Here's a sneak peak at the startup I've been working on for the past two years. It's called CalendarTree.

It's for coaches, project managers, and anyone who schedules multiple meetings with folks who use different calendar types (Google, iCal, Outlook).

CalendarTree is a website that allows the schedule-creator to easily enter a list of coming events - such as a team schedule for the coming year - and share it via email, Twitter, LinkedIN, or Facebook. The recipient gets a clickable link that loads the schedule to their personal calendar of choice, which could be Google, Outlook, or iCal (Apple). Whenever the schedule owner makes a change, it flows automatically to your calendar and sends an email describing the change.

Yes, I know you can just use Google calendar and ask the Apple, Google, and Outlook users to sync with your calendar. But do you want to be tech support for that? And will most people even bother?

CalendarTree also allows you to create your own schedule download "button" that can be added to your existing website. Users click the button and get a choice of what calendar type they want to download the schedule to.

If you are in a family that is juggling multiple schedules from work, school, and sports, you'll see the need for this product right away. Single folks will mostly go "huh?" But your day will come.

CalendarTree is free for small-scale users. Have a look and let me know what you think.

If you have comments about CalendarTree, let me know at dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com.

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I have a hundred-year plan to eliminate government.

The key to making this work is picking one element of government at a time and using technology to eliminate it. Remember, we have a hundred years to develop and test lots of little plans. So we won't permanently eliminate any part of government until citizens have seen proof it can work on a state level, or for a brief test period nationally, or in another country.

You are skeptical that technology can replace government. That sounds a little like replacing your bicycle with a Fig Newton, or replacing your couch with a bucket of water. It doesn't sound logical on the surface. I'll need some examples to make my case.

Consider education. At some point in the next hundred years the only acceptable way to educate people will be online. At some point online education will evolve and improve until you have the best instructors teaching in the best possible ways. You can get rid of the physical school buildings, the teachers, and all the rest. I think you could privatize education, with ad support, (as I described in a blog post last month) and still make it universally available. It seems feasible that government could let go of education.

What about healthcare? Healthcare diagnostic equipment will become so advanced in the next hundred years that doctors will be the weak link. A complete body scan, blood work, and Big Data will get you 98% of the diagnoses and treatments you need. Robots will be doing surgery by then, and doing it better than humans. So while the short term trend for healthcare costs is higher, I think the trend after twenty years or so will be sharply lower. And when doctor-assisted suicide is legal, which is inevitable because of demographic reasons (lots of old people begging for the option) that helps too. The point is that healthcare will get cheaper and less complicated for the consumer, so government can ease out of it. If taxes are needed to fund healthcare for the poor, that is still possible with no government beyond direct democracy connected via Internet. I'll explain that later.

How about the military? You always need a government to handle defense, right?

I don't think so, at least not in the long run. We know for sure that future armies will be a combination of waves of robot soldiers overrunning enemy positions supported by drone air support. The first country to develop a robot army (likely the U.S.) will dominate every non-nuclear country. No human army or uprising could last a day against waves of robot fighters going door-to-door through a city or mountain range. So traditional wars will simply stop happening because the U.S. will rent its robot army to whichever side it supports and almost any war will end in days. Eventually no rebel army will bother starting an unwinnable war, and no despot will try conquering a neighboring country. Robots will end conventional war.

If we imagine a future war between two non-nuclear forces, both with their own robot armies, there is no reason humans ever need to get involved. The robots can fight it out in a remote location and the country with the losing robots surrenders immediately. The losing side will know that the winning country with its superior robots could wipe out the human population in less than a day, so surrender is the only option.

My point is that wars could become obsolete. The military will become mostly hardware and software, controlled by a direct democracy. If 75% of adult citizens vote to go to war, the robots march. If the country is attacked, the robots respond automatically, but can be called back by direct democracy if needed. And citizens can watch all wars through the robot head cams. We'll always know what is going on.

You still need money for this robot army, but I'll get to that.

The government does a good job setting health and safety standards. But a direct democracy could probably pull that off too.

In a hundred years, I can see the government being replaced by software that allows citizens to raise any issue, thoroughly debate it online, and implement the new law/standard/tax all via Internet with no politicians involved. Would the new system have problems? Of course. Would it be worse than our current system with elected officials who are controlled by special interests? I doubt it.

