Tag Archives: Internet

PERSONAL PRIVACY & FREEDOM

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your Worlddavid-and-goliath

Written by: Bruce Schneier

Narrated by: Dan John Miller

BRUCE SCHNEIER (AMERICAN AUTHOR, FELLOW AT THE BERKMAN CENTER FOR INTERNET SOCIETY @HARVARD LAW SCHOOL)
BRUCE SCHNEIER (AMERICAN AUTHOR, FELLOW AT THE BERKMAN CENTER FOR INTERNET SOCIETY @HARVARD LAW SCHOOL)

Bruce Schneier’s book is about battles with government and private industry for personal privacy and freedom in the information age.  The seriousness of the subject is diminished by millions of us who revel in the knowledge, accessibility, and convenience of the internet. However, Schneier explains how our appreciation and use of the internet threatens privacy and freedom.

Perfect as an adjective for human is an oxymoron.  All human beings are emotionally and intellectually imperfect.  Human beings conduct their lives within normative social boundaries.  They are generally not criminal, sexually perverted, or psychologically impaired.  However, all human beings transgress some social boundaries.  Most individuals feel appropriately guilty for their transgression; suffer the personal and societal consequence, and then get on with their lives.  This loose definition of humanity seems a fair description of all human beings.  However, Schneier argues that use of the internet categorizes, spindles, and mutilates human lives.  Like a forest being attacked by borer beetles, the internet infects the public; not with malicious intent, but with a hunger for money, power, and prestige.

( Like a forest being attacked by borer beetles, the internet infects the public; not with malicious intent, but with a hunger for money, power, and prestige.)
APPLE, MICROSOFT LOGOS
APPLE, MICROSOFT LOGOS (The borer beetles of the internet are well-known; e.g. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, the Federal Government, and a host of smaller species.)

The borer beetles of the internet are well-known; e.g. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, the Federal Government, and a host of smaller species.  Some borer beetles can kill a forest, while others benefit nature’s ecology by getting rid of weakened trees to regenerate healthy trees.  Schneier suggests America is at a crossroad where captured data from the general public will either grow into a society’ killer or a humanized friend.

INTERNET LOGO
INTERNET LOGOS (Schneier suggests America is at a crossroad where captured data from the general public will either grow into a society’ killer or a humanized friend.)
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY LOGO
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY LOGO
RELIGION LOGOS
RELIGION LOGOS  (Churches and charities’ objective (though not specifically addressed by Schneier) is to evangelize and increase donations for “good works”.  )

Schneier suggests or implies government, eleemosynary, and private entities continually gather personal information and mine it for public and private purposes.  The government’s objective is to protect American citizens from crime and terrorism.  Churches and charities’ objective (though not specifically addressed by Schneier) is to evangelize and increase donations for “good works”.  Private industry’s objective is to increase profitability.

PRIVATE INDUSTRY LOGOS
PRIVATE INDUSTRY LOGOS (Schneier suggests or implies government, eleemosynary, and private entities continually gather personal information and mine it for public and private purposes. )

On some level, Schneier suggests there is no harm; no foul.  On another level he argues, surveillance, big data collection, and unregulated invasion of privacy attacks the foundation of democracy.  Though the right to privacy is not explicitly protected by America’s founding documents, Schneier suggests the internet encroaches on the 4th 5th and 9th articles of the Constitution.

Schneier acknowledges the benefits of the internet; e.g. educational opportunity, communication timeliness, shopping convenience, banking access, and interconnection.  Every article written in this blog is benefited by information available on the internet.

Convenient purchase of consumer goods requires no trips to a local vendor.  The bank writes checks with a few taps at a computer terminal.  A personal Ipad, Iphone, and laptop communicate with each other via Bluetooth with input required only once; on one device.  A wonderful life with no harm, no foul—right?  Schneier notes there is a price paid for these benefits. Unquestionably, the internet is a great source of valuable information and convenience.  However, it is also a vehicle for illicit activity. The internet reveals personal information about users that embarrass, bully, and sometimes ruin lives.  It disseminates bigotry that recruits like-minded miscreants.  It provides access to bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial instruments for fraudulent use.

Every purchase made on the internet becomes a factoid in the history of a purchaser.  All of these factoids are accumulated and used by privately owned search-engine companies (like Google, AOL, and Amazon) to profile personal habits and preferences.  That information is sold to retailers for a fee.  Private retailers use that information to customize their sales pitches to consumers.  The retailer adjusts prices according to the buyer’s purchasing and income profile.

To increase income, the search engine owner sells the retailer a first position on internet searches.  That first position increases probability that the profiled consumer will purchase from that retailer who has enough information to estimate how much you are willing to pay.  The public is being manipulated by retailers that know where you are, what you buy, and what you are willing to pay, or are capable of paying.  Retailers who purchase data from search engine owners can estimate (if not know) your net worth, sexual orientation, educational achievement, and personal preferences.

