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Be curious, not judgmental (shubhro.com)
257 points by shbhrsaha 31 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 133 comments

It's a good title... My instinct is to ridicule the entire concept of the smart home with its dozens of internet-attached devices from TVs to refrigerators to light bulbs accessible from one's smart phone. I suppose I should instead be curious as to why anyone would be comfortable with such a system?

I can see the attraction of using a Raspberry Pi on a closed local network instead of timers and so on, for example if one has a lot of houseplants and so on, but I don't really understand the desire for having that network be internet-accessible.

> dozens of internet-attached devices from TVs to refrigerators to light bulbs accessible from one's smart phone. I suppose I should instead be curious as to why anyone would be comfortable with such a system?

I get value from such a system for the following reasons:

- my bedroom lights wake me up by fading in over the course of an 20 minutes. Before that, I'd always wake up in a bad mood as I got startled awake by an alarm.

- Thanks to the HomePod in the bedroom, we can adjust the lights by voice, useful in the evening when one is falling asleep and the other's still in the bathroom. Like the 80s "Clapper", but magnitudes more useful.

- My mainroom lights adjust color temperature through the day, which I find inordinately pleasing. They will also switch to an "evening" dimmed and redder lighting at a particular time. This is often a subtle cue to me to stop working, or prepare for bed.

- The HomePod in my bedroom also serves as my alarm, using music from the auto-generated playlist of stuff I like. I no longer am woken up by the same repetitive alarm (I can't listen to some of my favourite tunes due to the association), or awful radio.

- I can transfer the music to different devices as I go through my morning routine. It's never been easier to listen to what I want, where I want.

- If a meeting suddenly comes up, I can just give a vocal order to stop the music

- I can switch watching something on my iPad to my TV, and control the TV from the phone that I always have with me, rather than hunt down the single-purpose remote.

There are some downsides of course, but they don't outweigh the above quality-of-life benefits, and I'm very happy with what I have.

That all sounds great... But none of your examples require, or are even improved, by being internet connected.

What non-internet connected voice recognition/NLU system that integrates with light bulbs is available for sale?

Voice systems only require Internet because companies have designed them that way to keep you on the hook and collecting your data. There’s no reason that voice control can’t run on a local box except for this business decision. Voice control systems had been around for years before everything was in the cloud, and with the advances made in the technology since then, the accuracy would be just fine on a local system.

Even having a separate, but integrated, internet-connected voice recognition system would allow the devices themselves not to be internet-connected.

This is possible on Android, you can have an Android app call out to Google for voice control, and have the app control your local network.

That is in fact how most smart lights are implemented. There is a central unit each lightbulb connects to and that central unit (optionally) is connected to the internet.

I don't know any that are for sale on the internet but the deep learning, mesh network and microcontroller tech to join together such a capability are readily available and open source.

I thought Apple's system didn't use the internet. The voice recognition happens on the phone. No?

Newer devices and newer OSs can do some recognition device-side-only. But many features, and certainly anything through the older HomePods, requires cloud assistance.

This article has a good overview: https://appleinsider.com/articles/21/08/02/how-to-use-siri-o...

Apple introduced voice processing on the devices with iOS 15 (that's the current version if you are not so familiar with the system.) Older versions of iOS required an internet connection for any voice command. This works on all but the oldest supported devices (which are ~iPhone 6), from what I remember.

Edit: scroll down to section "Siri" here: https://www.apple.com/ca/ios/ios-15/features/

Sometimes my home wifi gets stuck. I noticed that when I talk to Siri at this time she doesn’t react quickly (working on it for seconds).

You can make your own.

Network connected devices are fine, but this thing where every object in your home is reliant on a persistent network connection to a remote server which it uses to funnel data back to the manufacturer? This needs to die.

The push for evergreen, cloud-connected, as-a-service everything was never about meeting users' needs. It's just a cynical grab for recurring revenue and job security.

> I don't really understand the desire for having that network be internet-accessible.

Some devices are more useful if they're internet accessible:

- Thermostat: can start the AC/heating ahead of time if one comes back at irregular times, in order to come back to a house at the right temperature while saving energy away from home

- Security system: can arm it away from home if someone forgot to arm it, can disarm it remotely if coming back with heavy packages

- Security cameras: can monitor them remotely if needed

- Garage door: can close it remotely if forgotten, can open it remotely so that it's fully open by the time one arrives at the door, can also integrate with Amazon delivery so that they can leave packages in the garage instead of on the porch

- Lights and other devices: no more wondering "did I turn off the lights?"

- Washer/dryer: I don't have one of those, but it would be nice to get phone notifications that the laundry is done and be able to check remotely how much time is left on the current cycle

I look at most of that in the opposite way

> Security system: can arm it away from home if someone forgot to arm it, can disarm it remotely if coming back with heavy packages

Someone finding a zero day can turn off my security system

> Security cameras: can monitor them remotely if needed

Someone hacking my system can spy on me and my family members naked or doing other NSFW things

> Garage door

Same as above, someone will hack it to open my garage

> Lights and other devices:

Increases the surface area massively for getting hacked.