If the country needs to raise taxes, say to build more defense robots, or provide Internet access and healthcare to the poor, that is all handled by direct democracy online. If the country agrees on a new tax, it comes automatically out of all paychecks and online payment transactions. No citizen ever needs to "do taxes" at the end of the year.

Keep in mind that the future with no government probably has much lower tax rates. Getting public agreement to go from 5% taxes to 7% won't be as big a deal as today when we try to raise rates from 39% to 45%.

Now you have the issue of social nets to care for the poor. Government has been the best bet for that so far, but I can imagine that need being reduced by technology too.

Imagine, for example, housing for the poor that is built by robots and engineered to be both highly livable and absurdly inexpensive by today's standards. If you get the cost of rent down to an equivalent of $100 per month in today's dollars, you can take a huge bite out of poverty. Combine low housing costs with universal healthcare that is free for the poor, and free online education - for everything from grade school to career training - and you have a good start for removing government from the social net business.

I can also imagine food costs plummeting within a hundred years, especially if the housing for the poor includes its own hydroponic gardens. Or perhaps we will all be growing "meat" from cells in our own homes. I don't know the details, but I can see food costs dropping for protein and veggie matter.

Now let's say there are some functions of government that simply require a human to manage. And let's say that human has a lot of opportunity for corruption. One way to fix that situation is to require that any humans with responsibility for public interests give up more privacy than the normal person, in return for an oversized salary. I think there are plenty of people who have no secrets and would enjoy the big paycheck. When privacy is eliminated, the risk of corruption goes way down.

Consider law enforcement. In the future, as I have described in other books and blog posts, getting away with committing a crime will be nearly impossible because everything that happens everywhere will be tracked and recorded. Crime will be detected as it happens, robot cops will be dispatched, and any citizen can watch both the crime and the arrest on live video.

Meanwhile, drugs and prostitution will probably become legal, so law enforcement isn't needed for that stuff. And if you speed, you'll get a ticket by email and your paycheck will be docked accordingly.

I don't have time to detail every government function and how technology might replace it in the future. But I think it's all possible. We just need to agree on that direction. And we need to test every government-replacement system on a small scale before implementing more widely. But I think we (or our grandkids) can get there.

What do you think? Could we get to a government-free future?



My new book: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

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Do you know any artists who might be interested in watching cartoonist Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) and me competing to see who can draw a comic strip fastest? (Spoiler: I use some cool new technology.)

Here's the short video clip.

You will have some questions after viewing it. Here are your answers.
  1. Yes, I do know I am a terrible actor.
  2. It was filmed at my house.
  3. No one was paid (except the film crew).
  4. The 3-way product placement in the clip is the reason it exists.
  5. We had a script but didn't stick to it.
  6. The architectural element on the outside of my house at the start of the clip was designed to look like Dilbert's head. It is not visible from the street.
We designed the clip to have viral qualities (humor, surprise, relevance). I'll know if it worked by the end of today. If you have ever grappled with the question of how to make content viral, you'll see a lot of the science incorporated in the clip. I'll blog about some of the technique behind it in coming days.

Let me know what you think.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

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 I just got back from my book publicity swing through New York after appearing on Fox and Friends, CNBC's Squawk Box, Bloomberg News and more. It wasn't a good week to be in Manhattan. I'm saying it was cold. If you see something pink and frozen on the sidewalk in Midtown, that might be my ear.

Before I tell you my most embarrassing moment, I have to give you some background. Television hosts rarely have time to read a guest's book before an interview. So the publisher provides a handy summary to guide the interview questions in the right direction. Sometimes the summary gets misplaced, or the host prefers to wing it and go off script. That's when things get interesting because I only practice my answers for the main themes in the book.

Host Pimm Fox, for Bloomberg News, was interviewing me live on camera Wednesday and asked a question about a minor but interesting topic in the book that I wrote over a year ago. I suddenly realized, on live television, that I didn't remember part of my own book.


It was my last interview of the day, and those types of days have a 3 a.m. wake-up call, which my California body was still registering as midnight. This was the second day of that schedule. I have to tell you, time stands still when you're on live TV and you have no idea what should be coming out of your mouth.

I took "media training" years ago before my first book tour and they prepare you for that exact scenario. The trick to digging out of that hole comes from understanding that the audience doesn't care about the question itself - at least not for a book interview. They only care if the author says something interesting. So instead of answering the question as it has been asked, you respond as if a different question had been asked. The audience hardly notices.