The internet is a money machine for search-engine owners.  First, the search-engine owner raises revenue by selling personal information and then increases income by selling positions on search-engine web pages.  The retailer benefits by having personal consumer information and a primary position on web-page searches.  It increases the retailer’s odds of being seen on a search and the consumer’s likelihood of purchase.  Schneier implies the consumer is being controlled by Goliath’s data collection.  Goliath is a two-headed dog guarding the entrance to Sartre’s “No Exit” hell.  The David in this battle is the consumer with only hope and a sling shot to defend himself.  The sling shot has no ammunition and no target because no remuneration goes to the consumer and the information has been stolen anonymously.

The internet is a supersonic communications vehicle.  There is no waiting for the mail.  Instant messaging and the twitterverse are part of the spindling and mutilating process of the age.  Thinking before one speaks is yesterday’s reality.  Today, even in the race for President of the United States, speaking-without-thought is commonplace.

NEW YORK WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK
NEW YORK WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK
MANCHESTER BOMBING SURVIVOR (21 CONFIRMED DEAD, MANY INJURED)

The internet is a worldwide recruiting vehicle for the extremes of society; some of which fly airplanes into skyscrapers in New York, bomb government buildings in Oklahoma, and murder innocents in Manchester.  Internet access provides a forum to convince people of the iniquity (either false or true) of an enemy or government.

TRUMP AND TWITTER (With the click of a mouse, fiction competes with truth to lead and mislead the public.)
(With the click of a mouse, and a newscaster’s ego fiction competes with truth to lead and mislead the public.)

With the click of a mouse, and a newscaster’s ego fiction competes with truth to lead and mislead the public.  Publicly shared television news programs created by professionals are now created by anyone with access to the internet.  There is no incentive or structure to fact-check reports posted on the internet.

FOX NEWS RETRACTION (Schneier suggests government intrusion into private lives has gone too far as a result of 9/11 and other terrorist events around the world.)
EDWARD SNOWDEN
EDWARD SNOWDEN (Schneier implies that Snowden is a hero; not a traitor.  Snowden exposed the covert surveillance of the NSA (National Security Agency) in gathering information about private citizens without their knowledge; and without probable cause, or judicial consent.)

Schneier suggests government intrusion into private lives has gone too far as a result of 9/11 and other terrorist events around the world.  Schneier implies that Edward Snowden is a hero; not a traitor.  Snowden exposed the covert surveillance of the NSA (National Security Agency) in gathering information about private citizens without their knowledge; and without probable cause, or judicial consent.  Schneier argues that big data surveillance, by private enterprise and the government, have colluded to compromise freedom and control the individual.

DAVID CAMERON (PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM 2010-2016)
DAVID CAMERON (PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM 2010-2016, Schneier notes how the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, stated that he did not want to be accused of not protecting British citizens because of lax surveillance of private citizens.  This climate of fear pervades the politics of our time. )

Schneier suggests that promulgation of fear, exacerbated by public access to the internet, causes the government to overreact.  He notes how the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, stated that he did not want to be accused of not protecting British citizens because of lax surveillance of private citizens.  This climate of fear pervades the politics of our time.  It is not the first time America abandoned the principles of privacy and freedom.  Schneier notes the “Alien and Sedition Act” passed by Congress and signed by President John Adams, the incarceration of American Japanese during President Roosevelt’s administration, and the McCarthy witch-hunt for communists in the 1950 s.  He suggests those were mistakes made then; with the same mistakes being made now.

JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMP IN CALIFORNIA'S EASTERN SIERRAS DURING WWII
JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMP IN CALIFORNIA’S EASTERN SIERRAS DURING WWII (This climate of fear pervades the politics of our time.  It is not the first time America abandoned the principles of privacy and freedom.)

Schneier offers solutions.  He acknowledges the necessity of surveillance but believes public oversight should be strengthened.  Government regulation should require judicial warrants for spying on an individual.  He argues that mass data collection is an unwarranted invasion of privacy that has little value in defeating terrorism.  Only after the fact did mass surveillance reveal the perpetrators of the Boston marathon bombing.  He suggests the same is true for the shoe bomber and the terrorist attack of the disability hospital in California.  Mass data collection does not protect the public.

Schneier suggests consumers should know who, in the private sector, is accumulating their personal information.  Private citizens should have a right to opt out of private sector data collection by any internet user.  He believes a set of rules should be established for government to follow when seeking individual surveillance.  Schneier suggests those rules should be designed for transparency; legislatively adopted, and justified by legislators to their constituency.

(Schneier infers there is tremendous value to be drawn from the internet. There is the value of education, and quick reference to the news and history of the day.)

Schneier infers there is tremendous value to be drawn from the internet. There is the value of education, and quick reference to the news and history of the day.  There is the informational value of a world of different cultures that have common needs and aspirations.  There is the potential benefit of mass data collection on medical history of individuals and their treatments for fatal injuries or illnesses.  Medical successes will be more quickly codified for improved patient treatment of common maladies.  There would also be the added benefit for a patient changing physicians with a comprehensive history available for review.

Schneier cautions that an individual’s data should be encrypted in ways that limit access to only those authorized by the individual.  In general, Schneier is a proponent of encryption to secure the privacy of individuals.

Schneier’s book aptly describes the threats and benefits of big data.  Terrorism is real but its threat cannot become an excuse for denying the privacy and freedom of the individual.  Terrorism is just one of many risks in life.

