Some ideas about artificial intelligence

This post is proudly sponsored by SkyNet™ from Cyberdyne Systems™

I am far from an expert in the field. This post – as most of this blog – is more to gather and share some ideas in a bar-table-conversation. Is that OK to you?

So come along.

First, deep learning is emerging strong. Long story short from this article:

It allows researchers to assign a task to computers and then sit back as the machines in essence teach themselves how to accomplish and finally master the job.

Basically:

[…] researchers can bombard computers with a flood of information and let the systems make sense of the data. “You show a computer 1 million images with chairs and 1 million without them,” Hotz says. “Eventually, the computer is able to describe a chair in a way so much better than a human ever could.”

George Hotz [the famous hacker who first cracked iPhone when he was 17] is teaching a car how to drive by just letting the computers watch himself drive around. And it is working. You can check the video.

It means machines can learn to do virtually anything by copying in a very efficient way. More interesting and useful than scary.

But then consider this TED talk from Susan Blackmore. Long story short. Natural selection force is unstoppable. Genes appears and, following natural selection rules, lead to complex animals. Complex animals – hi there! – have ideas, called memes. Such ideas make our culture, and now it is the second big thing fighting for survival following Darwin rules. Blackmore argues that technology is the third one. A different “replicator” fighting for survival, she call it technological meme, or teme.

She is not alone. We have plenty of science fiction dealing with the rise of the machines. In this New Yorker article the philosopher / futurist Nick Bostrom talks about his work around the risks artificial intelligence represents. He comes to a conclusion similar to Blackmore’s:

Such a system would effectively be a new kind of life, and Bostrom’s fears, in their simplest form, are evolutionary: that humanity will unexpectedly become outmatched by a smarter competitor. He sometimes notes, as a point of comparison, the trajectories of people and gorillas: both primates, but with one species dominating the planet and the other at the edge of annihilation.

It means that, sooner or later, artificial intelligence will grow far stronger than human capabilities. Then this new life-form can take care of “procreate” ignoring us the same way we ignore ants, plants and primates – not caring much about their annihilation.

Then Sir Tim Berners-Lee drops this bomb:

“‘Don’t ask whether it will happen; it’s already happening.The robots are already here and they’re called corporations”

The full argument is that since corporations have rights, can make decisions and many are heavily commanded by computers – specially investment firms – they might already be the AI we fear.

Ok? With me so far?

Thanks for all the fish

So please put your futurism helmet on and engage with this idea for a moment.

Corporations are the evil artificial intelligence.

In most countries they are “legal persons” or “artificial legal structures” that can behave and be seen in front of the law as a special type of citizen.

This artificial form of intelligence might have started with the first human groups able to organize themselves. Countries might be an early form of these structures. But corporations master this behavior.

In this documentary [full here] they explore the idea of corporations as if they were a person. And if people presented such behavior they would be called psychopath. Things like ignoring human suffering, not admitting guilt, focusing only on profits. In fact money is another invention that helps companies to drive and control us, like fences on a farm.

You could say “but companies are made of people”. Yes. But inside an organization people do not behave as they normally would. The whole complexity, power struggles and social rules of an environment can lead us to do things we would not do in a different situation. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment and the usual “I was just following orders” phrase from soldiers are examples of this organizational power over individual will.

As a final piece of conspiracy theory the famous Bitcoin, the digital currency that allows anyone to pay anyone without banks or governments, makes the perfect tool for the technologically based artificial intelligence we call organization / corporation to control humans without any laws to follow. And we don´t need to stretch too much actually, since Satoshi Nakamoto, the credited inventor of it is completely unknown. As far as I know “he” could be even just an artificial intelligence in someone’s server.

So the final idea is:

Companies are the AI we always feared. They don´t have a “brain”, but each worker act as a “neuron” performing tasks they would not normally do in exchange for money, but not for long, since new processors and systems can easily outperform humans.

What do you think? Sense?

UPDATE:

The website I sourced for Sir Tim Bernes-Lee quote is out, not sure why. I will leave this other link here to document that actually happened.

 

 

EPIC! Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference 2014 was worthy of its initials

Fordham University - Awesome infrastructure and location

Fordham University – Awesome infrastructure and location

This article talks about my impressions on the EPIC [Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference] that happened at the Center of Positive Marketing, part of Fordham University in New York City, from 7th to 10th of September 2014.

