About Me & This Blog

Seven years ago, I changed careers from theoretical physics to engineering, and discovered a deep love for understanding the things which make real-world systems work. This blog comes from that interest; while it discusses everything from AI to Middle East politics, the shared thread is seeing how things work in the real world, what makes them work well or poorly, and how they can be changed for the better.The interests reflected here are my own eclectic set. Some of them come from my professional or academic background — engineering, physics, history. Others come from long-running passions of mine; I’ve been a news junkie since I was seven, played the piano since before that, and have read avidly and widely for as long as I can remember.

Open questions

Some of the questions I’m presently most interested in are:

  • Passive sensing: What can we learn about extremely complex systems – like economies and countries – by watching the unavoidable but “minor-seeming” side effects of everyday actions? Information leaks from every one of our actions; can this information be studied to give us useful insights into the world? And how will these insights be used, and who will have the power to use them?
  • Society and its future: Where is our world heading over the next year? Decade? Century? Can we understand present trends (political, demographic, resource usage, physical) well enough to guess the ways in which these changes might unfold?
  • Law: Gen. Wesley Clark once said that, a hundred years from now, the only things we’ll leave behind which matter are the environment and constitutional legitimacy. America is running a great experiment in democracy; preserving this needs every available eye on the system and every hand on the wheel. Look for discussion of laws and court rulings, especially ones which affect the foundations of our political structure.
  • Design: What makes for good design? How is this different in different arts? What can we learn from this?

Who am I?

Professionally, I’m a principal engineer at Google and Chief Architect for Social. My primary responsibility is the overarching technical design of Google’s social products, especially the Google+ Project. I’ve been at Google since 2003, during which time I’ve worked on artificial intelligence (in the search quality / ranking team), search infrastructure (as head of the ultra-high capacity search group), and planet-scale distributed storage.

Before that, I was at Stanford’s Institute for Theoretical Physics, where I worked on using unconventional geometries and topologies (noncommutative, twistor, etc) to study the low-level structure of spacetime. My physics papers are available via the arXiv.

During my undergraduate and graduate careers, I became very interested in history — first in Late Antiquity and then in the early Middle Ages. My core interest was initially in social history and the study of daily life in these periods, and gradually mixed with my existing interest in religion to an especial interest in the religious history of these periods. This led to extensive coursework and research, and almost led to my doing a graduate minor. Lately I’ve been moving my eye backwards a bit and starting to study the emergence of monotheism in the Late Bronze Age Middle East.

I come from a large Jewish, Israeli family. On the religious side, it varies from the ultra-Orthodox (In the rabbi business for over 2,500 years) to ultra-secular (Karl Marx is my Nth cousin), and watching this discourse play out left me deeply interested in all the related matters, from individual faith (and how it differs for people) to the social meaning of religion. On the political side, you can’t grow up with wars breaking out at the drop of a hat and not become a news junkie. You just can’t. So I read it compulsively. And analyze it compulsively, looking for signals of what’s really going on and what’s about to happen.

The Really Important Disclaimer

This is my personal blog, not an official Google blog. All statements and opinions on this blog are my own (or those of the respective commenters), and do not necessarily represent those of my employer or of anyone else.

Published on July 7, 2010 at 06:35  Comments (31)  

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31 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. (Belated) Thank You.
    You commented to a blog of July 27, 2010.
    My patent application is serious, not a joke.
    My e-mail, as you may now see, is real.
    I’m not out much in public, because I don’t want the potential fanatical religious suicide bomb-wielding terrorist(s) to find me.

  2. Do you have google plus invites i can’t wait this any longer

  3. What a thoughtful auto-bio. Thanks for sharing these details. Your interests and accomplishments are an inspiration.

  4. hi there, good evening to all

    this is my first time using this medium
    I have created a serious Math Formula. Do u wish to discuss?

  5. What makes for good design? In my opinion decent and honest leadership. Without it, everything else crumbles. Regarding law, as much freedom as possible. On society and its future, a complete restructuring of the educational system accessible to all. Passive sensing is something each of us have to understand before it can be utilized. Its more abstract to me than the other topics, however I seem to understand it naturally. Overall, Leadership, Education and Freedom. Hmm…it sounds like a great experiment!

  6. It Sounds Great. I would like to talk to you off of a forum. Like email.
    “So Mott it Be”.

  7. Trataré de enviarte unos datos por e-mail.

  8. You post very interesting articles here. Your blog
    deserves much more visitors. It can go viral if you
    give it initial boost, i know useful tool that can help you,
    simply type in google: svetsern traffic tips

  9. Hi admin do you need unlimited articles for your site ?
    What if you could copy article from other pages, make it unique
    and publish on your blog – i know the right tool for you, just type in google:
    loimqua’s article tool

  10. Thank you for your recent blog post. I’m sharing, it’s refreshing, helpful -worth taking time to understand better.

  11. Looking forward to reading more from you and your blog

  12. I think that the phone number you have on Google+ now belongs to my trainer at the gym. When he calls or texts me, your face shows up on my phone.