(Visited 30 time, 1 visit today)

LISBETH SALANDER 2.0

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel-Millennium Series, Book 4The Girl in the Spider's Web

Written by: David Lagercrantz

Narration by:  Simon Vance

DAVID LAGERCRANTZ (AUTHOR, SWEDISH JOURNALIST)
DAVID LAGERCRANTZ (AUTHOR, SWEDISH JOURNALIST)

One of the most interesting fictional heroines of the 21st century is Lisbeth Salander. It is sad that the creator of Salander dies before the success of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”; i.e. the first of Stieg Larsson’s hugely successful literary triptych. David Lagercrantz, a fellow Swedish author, manages to resurrect Salander’s life in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”.

STIEG LARRSON (DIED IN 2004-AGE 50)
STIEG LARSSON (AUTHOR, CREATOR OF LISBETH SALANDER, DIED IN 2004-AGE 50)

Lagercrantz offers more background to Salander’s life.  He more fully explains how and why Salander becomes an avenging heroine, a superhero for abused women and children.  Lagercrantz’s background of Salander introduces an Ian Fleming theme; i.e. a “Specter-like” criminal organization updated to the 21st century with government surveillance, computer hacking, and modern corporate espionage.   Lagercrantz achieves a fair semblance of Salander’s complicated personality but loses some of the dynamic of the Mikael Blomkvist/Salander’ relationship.  Blomkvist becomes more like a James Bond with a sidekick than a complementary ally for an extraordinary computer hacking genius.

Salander is now a mature adult in her early forties.  She retains her extraordinary mental capability.  She continues to carry an uncompromising hate for men who abuse women and children.  She retains her photographic memory and prodigious computer hacking skill.  But, without medical assistance, her survival from a serious bullet wound stretches belief beyond its boundary and diminishes Lagercrantz’s story.

However, Lagercrantz skillfully expands the legend of Salander’s notorious father (killed in the last of Larson’s triptych) by exploiting the character of an evil twin sister to Lisbeth who takes over the remnants of their father’s network of criminals.  The evil twin emulates their father’s psychopathic personality.  She personifies and admires her dead father’s abusive treatment of women and extends misogyny to misanthropy.  She distorts belief of survival-of-the-fittest into survival-of-the-strongest.  The evil twin is an amoral sadist who covets power over others.

Unlike Lisbeth, her sister is not a genius but an extraordinary beauty, and a master manipulator of others.  What she cannot do herself, she seduces others to do; i.e. a perfect recruiter and manager for any organization.  Lisbeth and her twin sister are mortal enemies.  Their enmity reaches back to childhood.   Lisbeth resents their father’s treatment of their mother while her twin admires their father’s dominating bestiality. Lisbeth sees her mother as a hapless victim.  Her sister sees her mother as a hapless weakling.   Lisbeth rebels against her father.  Her sister idolizes and emulates her father.

What holds “The Girl in the Spider’s Web…” together is the inherent threat of an information age; i.e. a world-wide web that draws everyone into a surveillance honey pot that can hold you hostage, anesthetize you, control you, or kill you.  The concern revolves around who spins the web; i.e. the government, private enterprise, a criminal organization, a moral hacker, an amoral hacker, anyone, no one, some one?

One can imagine this book becoming another Blomkvist/Salander’ movie but if it strictly follows Lagercrantz’s story, it will be more a James Bond’ than Lisbeth Salander’ tale.

(Visited 50 time, 1 visit today)

THRESHOLD OF CHANGE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Who Owns the Future?Who Owns the Future

Written by: Jaron Lanier

Narration by:  Pete Simoneilli

JARON LANIER (AUTHOR,COMPUTER PHILOSOPHY WRITER,FUTURIST)
JARON LANIER (AUTHOR,COMPUTER PHILOSOPHY WRITER, FUTURIST, VIRTUAL REALITY PIONEER)

Society is at the threshold of change.  Jaron Lanier writes about the information age in “Who Owns the Future”.  Just as the industrial revolution and two world wars mechanize human production, the computer and internet “informationize” mechanical production.  Lanier bluntly explains human employment will decline in proportion to computerization of production.

Lanier is neither posturing as a Luddite nor abandoning the principles of democratic’ capitalism.  He suggests human beings need to understand their changing role in society.  Lanier implies failure to understand human’ role-change will compel disastrous reactions; i.e. reactions like the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution or socialist, fascist, and communist sympathizers of the post-industrial world.

Lanier argues that automation is replacing jobs at a faster rate today than in the 20th century.  Human nature does not change; i.e. money, power, and prestige remain the motive force of human achievement.  Achievement in the past is based on productivity from the work of human hands with the assistance of mechanization.

An Assembly Line of the Ford Motor Company. The assembly line is always a point of interest to visitors of the Rouge Plant. Here, on a moving conveyor, Ford cars are completely assembled, from the chassis to finished car, and driven off the line under their own power. In addition to the Rouge plant, there are 31 assembly lines in company branches throughout the United States. --- Image by © Rykoff Collection/CORBIS
An Assembly Line of the Ford Motor Company. The assembly line is always a point of interest to visitors of the Rouge Plant. Here, on a moving conveyor, Ford cars are completely assembled, from the chassis to finished car, and driven off the line under their own power. In addition to the Rouge plant, there are 31 assembly lines in company branches throughout the United States. — Image by © Rykoff Collection/CORBIS

The days of human assistance in mechanization are steadily being reduced by computerization.  Lanier forecasts a future of abundance where the goods of life will be available upon request; without the assistance of human hands.  No one knows how far into the future humans must travel to arrive at that age of abundance but Lanier suggests it will happen.  Lanier has an abiding faith in human beings’ ability to adapt and control technological change.

