This blog is mostly brain dump + sometimes helpful information on topics (e.g., comprehensive guide on getting an O-1 visa) that I've spent 100+ hours understanding due to lack of accessible information on that topic on the internet.
Author: Harshita Arora
I am a co-founder of AtoB (atob.co), a technology startup in the Bay Area. AtoB has been funded by some great investors such as Y Combinator, Bloomberg Beta, Naval Ravikant, Darragh Buckley (Stripe first hire), and others.
Before this, I built the Crypto Price Tracker app -- a portfolio management and price tracking application for cryptocurrencies. The app was #2 in the Finance category of the App Store and was featured by Apple. The app was acquired by Redwood City Ventures.
We’d be consuming food just for its calorific value, so that we have energy for all the biological processes for survival.
The food industry would consist of a few companies that produce “fuel” (edible food with the highest energy density) for humans, just like there are a handful of companies that produce a specific kind of battery and a few companies that run power plants for electricity generation. The nutrition required for survival can be processed in a liquid or some solid that can be consumed orally and manufactured in a factory easily at scale. The image in my head is similar to that of Soylent, except its taste is irrelevant.
As a result of (2), the world would spend a lot less land on food production. Currently, more than 1/3rd of land worldwide is used for livestock and crops. We continue to use all that land instead of figuring out more land-efficient techniques for growing food because we like the taste of meat. We’d have more land for housing and other things!
4. Greenhouse gas emissions would go down since meat production is responsible for about ~10-18% of all the greenhouse gas emissions .
5. No need for restaurants, grocery stores, etc.; people would just order and buy the same thing, like they buy the same batteries for their devices. This fuel that we manufacture would require no refrigeration, so we would not spend billions every year on refrigeration related logistics.
6. It’d be less of a hassle to shop and cook food every day, multiples times a day. You can just carry your recharging fuel anywhere in your backpack.
7. Maybe the world would be less fun without a sense of taste, which allows people to enjoy the experience of eating food while bonding with others.
Are there any benefits (e.g., evolutionary) to having a sense of taste? I suppose taste, in addition to sight and smell, helped with detecting potentially harmful food that could be spit out once a poor taste (indicative of its poison or staleness) is detected by the sense. Additionally, something sweet is rich in saccharides, which provides more energy — so a good idea to eat more of it.
Which second order effects would exist without a sense of taste?
Hello readers! I’m sorry that I haven’t blogged in a while. I’d been busy self-studying for the AP Calculus and AP Chemistry in the last few months. I just did the Calculus AB exam 2 days ago! I’m now doing lots of practice for the Chemistry exam in a week (I’m doing the late-test on 22nd May).
When I was studying, I maintained a note where I’d add a summary of every major concept I’d learned. I found it quite useful towards the end of my studying as a way to quickly revise major concepts and equations. I’m happy to share the PDF publicly so that it helps other self-learners!
When I was in middle school, I used to spend a lot of time on Quora, where I learned about grants, fellowships, science fairs, contests, summer programs, internships, and so many other interesting and exciting opportunities. I did go on to pursue some of them — I’ve applied for grants for my project (and received Emergent Ventures and Helium Grant!), attended MIT Launch summer program, and did two engineering internships.
I believe that opportunities like the ones I’ve mentioned below can be a fantastic way to meet other smart and ambitious people, find mentorship, get funding for projects, get new ideas, learn lots, and get recognition for your work!
It was the year of I coded the most, sold my app, picked up new interests (brain-computer interfaces and electronics!), started learning Python and Machine learning, moved to San Francisco in a wonderful intellectual group house, got the O-1 visa, interned at DoNotPay, started working on a mind-controlled drone robot project, and most importantly changed and improved a lot as an engineer and thinker.
I started this blog about 3 months and only published four posts, which I feel bad about because I have a lot to say! So I spent a few hours on 31st December 2018 and today (2nd Jan 2019) reflecting on writing posts about things that happened to me this year. I’ve already published 6 posts and I’ll link to them here. I hope you enjoy reading them!
I’m very excited about 2019! I’m planning to do the AP exams in May and apply for undergrad college in the fall. I hope to finish developing a working prototype of my mind-controlled drone robot project and start testing it with my target audience (physically disabled people). And lastly, I hope to read more books, learn more, become a better engineer, and mature as a person.
Since I came to San Francisco and started living in the Topos house, I’ve become so much more optimistic about my future! 🙂
Happy New Year to all the readers and their families and friends! I hope 2018 was as educational and entertaining for you as it was for me. If not, I hope things get better for you in 2019.
Feedback, comments, suggestions, and advice are all welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Moving to San Francisco in May 2018 made it possible for me to go to a lot of amazing and educational events and conferences. In order of quality of the conferences, I’ll list the conferences and events I went to and the highlights from them:
BrainMind Summit 2018. A wonderful event with talks from pioneers in the field. I learned so much and made new friends.
SynBioBeta 2018. I attended it during my birthday to learn more about synthetic biology. I learned about a few biotech companies, researchers in the field, and more, but didn’t go in-depth on anything.
SF Debate Club. Started by Saku and Zak. The first debate topic was whether China’s technology is a threat to Silicon Valley and the US (I think it’s not). The second debate was whether the great stagnation is real (I think it is).
Modern Microscopy: 20th and 21st-century breakthroughs in biology. Interesting topic; unengaging speaker.
TechCrunch Disrupt 2018. Got a free ticket from my friend, Amulya who won the Disrupt hackathon! I could only attend one of the days and it was a big “meh”. I didn’t learn anything substantial from the various talks, didn’t meet anyone interesting, and just went home after 6 hours of rushing around to attend talks and workshops and getting lots of swag from Startup Alley (:P). I think TC Disrupt is like the Times Square in NYC — a platform that gets people to pay for companies to market themselves under the veil of entertainment (in case of Times Square) or education (in case of Disrupt). I’m sure I’d have gotten a lot of value if I had a startup and was presenting at the Startup Alley. But if you’re going to TC Disrupt to learn something, prepare to be disappointed. Most talks are just founders promoting their startups with a buzzword every few seconds.