> Washer/dryer (same as previous item)

Further, each one is a chance to be monitored by 3rd parties and/or charged a subscription.

Just to pick one, i think there are many more likely threats to your home security system than a hacker with a zero day.

In the end, it’s about your personal threat model.

Effort matters.

We live in a world where anyone who can run a script can attack 10k houses while they're watching Spiderman. Old school burglars can only do one house at a time and they have to actually go to the house.

"My instinct is to ridicule the entire concept of the smart home"

Your choice. I'm an IT consultant and I try to run my home IT to the same standards as at work.

I keep my IoT devices on a separate VLAN or two. I use Home Assistant as a mediator and I absolutely refuse the likes of Alexa. I'm pretty sure that my Kitchen telly is listening and it is surely loving Morecambe and Wise show's audio on an endless loop and quite quiet.

I'm a former IT consultant, and I'd like to run my home network to the same standards as at work. I looked into it and came to the conclusion that dealing with a few timers is much less hassle than trying to do it with computers.

We're totally happy with a Christmas tree timer, and see no need to let the world know when our tree lights are on or off.

I have a few plant light timers, and I'd really like to adjust them to varying daylight hours without setting every timer separately. A computer could even do the daytime calculations automatically. And while I'm at it, it would be nice to run them all day on cloudy winter days. I wouldn't need to broadcast it to any service provider though, and it would be nice if the setup would work without any Internet connection.

Smart home is a useful thing.

A cloud-connected, vendor-locked smart home is not such a smart move, to my mind, though.

A LAN of things, with a VPN to my phone and laptop is something I'm considering. An always-on third-party listening device, like Echo, I would never consider.

> I suppose I should instead be curious as to why anyone would be comfortable with such a system?

My assumption, informed by a few anecdotes of people I know - people want to feel like they're living with modern amenities, or like they're in the future (Star Trek people talking to their computers, for example), and this is obviously aided by marketing.

Remember when Apple referenced Dick Tracy when introducing the Apple Watch (or a subsequent model?), and how they had always wanted to have the same cool device? I suspect that this is a huge part of what drives the "smart" home.

There are lots of applications for having home devices and appliances on the network. The typical user doesn’t know much about security and tends to assume devices will do what they’re supposed to, so it’s not an obvious problem for those devices to be accessible by a cellphone app.

I imagine our home of the future with a microchip in all outlets, switch, circuit breaker, bulb, etc.

Each breaker would know the current going through it and through all sockets and bulbs. They will be able to detect the bad connection, shut off the current and report the problem, saving a lot of electric fire.

The wiring of the house will be massively reduced as they will be no need to go from switch to light. All lighting will be connected all the time, the switch will be wireless, will be just a faceplate that you stick where you want them. You will assign the switch to the light that you want, they will adjust with the time of day, etc.

Some of the heavy energy use appliances will do peak shaving to reduce the cost of the electricity bill (already in place in some areas)

Sounds great. None of those devices need to be talking to anything outside the home, though.

Even peak shaving can be done by simply checking the AC supply voltage. If it's starting to sag, ease off some of the heavier appliances. If it's higher than expected, now's a good time to burn some extra power.

I agree, they don’t really need the internet.

KNX already does this without internet. The downside is that it's expensive and just as proprietary as the internet-connected smart gadgets.

There are (since several years) "bus" electrical systems, simplified, there are five wires (live+neutral+earth+a two wire "bus" ) going everywhere.

You can decide to mount in "box #1" a switch and (say) a socket, then you configure the switch in "box#1" to command light bulb #23 and the socket to be either always on or commanded by switch #18, etc..

What you are proposing is essentially removing the two wire cable to go wireless.

You need anyway the three mains cables (live+neutral+earth) to get everywhere and passing in the same pipe/tube the additional two wires cable is "no cost".

NO practical advantages, but a whole new possible sets of malfunctioning and/or vulnerabilities.

Apart from the added (and not-so-trivial) added cost of a "bus" system as compared to a traditional electric cabling(not that your dream solutions will be any cheaper), the existing solutions work, and work reliably, because by now they have existed and have been tested for many years, let's introduce a new wireless protocol and brand new microprocessors/terminal devices that offer no advantage...

As an example: your driving home on a cold night, and you want to turn your heating on to preheat the house before you get home.

That would be a dumb home then. A smart home would be properly insulated and a lot more passive, it wouldn't leak as much heat and wouldn't be cold when you get home. All without "smart" tech or burning extra fossil fuel.

The “smart” tech is affordable and costs less than renovating or rebuilding a home, a luxury which many people cannot afford.

Did you run the numbers on savings with insulation vs using "smart" tech?

Usually, it's only a matter of time before insulation pays for itself, the time being roughly a decade. Still, people would rather limp along rather than fix it up.

I guess the question is really the upside/downside ratio. I think for many the upside is marginal compared to the potential downside.

Grandma tech: keep rolls of sugar cookie dough in the freezer, and bake 'em when you get home. An excuse to hang out by the oven, and then you have cookies.

Each generation toils away to solve problems that were first solved more than 200 years ago

Actual grandma tech: keep grandma at home using the oven so the house is warm when you get home.