MODERN AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURE
MODERN AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURE

Lanier infers human initiated technology will continue to eradicate disease, and manipulate the “atomized” world to manufacture the necessities and desires of life.  Replication machines will become common household appliances to manufacture diverse products, ranging from food to toothbrushes, from “goop”; i.e. a universal term for atomic particles.  Industries will become more automated and less dependent on human employment.  Lanier suggests now is the time for society to understand the change.  As means of production reduce the need of human hands, the contribution humans make to society will increasingly become information based.

SELCO has developed fully automated CNC machining and assembly solutions which required handling of raw material (bar stock or other), cutting to length, load/unload of one or more machining centers, part marking, dimensional gauging, part washing/deburring, and final assembly.
SELCO has developed fully automated CNC machining and assembly solutions which required handling of raw material (bar stock or other), cutting to length, load/unload of one or more machining centers, part marking, dimensional gauging, part washing/deburring, and final assembly.

Lanier begins to explain the concept of information monetization.  Information monetization is something that exists today but is mistakenly understood as something that is free.  Examples are Facebook, Google Search, Amazon.com, Microsoft Windows 10, Apple ITunes, governments, and other organizations that Lanier calls Siren Servers.  Nothing is free.  The price humans pay is information about themselves, their needs, desires, habits, interests, etc.  Every phone call, every web search, every email, every purchase made tells Siren Servers what product they can sell, what price they can sell it at, and how much money, power, and prestige they can accumulate.

Lanier argues that information humans now give for free should be monetized. Every person that produces information that increases another’s money, power, or prestige should be compensated.

Lanier suggests that the concept of Siren Servers should be expanded to include defined populations, common-interest groups, and individuals.  Lanier argues that information humans now give for free should be monetized.  Every person that produces information that increases another’s money, power, or prestige should be compensated.

HUMAN PRODUCTIVITY (Compensation for one’s personal information should be proportionally paid to its originator, based on the quantitative use by others of that information.  It does not eliminate unemployment but it offers a more broadly applicable potential for employment.)

Lanier notes employment continues to be an integral part of living life.  Compensation for one’s personal information should be proportionally paid to its originator, based on the quantitative use by others of that information.  It does not eliminate unemployment but it offers a more broadly applicable potential for employment.  It does not eliminate poverty or extreme wealth, but it offers potential for broadening the middle class.  More significantly, it does not demand the impossible; i.e. a change in human nature.

There is a slippery slope aspect to Lanier’s idea.  The slippery slope is the intrusive requirement of government regulation inherent in any compensation system based on information contribution.  Who decides what information is being used by another, and what should the rate of pay be?  One may argue that amount of compensation is a fault of any economic system but how far down the road of “1984” would a nation go before becoming a creature of totalitarianism?

Pinker does not deny that nature and nurture make us who we are but he argues that balance between genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) is distorted; genetics are under valued and environment is over valued as human nature’s source.

The point is that human nature does not change.  Though Lanier may be absolutely correct in societies’ transition from industrialization to computerization, people remain greedy, power-hungry, and hubristic.  Can democratic capitalism resist totalitarianism in an Information Age?  America’s two most current Presidents (one politically right of center and the other left of center) suggest otherwise.  Also, Lanier’s age of abundance presumes technology will keep pace with human needs, desires, and habits.  Global warming, rare earth monopolies, and population increases suggest otherwise.

“Who Owns the Future” is an insightful view of the modern world.  Unlike those who revile modernity and pine for a return to an idealized past, Lanier offers an alternative.  Lanier strikes one as a Socratic seer of modernity.

Link below is a synopsis of Jaron Lanier’s history. If interested, copy the following IP address and place it in your search engine: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2001/dec/29/games.academicexperts

(Visited 80 time, 1 visit today)

A FUTURE IN THE PAST

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest TroublemakersGumption

Written by: Nick Offerman

Narration by:  Nick Offerman

NICK OFERMAN (AUTHOR, ACTOR,HUMORIST,AND CARPENTER)
NICK OFERMAN (AUTHOR, ACTOR,HUMORIST,AND CARPENTER)

Authors who speak about a future in the past often sound like fingernails on a black board; signifying nothing but noise. Nick Offerman is unquestionably a funny man. Offerman leavens the noise of historical luminaries with modern writers, artists, and musicians who carry some of what is best about America’s past. However, some Offerman’ opinions are fingernail-on-blackboard’ screeches. Offerman infers modern food is poison and craftsmanship is dying because “Corpocracy” has converted human need into human desire

Offerman suggests people like Teddy Roosevelt have gumption because they fight corporate consolidation and greed.  Most rational Americans would probably agree. Modern corporations have undue influence in capitalist economies, but desire drives human nature in proportion to freedom.  Teddy Roosevelt is no slouch in the human desire department considering his indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife to aggrandize his identity as a virile American.  Offerman alludes to that truth but infers that corporations have magnified desire to the point of human extinction.  His evidence is sketchy at best and Luddite driven at worst.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT ELEPHANT HUNT
THEODORE ROOSEVELT ELEPHANT HUNT

To suggest that houses today cannot survive the centuries is a Las Vegas myth.  (Las Vegas implodes buildings because they want to generate excitement; not because older buildings are poorly built.)  Modern houses are built better today than ever in history.  Modern houses better serve the needs and desires of humanity than ever before. How many 300 year old houses have insulated windows, glass walls that open to the outdoors, central heat, or concrete foundations?