    BTW I’m a fan of Jeff Jarvis and Gina Trapani.

    Dean Farrar (Long Beach, CA)

  13. Hello, some time ago you wrote an article about france and islam, particularly regarding the recent events in Paris, I invited you to chat as I was deeply shocked by what you wrote and its incorrect claims. Have you ever lived in France? Paris? its difficult to get real perspective without the experience of living in the country which would have demonstrated that the great majority of Frances Muslims are first and foremost MUSLIM, then FRENCH and there is no love lost for the country. There is a comon goal here and we are not talking scare mongering but true life lived by myself. I hope you have no female relations that ever have to leave their country because of the lack of protection they face every single day, rape, assault at the least, basically constact abuse, you will no doubt remove my comment and refuse to speak with me. My father fought for france, my children received the same education in predominantly muslim classes where they were always the minority. In 2004 I got cancer, I always had to wait until all our excited violent muslims were treated to get my radiotherapy treatment… this is true life, wake up! vous ne connaissez aucunement paris et sa vie quotidienne monsieur, si votre pouvoir de press est si forte, utiliser la pour le franc et vrai parlé, pas ces conneries
    lorraine caplan, used to live at 1 rue du marche popincourt, paris 75011

    • Zunger’s genetics compel him to hate white nations which is why he wants to see them conquered by muslims. This is (((their))) timeless agenda. Look up Coudenhove-Calergi.

  14. I was randomly clicking on stuff (I call it exploring) on my new computer (set up by a friend) and came across the google plus page. Right there I saw a picture which made me click on it….I had to… What is the cover picture of the “Today I Learned” page? My first instinct was that it was the Nova Laser from Lawrence Livermore Laboratories (though I’ve never seen it in person).

  15. Hello Yonatan!

    I’m a freelance radio producer with NPR, MTV, Slate and others. Looking to get in touch! Please reach out to me at randyscottcarroll@gmail.com

  16. Re: your theory on coup attempt….This set off alarm bells for me the moment he said it and should also be watched closely. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/sun-investigates/bs-md-sun-investigates-feds-0129-20170128-story.html

  17. Interesting – I left this comment today on the Guardian website, before reading your article, I was happy to read your article – I’m not completely round the bend yet it seems…I am based in the UK but not British – so we have Brexit to contend with also.

    “I have the suspicion that the lack of guidance given by the administration was cynical and deliberate, coming directly out of Steve Bannon’s book of public relations tricks (which undoubtedly leans on long traditions of similar methods by unsavoury regimes in the not too distant past):

    The Order was signed last Friday, good timing, with Theresa May out of the way to her next date with another undemocratic strong-man.

    No detail or explanations seem to have been given to the departments who then were responsible for carrying out orders. As is often the case with uncertainty felt by sub-ordinates, they err on the side of caution and out of self-interest or misplaced ‘duty’ go for the extreme interpretation (where there is a vacuum, people will fill it…especially bureaucrats, look at Vichy France…), hence Green Card holders were handcuffed, Congress Men were barred from talking to officials, people were sent back on planes, anarchy reigns… of course the administration knows that the liberals would vehemently protest, and that’s ok, that’s to be expected, that expends loads of liberal energy on stuff that by and large in the next 24hrs or so, is put right by the ‘magnanimous’ administration…

    And yes, the next thing that happens is that Trump’s people appear to be ‘reasonable, ‘give in’ a little – actually no, the ban doesn’t apply to Green Card holders, or at least, if they hand over their life story, they might be allowed in, and dual-nationality people from ‘nice’ countries, including the UK, are supposedly suddenly kosher too. So inadvertently, we feel a communal sense of relief – it ain’t so bad after all!! There are the pics in the media with smiley people clutching their loved ones coming out of airports, ahhhh happy ending! And Mo is allowed in after all, sigh of relief in the Daily Mail and Telegraph and among our Tory fraternity!

    Meanwhile, the fear-factor – because that’s the most important emotion that the administration wants to sustain longer-term, after the anger has ebbed away – is what they’re after: No dual-nationality citizen, no Green Card holder will feel the same again travelling in and out of the US: It doesn’t matter whether they are lawfully moving about or not, Trump has shown them that he can make their lives hell regardless, so they’d better shut the f.. up and obey the regime. The same will be for anyone originating from any Muslim country, they’ll feel different, and they’ll feel unease.

    Meanwhile, Trump has had maximum publicity about the measures he took, so even the dumbest of his supporters will have heard about it, and combined with the naturally “hysterical” responses from his ‘liberal opponents’ this makes for a lovely package of media message that says ‘finally a politician that sticks to his words, and look how the liberals can’t stand it”. That the protests are about the unlawfulness of his actions, that Trump’s people are even happy to defy court orders, and that people’s lives have been put at risk, is completely lost in the melee.”

