How New Health Care Platforms Will Improve Patient Care

Executive Summary

As care becomes more centered on the patient and the number of touchpoints and data inputs increases, care teams need a “single pane” view of the entire patient journey. In response, many health systems have begun to partner with a variety of CRM platforms such as Salesforce that have developed workflows and capabilities to meet the unique challenges of patient engagement and enable system-wide “care traffic control.” Bringing together data from parer apps and services, the platform gives the organization a shared view of the patient – including medical history, insurance, scheduled appointments, preferences – all in one place.

David Crunelle/EyeEm/Getty Images

Hardly a day goes by without another new entrant declaring its foray into healthcare. Through a series of strategic acquisitions, Best Buy expanded from selling electronics and deploying its Geek Squad for repairs to providing home health services and remote monitoring. As the company’s president suggested, achieving the goal of reducing healthcare’s spiraling costs will require some “interesting new bedfellows.”

Among these bedfellows is Lyft, which launched a healthcare-specific offering to reduce costly no-shows and remove transportation barriers for patients, especially those with chronic disease. Care teams can now order a ride in the same workflow as they do blood tests and, under some plans, have it covered by insurance. Then there’s the explosion of apps, virtual consults and health chat bots making up the telemedicine market, which is expected to grow to $64 billion in the U.S. over the next five years.

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    Improving patient outcomes and experience.

What these trends point to is a dramatic expansion over the coming years of healthcare’s “front door” as the locus of care shifts from the hospital or clinic to patients themselves — at work, home, or wherever their smartphones take them. Paired with a shift to value-based care and alignment of incentives to outcomes, this burst of innovation offers the promise of a more personalized approach to medicine focused on keeping patients well and out of the hospital, reducing overall cost of care. But it also brings with it some significant challenges that demand new approaches and safeguards.

“Care traffic control”

As care becomes more centered on the patient and the number of touchpoints and data inputs increases, care teams need a “single pane” view of the entire patient journey — what John Halamka, executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center of Beth Israel Lahey Health, has cleverly termed “care traffic control.” Orchestrating care and integrating data across an increasingly diverse and potentially virtualized care team requires new tools and what Halamka has called “a new paradigm for team-based communication and wellness.” Just as the retail industry has embraced knowledge sharing and omni-channel engagement through CRM platforms, so is healthcare recognizing the need for a coordinated approach to managing patient relationships.

In response, many health systems have begun to partner with a variety of CRM platforms that have developed workflows and capabilities to meet the unique challenges of patient engagement and enable system-wide care traffic control. For example, Piedmont Healthcare, a health system serving more than 2 million people across Georgia, partnered with Salesforce to help them deliver, engage and personalize care at scale. Bringing together data from partner apps and services, the platform gives the organization a shared view of the patient — including medical history, insurance, scheduled appointments, preferences — all in one place.

Piedmont care teams can get a more complete view of the patient by seeing medical history alongside information on employment, socioeconomic status, and other social determinants of health. In-home providers can access the same patient profiles to flag gaps around things like healthy food access or transportation that could land patients with chronic conditions back in the hospital. Armed with this data and the insights generated, outreach teams can send reminders or run targeted campaigns around things like nutrition classes to engage patients in more personalized ways. The ultimate goal is to deliver a more coordinated, tailored patient experience at a lower total cost of care.

While some might argue that EHRs can and should play this role of a unifying platform, most were never designed around patients and their full journey of care beyond the walls of a hospital or health system. Also, the average health system is challenged with integrating data and coordinating care across 18 different EHR systems across its various affiliated providers. A patient-relationship platform that sits atop these otherwise disconnected systems can provide a coordinated view of the patient journey that’s otherwise sorely lacking.

Achieving the goal of truly personalized, patient-centered care still runs up against chronic and systemic interoperability challenges. But the expansion of digital health and the entry of Big Tech players such as Apple, Amazon and others have gradually shifted the calculus and created incentives for legacy EHR vendors and health systems to embrace a more open exchange of data. The rapid move across the industry to data-sharing via APIs using FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standards is a positive sign that the industry’s information silos may finally be breaking down.

Navigating the healthcare data tsunami

Even with the right tools in place, coordinating patient care across an expanded and more diverse ecosystem will only get more challenging with the tsunami of data coming from these new sources. A recent International Data Corporation report predicts a 36% growth rate for healthcare data over the next five years, faster than in any other industry. With every month that passes, new smart medical devices appear and more app-using patients begin to monitor their health, expecting the resulting data to be sent to their doctors and EHRs. Early in 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services responded with a proposed rule calling on the healthcare industry to take steps to give patients “safe, secure access to, and control over, their healthcare data.”

But what does this actually mean? With no certification process in place for medical apps, how are newly empowered patients to choose which are trustworthy and effective? Likewise, what criteria are providers to use for prescribing apps or accepting and validating the data coming from them? As John Torous, MD, director of digital psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has demonstrated, we have yet to figure out how to conduct randomized trials for apps the way we do for drugs. Thus, it’s hard to distinguish apps with therapeutic benefit from those that are just marketing hype. Along with questions of validation come equally important questions of usability. For the data from a validated app or device to be usable, rules need to be written to separate a signal from the noise — for example, what heart rate patterns from a remotely monitored CHF patient get ignored and which trigger an alert to the EHR. Much more work is needed to wrestle with these thorny issues in order to effectively translate clinical skills into digital care delivery.

Finally, as empowering as it sounds to give patients control over their data, we know all too well from recent breaches and scandals how this opens up their data to exploitation. A recent study of 24 of the top medical apps available on the market found that 79% shared user data in ways that might compromise privacy. As data moves into patient hands, the traditional role of the physician as trusted gatekeeper begins to break down. If you share health information with your physician, she has privacy obligations. If you share it with Alexa or Google Home, the same privacy rules don’t apply. We need to educate patients to the risk versus reward of these technologies and evolve data privacy regulations to match new realities.

Healthcare is at an inflection point, awkwardly poised between traditional care delivery models — with their benefits and well-documented shortcomings — and a wave of new, exciting but largely untested offerings and interventions. A healthy dose of skepticism and vigilance is needed as companies and investors look to ride the wave and seize near-term rewards. But the promise of more personalized, patient-centered and outcomes-based healthcare is real, worthy, and within reach.


Partisan Antipathy: More Intense, More Personal

October 10, 2019

Partisan Antipathy: More Intense, More Personal

Majority of Republicans say Democrats are ‘more unpatriotic’ than other Americans

Three years ago, Pew Research Center found that the 2016 presidential campaign was “unfolding against a backdrop of intense partisan division and animosity.” Today, the level of division and animosity – including negative sentiments among partisans toward the members of the opposing party – has only deepened.

Growing shares in both parties give ‘cold’ ratings to those in opposing partyThe share of Republicans who give Democrats a “cold” rating on a 0-100 thermometer has risen 14 percentage points since 2016 – with virtually all of the increase coming in “very cold” ratings (0-24). Democrats’ views of Republicans have followed a similar trajectory: 57% give Republicans a very cold rating, up from 41% three years ago.

The survey by Pew Research Center was conducted Sept. 3-15 among 9,895 adults (it was completed before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Sept. 24 announcement of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump). It finds that both Republicans and Democrats express negative views about several traits and characteristics of those in the opposing party, and in some cases these opinions have grown more negative since 2016.

For example, 55% of Republicans say Democrats are “more immoral” when compared with other Americans; 47% of Democrats say the same about Republicans. Three years ago, 47% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats said members of the other party were less moral than other people.

For the most part, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to ascribe negative characteristics to people in the opposing party, with one exception: 75% of Democrats say Republicans are “more closed-minded” than other Americans, while 64% of Republicans say the same about Democrats.