Nah, my grandma had a life, as I fully intend to when I'm her age.

Or maybe our problems and potentials are radically different than they were 200 years ago?

Spoken like someone toiling away at something your great-grandpa had a solution for.

I have never found this feature useful. In cold places you tend to leave the heat on to keep things stable. Same when it is hot and humid.

You can turn down the heat a few degrees when you’re out of the house and save quite some energy this way.

Not really, not where I live.

Curious if that saves any significant energy, if you visit home regularly. The same with summertime AC. I believe that allowing a properly insulated room to get hot/cold and then reheating/recooling it takes the same work, because half a day is barely enough for it to get equilibrium with the environment. For a week probably yes, but then again you don’t want your home to cross a freezing point too often. Am I right or naive here?

You are half-way right (or half-way naive, it depends on points of view).

Generally speaking (but it depends greatly on the specific home thermal properties and on the kind of heating or AC you have) it is usually less energy intensive to keep in winter your home at a certain temperature (lower than normal but not too lower) than to switch off completely heating and then when you get home boost to the wanted temperature.

Many years ago I knew someone (an electrical engineer by trade) that modified a standard/ubiquitous Panasonic telephone answering machine connecting it to his home thermostat, he used the code to hear messages to switch the heat on.

You don't need the internet, nowadays the equivalent would most probably be something like :


Both voice calls and SMS are routed over the internet today, though…

A smart system would learn your patterns and eventually be able to predict your arrival, setting a temperature that's further away from ambient and towards some target the more confident it is.

Or a tad bit more risky, you could email it.

It's a quote miss-attributed to Walt Whitman. Made very famous by Ted Lasso (in probably the greatest scene in television history).


We're currently binge watching Ted Lasso, and that scene really stung and stuck with me. I am someone who is often judgmental and contrarian, exacerbated by the Internet and many things in our society being not enjoyable, and it has masked the underlying humanity of curiosity that lies inside. It's hard, but focusing on what I can do to learn more about something and actually do things rather than critiquing some existing thing is a process I'm trying to implement. While being a critic is valid, too much of anything is not a good thing.

I would suggest others not watch taht YouTube clip if there is even a small chance you plan on watching Ted Lasso. The build up to that scene is phenomenal and personally am glad I got to enjoy it organically.

That's a good point!

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is contempt prior to examination -- Herbert Spencer, 19th century English philosopher, scientist, and theologian

I've been attempting to train myself to be more open minded. For example, I have been skeptical of functional programming because my assumption was that it was an academic thing for those that didn't have to live in the real world of state and mutability. I thought it had to be less efficient.

Some investigation proved me wrong. Russ Olsen set me straight:

Functional Programming in 40 Minutes • Russ Olsen • GOTO 2018


We don't have to copy a million element immutable array to change one element. We copy a section of it and keep the rest in a tree structure of changes (this happens under the covers). Secondly, manipulating the stateful world is easier to understand if we isolate those actions in Atoms and Actors.

Now I see the beauty of it so I'm glad I investigated.

I was very puzzled by your argument until I skimmed the video. You are associating functional programming with avoiding side effects. That’s a very Haskell-ish view of things but that’s not the heart of it.

The key idea of functional programming is that it’s easier to think of program as a composition of functions rather than as a list of statements and therefore functions should be first class values. That used to be controversial but frankly the idea won. We have seen lambdas go mainstream in most major languages and programming is more and more functional by the day.

In this talk Erik Meijer surprised me by saying functional programming is not about immutability (at the end) which is talked about a lot by functional programmers and then refers to his paper, which lays out his thoughts in greater detail:

The Curse of the Excluded Middle: "Mostly functional" programming does not work by Erik Meijer


Right, I understand where I wasn't clear. You're right, that idea has won and gone mainstream so I didn't think it was worth mentioning. I was emphasizing that I thought immutable data structures were inefficient and that it was the luxury of academics to abstract away stateful changes in the name of purity.

I've got a couple of other ideas that I need to do more research on (I'm watching Erik Meijer videos today)

1) Class objects with methods and data are like small programs, so I don't get why people go on and on about having data structures with functions as being superior to class objects, which are essentially data structures with associated functions.

2) Similarly, Joe Armstrong seems to hate object oriented programming but Erlang instances are essentially class objects, albeit running in their own process so they have more isolation

3) From reading Erik Meijer's Confessions of a Used Programming Language Salesman, I'm assuming that Async/Await that he help put in C# and Dart are his attempt to bring Haskell continuation monads to the imperative world

4) I'm assuming Clojure Atoms and Actors are like Haskell monads but don't know that. I watched Brian Beckman: Don't fear the Monad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhuHCtR3xq8) but couldn't make heads or tails of it. Something about functions calling first order functions and pure first order effects with stateful second order effects, or something... That was a few years ago so I will give it another chance.

