understanding the hype and hope

I have been keeping an eye on the hype & hope around artificial intelligence (AI), especially:

  • ML — machine learning
  • GPT — generative pre-trained transformers
  • GAI — generative artificial intelligence
  • LLM — large language models

“I’ve long been a fan and found value in AI / ML and its capabilities. Learning and finding patterns and causal patterns that in time can lead to outcomes that are problematic (a large fleet of vehicles with hundreds of sensors feeding and AI / ML to detect early engine, transmission, or other failure to address before more expensive damage or at a human cost). Generative AI from large language models is missing core pieces still and had knock-on effects that are really problematic with its lack of understanding facts (or multitudes of facts and truths), but more problematic is it blunts human learning and cognition.”
Thomas Vander Wal 2023-03-18

How Technology Influences Social Networks

Stewardship of global collective behavior —2021-06-21

“Human collective dynamics are critical to the well-being of people and ecosystems in the present and will set the stage for how we face global challenges with impacts that will last centuries. There is no reason to suppose natural selection will have endowed us with dynamics that are intrinsically conducive to human well-being or sustainability. The same is true of communication technology, which has largely been developed to solve the needs of individuals or single organizations. Such technology, combined with human population growth, has created a global social network that is larger, denser, and able to transmit higher-fidelity information at greater speed. With the rise of the digital age, this social network is increasingly coupled to algorithms that create unprecedented feedback effects.”


looking in the mirror

In a local op-ed I recently concluded that curriculum change in education is like fixing a plane in mid-flight especially when the first principles of public education are not clear while the curriculum is the same for everyone. Basically, standardized curriculum is the confinement of the human experience. It is a blunt tool that winds up bullying someone. But nobody can take the government to task on first principles when they do not exist. Much of the blame lies with the professionals managing the system. They have handed over this cobbled-together system to each successive government to do their political whims. And so it will continue. (more…)

pilots and copilots

Simon Terry has a short post on Microsoft’s new Copilot and how we should be careful in fully adopting some of these generative AI tools.

LLMs [large language models] are improvements on past tools but are hardly perfect. In a world where the volume of information means many people scan everything, we need to remain alert for the risks of the models false inferences or patterns gone awry.

In the history of aviation, it became apparent that pilot personal relationships are critical to avoiding dangerous incidents. Authoritarian cultures meant senior pilot mistakes went devastatingly unchallenged. —Microsoft Co-pilot

I mentioned pilot training on a post recently — experience cannot be automated. I concluded that automation, in all fields, forces learning and development out of the comfort zone of course development and into the most complex aspects of human learning and performance. On that post is also a quote by Captain Sully Sullenberger, the famed pilot who safely landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River. A movie was made about this, which included the subsequent safety investigation. Tom Hanks plays Sully and in this sequence of videos we see the difference between human cognition of experienced pilots versus the best software/hardware simulation of the day. There is no comparison. (more…)

capitalism > automation > gpt

In my last post I covered in detail how ideas become ideology.

“Ideas lead technology. Technology leads organizations. Organizations lead institutions. Then ideology brings up the rear, lagging all the rest — that’s when things really get set in concrete.”Charles Green (2009)

Today, the underlying ideology is capitalism. It drives the actions of governments, such as claiming that companies are job creators.

“There is no such thing as a ‘job creator’. There are employers, who hire employees, *because they need them*. And then employers pay the employees less than the value they generate. That’s the system. How did we get to the point at which people behave as if the wealthy are giving a gift to working people? I realize it’s not a new attitude, but it remains proudly f’d up.” Mark Sumner (more…)

how ideas become ideology

Several times I have referred to this observation about how ideas connect to ideology.

“Ideas lead technology. Technology leads organizations. Organizations lead institutions. Then ideology brings up the rear, lagging all the rest — that’s when things really get set in concrete.”—Charles Green (2009)

Here are some examples of these shifts.

Ideas lead technology

Hedy Lamarr invented spread spectrum technology in 1941 but its value as a technology accelerated half a century later as it would, “galvanize the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations possible.”

Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, ushered in the idea of the learning organization but it was only recently that organizations had the Web 2.0 technologies to enable distributed team learning or share systems-thinking across the enterprise. (more…)

reflecting on a decade past

Looking back on my blog posts from 10 years ago — March 2013 — here are some that remain valid [in my opinion anyway].

perpetual beta is the new reality

Work in networks requires different skills than in directed hierarchies. Cooperation is a foundational behaviour for effectively working in networks, and it’s in networks where most of us will be working. Cooperation presumes the freedom of individuals to join and participate so that people in the network cannot be told what to do, only influenced. If they don’t like you, they won’t connect. In a hierarchy you only have to please your boss. In a network you have to be seen as having some value, though not the same value, by many others.

we need to learn how to connect

Increasing connections should be a primary business focus. It should also be the aim of HR and learning & development departments. Connections increase as people cooperate in networks (not focused on any direct benefits for helping others). Diverse networks can emerge from cooperation that is supported by transparency and openness in getting work done. Basically, better external connections also make a worker more valuable internally. Fostering this perspective will be a huge change from the way many organizations work today. (more…)

experience cannot be automated

There is little consensus, based on research, showing exactly how flight simulation should be employed. I know, I started researching flight simulation in the mid-1990’s. This is definitely an area that requires more research by those who purport to be experts in human learning. Just checking-the-box continues to be all too prevalent in training systems.

As more of our work systems become automated, human oversight often decreases. Luckily it was human oversight that prevented accidents with Alaska Airlines recently — watch the machines. Today, most commercial aircraft fly most of the time on autopilot. What does this do to pilot concentration and skill degradation? Perhaps pilots should spend even more time in simulators practicing for those 2% of situations that require high expertise. Or perhaps what they really need is more experience.  (more…)

watch the machines

I wrote the next two paragraphs in a blog post last year — we have met the enemy.

A long time ago — pre-pandemic and pre-9/11 — I was flying on a commercial passenger aircraft. The flight was over-booked and as I was wearing my Army uniform, I was offered to sit in the jump seat, just behind the pilots. Yes, these things happened in the ‘before times’.

It was a short flight but I had a chance to speak with the pilots. The captain told me that many civilian pilots had a military background but their training and experience resulted in some differences. He mentioned that if there was an observed incident on take-off, most of the civilian-trained pilots would make small adjustments to the throttle speed, aware that fuel costs money for the company. On the other hand, many of the military-trained pilots might react to an incident by slamming the throttles forward and getting out the situation and in the air as fast as possible. This of course costs more fuel, but from a military operational perspective would probably be the best default action. (more…)

leadership in broken systems

Over the past year I have given a lot of consideration on the role of leaders in our organizations and how some of the core assumptions about leadership need to change.

Surviving in broken systems and moving beyond them

Many of our systems and institutions are broken. So how can we survive in these? The answer may be in adopting an ironic sense of humour, coupled with honesty and humility. Sensemaking through irony, and not falling into a state of anger, frustration, or apathy, can lead us toward envisaging new systems. When people in the roles of decision maker, expert, & resource controller — traditional bottlenecks for knowledge flow in organizations — adopt these perspectives then “distributed, iterative sense-making, decision-making, and action-taking” can be enabled. (more…)

misinforming ourselves

On the last Friday of each month I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“I set out to write a letter to friends who know Twitter and are Mastodon-curious. As I worked on it, I thought: What if the letter could serve as a starting point for anyone explaining Mastodon?”Lee Lefever

society: damn misinfo at scale is getting a bit out of hand lately. seems like a problem.
tech guys: i have invented a machine that generates misinformation. is that helpful?”

“The more I think about what went wrong with web search, it comes down to this: the internet companies did not ever come up with a workable definition of truth, or fealty to reality, or anything like it. What are the markers of fact in some text? They never figured that out. You cannot organize all the world’s information without that core concept. The chatbots are just making this failure plain (and weird).”Alexis Madrigal

The boss has been pestering me to attend a leadership conference so I, completely jokingly, said, “A true leader would never sit in a audience being told what to do” and now half this office is in existential crisis.Elle Gray