Automation Makes Us Dumb Reply

Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals. Luci Gutiérrez

Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals. Luci Gutiérrez

Human intelligence is withering as computers do more, but there’s a solution.

By Nicholas Carr , Wall Street Journal

Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.

It has been a slow process. The first wave of automation rolled through U.S. industry after World War II, when manufacturers began installing electronically controlled equipment in their plants. The new machines made factories more efficient and companies more profitable. They were also heralded as emancipators. By relieving factory hands of routine chores, they would do more than boost productivity. They would elevate laborers, giving them more invigorating jobs and more valuable talents. The new technology would be ennobling.

Then, in the 1950s, a Harvard Business School professor named James Bright went into the field to study automation’s actual effects on a variety of industries, from heavy manufacturing to oil refining to bread baking. Factory conditions, he discovered, were anything but uplifting. More often than not, the new machines were leaving workers with drabber, less demanding jobs. An automated milling machine, for example, didn’t transform the metalworker into a more creative artisan; it turned him into a pusher of buttons.

Bright concluded that the overriding effect of automation was (in the jargon of labor economists) to “de-skill” workers rather than to “up-skill” them. “The lesson should be increasingly clear,” he wrote in 1966. “Highly complex equipment” did not require “skilled operators. The ‘skill’ can be built into the machine.”

We are learning that lesson again today on a much broader scale. As software has become capable of analysis and decision-making, automation has leapt out of the factory and into the white-collar world. Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals: Pilots rely on computers to fly planes; doctors consult them in diagnosing ailments; architects use them to design buildings. Automation’s new wave is hitting just about everyone.

Essay continues here:  Automation Makes Us Dumb

 

 

 

 

Create A “Go To Hell” Plan to Help Survive Your Next Crisis Reply

PlanningBy Chris Simmons

From my earliest days in the military, I was taught to always have a plan. It made sense. After all, if something is worth the investment of your precious resources (i.e., time, talents, and treasures), it merits a well thought-out roadmap to success.

But it didn’t stop there. “Your adversary has a vote” we were told, or more emphatically – “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” To offset our foe’s “vote,” we needed to create a “Plan B” (also known as a “back-up” or “alternative plan”). The purpose of Plan B was to have a viable option when the unexpected occurred.

Then they forced us to develop a contingency for when the seemingly unimaginable occurred. This contingency, known throughout the military as a “Go To Hell” plan, forced us to consider and plan for nightmare scenarios. Saddam Hussein got schooled in this concept a week into the 2003 invasion of Iraq when, with all his military forces fighting in the south, a brigade of US paratroopers unexpectedly jumped into northern Iraq. He lost control of the entire northern third of the nation immediately.

Note to self — luck and hope are not planning factors.

We enhanced the value of our plans by role playing through all three scenarios: the most likely, the supposedly less likely, and then the improbable. The mere act of visualizing the “what ifs” better prepared us for a range of situations, not just the ideal one. This de facto rehearsal also had a calming effect. When we needed to jump from Plan “A” to Plan “B” (or worse), we already knew the key planning issues: who, what, when, where, why, and how. This familiarity bred confidence and reduced stress.

That said, we always kept in mind that our personal experiences and biases skewed what we considered to be possible and probable. We knew we could still misread our adversary. This awareness helped reduce the impact of the shock anytime we were surprised.

Finally, a plan need not be perfect. A good plan well executed now is infinitely better than the perfect plan too late.

I quickly grasped that this planning methodology wasn’t just for the military. It is applicable and relevant to everyone’s personal and professional lives as well. Job relocations, births, deaths, accidents, illnesses, promotions, marriages, divorces, financial ups & downs….the list is endless. Life is unpredictable and demanding. Planning adds clarity and reduces anxiety. Life happens, be ready for it.

Controversy Over Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study Grows Reply

FBControversy Over Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study Grows As Timeline Becomes More Clear

Gregory S. McNeal, Forbes

In a controversial study Facebook reported the results of a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users.  The authors were able to conduct the research because in their words, automated testing “was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.

Most of us who covered the story relied on that statement from the academic journal for evidence of Facebook’s efforts to gain informed consent.  Well, it turns out that was wrong.

My colleague Kashmir Hill just reported that Facebook conducted their news feed manipulation four months before the term “research” was added to their data use policy, she writes:

However, we were all relying on what Facebook’s data policy says now. In January 2012, the policy did not say anything about users potentially being guinea pigs made to have a crappy day for science, nor that “research” is something that might happen on the platform.

