Given all that I do, a very common question is whether I sleep. I do. But not uncommonly in the biphasic style of old, and when dreaming, usually lucid dreaming where I can control the narrative. Neither of which I recommend, but se la vie.
What I don’t do is work during the middle of the night. At least not on anything work related. When my mind spins on those worries, it takes far longer to get back to sleep. So instead, I usually have some other project that I ponder. One that doesn’t have any urgency. Usually something that is big and complicated, too big for me to ever actually accomplish during waking hours.
Some of these projects include:
Future Dollars. An online marketplace for purchase order discounting, re-creating and improving upon a system that existed for hundreds of years during the British Empire.
Minor Currency Clearinghouse. I have this fleshed out in a yet-to-be-published book. Its an answer on how to make payments in the 35 African currencies faster, less expensive, and more competitive, while in the process creating wealth for Africa that doesn’t come from the Global North.
E-VTOL aircraft as trucks. I follow the news of electric aviation in my waking hours, and in the middle of the night think about how that technology might be used in place of trucks in Africa, picking up directly from farms, delivering into the middle of cities, both without airports. Africa could skip building a highway system and leapfrog into an age of flying from point to point.
The Kitsap Street Car. I live in a suburb, but an odd suburb where in pre-pandemic times a large portion of the neighbors rode public transit. I dream of someday swapping out cars for a an old fashion streetcar system, and years ago took the time to flesh out a rough design.
Cross Puget Sound Light Rail. Another pre-pandemic dream, linking my island and county to the City of Seattle in a much faster and energy efficient manner than ferries. Far too expensive for the current population, but by 2100 this could be a reality.
Tethered Stratospheric Airports. I highly recommend Isaac Arthur for the best source of decades-out and next-century futurism. He find uncommon aerospace technology and the floating platforms in one episode intrigued me. I bought the book behind that design, and that set me down a rabbit hole thinking about a floating airport at 100,000 feet tethered to the ground, with a lighter-than-air elevator to get there from the ground.
Hypersonic Flight. The designer of the floating platforms also suggested a lighter-than-air craft to fly from 100,000 feet into space. Slowly. Building on that idea and coupled with my idea of the 100,000 foot stations being tethered near cities… instead of flying up out of the atmosphere, we could have a hypersonic airplanes fly from sky station to sky station. Starting at 100,000 there is less than 1% as much air as sea level. That makes it easier to fly at speeds of Mach 3, 5 or higher, which would get us from any station to any station around the planet in just a few hours.
Nuclear Heat. There are hundreds of nuclear reactors in the world, all but the research units focused on making electricity. I follow the news of the 4th generation reactors, and when they are not focused on electricity, they talk about “process heat”, as in high-temperature industrial usages. What I wonder, and ponder, is using tiny nuclear reactors as a source of heat for whole neighborhoods. Cheap, safe, low-temperature reactors that no one seems to be considering, that don’t even need to be hot enough to boil water, just hot enough to make 140F hot water and 90F heat for buildings.
The Computer Age that Could Have Been. I fell down a rabbit hole in both the middle of the night and weekends for a few months when I asked the question of why Apple didn’t ask MOS to upgrade the 6502. I ended up building a virtual chip, most of an OS for the envisioned Apple II4, and a yet-to-be-published book describing how it all works, and why.
Fruit Ninja 2600. The rabbit hole of 8-bit computing began with an blog post talking about writing a game for the Atari 2600, in the 2020s. I had no idea how different the 2600 games were from anything else I had ever coded before. I had to try it out. Which meant brushing up on 6502 assembly code I hadn’t used in over 30 years. My daughter’s favorite modern game is Fruit Ninja, and thus began the creation of Fruit Ninja 2600, playable with an Atari joystick, coded in under 4K, including graphics.
Time Travel. The most common recurring dream I’ve had for decades is waking up in my past. Waking up with all my current knowledge. Sometimes it is 1987, at Carnegie Mellon, and I can intent the Web a few years ahead of schedule. Sometimes it is the early 1980s, back in high school, too early for the Web but in time to invent the spreadsheet. Last year I kept waking up in Los Angeles in 1976, in the house where my family was living, but waking up in my 18 year old body, having to convince my parents I was their supposed-to-be 7 year old son, aged up a decade. In need of a driver’s license and some cash to go meet Steve and Steve at the Homebrew Computer Club in Menlo Park up by San Jose. The dream would then be me as employee #3 at Apple, making my Apple II4, 5, 6 dream a reality.
So yes, for those of you still asking if I sleep… I do. But not straight through every night. And not without having time to ponder inventions that will mostly never see the light of day.