David Brooks plugs my friend Richard Ogle’s book, Smart World, and reflects on the changes in the world’s economies. I wish he had gone from physics to biology in the last, but one can cannot expect all one’s wishes to come true….
Op-Ed Columnist – The Protocol Society – NYTimes.com.
The pilots “forgot” that they were flying the airplane!
I saw that this had happened a short while ago. William Saletan has asked good questions about what happened here.
This inevitability was anticipated by an early joke of the computer era, about the world’s first fully automated flight, in which a the computer-generated recording announced, more or less, “Welcome to the world’s first computer-managed flight. You will enjoy a new world of comfort, conveniences, speed and safety on this flight. … Sit back and relax. Nothing can go wrong…can go wrong…can go wrong.”
The joke got the danger wrong. The problem is not malfunctioning computers. Nor is the problem malfunctioning people. People “malfunction” as an essential feature of our existential design, and our machines malfunction because we, imperfect and blind to our functioning, are their designers. On the other hand, our “malfunctioning” is the ground in which our freedoms are born, including what we call free will. Without malfunctioning, we have no invention, no new possibilities.
The danger is that the kind of beings we are is being redesigned by the tools and the world we have invented, and we are not observing what is happening.
This is an example of why I spoke so strongly against the metaphoric background that Jill Bolte Taylor spoke from in her poetic and inspiring TED Talk. When we are in the business of inventing what it is to be human and human futures, we should take care about what we are inventing.
Following the line of another joke, we should be careful that we do not end up where we are headed.
Tell me what you think.
For a decade or so I have been saying terrible things about our automobile companies, and for a couple of years I have been saying them here. (Bullshitting in the Economist is a suitably provocative example. You can search the blog for automobile, Toyota, or Detroit and you’ll get a bunch more.)
Now Toyota is about to pass GM as the #1 auto company in the world. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are not catching up. They are headed in the other direction. Yes, I know the same old excuses are still on the table, to which now we see added “this unexpected economic turnaround.” “Who could possibly have predicted….?” Anyone who was paying attention. Many are culpable. The auto executives, who stopped thinking and learning a long time ago. The media, who have been buying the excuses. The rest of us, who have not spoken out early enough or strongly enough. Our American style of bravado, in which, Rocky style, we praise what is “ours” no matter how obviously troubled it may be.
Business Week, in a December article about the world’s most influential companies, doesn’t spend much space on their automobiles. They tout the way that the quality of thinking in the company is being applied to other fields. Healthcare in this case. (Anne Miller gave me the article.)
Toyota deserves the praise it is getting. What a pity that with 50 years to listen to them – and they have been talking to us for that long, and they have not been hiding their secrets under baskets – we still don’t know how to listen to them.
My friend Fernando Flores (see here, here, and here, and, for readers of Spanish or those who know how to get a web page translated, see here) briefed me last week about his new venture. I asked him to send me something in writing about what he is doing, and I reprint below substantially all of what he sent me. I recommend you read his invitation and consider it carefully.
As we discussed, I am in the process of starting a new enterprise that takes the work that we have done together in the past to the “next frontier” if you will, by putting it in the center of what people need to cope and thrive in the reality of our world today.
Lavinia Weissman showed me this interview with the Google CEO on “Google’s view on the future of business,” executed and presented by McKinsey & Co. Get it here. Click on “Launch Interactive” just under the drawing of Eric Schmidt. Be patient. It takes time to load. See if you can figure out how to listen to it. Move your cursor around on the page, and click on the little arrows to listen to the different parts of the interview.
Schmidt talks about:
- Changing competition
- The “long tail”
- Making money
- Evolving management
- The nature of innovation
- Strategic platforms and global standards
I find what he has to say lucid, elegant, concise, and very worthwhile. Pay particular attention to his comments on evolving management.
See what you think.
A version of my essay on difficulties with design was published last week by the Association for Computing Machinery in their journal, Ubiquity. Ubiquity, in the words of the ACM, ‘is a Web-based publication of the Association for Computing Machinery, dedicated to fostering critical analysis and in-depth commentary on issues relating to the nature, constitution, structure, science, engineering, cognition, technology, practices and paradigms of the computing profession. Ubiquity is concerned with helping us see what we do not see. Ubiquity looks for novel perspectives on what is going on in the core of our field. Ubiquity looks also to the edges of our field and beyond, seeking the perspectives of those in other fields who are impacted by computing. We need to know about what they think.’
I am honored and pleased to see this essay published by the ACM, and invite your reading and comments.
You can see the ACM’s announcement of the essay here, and the essay itself is published here.
Thanks to Peter Denning for making this possible.