Four months after this study happened, in May 2012, Facebook made changes to its data use policy, and that’s when it introduced this line about how it might use your information: “For internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” Facebook helpfully posted a “red-line” version of the new policy, contrasting it with the prior version from September 2011— which did not mention anything about user information being used in “research.”

Kashmir’s story is worth reading in full, along with her earlier piece that digs deeper into the ethical and institutional review board issues, including a statement from Cornell “saying its IRB passed on reviewing the study because the part involving actual humans was done by Facebook not by the Cornell researcher involved in the study.”

Facebook seems nonplussed, releasing a statement saying ”To suggest we conducted any corporate research without permission is complete fiction. Companies that want to improve their services use the information their customers provide, whether or not their privacy policy uses the word ‘research’ or not.”

As Dan Solove points out in a recent LinkedIn Influencer post:

The problem with obtaining consent in this way is that people often rarely read the privacy policies or terms of use of a website. It is a pure fiction that a person really “agrees” with a policy such as this, yet we use this fiction all the time…

Article continues here:  Facebook Manipulation

How Body Language and Micro Expressions Predict Success – Patryk & Kasia Wezowski Reply

Non-verbal communication can predict anybody’s success or failure. Research of Patryk & Kasia Wezowski has proven that decoding somebody’s “Body Language Code™” can predict the outcome of presidential elections or your inborn potential to have an advantage in negotiations. Knowing how to read “micro expressions” is probably the most effective way to connect more with people and the most crucial skill to prevent the increasing social autism caused by today’s technological innovations.

The Three Steps Maximizing Your Collaboration Skills Reply

CollaborationAs a leader you should be consistently improving how you collaborate.

by Thuy Sindell, Ph.D. and Milo Sindell, M.S. in The End of Work As You Know It

Unless you live and work alone in a cave, it is almost certain that you have work relationships that involve some level of collaboration.  Collaboration is vital not just for getting work done as efficiently as possible; it is also critical for optimum workplace satisfaction, because true collaboration increases an individual’s morale, sense of accomplishment, and identity within their team and company. As a leader or an aspiring one, you should be consistently reflecting on how you collaborate and seeking opportunities to raise your “collaboration game.”  Not only will being a strong collaborator raise your productivity and job satisfaction, it will reinforce to others that you are a leader.

Every day, without thinking about it, you head to work and spend the day interacting in a number of collaborative relationships. You might collaborate with your closest team member, your supervisor, someone in another department, or maybe someone in a satellite or overseas office. When collaboration is easy, the process flows effortlessly. You explore ideas and approaches to the current project or task, go back and forth over how to get it done, divide duties according to individual skills, and move forward to complete the job. Sometimes, however, you wish it would be this easy. Occasionally, things just don’t click with the other person, despite a mutual desire to be successful. 

1. Start with a strong foundation

But why are some relationships easy and fluid while others feel like an uphill battle? In any human interaction, there is a host of things of things going on that can influence the outcome. In order to maximize effective workplace collaborative relationships, they must have the following:

  • Clear objectives
  • Clear roles
  • Trust that each party will fulfill what they have agreed to do
  • Communication that is open and timely

2. Optimize and refine

Fine-tuning your collaboration skills begins with assessing all of your existing collaborative relationships.

  • First, confirm the people with whom you have strong relationships. Think about the personality traits you and the other person share that enable you to work so well together.
  • Next, think about the complimentary skills the two of you share and how they mesh together.
  • Finally, ask what enables strong ongoing collaboration to take place.

Feature continues here:  The Three Steps

“Must Reads” From The Latest Issue of Psychology Today Reply

TodayBy Chris Simmons

Of all the magazines I read/scan, Psychology Today is one of the few I strongly endorse. More specifically, I encourage you to buy it hardcopy, as the digital edition is only fully populated well after the print magazine hits the streets. Since it’s a bimonthly publication, this means print subscribers have the content up to 60 days before the complete digital version appears. Coincidently, this generally coincides with the release date of the next print issue.

For those I’ve inspired to purchase the May/June edition of Psychology Today, the four features you cannot afford to miss are:

A Perfect Devil:  Successful psychopaths have our ear, but it’s the unsuccessful psychopaths who may hold the keys to this devastating disorder.  – Kaja Perina

Now It’s Personal:  Arguments are harder to resolve when values are on the line. – Matt Huston

Love, Factually:  (offers suggestions based on “research-based [marriage] vows that actually help couples keep their promises to one another”) – not sourced

Build a Better PSA:  The science of persuasion can help us make healthier choices. – Deepa Lakshmin

Disclaimer: I recommend Psychology Today because I believe in the product. I have no personal or professional ties with the publisher in any form.

