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2012/03/13 Tim O’Reilly interviewed by Andrew McAfee, “Creating More Value Than You Capture”, SXSW Interactive July 2, 2016

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Digest of an interview of @timoreilly by @amcafee below, abstract from http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP100142:

Tim O'Reilly, SXSW 2012

One of the great failures of any company – for that matter of a capitalist economy – is ecosystem failure. Great companies build great ecosystems, one in which value is created not just for a single company or group of industry players, but for partners who didn’t even exist when the product or service was introduced. Many companies start out creating huge value. [….]  Since the cycle of capitalism depends on consumers as well as producers, and consumers are less and less able to find employment, at some point, we’re going to have to start thinking about how to put people to work, rather than how to put them out of work. At O’Reilly, we’ve always tried to live by the slogan “Create more value than you capture.” It’s a great way to build a sustainable business and a sustainable economy.

Andrew McAfee, SXSW 2012

Andrew McAfee, author of “Race Against the Machine,” will engage with Tim about these ideas, and about how rethinking the economy becomes even more urgent in the face of the trend he explores in his book, in which jobs are being outsourced not just to low-wage countries, but increasingly to machines.


[long introduction]

[… skipping ahead to focus on the ideas on policy  …]

[21:40 AM] A lot of what these people did was what you called the Clothesline Paradox.  Can you tell us more about that?

[21:42 TO] … It’s a paper I read in 1975 in Coevolution Quarterly …

[23:30 TO] … We kicked the can down the road …

[….]

[23:40 TO]  Back to this clothesline paradox.  Steve Baer had this insight.  He said, when somebody decides to hang their clothes on a clothesline, instead of putting them into a dryer, we don’t take that little energy savings, and move it from the fossil fuels column into the energy renewable column in our accounting.  It just disappears.

[24:05 AM] So it’s literally a shrinkage in the economy.

[24:07 TO] That’s right.

[24:08 AM] It looks small than it used to.

[24:09 TO] That’s right.  So you can look at a lot of issues — like in the SOPA — it’s a great metaphor for how we think about the Internet economy, when people entertain themselves by watching free Youtube videos, or interact with friends on Facebook, instead of watching Hollywood movies or buying copyrighted content.  The copyright industry says “look at the value that was destroyed, the free Internet is destroying value”.

[24:40 TO] But it’s quite clear.  It’s like the utilities people saying, those people hanging their clothes on clotheslines are destroying value.  They’re not using our product.

[24:52 AM] And by that definition, the open source software movement has shrunk the software industry.

[24:55 TO] Absolutely.

[24:56 AM] And therefore destroyed value.

[24:59 TO] Except, no.  That was exactly what Bob Young, who started Red Hat, said:  my goal is to shrink the share of the operating system market.  And you look at MySQL, shrunk the size of the database market.  But it didn’t really, of course, it actually grew it.

[25:17 TO] What we understand, now, is that when we now have these breakthroughs in generosity, you grow the market.  You grow value for society.

[25:28 AM] But you don’t grow the economy that we know how to measure, that we’re kind of pointing our measurement instruments at.

[25:35 TO] Often you grow it, we just don’t look at the instruments.

[…]  [The book, Race Against the Machine]

[28:35 TO] We really need to think about a new shape of the economy. …

[28:37 AM] And this is actually a great segue, because this is the next set of questions that I wanted to post to Tim.

[28:41 AM] So we have one set of challenges, which are pretty clear and substantial about measuring value in our economy.

[28:47 AM] We have another set of challenges around compensating people for contributing value in this economy.  Because, as Tim says, a lot of the people who are putting value out there, are doing it in ways that don’t immediately lead to recompense or compensation.

[29:02 AM] There’s another problem, which Eric and I dove in on, in the book, which is as technology just races ahead, and continues to demonstrate just weirdly powerful new capabilities and skills, the data are pretty clear that it’s leaving some people, and a larger number of people, behind, in our economy, over time.

[29:25 AM] And the super-shorthand way to talk about that is:  think about what happens when we hook up Siri to Watson, and let both of those technologies improve for a few years.  Cause if they follow the trajectory of Moore’s Law, and they’re going to follow them with at least that much acceleration, they’re going to be about 16 times better than they currently are, in 6 years.

[29:49 AM] Now I think that puts a lot of people who are doing what they are currently doing for a living right in the sights of the automation of the economy.

[… customer self-service …]

[… customers create jobs …]

[32:37 TO]  It’s a situation that’s been, first of all, framed by the race of our economy to take labour costs out.  What we’ve failed to do is to find a way to redistribute those gains.  We have them go disproportionately to a very small number of people.  I find it fairly inconscionable that companies are basically firing workers while paying hundreds of millions of dollars to a few top executives, because “we can’t afford …”  That’s just bullshit.

[33:09 TO] The fact is, we’ve made choices about who we’re going to reward, and they’re ultimately self-destructive choices for our society.

[33:17 AM Okay.

[33:18 TO] But now what we have is the race of technology, with more and more jobs being taken over by machines,

[33:35 AM] You and I had a fascinating conversation, a while back, because I was laying out the things I was saying.  And I found it really easy to find examples of encroaching automation in jobs under threat.  Tim did the best job of pointing me toward examples of job creation, not just among the data scientists and web designers of the world, which I was anticipating, but you’ve given great examples of people putting labour back into our economy.

[33:59 TO] Let me put it this way.  I’m looking for those examples, and I’m starting to find them.

[34:03 TO] The way my mind works, is I kind of have some notion, and then I start looking for some data to support that notion, or to disprove it.  In this case, the notion I came to was, oh, given what I said about if you don’t have any consumers, you don’t have any businesses, we’re going to have to put labour back into the economy.

[34:22 TO] We have to find a way to pay people. Or people will have to find a way to pay each other. Or we’ll have a very new shape to the economy.  That’s really what’s the heart of what I’m trying to talk about, here.

[… some green shoots, use of computers to add value to low-skilled jobs that we’ve been trying to ring out of society …]

[… The Apple Store …]

[… Walgreen … home health care IT people …]

[… Kickstarter, Etsy … examples of putting labour cost back into the economy]

[38:13 TO] Somebody basically took a commodity product, and lovingly added value to it, and then resold it.  I thought, that’s kind of an interesting data point.  I think we’ll be doing more of that added value for each other, in this future economy.

[ … Youtube economy, where artists are starting to make a living, based on an advertising economy]

[… P2P sharing economy … AirBnB …]

[39:25 TO] It seems to me that, when you see a sharing economy, it eventually does get monetized.  The early web, everybody was just equal, we were just doing things each other.  Then, this advertising economy grew up around it.

[39:46 TO] There’s still a huge distance ahead for the advertising economy.  The Internet average share of advertising is still a fraction of television, even though there’s more hours now spent on the Internet, entertaining each other, than there are spent on television.  So there’s a lot of money to come from industry into another.

[40:05 TO] So that kind of leads me to a policy recommendation.  Policy makers need to focus on protecting the future from the past, rather than protecting the past from the future.

[40:18 TO] Most of the policy that we see is oriented towards protecting incumbents, because of course they have the loudest voices …

[40:28 AM] … and the biggest chequebooks.

[40:30 TO] I had this interesting conversation with Nancy Pelosi about SOPA and PIPA.  It was eye-opening.  I was just explaining my experience as a publisher.  We’ve been publishing books DRM-free, and yes, some people steal them, particularly in countries where they weren’t going to pay us anyway.

[…]

[40:56 TO] It does not keep me up at night, because, in fact, our business is growing.  We were selling in markets we could never have sold in, before.  It’s a rapidly growing part of my business.

[41:08 TO] I’m trying to explain, and she says, we have to take into account the concerns of Hollywood.  I said, no you don’t.  You have to find the right answer for society.  Your job is to work for all of us.  It’s not to work for this interest group versus that interest group.

[… open for questions from the audience …]

[44:24 audience]  Do you have an axiom that you would consider for a startup founder who’s trying to make decision between where to create value for the investors, where to cleave the line and say that this should be something that goes into the ecosystem?  How you make that judgement call?

[44:47 TO] I think it should be scientific.  I remember having this argument with Richard Stallman about open source.  I said the difference between free software and open source is that open source should be science, not religion.  In other words, it should work.  The decision you’re making, if you’re looking over time, you should believe that it’s better for the investor, as well as for society.  Because, in fact, short-term thinking is not best for a long-term investor.  So that means, of course, that you also have to find an investor who is thinking in the long term.  Of course, great investors do think longer term.  They’re not looking for the quick exit.  They’re looking to build the great company that survives and grows and serves customers over the long term.  If you’re doing it right, you should, in fact, be looking at building a vibrant ecosystem around your company that creates value for a lot of other people.  You’ll find that’s actually better for your company.  So look fo rthat win-win .   […]  Although these days, win-win seems to mean we win twice for our team.

[more questions, audio ends at 1h01m01s

Audio replay available at “Create More Value Than You Capture” | SXSW Interactive | 2012 at  http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP100142

[download audio]

Subsequent blog post, Andrew McAfee, “Tim O’Reilly on Putting Labor Back Into the Economy” | March 2012 at http://andrewmcafee.org/2012/03/mcafee-sxsw-tim-oreilly-labor-automation-race-against-the-machine/

Cognitive overload as business opportunity for IBM since 2005 | Ginni Rometty | June 1, 2016 | Code Conference (web video + audio) June 11, 2016

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Cognitive overload is a challenge IBM has worked since 2005, says @GinniRometty in @KaraSwisher interview @RecodeEvents. Thus, cognitive computing combining man and machine is more than artificial intelligence. Better decisions in open domains will lead to solving problems not solved before.

In T-shaped thinking, not just the jack-of-all-things of unstructured data + natural language + images, but the depth in domain knowledge to understand, reason and learn. If it’s digital, it will be cognitive. In education, reading and mechanical skills won’t be enough, will have to teach and learn data skills.

Blockchain could be even bigger than Watson, with opportunities in efficiencies in supply chains and capital flows. Open source will be important, the Hyperledger project gives transparency to regulators and institutions.

Ginni Rometty, IBM, at Code 2016

[The full video of 27m44s is online from recode.net.  A 4m19s excerpt is searchable on Youtube]

[5:00 Ginni Rometty] The reason we don’t call it artificial intelligence — which is much easier to say, by the way, and spell … I’ve heard this from everyone. It is a little bit of history. It’s really all about man and machine. And I know there are various views about this. And AI can have a loaded set of connotations with it.

[5:25 Kara Swisher]: About destroying the earth.

[5:26 Ginni Rometty]: More than that. Jobs, many other things that people bring up about that topic.

[5:31 Ginni Rometty]: The point was, it was man and machine. We got started on this, Kara, in 2005, when we started our work on this. We’ve been at this on for a good decade, now. And it started because we said, look, people are going to be overloaded. There’s so much information. It’s cognitive overload. You’ve got to do something about it. And that’s what started us down this path. And therefore, this really true belief that you will make better decisions, and you will in fact solve problems that haven’t been solved before.

[5:56 Ginni Rometty]: Which is why, good or bad, we picked the first thing with healthcare. It is the most … I would have to ask everyone … Does everyone think? There’s not even really a system around it, it’s so dysfunctional. There’s so much waste. 8 trillion, a third of it is waste.

[6:12 Kara Swisher] Let’s talk about the decision to go with AI. [….] How do you turn that into a business? [….] From being, ooh, isn’t it cool, to being able to beat the chess guy. Which is fun …

[6:51 Ginni Rometty] And then Jeopardy. Because chess is really such a long time ago. And chess has many more — yes, you were thinking Jeopardy — because chess has many more mathematically determined …. That’s just horsepower, when you’re doing chess. But that’s not true with Jeopardy. Jeopardy is open domain, so it’s infinite answers. It’s a very different set of issues that are there.