I'm probably wrong about these ideas but they're fun to think about and give me something to learn

My view on 2 is that you get into a quite different mindset when you program actors, compared to objects. For starters, since each actor is scheduled separately, it becomes routine to not assume too much about the internal state of the actor. So you won't see many getters + setters in Erlang, for example. You also need to structure your program to not communicate unnecessarily, since communication may fail and requires you to wait for the other actor to reply. This makes you to think about what state should belong to which actor. It is quite subtle and is best seen by experiencing it, but I think the programs turn out quite different, and in my view better. Actors are not perfect for everything but to me they are what object oriented programming should have been.

I realized additionally is that Armstrong has other complaints about OOP like inheritance. What I said above in that classes and functions are like a self-contained programs with structs and functions. I wasn't considering inheritance, but once you start inheriting it gets murky:

Joe Armstrong: Because the problem with object-oriented languages is they've got all this implicit environment that they carry around with them. You wanted a banana but what you got was a gorilla holding the banana and the entire jungle

But some of his other complaints don't feel as right to me:


I do love the implementation of Erlang and the reliability. I think it would fun to try actors and see if it changes how I view software engineering. I bet it would.

This is good advice, but that design is still terrible.

Take for example, IKEA Tradfri: if you use their dimmers, you don't ever need to reset the lamps. You just hold the dimmer and it's reset button close to the lamp.

And if you use another system, you reset them by quickly switching them on and off six times. Takes under ten seconds. "It's complicated" is not a very good excuse for shitty design reaching end users.

Not sure why you're getting down voted. People here complain that a website/app doesn't load quickly even if it's a few seconds regardless of the complexity. I'm not going to use the service if it has problems. I don't care about the "engineering challenges" unless it's moving needle dramatically.

Dose anyone has good advices to change this kind of mindset ?

It is hard for me to not be judgmental about stuff I disagree, and I can tell this attitude is causing more trouble than I would like in many different area of my life.

It's really hard, and the author falls into their own trap. They're being "judgmental" about the people who are being judgmental. And here I am doing it, too.

Instead of worrying about "curious" vs "judgmental", I would instead ask: Who am I helping with this statement?

The author is attempting to help people be more helpful to other people. Clearly you heard them, and it has inspired you to be a better person. Unfortunately, they didn't provide you actionable advice. I'm hoping my suggestion above is better for people.

I use it myself sometimes when responding online. When I first started asking it (or things like it, focusing on the wellbeing of others), I deleted a lot of comments. They simply weren't actually helpful overall.

Another way to look at it: "Am I going to ruin someone's mood with this?" If you are, can you provide the information in a way that doesn't, or at least softens the blow, if they really need to hear it?

I don't enjoy making people unhappy, so it wasn't hard to start concentrating on that first instead of last, and improving all the help I was trying to give. I'm sure I have a long way to go, but I feel like I do better than I used to.

Another deleter-a-lot is “Why do I need this fight?”.

With our toddlers we ask ourselves: 'is this the hill you want to die on?' It makes us less judgemental, more curious, more listening, and more self reflective. I believe that is also what 'please listen to what I have to say' means (tho its too often shortened to shouting 'Listen!' which works less well. But we all lack one important currency these days: time. Spending your time on someone is therefore an invaluable investment. Who other than your children deserve it more?

What works for me is to assume there is always an explanation, then go look for it.

Could be anything from an actual good reason to do it this way, or some other factors like cost, or maybe even just lack of time, or the best of multiple bad options.

Postpone judgement until you have a good understanding. You could still come to the same conclusion but it will likely be much more nuanced.

Basically empathize with whoever build it or was involved.

Also design/build stuff yourself, do user testing and get feedback; it’s humbling haha.

Like Chesterton's fence [0].

I get annoyed when other younger/new hires come in and just start bashing and saying how stupid this is that is/was and that the person that did it was dumb or an idiot or incompetent without them first learning the history, context, and environment the decision(s) were made in. And they're typically not wrong. If the decision(s) were made today, I typically agree 100% with them.

[0] https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/Chesterton%27s_fence#:~:tex....

*they're usually not wrong about how stupid the current situation is, but they're wrong that someone is stupid, dumb, or incompetent. Hindsight is 20/20 and historical context is important.

Assume you are wrong until proven otherwise. There are really quite a lot of constraints you are at most times not qualified to reason about. Small example: I was working on implementing accessibility for a government website and was rather baffled at the requirement to provide sign language videos providing basic explanations. I had assumed we'd need to provide augmenting accesibility, i.e. text-to-speech for the blind. In my mind, if a person can see, they can also read. Turns out: no, not the case. Sign language is a separate language and you'd be learning your locally dominant language as a first foreign language, so depending on the community you grow up with, you may as well lack basic literacy in that language. Therefore, sign language videos are more akin to offering the website in different languages that assistive technology. After that incident, I've learned to assume there is always something I don't know which explains the things I find weird.

I can strongly recommend the book "The Scout Mindset" by Julia Galef.

It's not only an excellent discussion/lesson on exactly this, it's also an incredibly well written book.

I found two books so far that had pretty actionable plans to address this.

They first is Difficult Conversations, largely about nonviolent communication, which provides a structured template for “learning conversations”. The relevant advice was: when you feel a strong feeling of disagreement, you tell the other person instead of bottling it up, which lets you ll then transition to a listening state. Like: “When I heard that my first instinct was to disagree because of X. At the same time I know you (insert reason like “have different life perspectives” or “are my friend and care about me”) so I would like to learn more.

