Category Archives: The Future

Mobile is inevitable

You don’t have to be a futurist to see the way some things are headed. Take the Volkswagen as an example. As anyone who has driven an early Volkswagen can attest, the rear windows were very difficult to see out of.

 

win2

 

Volkswagen printed one of their wonderful, sarcastic ads when they bowed to the inevitable and enlarged the back window in 1958: “The famous Italian designer suggested Continue reading

Technical Knowledge and Practical Knowledge

In a New York Times Op-Ed, David Brooks poses the ultimate higher-ed question: What is a university for?

Brooks separates knowledge into technical knowledge and practical knowledge.

Technical Knowledge enables us to understand a field. These are basics like statistics or fundamentals of biology. You can find it in books. The faculty teaches it. In many cases, a MOOC or a robot could teach it. It’s the mainstay on campus.

Practical Knowledge is about being rather than knowing. It can’t be taught in the classrooms or books. You learn it through experience. You absorb it from your environment. You can pick it up from your communities of practice.

Examples of Practice Knowledge abound in Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book, “Lean In.” Says Brooks,

… tasks she describes as being important for anybody who wants to rise in this economy: the ability to be assertive in a meeting; to disagree pleasantly; to know when to interrupt and when not to; to understand the flow of discussion and how to change people’s minds; to attract mentors; to understand situations; to discern what can change and what can’t.

 

Brooks would have students master Practical Knowledge by leading the band or joining the debate club, something on campus. I think he’s off. Back to his “What is a university?” For most of us, the answer is “Not the best place to master Practical Knowledge for the workplace.”

What if we think of Technical Knowledge as explicit and Practical Knowledge as tacit?

  • Technical Knowledge lays bare the intricacies of complicated concepts. It’s the facts. It’s clockwork models and the results they gin out time after time. Technical Knowledge deals with certainties and absolutes. In other words, it’s often theoretical and “not found in nature.”
  • Practical Knowledge deals with complex, unpredictable, unruly patterns that emerge in real life. It is nature.

Caveat emptor. This next part is speculation on my part. I’m looking for corroboration.

The world is growing more complex. Outsourcing and automation have eliminated work that is merely complicated. The more interconnections in network, the greater the complexity, and the tendrils of networks everywhere are intertwining at a surreal pace.

informal learning research.374

Things kicked into high gear in the last twenty years of the twentieth century. Between 1980 and 2000, the value of the publicly traded companies flip-flopped from 80% tangible assets to 80% intangible assets.

This is an astounding change. Think about it. Most of a company’s worth had been in hard assets: plant, equipment, and cash. Two decades later, most of a company’s worth was in relationships, know-how, and secret sauce — things you can’t even see.

Many managers haven’t seen the light yet. Look at their allegiance to accounting measures that have less and less meaning in the real world. They righteously demand “hard numbers.” Those are the numbers that don’t mean to much any more.

informal learning research3.374

As the world becomes more complex, are we not in the midst of another phase change? Might it be that the university heyday when explicit knowledge was king, is giving way to a new world where skills for navigating complexity rule?

If you can’t increase your social intelligence at college, isn’t it time to go somewhere else to get it?

The Times also reported that Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break. Seems that elite MOOC consortium EdX is experimenting with automated essay grading. Skeptics of course came out of the woodwork. Anant Agarwal, the EdX chief, points out that the grading software begins by learning how professors would grade; then it gives students instant grades and an opportunity to improve.

That latter bit — instant feedback and opportunity to resubmit a stronger essay — has lots of promise.

The skeptics are fighting a pitched battle. Traditional grades, having to do only with Technical Knowledge, are not correlated to any measure of success outside of schools. A system can’t do much worse than that.

There’s also the myth of the learnèd professor working away into the wee hours marking papers. I’m sure this happens some places but it wasn’t the way things worked at Harvard Business School when I went there. I have reason to know.

Several of my papers were rejected. These were WACs, Written Assessment of Cases. When I explained my logic to my professors, they said my arguments were brilliant and original. In fact, my ideas were so original that they didn’t appear on the grading checklists given to the Radcliffe students who actually graded the papers. I’m not saying every prof did this nor do I know how it works today, but an automated system might be an improvement. #justsayin

Free-form responses on MOOCs+Business

Free-form responses. n=20, Business+MOOCS Survey 2/25-26/2103

moocltr

What is positive about MOOCs?