Most partisans view the other side as ‘closed-minded’; Republicans see Democrats as ‘unpatriotic’ Yet Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to view members of the opposing party as unpatriotic. A 63% majority of Republicans say that, compared with other Americans, Democrats are “more unpatriotic.” Just 23% of Democrats say the same about Republicans.

The survey also finds that partisan hostility extends beyond politics. Fewer than half of Democrats (45%) and just 38% of Republicans say that while members of the other party feel differently about politics, they share many of their other values and goals. Majorities in both parties say those in the opposing party do not share their nonpolitical values and goals.

As prior surveys on partisan polarization have shown, partisans who are highly attentive to politics are most likely to express negative sentiments about the opposing party. For example, both Republicans and Democrats who follow government and public affairs most of the time are more likely to give cold ratings to members of the other party – and warm ratings to their fellow partisans – than those who follow government less closely.

Even as Republicans and Democrats have grown more critical of each other, they acknowledge – and voice concern about – the partisanship dividing the nation. Overwhelming majorities in both parties (85% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats) say divisions between the two parties are increasing. Similar shares express concern about the partisan divide, with about half in each party saying they are very concerned about this.

Republicans and Democrats say they can’t agree on ‘basic facts’Partisans also generally agree about their inability to agree on “basic facts.” Overall, 73% of the public – including 77% of Republicans and 72% of Democrats – say that voters in both parties “not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on the basic facts.”

These are among the other important findings from the survey on how partisans view each other and the political parties:

Majorities of Americans describe both parties as ‘too extreme.’ More Americans say the Democratic Party than Republican Party is described well by such phrases as “is respectful and tolerant of different types of people,” “cares about the middle class” and “governs in an honest and ethical way.” But nearly identical majorities say each party is described at least somewhat well by the phrase “is too extreme in its positions” (63% say this about the Republican Party, 61% about the Democratic Party).

Partisan ‘leaners’ also are hostile to the opposing party. Independents who lean toward the Republican and Democratic parties are much less likely than those who identify with a party to express warm feelings about the people in their own parties. But large majorities of Republican and Democratic leaners give cold ratings to the people in the opposing party, and there are only modest differences between leaners and partisan identifiers in these views.

Majority of Democrats want a presidential candidate who seeks ‘common ground’ with GOP. Nearly six-in-ten Democrats (58%) say it is more important for a Democratic presidential candidate, if elected, to find common ground with Republicans on policies even if that means giving up some things Democrats really want, while 41% say it’s more important to push hard for Democratic policies even if it’s harder to get things done. By contrast, about half of Republicans (53%), say Donald Trump should push hard for GOP policies even if that means less gets done; 45% say he should make compromises with Democrats even if that means giving up things Republicans really want.

via Pew Research Center

Mastering The Art of A Worry-Free Life

At one time or another, we’ve all been around worried family or friends. Sometimes, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say, so we say something fast and easy like “Everything’s going to be okay”, “You’ll be fine”, or worse, “Stop worrying”.

It’s as if we think we can change behavior with a smile and a few words of encouragement.

Well, words mean nothing.

Not when you’re the one without a job and no way to pay the mortgage. Not when you’re the one who is on their third round of chemotherapy or it’s your kid who won’t get out of bed because he’s being bullied at school.

Don’t worry?

Tell that to the single parent struggling to raise five children.

We don’t need words. We need an action plan.

It’s no secret that we live in a fragile world. Sometimes, it seems as if we’re just one terrorist cell away from disaster, one bank crisis away from economic collapse, and one missing gene away from Alzheimer’s.
In a matter of seconds, tornado’s rip streets apart and earthquakes destroy entire cities. One minute you’re healthy and the next, you have breast cancer.

Yes, life changes and surprises. It also breaks hearts and challenges. It can leave us anxious and in a constant state of worry. And if this sounds like a half-empty glass of water I’m pouring, nothing could be further from the truth.

I still believe we have a choice and it’s a choice that can transform our lives.

We can throw sheets over our heads and let worry destroy us. Another option is to find a way to flip worry on its head so we can begin enjoying the lives we were meant to live.

Here are 6 ways to live a worry-free life:

Step 1: Accept That Worry Doesn’t Help

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Mark Twain

I wouldn’t object to worrying if it can help our lives. But, the fact is, worrying won’t pay the rent or stop an aneurysm from exploding in our brain. And I’ve never seen a hurricane that could be stopped by a few hours of nail biting.

Worrying does nothing to help us deal with what we’re anxious about. It doesn’t make us

more creative, smarter, engaging or productive. Go ahead, worry 24 hours a day, 52 weeks a year. After that, see for yourself if worrying made your life better.

While seeing through this illusion of worry won’t immediately put you into a Zen-like state of bliss, it will hopefully give you more energy. It will free up your mind long enough to see practical solutions to your problems. It will hopefully lead you to action.

Step 2: Stay In The Moment

“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”Author Unknown

The problem with worry is that it exists almost entirely in the past and the future.
We spend so much time and energy worrying about what has already happened. We think about what might happen in the future that we have no time for today. This not only keeps our worries spinning alive, but weakens us, kills our spirit, and robs us of joy.

Staying in the moment is at the heart of any worry-free program. Volumes have been written on the subject and, to be honest, you could spend a lifetime mastering it.

Here is what you can do right now to get started:

  • Engage in activities that keep you in the moment. Deep breathing exercises work. You can do yoga, meditation, gardening, reading, running or swimming. You can also consider taking a walk in the woods or a bike ride at the beach. Humor, volunteering, and doing virtually anything you’re passionate about can help, too.
  • Surround yourself with people who live in the present moment. Children are good with this. Older people, outdoor types, athletes, and creatives excel at this, too. With a little effort, you’ll find your own role models. Spend enough time with them and it’ll rub off. At first these people might get on your nerves. That’s just your worried, uncomfortable self cringing at the idea of letting go. Stay with it.

Catch yourself living in the past or the future as often as you can. Notice regret as it pops up. Recognize when you start thinking about what might or might not happen tomorrow. Catch all these “past and future” moments and bring yourself back to the moment you’re living in.

Step 3: Stop Looking For Bad Things To Worry About

“He that seeks trouble always finds it.” – English Proverb

Turn off the news, switch off talk radio, stop reading newspapers, and avoid all conversations with people who only want to talk about how screwed up the world is. You know who they are.

The more you think, talk or obsess about something, the faster you’ll bring more of it into your life. After all, it’s hard enough to stop worrying about your own problems, let alone have to take on those of the world. Don’t pile on more.

Step 4: Start Looking For Good Things to Be Happy About

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus

be happy

It’s a law of the universe that two objects can’t occupy the same place at the same time. This applies to our thoughts as well. It’s not enough to want to rid ourselves of worried thoughts, we need to replace those worries with something positive to think about.

In other words, stop focusing on the approaching hurricane and start thinking about the family you’re huddled around with in the basement.

Worry isn’t going to go away easily. We have to fight it with everything we have. And what we have are our children, spouses, and loved ones. We have sunsets, stars, oceans, mountains, our beating hearts and strong minds and our endless capacity to love. It’s called gratitude and it works.

See Also: 11 Simple Ways To Make Yourself Happy Again

Step 5: Be Prepared, Then Let Go

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”Herman Hesse

Living a worry-free life doesn’t mean we should pretend our world isn’t filled with challenges. We need to be ready for what comes and nothing combats worry more than action.

So, wear sunscreen, pay off credit cards, eat more greens, and learn fractions. When that hurricane approaches, board up the windows, stock up on supplies, and head to the basement. What we can’t do is tell the hurricane to make a u-turn when it comes to our street. That’s the point we need to let go.

It’s called surrender and trust. It’s knowing that there is something larger than ourselves and the problems we face. All of which leads to our 6th and most important step.

Step 6: Use Worry To Find Meaning In Life

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Khalil Gibran

While the previous five steps will take us far in alleviating worry, to achieve lasting relief, we need a shift in perception. We need to re-interpret our worries in light of what they have to teach us. Granted, not everyone will want to do this.

