Things that have Kept me up at Night

Fri Mar 22 2024


As a dude in his mid-twenties, sleep is one of the biggest pleasures in my life. There's nothing quite like knocking out after a long day and waking up disoriented from a deep slumber filled with REM-induced dreams. The refreshing taste of starting a new day with a splash of "what just went on in my head for the past 8 hours" is a flavor combination that no fountain soda machine can replicate. While it would be amazing to ensure that I get to sleep like this every night, it's only sometimes guaranteed.

There are some nights where I end up just staring at the ceiling. My mind sometimes enjoys revving its engine when my body is ready to sleep, leading to me laying in bed trying to just pass time. Sometimes, I end up thinking about things I spend less time thinking about during the day. It also sometimes results in some fun thought exercises that generate interest in learning more about new and niche topics. To better understand what I'm talking about, I'll share some topics that have kept me up in the past year.

Healthy Living

Living a healthy lifestyle is something that I cared a lot more about after moving to San Francisco. The people here are not only ridiculously bright and knowledgeable but very healthy. The amount of people 5+ years older than me who look younger than me in this city is absurd. It made me reconsider what it means to be healthy. When I started to care more about being healthy, I thought "healthiness" was as straightforward as exercising and eating nutritious food. Although those two factors are important, I can't entirely agree with this sentiment.

My mind now sees healthy living as a byproduct of an individual making intelligent decisions consistently. Looking at my calendar, I can carve out 300 minutes a week for something. I could spend that time doing many things, such as exercising, studying, singing, napping or watching Law and Order. If I continue with this habit for 12 weeks, that will mean that I dedicate 3600 minutes, or 60 hours, to this thing. How I spend my time can lead to a healthy or unhealthy change in myself.

My thoughts regarding healthy living span past more than just individual healthy living but also healthy living as a society. There's a lot of misinformation and products in the space, which makes it difficult for people to know who and what to trust. Health trends and fads are also always a thing (Ozempic being in pop culture blows my mind). How factors such as big pharma, agriculture and media affect healthy living significantly interests me (especially when social media isn't considered safe for children and adolescents by the Office of the Surgeon General).

Food and Water

These are broad in subject matter, and how I think about them, so I'll share some simple thoughts. I'll start by sharing some straightforward thoughts, such as how appealing tasty food has been lately. I never considered myself much of a foodie, but as I get older, I enjoy having a nice meal accompanied with great company and conversation. Moments like that stimulate my brain and motivate me. Going deeper into the food aspect, much thought and consideration goes into a great meal and dining experience. There's a lot of media showcasing the art (some recommendations: Restaurants at the End of the World, Gastro Obscura, The Travel Bite). Media inspires me to develop the inner Bobby Flay within me despite my trials and tribulations in the kitchen. Of course, there is much more to food when looking past my window and trying to understand things from a macro viewpoint.

Access to food and clean water is still a big issue. Over a billion people in this world deal with food insecurity, with over 40 million of those people being in the United States. In a world that wastes around a third of its food, there is room for improvement in using food more efficiently and distributing food more equitably. Access to clean water is an even bigger issue worldwide. 1 in 4 people in this world cannot access clean water. In a world that is so technologically advanced, the fact that global infrastructure for necessities is so far behind is rather alarming. These things aren't as emphasized to students growing up, as knowledge about these gaps in humanity could be very inspiring. From diplomacy to food science and technology to engineering, one can pursue many careers and roles to drive change in these complex problem spaces.

AI and Software Progression

As a Software Engineer by day, there's a lot that I can say about this, so I'll keep my thoughts concise. Artificial intelligence has garnered much interest lately, with commercial success changing how people interact with the Internet. Some things that excite me for the future are:

Computer Interfaces - While there's a lot that we can do with computers today, we need more resources and tools within our current reach to build more advanced products in a timely manner. It also takes a certain level of skill to operate computers. With AI powering user flows, it can unlock a whole new world of how people go about interacting with computers. Not to mention that computer hardware has been progressing and addressing different use cases. It'll be interesting to see how AI can unlock how humans can interact with these new products and upgrade their quality of life with these interactions.

Computer Usage Norms - In line with computer interfaces, when and how we use computers is subject to change. While some technologists aim to fuse computers and humans, there is still plenty of time before that will become normalized (if it does). Computers currently power a lot of different aspects of people's lives. Work, entertainment, socializing, organization, and many more utilize computers. If AI continues to improve productivity, more things could be automated and improved. Thus, AI could change how much time we spend with computers. It'll be interesting to see how different demographics, such as parents, children and young adults adapt to this.

AGI - We are still far from AGI, but commercial AI products show glimpses of what is to be. How we think about creating things, work, learning, and much more can face a massive shift when AI becomes more accurate and trustworthy. From a software development standpoint, things can be built quicker, allowing more focus on other areas, such as product progression, experimentation and QA testing. There are a lot of angles to consider when applying AGI, but since it is very far from reality, it is something that I only spend a little bit of time thinking about.

