Category Archives: Complex Systems

Has media reached a reality/complexity tipping point?

A landmark paper appeared last December in the National Science Review (summary).  It describes the complex interdependencies between climate, consumption, population, demographics, inequality, economic growth, migration, and more.  Written by an interdisciplinary team of 20 authors hailing from organizations worldwide including NASA, Johns Hopkins, and more, the paper explains that it is impossible to understand these systems in isolation.  There are important—and non-obvious—interactions.  Poverty impacts climate.   Inequity impacts the status of women.   Conflict impacts resource usage.  And much more.

The bottom line: our understanding of the world is no longer good enough.  We need to raise our game.

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One link think

In the swirl of events, I’m often left wondering if there’s something deeper going on.  Our leaders seem to be increasingly missing the bigger picture.  A glimpse, here and there, into the underlying cause of dead ends we’ve reached: problems with capitalism, the media, politics, climate, conflict, health care.   Is there a common cause?

2016 might arguably be characterized as the year we all decided we’d had enough of government as usual.  Between Brexit, the Trump ascendancy, and the sheer energy behind the Bernie Sanders campaign, it seems that many are thinking, “enough is enough”.  And that’s the good news.  When disenfranchised groups have zero representation, then terrorism and revolt seem to be the inevitable outcomes.

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Pulling Back the Curtain on #MachineLearning Apps in #Business

Please enjoy this interview broadcast today with me and Daniel G. Faggella of TechEmergence.  I touch on intelligence augmentation (IA), machine learning in vision, text, and other domains, the emerging decision intelligence ecosystem, the limits of data, and how to hire a machine learning consultant.

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Artificial intelligence and human limits

Are we getting dumber?  Or is stuff just harder?

Both are true.  Between-silo problems are the new bottleneck.  We’re inundated with information, so we take cognitive short cuts.   And “wicked” problems keep getting wickeder.

Take this “invisible art” artist.  She sold a few.*

Real decisions are made in the heart, the gut, based on a good story.  So we’re vulnerable to master wizards: good story tellers.  And, often, we’ll do what they say.

It’s impossible to assemble hundreds of graphs and data visualizations in our heads to make good decisions. It’s a fiction that we can.  So we’re overwhelmed, take short-cuts, but it’s hard to admit.

The good news: we have new superpowers.

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From maker space to solver space

Conferences are for meetings.  Project teams build deliverables.  Data is for data scientists.  Online communities are for social contact.

Until now, when a new mix is emerging.  Can we solve difficult problems in a short-term conference setting?  Is there a new way to run a workshop, which is dynamic, data-driven, visual, collaborative?

I wrote a few months back about the Silicon Valley Sim Center: an initiative to bring a new way to solve “wicked” problems to Silicon valley.  And in an article in this month’s Wired called “Hey Silicon Valley, Buckminster Fuller has a lot to teach you by Sarah Fallon, she interviews Jonathon Keats about his new book on what Bucky has to say to Silicon Valley.*

And from “maker spaces” to “solver spaces”, a new way of working together to solve difficult problems is emerging.

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Necessary, but not sufficient

When asked “who created Apple?”, it’s tempting to say Steve Jobs did it.  The truth is that, although he may have been necessarily, he was not sufficient.

Similarly Bill Gates, who (as Malcolm Gladwell tells us in Outliers) experienced a unique confluence of circumstances that led to the founding of Microsoft.  Gates deserves tremendous credit, but alone he was not sufficient.

The brain likes to simplify, and history sometimes prefers to leave out the details for the benefit of a better story. Continue reading

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The World Resources Sim Center: on its way to Silicon Valley

Last month I received an intriguing email inviting me to an event at Kimberly Wiefling’s house.  I’d met Kimberly before through Jonathan Trent, as part of the work I’ve been doing to help out the Omega Global Initiative.  I knew she was an international consultant, but it was great to also learn that she was passionate about systems thinking and visualization.  Jonathan and I drove up to Kimberly’s house together, where she and  Peter Meisen explained their initiative to bring a Buckminster Fuller-inspired Sim Center, based on a similar center in San Diego, to Silicon Valley.

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Guest Post: A knowledge management system capable of blinking red

Inattention to critical knowledge is an old problem. Lessons are forgotten, near misses are ignored, caution is dismissed, disasters result. Titanic. Bhopal. AIG. Katrina. Fukushima. And on and on.

Knowledge Management (KM) is supposed to make the right information available to the right people at the right time in the right form—and to the best level of certainty possible—for making the most appropriate decisions when and where they are needed. KM should also direct the attention of decision makers to critical information and help them make sense of it. The bigger the stakes, the more situational awareness and mindfulness are needed. Continue reading

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Guest post: Announcing World Makers

The goal of World Makers is to encourage people to build computer simulations of the world. This includes simulating water, weather, crops, land use policy or anything else. Models can be regional or global, simple sketches or full blown simulations.

The classic game ‘Sim City’ by Will Wright is perhaps the best known example of a computer simulation. It lets people build their own imaginary city from the ground up, placing roads, homes and services and measuring their success against the happiness of the population. The goal here is similar – but real – with real data, real stakeholders and real outcomes.

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