It isn’t easy to ask someone to look beyond his or her struggles in search of a greater truth. It’s like asking someone to see the rainbow when they’re stuck in the middle of a storm. It’s an easy advice to give, but not so easy to take.

Yet, it is the exact step that will bring us peace.

The key is to cultivate this spirit of living before the storm hits. It’s no secret that we all have our stories, our own scars. You have yours. I have mine. They may take different shapes or arrive at different times in our lives, but nobody is immune from pain, sorrow and challenge.

It is only how we write the endings to our stories that are different. It’s how we will each work through and learn from our experiences.

And, of course, the best stories —the ones we all remember— are the ones where we come out of a crisis as a different person. The stories where we not only endure, but emerge stronger, happier, and wiser.

It is the hero’s journey- your journey and mine.

It is a journey where worry evolves into action, insight, then reinvention. It’s where worry transforms into hope and promise.

This journey, however, takes choice. A decision has to be made.

What will we do with worry as it creeps into our lives each day? Will we cry foul, play victim, and point fingers? Will we give in and let worry continue to rule our lives? Or will we take action and engage life?

Do we reject negativity, seek stillness and embrace gratitude? Do we search out people who will nourish and make us stronger? Will we choose to meet our worries head on, knowing that our challenges, however difficult they may be, can bring more purpose and meaning into our lives?

Make the right choice —the heroic choice.

Written by Bill Apablasa, a writer, social experimenter, nomadic homebody and creator of, where he writes about reinventing your life- one room at a time. 

The post Mastering The Art of A Worry-Free Life appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

via Dumb Little Man – Tips for Life

Your Enthusiasm Will Make A Difference

I have read Dr. Peale’s book “Enthusiasm Make The Difference.” As a matter of fact, I have read a few of his books. All of them are good reads. I love the examples and stories of his patients and clients in a world so far different than ours today. The stories are pre-internet days. Pre-everything days really. Some say it was much simpler then, than now. To a certain extent, I agree with those people. Life has sped up.

I remember my younger days with the long phone chords stretching them as far as possible to get some privacy and the big box televisions that weighed a gazillion pounds. Atari, Betamax VCR’s, eight-tracks, cassette tapes, and so many other obsolete devices we all used that no longer exist. It’s funny, those things are gone with new improved and faster technology, but the wisdom of Dr. Peale remains the same. It’s true, enthusiasm does make the difference. It was the same as in 1967 when his book was published and now in 2019. If you want people to listen to you, follow you, or learn from you, you need enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm matters

Each semester I begin all my classes doing push-ups the first day. The students come in with regular street clothes expecting to hear the usual “spiel” on the class requirements, paperwork, and the expectations for the course. Now, remember, I teach kids how to lift weights, not math or science. Following the discussion of general information, I tell them to get in a big circle in the weight room.

I teach them how to do a correct push-up and demonstrate key points to make it more safe and effective. Then, we do a lot of push-ups. I am usually met with some resistance with a few of the students. While they all elected to take the class (it is not required- but should be), they are not too keen on doing push-ups in their blue jeans or their “school clothes.” Almost 100% of the time, the students finish loving the activity. They laugh and have fun with it. Why? I make it fun for them. I am loud. I talk fast. I make jokes (they are funny to me, probably not to them).

I do the push-ups with them. I am enthusiastic about the experience! If I went into the activity with typical teacher talk, I would not get the same effect. Furthermore, if I went into it being a drill sergeant and demanded it from them, I would be met with a ton of resistance as well. I start each class and each semester with push-ups for a few reasons. I want to let them know the course will be challenging. I want to show them that you do not need a long drawn out routine for exercise to be effective. And, mostly to show them that physical training can be a fun and enjoyable experience.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I coach wrestling, I might not smile as much, at least in the beginning, but I make it a priority to be enthusiastic each day. I talk to my team a lot about the proper mindset they need to have each day to have a good practice and to get the most out of the workout. I tell them that it will be tough and needs to be tough because from that we get better, and we will shorten the learning curve with other teams that have more experience.

I participate in most conditioning workouts with them. I want to share the experience with them. By doing that, I build trust and rapport. Ultimately though, what matters most is that each day I (and my other coaches) are enthusiastic in what we do.

Enthusiasm is the “secret sauce” in nearly every life activity. Whether it is mowing the lawn or working out, having energy and spirit make any challenging experience better. Enthusiasm also brings out the best in others!

How to develop enthusiasm

Let’s be clear before I discuss ways to develop enthusiasm with your team or daily life, it isn’t Pollyanna double-speak and painting a rosy picture to your students, organization, or employment staff. Enthusiasm is bringing passion and love into an experience and doing it with energy and vitality. It is selling your people to buy into your program, and it is showing up prepared and ready to attack what’s ahead of you. It is not getting through it and surviving.

How can we develop an enthusiastic attitude? It first begins in your own mind! Everything we do starts in our minds. To be passionate, you need to plant the seeds of enthusiasm into your thinking. You need to tell yourself that it’s going to be a great experience and your day is going to be filled with opportunities!

You tell yourself you are “lucky” to have the chance to do whatever you do. What if you do not feel that way? Well, you lie to yourself. You keep telling yourself that it is going to be good. You catch the negative thinking right away and quickly change it to something that will benefit and motivate you.

In what ways can we demonstrate enthusiasm with others? The biggest thing that will show your enthusiasm is your body language, tone of your voice, and facial expressions. In other words, your physiology. If you want people to be enthusiastic, you demonstrate it first. You talk louder. You move faster. Equally important, you smile and have some fun in what you are doing.

And if you don’t feel that way when you start, fake it, do it anyway, and I guarantee you will quickly morph into the person you are trying to be. You will get excited and feel full of energy. You “trick” yourself into being enthusiastic and low and behold after a couple of minutes, you are!

“Enthusiasm releases the drive to carry you over obstacles and adds significance to all you do.” – Norman Vincent Peale

So remember, enthusiasm starts in your own thinking. If you think lazy and uninspiring thoughts, the result will be that you are lazy and uninspired in your daily living and communication with people. You need to change your thinking deliberately. At first, it will need to be repetitive and constant. Eventually, it only takes a quick reframe of your negative thought to turn it into a positive one. But like anything else in life that’s worth it, it takes time and effort.

You also have to move your body like a person who has enthusiasm. “Fake it till you make it.” If you move your body intending to be enthusiastic, your mind will follow.

via Addicted 2 Success

5 Tenets of a Negative Self-Help

Look, I know what you want to hear. I know you want to hear that everything is going to be alright—no, better than alright, that it’s going to be fucking amazeballs. I know you want to hear that the pain in your life will one day be gone, that those dreams will one day become reality, that the only thing standing between you and destiny is yourself. *Cue inspirational music* 

I know you want to hear that you’re a “new you,” that your hair looks fucking great, that the nuts in your shit have gold in them—and if they don’t, all you have to do is sign up for my 1-2-3 step program and you too, can mine your toilet for fine precious metals. Sign up today!

I know you want to hear that. Everybody wants to hear that.

But I say fuck what you want to hear. Because let’s be honest, that’s not what you need to hear.

Because I’m a bit fed up with all that positive self-help crap. You would think that after about seven decades of this “just stay positive!” nonsense we’d start to see some goddamn results around here. Yet, staggering rises in anxiety, depression, suicide and hopelessness across the world and we’re all sitting in Kumbaya circles yelling, “Just believe in yourself!”

How about you go fuck yourself? Because, really, it’s our obsession with our “self” that probably started this whole mess in the first place.

Watercolor abstract painting of man's face

If I gave enough of a shit, I’d find a big stage somewhere and a fancy microphone and declare this a great day, a new day, a day that, in my great and unmatched wisdom, I declare a new genre of personal development. It will be a new approach to improving lives, an approach based not on feel-good back rubbing nonsense or mid-afternoon dance parties, but based on solid science, pragmatic applications, and a bit of old fashioned “go fuck yourself” wisdom.

