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Recent View from the Prairie Articles

February 2019

Artificial Intelligence Still Needs People

The Islamic State has been recruiting young people (as young as 12-13), people just at the stage of breaking away from their parents and looking for a group to belong to. Google recently revealed that they are allowing non-profit groups to use Google's ad targeting algorithms to provide counter views to radicalism. These non-profits found out that they can't just turn it on and let it go. They have to have people directing all the time.

This need for humans to direct artificial intelligent systems is universal. It will not go away. At its core, AI is always a trailing system, not a leading system. It works from past data.


What is Your Vision?

"A land flowing with milk and honey" is one description of "the promised land" - a land people yearn for. That is a description of a land covered in grasses and wild flowers. That vision is perfect for a nomadic people who raise sheep and goats. Open grasslands are a wonderful land for grazing and the many flowers give wild bees a lot of nectar. That vision does not inspire city folk. But to get to "the promised land", we need a vision of where we are going.


January 2019

Strain then Failure

A marriage fails and people wonder what went wrong. A favorite retail store goes under and we wonder why. A country's economy suddenly collapses and we look for the reason why. Many systems can operate for years slowly straining more and more until suddenly collapsing. The system was resilient until it finally buckled under the strain. We humans often adapt to the stress instead of seeing the danger signals. Systems fail in complex ways. Yet, we often run systems close to the breaking point.


Individualism vs Group Cohesion

Americans have a strong mythos about individualism. Comparing how police are using facial recognition technology in America vs China shows that mythos. American researchers worry about misidentifications and what happens when the recognition is wrong. Chinese people worry about identifying those who do not fit in.


December 2018

Time Management and Priorities

In this busy time of year, we often lose track of time, miss events due to an over busy schedule, and stress out over all the tasks we think we need to do. Time management is a common theme. Often, people suggest different tactics. But the most common need is a better connection with our priorities and with our own styles.


Rebel Workers

A recent book by Francesca Gino makes the case for "Rebel Talent". In that book, she claims that companies do well to hire such rebel talent. While that is true, companies can't only hire such. There are successful rebels and there are people who only are rebels without succeeding in work or life.


November 2018

After a Disaster, Rethink Your Business

The California fires are burning more than just trees and brush. They are wiping out whole towns. That is more than an inconvenience. That is a disaster for the businesses in those areas. What will things be like afterwards? Take this time to rethink the business. There can be serious benefits to doing so.


Start Over from the First

One of the first lessons in college physics is to not follow your instincts. We have so many assumptions about how the world should be working. But, when we measure, we often find things to be different. Repeatedly in life, we do well to start over by thinking that everything we know is wrong.


October 2018

Dispatches from the Cyber War

In WWII, a lot of bombing runs over Germany and Japan did not target military installations. Instead, they targeted vital industrial capacity. The idea was to cripple their capability to create weapons of war. In today's Cyber War, we see the same thing. The recent Wired article on the cyber-attack that brought down much of Europe and world-wide shipping illustrates that any company connected to the Internet is a target in today's Cyber war. We are in a Cyber War.


The Cost of Multitasking

We get hit with interruptions all day long. Sometimes, we are able to get back to what we were doing. Sometimes, it can be a couple of days before we even have time to ask what we were doing. Interruptions can be a real problem or a real benefit. When needing to think, they are a problem. One solution is to schedule interruptions.


September 2018

The Coming Robotic Revolution

We are headed into another major revolution, the Robotic Revolution. We have already seen the impact of the Information Revolution with retail stores failing left and right. The Robotic Revolution is just starting and it will have just as deep an impact on our society. To properly survive this revolution, we need to know what robots can do and what only humans can do. As with the Information Revolution, there will be winners and losers. Robots are going to cause major changes to the job market


Rethinking Social Networks

For a while now, researchers have thought that the person with the most social connections was a key player in any social network. This has led to the LinkedIn phenomenon of a person with thousands of "connections". Yet, that person rarely is able to capitalize fully on all those connections. This has led to new studies that show more details about which connections matter. These studies can shed light on why diversity is profitable. A recent study found that it wasn't the number of connections that was the most important, but


August 2018

The Internet is Destroying Karl Marx

Recently, some places celebrated Karl Marx's 200 th birthday and the 150 th anniversary of the publication of Das Kapital. Today, the Internet is destroying his work. We know more about the history of money than he knew. And Karl Marx made two deep mistakes in his analysis. Nothing has intrinsic value, neither gold nor labor.


The 8 Hour Work Day is Gone

One major by-product of the Information Revolution is the destruction of the 8-hour work day. It was an invention of the Industrial Revolution and no longer is meaningful.


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