BOAT BUILDERSOfferman’s rant about the beauty of boat building, working with one’s hands, and tool design is a disingenuous paean to the wealthy.  Who can spend a million dollars to retrofit a wooden boat that is a hole in the water through which money is poured?  Those craftsmen who work with their hands are serving the wealthy and will continue to exist as long as demand remains.  Freedom is freedom; both to Offerman that has the leisure, time, and fame to promote his book on John Stewart’s show, or to the boat builder that turns a lathe or bends a board for a wealthy client.

Offerman’s complaints about Genetically Modified Organisms fall into the category of vaccines that cause illness.  It is undoubtedly true that GMOs and vaccines that are not produced with care can be harmful but GMOs hold the potential of feeding the world and vaccines have proven their value by eliminating diseases like polio.  Offerman argues that McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants are fattening our bodies and shortening our lives.  Undoubtedly true, but everyone lives; everyone dies—what has changed?  We are living longer now than ever before.  Is the quality of life for Americans worse now than in 1861, 1929, 1941, or 2014–maybe for some but not most?

Offerman is quite right to question equal rights for minorities and women.  The dismal truth is equality of opportunity remains un-achieved.  This is an ageless battle that must continue to be fought, but to infer the present is not better than the past is disingenuous; i.e. a populist appeal without actionable substance.

Finally, Offerman’s frequent negative comments about the computer age obscure the value of widening the world of knowledge.  Without the internet, movements like “Occupy Wall Street” and Global Warming are doomed.  The internet, like invention of radio and television, is revolutionary.  The internet changes the way people see and understand the world but it does not change human nature.  The internet magnifies human nature in both good and bad ways.  One can choose to believe “good” will prevail over “evil” or that the world is spiraling down to hell.  Those who believe in a future think wider dissemination and utilization of knowledge will set humanity free.  Others, like Luddites, or misanthropic minorities wish to destroy the machine and return humanity to the dark ages of an agrarian society.

Offerman’s book gleefully makes fun of modern times but his story suggests he is one lucky white guy who is making a good living in these “terrible times”.  SCENES OF NICK OFFERMAN ON PARKS AND RECREATION SITCOM:

The future is not in the past.  Though many are skeptical, optimists believe the future will be better than the present or past.  Life is a journey; death is the destination.  Think more like Bobby McFerrin than Thomas Malthus or Ned Ludd.

(Visited 31 time, 1 visit today)

DECISION-MAKING

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Art of Critical Decision MakingThe Art of Critical Decision Making

Written by: Michael A. Roberto 

Lecture by: Michael A. Roberto

MICHAEL A. ROBERTO (MBA & DBA FROM HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL, PROFESSOR OF MANAGMENT AT BRYANT UNIVERSITY IN RHODE ISLAND, AUTHOR)
MICHAEL A. ROBERTO (MBA & DBA FROM HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL, PROFESSOR OF MANAGMENT AT BRYANT UNIVERSITY IN RHODE ISLAND, AUTHOR)

In the Great Courses’ lecture series, Dr. Michael Roberto, characterizes leadership in “The Art of Critical Decision Making”.  Roberto’s primary methodology is examination of case studies that range from the Cuban missile crises, to the Daimler/Chrysler merger, to the 9/11/01 Trade Center bombing.  He offers perspective on how good decisions can be made when complexity exceeds average to superior individual human capability.

Roberto’s argument is that a structured participatory process is the most consistently productive form of critical decision-making.  Roberto infers, as the world becomes more complex, individual comprehension and patterning of facts becomes less reliable as a form of critical decision-making.  His argument relies on leadership structure that insists on communication transparency and qualified freedom.  Roberto suggests leaders elicit ideas from engaged people, rather than only experts, in making critical decisions meant to identify problems, proffer solutions, and accomplish goals.

Though questioning individual critical human decision-making, Roberto notes that individual intuition sometimes exceeds the positive performance of any other form of critical decision-making.  Roberto tells the story (revealed by Kahneman’s and Tversky’s  “Thinking Fast and Slow”) of a fireman that intuitively feels his fire crew should evacuate a burning building because something did not seem right.  At the time of the fireman’s decision, he could not explain why but he saved the crew’s lives because the floor gave way immediately after evacuation.  The crew trusted their leader’s experience when he ordered them out of the building.

