There is a great TED talk from Noreena Hertz that looks at how we need to use experts differently
– On TED or on Youtube
The thing I will take away from her talk was the idea of “managed dissent”. This is a wonderful way of saying that it is ok to disagree, or seek further clarification, even when both parties are not on an equal footing in terms of subject knowledge.
The team over at I Love Charts put a graphic on their site today which would make a wonderful companion graphic for how to ensure the dissent is being managed…even given its lowest common denominator style.
I wonder if having meaningful conversation where there are opposing points of view being put forward, which are being listened to and properly considered is too much to ask of the world…
“The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but hold hands.” – Anonymous
The Living Earth Simulator has been touted by some as an impossibly big project, like trying to “boil the ocean”.
In short, the Simulator is an attempt to model all of the world’s dynamic systems all at once to uncover the hidden interactions (think oceans, rainforests, deserts, ice caps, plus the human actions).
It occurred to me as I read the story that I haven’t heard the “boil the ocean” phrase used for a while. Given I do read things which talk about what are truly ambitious projects that seemed quite odd to me. Maybe it’s a phrase which is falling out of use – but the Google Ngram book analysis says otherwise. Thinking really hard about it, you might put it down to either/both:
– People today are less likely to suggest something is impossible,
– There is actually less that is impossible in today’s world,
One of my most favourite TED talks by Kevin Kelly (from Dec2007, so everything he says seems REALLY obvious) is about the first 5,000 days of the internet and what the next 5,000 might bring, and one of my most favourite lines from his presentation:
“We have to get better at believing in the impossible”
He used Wikipedia (which turns 10 on Saturday – yes years) as one example is his talk. Imagine you are going to create a platform and leave it up to other people to freely volunteer their time to fill that platform with useful information. Do you think that will work? Would you have thought it would work 10 years ago?
I think the solutions to make things happen are coming so thick and fast that you are better off not worrying about them. When talking to people about particularly challenging things I will often say something like… “Don’t worry about how. Just worry about where you want to go, and hopefully someone will have sorted out the how by the time we know where.” Admittedly I am usually talking about building some sort of business intelligence tool/ dashboard reporting thing, not travelling into deep space or declaring world peace, but you get the idea.
After all a 10 yr old girl can discover a supernova.
And early on the year, the afterglow of a new year’s resolution still upon you, is just the time to be thinking about what really is possible.
“You can have anything you want if you will give up the belief that you can’t have it.” – Dr Robert Anthony
If you know anything about DARPA then driverless cars is not a surprise to you. Trying to get a car to do the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb at speed (like Audi is going to do) or negotiate a full on urban situation (like Google is going to do) is quite a step further. The Audi thing is more like a “because it’s there” kind of challenge, but the Google version is about doing good in the world and reducing the road toll (something we obsess over in Australia (in comparison to deaths per capita shown here or here). IDEO think we need a better set of controls to make driving a car easier for us to help that, but we haven’t done that well with remote controls so far.
So why are there problems like this in the world? Maybe we are phoning it in or just going through the motions? Maybe there is something repressing about general company culture? Maybe we are scared at the high price of being brave and doing the things we must, and how that will look? Or maybe we are being held back by an unconscious sense of familiarity? Maybe we need a better challenge – after all, it is certainly possible for to make the sun shine in the dark.
I hope I have the energy to strive for above average when it matters – even when it seems like it doesn’t.
PS. ”The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” – Benjamin Mays
I posted out via Twitter the other day a TED talk by Steven Johnson “where great ideas come from”. (Same video at YouTube).
The guts of this one are fairly simple – Eureka moments aren’t really the way we come up with anything. It’s actually more like a slow hunch and assisted by our liquid networks. Ideas take time to form, and often we will benefit from connecting with other ideas to help us solve them (even though they are distracting).
The example he uses in the longer version of how Sputnik helped created a key element of control of nuclear submarines in the cold war which helped create GPS systems that we now all take for granted, as well as his story of Darwin’s theory of evolution are both compelling.
As a 20 minute TED talk its good, but if you can’t be bothered listening for that long, then maybe you will like this 4 min animated annotated version that is also floating around – plus it will help you connect with other ideas in the 16 minutes you have saved.
I just love that I now have a really good excuse for why I am looking at my long and strange RSS reading list when I am trying to solve a problem I don’t have a ready answer for.
PS. “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’, but ‘That’s funny …’” – Isaac Asimov
Depending on how jaded/ cynical/ sci-fi-orientated/ hopeful you are, you might answer:
– No. Complete fantasy.
– I wish. Complete fantasy!!
– Yes. But they will be completely messed up (ie. Watchmen, Heroes).
– Sure. Billionaire anonymous philanthropy is so in.
Of course you could have an answer that says we can all be heroes, if only we can be that person with the courage to do the right thing when the time comes – an idea that Philip Zimbardo explores in one of my favourite TED talks (Youtube link here).
Or you could become one of these guys.
At first you might laugh. Then you might think fake/ setup. Then you might even take a look at their Youtube channel and the related news articles that appear on them. Then you might scoff at the idea of someone anonymously doing good as a con.
And then you might think…does it really matter if it means one person takes a look at themselves and tries to make the world a better place for those around them.
PS. “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
A TED talk by a “data journalist” David McCandless (same video at Youtube) highlighted that the display of information is more and more critical in influencing the world we live in – love his graphic of Facebook status updates about break ups. And what better way to display information than in an infographic, and gee these are appearing everywhere on almost every topic – even South Park. While some argue that this proliferation is perhaps not always done out of the desire for increased objective understanding of data, there is certainly a need for anyone displaying data (which includes me when I am working) to find a compelling way to display that data so that is tells a story.
To make all of this work though we first need to have the data, the understanding and the desire…
The Data – I read a few Gov 2.0 type blogs which talk about government departments and agencies making their information available to anyone and then people being able to use it (however they want). Some agencies are taking this a step further and allowing anyone to create an application which can use the open data sets which anyone can then use to make use of the data. What is basically happening here is the analysis tool development for the data is being crowd sourced.
The Understanding – This is what I now think has started to become the next version of the use of the wisdom of the crowd by taking it from more simplistic tasks – such as come up with a new slogan or product name (iSnack 2.0) or send in your photo (NothingLikeAustralia.com) – to much more complex elements that often require teams to work together – such as BrownCoats: Redemption, or the amazingly geeky Star Wars Uncut project – or do work of very high complexity with high production values – such as this short film which got its maker a US$30mil Hollywood contact.
The Desire – Something from a recent article on a conversation between Dan Pink and Clay Shirky reminded me of how this sounds when someone says it:
Pink: Think about open source software in general—whether it’s Linux or Apache. Suppose I’d gone to an economist or management consultant 25 years ago and said, “I’ve got a cool new business model for making software. Here’s how it works: A bunch of intrinsically motivated people around the world get together to do technically sophisticated stuff for no pay. And then after working really hard, they give away their product for free. Trust me: It’s going to be huge.”
There are so many data sets that are available. Would it hurt for any of us to think about how we might make the best use of the crowd (or the best people in the crowd) once in a while to help us display the data for our industry?
PS. “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” – Mark Twain