media and massages

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

I just had the dumbest fight of my professional career, which I assure you is saying something, and there’s not a day we actually disagreed. We just hadn’t talked voice.

Oh. Well then.

Talk. No really. Actually talk. Don’t play telephone. Pick up the telephone. Lunch. TALK.

Text has enough bandwidth to escalate conflict between humans, but not enough bandwidth to de-escalate. Base assumptions — what people actually want — can get wrong and stay wrong really easily, without low latency, high metadata exchange.

Never fight over text. —@dankami

@johnrobb — “Incoherence makes group decision making impossible … Incoherence arises from a ​distrust of information​ (due to misinformation/bias), a ​distrust of messengers ​ (due to a loss of fictive kinship), and a ​distrust of the medium ​ (due to corporate interference).” (more…)

the internet and democracy

I got off Facebook about 10 years ago. I know that this has had no impact on the company or its business model. When I saw in 2007 that Facebook was selling user information, I knew I could not stay on the platform much longer. But the lure of network effects, where it takes almost no effort to connect with other people, is too powerful for most of us.

Facebook is convenient. For most businesses it is suicide not to be on Facebook. It is an extremely convenient way to connect all your online communication and most of your digital content consumption. It is so convenient that it is the only way some people connect online. In thinking about Facebook, I noted that we may be heading toward a platform-dominated global social network that will not only shape our behaviour but narrow the scope of our humanity. (more…)

countering populism

I would say that populism is the first refuge of a scoundrel and a literate, engaged, and networked citizenry gives no such refuge. But education alone is not the answer to the constant outrage we are witnessing as many societies polarize on political lines. Even highly educated people can be bigots, racists, and misogynists. Society’s answer to populism is not a return to the old ways, nor an ironic post-modern shrug, but rather a new meta-modernity — multi-layered, relational, and global.

Slovakia’s president, Zuzana Caputova elected in March 2019, suggests a way out of the populist quagmire. The answer is to be calm, rational, and to embrace others, much like a universal mother. (more…)

filter success

Clay Shirky’s statement — “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure” — is an oft-quoted line when discussing online sensemaking. I was discussing filters last week during an interview on personal knowledge mastery which will be used to inform a program we are developing for a client organization, a large global corporation. The interview reminded me that it’s time to refine my work on knowledge filters because times have changed since I first wrote up the work of Tim Kastelle and his five forms of filtering in 2011. I slightly revised these knowledge filters in 2018 and recently discussed the importance of trusted filters.

One current challenge with machine filters (heuristic & algorithmic) is that in most cases the end-user does not know what logic or code is driving them. One machine filter that many of us use is Google Translate, which you could say is either the result of the wisdom of crowds, or the blind leading the blind — you choose.

“The main issue is the mechanism used by Google Translate itself. It does not actually translate anything, but it scours the web for similar or identical translations performed in the past, constantly learning and building upon what it has learned. This might sound great, but this also means that any time you plug your word, phrase or paragraph, or upload a document into Google Translate, it then becomes public domain.” —Robert Gebhardt

(more…)

change takes time and effort

The idea that generalists and soft skills are needed in the modern workplace seems to be hitting the mainstream of HR, L&D, etc. I have written about these for the past decade or more, and I think it’s necessary to clarify some of the discussion.

1. Wicked problems need neo-generalists

Neo-generalists defy common understanding. They cross boundaries, and some break them. They see patterns before others do. They go against hundreds of years of cultural programming. I doubt this is what most employers in large organizations are looking for. But neo-generalists are necessary today — “It is through the hybridization of and cross-pollination between such disciplines [science & humanities] that we will arrive at solutions for our wicked problems.” Hiring and developing generalists will not be enough.

2. A centuries old schism is not addressed overnight

E.O. Wilson, in The Origins of Creativity, envisages a third enlightenment that will bring us closer to seeing humanity as one common group, uniting fields of knowledge. But how many in the humanities have deep science skills, and vice versa?

“Scientists and scholars in the humanities, working together, will, I believe serve as the leaders of a new philosophy, one that blends the best and most relevant from these two branches of learning.”

Recombining the sciences and the humanities will take some time. In the meantime, cross-disciplinary teams may be more practical.

(more…)

connecting the curious

Why do students often ask — will this be on the test? It’s because they have figured out the game called education. They are told what to study, what is important, and for how long. Each school year they play the game anew.

Why are some — a significant percentage — employees not motivated to work? They too have figured out the game. Venkatesh Rao, in The Gervais Principle describes this large base of most companies — the losers.

“The Losers are not social losers (as in the opposite of ‘cool’), but people who have struck bad bargains economically – giving up capitalist striving for steady paychecks. I am not making this connection up … The Losers like to feel good about their lives. They are the happiness seekers, rather than will-to-power players, and enter and exit reactively, in response to the meta-Darwinian trends in the economy. But they have no more loyalty to the firm than the Sociopaths. They do have a loyalty to individual people, and a commitment to finding fulfillment through work when they can, and coasting when they cannot.”

(more…)

banking ideas

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

@White_OwlyUnconscious bias hangs out with plausible deniability. I’ve seen them together. They’ll deny it though.

@EikeGS“Today everything runs on bestseller lists. You rarely find good books there. But the less people can cook, the more cookbooks are sold.”

“Most executives, many scientists, and almost all business school graduates believe that if you analyze data, this will give you new ideas. Unfortunately, this belief is totally wrong. The mind can only see what it is prepared to see.”Edward de Bono, via @hemppa (more…)

cracking the chambers

Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University describes two related but distinct phenomena of collective human behaviour — bubbles and chambers.

An epistemic bubble is what happens when insiders aren’t exposed to people from the opposite side.
An echo chamber is what happens when insiders come to distrust everybody on the outside.

An epistemic bubble, for example, might form on one’s social media feed. When a person gets all their news and political arguments from Facebook and all their Facebook friends share their political views, they’re in an epistemic bubble. They hear arguments and evidence only from their side of the political spectrum. They’re never exposed to the other side’s views.

An echo chamber leads its members to distrust everybody on the outside of that chamber. And that means that an insider’s trust for other insiders can grow unchecked. —Big Think 2019-09-16

Nguyen believes that echo chambers are the real problem because members “are far more entrenched and far more resistant to outside voices than epistemic bubbles”. They do not trust people outside their chamber. These echo chambers can exist on all sides of any political spectrum. Nguyen concludes that, “To break somebody out of an echo chamber, you’d need to repair that broken trust”.

So what can be done? (more…)

we are dependent on human connection

What we do not know

Our networks are great places for serendipitous connections. But they are not safe places to have deeper conversations or to expose our points of view, I noted last year in coffee, communities, and condescension. The difference between an open social network (e.g. Twitter) and a private online community (e.g. Mattermost) is that the latter is often based on mutual trust. While community members may disagree, they respect each other. They are not shaming people in public, as happens frequently on Twitter with its loose social ties.

To make sense of our complex world and its often-veiled media sources, we need both open social networks and more closed communities of practice/interest. Sensemaking is an ongoing process and highly dependent on our human connections. Only collectively can we confront the post-truth machines of the network era.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the tendency of people who know less about a topic to think that they know more. This cognitive bias comes from people’s “inability to recognize their lack of ability”. The counter to this bias is metacognition — the ability to think about our own thinking processes — and is humanity’s secret weapon that too few of us use. Another counter is to connect to other people with diverging experiences and interests. The more diverse our social networks, the more diverse our thinking can be. (more…)