Introducing “Daytrips Through the Valley”

(Background: I write a quarterly series called New Future Field Notes at my little publishing house that I call He Wrote Go. My next publication will be about AI, and I’ll be naming it Daytrips Through the Valley. (Or Canyon) This is the introduction I wrote about a month ago, and I’ve been doing AI Daytrips ever since. Enjoy!)

Imagine discovering The Grand Canyon. You didn’t know it would be there, and you sure as heck didn’t invent it, but there it is. It’s in front of you, and it’s really big. So big that the word big doesn’t even do it justice. You get the idea that someone could commit their entire lifetime just to mapping it out and attempting to understand even a portion of it. What to do you do? Where do you start? Not just you, but the collection of travellers who see the same view?

That’s how I felt when I first fell in love with the internet in the late 80s. I was born in 1979, so I’m in that “xennial” generation who grew up fully without the internet, but were the first ones to really embrace it, whether in middle school, high school, or college. We were the hinge between generations who found the internet silly (Gen X and older) and those who found it indispensable (millennials and younger). We were caught between people reminding us to spend more time outside and gleefully describing themselves as “very online.”

I remember how clearly my friends and I knew that the internet was going to change everything. When David Bowie said, in 1999,

I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. I think the potential of what the Internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.

He called the internet an alien life form. He said things were going to be so completely different from anything we can imagine in the present day. He said the Internet proves to us that we’re living in “total fragmentation.” People are saying in hindsight that he called it, and that he’s a genius. Yes, he called it. And yes, he was an artistic genius. But he wasn’t the only one making these predictions. I was there. I remember how it felt. And 2022 feels similar to how I felt in 1992, when the internet was new, or 2002, when internet businesses were regrouping after the dotcom bust, or 2012, when companies like Twitter and Airbnb were brand new.

There’s a Grand Canyon of potential and explorations out there. There’s no doubt things are going to change immeasurably in the next decade or two, as always. There’s no doubt that the things we’re talking about and thinking through are going to take centre stage. There’s no doubt we’re looking at a vast vista of new concepts and insights. So what are we going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? What I always do. I’m going to write about what I see.

Imagine seeing The Grand Canyon, then deciding to go on a series of day trips. Maybe first you go down a trail that takes you to a roaring river, so you document how you got there. Maybe then you take a turn and explore some caves, then document what you see. Maybe then you come back to the river and start recording plant and animal life. Now imagine returning back to your fellow travellers back at camp and being able to share what you’ve found with the others. Imagine how inspiring that could be, and how helpful!

This is where the term “web log” or “blog” came from. Like a Star Trek “captain’s log” where you document the planets you visit, the alien lifeforms you see, and how your adventures go. Early blogs were absolutely reporting “hey I found this cool resource” or “it turns out this website isn’t trustworthy” or whatever. It was all in the spirit of discovery and sharing what you found with the rest of the group. It was cool because like good travel fiction, you could follow along and learn things without actually taking the trip yourself.

So that’s what I’d like to do about what I’m seeing right now in the world of AI. AI is a Grand Canyon of adventure. There are lots of different trails and experiences to be had. So I’m going to document some of the discoveries I’ve made over the years, some of the figurative day trips that are my favourites, and what sorts of discoveries I want to make next. My hope is that someone else can read about my day trips and be inspired to build on them to take their own trips. Whether they walk the same steps I did so they can go further, decide to go in an entirely different direction, or just want to follow along from the comfort of their own chair, it’s good to explore. And it’s good to share.


(Edit: my wife pointed out that “valley” can refer to the Uncanny Valley, so Maybe Daytrips Through the Valley is a better name)