[7:08 Ginni Rometty] When you say why, and can it be a business? This goes back to thinking that it could be an everyday, impact. I would say that in 5 years, there is no doubt in my mind, that cognitive AI will impact every decision made. 5 years. In some way, in some sense. It can be everyday stuff. And when you say, to make it a business, just look at healthcare, education, I look at what we’ve done in financial services, and I can see what clients are doing. [….]

[7:58] One thing that is important for everything thinking in the future of AI … a couple things. It’s easy to think about, okay, you’ll have to deal with unstructured data. Mary talked about natural language. But it’s not just that, and it’s not just images. It’s going to have to be domain knowledge, and that this ability to understand, reason and learn. And if you can do that in a domain, you’re in a way different world. It’s not like being a jack-of-trades on a really thin thing.

[8:25] This is going down the path, if you’re an oncologist, how can you look at an EMR, look at x-rays, look at the knowledge that has been printed out there, form hypotheses, decide your level of confidence … What experts want — what you and I want, when we want to make a decision … You don’t want to be told the answer. You want to see, here’s the different reasons, here’s how I thought about it, here’s the evidence that proves it. When you’re being treated for cancer, you may not want your hair to fall out. That may mean a lot to you. So there is no right or wrong answer.

[8:54] So I see this world … This is where we’ll going to want to deal with the grey area. And that is really a different business. And I think most businesses are there.

[….]

[9:07 Kara Swisher] Right now, you put cognitive businesses at $4 billion, about 20% of your business.

[9:12 Ginni Rometty] Oh, no, no. [….] Analytics is $18 billion, and increasing. [….]

[9:25 Kara Swisher] You don’t break out how much the Watson is …

[9:30 Ginni Rometty] We don’t, for a reason. Anyone who’s building something … It’s going to be a silver thread …

[9:58 Ginni Rometty] If it’s digital, it’ll be cognitive. Anything you do digital, it will be cognitive. So, if you think that, you’re going to be a way that you really run your business. [….] We will solve things that haven’t been solved. [….]

[11:10] The other parts of the business, I say, they’re not growing, they’re declining. But, my, good, we run the railroads, the airlines, the banks of the world. Those are systems, by the way, that are to be changed. I hope we do do talk a little about systems like blockchain, which, I believe, as much as discussion as we have about AI, the blockchain will have as much as an influence on many different ways that businesses are run.

[ … story about Jill Watson ….]

[16:40 Kara Swisher] That is the friendly view of AI. […] Your thing is not so much doing the why, you’re showing the path of decision-making. But at some point, two things could go wrong. One is replacing jobs. Completely replacing jobs. [….] The other one is evil in taking over the planet.

[17:30 Ginni Rometty] I think there are a couple points that you should think about. When you think about … I’ll keep using the word cognitive, because AI is a subset. For me as an engineer, technically, AI is a subset of cognitive. There are many more statistical engines in here, and what it does. But what really matters is who teaches these things. Watson is taught. When you come in, it’s both the data you use to teach, and who does the teaching. So, as an example …. This is why verticals become really important. So, when you’re in healthcare, IBM has been taught by the world’s greatest oncologists right now. [….]

[18:20] This idea of knowing which data to use for what …. If you are going to diagnose someone, would you go to the journals, and all of the literature of medicine, or would you go to Twitter? [….]

[18:34] … if you were trying to predict the pandemic, you might also have to go there. But there’s the idea of knowing which way to go is really important. And who does the training is important. So when you’re in verticals, you will be trained by experts. [….] For one of the most important business decisions, who does the training is important.

[18:57] Your other point though, is what about job? I think that is is inevitable. Things that are repetitive, they will have a job impact. That is foolish to say it won’t. We’re doing the work on radiology today. [….]

[19:29] The radiologist can do what he really should be doing, and that’s what he’s going to be putting the premium on. But this will circle back …. The root of this is going to go back to education. Because, you aren’t going to stop it. Mary had that chart up on transportation. The trend is going to keep moving, right?

[19:45] The chart on transportation …. If you go back to farming, people had to read. The industrial age, then they had to teach mechanical skills. I think what ever we’ll end up calling this age, people will have had to learn all of these data skills, right? [….] I do think that there will be tons more of jobs that will open up. But there will be this discontinuity period. They don’t always line up. That’s the thing about transitions.

[….]

[20:25 Kara Swisher] Last question, blockchain. Why do you think it’s going to be important?

[20:30 Ginni Rometty] How many people are familiar with blockchain? [….] How many of you think it’s going to have a profound impact on some of the biggest business processes in the world? I would say, maybe 60-70%.

[20:45] We have about 200 projects going. But, we did something else. And ghis is probably the most instructive. Cause blockchain for me …. Anything that is a supply chain, you can improve its efficiency. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a people supply chain, numbers ….

[21:08] IBM Global Financing is $40 billion, one of the world’s largest. So we’ve put up our own ledger on a shadow blockchain already. Very interesting. I place a lot of commercial paper. I start to place my own commercial paper. Some people don’t fit in that flow. The flow goes down, money’s shortened. I can see it happening already. I have a big services business. There’s lots of supply chain. People parts moving around. You have tons of people on both sides that are reconciling. Blockchain addresses it. I have banks, reconciliation, stock exchanges, not very liquid assets, trading. Big shippers, to big retailers. So, I can see the the efficiency. This is another area. It will be efficiency. Efficiency of capital flows, and efficiency ….

[21:55] It’s a great opportunity. You need two things to do it. You need transaction flows, and cryptography. And I also believe, it’s going to be important to be out in open source. We actually put the fabric for it, in Hyperledger. Because you will need visibility in the world. The regulators, the federal banks we worked with, you have to have it. I think — and we didn’t talk about it at all — I think that the opportunities are super-great around this. I see tons of little companies popping up, taking all different applications. I think it’s almost limitless what the ideas will be, what the people will do with this. In the good way that you’ll need to have transparency with this, and we’ll go through some learning. Again, some of the vehicles out there are not transparent, they’re opaque, you won’t be able to do that with financial transactions.

[… audience questions and answer follow ….]

“Full video: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty at Code 2016” (27m44s) | Recode at http://www.recode.net/2016/6/8/11829636/ginni-rometty-ibm-full-video-code

Excerpt 4m19s “Using AI to combat cognitive overload | Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM | Code Conference 2016” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy3lZhQ5Cb8

Ian Mitroff | “Dirty Rotten Strategies: How We Trick Ourselves and Others into Solving the Wrong Problems Precisely” | Feb. 24, 2010 | Commonwealth Club (web video, MP3 audio) April 3, 2016

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Don’t solve the wrong problems precisely.  Type 3 Errors and Type 4 Errors, by Ian Mitroff, extending the Design of Inquiring Systems.

Abstract, from http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2010-02-24/dirty-rotten-strategies-how-we-trick-ourselves-and-others-solving-wrong-problems-p

How can people or groups tell whether others are deliberately steering us down faulty paths? Mitroff delves into how organizations and interest groups lure us into solving the “wrong problems” with intricate but inaccurate solutions that are based on faulty and erroneous assumptions – and offers strategies and solutions.

Video of 9m57s (with slides) on “Book TV: Ian Mitroff & Abraham Silvers, Dirty Rotten Strategies” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjgJVp9f_1k

Video of 59m47s (with slides) on “Book Discussion on Dirty Rotten Strategies” at http://www.c-span.org/video/?292366-1/book-discussion-dirty-rotten-strategies

Audio podcast 1h41s downloadable at http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/podcast/ian-mitroff-dirty-rotten-strategies-how-we-trick-ourselves-and-others-solving

Preview of book at books.google.com/books?id=9Iol_cctGHkC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false


[This digest started with the Youtube transcript, and therefore initially uses that time code to 09m57s.  The version on c-span.org has a 14 second header and then runs to 59m47s.]

[00:00] If I had to sum up the the book in a single statement, it would be:  don’t solve the wrong problems precisely, because if you do, it not only a waste of precious resources, time and energy, but it leads to cynicism and despair and puts off the true problem such that they build up into a crisis.

[00:19] Also, if I had to summarize in a in a single saying, it would be from the celebrated author Thomas Pynchon:   if they can get you asking the wrong questions, then they don’t have to worry about the answers.

[….]

[00:40] What’s worse, the wrong solution to the right problem, or, the right solution to the wrong problem?

[00:50] Well, the right solution to the wrong problem is worse, because if you get the “right solution to the wrong problem” you convince yourself that you’ve solved the right problem, and you don’t go back up to the start of the tunnel coming into all of the different branches where you can branch off.

[01:07] You say, I’ve gone down the right path.  But if you keep getting the wrong solution to the right problem you say ok, I’ve made an error and hopefully the error will be self-correcting or I will eventually come to the right solution.

[01:20] Why solve the wrong problem precisely, as I said, a waste of time?

[01:25] In every case, whether you solve the right or wrong problem, it’s due to a set of assumptions.   Solving the wrong problem precisely is due to faulty assumptions, which leads to having to know your assumptions.

[Ally Bank, “Pony”, see http://www.adweek.com/video/ally-bank-pony-121402]

[….]

[03:16] Let me give you an overview of the talk and what’s in the book.   So, we’re gonna talk about something called E3 and E4: Error of the Third Kind, Error of the Fourth Kind.  They’re central to solving the right or the wrong problem.

E3: Trick ourselves; E4: Trick Others

[slide:

E3: Trick Ourselves

E4: Trick Others

]

[….]

[03:54] Let me start with E3 and E4.

[03:56] If you take a course in statistics, just about every courses talks about two types of error, type 1 and type 2 error. Everybody whose taken a course knows about that.

[04:07] And the easiest way to understand it is: you’re a drugmaker.   You have a new drug, and an old drug.   And what you you do you is to go out and test on a sample and hopefully the new drug is better than your old drug.

[04:17] But there are two types of errors you can make.

[04:19] One error is to say the new drug is better than the old drug when it really isn’t.

[04:24] And vice versa, the old drug is better the new drug when it really isn’t.

[04:27] And those are type 1 and type 2 errors.

[04:29] And those have to do with the bell-shaped curve and when you got the right samples.

[04:36] E3 is very different.  Have I tested the right hypothesis to begin with?  Am I asking the right question?

[04:43] So whether it’s the cost or the efficacy of a drug or of health care, it’s how E3 has to do with how we define a problem in the first place.

[04:52] And so E3 is when we trick ourselves.  Not necessarily anybody else, but, we tricked ourselves.  Okay, we fall in love with your pet hypothesis.

[05:00] E4 is more deceptive and potentially more harmful

[05:04]  It’s when I try to convince you, that the formulation that I and my company, my organization or industry has come up [with] is the right formulation of the problem.  And that you ought to accept it.  And there is no other way to formulate the problem.

[05:18] So it’s large fundamentally with miseducation.

[05:22] … in the book …

[slide:

Starts with Mis-education

X + 6 = 11 is an exercise.

Exercises ≠ Problems

Problems ≠ Messes

]

[05:25]  I’m not a proponent of textbooks.  Most of us start learning things from textbooks.  So the first thing we learned was X + 6, for example, equals 11.  What’s X?  That’s not a problem.  It’s an exercise.  The reason why it’s not a problem:  it’s already preformulated  There’s one and only one right answer, but you can usually convert it into a problem.

[05:46] Billy has six dollars and needs eleven dollars to buy a video game.   But Billy is in a poor family.  He has to give his money to help his mother and father.  Then it becomes a problem.

[05:55] Because the context is all-important.  Exercises remove all the context, descriptions.

[06:01] Now the problem with exercises, you give students, you know, 20 or 12 years, whatever it is, and education with exercises.  You turn them into certainty junkies and they balk like mad if you give them a real problem where they have to formulate the problem.