But as I said, I was sleepy, so instead of smoothly changing the topic, I admitted on live TV that I couldn't remember part of my own book. I think I sprayed perspiration all over the newsroom like some sort of cartoon porcupine shooting its quills. It wasn't my finest moment.

But after the horrifying confession my media training kicked in and I babbled about something. I've heard that it doesn't look as awkward as it felt, but I have a hard time believing it.

On the plus side, I have the sort of job in which all bad news today is tomorrow's content for comics or blog posts or books. And after the initial flop sweat moment, I usually come to think of my embarrassments as highly entertaining in a strange way. I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with embarrassment. That's a lucky personality trait in my line of work because - if you haven't noticed - sometimes I fail in very public ways

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

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Scientist are coming closer to proving gravity is an illusion and the world is a hologram.

They could have just asked me.

I'm finishing my book tour in NYC today.  Only one major embarrassment so far. The host of Bloomberg News, Pimm Fox, randomly opened my book and asked me to elaborate on a fairly unimportant page I wrote over a year ago. I had to confess on live TV that I didn't remember part of my own book. Ouch.

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Next week (Dec 16 - 20) I'll be doing interviews on Skype and phone about my new book (How to Fail almost Every time and Still Win Big...).

But I'm adding a twist to the process, just to see what happens.

I'll do the interviews in the priority order of biggest reach. So if no one but a high school newspaper asks for an interview, I'll do it. For next week only, no media outlet is too small. I'll do as many as I can fit into my schedule.

If you're interested in talking to me next week (or sooner), just email me at dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com and tell me roughly how big your audience reach is. Send me your Skype ID and/or phone number. I'll either call you when I have a minute or email to arrange a time.

You don't even need to be a professional writer. You just need a way to distribute the interview within your company or organization.

My guess is that I'll end up talking to just about everyone who asks. I don't have an assistant answering my email. I'll read everything that comes in, but I might not be able to respond to all of it.

Perhaps I'll be speaking with you soon. This should be fun.



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 I've been designing in my mind what I call a pitch-in kitchen. It's a kitchen designed for multiple helpers to pitch in. The kitchen might be used for servicing large parties, or to efficiently feed the homeless, or to simplify food preparation for a collective of neighbors. Today I'm focusing on the design, not the ultimate use of it.

The idea is to make the kitchen so user-friendly that a stranger could walk in and know where everything is and how it works. Perhaps there are tablet computers at each food prep area of a central island that gives instructions for tasks that are auto-assigned to people from a master menu. Anyone can walk in and tap the tablet's "what's next" button and immediately see instructions for washing and prepping the carrots, for example, complete with a picture showing the quantity needed and how they should be sliced. The software would be in charge of sequencing the steps as each volunteer checks in. If a volunteer doesn't feel comfortable with a step that is assigned, he can choose another.

I imagine the plates and cookware are color-coded so anyone can tell which cupboard or drawer holds what. If you can't find a ladle, type its name into the search box on the tablet computer to see a map of the kitchen with an arrow to the correct drawer.

People enjoy helping in the kitchen as long as they know where everything is. Most adults like the feeling of being useful. And food prep can be fun if you get the right group together. The trick is to automate the thinking and planning part of the meal prepping and let the humans do the mindless chopping, stirring, washing, sautéing and other tasks.

The meal organizer would start off by choosing a recipe online. Then the organizer would enter the number of diners to size the ingredients and click one button to order it all for delivery at a set date and time. Another piece of software would send out email invitations for kitchen helpers from the list of your party-invitees or volunteers. As people reply for various kitchen roles, from prepping to cooking to clean-up, the software keeps track and reduces the available openings on the fly. The software then sends out a schedule to each helper telling them exactly when in the process their contributions are needed. Perhaps each helper has a companion app for their phone that buzzes them when it is time for their step. You might be chatting with other party-goers until your phone says, "Time to wash the broccoli."

On a smaller scale, I designed my current kitchen for pitching in. For example, I didn't put the garbage receptacle below the sink because someone is often standing in the way when you want access to it. And I recently added a block of cutting knives on top of the counter because "Where do you keep the knives?" is the first question every kitchen helper always asks. I also plan to standardize the Tupperware-like containers so they all have the same lid no matter their depth.

Had I been cleverer, I would have added a garbage bag storage area inside the garbage/recycling pull-out drawer so any helper could see where the replacement bags are when they help take out the trash.