However, Roberto notes that individual leader’ intuition is not enough for making critical decisions.  Roberto gives the example of a field fire crew chief who intuits that burning flammable grassland around his crew’s area would allow a rapidly approaching field fire to jump their position.  However, this crew chief fails to save the fire crew’s lives.  He did not have their confidence; i.e. the crew chief’s inability to explain his intuitive judgment was undermined by their lack of trust in his judgment as an experienced leader.  They felt they had a better chance of surviving by trying to outrun the fire.  Intuitive decisions made by a leader must be accompanied by trust in the leader’s decision making process.  Returning to Roberto’s primary argument, communication transparency elicits participation and understanding of critical decisions.  If the fire crew chief had been a better communicator before the fire, he may have gained the trust of his colleagues and saved their lives.

However, Roberto notes that transparency is only a part of the process.  It is important for leaders to structure decision-making so that all participants feel un-threatened by reprisal, or ridicule, and are appreciated as engaged participants in the process.  Appreciation is demonstrated by a leader who listens and feeds back the thoughts of participants to ensure communication understanding and clarity.  Another suggested rule is that when the final decision is made in a participatory process, there are to be no further modifications until the decision is found to be inadequate to the task.  Decisions will not always be correct but there is an equal appreciation of mistakes and a process in place to revise the decision.  The critical decision-making process is re-started with the same level of trust and transparency.

Roberto outlines some of the errors that are made by leaders using the participatory decision-making process.  Group think is a risk.

When participants are intimidated by colleagues and fail to participate, they are often saying no by being silent.  With silence, there is no constructive participation in the decision-making process.  Leaders must draw all relevant participants into the conversation.  Leaders must withdraw from some meetings to be sure there is a free flow of information and recommendation.  Further, Roberto suggests leaders must not keep pertinent information from participants to steer decisions to pre-conceived conclusions.  A leader’s steered information undermines intent of the critical decision making process because it either distorts or hides known facts.  The case studies that Roberto uses to prove his points are the Cuban Missile Crises, the Daimler/Chrysler merger, and three space shuttle disasters.

Roberto offers a fundamental insight to modern decision-making.  This is the age of consensus because of ubiquitous availability of big data.

As never before, the potential for accumulation of pertinent information and dissemination of human cognition makes consensus a highly desirable component in “The Art of Critical Decision Making”.  The final case study that infers some credibility to Roberto’s argument is the 9/11 disaster.  The American Intelligence community had good information on the possibility of suicide airplane pilots being used to attack America.  However, a flaw in that revelation is that there was not enough transparency in the Intelligence community before the attack.  The FBI did not effectively communicate with the CIA and vice versa.

Though Roberto acknowledges there is a good deal of “Monday morning quarterbacking” when using case studies, his fundamental point seems correct.  Today’s leaders need to structure their organizations to find problems and create solutions through consensus building.

Leaders need to engage employees whose ideas will be listened to, used, and appreciated rather than abjectly dismissed.  Executives, who are more concerned about position than organizational effectiveness, are not leaders.  They are cowards.

(Visited 12 time, 1 visit today)

DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Audio-book Review

By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital RevolutionThe Innovators

Written by: Walter Isaacson

Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris

WALTER ISAACSON (AUTHOR, NOMINATED FOR PULITZER PRIZE FOR BIOGRAPHY OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY)
WALTER ISAACSON (AUTHOR, NOMINATED FOR PULITZER PRIZE FOR BIOGRAPHY OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY)

Walter Isaacson offers a whirlwind history of the digital revolution in “The Innovators”.  Isaacson raises the question of whether revolutions come from extraordinary leadership of geniuses or societal imperatives.  Tolstoy suggests the former while many biographers infer the latter.  In the end, Isaacson’s history of “The Innovators” places one squarely on the fence.  (Fence-sitting is not Isaacson’s intent, but his argument for collaborative invention discounts geniuses like Isaac Newton and Paul Dirac, who were notorious loners.)  At times, one concludes geniuses are the prime movers of the digital revolution but listening to Isaacson’s explanation of the contributions of an Ada Lovelace, William Shockley, or Andy Grove (among others), suggests genius is subordinate to societal imperatives.

ADA LOVELACE (DAUGHTER OF LORD BYRON, A MATHMATICAL PIONEER AND NINETEENTH CENTURY BELIEVER AND SUPPORTER OF PROGRAMABLE ANALYTICAL ENGINES)
ADA LOVELACE (DAUGHTER OF LORD BYRON, A MATHMATICAL PIONEER AND NINETEENTH CENTURY BELIEVER AND SUPPORTER OF PROGRAMABLE ANALYTICAL ENGINES)
WILLIAM SHOCKLEY (1910-1989, AMERICAN PHYSICIST & CO-INVENTOR, WITH JOHN BARDEEN AND WALTER BRATTAIN, OF THE TRANSISTOR.)
WILLIAM SHOCKLEY (1910-1989, AMERICAN PHYSICIST & CO-INVENTOR, WITH JOHN BARDEEN AND WALTER BRATTAIN, OF THE TRANSISTOR.)