In addition to the conferences and events mentioned above, the group house I live in, Topos, organizes a dinner every Sunday where we learn from each other. We also invite experts to give a talk and host Q/A with them. We had Glen Weyl who gave a talk before the launch of his book, Radical Markets, Hollis Robbins who led a wonderful dinner on poetry, etc. I personally invited Tyler Cowen and Ron Schnell to give talks at Topos!
In 2018, I went to 2 hackathons (YC October hackathon and Science Hack Day) as a hacker and 2 hackathons as a speaker and judge (CryptoChicks and Violet Hacks).
YC October Hackathon
I didn’t like YC hackathon one bit. Too many businesspeople and product managers pitching their ambitious sounding ideas and making simple prototypes in InvisionApp or worse, Powerpoint presentation. Only about 25% of the attendees were actually technical people. I ended up joining a team building software to count cells in a photo for biologists. We built a very simple iOS app that would return a photo marked with white circles around a photo (using OpenCV).
Science Hack Day
Absolutely loved Science Hack Day! Wonderful people, brilliant ideas, working prototypes, and my team won a prize!
I had a few project ideas but I decided that the best idea would be to join a great team working on either brain-computer interfaces or autonomous vehicles so I could learn from people who’ve been working in the fields for longer. After much searching around, I decided to join the team working on making two autonomous RC cars and mess around with them with swapped inputs (like car B acting on car A’s input). I liked the people and the project idea! The hackathon started with a few talks by some amazing speakers like Helen Lurie (who works at Lyft Level 5 self-driving car division), Lenore Edman from Evil Mad Scientist, and Indre Viskontas.
After the talks, we got to work. We started out buying two RC cars and started dismantling them so we could control its motors with an Arduino. After that, I started working on an iOS app that’d be the “eyes” of the cars. The camera input would be classified (I used the ResNet50 model through CoreML) and we selected a few objects we were going to put on the track of the cars and I wrote a simple conditional that’d send a Boolean value 1 to the backend if an obstacle was detected and Boolean value 0 if none were. The backend communicated with the Arduino controlling the motors. By the end of Day 1, we had an almost working car. We decided to pivot to make just one car that’s autonomous instead of the original plan of two cars.
Day 2 was all the presentations. We presented and our demo worked for 2 obstacles but failed at the third one because the battery died. But since the project worked, they awarded us “Best in Public Safety”!
Our project: an autonomous RC car that uses a smartphone camera for obstacle detection
After being awarded! 🙂
For 2019, I have Developer’s Camp, TreeHacks, and Science Hack Day on my calendar! If you have any suggestions for hackathons I should go to or if you’d like to hack with me, let me know at email@example.com!
The favorite book of the year award goes to: Logicomix! I will publish a detailed review of it soon. This isn’t the most impactful book you can read, but it’s a very enjoyable and thought-provoking book.
Here’s a list of the books I enjoyed and learned the most from in 2018. This list has no order.
Coders at Work. My favorite interview was the one with Peter Norvig. Liked it so much that I ordered 5 copies of it and gifted it to my “judge-favorite” team at Violet Hacks hackathon.
Bad Blood. The book is very engaging and so it’s hard to put it down once you start reading. When I recommended it to a mentor, he replied, “figured it was about pretty obvious stuff not to do; whereas I like to look for unexpected things to do”. Are there any books about *successful* biotech startups besides Sally Hughes’ Genentech?
The textbooks in this list are not finished since they’re usually very long and each chapter takes several days to completely grasp all the concepts and the problems at the end take their time too. But since most of my time this year was spent with textbooks, I think I should mention all the ones I read and worked through at least three chapters from!
What’s your bio strategy? by John Cumbers and Karl Schmieder. I got a copy at SynBioBeta conference and read it during one of their after-parties. It’s a good collection of interviews of some of the pioneers in the synthetic biology space.
This year I didn’t read any fiction (that I can remember). But next year, I hope to read more science fiction (The Diamond Age, Life 3.0, The first 15 lives of Harry August, and more on my list!). I also want to spend more time reading books by economists. The Age of Em by Robin Hanson and Tyler Cowen’s books are on my list (his blog, Marginal Revolution, is one of my favorites).
I’m currently reading Autonomy and this book by Scott Adams.
If you have any suggestions of books that influenced you a lot, please send them at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Noisebridge. A wonderful hackerspace with an industrial 3D printer, a whole bunch of electronic components, soldering station, woodwork room, other specialized equipment like VR and EEG headsets, an amazing ~1000 books library, and really smart and kind people! I’ll visit it more often in 2019 to work there.
Sandbox VR! Fun VR games. I posted photos and a video from my visit here.
In no particular order, here is a list of restaurants I remember liking a lot. Nom nom nom.
La Fondue. 5/5 stars. My favorite restaurant, ever. Love their cheese and chocolate fondue. A little expensive, however.
Lolo. 4/5 stars. Great Mexican food. The shrimp rice were amazing.
Little Star Pizza. 3/5. Good deep dish pizza. Not the best I’ve had, but still pretty good!
Panda Express. 5/5 stars. I ❤ Panda Express. My friends laugh at me when I say this and nobody wants to go to Panda Express with me 😦 I love everything there, but my favorites are orange chicken, honey walnut shrimp, teriyaki chicken, and broccoli beef. I’ve been to Panda Express so many times this year that I’ve probably tried out everything.