The second is The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leaders, which offers a metaphor for the mental state between judgement and curiosity they call “the line”. Being “above the line” is a state of curiosity, “below the line” is judgement and defensiveness. The book goes into physiological reasons, the advice they give is to develop strong awareness of your emotions to detect when you go below the line, then use breathing exercises to quickly resurface. They also have other exercises for developing empathy for other points of view you can do on your own, like isolating narratives from facts and working through all possible narratives for a given situation (like “Tom thinks I am incompetent, I think Tom is incompetent, Tom thinks I am competent, I think Tom is competent”)

I’ve used both to some pretty good success so far, after receiving some feedback that I was not listening well.

I use self-reflection and internal dialog when I notice I'm feeling judgemental, to drill down to what has created the discomfort. Once you understand your own reactions it's much easier to talk with others. I'm not always aware until later but it works then too as a retrospective. Most people are open to walking through their beliefs with you as long as they feel safe from risk of attack. Apply the same kindness to yourself.

Remembering when I was wrong about something I felt strongly about in the past can be a good reminder to suspend harsh judgment.

there is a logical fallacy (not just in the title). It ignores that curiosity will always result in a judgement, and even it's a "positive judgement". If only we stick around long enough we'll need to tear down our original belief (only way to avoid it is not to grow). Being loud (judgemental) makes us look like we have done the leg work (of curiosity). But curiosity is a lot of work and it's easier to get reward by simply looking competent (judging loudly). Exploiting this is easy because it's hard to tell if a stranger has actually put in the legwork and earned their "right" to judgement. And it's also easy to dismiss judgement as "Don't judge just be curious", when in reality, staying curious is impossible once you have a full grasp over a specific topic. (being curious here would mean move on to new things to be curious about).

I'm probably overthinking it. Last weeks I was working on designing an IIoT device (EV charging point) where the customer insists on using the outdated protocol, and not spend the money or time to bother with security. Hardware constraints will rule out there is a future in which this device will be secure (or maintainable). So when I read this:

> By being curious, not judgmental, we can start to understand these peculiar things around us. Only by understanding, we might even find a way to make them better.

It drives me up the wall. Almost impossible for me not to immediately judge and ridicule them, for sloppy thinking, but also for forgetting that a system/idea will only get better by stressing it. And it would be a shame if somebody destroyed their echo chambers, or took a dump in their "safe-space". Perhaps I'd understand the situation a bit better (have empathy) if the people being attacked and ridiculed were unpaid tinkerers or engineers (e.g. FOSS). But a big company like GE? And especially a topic like IoT - I don't think so.

I’ve been contemplating this topic as well, though more for social issues which I think that I’ve thought deeper on than the other person. The end state is that I believe that I know more than them and therefore my conclusions are “more correct”. It results in a physiological response and I end up in an argumentative state trying to get them to see my position but in the process, failing to query their point of view.

I’m torn because I think there are genuine cases where I do have more information, but I don’t want to become an argumentative person, and logically if offered a 1% choice to possibly learn something new, it would be more beneficial to learn than to not.

I was thinking next time I could try to guess their assumptions and reasoning and they can fill me in on the difference. Then point out and see if they accounted for any extra information I had.

Besides living long enough to witness mistakes that took a decade or longer to play out, what I do is use the cognitive bias codex by designhacks.co.

My heuristic is:

Is the subject matter important?

If yes, is the cost of being wrong high?

If yes, am I displaying any signs of cognitive bias? (Consult the cognitive bias codex)

If yes, how do I mitigate the bias?

Once done, has my outlook changed?

What action should I take?

This is close to Sociocracy’s “Is it good enough for now and safe enough to try?”

The replies to this are very good. I'd just add that - like anything - it takes practice. You have to train your mind to work this way, and you need to continue to do so. So, don't judge yourself too harshly when it doesn't come easy. Recognize it and continue to practice.

Start with questions, even when you know the answer, and listen.

Then follow up with a question.

And repeat this without offering any opinions.

Just practice that.

> Dose anyone has good advices to change this kind of mindset ?

The only way you can not be judgmental is by being dead or unconscious. Living is about making judgments about everything, all the time (and most of them become habits at some point).

A person may not be able to suppress spontaneous judgement, but one can observe the process and reflect on the reasoning, incentive, and emotions that go into it afterwards. Then you can decide if you mind _should_ be made up, or if it might be better to put more effort into a higher order of understanding.

I once heard this observation: judgement and curiosity are two distinct states of mind. If you’re curious about something, you cannot simultaneously be judgmental.

In improv, there’s an exercise where you say “yes and”. This language construct helps you build on what someone else is saying.

(Because in improv, if you object to something, you can just stop the show.)

It works really well in a professional setting, too. Try it!

I learned about Buddhism and the concept of lovingkindness and that really helped. I read a short book on Buddhism.

