Running Away from Centralized and Addictive Technologies with Peter Boyer
Simplify your life. Do less—better.


Hello, and welcome to The Getting Simple Podcast. In this episode, Peter Boyer (@ptrbyr) talks about his efforts to run away from notifications and centralized technologies toward decentralized, encrypted-by-default alternatives; and also about self-driving cars, being in relation with nature, addictive technologies, uses of machine learning for design, and a lot more.

You can listen to this episode on iTunes, Castbox or Stitcher.

Peter defines himself as a software engineer with experience in distributed systems, programming languages, and computer aided design on the web. Self-declared "incapable of getting bored," he believes in learning by doing and by asking naive questions, and enjoys how, in computer programming, experimentation is free — unlike in other disciplines such as architecture or scientific research.

While working at Autodesk, he built custom tools for artist Janet Echelman to build city-scale, net sculptures; was a core developer on the open-source Dynamo product; and was nominated, company-wide, for Innovator of the Year in 2016, due to his work on distributed systems with technologies like Go, gRPC, AWS, or Docker.

Previously, he built custom applied numerical optimization tools in C++ at Gehry Technologies for the fabrication and design of buildings.

While studying a Master of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Peter cross-enrolled in multiple software engineering and math courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), like Geometric Computation or Design and Analysis of Algorithms, and proposed—in his master's thesis—a system to trace the inhabitation of a building throughout its history, as a way to positively affect the lives of its occupants.

You can follow Peter on Twitter and Github.

Episode Notes

  • The Lean Startup book.
  • GeoCities, founded in 1994, was one of the first free web hosting services. When it shut down (in 2009) there were 38 million user-built pages.
  • Gilbert Strang is an American mathematician with contributions to finite element theory, the calculus of variations, wavelet analysis, and linear algebra. Peter describes him as "a linear algebra guru from MIT."
  • Modern Operative Systems book by Andrew Tanenbaum.
  • Modern Compiler Implementation books by Andrew Appel, Princeton.
  • Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools book (also known as the Dragon Book).
  • Foundation is a science fiction novel by American writer Isaac Asimov.
  • Aldo van Eyck was an architect from the Netherlands. He was one of the most influential protagonists of the architectural movement Structuralism.
  • Next Door is "the private social network for your neighborhood."
  • Verb nurbs is an open-source, cross-platform nurbs library initiated by Peter in 2013.
  • Andrew Witt is an Assistant Professor in Practice in Architecture at Harvard GSD, teaching and researching in the relationship of geometry to perception, construction, automation and culture.
  • TypeScript is a strict syntactical superset of JavaScript, and adds optional static typing to the language.
  • The Loop-Blinn technique is a technique to render vector art on the GPU.
  • TrueType is an outline font standard developed by Apple and Microsoft in the late 1980s.
  • Machine learning is a field of computer science that uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to "learn" with data, without being explicitly programmed.
  • Christopher Alexander is a widely influential architect and design theorist.
  • Janet Echelman is an American sculptor and fiber artist.
  • Conway's law is an adage named after computer programmer Melvin Conway, who introduced the idea in 1967: "organizations which design systems […] are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations."
  • ProtonMail is an encrypted email provider protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.
  • Mastodon is a decentralized, open source social network.
  • The Everglades is a natural region of tropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida.
  • Upspin is "a framework for naming everyone's everything."
  • InterPlanetary File System is a protocol and network designed to create a content-addressable, peer-to-peer method of storing and sharing hypermedia in a distributed file system.
  • Craiglist's free stuff section features products that people want to give away for free.
  • Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle.

Thanks for listening!


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May 1, 2018

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