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.