My favorite kitchen-nerd innovation is the kitchen cart. It's a wheeled metal cart that is tucked under a counter until needed to help clear dishes after a meal. Just wheel the cart around and load the dirty dishes and glasses from every nook and corner of the house after a party. If I had been smarter with the cart idea, it would include an attached garbage bucket so I could scrape food into it as I do the pick-up.

Do you have any kitchen efficiency ideas to add?

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Let me know if I missed it, but I saw no comments to my post yesterday in which anyone was willing to take a side in a debate that allegedly represents 49% of America.

I realize this blog readership skews toward skeptics and science lovers. But still, not one person is willing to make a rational case against doctor-assisted suicide?

That is exactly what I predicted.

The 49% poll number was never real. No rational person prefers the government having veto power over the end-of-life decisions that they, their family, and their doctors prefer. And the irrational people don't want me shining a light on their argument.

This reminds me of the conspiracy theory that says gay activists exaggerated the risk of AIDS to the heterosexual community because it was the best way to get funding. I have no opinion on the validity of that conspiracy theory beyond the fact that it activated my pattern recognition for the doctor-assisted suicide topic. It looks as though a tiny percentage of the public (a subset of creationists perhaps) has been using misleading poll results to make it seem as though support for their position is strong when in fact it is nearly non-existent.

I'm still willing to say I'm wrong about the polls being bogus. But it seems mighty strange that 49% of the American public are suddenly hiding.

I submit that the traditional media is missing a big story here on the misleading nature of those polls.

My book's sales rank has dropped since I started hammering on this topic, so I will take that as my guide to back off and let the 1% of the public who are  on the other side have their victory.

I will also take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who felt threatened by my choice of words on this topic.

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I'll start with a question.

If you, your doctors, and your family all agree on an end-of-life healthcare strategy to minimize your suffering, should the government be allowed to veto your choice?

Before you answer, keep in mind that the government's veto might devastate your family's psychological and economic health. Who is onboard with letting the government make those decisions over the wishes of you, your family, and your doctor?

I ask because I've never met anyone who would prefer the government to have veto control over their own healthcare decisions. That's why I think the debate over doctor-assisted suicide is a fake debate.

My hypothesis is that the alleged 49% of the country opposed to doctor-assisted suicide is more like 1% nut jobs and 48% people who got tricked by a poll question that was some form of "Should the government allow your doctor to kill you if it seems convenient?"

But I try to be open-minded. I really do. Can anyone point me to a rational person who would answer yes to the government having veto power over your end-of-life wishes, your doctor's advice, and your family's preferences?

It's no fair rewording my question into something you DO object to. I'm looking for someone willing to say proudly and loudly that the government should make their end-of-life decisions for them over their own wishes, the advice of doctors, and the wishes of their family. Any takers?

I submit that that person does not exist. If I am wrong, I'd like to debate you right here. Please show yourself. Maybe I'll learn something.

In the unlikely event such a person exists, and cannot be swayed with simple information such as the success stories of similar systems elsewhere, that brings us to the second topic on my list.

It turns out that having an outspoken opinion about anything important in this world is very bad for business. The folks who disagree with you on any sensitive topic will use it as a reason to take their business elsewhere.

That leaves no one but the nut jobs to dominate the debate. Sane people stay out of the line of fire.

Now here's the interesting part: I just became an orphan.

Living parents are a huge limiting force on a writer. I was always worried about embarrassing them. They trained me to be that way. I'm now freed from that restriction. (The rest of the family wouldn't much care.)

My remaining reason to self-censor is purely economic. In my unique case, 100% of the money I earn for the rest of my life will be spent for the benefit of others. I already have enough for my own needs. The main reason I keep working is because I am in a rare position to make an oversized contribution to the economy, and perhaps add value in other ways. Apparently I am genetically inclined to find that prospect satisfying if not necessary. I don't want my valuable business engine to clog up just because I was outspoken on an emotional topic. That wouldn't be fair to a lot of people in the value chain who were minding their own business.

So I'm going to offer you (the public) an arrangement. If my new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything..." hits #1 on the NYT non-fiction list I will be freed of my last remaining reason to self-censor. And I will drive a stake through the government's heart on this doctor-assisted suicide topic.

You haven't seen me uncensored. You might enjoy the show.