[06:15] In real problems, they have more than one way to formulate.   There’s not just one formulation.

[06:19] So you get into problem negotiation.  But you don’t get that, as you go through typical education.  Exercises don’t equal problems.  And problems don’t equal messes.

[06:30] A mess is a whole system.  A set of problems that are dynamically interconnected and change all the time. This is Russ Ackoff, who died recently, one of my mentors.

[06:40] But managers don’t solve problems, they manage messes.

[06:44] And that’s what President Obama certainly has to do.  It’s not a single well-defined problem, but how all these things are interconnected so the health care problem is not separate from the financial recovery and jobs recovery and all the rest.

[06:57] In fact, if you have a mess, and I’ll show you an example, and you take any the elements or problems out of the mass that constitute it, you distort the problem.   You distort the mess, because you have to look at the interactions.  Problems are not separable.

[07:13]  Health care.  Let me give an example of how we get off and solve the wrong problem.

[slide:

Health Care

Technically, the US has the best Medical System.

But, Technology ≠ Best Health Care System.

US has a poor Sick Care System.

Solves which problem?

]

[07:17] Technically, the U.S. has the best medical system in the world.  No question about that, from a technical standpoint.

[07:24] But technology does not actually equal the best delivery of health care as we want it.

[07:29] They’re not the same.  So solving the medical problem is not the same as solving the health care problem.

[07:36] In fact, the U.S. has a poor sick care system …

[….]

[08:04]  The health care system — and we’ll talk about the current health care bill — is founded on three primary assumptions.  (1) Government is the problem.  (2) Healthcare is a business like any other business.  And (3) cost-cutting is the primary aim.

[slide:

Three Wrong Assumptions

1. Government is the problem

2. Health care is a business

3. Cost-cutting is the primary aim]

[….]

[09:29] Now, it’s not that you have to accept my formulation or my statements.  That’s not the point. But I put my new things, my assertions, strongly as possible, so you know what I’m saying.  If if you disagree, therefore you have hopefully a better clarity on what you agree.

[….]

[Switch to c-span.org timecode]

[10:40 slide] The Critical Role of Critical Assumptions

[10:42] Everything is dependent upon assumptions.

[….]

[10:55] What happens in a crisis in principally this:  It’s not, yteah, that people die, which they do, it costs a lot of money, the organization loses money.

[11:06] One the primary things that happens that most people aren’t aware of:  a crisis literally demolishes all, or nearly all, of the principal assumptions that we use to give meaning to our life, to our reality.  That’s why I give an existential definition to a crisis.

[….]

[11:40 slide

Fort Hood.

1. Enemy

1. Location

1. Mental health professionals

1. One of our own

]

[….]

[11:50] When I listen to crises, I take them in a different way, because I’ve been so tuned to crises for 25 years.  In virtually every case, a crisis  undermines a primary set of beliefs that we use to make sense of reality.  And that’s why they’re existential crises.

[….]

[13:00 slide

Unreality

What's real?

Infotainment

Twittering in Operations

Normalization of the bizarre

]

[…]

[14:40 slide

Knowledge

How can we determine if we are committing an E3 or E4 error?

Inquiry systems]

[….]

[14:50 slide

Way Out

1. Expert Consensus Most Common
2. Scientific Modeling Most Common
3. Multiple Models E3 Assessed
4. Conflict E3 Assessed
5. Systemic E3 Rare

]

[16:40] You can’t really determine whether you’re committing a Type 3 or Type 4 Error, if you’re only using models 1 and 2, the first two ways.  Because they typically only produce one view of a problem, what they take as a “correct one”.

[16:55] It’s only when you get to multiple ways of defining the problem that you can begin to get an handle on “what is truth” or “what is false”.  Otherwise you can’t do it.  Not that it’s perfect.  I’m not saying that.  It’s only when you get to, then, 4 or 5.

[17:10] When you get down to 5, it’s the rarest type of knowledge system of all.  We don’t train people how to think systemically.  And that’s really the only way out of these horrific problems we face.  They can’t be defined by one discipline, one profession.  In fact, when I hear people come up with — boom — one definition of any problem, I want to run like mad, because I know you’ll have to accept their assumption.  It’s very rarely that people make their assumptions clear.

[17:50 Slide

Religion

Solutions to the social problems of 2000-5000 years ago

Rational reasons for God

Not he wrong solution to the wrong problem

]

[….]

[Karen Armstrong, The Case for God; contrary to Richard Dawkins]

[….]

[18:50] In fact, one of the first books I did was, The Subjective Side of Science.  I studied the Apollo moon scientists, not the astronauts.  And if you think a scientist worth his or her salt is going to give up his or her pet hypothesis, particularly for the origin of the moon, just because the first round of rocks are  returned from the moon, you’ve got to be crazy.  They’re going to do everything they can in the world to defend it.  Ultimately, they’re going to give it up.  But only after they’ve defended it to the death.  When I interviewed 42 of the most prestigious scientists, they said that was rational, that a scientist shouldn’t give up his or her pet hypothesis, too soon, lest they give up something worth exploring.

[….]

[20:20 Slide

Way Out?

Messes cannot be managed by the mindsets that created them.

]

[A paraphrase of Albert Einstein]

[….]

[20:50] The fundamental purpose of a university, to me, is to teach critical thinking. Yes, teach technology, and theories, and all the rest of that.  Knowledge.  Of course, all of that is important. But the fundamental job is critical thinking.  And critical thinking involves knowledge of assumptions, to be able to criticize your assumptions, to be able to replace them, to think about alternate assumptions, and to be able to appreciate complex messes, not simple-minded problems, in their entirety.  And to bring to bear on them, multiple ways of looking at them, from multiple disciplines, from multiple points of view.  To say, by looking at the mess, maybe now I have a better idea of which parts of mess I want to concentrate on for the time being.  But in order to know that, I have to see the entire mess.

[21:40] Is there any way to definitely say that you understand the mess fully?  Of course not, it’s a starter.  [….]

[22:10 Slide modified from George Patton

In conclusion:

If everybody is thinking alike, then NOBODY IS thinking"

Mitroff & Silvers

]

[23:25 Questions]

[….]

[24:25 Los Angeles Police Department]

[25:20 Ford Firestone]

[26:10 Toyota]

[26:45 Bill Clinton]

[27:10] What I’ve said to my clients, the people I’ve consulted with, is that if you have only one thing to do in a crisis, my recommendation is: hire an ex-investigative reporter to dig around all of the dirt of the corporation, and make a mock newspaper or a mock tv interview, to show your corporation in the worst light.  Because I can guarantee you that’s what will happen.  Now why doesn’t that happen?  Denial is so powerful.

[28:00 Defence mechanisms]

[29:00 We don’t have learning organizations]

[30:00 Environmental organization.  False choices, that lead to false policies]

[31:00 Five inquiry methods are abstract.  Have turned them into planning methods.  An example: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Put all of the people of one personality type into the same group.  When you do that, it intensifies the way of looking.  Ask them to define the problem.  List the major stakeholders that affect or are affected by the solutions, and what assumptions they make.  A systematic way to get a constructive debate]

[32:30  If you can’t get a Myers-Briggs, here’s another way to do it.  One group to argue status quo, whether they believe it or not.  Put people who are in moderate opposition, then more, then radical.  Then list the major stakeholders.]

[33:20 The biggest problem on which I’ve worked.  The U.S. Census Bureau, 1980, 1990.  Undercount.  We set up a week-long debate.]

[34:30 If you have a small organization, could be hard.  Professional management.]

[35:10 More systemic methods.  Where are we cultivating?]

[35:45 Book, in chapter on religion.  Ken Wilbur.  The power of human development.  Once an idea is unleashed, it gains currency, and can take off]

[36:50]  That’s one of the Type 3 errors that I talk about on the chapter on religion.  Here it is: confusing one state of development for the lack thereof in another state.  And that’s one of our principles.  We try to solve problems at one level, by a level one or two steps down, and they can’t be solved.  That’s the whole point.  And that’s why I’m talking about systemic.  Because the problems that we have cannot really be solved, unless, there’s a systemic perspective.  [….]

[37:40] I have to thank my editor at Stanford University Press for taking a radical manuscript, like this, with this kind of a message, to say: the ability to challenge our assumptions, to rethink our assumptions, to think expansively, to think beyond the confines of a single narrow discipline or profession.  That’s the way out.  If we’re mired in one set of assumptions, or one organization, we can’t do it.  [….]

[38:20 15% of organizations can thing proactively, systemically.  85% can’t.]

[38:50 Global warming]

[39:15 Comment. Set up 20% of the time up front, defining the problem.  Then we can work on solving the problem.]

[40.00 Agree.  John Dewey said problems don’t start in disinterest, they start in moral outrage. Wellpoint.]

[40:50 Four steps of scientific problem solving.  1.  Defining the problem.  Conceptual model of the problems.  Broad variables.  Single explanation, no!  Each profession will define differently.  Advanced medical students, psychological students.

[41:50 2.  Build a scientific model.  The first stage is semantic.  The second stage is syntactic].

[42:00 The third stage is to derive a solution, not to the solution, but to the model.]

[42:10 The fourth stage is pragmatic.  Take the solution and see if it solves the problem.]

[42:20 The Type 3, Type 4 errors primarily happen in the first stage, defining the problem wrongly.  If don’t see all of the stages, have defined the problem incorrectly.  Different people focus on different branches.  They don’t see the scientific problem systemically].

[43:20 Initially, doing dialectic doubles the time.  In reality, the more you do it, it doesn’t double the time.  You can’t define one, without the other].

[44:10 Government, messes everywhere.]

[44:25 Broader than that.  Type 3, Type 4 in many areas.  Governments.  Corporations.  Point of strategic planning is not thinking about isolated problems, and to anticipate problems.  Don’t see one as better than others.  General Motors bureaucracy rivals federal government.]

[46:30 Los Angeles Police Department]

[46:40 Salt Lake Winter Olympics.  Problem was Russian ice dancers downgraded.  Didn’t think of all of the crises that could hurt the Olympic committee.  Could show families and grouping of crises.  Not the case that there are not good organizations to learn from.]

[48:30 Ken Wilbur.  Ability to think more complexly.  Challenges are greater.  Hope.]

[49:00 International news 15 minutes every evening, now 24 hour news.  Exacerbates problems?]

[49:40 More is not better.  May not lead to more insightful.  PBS 6 or 10 minutes more insightful.  Facebook and social media hasn’t led to better coverage.  Can now manipulate and merge images.  People can’t tell the difference, don’t care about the difference.  Ally Bank commercial]

[51:10 Michael Vick, football player.  Moral devaluation.  Someone auctioned off notes.  Expect more from the human society.]

[52:30 Media, merging images, real and non-real.  Young people hooked on texting while driving, a problem.  Technologically advanced is not the same as socially advanced.  An engineer, but not solely an engineer.]

[53:50 Tiger Woods.  Got so big, the rules didn’t pertain to him.  The first billion dollar athlete.  Shows had rapidly an icon can crash.  No secrets.  Horrible stitched together videos.  That’s what will happen.  Who will hire someone who will put them in the worst light. Primary thing in crisis:  you don’t own the clock.  The only way to gain control is to fess up, and hopefully the American public will accept it.]

[56:40 Toyota.]

[57:00 Betrayal]

[57:20 Crisis.  You can’t solve the right problem.  Assumptions have a half life, and decay over time.  As circumstances change, your assumptions have to change.   As Ackoff said, plan or be planned for.  Have a real learning organization and a real learning society].

 

The Art of the Really Long View (MP3 audio) | Peter Schwartz | Dec. 12, 2003 | Long Now Foundation February 3, 2015

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Better futures, says Peter Schwartz, means creating and having more options for the future, leaving the future better than we found it.

