The Wizard and the Prophet

I just finished reading The Wizard and the Prophet, by Charles C. Mann. The book looks at the challenges of the future (Water, Food, Energy and Climate) through the lens of two philosophies he calls Wizards (embodied by Norman Borlaug) and Prophets (embodied by William Vogt).

The book is a fantastic overview of the challenges faced by humanity, and differing solutions to them. However, I found the Wizard/Prophet dichotomy hugely irritating and distracting, undercutting the book. Each time he described a solution as belonging to the Wizard camp or Prophet camp I found myself irritated by the arbitrariness of it. He wants to build this axis along which people can be placed... but my personal feeling is that the axis is far from straight, and is generally a poor fit with reality.

Good read, recommended, even if you, like me, find yourself mocking the word Wizard and Prophet by the end.

The Mozilla Manifesto Addendum

The Mozilla Manifesto contains the ten principles that guide Mozilla's mission:

Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.

I spent my third week with Mozilla in Austin for the All-Hands meeting. There, Mitchell Baker mentioned she was working on what she called 'an addendum' to the Manifesto. Today we see the results of that Addendum, in anticipation of Mozilla's 20th birthday. Four new topics have been added to the Manifesto:

  • We are committed to an internet that includes all the peoples of the earth — where a person’s demographic characteristics do not determine their online access, opportunities, or quality of experience.
  • We are committed to an internet that promotes civil discourse, human dignity, and individual expression.
  • We are committed to an internet that elevates critical thinking, reasoned argument, shared knowledge, and verifiable facts.
  • We are committed to an internet that catalyzes collaboration among diverse communities working together for the common good.

As the blog post puts it, "We do this to explicitly address the quality of people’s experiences online". When I first heard talk of these four points at the All Hands, I knew I had found somewhere special to work. I'd also encourage you to read Mitchell Baker's Op-Ed from this morning, as it contains some of the background thinking. I quote it below:

All this is ambitious, given the current state of the internet. These ideas won’t come to life on their own. As in any human institution, real transformation will come from a huge diversity of sources.
— Mitchell Baker

When I was job hunting, I was first and foremost looking for a job with interesting projects, and a business I could live with. Instead, what I have found is an organization suffused with values I appreciate, that are core to the organization. I still kick myself at my fortune on a regular basis. 

Recently I spent four days in Mountain View, digging into the culture of Mozilla, its history, it's mission, purpose and future. I won't get too deep into the program, other than to say it was excellent. Time and time again, we returned to the manifesto and the mission. The manifesto suffuses through the work of Mozilla. Today, with the addendum, I'm particularly happy to say I'm a Mozillian.

On Driving

Just a month and a bit shy of thirty, I finally got my drivers licence.

My first time driving a vehicle I was roughly twelve, and my grandfather took me out on rural Saskatchewan roads, driving his 1960s era Chevy truck. I remember sitting on the bench seat, trying to push that clutch. It was very challenging to get it down, but the truck was forgiving, and I was able to drive it. I seem to recall I even got it up to 60 at one point.

I got my first learners permit about ten years ago, at the urging of my now wife. It took me two tries, after flubbing a question too many on the first attempt. Learning to drive didn't go well. I wasn't personally particularly invested in doing it, and so at the first challenge, I essentially walked away from the notion. Mostly I was just happy I had ID I could use when trying to go to a bar with my friends.

For ten years afterwards, I got by without driving. I used transit, and had Andrea, who has loved driving for years.

Moving to Ottawa though made it pretty clear I was going to need to know how to drive. Winters are not particularly forgiving to just random exploration on transit. Plus, if we start a family, it's important we both be able to drive the car somewhere! So last year I started saving for Drivers Ed, wrote my G1 (learners) exam in Ontario, and then finally took lessons.

I was so nervous about writing my G2 road test. I booked the day off work, and booked some extra driving hours with my instructor earlier in the day. When it was finally time for the exam, it flew past so quickly I was shocked. I pulled into the parking lot on at the testing centre, parked the car, and the examiner said "Congratulations, you passed!". I was tempted to reply "Are you sure?"

I've since been practicing driving standard with Andrea. After a little bit of awkwardness trying to find the clutch point near the beginning, I am happy to report now I've managed to drive a few different big routes, and am starting to feel much more comfortable driving. Both in general, being a person on the road, as well as driving standard.

I've still never driven the car alone, but I am excited for that day in a way that I am sort of surprised to report. My dislike of driving doesn't seem to be standing particularly strong.