But also finding people who can engage with those they disagree with without resorting to mean behavior and listening to them is probably a good tactic. One person I can think of is Beau of the Fifth Column on YouTube who basically explains a left leaning political position to conservatives and centrists in short videos every day. He’s totally non judgmental and I have found it useful to just listen to the way he describes things. He explains topics that are often divisive without any condescension, which I think is a rare trait in political discussion.

EDIT: Forgot to include the obvious, but therapy. I had all manner of rough edges and I’m still finding tricky situations that my therapist has been helping me with for years. Keep in mind that if you learn to become less judgmental you will have better relationships all around. Better friendships, work relationships and love. My career is much better today because I matured, in a large part through therapy, and can manage complex and difficult discussions with my business partner without upsetting anyone. These changes benefit you and those around you and lead to more harmony and happiness. And you deserve that!

Try looking up “Beginners Mind”. It’s a concept from Zen Buddhism.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Give it five minutes. My all time favorite advice on exactly how to do that.


This reminded me of a clip from Ted Lasso with the same quote: https://youtu.be/5x0PzUoJS-U

Nice to see this pop up here

There is so much wisdom in the title of this post (a quote by Walt Whitman) and it applies to so many situations in life. Happy to see it used as the title to this post (and on the homepage of HN :)

Always good advice. When I see something I don't understand that seems off or weird, one way I avoid judgement is to ask the five whys to myself.

It is also good to recognize that most everyone is doing the best they can, and if you ship a light with a weird way to reset it, there were probably (as the author suggests) constraints that you don't know about.

What if you're wrong and they wanted to inflict anguish on their users? Well, the market is pretty good about fixing those problems, at least with commodities like lights.

>What if you're wrong and they wanted to inflict anguish on their users? Well, the market is pretty good about fixing those problems, at least with commodities like lights.

The problem with this idea is that consumer-unfriendly things can make more money for the manufacturers than consumer-friendly things--not because the consumers want to pay for them, but because it lets the companies make money in other ways (typically advertising, monetizing consumer data, or using consumer bandwidth) that are dangerous in ways that are hard for consumers to understand. The consumers will end up worse even by their own standards (they'll understand the dangers after they happen to them, they just won't understand them in advance or connect them to the poor design).

The market assumes perfect consumer knowledge. Most people here know the dangers of the Internet of Things, but the average person doesn't. And just HN geeks are not enough to support a market, so you only get to buy the same things that the average consumer can buy. (Go ahead, try to find a non-smart TV.)

> When I see something I don't understand that seems off or weird, one way I avoid judgement is to ask the five whys to myself.

There's an awesome (and odd) book, called "Outside Lies Magic,"[0] that explores many of these types of things in everyday life.

[0] https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-r-stilgoe/ou...

Also, PMs and engineers that don’t actively use and love their product can be subject to laziness - finding the most simple passable direct solution and implementing that - just to go home at 4:20.

Sure, yes, empathize don’t judge, but also, let’s acknowledge the human tendencies as non-owners to DGAF - especially in this current age of the worker questioning everything.

Yeah what a terrible example. We can all strive to more curious but bad product design is bad product design. We shouldn't let people off the hook for that regardless of the engineering challenges that arise.

> Be curious, not judgmental

Those two are not opposites. The opposite of curious is that you don't care. Most people don't care about things like the factory reset procedure for lamps. A judgemental person cares or they wouldn't spend energy judging, and in fact one of the best way to sate your curiosity is to be very judgemental online since people will write comments, blogs or articles like this and explain things to you when you do.

I think it's naive to think that we can stop being judgemental. It's like saying we can stop going to the loo or needing love. It is out nature and this is the nature of our neural-nets. Our neural-nets were trained, and then they 'classify' and 'trigger', the classification is the trigger which is the judgement. What we can do do is to be aware of the nature of our neural system, of the fact that as any other AI solution needs training data and is only as good as the data. As any other AI solution it can over-optimise or end up in a local optimum which makes us think so strongly about some subjects. Part of the video is spot - it's its title - yes being curious helps 'cleaning' the training data and helps having the trained data better balanced which in turn kicks your locally-optimised NN out of it's dip and allow to explore further. The most important part is to distinguish between being judgmental and acting upon judgment rather than reflecting on it first.

This part is not naive -> we can and should control our actions, we do not control our thoughts as much as we like to think but we can choose how we react to them.

Sure, but this isn’t such a unique problem. Hue handles all of these reset scenarios with much more grace, as an example: https://www.trustedreviews.com/how-to/how-to-reset-philips-h...

> “we can’t put it on the glass”

LED lightbulbs are typically housed in plastic. You easily integrate a plastic button into plastic housing.

Anecdotal but Yeelight smart bulbs in my home require 5 turn offs and ons to reset with 2 sec pauses after every press. I reckon the GE bulbs don't actually require 8 sec pauses and it's just suggested to ensure users cross a certain threshold at all times when they are really trying to reset.

What would be cool, although it would take enormous coordination and negotiation effort to do, would be to develop a universal reset code for lightbulbs.

One idea would be to use the morse code encoding for "RRR", or ".-. .-. .-." (has a nice, memorable beat to it) with a minimum and maximum frequency such that it could be input at human or machine speed (say an allowed period between 50-500ms and a tolerance of 20% variation while inputting).