Don’t worry, this approach doesn’t require you to sign away your life savings. It doesn’t require you to stand in front of the mirror and repeat inane shit to yourself every day. It doesn’t even require you to get out of bed, you lazy fuck.

I’m christening this new approach, “Negative Self-Help,” an approach to personal growth based not on what feels good, but rather on what feels bad. Because getting good at feeling bad is what allows us to feel good.

Whereas positive self-help believes that we’re all wonderful and destined for greatness, Negative Self-Help admits that we’re all kind of shitty and we should come to terms with that. Whereas positive self-help encourages you to create ambitious goals, to follow your dreams, to reach for the stars—*vomits*—Negative Self-Help reminds you that your dreams are probably narcissistic delusions and you should probably just shut the fuck up and get to work on something meaningful. Whereas positive self-help obsesses over “healing” old “wounds,” and “releasing” pent up emotions, Negative Self-Help gently reminds you that there’s no end to the pain in this shitstream called life, so you might as well get used to it.

Yes kids, you too can get your shit together and live a more satisfying and meaningful life by pursuing less, by letting go of all the stupid assumptions you’ve accumulated throughout your self-absorbed life, by forgetting about happiness and accepting that everything meaningful in this world requires struggle and sacrifice. So you might as well start picking out the scars you want for your birthday, kiddos, because we’re all going to get them anyway. Negative Self-Help can completely alter your perception of life, the universe, and everything. Just sign up now for a limited time offer of…

…oh, what am I saying? It’s fucking free.

OK, how about this? Let’s pretend I’m Moses standing on a hilltop yelling at all you people for being such fuck ups. Let’s pretend I brought two stone tablets and was going to read out 10 Tenets of Negative Self-Help, but then I got halfway through and decided, “Fuck it, five is good enough.”

Here’s what they would say…

1. Humans suck—try to suck less

Whereas positive self-help believes that everyone is inherently amazing and talented and can let their shit shine and heal the world, Negative Self-Help recognizes that humans are deeply flawed and fucked up creatures.

Here’s the truth: the science shows that we’re all a little bit delusional in our own special snowflake kind of way. We all overestimate our own importance and underestimate the works of others. We are each biased towards our own desires and the groups we identify with while being deeply biased against the desires and groups of others. We remember things poorly, imagining what we thought or felt in the past, inventing beliefs that suit our own needs in the present. We are also terrible at predicting the future, both in terms of what will happen but also in terms of how we will feel about what may happen.1

When it comes to ethics, none of us are innocent. Studies show that pretty much all of us will lie, cheat, or steal if we believe we can get away with it. Sit with yourself and you will likely realize this is true. You have lied and cheated and possibly even stolen or committed violence. Chances are, when you’ve done this, you’ve felt justified. That’s because we rationalize our own bad behavior while judging and condemning the same behavior in others.

Unfinished painting of man's eye

Our desires are fickle, often self-serving and based in entitlement. We overestimate what will make us happy and vastly over-value others who have what we want. We are status-obsessed, vain, and often cruel creatures. The science suggests it doesn’t take much for even a normal civilian to become violent or even malicious, given the right context and authority. And when someone disagrees with us, we are more prone to judge their character as bad rather than their ideas.

Humans suck. There’s no “greatness” lying dormant here. Just a tangled web of faulty beliefs, selfish impulses, and desperation.

True greatness is the rare ability to step out of the muck of our own nature—those special moments when we are able to act rationally, compassionately, objectively, and fairly.

Why are we like this? Our psyche didn’t evolve for truth or compassion, it evolved for survival. The vast majority of human history, people never met more than a few dozen other humans, half of whom would have been their own family. Our natural inclinations are therefore not geared towards discipline, empathy, or understanding. They are geared towards impulsive, instinctive judgments, self-serving reactions, and strong in-group biases.

It’s for this reason that we must hold most of our own dreams and ideas and desires as suspect. We must remain skeptical of ourselves and train ourselves to act against our default impulses and desires. We must train ourselves to stand up for what’s right, to sit with uncertainty in the face of outrage, and to let go of dreams and ideas that make us feel good but are likely harming us.

This is painful. But this is why pain must be at the center of any true form of personal growth.

Positive self-help tells you to trust your gut. Negative Self-Help understands that your gut is impulsive and self-serving, and must be questioned via reason.

Positive self-help tells you to believe in yourself, to trust your own ideas as though they were true. Negative Self-Help recognizes that most of our ideas are terrible. Therefore, it’s only action that matters.

Positive self-help promotes supernatural beliefs designed to make you feel good in the moment. Negative Self-Help denies supernatural beliefs as harmful and unrealistic—hell, Negative Self-Help questions whether you should believe anything at all.

Positive self-help encourages you to be more human—to be more emotional, indulgent, and focused on yourself. Negative Self-Help demands that we evolve beyond what makes us human. That we fight against our natural prejudices, that we question our most deeply-worn beliefs, that we remain resilient in the face of our inevitable failures. All that is good in the world came not from indulging our baser impulses and desires, it came from overcoming our baser impulses and desires.

Humans suck. Work on sucking less.

2. Pain is inevitable—suffering is optional

We all like to play a certain game with ourselves. In fact, we all play it so well that most of us don’t even realize when we’re playing it. The game we play is that we convince ourselves that it’s possible to get rid of the pain in our lives.

We think to ourselves, “Man, if I could just have a jetski, everything would be fucking grand,” all the while not realizing that having a jet ski itself introduces all sorts of unanticipated pains into your life—the costs of storing and hauling the jet ski, the necessary maintenance and upkeep of the jetski, the anxiety that comes when your little sister gets drunk and rides away on your jet ski, never to be seen again.

Pain is the universal constant in our life. I could be a magic genie and snap my fingers, play a little song Will Smith-style, and give you everything you want tomorrow, but by noon you’ll be annoyed that the golden throne I built for you isn’t high enough and out of the hundreds of sex slaves, half of them smell funny—and dammit, I said I wanted CHAMPAGNE WATERFALLS, not this nectarine shit. GOD!

Our minds spoil all the fun. And they do this for a very particular reason: innovation.

Oil on canvas painting of a face

Let’s run a thought experiment. Let’s say 50,000 years ago, there were two types of humans: 1) humans who were happy and easily satisfied, and then 2) humans who were constantly dissatisfied and pissed off because they thought they totally deserved better (us, basically).

The happy humans would lay around in the sun, maybe eat some berries, sleep, have orgies, and life would just kind of roll on. The same thing day after day, week after week, everyone simple and pleased with themselves and the world.

Now, let’s say the dissatisfied humans come across the happy humans. They would see them lolling around, sunning themselves and playing hopscotch all day, and the dissatisfied humans would think to themselves, “That is such bullshit! I want to have fun and enjoy life too!”

Then the happy humans would be like, “Hey man, relax, come play hopscotch with us! Everything’s cool!” And then the dissatisfied humans would get pissed off because they weren’t winning hopscotch often enough. So they’d practice really hard to get good at hopscotch.

And then the happy humans would be like, “Hey, that’s cool, you go ahead and win.” And then the dissatisfied humans would enjoy winning for a few minutes but then start hating it. They’d start thinking to themselves, “Are these happy humans condescending to us? Do they think they’re better than us? What makes them so confident that they can just lose hopscotch whenever they want? I’ll fucking show them.”

So they’d stalk out into the wilderness, find a big rock, think to themselves, “I wonder if human eyeballs explode.” Then they’d sulk back to the tribe and brutally murder all of the happy humans to show them who is boss and that THEY DESERVE TO BE RESPECTED, GODDAMNIT. 

But this also wouldn’t satisfy the dissatisfied humans. Because now there’s blood everywhere. And they just ruined their favorite loincloth. So, it’s back to the drawing board.