If You Pay Your Employees Equally, You’re Not Being Fair to Any of Them Reply

Hauling-logsBy Eric Chester, Business 2 Community 

The Sawmill:

Jake and Justin, twin brothers who were 23 years old, worked for a large sawmill not far from where they grew up.

Their father was aware that even though both sons had essentially the same job title and duties, Justin was paid significantly more than Jake. Curious as to why, the father sought out the owner and asked him about the variance. In response, the owner invited this father to drop by his mill and casually observe the activities.

A few days later, the father showed up at the mill. The owner picked up the phone and called Jake into his office. He said to him, “There’s a trucker from Portland at the gate with some logs he wants to sell us. Go find out what he’s got.” Within fifteen minutes, Jake returned and said, “I checked out the load and it looks like he’s carrying about 40 to 50 large logs, mostly pine, and all appear to be in pretty good shape.” The owner thanked Jake and dismissed him from his office.

He then summoned Justin and made the same request. “There’s a trucker from Portland at the gate with some logs he wants to sell us. Go find out what he’s got.” A half hour later, Justin came back and said, “I counted 38 pines; most are about 20 feet and are in really good condition. There are also 11 aspens which are slightly shorter, and all but 3 are in pristine condition. He wants $1,000 for the whole load. Sam McHenry was down here twice last week looking for aspen for this large furniture project he’s working on, so I called him and asked if he’s still in the market for aspen. He told me he’d take the eight good aspen off our hands and offered $150 for each. If we accept his offer, we’ll make all our money back plus 20% and the 38 pine will be pure profit.” The owner told Justin to sell the aspen to McHenry, then thanked him and sent him on his way.

He then looked at the father. “If this were your mill, would you pay those two employees the same amount?”

“Absolutely not,” the father said. “Though equal, it certainly wouldn’t be fair.”

(The Sawmill is a parable by Eric Chester.)

ON POINT – Compensating employees using time spent on-the-job as the sole metric (hourly wage, monthly salary, etc.) may be simple to calculate, but it does little to engage employees and incentivize top performance. The most effective compensation methods are those where employees are paid in direct proportion to the value they bring to their organization. This is not simple or easy, but it is a prerequisite to building a great workplace culture and being recognized as an employer of choice.

Exploiting Human Frailty: Is This Russia’s Plan For Destroying the Ukraine? Reply

Flag of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU)

Flag of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU)

By Chris Simmons

Over the last several weeks, “pro-Russian” forces – presumably including disguised Russian government personnel – have seized numerous Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) buildings.

But what is their goal?  Why would they attack Kiev’s intelligence service?  A display of strength? Perhaps. Seizing weapons? Undoubtedly, but as a lesser mission. I suspect that perhaps Moscow seeks to indirectly defeat the Ukraine by obliterating its primary spy service.

In capturing these facilities, the masked Russian personnel and their allies now presumably have the personnel and security files of SSU personnel, as well as family photos, contact information, etc. Additionally, the Russian “separatists” have already shown their propensity for anonymity (i.e., “unmarked uniforms, masks, etc). Such secrecy helps create a baseline of fear. As tensions escalate, the environment becomes ripe for terror attacks.

Students of irregular warfare (previously called “guerrilla warfare”) know insurgents maximize their strength and minimize their risks by attacking where an enemy is weak or vulnerable. Another tenet of this type of warfare is the adage, “Kill one, terrorize a thousand.”

Moscow does not want to engage the SSU directly – and now it doesn’t have to. It can incite panic by unleashing a reign of terror against the families of SSU officers. Such an effort could be as simple as kidnapping the loved ones of a few of its personnel. Russia would follow these acts with a well choreographed media campaign to convince the 4000 SSU members that their families are next. Bear in mind that to be effective, a terror threat need not be real — but merely perceived as credible.

People will always follow the 1st Rule of Human Natureself interest.  If Moscow successfully creates an environment of fear so pervasive that SSU members are forced to choose between their families and their nation – the Ukraine is doomed.

Manipulated: The Rise of Behavioral Finance Reply

bloombergtechfinal0413

By Ben Steverman, Washington Post

It’s hard to find a place today where concepts of behavioral finance aren’t being applied to real-world situations. From London to Washington to Sydney, governments are experimenting with the psychology of decision-making and trying to “nudge” citizens toward better behaviors, whether that means saving more for retirement or signing an organ donation card. Meanwhile, businesses see opportunities for higher profits. To grab more attention and dollars from consumers, companies as far afield as banks and fitness-app makers carefully design their offerings with consumers’ decision-making quirks in mind.

