me lay this out for you. The distance from the sun to Pluto is about .0005 light years. I think we can all agree that Pluto is pretty far away. Still, it’s within our reach. The New Horizons spacecraft got there in less than 10 years! So freaking fast! That thing is going at over 36,000 mph. Nice. Within 100 years, travelling to Pluto will be a piece of cake. We will be capable of sending manned missions to Pluto and other other outer/exo planets. Though I’m thinking we probably will not because there’s nothing out there that is worth an in-person human visit that a robot couldn’t check out just fine.

Ok so the good part of our solar system (fuck the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud) which lies within a .0005 light year radius of us is accessible. That’s truly great. The next nearest object of interest to us is the star Proxima Centauri, so named because it is the nearest star to our solar system. That shit is 4.3 light years away. Quick review: Pluto = .0005 light years. The next fucking star = 4.3 light years. Pluto = accessible. Proxima Centauri = not accessible.

Maybe I’m underestimating future human technology. Maybe in 500 or 1000 years we will have crafts that can travel near light-speed and we will be able to get to Proxima Centauri within a reasonable amount of time. But remember, the next star after that is ANOTHER 4 light years away. Or 10, or 20, or 100. Proxima, while on a human scale is very very far away, on a universal scale is… insignificant. We are insignificant, and all the celestial bodies within our reach past, present, and future are insignificant too. We are small. We can’t help it.

In conclusion: while we will likely be able to send unmanned crafts to “nearby” points of interest outside the solar system, we will never be able to shuttle humans around, nor will there be any reason to because none of those places can support life.

Bonus: “Intergalactic” travel is even more of a fantasy and will literally be impossible forever. Try if you dare to imagine the distance from Sol to Proxima Centauri magnified from a single star-scale to a galactic scale. Nevermind, don’t try. Our primitive brains cannot comprehend a fucking galaxy. Also, the universe is expanding and galaxies are moving away from each other so the distance between them is always increasing. So even if we did depart from earth and head towards Andromeda, it would recede from us faster than we could approach it.

2. We will find life elsewhere in the universe

There is undoubtedly life elsewhere in space-time. The universe is so so vast that any scenario you can conceive of has at least some probability of occurring. It’s like Hitchhiker’s goddamn Guide to the Galaxy out there.

Just because there is life in the universe does not mean we can detect it. Our ability to observe the universe is limited to what our technology can read, what our minds can comprehend, the small time frame we inhabit, and what our four dimensions can express. Life could be all around us, just beyond the reach of these impassible barriers. Life could just be too far away for us to detect (a likely scenario, see above paragraph about how far away our neighbor star is) or maybe it existed in the past or in the future. Time is theoretically as vast as space and we take up such a tiny speck of time the way we take up a tiny speck of space. Once again, we are just too small to contend with the universe.

If we can’t discover aliens, maybe they can discover us. But if aliens exist that are capable of finding our little Earth, a needle in a trillion trillion haystacks, then they 1) are so much more advanced than us that they would not deign to contact us and 2) will have located many, many more interesting planets to visit than ours. Thems the facts.

So yes, aliens exist, but not in a way that is accessible to us.

3. If and when we establish contact with intelligent aliens, we will be able to communicate with them.

Many science fiction stories portray aliens as humanoid, able to understand English (obviously fiction) or at least having some form of language that we can decode and use to exchange information with them. Is this realistic?

Not 👏 a 👏 chance.

We have so many other beings right here on our own planet! Some of them (ex. dolphins, many primates, elephants) have their own methods of communication that we can observe, but we cannot meaningfully communicate with them.

Answer me this: if we cannot communicate with our own fellow Earthlings that have 98% or more common DNA with ourselves, how the fuck are we gonna communicate with super-advanced, possibly not carbon-based, possibly multi-dimensional beings that have for some inconceivable reason decided to pay Earth a visit and not blow it up instantly and farm the debris for resources?

Rhetorical question, obviously. We can’t.

4. We are intelligent.

I think it is clear that we are not (yet) really intelligent, if you define “intelligent” as having a decent understanding of our universe. You might think we understand the universe because our understanding is the only concept we have, but y’all, we only JUST got a picture of Pluto. We don’t even know how life started on our OWN planet. Have you heard about dark energy/dark matter, the mysterious stuff that we know exactly zero things about? This mystery thing (a force? a substance? something in another dimension that manifests itself in our dimension as gravity?) makes up 96% of our universe. We can only observe four 👏 percent 👏 of the universe right now.

So no, unfortunately we are not yet intelligent. But you know what’s amazing? We can imagine it. We little brand new humans with 3 pound brains can contemplate the beginning and the end of existence, multiverses, ridiculous things like String Theory and wormholes. That’s extraordinary. We may never be able to physically exceed the limits of our tiny plot of space-time, but our imaginations are limitless. In that way, we are intelligent.