Once you have a standardized way to encode "reset" using on-off (which is all we have available given the legacy system we use), the next-gen lamps and light switch panels could just incorporate this into a built-in reset switch that sends the full reset signal to any bulb that happens to be plugged in.

Yeah, but how are you going to get likes on those tweets?

I'm taking a little of my holiday break to try and apply this to cryptocurrencies and blockchain stuff.

Horrible, terrible, tragic, I know. But if I feel like I'm going to be ridiculing this stuff on a fairly regular basis, then I should at least know what the fuck I'm talking about, right?

I mean, what number of HN commenters who dismiss crypto out of hand have literally never made an effort to be curious about the guts of it all? Probably a pretty sizeable majority, if I had to guess – myself included.

I think I have a general policy of withholding judgement until I've researched a thing, with as little prejudice as I can manage. But if I spend a lot of time researching a thing, and still reach the conclusion that it's stupid, and everybody buying it is stupid, then woe unto that thing (in internet comment threads).

Yeah, I'm with you. I just feel like a lot of my "research" so far – crypto-wise – has mostly just been people talking about it, instead of me making an actual effort to understand any of it myself. So now I gotta go do that.

The technology is actually not that hard to understand, at least at a high level, it's getting through the "people talking about it" down to what is actually being done with the technology and why it needs to be a "distributed ledger". Often it doesn't and understanding that disconnect seems to often be the hard part.

> I mean, what number of HN commenters who dismiss crypto out of hand have literally never made an effort to be curious about the guts of it all?

I think most people on HN don't dismiss the "guts of it". I don't think blockchain is technically deficient, though proof of work is an ecological disaster, and I don't think most other people do either.

But it seems to be a technology in search of a problem; the problems blockchain/crypto answer are often things like enabling Ponzi schemes, money laundering, ransomware and, rarely, currency in despotic regimes.

Whenever we ask crypto supporters WHY blockchain?, WHY NFTs?, WHY so many ICOs?, isn't this a ponzi scheme?, the answer is some form of "you don't understand" or "good luck, stay poor".

One start on this question is with another question: What advantage does Nakamoto consensus have over typical Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance? It, surprisingly enough, scales better and is also open with permisionless participation. It's inefficient but a big part of that is because it's both open and seeks consensus with essentially no subjectivity.

The combination of these features: a distributed, open, permissionless, minimal subjectivity, practical double spend immunity, and malicious actor or sybil resistance log of transactions, are what make it as it is and difficult to improve upon without weakening one of those aspects. To answer your why questions would be to defend those properties.

My experience is people from oppressed corruption filled countries tend to be sympathetic of those properties and those from wealthy stable countries tend to think them not worth the cost. It probably can't be used as a global currency but can (in theory) be there for scenarios where trust and subjectivity tolerance are minimal.

> isn't this a ponzi scheme

I would say no, it's more like a speculative bubble and casino that breeds pump and dump schemes. If most participants are uninformed then it's a scam, if most are informed it's senseless gambling. There are some legit uses such as funding civil disobedience or hedging against serious inflation in countries with constrained access to dollars (this usecase is why it fails to be a ponzi scheme, you don't want value to increase, stability is preferred).

While I agree with the general sentiment when it comes to individual interactions, I think it's kind of naive to put this much trust into corporations in a capitalist system.

Should we have been curious about the development of MCAS at Boeing? Or the Volkswagen emissions scandal? And it's very common that have companies that have actuaries that spend money determining the amount of money they'd have to pay out in lawsuits for lethal design flaws in their products vs recalls.

The point is that big companies have such vastly, mindbogglingly different systems behind them, so yes that much is true, that most likely there was a "reason" it was done this way, like there was a "reason" the Volkswagen emission scandal happened and the departments were mixed up in such a way so no one could point to any one person. But that reason sure isn't about the customers, it's about their corporation.

By all means though, curiosity is great to cultivate in INDIVIDUAL interactions where it's a human interaction and not motivated by profit/transactional. Why give companies this benefit of the doubt? In my opinion the onus should be on them to prove to consumers that they're not just profit based and that they care about customer service and transparency.

Good question. Should we apply this axiom (and resulting benefit of the doubt) to power structures / organizations? One way to look at it is: which approach is more likely to lead to a better understanding of the problem and thus the solutions?

If we are curious, we can ask questions like: what are the root cause incentive structures that led to anti-social actions? and: What systematic adjustments can we make that disincentivize such actions in the future? I think that these questions lead to a more broad perspective on how to address problems. Where a judgemental approach narrows the possible solutions and opens us up to the cure being more deadly than the disease.

It's a tough issue, for sure, because the playing field is just so unequal. To even be able to approach these issues in a more equal way you'd probably have to start a lawsuit and go through a process of discovery because the corporation is bound by all these bizarre legal, financial, and political motives that don't apply when people are interacting with each other. This leads to corporations responding to such requests in a way that's inherently against the interests of the public answering these questions. Without a system in place that further aligns and incentivizes companies interests with their users the only way you can really approach this in a more equal manner is something like a lawsuit. Many times the problem is incredibly complex and while some people, even C level people may be all for providing this transparency it breaks down at scale and the company is at the end of the day beholden to its own interests and perpetuating itself.