Many behavioral interventions work, whether at reducing litter and power use or boosting savings rates. Yet these successes aren’t the whole story. Even after rigorous experimentation and data analysis, the best-intentioned nudges can fall flat or backfire. Some may be behavioral bandages that don’t address deeper structural problems such as stagnating wages. Nevertheless, consumers have jumped on the bandwagon, eager to be manipulated into the best version of themselves, and businesses are rushing to meet the demand.

Where many people need the biggest nudge, if not a shove, is with making financial decisions. The effect of emotion on investment decisions is usually negative — good old fear and greed, as well as paralysis from being overwhelmed by choice. At the same time, even if someone wants to build an emergency fund or open an IRA, bad spending and saving habits are hard to break. To help users follow through on good intentions, a raft of financial apps and online investing Web sites use a mix of encouragement, nagging, incentives and design.

The biggest problem that businesses — and governments — must solve is one that rarely comes up in a behavioral psych lab: how to get people’s attention in a world filled with more distractions by the day. An app or any tool designed to spur your self-improvement must battle the demands of work and family as well as the delights of the Internet and the 50 other apps on your phone. So when it comes to investing, “most people are asleep at the wheel,” says Mike Sha, co-founder and chief executive officer of SigFig, an online investment manager.

This is where Silicon Valley’s skills come in handy. Adam Nash, chief executive of online investment manager Wealthfront, which attracted more than $800 million in assets in two years, notes that many of his employees once helped design social software like Facebook. They know, he says, “how to design systems that trigger emotional responses.”

You know what Nash means if you’ve ever unintentionally wasted hours crushing virtual candies, scrolling through your Facebook timeline or catapulting angry birds. The digital world is built to be addictive — continually satisfying you in just the right way to keep you clicking, playing or posting.

By living on mobile devices and using some of these digital techniques, apps can grab your attention in real time. The app Check uses alerts, timed for when they would be most effective, to make sure users pay their bills on time. Investment sites including Betterment and Wealthfront make investing as automatic as possible, while reducing distractions that might get users trading too much — so no charts of the day’s stock market moves show up on their Web sites.

Article continues here:  Manipulated: The Rise of Behavioral Finance

The Science Behind “Self-Fulfilling Prophesies” 1

By Chris Simmons

It goes without saying that how one person treats another determines how that individual performs. What is not so well understood, especially by bosses and parents, is the legitimate science behind this occurrence.

An individual’s performance goes up or down, in large part, based upon the expectations levied against him/her. When high expectations are placed on a person, he/she will perform better. This phenomenon is called the Pygalion or Rosenthal Effect.

At the other extreme is the Golem Effect, which occurs when decreased performance results from low expectations.

The Rosenthal Effect takes its name from a study on student performance, while the Pygalion reference is taken from an ancient Greek legend. In the Rosenthal-Jacobson research, elementary school students were given a disguised IQ test. Twenty percent of the schoolchild were then randomly chosen — and for experiment purposes — identified as “peak performers.” The names of these purportedly high-potential students were then shared with the teachers. During the course of their study, all the schoolchildren advanced academically. However, the falsely labeled “peak performers” universally exceeded all expectations and past achievements.

Part of this phenomenon derives from how we make decisions. The 1st Rule of Human Nature, Self-Interest Trumps Best Interest,” captures the core principle that all decisions are based on emotion, not logic or reason. Furthermore, since Self-Interest is strongly tied to  Identity and Self-Image, the positive reinforcement that comes from high expectations triggers internal motivators that drive one towards the identified goal. Additional research has discovered that these affirmations and positive social interactions prompt a favorable chemical response in the body. This “endorphin rush” makes you feel better (and happier), which legitimately amps up one’s performance and emotions.

Ultimately, the increased performance by the employee/child also alters the behavior of the boss/parent. The leader will invest more time, attention and effort in their protégé, further incentivizing and sustaining the increased performance.

Taken in their totality, these actions create a self-sustaining feedback loop of positive emotions and in short order, this repetition creates a highly rewarding self-fulfilling prophecy. Sadly, the inverse is equally true. As Calvin Lloyd noted, “Nobody rises to low expectations,” succinctly highlighting the crippling impact of negative feedback and the Golem Effect.