I want to be brief, yet keep some depth. First I will talk about the big picture, the event and why it is such an experience on professional and personal levels. After that I will cover some of the highlights of the conference, as seen from my perspective.

Before that I want to say: EPIC 2015 IS GOING TO BE IN SÃO PAULO!!!

So my three main points about the conference are:

IMG_20140909_143943334

Debating Ethnographic Epistemology Salon: Should Corporate Ethnography Even Attempt To Avoid Reductionism?

1 – Strong community

EPIC is about meeting people and organizations that are using research methods borrowed from social sciences inside a wide variety of industries. We are talking about making companies more human and human centric. More empathetic. This is a place we can meet.

Many times anthropologists, sociologists and other practitioners are lone rangers in their jobs. EPIC offers an opportunity to meet other people who are on the same page as you [often more advanced], and exchange experiences, contacts, references and so on.

For me, this sense of community, mutual recognition and knowledge exchange was clearly the most EPIC outcome of the event.

 

Christian Madsbjerg sez ethnography should divorce design . #epiconference

@sladner: Christian Madsbjerg sez ethnography should divorce design . #epiconference

2 – Business pivoting

Since ethnography and other methods generate good strategic results, we climb up the corporate ladder. As ethnographers and consultants we should professionally empathise with business people, learning their lingo and ways of thinking and doing. At least to improve your communication skills.

It does not imply becoming a corporate woman or man, it means to better understand and communicate, so we can offer further help, and have positive impact on our clients and even employers. I think ReD´s Christian Madsbjerg´s keynote was the most assertive about it, but I had this feeling many other times chatting with people around the conference. And it is also something I can see in my professional experience. 

Rob and Joe talking about Anticipatory Ethnography

Rob and Joe talking about Anticipatory Ethnography

3 – Adopting future

Most of us are working around ´innovation´, meaning our studies should help companies build new products, services and communication pieces. In other words, we help companies to shape the future with a human perspective.

As proposed by Brian Moeran in his workshop, we have to come up with solutions that are not a step ahead – because most people won’t get it – but half a step ahead. I would add that we should plan several half-steps to create a map, a path for companies to follow. In business they call it innovation pipeline, often represented by the innovation funnel.

Works of design fiction and/or speculative design can illustrate such futures using storytelling, usually with short films. Like the work presented by Joseph Lindley and Robert Potts, two PhD candidates from Lancaster, and Nicolas Nova, who was in EPIC London last year. I particularly like his ´A Digital tomorrow´, you should have a look.

In my perspective, this kind of deliverable shows there are better ways of demonstrating how valuable our work is, that do not involve only power point presentations.

 

Now some of the stuff I found interesting during the conference:

Sam Ladner´s Pecha Kucha about her research on ´bodywork´. Basically, it talks about body language and behaviour in the work environment and its influence on productivity. The insights and pictures she used have that ethnographic power of “I’ve seen this happening” and “that´s totally like this” and “Gez,I do this all the time”. She has just launched a book called “Practical Ethnography”, check it out.

IMG_20140908_141328306_HDR-MOTION

Other Pecha Kucha I especially liked was presented by Erick Mohr, who works for the company under the humble name Truth. He used comic books visual language to talk about the process of getting an idea from one’s head to the market with super-hero like characters. Pretty neat!

Brian Moeran paper was “Business, Anthropology, and Magical Systems: The Case of Advertising“. He compares beauty products ads in magazines to magical process. The way such products are presented, the images and words used evoke magical terminology and communication techniques. I really need to dig into that.

Line and Anikka, the Danish partners from IS IT A BIRD, talked about this great idea of making cemeteries more alive. They studied such places and came up with guidelines to get the population, those still alive, to enjoy these areas in a way that are still respectful to the dead. Very insightful.

Jan English-Lueck was talking about food production and consumption systems. You should check her work “Corporate Care Reimagined: Farms to Firms to Families“. I love one of her phrases ´When we dream big enough reality learns´.

 

Want to know more?

You should check out EPIC website, of course, and EPIC People, a website that brings this experience closer to those, who were not able to attend the conference – yet. And also AnthroDesign, everyone that is someone in the field is there. Seriously.