I recently saw this video on YouTube about some of the shadiness going on with Roblox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTMF6xEiAaY

The official answers they are giving is basically meaningless legalese and that's becoming more and more common. As I said before since Roblox isn't entering into this conversation in good faith the only way to force that conversation would be legal actions.

Any kinds of laws further aligning the needs of clients/the general populace against the needs of big corporations/political elite have a really hard time passing because the system is self sustaining. We already understand this dynamic and we have been asking these questions for a long time but they keep getting pushed down and torn apart as "unrealistic".

This is a good video about how hierarchical systems self select for people who play the game rather than people who stick to their morals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs

And here's a video that shows just how undemocratic laws passing in the US is and self serving of corporate/elite interests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tu32CCA_Ig

The issue here is a bigger one because it's going to self sustain and to make progress at this point you have to kind of just fight fire with fire (be part of the elite, own a big corp, or throw massive amounts of money at it) and getting involved with those systems can lead you on the path towards getting in a situation where you're betraying your own goals for entering them...

“…unless you’re me.”

y’all got it twisted

Not directly about a lightbulb, but I've learned that when you see something and think "why is it this way, that's stupid" its usually not. People don't make things "stupid" for no reason.

Somebody hasn't seen the yoke.

I liked how they picked the worst possible example to illustrate their point lol.

I like this way of putting it. For me I have seen it more as being understanding compared to judgmental. But I understand how you would put it as curious ;)

This article, the Twitter critics, and the overall lesson learned reminds me of this quote, one of my favorites:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

I like this quote and have used myself several times. The devil is in the details though. "who spends himself in a worthy cause". IoT is far from a worthy cause, it's a desperate attempt to sell more stuff. Or let me go to the internet's favorite argument: Hitler also did deeds and could have certainly done them better. Are we not allowed to be judgemental?

> Are we not allowed to be judgemental?

I am far from innocent here but I'm gonna say no. You are saying IoT is far from a worthy cause. Really? Is it not worthy that my aging grandparents can open the door from their bed and not have to go downstairs, turn on their lights in the dead of night from their phone so they don't have to risk stumbling and falling when reaching for the light switch, or even just more accurate track their health? I think those are all pretty worthy causes.

The problem with IoT is that people in other countries can also theoretically open the door and turn on the lights from THEIR phone if the grandparents don’t keep everything updated.

Excuse me, but a an analog electrical switch to open the front door remotely works just fine. If you must insist on a digital one, OK, though I fail to see why you would complicate things. An internet connected one though: just NO.

I don't know if that's a great use case. My experience with old people says that they (mostly) hate tech and cannot operate it without someone else.

Also with old people you'd want the tech to be familiar to them so that you don't have to video call them to show them how to reset the WiFi.

And if you're talking about old people who cannot even walk without stumbling their memory would be so far gone that they'd forget how to operate half the devices half the time.

Maybe it would be more helpful to future old people such as ourselves, but I think simpler, robust, and familiar tech is better for old people.

Just another perspective.

Consumer IoT is often a gimmick. In industry and agriculture it's much more worthy but less visible to lay people.

I love how I can have lots of floor lighting that’s easily controlled with IoT bulbs and power switches.

It solves a real problem for me, and I think many others too!

Plus, the QA team probably felt this a lot more then end users, testing this reset procedure thousands of times.

The product team had probably received this feedback long before the Internet spoke. And, ultimately, found a 40-second factory reset procedure is not that big of a deal.

Totally agree with this sentiment. It's easy to criticize on the Internet and receive positive feedback for that. But, constructive replies are often the most clever & interesting ones. Great post, Shu!

That has to be the funniest serious video

The absurdity of our modern high tech lives in 2min

It’s not anyone's fault, it’s an emergent property.

By the third time I was saying IT’S ENOUGH SLICES [0].

In all seriousness, it’s fine if that is the reset procedure, but I think they should provide some kind of reset socket tool where you can screw in the bulb and it will run the procedure for you. This way, it’s always possible to do it manually, but also can be done more easily with the reset socket. It should be an inexpensive tool of course.

[0]: https://www.tiktok.com/@theneedletok/video/69560346101741519...

FYI: Little kids unpair ikea lamps with ease if there is still a physical switch.

Why can't the button be on the bulb? It's not vacuumed glass


But the whole point of curiosity is to find out more about something in order to form a judgement. We just need to be willing to change judgements when shown the constraints. In a way, asking people to be non judgemental kills curiosity.

I'd quote Marc Andreessen: "Strong opinions; weakly held."

> Why not add a factory reset button?

If you don't say dumb things in life out loud, you won't move forward. You'll just continue to think dumb things.

> I’m saying that we don’t know enough about the constraints to say there’s a better solution.

This is pride in ignorance. There's no reason why you can't. Light bulb engineers, rocket scientists and doctors are just human beings.

OK I'm curious.

Why was it like that? If you don't judge it how can you understand it? What framework should be used?

Don't be judgemental without being curious, I think is a better line.

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