Remote access to material/course heretofore unavailable

2/26/2013 3:48 PMView Responses

I had access to professionally presented information that I otherwise would not.

2/26/2013 3:16 PMView Responses

Available anytime and free. Ability to move at own pace.

2/26/2013 7:36 AM

Access to content, arranged Continue reading

Great, intimate professional gathering on talent management and learning

When people ask me what conferences they should attend, I tell them that small, intensive, participatory events work best for me. Most of these are invitation-only affairs. One exception, assuming you’re astute in talent management or corporate learning, is the annual Future of Talent Retreat.

This year will be the 8th Future of Talent Retreat. I’ve been to every one and will be attending this one in San Francisco, November 16-20.

Past attendees have included senior leaders and HR visionaries from Fortune 500, Global 100, and medium-sized companies from the United States, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Dubai, and Singapore.

We have few presentations. Instead we engage in conversations and collaborative activities that will give you practical information to take back and use in your organization. We have great food, drink wonderful wine, and make long lasting friends.

This is a highly interactive, hands-on event where participants contribute and learn from each other as well as the faculty.

Singularity Summit 12, Day 1

Today I attended the Singularity Summit in San Francisco. The opportunity to hear Temple Grandin, Stephen Pinker, and Daniel Kahneman was irrestible. We’re halfway through and I am disappointed.

Singularity Summit 12

Temple Grandin was great but I had read and heard a much of her message before. Traditional learning styles are bunk except for autistic people who do have their own style. They are totally visual. I told Temple I had read Animals Make Us Human and that my dog thanks her for it.

Singularity Summit 12

Four Thiele fellows were clearly overachievers but unbelievably young. A young woman who entered MIT at age 14 was investigating ways to eradicate death as if it were just another disease. I didn’t understand what the others were talking about.

Singularity Summit 12

An advocate for the Center for Applied Rationality bemoaned humans’ overreliance on the emotional brain. Her colleagues claim I misunderstood her, that she’s calling for balance;  that’s not what I heard. I am advocating the return of emotion to the workplace and this woman was calling for stamping is out.
An advocate for superhuman AI told us it is the future but never explained what it was.
The co-founder of 23 and Me described a little of her new venture Personal Genomics, but since the product is in development, she didn’t tell us much.

Singularity Summit 12

Stephen Pinker read pages from Angels of our Better Nature for half an hour. Pity I already read the book.

Singularity Summit 12

Ray Kurzweil, recipient of 19 honorary doctorates, told the old Singularity story. In case you missed it, growth of communications technology, deflation of Moore’s Law. These lead to the Law of Accelerating Change. Eventually machines will outsmart us.
  • New book: How to Create a Mind
  • You could read Wikipedia, it would take about three years, and Wikipedia would have doubled.
  • Kurzweil has been thinking about how the brain works. Pattern recognition.
  • Be careful who you hang out with. You are what you think.
  • Life extension is a funny field, for it assumes nothing is going to change. You can overcome most diseases.
  • Plan A is to live forever. Also Plan B. And C. Plan D is cryonics.
This is a lackluster event. Scant vision of the future.

Singularity Summit 12
Vernor Vinge, who came up with the concept of the singularity.

Singularity Summit

The Singularity Summit, open to the public, is the premier event on robotics, artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfacing, and other emerging technologies including genomics and regenerative medicine. The event this October 13-14 will draw over 800 thought leaders to San Francisco for discussions on the most revolutionary technological advancements on the horizon.

Program | Reading list

It’s a weekend for learning. I’m paying $695 for enlightenment from these folks. I need their help sorting out my worldview.

 

 

San Francisco, open your golden gate…

I cannot imagine missing the Singularity Summit. It will take me 45 minutes to get there from my house (thanks to public trans).

October 13-14th, 2012 in San Francisco.

Put this in your stash — mp3s of brilliant people selling inspirational ideas. That’s a recording of every Singularity Summit from the beginning, in 2006. I remember sitting in the second row at that one. Frame-changing insights. Interspersed with a few odd balls.