Big Data this, predictive analytics that. Give me a break.
I’ve often wondered whether social networking companies like Facebook qualify as innovations driving sustainable economic growth, i.e. fueling human prosperity.
As more of the world’s discretionary capital (equity, venture, etc.) is sunk into social technologies we should I think explore the link between virtual technologies facilitating human connectivity (i.e. social media) and vibrant economies conducent to democratic political systems, invention and human prosperity.
Conspiracy theories vs. idiosyncrasies
I for one am no big fan of conspiracy theories. I see them as the construct of minds unable to grasp modern life’s intricacies. The fact that few of us manage to agree within the same family leaves me suspicious as to the proliferation of occult groups with the coherence to pull the world’s strings – that is assuming they would possess the means. I have however become convinced that society doesn’t need conspiracies to create its own self-imposed idiosyncrasies which in turn come with a hefty price.
With the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas attracting worldwide media coverage last week, let me be the one to posit that technological innovation is only as effective as our mental models are able to keep up.
Resilience will receive a lot of attention as the complexity of our world increases. Below is a brief description of the logical correspondence between complexity and resilience, followed by a succinct primer on mechanisms of resilience. But first, a bit of history is in order.
Futurists, scholars and entrepreneurs seem to agree: the higher education establishment will be disrupted in the near future. Thomas Frey foretells the collapse of over 50% of colleges by 2030 while Clay Christensen proposes higher education to be just on the edge of the crevasse. The culprit responsible for the disruption in their view? Technology, or more precisely the increasing availability of online learning to which Michael Saylor would add the proliferation of mobile devices.
My view? There is more to the story than technological disruption. To understand such subtleties, one has to look at the underlying philosophy of education.
The love-hate relationship of humanity with technology seems to be universal across ages. We love the benefits that technology brings, but hate it when it threatens our jobs, or forces us to learn new skills faster than our comfortable pace.
In the words of Clayton Christensen, one could say that technology is slowly disrupting human labor (and I include here knowledge work). The latest scare for humanity is the so called “technological singularity”, where artificial intelligence learns how to design improved versions of itself, and so exponentially surpasses human intelligence, leaving us humans well…irrelevant. Popular author Kurzweil predicts the year for this around 2045. Less extreme viewpoints still see automation as a major disruptive force to social order as even knowledge workers will be out of jobs in the next few decades. And so the fatalists wonder: how do we deal with the social implications of a few billion unemployed – will anarchy be the norm in 2045?
While the logical thread leading to a fatalist view of the future may seem sound, it is in fact plagued with serious flaws based in a misunderstanding of the differences between silicon and carbon-based intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence, Cognition, complexity, Double Loop Learning, Intentionality, Meaning, Natural World, Neural Algorithms, Perception, Purpose, Reality, Reflexivity, Self-Awareness, Singularity, Social Science
Self-awareness, key to intentionality, meaning and purpose, may be restricted to the natural world. In social theory, reflexivity refers to a circular relationship between cause and effect in human systems. The latest in complexity and cognitive science – themselves related disciplines – appears to confirm this assertion by social scientists. By the simple act of perception humans can alter the reality they attempt to observe, and in that sense reality and sentient man can be said to intertwine. Out of this inference an emergent phenomenon we call the future limps forward.
Big Data, business, Categorization, causality, Cause and Effect, complexity, creativity, Cynefin, Daniel Pink, Dave Snowden, Drucker, Drucker Forum, Emergence, future, Imagination, Innovation, Knowledge, management, Methods, models, Motivation, Peter Checkland, Resilience, Revolution, Roger Martin, Russell Ackoff, Safety, Sense Making, Social Systems, Society
If one were to cut a global cross-section through social classes, nationalities, ethnicities, ages, professions, genders, and so forth, very few commonalities would emerge. And yet, there is I propose just such a common thread: a shared causality mindset, a globally predominant belief in the supremacy of cause and effect.
Since it is people who run our institutions, this belief continues to shape our modern society and even influence to a large extent the technological outcrops of our knowledge economy. From business strategy to macroeconomic models, and from political debates to Big Data, causality is pervasive and its implications profound.
Analytics, Big Data, business, creativity, Frederick Taylor, Humanity, Information Technology, Knowledge Economy, Machines vs. Humans, management, Manufacturing, Mechanistic Thinking, Process, Production, Research and Development, Workflow, World View
This will be a very short blog post. I am not going to make an elaborate argument. Rather, I would like the “evidence” to speak for itself. My thesis is that Information Technology (IT) continues to proliferate mechanistic thinking in business, more than a century after Frederick Taylor fathered the science of workflow analysis and labor productivity in a manufacturing intensive economy. While we’ve since moved on to the knowledge economy, we have yet to abandon manufacturing thinking.