Some things that I am wary of are:

Human Intelligence - While cheating hasn't increased with ChatGPT, children now have easy access to a potent tool. One train of thought I've had is that it could cause people to develop a skill set based on the AI model they interact with (i.e., focus on learning how to optimize queries for something like ChatGPT rather than learning subject matter). AI hindering learning skills is a pessimistic outlook, but concentration issues stemming from Internet usage aren't new. While the Internet is a fantastic cove of human knowledge, and AI unlocks a transformational way to tap into that knowledge, it's a little scary when it looks like many innovative companies have bought into the notion of AI deskilling workers.

Unethical AI Usage - AI allows people to think in a new light. However, that light can be blocked by the clouds of evil. Ethical hacking does have a strong community, but those with the skills and knowledge to hack into systems can do so for malicious reasons. Some view the World Wide Web as an open sea for deviance, where there's a varying range of people with different understandings of healthy Internet usage and how they can be hacked. Since AI can lower the barrier of entry for people to get into hacking, this could lead to more bad actors entering the field.

It's incredible to see what data, math, and many conditional statements can do to replicate human intellect. If we can safely and securely offload more thought to AI, it'll be even more impressive to see how good it can get and what that can do for humans.

Urban Development

While I've only lived less than five years in a city, seeing how cities progress and develop is very interesting. There's so much at play: keeping up with the times, gentrification, affordable housing, local businesses, sustainability, politics, and decision-making, to name a few. While my brain isn't trained well enough to connect many of these variables, it sometimes can understand simple correlations or causal relations.

One train of thought I've had multiple times is around urban development in San Francisco. The city streets themselves aren't that socially vibrant during the workdays, and it's hard to say if that'll change if technology trends are embraced more and more. Screens are everywhere in San Francisco. The city is adding screens to places, and people are attached to their screens (myself included). It's a problem, and I'd like to know if there's a fix to Internet and screen addiction in this city. Especially when there are so many bright minds in this unique city, it is hard to tell what the city's culture needs to bring life back into it in full force.

Another thing I think about is new cities. Sometimes, I see an empty area, farmland, plains, forest or other uninhabited terrain. The first thing I'll think is, "A city could be here!", followed by weighing the pros and cons of said land turning into a city. It could be a Bay Area way of thinking. As someone who lived in suburbia for too long, I am strongly biased toward cities. The food in cities is just too good. There's so much life and differing perspectives as well. It's a fantastic place for growth, learning and progress within humanity.


With Oppenheimer becoming a trending topic, it's hard not to think about nuclear weapons and WMDs. There's a lot to think about there, spanning from matters such as understanding why such a project got greenlit, the geopolitical landscape before and after nuclear weapons existed, the positive usages of the scientific breakthroughs uncovered, and management lessons from the Manhattan Project. The power of such a weapon is immense, like a massive volcanic eruption. The effect of these weapons also persists for years after. Even though nuclear weapons seem scary, in my opinion, the most frightening weapons are those which we can't see in plain sight.

The more we uncover about life and how it operates, the more capable humans will be of controlling life. For example, the Human Genome Project has helped guide different applications and use cases of CRISPR. While it's excellent that humanity has worked to reduce diseases and correct genetic defects, it's scary to think about malicious genetic engineering applications. From viruses that are more resistant to existing vaccines and treatments to possibly eradicating a species from existence, the possible applications can disrupt the way of life in this world. Even scarier is that one lab and a small team of scientists are all needed to produce something dangerous. Compared to nuclear weapons, where there are treaties and regulations in place to monitor fissile material, genetic engineering has a lower barrier of entry. Especially in a world where education is becoming increasingly commonplace, more and more people should have the skills to create some devastating things.

Following a similar path of pessimistic thinking is looking at social engineering. The digital sphere is becoming a part of people's lives. It is excellent as it allows people to keep interacting, learning and feeling a sense of humanity without physical means. However, the digital world is similar to the physical world in which bad actors exist. The digital world we know as the Internet is built upon a network of computers, with humans writing machine-legible instructions to create software. Creating software requires specific skills and understanding of computers and talking in languages they can understand.

Many people operate in the digital world with no experience of these languages and what can be done with a knowledge set of software development. For example, Google and Facebook were culprits of social engineering from 2013 to 2015. These are elite technology companies with some of the brightest knowledge workers, and these employees ended up falling for a phishing scam. As the barrier of entry for software development lowers, the malicious methods people try in the digital world are a little scary.

I try not to think too deeply about weapons and trust in humanity. At the end of the day, I'm just a dude who wants sleep with a mind that sometimes has other ideas.

Last updated: Sat Mar 23 2024