Peter Schwartz

[06:50] How do you take the really long view? What do have to do if you really want to take the long view seriously? And, so, I set out to try and rethink about the ways that I approach the future, if one takes a much longer time frame seriously. Centuries. Millenia, maybe, rather than than a decade or two or three or four.

[7:20] So, I’m going to try to set out some notions about how one approaches that problem. What do you think about, and why. How do you do it, and what do you do about it, as a result?

[07:30] I take, as a kind of fundamental premise, that the future exists, but it exists in our mind. The future that actually is, is the future that we believe, about the future. What’s going to happen tomorrow? Maybe someday, physics will discover that the future is actually exists out there, and you could travel there in time. It not too hard for me to imagine that the past actually exists. But, in fact, the past is no more substantial than the future. It exists at the moment, only in our mind. It’s irretrievably gone. That moment, a few seconds ago, it’s gone. The future hasn’t happened, yet. So both the past and future are there in our minds, and we act only in the present, based in part on our experiences of that now imaginary past, and that future that has yet to come to be.

[08:20] So all of this is really, in the end, about the present. It’s about what we draw from the past, and what we imagine about the future, and how that influences what we do, right now. That’s what this is really all about.

[08:35] I ask the question then: so, why bother? Why bother thinking about all of this? At the most mundane level, the world can be a better place or a worse place in the future. Put most simply, that’s the bottom line of it. We want to make a better future. But what do we mean by better, first of all?

[08:50] First of all, in the personal sense, the level of the individual, at least in two ways. A better material life, and the usual sorts of things: health, security, comfort, pleasure, the kinds of things that money can buy, to some extent, as it were. And then a better inner life, if you will: purpose, community, sense of belonging, intimacy, all of those things that make a person feel like life is worth living. And so, it is the combination of those things, and a personal sense.

[09:20] But better isn’t enough if it’s just, “life is pretty good for me, but screw the rest”. That’s obviously not what we mean. What we also mean it’s better in social sense, in a much larger sense.

[09:30] Here, I mean one idea above all else, over the long run, as opposed to in the world immediately at hand, and that is, better means having more options for the future, creating more options for the future. Put most simply, it is leaving the future as good or better than we found it. It’s about leaving the future, preferably, better than we found it. And this is where, a lot of what now follows, comes from, because we may actually be failing at this task.

[10:00] Our forefathers … my parents, gave me a great future. In the future that I inherited was really fabulous. And I’m not at all convinced that the future I’m passing on to my son is a great future. And I think that’s what we’re worried about. You know, there have been other generations that have screwed up. The generation that probably created, and then settled World War I, they deserve a lot of blame for what happened over the next several decades, in Weimar, depression, World War II, and fascism and all of that kind of stuff. They blew it. They left a pretty bad future behind them. We’re at risk of doing the same thing, of not leaving a better future for our children.

[10:45] So, then, the next question is: if that’s really what you’re trying to accomplish, can you really do anything about it? Does what we do actually matter? Does human fate actually matter? We had a little seminar last night of some of the sponsors of this series, and some of the Long Now people. Danny Hillis put it very well. He said: “We might as well do something about the future, because it’s the only thing that we can do anything about”. At the most mundane level, that is absolutely true.

[11:15] Now, whether we can do anything about the future really depends upon what our view of history is. How we understand how and why the world happens as it does. And here, in part, it’s how long is your now, and on how big is your here. That’s part of what one wants to take into account. And, as I said earlier, it really is, in my case tonight, centuries, maybe even a few millenia, not decades.

[11:45] How many of you are old Whole Earth geeks? Some of you may remember the name Dick Raymond. Dick was the founder of something called the Portola Institute in the 1960s. It was the first institutional home for the Whole Earth Catalog. And Dick said something very wise. He said, and this was a while ago, he said “If it doesn’t take 50 years, it isn’t worth doing”. And more recently, he’s been saying if it isn’t going to take 200 years, it isn’t worth doing. I think that that’s actually a very important idea, because it takes one’s ego out of it. Somebody just brought me a great idea for changing the world, and they said “We’ve got to do it right now. This has to be done right now. This is the moment it’s got to be done”. There’s only one reason that this is the moment that it’s got to be done. It’s his moment. His now is very short. Very short. The things that really matter take a long time.

[12:40] As far as whether human agency actually makes a difference, one of the kinds of acts of history that I enjoy is virtual history. Ask the question: what if it had been different? There’s a British historian, Niall Ferguson — very conservative … controversial and conservative — [who] wrote the book Empire, arguing why the British Empire was good thing, and why we ought to have an empire but we’re lousy at it. So, you Americans can’t do empires, is his hypothesis. But he wrote an earlier book, called The Pity of War.

[13:10] In The Pity of War, he asks a very interesting question. What would have happened if Britain had not entered World War I? He basically comes the conclusion — interestingly enough, and whether you agree with him or not is another question — but it begins to address the question of human agency. And that is, he says, suppose they hadn’t entered the war? Well, what would have happened? Well, Germany probably would have won and unified Europe, in an EU — maybe a German-speaking EU, but an EU 50 years earlier. The Brits would have kept their empire. Six hundred thousand young British men — creative energies and talents — would have been applied to the further fruits of British society. Britain would not have been empoverished. No Weimar, no depression, no fascists, no holocaust, no Hitler, et cetera, et cetera.

[14:05] Really bad choice to go into World War I, wasn’t it? Well, of course, at that moment, one didn’t see it that way. But it does say something about human choice, and how one frames the problem, how one frames the context, and what it means in the long run. I’m not arguing that he’s right, I am simply arguing that it raises fundamental questions about some of kinds of the long term choices that we make.

[14:25] Now, I would say that the history of the last millennium — and certainly, at least probably the last 10,000 years — suggest that what people do matters. By and large, we’ve made progress. Just think about: would you like to go to a dentist, 100 years ago? You could answer that one pretty quick. On the other hand, think about this: my bet is you’d much prefer to go a dentist 100 years from now, too, than today. Human progress, I think, is very real. It’s very real. It’s been true for the last 10,000 years. It’s been true for the last 1,000 years. It’s probably been true for the last 100 years. Now, we’re beginning to question many elements of that, but, by and large, more people live better today than have ever lived well in human history. Literally, several billion people, despite the fact that several billion people live in desperate poverty, several billion people living reasonable well.

A theory of long term dynamics can come from a theory of history.

[17:45] What we going to do tonight is not scenario planning. But most of the ways of looking at the future have something in common. This is true for the kind of work that I do, as well. Every time you look at the future, you what to figure out, what is the question? What are you trying to answer? A very simple idea. What are the long term forces, and how do they interact? What are the big uncertainties? How do these forces play out, in light of these uncertainties? What might all of that might mean, and what should I do, as a result of that?

[18:10] So, in this particular context, what we need is a theory of long-term dynamics. Why do things happen the way they do? Some way to play those out, and validate those theories. You need some kind of sense of what the consequences of all that are. And then, what should I do, as a result?

[18:30] So, I’m actually going to try to go through that tonight, and try to answer some of those questions. What is the way of thinking about the long term future? How might all that play out, and what should we do?

[18:40] So, first of all, theory of history. I get a lot of my sense of dynamics … I read a lot of history and science. Those are the two things I like to read. I see history as a long run struggle — in which humanity is involved in this constant struggle — to create human systems that help us avoid killing each other too much — sometimes, it’s not a bad idea; exceeding the ecological carrying capacity, we’ve got to avoid doing that; we have to give meaning to life; and enabling us to do great things.

[19:15] Those are the struggle. Don’t kill each other too much. Learn to live within your ecological capacities. Give meaning to human life. And be able to do really cool things: build cathedrals, go to the moon, do great art, et cetera.

[19:30] Now, my hypothesis is not novel. It’s the very obvious one, that over the long run, it is powerful, and sometimes even good, ideas that have been humanity’s most powerful weapon in this never-ending struggle. Now that’s not a new idea. Lots of people have argued that. Hegel, et cetera, in philosophy, and many others, that really human progress is really about the progress of ideas. Ideas about nature, how nature works. Ideas about how societies ought to be organized. And about the nature of human beings, and lots more.

[20:00] So, it’s really about the history of ideas. If you think back, historically, we have lots of examples from history. Imagine the first guys doing cave painting, and mixing pigments. It’s one thing when you take a slab of rough chalk and you spear it on the wall. But there’s someday, one day, said if I take this ochre and this hematite, and this charcoal and some chalk, and I mix it together, I can do cool painting on the cave. [….] Think about the act of sitting there, 14,000-15,000 years ago — we were mining ochre for pigments, 42,000 years ago in Africa — that somebody there was sitting there mixing pigments and putting art on the wall.

[20:50] The first counting device is 37,000 years ago. The first tool is 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. We got stone block buildings 10,000 years ago, in Persia and India. Bow and arrow about the same time. Agriculture in Asia about the same time. The plough is happening about then. Domestic sheep in Iraq, about that time, 8700 B.C.

[21:20] Now all of that, interestingly enough, by the way, is of course triggered by global warming. Global warming is the beginning of civilization, and maybe the end of civilization. It may be the end of civilization, but it’s also the beginning of civilization. It’s coming out of the ice age, being able to settle down, create agriculture, create cities and villages, and so on, for the first time, instead of fleeing the glaciers all of the time. Before that, we were living in a very volatile climate. So, in fact, global warming triggered modern civilization.

[21:45] Around 5,000 B.C. we got our first cities. […] Writing … about 3500 B.C. […]

[21:50] The wheel, 3000, in Mesopotamia. Afterlife in Egypt comes along about the same time. Hammerabi comes up with, basically, the written code of conduct in Babylon in 1790 B.C. Monotheism, one of the interesting inventions. […]

[22:15] Then, of course, there are these great ideas that vanish. The Minoans. [….] You can have great ideas and bad luck, which is what happened to the Minoans.

[22:45] In this sense, as well, some ideas matter a lot, in what we imagine in the history. Cosmology actually matters in the long run. In the geocentric universe, you did one set of things. Suddenly, when the sun is at the center, and you’re going around the sun, you start answering those questions differently. You imagine different possibilities. The future looks very different. [….]

[23:35] Another list of these kinds of ideas, which is suggestive, is in a new book by Charles Murray, Human Accomplishments. I don’t really like the book. It’s basically a statistical defence of dead white European males, why they are the source of most good ideas. Not surprising, coming from Charles Murray. But, his list of interesting ideas is interesting. And this is part of the list. I’ll give you the rest.

[24:00] From the arts: artistic realism, linear perspective, artistic abstraction, polyphony, drama, the novel, meditation, logics, ethics, Arabic numerals, the mathematical proof, the calibration of uncertainty — I really like that one, statistics — the secular observation of nature, and the scientific method. Now, all of these, he called meta-inventions, because they liberate other inventions. They enable people to do more with them. They are not static inventions as such.

[24:30] So, this is part of what we’re talking about when we talk about the evolution of ideas. Now, in the realm of ideas, I want to talk about what we actually think about, not instinctual behaviors. So, the divinely endowed king, versus the top dog in the tribe. The guy who got there because he was bigger and meaner than everybody else, as opposed to the king who inherited his mantle from his father, who inherited from the gods, and there’s a whole story about. So, it’s that kind of difference. Agriculture versus hunting and gathering. So, I plant these seeds, and that thing grows, as opposed to, oh, that red thing on the tree is really cool. It’s a different model. It’s that actual cognitive thought process, self-aware developmental process, which is what I mean by the realm of ideas.

[25:25] We’re interested in two classes of ideas, powerful ideas and good ideas. And they’re not necessarily the same. Powerful ideas persist and spread, over centuries. That’s one of their important characteristics. They take hold. They’re infectious. Sometimes, these powerful ideas cooperate with other ideas, and sometimes they compete, successfully or not, with other ideas. Science and technology mostly cooperate. New scientific principles create new ways of discovering new science. So, you learn about optics, you make telescopes, you discover astronomy, and so on. They feed on each other.