Originally posted at Questto|Nó.

Illustrated Debate: The Future of British High St.

Since quite a long time I want to develop some quick graphic representation skills. Something like visual note-taking. As I started attending to the University of Dundee Debate Union it looked like a pretty good idea to illustrate the debates as they go.

Last debate addressed the question “Is there a future to High Street?“. In this case it is not a particular address, “High Street is a metonym for the generic name of the primary business street of towns or cities, especially in the United Kingdom”. Wikipedia

So the debaters were discussing if the government support should be applied to help medium and small commercial businesses against the threats of e-commerce and gigantic retail chains.

And this is my quickie representation:

DundeeDebateSociety_HighSt_lowAt the left side those defending a governmental aid in order to save jobs and the British High Street culture itself. At the right side those defending that no aid should be given, and old-fashioned obsolete business models should fail because eventually new ones would take their place.

I felt a “vibe” of a famous Scottish invention, the invisible hand, but didn’t found a way to use it properly. However the idea that some companies must die and others survive in a “natural selection” pushed me to another strong British reference, Charles Darwin.

I with I could think about more icons than the flag… But nothing was coming to my mind ate the moment.

Lets see if I can keep doing these illustrations.

Strategic Design Thinking – Day 5

Final day of lectures for this module!

Early in the morning we presented our 3D models for design processes (It was really funny, I’ll publish as soon as I get some pictures).

After that Tom talked about how to deal with workshops. Basically reinforcing the idea that today design is no more the black box with briefing coming from one side and genius ideas coming out of the other. More and more clients want to be part of the process, involving different stakeholders and developing collective solutions is more crucial than ever.

As I twitted earlier this week “Design thinking is designing with the external side of your brain“.

Tom showed pretty neat references on how to deal with workshops, like been aware of the space and how to better use it, knowing your participants’ backgrounds so you can adjust the tone of your voice / vocabulary and using templates / sheets so participants can synthesize / note down and you can document it more easily.

I am used to most of this because of a couple of projects I worked with at INSITUM (many workshops and creative sessions with users), but I really liked the way he presented. In fact the other days during this week I could see it applied and felt how it works.

The one thing we did a lot at insitum and he did not talked about is to rehearse workshop / sessions, at least crucial parts that can be more complex, hard to understand or execute and that could became a bottle neck for the whole activity. Maybe it is because Tom is so experienced and have facilitated so many workshops that he just don’t need this rehearse.

So if you are new to this “facilitation” thing I would strongly recommend you to test your workshop / creative sessions with a couple of friends or colleagues to see if they get the tasks easily, how long does it take to do it, if you need something else or can leave some useless part behind.

And don’t thank me for this lesson, thank Yoel Lenti.

Now we have a project for next weeks, lets see how it goes.

Cheers!

 

Strategic Design Thinking – Day 4

Today was the day to talk about Brand, Services and Ethics.

Firstly we had some historical perspective on branding and how it has changed since late 1800’s thought out 1900’s and how it is seen now.

Talking about branding? Talking about Coca-Cola.

They are HUGE and have passed though lots of changes over the years (you know, in the beginning it was some sort of remedy…), for decades they were as American as bald eagles, stars and bubble gum, but, you know, US is not the most friendly reference nowadays, maybe for this and many other reasons now Coke are more about making the world a happier place.

Be happy! Share these Cokes!

I really admire the work David Butler have done with the brand (as recognised by Fast Company in 2009). Great stuff going on there.

Maybe not by coincidence Tatil, which was present with 2016 Olympics identity in many parts of the presentation, have done some very interesting projects with Coletivo Coca-Cola in Brazil (this one is in Portuguese, sorry) you can check more about it here (this one in EN).

Basically the brand is helping disadvantaged communities providing education focused on helping these kids to become more employable, which is obviously perceived as an engaging attitude with a very positive feedback in the media and in society as a whole.

Also in Portuguese… 

Want to know a little bit more about David Butler work with Coca-Cola? Check this lecture he gave at an AIGA event in 2009 (he was on fire that year, wasn’t he?). “Oh Fernando, I would love to see his slides”. There you go.

Back to the topic.

