Resilience and the Finnish approach of ‘sisu’


There are times when we start to feel more so than others times that we need to exhibit courage to help make the world a better place. But this can come at a huge cost to the self. It’s important to remember that things are rarely a sprint, and always a marathon. I came across this interesting article that expresses a philosophy on how to sustain courage.

Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. It is a word that cannot be fully translated. It defines the Finnish people and their character. It stands for the philosophy that what must be done will be done, regardless of cost.

Sisu is an inherent characteristic of the Finnish people. You might call it backbone, spunk, stamina, guts, or drive and perseverance. It is a measure of integrity that surpasses the hardship and sees through to the end.

Recalling one of my most fun Uber rides


My Uber driver in San Diego was born in Somalia. He guessed that I was from India or Pakistan and started speaking to me in Hindi. I asked him how he knew the language, and he said he got it from the movies. Then he mentioned that he actually grew up in Kenya. So I asked him in Swahili “Habari za ngombe” (how are your cows?) and we started laughing. And for the rest of the conversation we switched between Hindi and Swahili 😂

Looking at racial dynamics through the lens of majority & minority groups


Let’s ignore specific race for a second. The larger lens to use is majority & minority groups. In any society there will always be a majority group and a minority group.

A person in a majority group enjoys a certain level of privilege. By basic math, they enjoy higher levels of representation. They have easier options for addressing their grievances. e.g. showing up armed or just threatening violence can shut down the government and change policy.

A person in a minority group doesn’t enjoy the same privilege. By basic math, they have significantly lower levels of representation. They don’t have the same avenues for addressing their grievances. e.g. When they kneel peacefully, they are criticized. When they block roads, they are criticized. And very little actually changes.

Fairness requires the rules to be applied differently to the two groups to account for this difference in privilege & representation. Our justice system uses this heuristic all the time. A single parent of two kids in school is shown more leniency for the very same reason.

When the underlying power dynamic is unfair, equal treatment ends up being oppressive towards the minority group. This can often feel counterintuitive to people who belong to the majority group.

This is not about specific race. It’s about majority / minority groups. In a setting where the math of the US demographic is reversed, white people will be the oppressed class.

majority group, minority group

Comparing transit trends in 2020 across Sweden, Germany, UK


Comparing city transit data in 2020 across 3 major cities. Stockholm (Sweden), Berlin (Germany), London (UK). Can you guess which one is which?

One of them apparently doesn’t have a lockdown in place 😇 Can we see how responsible Swedes are? Without mandatory measures, without having to shut down anything, they have voluntarily self-isolated, and taken steps to mitigate risk.

The difference in policy mainly reflects the level of trust and the bias people have towards acting in a responsible manner. It translates to very little difference on the ground. Sweden is far from “no lockdown” as some might have as believe.

We want to get back to “normal” and be more like Sweden, this is what that sustainable normal looks like.

Source: Moovit

Covid Watch, an open-source, non-profit, decentralized contact tracing solution, needs more volunteers


As some of you might know, I’ve been working with my friends Victoria Lee, Isaiah Becker-Mayer, Jo Sanders on Covid Watch, a decentralized, privacy-first, contact tracing solution led by Tina White and others.

Widespread testing and Contact tracing is one of the best options we have for moving things towards the normal again. The key issue with other contact tracing solutions is privacy, risk of surveillance and abuse, or lack of adoption / usefulness.

Covid Watch came out of Stanford, Waterloo et al and is the inventor of the first decentralized, anonymous Bluetooth protocol that is now used by the global TCN coalition. It also advocated to Apple & Google to make this a part of their OSes and that’s exactly what is happening soon. We already have an app ready to go based on an OS update that is coming to all phones soon.

Covid Watch is in very advanced talks with public health departments around the world and is about to start pilots to evaluate the tracing protocol in the field and to identify last mile integration with health department and manual contact tracing systems. We are one of the only solutions that so far along that preserves full anonymity, while still scaling contact tracing; and our solution puts the user in full control of every aspect. e.g. it is similar to how your phone can keep track of your daily steps, but you have full control on which app can access it and can also see transparently exactly what that data contains at any time.

Covid Watch is fully open source and is a non-profit.

100+ volunteers are already working on this and we need more people to join. Things are moving very fast and the growth is more exponential than any startup I have ever seen. If you have the time / capacity / interest, please check out the link below

AI to re-colorize old photos and videos


Some very promising projects that are re-colorizing old photos and videos.

A project called De Oldify has shared some very impressive results.

DeOldify is a state of the art way to colorize black & white images. You can try it right now by visiting the free Google Colab notebook for photos or video. The notebooks are open source, and available to all.

And another project at Neural Love has some impressive videos.

We do video upscalingOur machine-learning masterpiece is built on top of an ensemble of neural networks that can upscale, add FPS, colorize, remove noise and much more

A very touching essay: I took a “black walk” this morning


Came across this excellent essay which is a very good read.

I took a black walk this morning. I took a black walk through a white neighborhood. When I take black walks, I think black thoughts. I am conscious of where I’ve placed my gun, my gun, and my gun. I mean, my phone, my wallet, and my keys. Because Peace Officers have a hard time telling the difference. I rehearse what I’ll say if a concerned resident, or a law enforcement employee has questions about why my black body is walking through their white space. And I remind myself to make sure the law enforcement employee has his body camera recording. Sometimes it helps if there is video evidence to accompany the hashtag.

There is no way to be stealthy when you take a black walk. White neighborhoods are blanketed by a sophisticated security system comprised of nosy neighbors, Ring doorbell cameras, and white women walking their dogs. So, I’ve learned to notice the white world through my periphery. To be aware of the dangers without acknowledging them. There is an art to making white people feel safe. To say “Good Morning” and flash a smile that shows confidence and deference at the same time. To being polite because your life depends on it.

I felt the squad car behind me before I saw it.

It moved deliberately. Not like the other cars mindlessly whizzing past. Its tires inched. Crept. Stalked their way toward me.

I kept walking.

“Don’t take your hands out of your pockets,” I thought. Or wait, maybe I should? Maybe it’s better if my hands are clearly empty. But it’s cold outside…maybe it’s nothing. Keep walking.

The car rolled past me and made a slow right turn. I glanced quickly but didn’t stare. The air is still. My ears tuned out everything but the slight scuff of my sneakers on the sidewalk and the fading sound of those stalking tires.

Almost there.

Suddenly the squad car re-emerged. It was a block ahead of me. It made a quick right turn, continued to the end of the street, and then waited. No more stalking. This was a show of force. This was a roar. This was a reminder that I was trespassing.

I kept walking.

As I approached the corner, the front window began to roll down. The occupant didn’t speak. Didn’t smile. Just stared. I was being warned.

I crossed the street and the lion trotted off. He had effectively marked his territory. The brave protector had done his job.

I however, couldn’t help but wonder what I’d missed during my black walk. It’s hard to hear the birds chirping, or to smile at the squirrels playfully darting along the branches when you’re on a black walk. It’s easy to miss the promise of a light blue sky, or appreciate the audacity of the red, yellow, and purple daisies declaring their independence from the green grass when your mind is preoccupied with black thoughts.

I took a walk through a beautiful neighborhood this morning. But I missed the whole thing.

David Summers