[26:00] In that world, religion is simply the object of cultural anthropology. But science and religion mostly compete. In that world, science lives inside a much bigger box that it cannot explain, called religion. Very different views on the nature of both of these, and their relationship, depending on which way you approach it.

[26:20] Now, in powerful ideas, we’re also interested in evolutionarily powerful ideas. These increase options, and they have to be many and diverse. So, if we really want a lot of powerful ideas, we need lots of them. We want evolution. There’s can’t be just one set of ideas, and they need to be highly competitive. Now, we also need to protect options we already have, as well as to create new ones.

[26:45] But it’s important to realize that powerful ideas are not necessarily good ideas. Indeed, very bad ideas can be very powerful. Consider them a type of collective hallucination, if you will. France and 9/11, just to take bad example, for a lot of French. Many of you will know about a book that is very popular in France that explains 9/11 in very different terms. Kathleen will remember the dinner we had with a very dear friend, a prominent French businessman, well-educated, travels the world, speaks English fluently, written several books, vice-chairman of one of France’s largest companies. A man of enormous sophistication, married to a Korean wife at the time. We were having dinner, and he says, “You don’t really think that a plane flew into the Pentagon, do you?” “What do you mean, Robert?” “Well, of course, it was the CIA. They sent a cruise missile. This was actually an internal war inside the CIA and the Defense Department. That’s what really happened. You Americans are under a profound delusion that this was the Arabs. They couldn’t have done this”. This is a man of profound intelligence. This is a bad idea. A very powerful bad idea.

[27:55] The culture of victimization in the Arab world. The final solution. Maoism during the Cultural Revolution. Colonialism. Bad.

[28:05] Now, colonialism tells you something about some bad ideas change. One could have argued — I wouldn’t, but some would — that colonialism was a good idea for a while, but how did it end? It ended when we delegitimated the idea. We stopped believing in it. Somewhere in the 1930s, colonialism went from being a legitimate institution by which governments could organize the world, to no longer being legitimate. And people stopped defending colonialism. It only became a matter of how quickly and what means you decolonialized. The idea became delegitimated. And that’s what happens to ideas. Powerful ideas become legitimate, “oh, yeah, it was the CIA that attacked the building” in France, or they become delegitimated, as in colonialism, for example.

[28:55] By the way, a good target for delegitimating right now is intelligent design. Put that one on the list. Another bad idea.

[29:05] Good ideas, on the other hand, improve the lot of the human hosts that host these ideas, in terms of better, I mean all of the things I said earlier about better. And what we’re trying to do is increase the good options, and help humans host adapt over the long run. That’s really what it’s about. And good ideas are affirmed over the long time. They reveal reality. They’re not a hallucination. Reality ultimately conforms to the ideas, or vice-versa. But they ain’t the kind of collective hallucination.

[29:30] For a good idea, it also has to be powerful. So you need powerful good ideas. Examples are science, art, law. These are all powerful good ideas.

[29:45] Now, if that’s the case, so, where do good ideas come from? Why and how do good ideas develop? Well, obviously for one thing, they come from the ideas before them. We’re sitting on a big mountain of ideas. We don’t have to worry about where the original idea was. The ur-ideas somewhere x thousands of years ago. In the past, someone had an idea. We’re beyond that point. We don’t have to worry about that. But the path dependency of ideas is important, that is, the sequence of development of ideas. You can’t get to molecular biology, until you’ve had biology and chemistry, as it were. You need both to create molecular biology.

[30:25] So, the history of ideas is a long one. And we’re going to come back to that to what we think we should be doing.

[30:30] Now, another source of big ideas is the problems to be solved. So, where did the moon go, when it disappeared? Why did that tree grow? How are babies made? Why should I protect those other people? We ask ourselves lots of questions over human history. And that’s where a lot of ideas come from. [….]

[30:10] Another important source of big ideas is new tools. You couldn’t do astronomy until you had a telescope. Or microbiology, until you had a microscope. But tools can be conceptual. Einstein needed modern mathematics to do general relativity. [….] So, the new instruments, conceptual and physical, give us new ways of developing ideas.

[32:00] And, here, I’m not going to say too much more about this going into the future. We’re going to be pretty confident about going into the future. On, well into the future, our conceptual tools will become ever so more sophisticated, mathematics more complex, more subtle, higher dimensionality, and so on. And our instruments, things like microscopes and telescopes, and so on, cameras, will enable us to see much further. [….]

[33:00] And then, of course, the final source of great ideas is the eureka moment of an individual. Whoa, what a big idea. And a wonderful book, if you haven’t read it, is Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps by Peter Gallison ….

Can we deal with some of the big issues?

[43:45] Another big issue that we have to solve is citizenship and governance in mega-society. I really enjoyed the San Francisco mayoral election. [….] It was democracy at a scale that people could really relate, to their communities, to their choices. There was a meaningful sense of democratic participation. Gosh, it’s really hard in America, to feel that at a national scale. And essentially impossible, so far, to feel that at a global scale. How do you create real global citizens? How do you create institutions at a global scale? When we created the constitution, it was 3 million people, 13 colonies. Europe might be a more interesting example. Here, they’re creating a new system of governance with 500 million people, very highly developed, and on a continent where they’re used to killing each other in very large numbers, for most of the last couple of centuries. And really, the European Union is about peace and war, not about economics. That’s what most Americans don’t realize. It’s about the French not killing the Germans, and vice versa. [….] But we haven’t developed those type of mechanisms at a global level, and that’s one of the really big problems. How do you develop that? How do you build countries? And how to you fix broken ones? [….] We don’t know how to do that. Another big problem.

[45:55] I think that one of the really big ones, for the long run, is that we need an equivalent of the rule of law for human relationships to ecosystems. We developed the rule of law to organize and constrain relations amongst people. Law defines and ensures our basic rights, tells us what are human rights are, it prevents the strong from dominating the weak, it embodies a sense of fairness. It embodies a view of the human condition, divinely endowed rights, for example. [….] Law is about breaking the tyranny of arbitrary power. And right now, our relationship to ecosystems is arbitrary. In that sense, we don’t have a theory of law, an underpinning of relationship to those ecosystems. Sustainability may be the objective, but we don’t know what that really means, except for increasing options. Maybe the evangelicals for the environment have the right answer, it’s thou shalt not destroy God’s creation. That’s a kind of statement of law, if you believe in God. And if you believe in that, that could be a kind of relationship. Maybe they’ve got the right answer.

[47:45] But history tells us that conflicts arise among people for three reasons, fundamentally: honor, fear and interest. It’s about honor, it’s about fear, it’s about interest. You want to read about it? Donald Kagen’s book On the Origins of War gets into this plight. The rules of law in a conventional deal, sets deals with the first and third. We can deal with honor, we can deal with interests. We respect the law. But fear, fear is really about exceeding our carrying capacity, not having enough. Not having enough. And a wonderful book that Stewart Brand just turned me onto, and everybody at GBN, is called Constant Battles, by Stephen Leblanc. And it’s about the history of exceeding our carrying capacity and going to war, as a result. And that has been the normal human condition.

[48:30] So, I’m not worried about the near term. I think that we can deal with a lot of our short term problems with technology. But it’s the really long run, where we need a fundamental new sense of an equivalent of the set of law, the rule of law. And this, I consider one of the great intellectual problems that we need to address. That the idea, the really big idea, that we need, that we don’t have.

[49:50] I think another interesting one, is knowledge organization and access. We’re just learning so much. [….]

[On Soundcloud, downloadable MP3 audio]

[Intro at Seminars on Long Term Thinking]

Peter Schwartz, considered by many to be the world’s leading futurist, will be trying out new ideas in public in a talk titled, “The Art of the Really Long View.” He’ll be talking about ways to engage the next several hundred years.

The Long Now, now (MP3 audio) | Brian Eno, Danny Hillis | January 21, 2014 | Long Now Foundation February 3, 2015

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The difference between long term thinking and long term planning was articulated by Danny Hillis, with Brian Eno and Stewart Brand.

Brian Eno, Danny Hillis

[61:40 Danny Hillis] Maybe the one thing I’ve learned about long term thinking is the difference between long term planning and long term thinking.

[Stewart Brand] Yeah, say more about that. My sense is that we learned that at Yucca Mountain.

[Danny Hillis] Yeah. Yucca Mountain is a good example. I guess that I really don’t believe in long term planning, which is trying to take a long distance out and control the future for a while. Many of our attempts to look at, nuclear waste, for example, are things where we try to control the future for 10,000 years. In some sense, Yucca Mountain is sold as that. But Yucca Mountain, I actually think, is a pretty good idea, because everything is just sitting there in a can, and within a 100 years, people will go in to get them, to mine for …. It’s reversible. So, it’s really just a 100 year solution that gives you a lot of options for what to do in 100 years.

[Stewart Brand] By the way, it’s a lot more politically tractable, to say we’re just going to park it here for 100 years.

[Danny Hillis] Indeed, where we’re heading, by default, of less-good idea [and dear] solutions is the idea of options is much more valuable than making real long term plans.

[Brian Eno] The resistance there, is that people feel less secure with long term plans. And people don’t feel we’ll always be improvising, which is something that we’ve come to accept, more and more.

[Stewart Brand] The hacker ethic was to trying to make everyone into a hacker.

[On Soundcloud, downloadable MP3 audio] [Video on fora.tv]

[Intro at Seminars about Long Term Thinking]

Brian Eno delivered the first SALT talk exactly ten years ago. He gave The Long Now Foundation its name, contributed in no end of artistic and financial ways, and designed the chimes for the 10,000-year Clock. Danny Hillis instigated and co-founded Long Now and designed its series of Clocks, culminating currently in the 500-foot one being built inside a west Texas mountain. In the course of their collaboration, Eno and Hillis became fast friends.

Thousands of years pass a decade at a time. The idea and works of Long Now have been active for two decades (1/500th of 10,000 years). Between the conception and initial delivery of a deep idea, much transpires. If the idea resonates with people, it gains a life of its own. Allies assemble, and shape things. Public engagement shapes things. Funding or its absence shapes things. Refinements of the idea emerge, branch off, and thrive or don’t. Initial questions metastasize into potent new questions.

Over time, the promotion of “long-term thinking” begins to acquire a bit of its own long term to conjure with. Eno and Hillis have spent 20 years thinking about long-term thinking and building art for it, with ever increasing fascination. What gets them about it?

[Summary at Seminars about Long Term Thinking]

The Origins of Jams at IBM (MP3 audio) | Mike Wing | May 20, 2005 | For Immediate Release January 15, 2015

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Could an intranet could be used for culture change? Mike Wing says jams captured best practices from individuals on clever ways to get work done and create value, despite organizational complexity in a global enterprise.

Mike Wing

[27:15] The moment, that, probably without us being exactly conscious of it, that the jams actually probably were conceived, was the moment in 1999 when we saw this research from HR. Human Resources at IBM does a lot of internal research. It always has. They used to do a global employee survey every year. Now, it’s actually done every 2 months, a smaller target population, but by the end of the year, you wind up with the same sort of statistical validity. It’s always asked a range of questions about the company, whether it’s about compensation, or benefits, or job satisfaction. If you were offered a comparable job at another company, would you go? Do you understand the company strategy? Do you think that the company is investing properly to achieve that? A range of things. One of the questions was always about communications. People were asked, in the last 12 months, what have been the best, most useful, credible, reliable sources of information about the company? Anybody who has been in internal communications before, have seen this kind of research for decades. IBC, PRSA, the AMA, the big companies do this. People are offered a range of alternatives, of channels, from formal communications channels — like publications or executive letters, or e-mails or annual reports, or meetings, or web sites. Before the web, we talked about the VM system — on the one hand. There are a couple of informal channels, on the other. Manager and coworker. Anyone who has looked at this research, as all of us have, know that, invariably, the formal channels may shift a bit from year to year. The particular company or the technology may change. However, the basic pattern of that research has been pretty inviolable. People prefer informal channels to formal, usually by a factor of 2 or 3. That had always been the case at IBM, even given VM.