Tom Inns presented a framework with 3 branding structures: Monolithic, Endorsed and Branded.

Monolithic would be defined by:

  • The single business identity 
  • For companies that want to promote a special idea about 
  • themselves. 
  • Very often operating across many business activities 
  • Because every product and service has the same name 
  • everything supports everything else 
  • Staff are very clear about what the company stands for 
  • Companies have a high visibility and a clear positioning

The very British example for this? Virgin! they surely have a special way to do stuff (apparently any stuff actually). I really feel attracted by the way they present themselves.

I think another great example is RedBull. They managed to create such a brand value based on performance, energy and youngness that it is easily shaped in different offers, from the energy drink to the media industry passing by an F1 TEAM! Come on, these guys are great.

The funny thing for me is that even without competing directly in many markets, I think as brands they are quite similar. I mean… Both have this special way to approach other areas by been very young, fresh and energetic.

Caring on there is the Endorsed brand defined by:

  • A multi-business identity
  • A large number of companies have grown by acquisition
  • They want to retain the goodwill of the brands that they
  • have acquired
  • But they want to superimpose their own management
  • style and attitudes
  • They want to impress certain audiences with their size
  • and strength, among these audiences they want to
  • emphasise uniformity and consistency
  • They frequently operate in different countries where
  • their reputation’s vary

I think it is valid for most of these brands behind other brands.

Good illustration of this is Procter & Gamble, offering from Mr Clean and Hair & Shoulders to Pringles (actually recently sold, but you got the idea).

Unilever is also a big umbrella of valuable brands. For me the most interesting is the paradox between some of their brands, specially Dove and Axe. Dove defends that all women are beautiful in their own way in this very modern-pos-feminism way, while Axe is all about using this product to became the ultimate bimbos womanizer. An Unilever promote both ideas. How awesome?

No. Those models ARE NOT that perfect early in the morning. Hail Photoshop.

 

Really? Check YouTube for more pearls like this.

 

And the third, the Brand based identity

  • Usually in pharmaceuticals, food, drink and other fast
  • moving consumer goods (fmcg)
  • Do not present their corporate face to the consumer
  • Based on the fact that consumerism is based on simple
  • symbolism
  • Brands have a life cycle of their own … independent of
  • the company
  • Brands from the same company might compete in the
  • same market place
  • Brands should be free to develop their own identities

The umbrella is there but far behind the stage, and usually one have no clue about the ownership. A great example is LVMH, owning lot of luxury brands in several different categories (fashion, drinks, jewelry and so on). Diageo is almost the same thing but focused on beverage only. Have you ever tried something from Diageo? No? Probably yes since they own Johnnie Walker, SmirnoffCiroc and even Guinness.

In the afternoon we talked more about service design and ethics, that Tom approached from a social / environmental perspective.

There is a lot of material out there about service design… I just define it as the design of things that are not things, which means processes, systems and other intangible offers.

Tom showed a little video to demonstrate it, but I like this one better:

About the ethics part… it is interesting how most of young people already have this eco/social concerns embed in their way of work. I think nowadays been environmentally and socially concerned is a commodity. Really, there is no space for you out there without this!

I think this is it for today.

Cheers!

 

Strategic Design Thinking – Day 3

Process! Process! Process! – Processes!

Another day, another process.

Today we talked a lot about process and the way we do things. Fisttly I liked because we were not talking about methods or how to fill up our tool boxes, but how to visualize the process a project usually pass through in such way that one can replicate it to other projects.

I think for me was a good reflection on my experiences and how I use to think / work.

Besides the fact that they were never my teachers in a formal way Kleber Puchaski (DesignIt BR) and Luis Arnal‘s (INSITUM)references came together in my mind today to visualize the process I believe I usually follow as a design researcher / innovation consultant.

Kleber describes design process in 3 bigger stages:

  • Discover – When we learn “what is going on”. As a more ethnographic designer I tend to learn from users, consumers, clients… “people” if I may.
  • Connect – When you take these pieces of information and make interesting connections to create new things. In my case I use the word Ideate because it sounds better to the way I end up doing things. Usually I start to generate ideas very early in the process, it doesn’t mean that I will fall in love with them in the first sight and never let it go, it is just my way to analyse and make sense of the collected data, sometimes re-analyzing the ideas to see what else they mean.
  • Construct – Turn these ideas into visually interesting concepts or even prototypes. I prefer to call it build because… well, for no especial reason, maybe because the word is smaller.