I'll even sweeten the deal. I guarantee that you know someone who would benefit from the book. That person might be you, or it might be someone in your life who is making suboptimal career and lifestyle decisions and doesn't want your advice. The book is designed like one of those soft dog treats inside of which you hide the dog's medicine. The reader won't even see the useful stuff coming.

If you're counting, that's three potential benefits from one book: The book might help you personally, or at least entertain you. It might help someone you care about (after you read it first, of course). And it might free me to jackhammer some rational thought into the end-of-life debate.

Or you could just buy clothes for everyone on your shopping list. Clothes are fun too.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

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After my blog post about my dad's death (below), in which I spewed hate against activists and politicians who oppose doctor-assisted suicide, people informed me that according to polls 49% of the citizens of my country disagree with me.

I have to call bullshit on the 49%.

The first time I have even spoken to someone who confessed to me an anti-doctor-assisted suicide position was this week, when a creationist reporter called me at home to ask why I preferred her dead. She and her husband are both activists against doctor-assisted suicide. (I confirmed to her that the world would be better off without her.)

I have no quarrel with anyone who has a different opinion on this or any other topic because no one should be judged by their thoughts alone. But if you are an activist against the right to die with dignity, you are an accomplice in the torture of countless senior citizens, including both of my parents. From a morality standpoint that puts you in the same category as pedophiles and terrorists. Keep in mind that even terrorists have a noble (to them) reason for their actions. (Hint: God)

I got criticism for my uncivilized writing on this topic. My uncensored words were shocking, and I realize that. But this is a topic that pits emotion against emotion. It's not strictly an economic decision. It's about how people feel. I defend my honest display of feelings because it is important information in this debate. I want the activists to know that I don't just disagree with them in some intellectual sense. They should know that I consider them as immoral as pedophiles and terrorists. And if the comments on the Internet tell us anything it is that I am not alone. That knowledge is a useful addition to the debate. People need to know that if they are accomplices in the torture of my family members or me, I don't merely disagree with their position on the topic; I wish them a painful death. No one sheds a tear when a terrorist accidentally blows himself up in his bomb-making factory.

Just to be clear, I don't favor killing people for political activism. I'm just saying I wouldn't shed a tear if an activist opposed to doctor-assisted-suicide died a painful death. I'm not proud of that position. I'm just being honest.

Note to the analogy-challenged: One shouldn't compare apples to oranges. But it's fair to say both are food. So while you might be tempted to argue the differences between an anti-doctor-assisted-suicide activist and a pedophile and a terrorist, you'd be missing the larger point that they are all examples of deeply immoral behavior. And the world would be better off without them.

Let me be the first to point out that I live in a bubble in Northern California. For example, I can't think of a single person in my extended social group who is a creationist. Clearly my experience is not representative of the country as a whole. You don't need to point that out in the comments. I get it.

My blog post from yesterday got reprinted all over the Internet, generating thousands of comments on various sites. I spent hours looking through them, and I would say 95% are clearly in favor of doctor-assisted suicide. But obviously the folks who comment on Internet message boards are not representative of the country as a whole.

I don't trust anecdotal evidence but I have a hard time believing that 49% of my country is opposed to doctor-assisted suicide. I would think you can only get that result if you ask the question in a way that leads the witness. I'm looking at you, pollsters.

If you ask citizens whether or not they believe doctors should have the legal right to kill terminally ill people, or some version of that question, of course you get a lot of resistance. I can easily imagine 49% of the public being opposed to a question that leads the witness in that way.

Now suppose you ask this way: "If you are terminally ill and expect to be in terrible pain for months, if not years, do you want the government to decide what healthcare options are available to you, or should that decision be made by some combination of you, your doctor and your loved ones?"

My best guess is that 90% of the public would oppose giving the government veto power over their personal healthcare decisions.

Many folks have legitimate concerns that doctor-assisted-suicide laws could be implemented poorly. The best safeguard would be a legal requirement that a citizen has to specifically request a doctor-assisted-suicide option in his written healthcare directive, complete with a personalized list of safeguards. For example, a rich person might request an independent panel of experts get involved, should the need arise, because he doesn't trust his next-of-kin to keep their paws off his inheritance. Others might entrust the decision-making to a doctor plus one trusted family member. And perhaps you can further specify what happens if you are in a coma, or not mentally competent, and so on. Each person can take on as much or as little risk as they like. It's called freedom. Is 49% of my country opposed to that?

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