[29:35] What happened in 1999 was that intranet jumped up to pass manager. Nobody had ever seen this. We thought that maybe they had run the numbers wrong. We asked them to rerun them. No, they were right. It kept going, to the point, today, where the intranet is rated higher than managers and coworkers combined. This was non-trivial.

[30:00] This suggested to us, a whole different — we’d always known that we wanted to use the intranet for culture change, and were very conscious about doing so, especially in the editorial. (We can talk about that, if time permits). It wasn’t easy — often it takes two steps forward and one step back to really push — to present how the company was doing, accurately, on the intranet. At the end of the day, we succeeded, pretty well in that.

[30:40] This gave us an epiphany, about the level at which this space could function — the cultural and emotional levels at which it could function. I would say that the jams were probably born out of that.

[30:55] Having said that — I know that that sounds rather grandiose — the truth is that the original World Jam was certainly done to extend that, to leverage that, but it also had a very pragmatic core, which was best practice capture. This is an advanced company, and we all bump our shins against all kinds of problems, on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter how often you reorganize — centralize or decentralize — or introduce new policies. There are certain things that are just intractable in an organization as big and diverse and complex as IBM. It’s old, and there’s much legacy, and there’s as much variety of different kinds of experiences and disciplines. You’re never going to reorganize your way out of that.

[31:50] But individuals can come up — you’re never going to get the perfect system — but individuals can come up with clever, intelligent, common sense working ways to get work done and produce value, in spite of that complexity. We wanted to try to share that.

[32:10] The jams …. The first one was in May 2001, it was called World Jam. We didn’t have any idea of what to expect. We wound up getting 52,000 people participating, which was great.

[32:20] The kinds of topics we dealt with ranged. The core of these events are asynchronous, threaded discussions. In World Jam, originally we had 10 fora. We came to the conclusion that that’s too much, so we’ve tended to have 4, 5 or 6 for subsequent jams.

[32:45] The topics ranged from things like, “it’s not just the CIO, anymore”, because the old IBM largely dealt with CIOs, that’s who made IT buying decisions. The IBM that exists today — our business model — means that we’re engaging with line of business executives, or chief marketing officers, or CEOs. It’s a very different conversation to talk to a Chief Marketing Officer about who the company’s competition is, and what its competitive strategies, than to talk to a CIO about speeds and feeds. We needed to get better than that. Hence, eventually the company’s acquisition of PriceWaterhouseCoopers Consulting. That was an example of a topic that we teed up, because we wanted to try to get best practices on how people got to reach line of business executives and develop relationships with them.

[33:35] There were other more transformational type topics, like, how do you successfully promote a new or less favourable idea or venture in this place. Another set of topics was more personal or social, like, how can we retain our more valued employees, or how should I work on work-life balance.

[33:55] We’ve done, altogether, six of these big ones, of which Values Jam was the fifth. We did another one, towards the end of 2004, which was taking the values, which we developed — a lot of people reacted to those values very positively, but said, correctly, that the company wasn’t close to actually living them. That’s true. We all agree that it’s great to have a platform of common aspiration, but then the question of how do you make them real. So we did a jam to try to tease out what you could actually do, to implement, to make these things part of an operational reality, both at the daily level of an individual employee, and more at the policy level. We got out of that, an overwhelming participation in that jam.

[34:55] One of the interesting things about all of these these jams is the level of hosting. If you’re familiar with one of the rules of thumb of online fora, there used to be one hoster for every (what used to be called) lurkers. In this last one, World Jam 2004, there were 56,000 participants from 32,000 posts. Just off the charts from the level of active participation. We distilled that down to 191 ideas, which we had a rating week, about 3 weeks after the jam, and got the ideas that most of the people of the company regarded as most promising. The top 30, each has an executive sponsor and a whole project team devoted to it. Those are in the process of being implemented, now.

Interview segment time points are available to index the nearly one hour interview.

[MP3 audio]

“A Conversation with Mike Wing, IBM’s Vice President Strategic Communications” | Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson | May 2005 | For Immediate Release at http://forimmediaterelease.biz/index.php/weblog/interview_mike_wing_ibm_may_20_2005/

“Earth Week Lecture” | Joel Salatin | April 27, 2012 | Colorado College July 11, 2014

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Feeding grain to pigs and chickens, says @JoelSalatin, is ecologically wasteful. On homesteads, pigs foraged and chickens ate kitchen scraps. Herbivore-based cultures relied on nature rather than performing the work of tillage.

[24:30] In the future, we will, of necessity, begin abandoning the petroleum-based, chemically-based, program and will return with our cool infrastructure. We will return to a real-time, carbon-based system.

Now this drove also the whole animal approach. So we talked about herbivores. Grain was way too expensive to feed to an herbivore. I mean, you couldn’t even feed it to an omnivore. So what did you feed to omnivores, pigs and chickens and things?

The reason that all cultures — their dietary base — was either herbivore based — which includes dairy (includes yaks and camels) — herbivore-based or seafood-based — was because those were the only two nutrient-dense dietary basics that could be produced without tillage.

In a day that you had to follow the ox with a stick, tillage was too laborious to be the backbone of anything.

So, in the future, we’re going to revert to that. We’re going to go back to that basis. You want to really eat ecologically? Forget eating chickens or pork. Eat grass-based herbivores. Water buffalo. Llama. Cow. Yak. Whatever. Zebra. Elk. Venison. Groundhog. Gopher. Herbivore!

[26:15] So what about the pigs and chickens? What were they? Their role, historically, was always as a fringe recycler. The pig was always on the outskirts. George Washington, he was so meticulous in his recording keeping in Mount Vernon. He always lamented the pigs, because they could never get them all rounded up at the same time. They could go out once in the fall and round them up. They would always have a few stuck back in the brush that they couldn’t find. They lived in the woods. They lived on chestnuts and acorns. They ate around the edges. In the das before refrigeration, they ate the whey from butter and cheese making. They ate the skim milk. Until 20 years ago, nobody drank skim milk. Skim milk wasn’t even worth drinking. You took the cream off, and you poured the skim milk out for the pigs.

[27:15] And then the chickens were always right up next to the kitchen in the homestead. Why? Because they got all the kitchen scraps. We didn’t have garbage disposals and landfills, and a garbage truck that came and picked up the trash and took it away. So something had to recycle that. All that kitchen scraps. Blemished fruit from the orchard. Blemished vegetables from the garden. Soured milk. Clabber that went bad. It went into the chickens. They were the ultimate recycler. And that’s what fed the poultry and the pork, because grain was too expensive to feed them. We needed all of the grain to bake bread and feed people. And people didn’t eat very much of that, either.

[28:00] Suddenly, now, here we are with this cheap grain thing. We have segregated all of these beautiful, integrated, carbon chains, local chains, these energy flows, all these historically normal energy flows. Now, fifty percent of the human-edible food in the world never gets eaten by humans. It never gets eaten by humans. Ninety-nine percent of it gets landfilled. Then we give greenie awards for somebody the is clever enough to put a pipe in there to get the methane so that we can drive all of the equipment to the landfull. No, no, no. We want want is all of that salvaged, blemished spoiled food, and combine it to the animals that are right there. We want to combine it. We want to integrate it.

[29:10] If we want to be ecological, what we would do is not go to a kitchen waste composting program. We would get a couple of chickens, and bring them into our apartment. They don’t take any more room than the aquarium, or the parakeet cage. One average dog produces more poop than eleven chickens. So we feed them the kitchen scraps. They eat those, and give us eggs. Now we don’t have to have any factory eggs than need to eat grain.

This excerpt was from a lecture given at Colorado College, sponsored by two student groups: EnAct (environmental and social awareness through research, education and action), and the Carnivore Club (promoting social awareness of the benefits and pleasures of meat).Joel Salatin

In celebration of Colorado College Earth Week, Joel Salatin, a self-described environmentalist capitalist farmer, will come to lecture. Salatin owns Polyface Farm, where he describes his innovative farming techniques as “in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.” He was profiled in Michael Pollan’s book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and has authored several books including “Folks, This Ain’t Normal,” “Holy Cows and Hog Heaven,” and “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer.”

[MP3 audio]

“CC Earth Week Presents: Joel Salatin” | April 27, 2012 | Colorado College at http://www.coloradocollege.edu/events/2012-04-27-cc-earth-week-presents-joel-salatin

Why Architecture is needed even in Agile? (MP3 audio) | Jim Coplien | January 2011 | Business901 May 14, 2014

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Scrum came out of lean and predates agile, says @jcoplien.

[29:30] Everyone thinks that Scrum came out of Agile. Now wait a minute, let’s stop this for a second, because Scrum has been around since 1993 and the Agile manifesto was 2001. How did Scrum come out of Agile? It’s really the other way around. Or, even better, they both came out of Lean. Lean is a funny word that gets associated with different labels. …. [They’re] all very, very much in the same cauldron and the same genre of harking back to the original Toyota principles of Lean, whereas Agile is really kind of off somewhere else.

Scrum, as I said, comes from this paper by Takeuchi and Nonaka in “Harvard Business Review” called the “New New Product Development Game” where Takeuchi and Nonaka looked at practices at Honda, at Canon, at NEC, and a lot of other contemporary Japanese corporations — this was about 1984 — most of whom had learned their techniques by some consultants who’d come over from Toyota and taught them the Lean principles.

That’s where Jeff Sutherland got the ideas for Scrum, and that was one of the main influences on Scrum. Some of my research in Bell Labs was another one of the influences on Scrum. In particular, things like stand-up meetings come out of the stuff we did at Bell Laboratories. Then Jeff added incremental development, iterative development, and time boxing. But most of it comes from Lean, absolutely. So if you look at the planning, doing, reflecting, this Kaizen notion, the cycles that we get out of Lean; this is what Scrum is about, absolutely.

Lean may have predispositions in Japanese culture that are uncommon amongst westerners.

[27:00] Joe Dager: What makes Scrum hard to do?

Jim Coplien: Because it’s a discipline. It’s very simple. I mean, it says you cannot work any overtime. So, you know, management cannot come near the end of the release and say, “Well, you need to put in some extra hours here in order to make our commitments.” The other thing that makes it hard is that it runs against some of the prevailing values of industry. Industry says, “We believe that we can commit an arbitrary amount of work to a fixed team and an arbitrary schedule. Well, OK, we know we can’t, but we’ll make it work by adding more people or by adding overtime or by trimming the fat,” which means let’s cut quality here and there.

Scrum is uncompromising. It says, “Well, what we deliver, we’re going to deliver with the promised quality. If we can’t deliver it, then we won’t deliver. We’re going to make it visible. The fact that we make that visible shows that, well, there’s a problem in our process. We estimated wrong. We overcommitted and we need to learn to do better next time.” People hate this notion of failure.

One of the key aspects of Lean that I think the Western world doesn’t understand. In Lean, we keep saying Kaizen, Kaizen, Kaizen. Get better and better and better. Well, you go to the Japanese and they say, “There is no Kaizen without Hansei.” Probably the closest interpretation of the word “Hansei” in English, would be repentance. It’s this deep sense of shame and apology and deep regret for not having built a process that allowed you to meet your commitment. When you fail to meet your commitment, the first step in Kaizen is Hansei, and you don’t see many American managers going around doing Hansei. You certainly don’t see proud nerd software engineers going around doing Hansei.