Arnal’s influence comes with these waves representation. As he believes (or at least presented in his paper during the master at IIT) I also think that projects just cant be really described by defined stages. Yes, things kinda hap[pen one after the other and stages depend on results of some previous work, but the thing is that they are not as sharp and defined as process are usually described, with boxes for example.

For me the real word is more like waves, were the horizontal axis describe time and the vertical axis the amount of work / efforts / resources were applied.

If you take this idea along with the most common payment system for consultancy and any other “knowledge labor”, worked hours, it makes even more sense.

So for me the ideal flow in a project would be something like this image:

I always try to spend a lot of time leaning about people and what they do. Even before leaning about “applied ethnography / applied anthropology” I use to work like this, sometimes my design professors though I spend too much time research and not doing things… C’est la vie.

I also like to bring more references than just what the fieldwork has to offer. Theories, TED Talks, literally ANYTHING that can help to generate ideas considering the challenge.

At the deliverable phase I am more useful shaping ideas roughly than going into details. But that’s why I feel such a victim of team work, I always need someone more detail-oriented than me to help building the finest deliverable.

In the afternoon we talked a lot about prototyping. For me this is really great and underestimated by most people. As IDEO’s Richard Eisermann say “If a picture paints a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures”. And it is totally true. However they are not talking about pretty clay models that look like the real products, they call prototype anything that can be used to test an idea. And early the better, as soon as you can have an impression and feedback (ANY impression and feedback) about the idea, more likely to make a better you are of making an assertive decision.

Let’s see what tomorrow will bring.

Process me.

Strategic Design Thinking – Day 2

Templates! Photo Saskia Coulson

Another interesting day.

I have to say that I am taking profit of this module in a meta-way. I don’t want to sound like a yes-man or apple polish but I really like the way Tom is leading the sessions.

Points that I like and plan to copy:

  • One piece at a time – present block of information that closes on itself but keep connected to the bigger scenario.
  • Practical activities in the end of each block – helps to keep the information by practicing something related to the content.
  • Promote discussion – even when the group is silent (and I cant shout up).
  • Sheets – Using templates to exercises make it faster and keep everyone in the same track (but sometimes I like to get myself a little lost).

I must say I don’t know much about British design, I think by tradition Brazil is much more influenced by German schools (yes, that one).

(Insight about design culture from the 90’s in the end)

Part of the exercise of the week is to write design definitions (we did one yesterday and I have to make another today). I was thinking about a discussion I saw at the PhD Design mailing group and maybe a good way to go with this would be try to define design as a noun (what is this) and as a verb “to design”, or “what designers do”.

The history recap was to talk about what he called Design 1.0 and Design 2.0. It reminds me of Luis Arnal (former boss from Insitum) who used the term “Innovation 2.0. I think they both are talking about the same thing.

While the last version of design / innovation were pretty much running in one direction, many times based on ideas and inspiration from one person, a big boss in the organization, the 2.0 versions are more complex, network based and hard to track. Just like the “internet 2.0”, the name given to the more democratic internet with user generated content (yep. Blogs).

I think the relation is not just by chance. It is way easier to access information today than ever, therefore, to create new knowledge. It is also possible to do so by getting together with other people and exchange ideas almost without limits.

These things have blurred the limits between designers and non designers (or innovators and non-innovators). And when everybody can design / innovate, nobody owns “design” or “innovation” anymore. For me the version 2.0 of both things is basically the open source version where virtually anyone can design and innovate.

INSIGHT:

I had an insight when Tom was talking about the 90’s. In that decade many successful products changed collective behaviors to individual ones. Starting with the walkman, then diskman, and been really relevant with mobile phones. What once were shared, now is individual.

I am not very sure it is a consequence of the products, or if the products success is actually a consequence of the cultural stage, but I have this impression that people became much more self-centered and even selfish after that. Today’s iZombies that cant have a proper conversation without checking their phones every 3 minutes can be an evolution of that. I don’t know… Just guessing here… What do you think?