The point is, being a pissed off asshole of a human has evolutionary advantages because it motivates you to compete and dominate others. And while striving for domination doesn’t make us feel good, it’s a good evolutionary strategy. And while being happy all the time does feel good, it is a terrible evolutionary strategy. Perpetually happy people would just lay around all day and be tiger food.

Happiness research shows that we’re all pretty much mildly dissatisfied all the time, regardless of income or gender or marital status or what stupid car you drive.2 But rather than accept this fact, being dissatisfied humans, our minds play the constant jet ski game with us, telling us if we could just get our jet ski, everything will be great.

Positive self-help makes a lot of money inserting itself into the jetski mind game. “Three steps to achieve your dreams!” Or “I will tell you the secret to everlasting happiness!” Or “Learn how to get exactly what you want, no matter what!”

Not only are these all lies, but even if you did achieve your dreams or get exactly what you wanted, you’d be bored and pissed off by lunch.

Negative Self-Help, on the contrary, accepts our constant dissatisfaction. It works with it, rather than against it.

We will always experience pain, loss, discomfort, disappointment, and frustration. There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent these things.

We cannot control the pain in our lives. What we can control is the meaning we ascribe to our pain. And it’s that meaning that determines whether our pain causes us to suffer or not.

If we decide that the pain of our break-up means we’re losers and unworthy of love, then we will suffer. If we decide that our break-up means that our partner wasn’t the right person for us, then we will be better off for our pain. If we decide that the pain of losing our job means we’re doomed to be a broke failure, then we will suffer. If we decide that losing our job will be the catalyst that changed our attitude towards work and responsibility, then we will be better off for our pain. If we decide that our health problems are unfair, that we don’t deserve them, then we will suffer. If we decide to see our health problems as a way to practice resilience and discipline, then we will be better off for our pain.

In every case, we can choose to avoid our pain or choose to engage our pain. When we avoid our pain, we suffer. When we engage our pain, we grow.

Therefore, the goal of Negative Self-Help is to engage pain honestly and thoughtfully. Why did she leave you? Because you were a shit partner. Be better. Why does your family hate each other? Because your family is fucked up. Rise above them. Why do you drink too much? Because you hate yourself. Deal with your shit.

Whether we realize it or not, we are making this choice—avoid pain or engage pain—all day, every day. The aggregation of our choices will determine the quality of our life.

Sucky life? Embrace the suck. Find a way to make the suck meaningful and important. It’s the only way.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

3. Everything you believe will one day fail you—this is how you grow

When we experience pain, we devise meaning to interpret our pain. We can choose to avoid our pain (“It wasn’t my fault,” “I didn’t deserve this,” “I’m so unlucky.”). Or we can choose to engage our pain (“What could I have done better?” “What can I learn from this?” “How can I use this pain as motivation?”).

Depending on what meaning we choose, we will generate stories that help inform and determine our future actions. We then become emotionally attached to these stories, treating them as extensions of ourselves. We protect and promote our stories. We fight and argue for them. “Fuck you, it totally wasn’t my fault! I had nothing to do with this!”

Some of our stories are more useful than others, that is, they lead us to better problems. Other stories are poor because they lead to worse problems and greater pain.

If I decide that I’m successful because I work hard, then it will likely encourage more hard work. If I decide it’s because I’m ridiculously handsome, then… well, I’ll be too busy getting my eyebrows waxed to submit a draft. And soon I’ll be broke and alone (but still really, really handsome).

Ultimately, every story of meaning we contrive will fail us. What I mean by that is that whatever we choose to believe based on our past experiences will eventually fail at protecting us from pain in future experiences. These new failures should then motivate us to search for new meaning and newer, better, more complete stories to help us manage our pain.

Illustration of man on mountain with rocks falling

When I was young, I was bored. I desperately wanted to get out and see the world. This was a story I built around my pain—if I could just travel and live in various cultures, I would solve my boredom.

So, at age 25, I set out and spent seven years traveling around the world. I had my heart broken, fell in love, learned languages, danced on beaches until the sun rose—you know, all that #blessed Instagram shit.

And a funny thing happened, while I was having the time of my life, I began to feel my relationships fray. I struggled to maintain friendships. My dating life began to feel empty and pointless. I started fantasizing about settling down somewhere, having a community, a routine, a home.

The narrative that saved me from my previous pain had now introduced a higher-level, more desirable form of pain. The story that had been a solution to my pain was now the cause. And now I needed to re-evaluate my story and update it. In this sense, pain is like that annoying notification on your phone telling you to update your apps all the damn time. Except in this case, you need to update yourself.

If we don’t allow our stories to fail, if we latch onto them and insist that they are the one infallible, Capital-T Truth, then we don’t learn and we don’t grow and we don’t improve upon our pain. In fact, if we refuse to change our beliefs, then we will experience the same pain again and again and again.

Whereas Positive Self-Help often implores you to “have faith” and to “stay true to yourself,” Negative Self-Help encourages you to embrace not knowing. Your beliefs are an illusion—hell, your idea of your “self” is an illusion. There is no self to stay true to. There is nothing to have faith in. There is merely an experience, and the resulting narratives that we spin up in our minds. Some narratives generate better problems. Some generate worse problems. Jettison the ones creating worse problems and move on.

We must allow ourselves to shed our beliefs, like old layers of skin, to reveal a newer, harder, sexier exterior beneath. I don’t know where I’m going with this analogy (a sexy snake, maybe?) so let’s just end the section here. You get the point…

Everything you believe will one day fail you—this is how you grow.

4. You don’t deserve happiness—you don’t deserve anything

Of all the human narratives to explain pain and suffering, perhaps the most common and most problematic is the narrative of “deserving.”

The human mind cannot help but think in terms of cause and effect. You study for a test; you get a good grade. You wake up early; you get a lot done. You drink an entire bottle of tequila for breakfast; you pass out in your own vomit by lunch.

Actions have consequences. And in really simple contexts, the consequences are easy to understand. Therefore, as humans, our default setting is to automatically assume that each of us deserves whatever happens to us.

But what about when something awful and unexpected happens? Like, let’s say a tornado destroys your home? Or an economic collapse wipes out your retirement account? Did your actions cause that pain? Of course not. But our minds have a hard time shaking the feeling that we aren’t somehow deserving of our suffering. That’s why the most common phrases you hear around any tragedy is some variation of, “What did I do to deserve this?”

The fact is, due to our shitty human biases, we all tend to believe we’re good people (See: Tenet #1). And, due to the chaotic and unpredictable nature of life, we all experience great amounts of pain at some point (See: Tenet #2). Therefore, we all struggle with the idea that horrible things can happen to us without us deserving it. Let’s call this the “Life Isn’t Fair Problem.”

There are a few ways we all square the cognitive dissonance created by the Life Isn’t Fair Problem in our own minds. Some people buy into a narrative of fate and destiny, choosing to believe that their pain has some higher purpose that is unknowable. Others choose to go the religious route: God has a “plan” and he works in “mysterious ways.” Others internalize the pain, deciding that they must be experiencing such terrible luck because there is something fundamentally wrong with them. They begin to hate themselves and believe they deserve to suffer.

Positive Self-Help enters the equation here, by telling people who have internalized their pain the opposite, that they not only do not deserve to suffer, but they deserve to be happy!

Black and white watercolor painting of a portrait of a woman

This upgrades the person’s problem from that of despair (“I deserve to suffer”) to entitlement (“I deserve to be happy”). Now, I will admit, that entitlement is absolutely a better problem than despair, but it still fucks everything up.

Allow me to propose a less obvious solution to the Life Isn’t Fair Problem: our belief that anyone “deserves” anything is wrong.

You do things. Sometimes they create good results. Sometimes they create bad results. The point is to simply do the things that you believe will more often create good results.

