Category Archives: AI

Learn to build your own tools

It’s worth it to learn to build your own tools. If you don’t, the only tools you’ll be able to use are those that someone else made, created a company around, then brought to mass market (henceforth, “the song and dance”).

That’s a herculean task, even for software tools which are the easiest to do all that with.

But just because someone didn’t do the song and dance (or failed at any of the infinite points to do so along the way, possibly even due to sheer bad luck) doesn’t mean that tool couldn’t exist today and be actively improving your life, right now.

There is a mind-boggling effort difference between making a prototype product that provides value today, and productionizing that product for the mass market and doing the song and dance.

Prototype products which are only ever used by the creator (i.e. expert user) for utilitarian reasons don’t need to have clean UIs, graceful error handling, or intuitive, consistent, and discoverable UX. They just need to kind of do the job.

The unreal effort required for mass market means that the actual products on the market today are only a tiny subset of the actual products possible in the world now without a technological breakthrough.

You, personally, would probably benefit from some of both sets of products; some that exist today on the market, some that could but no one did yet. Some of the latter might have even been game-changing for you.

But if you know how to build your own tools, you can access that superset of possible products today. Even if it’s just prototype quality tools, that might be good enough.

I’m talking mostly about digital tools but argument applies to anything. What I find especially interesting is how trends in technology continually decrease the effort to build prototype software. This used to require code. Then no-code came around. And finally AI generated code is here. People at large already do this today with tools like Excel, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many more people in the future are using bespoke one-off prototype mobile apps, desktop apps, and web software they’ve built for themselves to solve specific everyday problems.

Personally I do this a bunch already using code and no-code solutions:

And a few no-code apps I’ve built for myself using AppSheet:

  • Personal metrics tracking app
  • Simple personal finance and budgeting app

I’ve also created a custom calendar in Google Sheets which has really improved my life in 2023. Maybe I’ll write about that later.

WIP: Asking for help in the age of AI

Before AI, if you asked someone a question that you could have just as well Googled, you might have gotten a link to

Sometimes this is fair; question askers do have some responsibility to not ask ultra-common questions which are easily answerable on the internet. But if the answer is not so easily found, it’s valid to ask.

AI changes things because it quickly gives answers to nearly any question. So it vastly reduces the number of “valid” opportunities to ask. Almost everything gets reduced to something that could easily be “AI’d”. That’s especially true if community-specific AIs exist (e.g. trained on your codebase and team wiki at work). Follow this far enough and one could imagine a dystopian future where no knowledge transfer happens human-to-human anymore.

What this robotic understanding misses, and a reason I dislike being excessively strict about lmgtfy’ing people, is that asking questions is a great way to build relationships and community. Communities (especially online ones) need activity to survive and good questions are a great source of activity. Questions often also spark valuable conversations adjacent to the original topic, and those would be missed out on if everyone strictly asked only the AI everything that is answerable by the AI.

Ultimately, I view this change as another step down the existing path of information becoming more readily accessible (like the internet before it, and books before that), rather than something fundamentally different from it.

We’ll use it to improve efficiency in the same way using internet search improved efficiency, but I doubt we’ll fully stop asking each other questions. Beyond the practical reasons (interesting adjacent conversations), relationship building via human-to-human knowledge sharing is too innate to our humanity and we’ll notice its absence.

AI Predictions

  • In the future, we will see an industry of AI coaches. Some of these will compete and take business away from existing human coaches (e.g. a writing coach) but much of it will fill gaps that are simply unfilled right now. Think coaching for areas that could be helpful for people, but are too niche to go out and find a coach for. Human coaches will not totally go away because the flood of AI into society reinforce in people the desire to speak to “real humans”. We see this today with customer support and how people simple just want to get on a phone with a “real person” to can help them.
  • Just like how smartphones eventually became ubiquitous, personal AI assistants living on your phone or $BIG_TECH account will become the norm. Signing up for a Google account will initialize an AI assistant that will get to know you as you start to use GMail, GCal, etc. When you buy an Android phone, it will be there as soon as you log in.
  • Apps will come with AI assistants built into them similar to how we have chatbots in the lower right hand corner of websites.
  • Things will really start to get interesting once AIs can spend money for you. Think a monthly budget you give to your AI for buying groceries, household supplies, and more. Maybe it asks you before it triggers a buy, maybe it doesn’t.