Scrum is always focused on this Kaizen mind of being able to get better and better and better, and it takes a lot of humility. I think that’s what makes it hard. It takes humility, and the humility takes a high degree of trust between individuals. People have to be allowed to fail so they can learn. I haven’t been in three companies in the past 10 years that had enough trust to do what the Japanese are doing in Kaizen and Lean.

Why Architecture is needed even in Agile? | Jim Coplien | January 2011 | Business901 at http://business901.com/blog1/why-architecture-is-needed-even-in-agile/.

[MP3 audio]

Joe Dager subsequently provided a transcript of the interview.

Business901

Coplien on Agile, Lean and Architecutre | Jim Coplien | January 2011 | Business901 at http://business901.com/blog1/coplien-on-agile-lean-and-architecture/

Interview with Pat Metheny | Bob Barker | April 24, 2013 | jazz.fm91 December 14, 2013

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Risk taking in casual sessions with peers now lacks intimacy, says @PatMetheny, since observers can make every event a world premiere by recording anywhere at any time.  Private sessions are the exception rather than the rule.  In the JazzFM91 interview, around 21:25:

Bob Barker: On the technology front, you live in New York City, arguably kind of the heartbeat of the jazz world. You’ve also been known, over your career, to be the guy that shows up somewhere and jams, pulls out a guitar, unannounced, and walks in and starts playing with musicians. Has new technology, and where you are now in your career, changed any feelings you have about that kind of casual nature you used to have with showing up and playing with people?

Pat Metheny: I am really sad to say this, but it’s impossible now. You can’t do that anymore, or at least you can’t do it on a casual basis. There is a way to do it, which is to accept that now we do live in a different era. But, there is no intimacy anymore. Everything you do is a world premiere, because the minute you do it, somebody somewhere could be — they may be or they may not be, but we have to assume that they probably might be — recording or filming it. You can’t just do a little thing in Rimouski anymore, and try something out. Everything you do — it doesn’t matter if you’re at the North Pole — the minute you do it, it’s everywhere. That’s going to change things.

To a certain degree, there’s an aspect to this that I also acknowledge and accept, which is that it’s an age thing. I’m old school, to the degree that I want to feel a direct connection to the people I’m performing to, and what’s happening at that momemt.

Bob Barker: Is that an age thing, Pat? Is that passé?

Pat Metheny: I’ve got a feeling it’s passé. We’ve moved into new territory,now. I also anticipate that there will be a generation of musicians who will thrive in this environment. I probably won’t be one of them, because I do represent myself in a way, much like we’re having a conversation right now. You and I are speaking, but I am aware that there is an audience of people listening. There are certain things I’m not going to say right now, and you would probably get fined, if I did. Certain words, or this or that.

Bob Barker: There are boundaries to it.

Pat Metheny: There are boundaries to it. There used to be an environment for musicians where you were boundary-free, where there were no consequences to trying this or trying that. Those days are over. We are in a world now where everything is kind of public. That fights a little bit against the idea of risk-taking, unless that’s baked in.  Unless, that’s baked in.  I anticipate it will be, with the next generation of people.

The interview begins with an introduction by Bob Barker:

Pat Metheny has been redefining the sound of jazz for close to 40 years.

He’s taken the music to places its never gone before as well as always celebrating  the history of jazz and the musicians that have come before him.

From 1976’s Bright Size Life to the recently released collaboration with John Zorn, Pat  Metheny has released countless albums as leader of the Pat Methney Group,solo recordings, duets…soundtracks….all in all Pat has multiple Gold records and 20 Grammy Awards to his name.

Constantly searching, pushing, inspiring  and educating Pat Metheny joined us at our JAZZFM91 Studios to talk about his amazing career, the Orchestrion project and more!

Interview with Pat Metheny | Bob Barker | April 24, 2013 | jazz.fm91 http://www.jazz.fm/index.php/listen-mainmenu/podcasts/8119-interview-pat-metheny.

[MP3 audio]

Bob Barker and Pat Metheny at Jazz FM91, April 24, 2013

Ronald Coase | On Externalities, the Firm, and the State of Economics (MP3 audio)| May 21, 2012 | EconTalk October 28, 2013

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In Ronald Coase interview, surprised to hear the “price system is a very expensive system”, agreeing that “firms act like socialists, because it’s cheaper”. On the recording, around 27:00:

Ronald Coase

Roberts: How did you come to write that paper as an undergraduate?

Coase: I was interested in how firms actually operate. And if you start studying how firms actually operate, you find that they are not concerned with prices directly, at all.

A person who is working in a firm does what he’s told. That’s the way it operates.

Roberts: So, a firm is an island of socialism in a capitalist world.

Coase: Oh, when I was a socialist at that time, I had some influence on the items starting with the views that I now have. I was a socialist. My parents voted for the Labour Party. And one Ernest Bevin, who was General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, which was the largest union in Britain. In those early days, I was a socialist.

And that may have had some effect in leading me to the Nature of the Firm. I don’t know. Very likely.

Roberts: So your insight was that firms act like socialists, because it’s cheaper.

Coase: That’s right.

Roberts: And it’s cheaper because it’s not free to use the price system.

Coase: It’s cheaper because the price system is a very expensive system. If you think of all of the things you have to know in order to make a bargain, it’s obvious it’s not a cheap system. In a system that avoids negotiations, it’s one that saves a lot of costs.

Roberts: So, one of the things that I love about that paper is it forces you to think about these costs, which you might not notice. It forces you to notice that some systems that you think might not work so well, actually work better than you think. But it’s hard to test those ideas, right? One of the implications of the paper is that when transaction costs are high, you’re more likely to use command-and-control, but it’s hard to measure transaction costs. It’s hard to quantify the theory. Is that correct?

Coase: Yes.

Roberts: Or is it irrelevant?

Coase: No, it’s very relevant. But the state of economics is that people don’t try to measure these, or try to study them. People try to engage in discussion and explanation without any real knowledge of what happens in the real world.

On the Econtalk page, in addition to the downloadable audio, there’s some text highlights from the talk.  Here’s the description of the interview.

Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase of the University of Chicago talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his career, the current state of economics, and the Chinese economy. Coase, born in 1910, reflects on his youth, his two great papers, “The Nature of the Firm” and “The Problem of Social Cost”. At the end of conversation he discusses his new book on China, How China Became Capitalist (co-authored with Ning Wang), and the future of the Chinese and world economies.

[MP3 audio]

Coase on Externalities, the Firm, and the State of Economics | EconTalk | Library of Economics and Liberty at http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/05/coase_on_extern.html.

Some of the content from this interview turns up on “Ronald H. Coase” | The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics | The Library of Economics and Liberty, at http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Coase.html

Nassim Nicholas Taleb “The Fragility Crisis is Just Begun” (MP3 audio) | June 3, 2010 | Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon March 4, 2013

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In 2010, @nntaleb said newspapers give over-causation about a system’s environment, @RadioOpenSource read as “newspapers make us stupid” with their explanations. In the interview by Christopher Lydon with Nassim Nicholas Taleb (starting about about 27:00):

nassim-taleb.jpg

Taleb … In economic life, we don’t know, because we have a lot of superimposed complicated networks.

Lydon: Can I ask, what are the media implications of all of this? When Fox News can hold an enormous audience, that people dreamed of in the past, but in all of those local institutions, particularly newspapers, symbolically, and the idea of local opinion is fading out.

Taleb: I am against the news. I am not against the media. I am against supplying people with news about the environment that is very unnatural and causes collective consciousness to be divorced from one’s local one.

Lydon: You say newspapers make us stupid, and I’m not quite clear why.

Taleb: Because they always give you an explanation to events so that you have the feeling that you know what’s going on. They tell you the stock market went down, because of fear of a recession, and that’s false causation with uncertainty there. They check their facts, but you can’t check their causes. So, you have the feeling of over-causation from newspapers. That’s number one, the first one.

The second one: newspapers aren’t going to tell you “we had 280 deaths on the roads today in America”. They’re going to tell you about the plane crash killing 14 people. So, you have misrepresentation of the math of risks. They are driven by the sensational. And the statistical and the sensational are not the same in our modern world.

There’s a third thing about newspapers. Supplying someone with news reduces his understanding of the world. It’s more complicated than I can go into here, but let me tell you how I cope with it. I don’t mind knowing the news, but I go by a social filter. I each lunch and dinner with other people. (I try to. I still have people who won’t eat lunch or dinner with me, even after writing the Black Swan). And I make sure. You can eavesdrop on conversations and stuff like that. I can tell if something is going on.

If there’s an event of significance, I know about it. And then I go to the web, or go buy a paper sometimes, or something like that.

Lydon: Or go to Facebook, and get the real news!

Taleb: I don’t know. Facebook I don’t like, for some reason.

Lydon: But it does serve as kind of newspaper or a gossip place. You’ll hear about a great movie, or a great book, or a good restaurant.

Taleb: I don’t like these social things, on Facebook. Anything that draws me away from face-to-face contact with people is harmful to my health.

I fully believe in nature. I try not to spend too much time on the web, except to set up an appointment with someone, to contact my publisher, to complain to my banker, or to run the small businesses I’m in. I think that the Internet can take on a life of its own. It doesn’t make people happier. I’m happier living a life that is closer to my genetic background and what makes me happy. Socializing on Facebook is equivalent to eating these meals you used to see on science fiction movies, the meals that would make airplane food look like three-star Michelin.

The full interview covered content on fragility versus antifragility (i.e. robustness).

Taleb has revised and extended his cult classic, The Black Swan. His anomalous “black swan” (since swans are by definition white) has three properties: it’s (1) any one of those unforeseen developments that comes (2) with big consequences and (3) a concocted cause-and-effect after-story. In conversation, Taleb is trying to get us to let go of “causes” and fix on the word “fragility.”

Audio interview of Nassim Nicholas Taleb “The Fragility Crisis is Just Begun” | June 3, 2010 | Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon at http://www.radioopensource.org/nassim-nicholas-taleb-the-fragility-crisis-is-just-begun/.

Jason Hwang | “The Innovators Prescription” (MP3 audio) | Jan. 18, 2012 | The Brad Brooks Show March 22, 2012

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Healthcare in the U.S. may be trapped in its own thinking, so a radical outside perspective could be an alternative approach.
The Brad Brooks Show - Jason Hwang - The Innovators Prescription | Guests

Jason Hwang, M.D., M.B.A. is an internal medicine physician and Executive Director of Healthcare at Innosight Institute, a non-profit social innovation think tank based in San Francisco, CA. Together with Professor Clayton M. Christensen of Harvard Business School and the late Jerome H. Grossman of Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Previously, Dr. Hwang taught as chief resident and clinical instructor at the University of California, Irvine, where he received multiple recognitions for his clinical work. He has also served as a clinician with the Southern California Kaiser Permanente Medical Group and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach, California. Dr. Hwang received his B.S. and M.D. from the University of Michigan and his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

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Jason Hwang | The Innovators Prescription | Jan. 18, 2012 | The Brad Brooks Show at http://www.thebradbrooksshow.com/Guests/jason-hwang-the-innovators-prescription.html.

Eric D. Beinhocker | “Beyond left and right: An evolutionary way of thinking about economics and public policy” (MP3 audio) | This View of Life on SoundCloud March 16, 2012

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Seeing the economy as a complex adaptive system may dissolve political positions of right and left, when approached from an evolutionary perspective.
Beyond left and right: An evolutionary way of thinking about economics and public policy by This View of Life on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free

Eric D. Beinhocker is the author of The Origin of Wealth and a senior advisor to McKinsey & Company, Inc., where he conducts research on economics, management, and public policy issues. He was previously a partner at McKinsey and a co-leader of its global strategy practice. His career has bridged both the business and academic worlds. He has been a software CEO, a venture capitalist, and an Executive Director of the Corporate Executive Board. He has also held research appointments at the Harvard Business School and the MIT Sloan School of Management, and has been a visiting scholar at the Santa Fe Institute. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the MIT Sloan School of Management where he was a Henry Ford II Scholar.