Ada Lovelace, William Shockley, and Andy Grove are classified by Isaacson as intelligent but not geniuses like Newton, Maxwell, or Einstein.  Isaacson explains that Lovelace is an early financial supporter of Charles Babbage, the acknowledged inventor of the first programmable machine called the “Difference Engine”.  William Shockley is characterized as an ambitious, intelligent, and growingly paranoid, physicist who co-invented the transistor that replaced vacuum tubes.

Transistors dramatically accelerated the speed of early computers but the break-through, according to Isaacson, was actually made by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain.

(All three are eventually awarded a Nobel Prize for the transistor.) Isaacson explains that Shockley refined the Bardeen/Brattain transistor concept; not as an inventor but as an innovator.  Shockley is also famously associated with an unfounded belief in the innate inferiority of Blacks.  Shockley eventually disappears from Silicon Valley.  Shockley is reputed to be a martinet that becomes increasingly paranoid.  He loses key personnel that start a new company; a company eventually known as Intel.

ANDREW GROVE (HUNGARIAN-BORN AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN, ENGINEER, & AUTHOR)
ANDREW GROVE (HUNGARIAN-BORN AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN, ENGINEER, & AUTHOR)

Andy Grove became the CEO of Intel.  Grove, though educated as an engineer, provided management rather than creative invention for Intel.  Isaacson suggests that Intel needed a focused business manager because the founders, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, needed oversight to capitalize on their flatly organized creative teams that innovated and invented computer chips.

BILL GATES (AMERICAN BUSINESS MAGNATE, PHILANTHROPIST, INVESTOR, PROGRAMER, INVENTOR)
BILL GATES (AMERICAN BUSINESS MAGNATE, PHILANTHROPIST, INVESTOR, PROGRAMER, INVENTOR)
PAUL GARDNER ALLEN (AMERICAN PHILANTHROPIST, INVESTOR, INNOVATOR, CO-FOUNDER OF MICROSOFT)
PAUL GARDNER ALLEN (AMERICAN PHILANTHROPIST, INVESTOR, INNOVATOR, CO-FOUNDER OF MICROSOFT)

Coming into the modern age, Isaacson profiles Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs.  Gates is characterized as a driven wunderkind.  Isaacson infers Gates’ father, who is a lawyer, plays an important part in the formation of Microsoft.  One may draw that conclusion from the amount of time Gates uses to contractually define his business relationship with Paul Allen.

Allen appears almost like a silent partner that goes along to get along.  Allen’s partnership split is reduced to 36% in two Gate’s demands; i.e. the first for a 60/40 contract and later 64/36.   Allen’s presumption is that an ownership’ split would be 50/50 but Gates bluntly disagrees.  Isaacson writes that Gates’ argument is that he is the principal inventor and actor in the partnership and should receive a larger share of the business.

STEPHEN WOZNIAK (AMERICAN INVENTOR, CO-FOUNDER OF APPLE COMPUTER)
STEPHEN WOZNIAK (AMERICAN INVENTOR, CO-FOUNDER OF APPLE COMPUTER)
STEVE JOBS (1955-2011)
STEVE JOBS (1955-2011, CO-FOUNDER & CEO OF APPLE COMPUTER)

The Wozniak/Jobs partnership is characterized somewhat differently. Isaacson shows Wozniak is the primary inventor of the first Apple Computer while Jobs is characterized as an idea man with business acumen and extraordinary sales ability.  (This partnership characterization of Apple is a likely reason some current and former Apple employees object to Isaacson’s earlier biography of Jobs.)  Jobs forcefully demands a 50/50 split with Wozniak, even though Wozniak is the inventor of the original Apple computer.

In the Gates/Allen relationship, Isaacson infers Gates is both an inventor and super salesman, while Allen is an innovator.  Gates argues his role warrants a larger piece of the business.  Isaacson suggests Allen is important to the relationship as a mature representative of Microsoft but is less of a salesman and inventor than Gates.  Isaacson also notes both Wozniak and Allen are more introverted and less demanding than either Jobs or Gates; i.e. Wozniak’s and Allen’s personalities are more inclined to go along to get along.

The interesting thing about Isaacson’s history is not the revolution but the evolution inferred by growth of computers, programming, and the internet.  Isaacson goes on to explain the inter-connectivity innovations of the internet, from the idea of a world-wide-web to AOL.  Knowledge of the world today is at our fingertips with SEO innovations that categorize, list, and disseminate information at the click of a mouse.  Knowledge tomorrow may be a direct interface between the brain and artificial intelligence.  The future may not require a CPU, microchip, or mouse because the world’s information will be implanted as a part of human DNA.

This is no guarantee for a better life because improved access to knowledge can be used for harm as well as benefit.  The psychological imbalance of someone like William Shockley and his demented racial beliefs are potentially magnified by an improved interface between a human brain and artificial intelligence. Just because knowledge is available does not change human nature.  Human beings are still subject to the seven deadly sins.  Minds tend to seek knowledge that confirms both true and false beliefs, rather than objective truths.

On the other hand, digital evolution opens the potential for a wide level of consensus building, greater than ever seen in history.  The advent of the internet provides knowledge that has never been so widely and easily accessible.  Before the first picture of the planet from outer space, who would have thought of earth as a space ship with an environment that could be destroyed by humankind?  Some believe movements like “Occupy Wall Street” are inchoate and unorganized but others suggest it is a movement seeking to change people’s minds; to gain consensus.