 

Strategic Design Thinking – Day 1

Photo: Saskia Coulson

Professor Tom Inns managed to drive all design masters students (from product, services and ethnography courses) together in the world of business strategy. And did it pretty well.

In the morning we did a very interesting exercise: a tree of knowledge.

Basically, you use a tree template to draw your own knowledge.

  1. Firstly you make the roots – the basis of your knowledge such as degrees, courses, professional and other experiences
  2. Then you build the body of the three with branches of expertise and areas of interest – what you are good at or like to do and talk about.
  3. In the end you put fruits and leaves – the outputs of your applied knowledge or the results of your work.

You can have a look at some of the results at Joyce’s and Sarah’s Intagrams or all of them on this PDF.

The whole talking reminds me of another tree with an well-known fruit…

It is quite interesting technique to break the ice and get people from different backgrounds knowing and working together really quickly. I am totally using it someday.

This module reminds of how most of the time the design community seems to be blind to what the business world needs. Which is very interesting since design, by most definitions, is intrinsically connected to business in many ways.

Very often I hear colleagues complaining that managers “don’t get it”, but the truth is that designers (and I include myself in here) does not understand the business environment they are in, or the minds that drive the company they (we) work for. And this is very dangerous.

Since 2007 I have done a little bit of homework trying to get what happens on “business people” minds. Guys like Peter Drucker, Jack Welch and Ricardo Semler has so many things to teach and many of their books / articles are very reader-friendly, written in a very accessible language, I think.

Drucker talks a lot about innovation and if you know what design does it is actually about design, one of his most famous quotes is:

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

If you are a little bit open to what design is you can see how it relates and even increase the power of these two things.

Here is an idea to my designer friends:

Take a time of e design thinking world, try to understand the basis of business world, it will help a LOT next time you need to present a result / concept / idea to the top management at your client / employer.

My initial tips would be:

Peter Drucker – Post-Capitalist Society – Almost 20 years and still very good. It is nice to how he much he forecasted now that we know how things ended – like about China and Brazil been such big players nowadays.

Jack Welch – Winning – He kind of analyse his work at General Electric and have many interesting insights for anyone who wants to step into the corporate world. Really useful stuff! (Thanks to my uncle Hilgo who gave me as a gift in 2010).

Ricardo Semler – Maverick! : The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace – This Brazilian young and rebellious son of a business man he managed to reinvent his company in so many different levels that he became a worldwide figure. With lessons on inclusion, democracy and empowerment Semler shows how is possible to “manage without managers”. On top of that, it is a very fun reading.

Semler teaching at MIT like a boss.

(If you like it, check 7 days weekend as well).

 

Now back to Tom’s class.

In the afternoon we analysed four cases from Harvard Business Review:

  • Alessy – Talking about how Italian designers and manufacturers join forces to produce innovative products with high profit margins – such as the famous squeezer.
 Always him…
  • General Electric – About how they shifted: from a company that exported and poorly adapted products from US to many other countries to a more inclusive model capable of develop more local and efficient solutions.
  • P&G – On how Procter & Gamble engaged suppliers, Universities, Laboratories and many other players though networks being able to search for ready-made solutions – instead of building them from scratch at their labs –  and also using these networks to monitor opportunities worldwide.
  • Nintendo – A classic: how Nintendo moved from the high competitive same old gaming war  (faster processors / better graphics) to focus on non-gamers with the Nintendo Wii.

Way more innovative than Kinect…

Personally, I like the Nintendo way of think in the sense of the blue ocean.

Bla bla bla… (I think I need a haircut…) Photo: Saskia Coulson

Your market is too competitive? Why not invent a brand new one?

Looking forward to the rest of the week.

Cheers!

Before anything…

Hi there. How are you?
I am Fernando Galdino.
I am Brazilian.
I usually work as design ethnographer / innovation consultant / design researcher / industrial designer / service designer (or something around these topics).
I am making this blog to publish my ideas about culture, design, live, the universe and everything.
Please, feel free to comment, discuss if you disagree with something or call me names.
You are welcome.
I would define this blog’s spirit with one quote from  Caito Mainier “Me processa”, which means, at the same time, “Sue me” and “Process me” and “Try to get what I am saying”.
Me processa.