The bubble magic of virtual reality

bubbles
Bubbles By Arturo Alejandro Romo Escartin

My son’s eyes light up in anticipation when I open the bottle of soapy water. It’s  magic time. As the bubbles float slowly down, he giggles and dances with glee, popping all the bubbles within his reach.

For Shiloh, bubbles are some kind of magic.  He has no sense of the scientific concepts that underly bubbles: the surface tension, elasticity, chemistry, light, or even the geometric description of spherical surface area: sphere area!

Maybe you get that ‘bubble feeling’ when you get your hands on a new gadget. I’m a bit of a geek, so I flipped out when I tried virtual reality through Google Cardboard for the first time. (Check out the first video I viewed in VR by Vrse.)

The spectacle of a new sphere of experience surrounded my eyes. I recall that famous quote by Arthur C. Clarke:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Like a bubble being blown for my son, the spectacle of a whole new sphere of reality surrounded my eyes. And that app and simple box that wrapped around my iPhone made it possible. Bubbly magic!

Few of us can explain the science of modern machines. The phantasmal magic of tech is becoming ever more complex. While we know how to describe the surface of our user experience, how the magic actually happens, is becoming less and less explainable.

Expect VR to make the mundane a whole lot more fun. That’s my 2¢ on virtual reality.

The bubble magic of virtual reality

Spider rewires the brain

Spider Brain by anbileru adaleru

I’m thinking about spider webs and writing. Let’s engage in this playful thought experiment, shall we?

Do a quick search and peruse articles on the Internet about the cognitive benefits of writing and journaling. What you’ll see is a lot of evidence that reflective writing can rewire your brain, along with a host of other therapeutic perks. Cool, no?

The point, when you feel that itching sense to spend some time thinking about stuff, don’t waste it, write it.  Say no to aimless thinking. Write to rewire your brain.

Consider how sensibly a spider weaves a web. Putting your fingers to the keyboard and/or pencil to paper can get you in tune with your ‘mind spider’. So when you feel the itch in your mind, it’s probably the spider in your head trying to re-web thoughts in your head. Allow the spider to extend your senses and ensnare insights that fly by.

Allow the spider to extend your linguistic senses by ensnaring the scrumptious ideas that fly by. Now I’ll drag-and-drop a couple of quotes into this post, in a very ant-like manner. It was Francis Bacon who said  the following:

“The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance.”

I’m telling myself to mull on this: Be less ant-like, more spider-like.

Of course, Bacon went on to say that bees are the best, but that’s a thought for another time. But let me just say, being bee-like takes a team.

Now, before I go, consider the description of fiction as offered by Virginia Woolf:

“a spider’s web, so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”

With both reason and imagination, let the ‘mind spider’ stretch your mind. Most of what we believe about ourselves is a mesh of fact and fiction, so it’s reasonable to recognize the difference.

In any case, it’s a cute metaphor, don’t you think?

Spider rewires the brain

In The Dread Of Obsolescence

No, this isn’t about your new iPhone being made obsolete. This post is about the looming feeling of dread being experienced by managers who see themselves being automated out of a job in the years ahead. How to turn this feeling into an opportunity for change?

The cherished jobs of managerial types may soon be handed over to machines. A survey of a wide group of managers, conducted by the consulting firm Accenture, recently revealed their attitudes on cognitive computing and the future of the workforce. The CNBC article on the study summarizes the finding:

The study — conducted in August and September of this year across 17 different industries — surveyed more than 1,700 managers and found that while many managers believe intelligent machines will make them more effective, some are concerned these machines may threaten their jobs in the future.

Apparently the reason for the manager’s concern is that they spend most of their time on tasks that they feel could be automated in the future. What is that feeling exactly? Let’s call this somewhat humbling, potentially humiliating feeling, “the dread of obsolescence.”

As you know, the term obsolescence is usually ascribed to an “object, service, or practice” (via Wikipedia) that is no longer wanted despite being in good working order. Combine this with feeling of dread and you get the fearful anticipation that the work you do will soon be done by the next best  (inhuman) thing.

Many of the working people I know enjoy their workday moments of monotony — especially if a number of their other work duties are sporadic and stressful.  Predictable patterns give time and space to do the ‘simple stuff’. Quite simply, these are their everyday duties and routines. Routines have been called the “life blood” of organizations, but steadily the pulsating flow of life is robotic.