Fortune magazine has named Beinhocker a “Business Leader of the Next Century,” and his writings on business and economics have appeared in a variety of publications, including the Financial Times.

Eric Beinhocker: Beyond left versus right: evolutionary economics and the future of policy and politics

For almost 150 years, our politics has been described in terms of ‘left versus right’.  While these terms encompass a broad range of ideas, historically, differing views on how to organize the economy have lay at the heart of this distinction.  For the past 30 years, neoclassical economic theory has dominated many areas of public policy-making (e.g. central bank macro models, cost-benefit analysis in climate change, and the “Washington Consensus” in economic development).  This talk will argue that modern views of the economy as an evolving, complex system present a radical challenge to these long established political and policy frameworks.  Hypotheses will be presented on how an evolutionary view of the economy may yield new political and policy frameworks.  An evolutionary view will not end political or policy disagreements, but may better align the space of argument with the nature of the system being argued about.

Group for Research in Organisational Evolution at http://www.uhbs-groe.org/abstracts.htm.

[MP3 audio]

Beyond left and right: An evolutionary way of thinking about economics and public policy by This View of Life on SoundCloud at http://soundcloud.com/this-view-of-life/david-sloan-wilson-talks-with.

Geoffrey Hodgson, “Evolutionary Thinking and Its Policy Implications for Modern Capitalism” (MP3 audio) | Sept. 22, 2011 |This View of Life, SoundCloud March 16, 2012

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Economists who cite Darwin may consider a deeper reading, or looking at the interpretation by Geoffrey Hodgson.
Evolutionary Thinking and Its Policy Implications for Modern Capitalism by This View of Life on SoundCloud

David Sloan Wilson interviews economist Geoffrey Hodgson at a workshop organized by the Group for Research in Organizational Evolution. Check out the workshop here http://www.uhbs-groe.org/p7.htm

Geoff  Hodgson: The Evolution of Morality and the End of Economic Man

1871 saw the publication of major treatises in the development of neoclassical economics, with self-seeking economic man as its centrepiece. In the same year Darwin published The Descent of Man, which emphasised sympathy and cooperation as well as self-interest, and contained a powerful argument that morality has evolved in humans by natural selection. Essentially this stance is supported by modern research. This paper considers the nature of morality and how it has evolved. It reconciles Darwin’s notion that a developed morality requires language and deliberation (and is thus unique to humans), with Darwin’s other view that moral feelings have a long-evolved and biologically-inherited basis. The social role of morality and its difference with altruism is illustrated by an agent-based simulation. The fact that humans combine both moral and selfish dispositions has major implications for the social sciences and must oblige us to abandon the pre-eminent notion of selfish economic man.

via Group for Research in Organisational Evolution at http://www.uhbs-groe.org/abstracts.htm.

[MP3 audio]

“Evolutionary Thinking and Its Policy Implications for Modern Capitalism” by This View of Life on SoundCloud at http://soundcloud.com/this-view-of-life/evolutionary-thinking-and-its.

Lawrence Busch | “Standards: Recipes for Reality” (MP3 audio) | July 15, 2011 | Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (FARE), University of Guelph March 16, 2012

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Standards can help economic and social progress not only in technologies, but also in agriculture.
FARE Talk - Food, Agricultural & Resource Economic Podcasts

Dr. Lawrence Busch [in] his book “Standards: Recipes for Reality.” … argues that standards play a central role in constructing reality. We discuss this argument in general and examine the important role that standards play in contemporary agriculture. In this context we discuss the system of standards, certifications, and accreditation that, in part, shape our economy. Dr. Busch also provides guidelines for developing fair, equitable, and effective standards.

Dr. Lawrence Busch is University Distinguished Professor in the Center for the Study of Standards in Society in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University. More details about him and his forthcoming book can be found at http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=12691

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Lawrence Busch | “Standards: Recipes for Reality” (MP3 audio) | July 15, 2011 | Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (FARE), University of Guelph at http://fare.uoguelph.ca/FARE-talk/index.html#recipes.

David Sloan Wilson, “The Psychopathic Chicken (and Other Lessons of Evolution)” (MP3 audio) | August 27, 2008 | Culture Snob March 16, 2012

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Evolution is often portrayed in the biological frame.  It can also be relevant in viewing systems in other frames.
The Psychopathic Chicken (and Other Lessons of Evolution) | Books | Culture Snob

[David Sloan] Wilson, a distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, is one of the primary advocates for an interdisciplinary application of the principles of evolution — the idea that Charles Darwin’s theory has much to tell us about humans and their cultures. He created his university’s Evolution Studies program and would like to see other colleges and universities embrace evolution similarly. “It’s sort of become my mission to incorporate this into higher education,” Wilson said last week in a phone interview.

His goal is first to make evolution accessible (and acceptable) by showing how the theory can be used to explain human behavior — a sensitive subject that had been largely off-limits until the past two decades.

He lays out his premise at the outset of Evolution for Everyone:

“This is a book of tall claims about evolution: that it can become uncontroversial; that the basic principles are easy to learn; that everyone should want to learn them, once their implications are understood; that evolution and religion, those old enemies who currently occupy opposite corners of human thought, can be brought harmoniously together.”

The aim of the desert-island morality example, then, is to see Darwin’s theory in human practice. As Wilson explains, it’s critical for people to understand that evolution isn’t just biology. It can explain why altruism exists in society against the apparent self-interest of its individual members.

“If you can’t address an issue like that,” he said, “then nobody’s going to accept the theory of evolution.”

[MP3 audio]

David Sloan Wilson, “The Psychopathic Chicken (and Other Lessons of Evolution)” (MP3 audio) | August 27, 2008 | Culture Snob http://www.culturesnob.net/2008/08/psychopathic-chicken/

David Weinberger | “Too Big to Know: How the new dimensions of information are transforming business — and life” (MP3 audio) | November 30, 2011 | School of Information, U.C. Berkeley March 15, 2012

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Systems designed around information scarcity and inaccessibility in the agricultural and industrial ages are giving way to a world of abundance in information so easily accessible.

Too Big to Know: How the new dimensions of information are transforming business — and life | School of Information

… our old system of knowledge was based around the limitations of paper, a disconnected, expensive medium that managed a world that was too big to know by cutting down on what we had to deal with. There were of course advantages to that, but they came at the cost of throwing out most of what the world was trying to tell us.

In the new knowledge ecology, knowledge takes on the properties of its new medium, the Net. That means knowledge has become huge, it’s connected, and it embraces disagreement and differences. The key is to think about knowledge not as a set of content but as a network: the smartest person in the room is now the room itself. Then the question is, how can you build, maintain, and nurture a smart network?

David Weinberger is one of the most respected thought-leaders at the intersection of technology, business, and society. He is a co-author of the bestselling book, The Cluetrain Manifesto — which InformationWeek called “the most important business book since In Search of Excellence” — and is the author of Everything is Miscellaneous and Small Pieces Loosely Joined.

Weinberger’s new book, Too Big to Know, explores how the networking of knowledge is transforming expertise and decision-making in business, government, education, and science.

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David Weinberger | “Too Big to Know: How the new dimensions of information are transforming business — and life” (MP3 audio) | November 30, 2011 | School of Information, U.C. Berkeley http://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/newsandevents/events/distinguishedlectures/davidweinberger.

Andy Piper | MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) (MP3 audio) | January 9, 2012 | Technometria with Phil Windley, itconversations.org March 15, 2012

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MQTT, now an open standard under Eclipse, opens up the Machine to Machine Internet, similar to how HTTP as opened up documents.

Andy Piper | MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT)

As stated on the MQTT website, MQ Telemetry Transport “is a machine-to-machine (M2M)/”Internet of Things” connectivity protocol.” Meant to be used remotely particularly when bandwidth is at a premium, it can be used in both mobile and dial-up situations. Developed as part of his work at IBM, Andy Piper discusses the project, including its concepts and background. He also reviews examples of its use and reviews future development plans.

Andy Piper is widely known as a Social Bridgebuilder and speaker, and is a Consulting IT Specialist working for IBM Software Group, currently based in the UK but with a worldwide scope and remit. He is an enabler, a synthesiser, a connector, and a community-builder.

Andy is probably best known online as a “social bridgebuilder” spanning a number of different areas of technology and interest. His weblog The Lost Outpost reflects the diversity of his skills and interests: development, design, communications, everything social, community building, marketing, gaming and digital imaging. He co-hosts the weekly Dogear Nation podcast (search for it on iTunes), is a leading member of IBM Hursley’s eightbar community, one of the organisers of Home Camp, and a committee member, organiser and former speaker at Digital Surrey.

[MP3 audio]

Andy Piper | MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) | January 9, 2012 | Technometria with Phil Windley, itconversations.org http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail5153.html.

Howard Rheingold, “Social Media and Peer Learning: From Mediated Pedagogy to Peeragogy” (MP3 audio) | January 23, 2012 | School of Information, U.C. Berkeley March 15, 2012

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The presumption that college-age students implicitly know how to effectively use social media is misguided. Howard Rheingold speaks about his experience in teaching students about using social media in learning.
Social Media and Peer Learning: From Mediated Pedagogy to Peeragogy | School of Information

Howard Rheingold offers a glimpse of the future of high-end online learning in which motivated self-learners collaborate via a variety of social media to create, deliver, and learn an agreed curriculum: a mutant variety of pedagogy that more closely resembles a peer-agogy. Rheingold proposes that our intention should be to teach ourselves how to teach ourselves online, and to share what we learn. He will show how the use of social media in courses he has taught about social media issues led him to co-redesign his curriculum, which led to more active participation by students in co-teaching the course.

[MP3 audio]

Howard Rheingold, “Social Media and Peer Learning: From Mediated Pedagogy to Peeragogy” | January 23, 2012 | School of Information, U.C. Berkeley at Social Media and Peer Learning: From Mediated Pedagogy to Peeragogy | School of Information.

Ian Morris, “Why the West Rules – For Now” (MP3 audio), Long Now Foundation, 2011/04/13 November 7, 2011

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Social development as biology, sociology and geography … and historically, regional differences especially from the geography.

longnow.org/static/djlongnow_media/seminar_icons/salt-020110413-morris-Ismall.jpg

via Ian Morris: Why the West Rules – For Now – The Long Now.

Morris has devised a quantitative “social development index” based on evaluating a civilization’s energy capture, organization (size of largest cities), information management, and war-making capability. (The details of his method are online here.) When you graph human progress since the last ice age 15,000 years ago, the results show that the West led for all the millennia up till the 6th century CE, fell behind for 1,200 years, then leapt ahead again up to the present day. (The “West” for Morris is the civilizational core that developed agriculture and then cities and empires in the eastern Mediterranean, later spreading across Europe and North America. The “East” is China.)

Geography determines how and when regions develop, but new societal capabilities keep redefining what geography means. At first agriculture was limited to regions with reliable rainfall, but once societies grew able to manage large-scale irrigation, the empires of parched regions like Mesopotamia and Egypt could take off, and their rivers became trade routes. The vast steppes of north-central Asia long separated Western and Eastern empires, but once their riches became worth plundering, mounted nomads from the steppes invaded repeatedly, defeating the agrarian armies and carrying germs that unleashed waves of epidemics.

The West had the advantage of a trade highway in the Mediterranean that wasn’t matched in the East until the 6th century, when the Sui emperors built the Grand Canal 1,500 miles long linking north and south China. Everything then changed with the invention of ocean-going ships and guns in the 13th and 14th centuries.

MP3 audio

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