2022 was a reasonably eventful year, for me personally (the year globally is not the subject of this post). I took on a new job, at DeepMind, as global policy director. I also moved to London and now share my time between London and Stockholm, exploring what it feels like to live in two cities (it is very different, but not in a bad way – it does force perspective changes!).
Work-wise, the year has been filled with a lot of learning. DeepMind is a fascinating company, and the people I have met have been generous to a fault with their time and insights. The sense of mission-driven purpose and commitment is both inspiring and humbling. The AI-space has gone through massive change and rapid acceleration the last year as well – and that means that there is more work to be done to ensure that the policy dialogues we need are happening, and that we put a robust policy framework in place for the future. Reconnecting with the OECD, EU and other policy makers over these issues has been a real pleasure. We often underestimate the political systems we work in, but I consistently find serious, committed and curious people working on the issues. Cynicism about policy remains an uninteresting defense mechanism for those that cannot see the necessity of messiness in politics. For me, work is valued along a couple of different dimensions – the people, the learning and the mission – and I feel fortunate to be where I am at this moment in history.
I have lost weight, started weight lifting and am in generally better shape than I was last year, which feels very good. As I grow older I value time more and more – and time is more valuable if one is healthy, so that is increasingly important to me. I never thought I would enjoy weight lifting as much as I do, either, but it is a great form of exercise – especially if one gets a great personal trainer, as I was lucky to do.
In terms of writing, the year has been good. I concluded the newsletter Unpredictable Patterns, having written 99 notes over two years, on various subjects. Each note was roughly 3000 words and the discipline of writing these notes weekly did a lot for my writing, I think. As I now turn to other writing – books, blogs and short stories – I will need to keep that up. I also wrote some in Swedish in Svenska Dagbladet – essays on Roe vs Wade, Cheap Speech (the book and concept), semiconductors and power as well as the importance of quitting. I also had the privilege to write about US politics and the distinction between comprehension and competence that DC Dennett makes, in Axess. In terms of longer essays elsewhere, I wrote an essay about the how digitization reaches a point where it stops revealing nature as a resource and instead allows nature to hide in complexity – something I also had a chance to discuss in this podcast. I also had the opportunity to write a short piece on AI and eternal life in the catalogue for the Nobel museum’s exhibition on that theme at Liljevalchs.
I have read a lot – and have discovered some new authors. Top reads this year include everything by Ruth Millikan on the biological nature of concepts, Lorraine Daston on rules as well as on observation generally, as well as Edward Chancellors on the history of interest. I also enjoyed the grand theory of history in Bradford De Long’s latest work and Annie Duke’s book on quitting.
Richard Allan and I have continued to explore tech policy in the podcast Regulate Tech – and have produced 20 episodes this year on a variety of subjects. My favorite ones included The End of Silicon Valley and Richard’s knowledgeable take on the Online Safety Bill in the UK. More than anything I enjoy the conversations we have, since I learn something every time we sit down.
There is much more to be said about 2022, but I think it might be good to conclude with a few thoughts on 2023. There are three things (that is how Peircean I am) that stand out in how I want to focus the year. One is on things that compound over time, and really digging in on a few longer projects to get them done. The second is a deepening of the health project overall, looking at diets and other habits to see what can be changed. The third is being meticulous about how I spend my time. It may be a function of getting older, but I do feel that the way we spend our time is increasingly the only thing that matters – not in the sense that we should save time or just spend it more leisurely, but that we should spend it in ways that help us become what we need to be.
You are what you repeatedly do and the habits we form describe the shape of our time in ways that we should not ignore. If anything I aim to craft my time more intentionally in 2023, looking for ways to learn differently.