Humble yourself or be made obsolete

Let’s step back from the situation to look at humility for a moment. Consider, “being humbled” as a reasonable response to the dread. The argument I’m making is that managers should accept the fear of being made obsolete with humility. The low cost of automation, along with higher quality algorithmic outputs will surely make the executive decision easier. Once managers accept this likely reality, new strategies can be learned by to retain relevancy.

There is an interesting article in Forbes by Ed Hess, Professor of Business Administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at UVA’s Darden School of Business, about the value of humility. In his analysis, humility is the core skill for retaining your job in “The Smart Machine Age.”

Machines, Hess explains, will displace many workers in many industries who engage in repetitive, linear processes, while those workers who are needed for jobs involving “complex critical thinking, creativity, innovative thinking, high emotional engagement or perceptual problem solving” will be safe.

Unfreezing to learn from social complexity

Unsurprisingly, Hess anticipates that there will be an increase in training programs to help professionals survive by developing “critical thinking, innovative thinking and high emotional and social intelligence capabilities.” At the heart of developing these capabilities is humility and learning processes that help people manage their egos, along with their thinking and emotions.

The dread of obsolescence can be said to function as a “humility-inducing” experience, which challenges the managerial ego to detach from controllable routines, then nudged toward managing complexity with humility. In the context of organizational change, this is akin to Kurt Lewin’s model of “Unfreezing,” or creating a controllable crisis that triggers the motivation for the managers to seek out a new equilibrium by changing.

It is uncertain to me how much of humility is a matter of fixed personality and how much can be learned. Managers that recognize the threat of automation, however, would likely see the benefits of humility as described by Ed Hess below, and want improve their character as such:

Humility enables more open-mindedness, better reflective listening and more effective collaboration—all of which are necessary for high-quality critical and innovative thinking and high emotional engagement with others.

Bottom line for managers: When your mechanical job tasks are to be replaced by something inhuman, learn to be more than your average managerial-type human by cultivating humility.

In The Dread Of Obsolescence

Learning with fluidity (and play)

I’ve summarized a bit of the stuff I’ve read over the years about learning and education. The metaphorical notion of fluidity points to where the future may be headed for online learning.

Learning vs. education

Learning is a natural process of life. Education provides a means for enabling it to happen more effectively. While learning is personal (inside-out), education is institutional (outside-in).

Education involves systems of learning, facilitated by teachers who apply creative processes and structures. Learning is a lifelong affair that is usually triggered in response to change. When a learner in the midst of change turns to teachers and systems, education happens.

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Learning with fluidity (and play)

Big Data will destroy you: Techno-jitters

Once self-copying memes had arisen, their own, much faster, kind of evolution took off. – Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

Dominic Basulto imagines that digital devices are a kind of primordial soup in which “digital bits” of Big Data will propagate to the point where “they don’t need us anymore.”  He speculates upon Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes:

Where things become both exciting and creepy is if the data replicators (data memes) become truly “selfish” and start to challenge the classic genetic replicators (genes). It’s not just that Big Data wants to become Bigger, it’s that it may eventually want to out-compete our genetic material.
http://bigthink.com/endless-innovation/big-data-the-new-replicators

Continue reading “Big Data will destroy you: Techno-jitters”

Big Data will destroy you: Techno-jitters

Pattern Based Innovative Management

Over the past few weeks I’ve been conversing online with Dibyendu De, a reliability management consultant in Kolkatta, India.  For 23 years of his career he has applied his extensive background as a mechanical design engineer toward helping 50 organizations achieve sustainable growth.  Our conversation utilized social media channels like Twitter, Google+, and blog posts, written in response to some of the questions I raised for my assignment in “Management Issues for Information Professionals”, a class I’m taking at QUT.  Eventually we caught up for a brief Hangout using Google+, where we discussed his views on management, strategy, and innovation.

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Pattern Based Innovative Management

Becoming cyborg with modern Paleo-machines

Wildcat senses we are on the edge of a Paleolithic Machine intelligence world. This description seems a kind of intuition or “ghostly sensation” that somewhere along the edges of reality an evolutionary age is dawning.

One could ask, are hyperconnected machines beginning to interweave with biological organisms through some kind of cybernetic evolution? Certainly this is possible, as we see smartphones acting as handheld appendages to their user’s brains. Bodies are beginning to engage gestures with the Kinect recognition technology. With Google Glasses, the interface into another world is seen merging with the mind.

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Becoming cyborg with modern Paleo-machines