That’s it. If you get screwed by a hurricane or swindled by some evildoer, that’s life. Engage the pain (Tenet #2), learn from it (Tenet #3) and be better next time. Happiness should not be part of the mental equation here. Deserving definitely shouldn’t be. Only improvement.

We all experience tragedy, trauma, loneliness, anger, loss, sadness. Sure, some people more than others. Some more unfairly than others. But no one deserves anything. It may be easy to look at someone else’s pain and decide they deserve it. But through their eyes, they will feel as though they don’t deserve it. Just as you will undoubtedly feel that you don’t deserve much of your pain, and while others may look on and believe that you do deserve it.

It’s this idea of “deserving” that is completely subjective, while the pain itself is objective, universal, and constant. It’s this idea of “deserving” that leads people to attack and take from others, to commit violence against the world or against themselves. It’s this idea of “deserving” that fuels wars and crime and hate.

Happiness isn’t something that is deserved or earned from something outside yourself. Happiness is created within yourself. And it’s created by the simple and constant choice to accept what is. To look at the pain in the face and not blink. To confront one’s fears and struggles and embrace them rather than fight them.

Letting go of the idea of “deserving” is incredibly difficult to do. But once rid of it, it leaves us with a starkly simple view of the world. Inflict no unnecessary pain on others or on yourself. Be pragmatic in all things. Approach problems scientifically and without idealism. Be honest. Be compassionate. Even when it feels impossible.

Whereas positive self-help fosters an insatiable sense of entitlement and a belief that everyone deserves to be happy and feel good all the time, Negative Self-Help views positive feelings with suspicion, understanding that while desirable, they always come at a cost.

Happiness is not scarce, but human dignity is. Choose dignity. And forget the idea of deserving. It’s not necessary to do the right thing.

Because you don’t deserve happiness—you don’t necessarily deserve anything at all.

5. Everything you love will one day be lost—this is what makes life meaningful

I can’t stand most superhero movies. They’re simply not realistic. I know that sounds stupid—of course superhero movies aren’t realistic. That’s the point! Let me explain…

I have no problem with the superpowers. I love fantasy shit. It’s just, for me, if you’re going to have supernatural stuff going on, then your characters need to behave logically based on that supernatural stuff. And in superhero movies, no one behaves logically, almost ever.

For instance, if your body was indestructible—i.e., the cellular structure was impervious to outside forces—you wouldn’t be able to form new memories, to develop new skills or even experience most emotions, such as fear, guilt, excitement, and so on. You’d be a zombie.

Yet, no one ever considers this!

Here’s another one that I often think about. If a character is immortal, how would they care about anything?

Imagine, you have an infinite horizon of experience in front of you, all possible conscious experience will one day be yours—every form of pain, joy, suffering and happiness. You will watch not only your friends but entire civilizations and planets die off, then re-emerge and grow, then die off again. You will witness every tragedy, every cataclysm, every injustice a million times over. You will experience every victory and suffer every failure so many times that you would lose the ability to distinguish which was which.

Immortality would necessitate nihilism. With infinite experience, it becomes impossible to value anything. Everything becomes transient and arbitrary. Everything that would otherwise feel significant is but a mere flutter of matter across the vast expanse of space/time. There’s no scarcity. And without scarcity, there’s no reason to value anything at all.

The reason you value your family members is that they are the only ones you got. You don’t get another mother or a different father. You can’t have the same child twice. Similarly, the reason we value achievements and awards is that not everybody can have them. Only the select few. They are scarce and unique.

Death–that is, the inevitable loss of everything–is the only thing that makes life feel valuable. Every day that passes you are one day closer to dying. And with that finite amount of time, you must choose. You must prioritize. You must value one thing over another, a relationship over work, a friendship over money, a badass pair of headphones over retirement.

Without time being finite all of these judgments would break down and all experience would mean nothing.

We all experience loss. Loss of loved ones. Loss of our past selves. Loss of our beliefs. Loss of ourselves. This loss will inevitably be painful. But there’s also a beauty in that loss. Because the pain that comes from the loss reminds us of the meaning and importance of having lived.

Positive self-help will often tell you that you can protect yourself from loss. You can control your life and the world and make sure you don’t lose your friends, you don’t lose your money or your job, that you will always be successful, that you will never be sad!

But this is the desire for immortality, the desire for an unchanging, static future. This attitude is anti-life because it is anti-death.

Negative Self-Help says don’t run away from loss. Do not try to prevent it. Because the intensity of your loss is matched only by the intensity of your life. And every loss is a reminder, that this moment, and the next and the next, are each unique and special and not to be taken for granted, no matter what.

Because everything you love will one day be lost—and this is what makes life meaningful.


  1. I wrote more about all of this in a post called Why You Can’t Trust Yourself.
  2. Dan Gilbert covers all of this in his book Stumbling on Happiness.

via Mark Manson

Early Deafened, Late Implanted Cochlear Implant Users Appreciate Music More Than and Identify Music as Well as Postlingual Users

Typical cochlear implant (CI) users, namely postlingually deafened and implanted, report to not enjoy listening to music, and find it difficult to perceive music. Another group of CI users, the early-deafened (during language acquisition) and late-implanted (after a long period of auditory deprivation; EDLI), report a higher music appreciation, but is this related to a better music perception?

Sixteen EDLI and fifteen postlingually deafened (control group) CI users participated in the study. The inclusion criteria for EDLI were: severe or profound hearing loss onset before the age of 6 years, implantation after the age of 16 years, and CI experience more than 1 year. Subjectively, music perception and appreciation was evaluated using the Dutch Musical Background Questionnaire. Behaviorally, music perception was measured with melodic contour identification (MCI), using two instruments (piano and organ), each tested with and without a masking contour. Semitone distance between successive tones of the target varied from 1 to 3 semitones.

Subjectively, the EDLI group reported to appreciate music more than postlingually deafened CI users. Behaviorally, while clinical phoneme recognition test score on average was lower in the EDLI group, melodic contour identification did not significantly differ between the two groups. There was, however, an effect of instrument and masker for both groups; the piano was the best-recognized instrument, and for both instruments, the masker with non-overlapping pitch was best recognized.

EDLI group reported higher appreciation of music than postlingual control group, even though behaviorally measured music perception did not differ significantly between the two groups. Both surprising findings since EDLI CI users would be expected to have lower outcomes based on the early deafness onset, long duration of auditory deprivation, and on average lower clinical speech scores. Perhaps, the music perception difficulty comes from similar electric hearing limitations in both groups. The higher subjective appreciation in EDLI might be due to the lack of a musical memory, with no ability to compare music heard via the CI to acoustic music perception. Overall, our findings support a benefit from implantation for a positive music experience in EDLI CI users.

via Frontiers in Neuroscience | New and Recent Articles

Descartes Labs snaps up $20M more for its AI-based geospatial imagery analytics platform

Satellite imagery holds a wealth of information that could be useful for industries, science and humanitarian causes, but one big and persistent challenge with it has been a lack of effective ways to tap that disparate data for specific ends.

That’s created a demand for better analytics, and now, one of the startups that has been building solutions to do just that is announcing a round of funding as it gears up for expansion. Descartes Labs, a geospatial imagery analytics startup out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is today announcing that it has closed a $20 million round of funding, money that CEO and founder Mark Johnson described to me as a bridge round ahead of the startup closing and announcing a larger growth round.

The funding is being led by Union Grove Venture Partners, with Ajax Strategies, Crosslink Capital, and March Capital Partners (which led its previous round) also participating. It brings the total raised by Descartes Labs to $60 million, and while Johnson said the startup would not be disclosing its valuation, PitchBook notes that it is $220 million ($200 million pre-money in this round).

As a point of comparison, another startup in the area of geospatial analytics, Orbital Insight, is reportedly now raising money at a $430 million valuation (that data is from January of this year, and we’ve contacted the company to see if it ever closed).