We (Consumers) Need to be Ready for Driverless Cars

I know nothing about the inner workings of autonomous car technology. I also know nothing about how regular ICE (internal combustion engine) cars work. I do drive multiple times a day, every day. In summation, I am the perfect target consumer of a driverless car.

I have seen the videos of how driverless cars work, the feel-good story of a blind man “driving” for the first time since he lost his sight, and even incredible footage of how driverless cars deal with bizarre road scenarios (skip to 7:50, it’s mind-blowing).

I believe driverless cars are the future of personal transportation and I hope they become available soon. Every day I drive in notoriously frightening Miami-Dade county, fearing for my life as vehicles zip around, stop short, and merge unsafely. Almost every day I say (usually to myself, but sometimes to a passenger), “I can’t wait for driverless cars, I hope they come soon.”

Indeed, I would LOVE to pass off the life-threatening task of navigating I-95 to a machine designed specifically to do so. However, I have found that not everyone is as excited as me. The three most common responses from people who have not accepted the concept of autonomous vehicles are:

  1. What if it gets hacked and someone remotely crashes your car?
  2. I like driving and/or I like working on ICEs. I don’t want cars to become “just another ‘smart’ device”.
  3. What if you are in a life-or-death situation where the only two options are to hit the little kid who just ran into the street in front of you OR to swerve out of the way and hit either another car (killing the passengers) or an obstacle that would kill you?

My responses to these things are thus:

  1. What if an airplane’s autopilot gets hacked and someone remotely crashes the plane? Idk. Perhaps the car could have emergency manual controls and hand over control to the human if it detects any unauthorized access to its system. I don’t know enough about “hacking” to answer this question at all. Then again, neither do the people asking this question know enough to be asking it.
  2. I admit I cannot relate to this view because I don’t particularly enjoy the act of driving (don’t hate it either, but it is not a hobby) and I do not work on ICEs. However… is not the safety of the human population more important than the enjoyment people get out of driving cars? Over one million people die in road accidents each year… Every driverless car we put on the road replacing a driver like me who doesn’t care one way or another makes the world safer. I like to imagine a future where the vast majority of cars are driverless and accidents are incredibly rare. In such a future, traditional car enthusiasts could still drive and work on ICE cars but the overall system would be safer.
  3. First of all, I don’t think there are any real-world scenarios in which there are only two possible outcomes. Second of all, this scenario assumes that the driver can be surprised by a child jumping into the road. A human driver can be surprised, yes. But a driverless car sees in 360 degrees simultaneously and would have seen that kid coming from 30 feet away and stopped before the danger occurred. In a world where all cars are driverless, EVERY car on the road would stop long in advance to avoid hitting the child. In a world of all driverless cars, there are no accidents.

This is my thesis statement: a driverless car is better at driving than a human is. (To clarify, I’m talking about average road driving and commuting etc. Not racing, not off-road, not treacherous mountain pass with a drop-off cliff on one side etc.) Let us break it down.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Field of vision 114 degrees (binocular) with 60 to 70 peripheral 360 degrees

This is pretty self explanatory. A human can only see about 114 degrees forward. With the aid of mirrors, we can also see behind us, but at the cost of taking our eyes off what is in front of us. Driverless cars can see EVERYTHING at the same time. Everything! They don’t need mirrors! How many times have you been driving and been surprised or startled by something that came from the left or right of you, like another driver deciding to make a sudden turn when maybe they shouldn’t have? Well a driverless car would never be surprised by that because they have no right or left. No sides. Just complete, 360 degree vision. Tell me how a human can compete with that. Answer: we can’t. NEXT.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Reaction time human speed aka SLOW (half as econd?) computer speed aka FAST (microseconds?)

My usual first-page-of-Google search isn’t yielding as quick and obvious answers as I typically like, but I don’t think I need hard data to remind us all that humans are slow and dumb and computers are comparatively very fast. If you see an obstacle and need to stop, it takes at least half a second to start braking. Okay? And what if the reason for your braking is NOT in your 114 field of vision? Then you have to spend another second or two turning your head to look at it before reacting? Geez just pronounce me dead already. An autonomous car would start braking before you could even see or interpret the obstacle.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Decision making Makes occasional decisions at human speed aka SLOW Makes multiple decisions per second (I think I heard 15/second somewhere?)

Human drivers basically don’t make decisions about changing lanes or defensive maneuvers until they need to. Driverless cars are constantly analyzing their environment and always know the best maneuver to make at any moment, including defensive maneuvers. Beat that, human who is singing along to a song on the radio right now.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Distractions/focus so freaking many/unfocused literally zero/no such thing as focus because it is a computer

Every human driver is driving distracted. Even if you are not listening to the radio or talking on the phone/to a passenger, you are thinking about multiple things. No human can focus 100% on the task of driving. You are thinking about your destination. You are thinking about how annoying it is that you missed the light. You are thinking about making plans with your friends etc. A driverless car doesn’t have friends. It doesn’t have thoughts and thus cannot be distracted.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Aggressive driving LOL no

In the same way driverless cars can’t get distracted because they don’t have thoughts, they also do not have emotions that negatively affect their focus and driving. Moving on.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Mistakes many few, practically zero?