Isaacson may be wrong in his assessment of “The Innovators” in the history of digitization but quite right about its revolutionary categorization.  This is an enjoyable and informative audio book, well worth listening to, or reading.

(Visited 39 time, 1 visit today)

PRESENT SHOCK

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Present Shock: When Everything Happens NowPresent Shock

Written by: Douglas Rushkoff

Narrated by: Kevin Collins

Present Shock discounts the past and the future; i.e. this moment, the now, is the paradigm of individual’ knowledge and belief.  Everything is in the moment.  Douglass Rushkoff compels one to believe that the model of what is important in the world has changed.  History and the future have become irrelevant.

Part of Rushkoff’s insight is based on the advent of the computer and how it affects education.  Because history is at American’ fingertips, memory is not used to remember the past because the past is always present at the click of a mouse.  Memory is only used to describe the present in real-time language, naturally acquired and innately available.  The use of the brain becomes more focused on patterns of events in the now rather than relationship to a past or projection into a future.  Past and future melt into the present. Rushkoff names the phenomena Present Shock. When something happens, it is already past; history is irrelevant.  The future takes care of itself by becoming today.  All time is compressed into now.  Everything is everything because the mind conflates events of now as a construct of a mind-patterned reality, the only perceived reality.

Rushkoff offers examples of Present Shock in the way books are written, television stories told, and movies made.  Many modern books are being written without regard to the convention of beginning, middle, and end.  Beginnings have no regard for linear time; i.e. today’s written story may begin at a beginning, an end, or middle.  Beginnings, middles, and ends are merely scenes of now. Additionally, Rushkoff notes, endings do not wrap things up.  Endings reveal everything is everything as the reader’s mind constructs its own understanding of the completed book, TV episode, or movie.

Television stories may begin at an end; like a CSI murder that reveals the murderer and continues with scenes about how the murder is done.  When the episode is ended, the watcher changes the channel to find more everything about everything in the next episode of COPS or some other reality based TV program.  Movies like “Pulp Fiction” have no beginning they are also outside linear time.  At the end, “Pulp Fiction” lets the watcher decide.  The watcher views each scene as a reveal of everything about everything.  The sequence of events is patterned by the imagination of the watcher.

Rushkoff suggests download speed, cell phone pictures, and the internet are the focus of today’s society because of the compulsion to know what is happening now.  Society’s primary focus is on the present.  Human brains are being rewired.  The value of the past and future is diminished.  The present becomes all that counts.  The internet is like a fifth dimension that creates time that did not exist before; i.e. with a mouse’ click, details of the universe become instantly available.

The threat of this newly created time is that information may be wrong, misleading, or too immense for human understanding.  The human brain’s natural habit is to look for meaning by patterning which is enhanced by technology in “Spark Notes” like formats that give the sense of a story but not the whole story. The whole story takes too much “now” time.  Condensed information to get the gist of a story is all society demands.  Twitter, Snap Chat, and Youtube replace books, newspapers, and national television news.

The terror of modern time is that humans will become passengers rather than drivers in a digital age.  Computers will begin to program themselves.  One may infer that humans, who do not understand the reality of Present Shock, are vulnerable passengers in a plane programmed to have no destination.  The plane will run out of fuel and inevitably crash.

Rushkoff believes civilization’s crash is unlikely because computer coding begins and ends with human programming.

Some scientists, like Ray Kurzweil, agree but suggest brains will evolve into a combination of programmed A.I. (artificial intelligence) and human intelligence.  Others believe human life is destined to disappear or transition into some other reality through a singularity, like a new big bang.  Still others believe biblical Armageddon is nigh.

Rushkoff optimistically believes the internet will build consensus and open society to a truth that will widen human understanding and cooperation.  He argues that it is important for today’s society to broaden its concept of time to include a future.  Rushkoff suggests this is happening.  He offers as evidence social movements like Occupy Wall Street that are presently misunderstood as a public outcry against the 1% and  private enterprise rather than a forum for public discussion.  Rushkoff believes Occupy Wall Street is a digitally enhanced effort to achieve consensus on maladies and cures for governments and economies.

Rushkoff suggests Occupy Wall Street is not a takeover organization with zero-sum objectives but a consensus building organization to change social dysfunction.  He feels consensus-building by Occupy Wall Street protesters is falsely believed to have a leadership void.  Rushkoff argues it appears as leaderless because Occupy Wall Street is based on building consensus not dictating change.  Rushkoff infers Occupy Wall Street is a modern reform movement that will gather steam as it grows with the evolution of the digital age.  That same argument is made about human response to global warming; in the sense that a consensus will coalesce as the digital age matures.

Rushkoff opines loss of interest in understanding the past and future by noting that writing a book is unlikely to be read by many. It does not have immediacy, immediacy demanded by the click generation. As Alexander Pope, an 18th century poet, said, “Hope springs eternal…” Here is a book review that hopes Rushkoff is right; that the click generation will widen its field of vision to include a future; despite the obtuse twitters of an ill-educated American President. Ironically, Rushkoff’s and Pope’s hope is based on a matter of time.

(Visited 22 time, 1 visit today)