Santa Fe — a city popular with retirees that counts tourism as its biggest industry — is an unlikely place to find a tech startup. Descartes Labs’ presence there is a result of that fact that it is a spinoff from the Los Alamos National Laboratory near the city.

Johnson — who had lived in San Francisco before coming to Santa Fe to help create Descartes Labs (his previous experience building Zite for media, he said, led the Los Alamos scientists to first conceive of the Descartes Labs IP as the basis of a kind of search engine) — admitted that he never thought the company would stay headquartered there beyond a short initial phase of growth of six months.

However, it turned out that the trends around more distributed workforces (and cloud computing to enable that), engineers looking for employment alternatives to living in pricey San Francisco, plus the heated competition for talent you get in the Valley all came together in a perfect storm that helped Descartes Labs establish and thrive on its home turf.

Descartes Labs — named after the seminal philosopher/mathematician Rene Descartes — describes itself as a “data refinery”. By this, it means it injests a lot of imagery and unstructured data related to the earth that is picked up primarily by satellites but also other sensors (Johnson notes that its sources include data from publicly available satellites; data from NASA and the European space agency, and data from the companies themselves); applies AI-based techniques including computer vision analysis and machine learning to make sense of the sometimes-grainy imagery; and distills and orders it to create insights into what is going on down below, and how that is likely to evolve.

Screenshot 2019 10 11 at 13.26.33

This includes not just what is happening on the surface of the earth, but also in the air above it: Descartes Labs has worked on projects to detect levels of methane gas in oil fields, the spread of wildfires, and how crops might grow in a particular area, and the impact of weather patterns on it all.

It has produced work for a range of clients that have included governments (the methane detection, pictured above, was commissioned as part of New Mexico’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), energy giants and industrial agribusiness, and traders.

“The idea is to help them take advantage of all the new data going online,” Johnson said, noting that this can help, for example, bankers forecast how much a commodity will trade for, or the effect of a change in soil composition on a crop.

The fact that Descartes Labs’ work has connected it with the energy industry gives an interesting twist to the use of the phrase “data refinery”. But in case you were wondering, Johnson said that the company goes through a process of vetting potential customers to determine if the data Descartes Labs provides to them is for a positive end, or not.

“We have a deep belief that we can help them become more efficient,” he said. “Those looking at earth data are doing so because they care about the planet and are working to try to become more sustainable.”

Johnson also said (in answer to my question about it) that so far, there haven’t been any instances where the startup has been prohibited to work with any customers or countries, but you could imagine how — in this day of data being ‘the new oil’ and the fulcrum of power — that could potentially be an issue. (Related to this: Orbital Insight counts In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture arm, as one of its backers.)

Looking ahead, the company is building what it describes as a “digital twin” of the earth, the idea being that in doing so it can better model the imagery that it injests and link up data from different regions more seamlessly (since, after all, a climatic event in one part of the world inevitably impacts another). Notably, “digital twinning” is a common concept that we see applied in other AI-based enterprises to better predict activity: this is the approach that, for example, Forward Networks takes when building models of an enterprise’s network to determine how apps will behave and identify the reasons behind an outage.

In addition to the funding round, Descartes Labs named Phil Fraher its new CFO, and is announcing Veery Maxwell, Director for Energy Innovation and Patrick Cairns, who co-founded UGVP, as new board observers.

via TechCrunch

What It Takes To Give A 1949 Mercury The Heart Of A Tesla

It came to me in the wide, swishy passenger seat of Jonathan Ward’s 1949 Mercury hot rod. All the right smells were imprinting the moment we rolled through industrial Chatsworth, California. Sun-heated steel from the dash; stretched leather; a vague tinge of nicotine on Ward’s jacket. One thing was missing, though: gasoline. The car wasn’t burning any.

But when Ward stepped on the go-pedal, the vehicle warped toward the horizon like a hipster hillbilly spaceship.

There’s a mind-bending weirdness to an art deco desert rat-style car skirting off with the futuristic whirr of a Tesla. But regardless of your stance on old-versus-new, it’s conceptually pretty cool.

Ward is hardly the first person to try making a fancy electric car out of an old classic, and this Mercury isn’t even the first EV out of his Icon shop. Icon is known for rebuilding and redressing classic SUVs at the highest level of elegance–such machines fetch six-figure price tags.

Like everything else Icon’s turned out, this electric Mercury’s decorative details are lovely and it certainly feels fast off a stoplight. Dual electric motors and a Tesla Performance 85kWh battery pack will do that. So will its apparent 400 horsepower rating.

What’s really interesting about it though: exploring the unique challenges of marrying EV propulsion technology to a 70-year-old car. And more than that, figuring out where EVs fall in the ecosystem of enthusiast collector cars.

Especially for a shop like Ward’s, which has built its entire brand on selling vehicles that are more like enduring art pieces than tools for transportation.

Can EVs Be Made To Last?

“Traditionally, I’m here to build shit that should last you forever. This should, and still could,” Ward said, gesturing to the only car in his gigantic shop garage with an electric powertrain instead of V8. “But it might mean you’re coming back. If you want to stay up with the latest science, you may be coming back and hemorrhaging more money to evolve with the state of the tech.”

What he means is, if you drop a healthy Chevy LS V8 into a car, it’s still going to be relevant and serviceable in a decade. (Probably.) But EV tech is improving a lot more quickly. In fact, components in Ward’s Mercury here has already been updated and upgraded in the time it’s taken to build the thing.

“I haven’t even let the client have it yet… shit, we’ve gone through three generations of [updates] for the battery management system controllers,” he said. “Even the oil cooling system for the motors—two design generational improvements from AMR. And me being the goober that I am, like, I don’t just want to deliver it with what’s already in there. I gain the knowledge that there’s a latest and greatest and I’m like, fuck.” Meaning, he felt compelled to upgrade.

Ward mentioned, several times while I was hanging out with him, that he’d been careful to “talk himself out of work” to a lot of folks who’ve asked him to build derelict-style EVs like this (and electric 4x4s, but more on that later) because it’s a huge investment of time and money to drop into uncharted territory.

“Fortunately, the client’s a geek like me too,” Ward said, adding that he’d made it clear this was a guinea pig project.

Ward, having established one of the best-known custom car shops in California, now has the enviable problem of keeping up with himself. He’s set a high standard for his wares, and he’s going to have to be able to apply that to electric cars if he wants to maintain his reputation.

“What is the cultural, functional relevance of this,” he said, pointing to the Mercury, “in two years, forget 10. Is it an iPhone 5 now? Is it no longer relevant? Is the capability, refinement, and range so antiquated because the tech is moved along so fucking fast?”

It was a rhetorical question, of course, because I have no clue. But it was interesting to hear one of the custom car scene’s bigger names admit the same. I can tell you what else is fucking fast though: Ward’s Tesla-powered Mercury.

It Ain’t Rocket Science, But…

There’s not a lot of ’49 Mercury left inside this particular frankencar. The body’s as-found, and the interior’s reimagined as-original in aesthetic, but the powertrain and suspension and chassis are bespoke. It’s more an exercise in building an electric driveline and placing the shell of an ancient car around it, rather than doing an EV engine swap on a classic.

The batteries had to be lifted out of a wrecked Tesla P85D since nobody can buy them off a shelf–another challenge of bringing a custom high-po electric car to life–and squirreled around the vehicle to help give the vehicle perfectly even four-corner weight distribution, according to Ward.

That exacerbated the complexities of temperature control.

“I’ve yet to see any of the companies or DIY dudes… no one’s addressing battery thermal management. At best, it’s engine coolant through a 12-volt pump through a clear plastic tube. But, like, Tesla has a dedicated heater network and a dedicated refrigerant-based system, because there’s a sweet spot for battery temperature for safety, longevity, performance, and range. and everyone’s just shitcanning it entirely.”