I’ll admit it. I’ve accidentally put my car in the wrong gear a time or two. Stopped at a green light. Turned into the wrong lane. Gone at a 4-way stop when maybe it wasn’t my turn. Humans make mistakes. You know who doesn’t? Autonomous cars.

As far as I can tell, there have been no major accidents involving driverless cars in the six or so years they have been being road-tested in California. Google and friends report a smattering of minor incidents which almost always involve a human behind the driverless car rear-ending it because the driverless car stopped when the human didn’t expect them to. Engineers are working on improving this. I love the accident report mentioned in this article about the human who tried to go when a different lane got a green light and their own lane was still red and they rear-ended the driverless car in front of them. I also like the one about a driverless car not continuing through an intersection when the light was green because the traffic was heavy and there was not space to make it across the intersection without blocking (praise GAWD I hate when intersections are blocked) and the human behind it kept on going. LOL humans.

Try as the nay-sayers might to denounce the concept of autonomous cars, they are clearly superior to human drivers. I hope they come to the consumer market soon and that when they do, we consumers will welcome them with open arms and start reaping the benefits of safer roads.

It sure is nice to live in The Future.


Before I delve into yet another post about how much I love technology, I’d like to begin by attempting to retell a fable of sorts that was told to me as a child by a math teacher. I am lost on the finer details of the story but I remember the gist.

Once upon there was a young boy and his father. When the father felt his son was old enough to do chores, he approached the boy and said he could have an allowance.

“I want to discuss the terms of your allowance,” the father said, seeing this as a great opportunity to each the boy a lesson in business negotiations. “Your allowance will increase along with your experience. What do you think is a fair starting wage?”

The boy thought about it. “I’d like you to start me at 1¢ per day.”

“One cent!?” The father was very surprised.

“And,” his son went on, “I’d like my pay to double each day.”

The father was disappointed. His son was asking for chump change. 1¢, 2¢, 4¢, 8¢… it was negligible! Confused, but wanting his young son to understand the concept of money, the father agreed to pay the boy 1¢ on the first day of chores, 2¢ on the second day, and continue doubling from there.

On the fifth day, the boy made 16¢.

On the sixth day, he made 32¢.

On the seventh day, he made 64¢.

On the tenth day, he made $5.12.

By the 20th day, the boy was making $5,242.88

Ok, story over, the characters don’t matter anymore because you see the point. The story illustrates the incredible multiplicative power of exponents. By the 30th day (2^29), the boy would be owed over five million dollars ($5,368,709.12).

So how does this relate to “The Future”? Consider Moore’s law, which is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. This is a somewhat outdated description that basically means computers get twice as good every two years. You know what else got twice as good for every one unit of time passed? That kid’s allowance.

In a very over simplified form, Moore’s law looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 22.02.43

Exponential numbers. grow. FAST. This equation literally goes of the charts so fast that it is painfully obvious to behold in our everyday lives. Just think… mentally compare the first generation iPhone (2007) to the current iPhone. That 1st Gen had a 2 Megapixel camera, what we in 2015 would call “potato quality”. The iPhone 6S has 12 Megapixels.

That’s just one tiny example. It boggles my mind to compare the music-listening technology of my childhood (single disc portable CD player) with today’s devices. A CD player vs an iPhone is like a tricycle vs. a McLaren. This is why I like to say “it’s good to be in the future,” “this is the future,” and the like. Because, wow, isn’t it amazing how much technology has become obsolete in my short lifetime?

No matter how amazing that all is, it pales in comparison to what awaits us in the next 15 years. On the simplified Moore graph, I figure we’re about here:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 22.02.43
Disclaimer: umm that might be kind of generous idk I’m not a scientist.

You guys, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Human technology is going to go off the charts, and the millennials are going to live to see it.

So, while I’ve been calling the present “The Future” for years, with every year that passes that joke simultaneously becomes more true and more false. More true because our technology is truly more futuristic than ever before. More false because as the slope of our graph increases, it becomes easier and easier to see how in just a few short years, we will have new technology twice as unbelievable as what we’ve achieved in the past few years. And seriously, guys, the iPhone is pretty dang unbelievable.

Can’t wait to live in The Future five years from now when I’m sitting in my self-driving car looking back at this post on my Google Glass.

Pluto is fine.

Forever rolling my eyes at people who “feel bad for Pluto”.

Pluto is a relatively small mass of ice and rock 3 billion miles away that has been constant and unchanged for longer than we can imagine with our little brains. Pluto does not have a consciousness, let alone does it care about anything, let alone does it care about humans calling it a planet or dwarf planet. You do not need to feel bad for it. Pluto is still there and NASA obviously cares about it a lot so everything is fine.

“But Jude, have you seen the meme of it crying as the New Horizons probe passes by?”

Yes, I have. Have you seen this meme that I just made? (I know it’s small, click to expand.)