  18. Your coup analysis is really disturbing, and leaves open the question, “Who will arrest these traitors when DHS, FBI, Border Security, etc. are hobbled and controlled by the White House?” Secret Service vs. private security?

    I’m not surprised about this voter revolt, hence my draft legislation intended to avert this catastrophe, The Fair Elections Fund–a Whole New Ball Game©. How it was developed in in my new OpEdNews article, “ACA and Democracy in Danger.” @thefairelection

  19. […] author of this blog– he’s a “Distinguished Engineer” at Google re privacy:   Yonatan Zunger  Here’s his clear […]

  20. Sir,

    I read your two blog post ‘What “Things Going Wrong” Can Look Like’ and ‘Trial Balloon for a Coup?’ and hated doing so. It is not that I think you are wrong, I really do think you are right and thank you for your blog posts, but I really do not like the direction that the current Trump Administration is taking. His Presidency is going to be too long, even if it ended today.

    When things are going reasonably well for people it is not hard to go along for the ride. But the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent actions are going to test people. And many are going to fail. The longevity of the Nazi government in Germany was in large part done with people overlooking things that were wrong and only paying attention to the positives that they saw. It is too easy to do the same thing with this as well,as long as I am not the target of his attacks.

    It is my desperate hope that people remember that while they may agree to some of the actions by the Trump Administration the overall actions are against the things that they really stand for. We have to overcome our fears and that is hard,especially when the easy way out is to just not look very hard at some things.

    Things are going to be different after the Trump Presidency and I really hope that in the end we all can come out better for it. Every country evolves over time and the USA has had less then stellar points in their past before. It is my hope that the country evolves to make itself stronger again and that it does not devolve to something as evil as the Nazi regime. Germany is such a much better place today.

    Thank you for your thought provoking blog posts. We have let too much slide since 9/11 and now it really is time to make up for our failures to act when we should. I only hope that enough good people, and I want to be among that group, stand up to the wrongs being done and that the world recovers some sanity.

  21. Details, it’s all about details: “changed for the better.The interests”
    And presentation and spacing…

  22. […] the link to this Israeli Jew’s blog. I guess Google couldn’t find a good American engineer? Yeah, […]

  23. add to your list of accomplishments paranoiac irresponsible attention hound who, while our nation is seething with real irrationality, throws gasoline on the fire with a completely evidence-free screed accusing POTUS of plotting a coup of this nation.

    One day you’ll gtfu and see yourself as you are, and you’ll feel shame. Either that or this shitty piece of assholery will freeze you in time and maturity forever, marking the high point of your emotional development and forever separating you from the richness of life and subtlety of understanding that real adult cognition rewards people with, people who take life seriously and eschew opportunistic, ego-gratifying displays.

    • I doubt that one day you’ll gtfu and see yourself as you are, and you will not feel shame. A higher intellect and emotional maturity would be required.

  24. […] takeover of the Federal government by the Trump inner circle?  Remember the quote from Yonatan Zunger that I sent yesterday—here it is below? I would venture that Trump will continue to push […]

  25. Really appreciate your analytical skills, your obvious “old school” scholarly bent and CV…highly Qualitative in addition to Quantitative branches of empiricism. Have you read any of Phillip Wander’s studies or works?

    Keep up the good work, Yonder. If ever you wish to go on record against Zionism from a posture of the protection of Judaism, or even respect for competent atheism, I’d love to read more about your intellectual evolution.

    For now, I leave you with a final source of what I believe to good information regarding the truth of WWII and what it was for (not primarily, but how Zionism in both Christianity and Jewry utilized it).

    JohnSacks.net and “Eye for An Eye.”

  26. Right from the beginning I said that Trump’s rallies reminded me of what I had read of Hitler’s beer hall rallies. I think you may be right. It’s a very scary time.

  27. Mr Chief architect of Social for Google,

    You have failed. You clearly don’t understand history. You clearly are stuck in a momentary world of managing engineering outcomes.

    There is not Google social. How does that compare to the real world of feelings? How does that compare to what folks do every day?

    Not trolling, just looking at how much history you can handle.


  28. Rationale for those without tolerance that preach tolerance reminds me of then POTUS little Bush saying torture was ok if used against those who did not sign a treaty saying they wouldn’t use torture.. Hmmm? like a Christian saying he could kill someone who is not Christian…same rationale? Then couldn’t someone who is Pro Life say they could have an abortion because the fetus isn’t Pro LIfe yet?

  29. Hi Yonatan,

    I loved your article on why barbs are red – it’s great when big visible chunks of our world point to interesting physics. I hope you don’t mind, but I did notice a few mistakes. In particular your discussion of eV and wavelength is strangely off. I always remember how these two relate (approximately) from the Band gap of silicon – about 1 micron and about 1 eV. I think your numbers are off by nearly an irder of magnitude. Cheers,


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