Ward’s learned that keeping various components at certain temperatures has been one of the hardest parts of getting serious performance out of this car. “You can’t just throw a unit in and pump shit through, because the batteries have a different thermal cycle than, say, the controllers,” he told me.

“When people think of EV conversions, including my dumb ass, ‘well shit it can’t be that hard! just a motor, computer, and an energy source! It’s easy!’ Reality is, the [custom EV] industry started with that mentality and at the simplistic form of that, yeah, but if you really want it to be proper, it ain’t this.”

Ward went on to detail what he and his team, including an electrical engineering consultant brought on specifically to make this car work, had been thinking about:

“Let’s say you go to Mammoth [Mountain]. And charge up fully at a hotel. And then you go downhill for two and a half hours. Where are those electrons going to go? Like, into a ball of flame? Maybe. And no one’s thinking that through.”

“And, like, transmissions. If I was a smarter man I’d do what 99 percent of the [EV conversion world]’s doing… you use one or two gears in [the existing] tranny, none of which are the ideal ratio in the first place, and neither is the third member.”

“Any time you go through a tranny, it scavenges so much electrical energy that your efficiency goes to shit, now depending on whatever car it is… suddenly you’re hearing shit that you never heard behind your Coyote V8 or your 454, and that further compounds the complexity. And what’s the point, because, the ideal EV scenario, in my opinion, is transmission-less.”

We didn’t really spend enough time driving the Mercury to claim a complete shakedown, but I did get to experience Ward’s point about sounds. The steering and other bits made odd squeaks you never would have heard if the car was guzzling air and gas as god intended.

As for the gearless acceleration, I’m onboard. It’s pretty fascinating the way the car simply swoops up to speed with zero punctuation whatsoever.

“These AMR oil-cooled motors, they’re back to back, I placed them where the tranny was, and then I got this big crazy donkey dick of a driveshaft to a Dana 60 modular aluminum casing to an IRS rear. A friend at Dana helped me find this obscure gearset that got me as close to optimum as possible, so the end result is we’re tranmissionless. Which means more fun when you’re driving, because now you have no shift points, no gears…”

Bringing electric vehicle design details to Icon’s level was also a new challenge for Ward and the company. They had to figure out how to make a simple rectangular screen displaying information look cool, which meant utilizing yet another company to digitally model a gauge design Icon had mocked up.

Before I could ask too many questions about that, Ward dove into another engineering wall he’d come up against.

“Steering! Everyone, typically, goes ‘oh that’s no problem, you know there’s this electric [power steering unit] inline with the column motors guys sell, just use that.’ The reality is that the whole EPAS world is brand new and growing, too.”

“So those off-the-shelf solutions, you literally have a knob, a potentiometer, you’re supposed to put on the dash. Because for an electric steering to really give you any proper dynamic feedback, it has to have a different rate, different feedback, different driver feel, when you’re parking versus when you’re doing 100.”

“Well, there’s a knob on the dash that you are manually adjusting. You’re not even networking to a vehicle speed sensor. So, like, that ain’t gonna fly… We did one electric rack, on electric inline… both of them sucked. So, we ended up going with electrohydraulic from an MR2! Which, oddly enough, has been the best solution.”

Once a car like this finally is buttoned up enough to ship out, it has to be kept alive. “Everything from safety to marketing to permanence and longevity, serviceability. It’s one thing to deliver something with an LS or a Coyote in it [typical car engines] and find a trusted service center. It’s another thing with EVs,” said Ward. We had moved from inside his garage to a corner of his parking lot behind the dumpsters, something I only mention because that’s how hard it was to find refuge from the sounds of welders and grinders furiously at work within his facility. Icon’s a busy place these days; the market for custom-made six-figure cars is clearly substantial.

“We design all the EVs to be submodular, so in theory, if there’s an issue with one aspect of one system, it’s removable… but at the same time, that rapidity of the design generational improvements concerns me.”

The Last Inch To Perfection Is The Hardest

Ward’s revered as something of a vanguard in the custom car world right now because the things his shop are making really are on another level of magnificence. Retooling an old Land Cruiser or Bronco down to custom-machined switchgear might not make sense objectively, but the Icon execution is exceptional. That’s why Icon is unique, and porting that level of extreme detail-dialing to electric cars is a new deal for the shop.

“The premise, back to my original… idea was, evolving classic transportation in a modern context,” Ward said. “Keep that beauty and style and design that I feel so connected to relevant for myself, then clients, because I needed clients to pull it off, so, I think it would be, negligent to not continue pushing. And, like, is [electric] the future of [transportation]? I don’t know, but I know I want to be part of that exploration, that process, to find out.”

Ward certainly feels like the market for EVs is expanding, at least in the short term. “Anyone who’s remotely environmentally aware is seeing the increasing pressures we’re putting on our environment.” In that respect, he thinks “battles with consumers” on electric cars are already won.

“The cool thing I am seeing though, that’s gonna really enable the [electric car] market, is that the demand is exponentially increasing,” Ward says that’s inspiring both cottage industry and big businesses to get onboard.

As for the appeal of custom machines designed to feel retro: “Even if, god forbid, in 10 years you need a special permit to have a human-driven motorcar, and we’re all on rideshares or apps or autonomous vehicles, I still think, I would actually even argue there’d be an increase in, consumers that are yearning for that visceral man-machine [relationship.]” He leaned down to re-spark his cigarette and added: “I better hope so or I’m fucked.”

via Gizmodo

Red Heart’s Heat Wave yarn knits together hand-crafting and new textile technology

Affordable and readily available, Red Heart is the yarn brand that many knitters, including me, used the first time we picked up a pair of needles. I was surprised to see a pitch from them land in my inbox, as hand-knitting yarn is usually something I don’t get to cover for TechCrunch. But the brand recently released a new line of yarn called Heat Wave, which uses proprietary technology to create acrylic yarn that generates heat when exposed to sunlight.

Cowl and gloves knit with Red Heart's Heat Wave yarn

Like Red Heart’s classic Super Saver yarn, Heat Wave is completely acrylic, but becomes up to 12°F warmer when exposed to the sun, even on overcast days. I learned how to knit on Super Saver and still keep a few skeins in my stash. When I opened the box of Heat Wave samples Red Heart sent me, I found that the yarns felt nearly indistinguishable. I took my skeins of yarn outdoors on a sunny day with an infrared thermometer and found that Heat Wave did indeed measure up to the company’s claims, emitting more heat than either Super Saver or a ball of 100% wool yarn in similar colors.

Amy Olsen, the product development lead of Red Heart, tells me the company worked with a supplier (Red Heart prefers to keep their name under wraps) that developed microscopic acrylic fibers with heat-generating properties in the core. Because it is part of the structure of the fiber, it won’t wash out the way a spray-on application would. The fiber is then spun into Aran-weight yarn at Red Heart’s mill in Albany, Ga.

There are other heat-generating textiles used in commercial products, like Uniqlo’s Heattech line of clothing, but many of them work by retaining heat generated by the body. Because Red Heart Heat Wave absorbs solar energy, it has the benefit of extra warmth when you are outdoors, but returns to the same temperature as other acrylic garments when you go back inside.

As an obsessed knitter and tech reporter, I always get a thrill when these two parts of my life connect. For example, researchers are exploring how to use knitted fabrics in soft robotics, while Georgia Institute Technology mathematician, physicist and hand-knitter Elisabetta Matsumoto is currently conducting a five-year research project to create models that can predict how different types of knitted fabric will behave. On the machine-knitting front, a team of MIT researchers has developed AI-based software that enables people without knitting or design experience to create their own clothes.

Red Heart’s Heat Wave is interesting because it is one of the first times I can recall textile technology used as a selling point for a hand-knitting yarn; hopefully it will encourage more people to explore the intersection between STEM and fiber crafts. Olsen says the yarn will become a regular part of Red Heart’s product line, with plans to release more colors in the future.

via TechCrunch

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