Challenges to Autonomous Control

Great article in the New York Times about the challenges with autonomous vehicles. I continued to be fascinated by solving this problem and the resulting impacts that will have on all of us. I’ve written about it here and here and other places.

This article highlights some of the very subtle but real challenges with having an automated system control all aspects of a complicated problem. It is these boundaries or edge kind of problems that are the hard problems to solve. Things on the edge. These are the issues and problems that will delay any automation moving into the mainstream. Having a car stay between two lines is not the hard problem.

And then in the decade after these problems are solved and these vehicles are the norm, we’ll all forget how to manually drive the car because we’ve turned that problem over to the machines. Just like pilots today who are so used to autopilots that when they have to take over in a complex situation, they may not be up to the task.

Complexity of our Devices

I’ve been thinking lately that our devices are getting so complex that we no longer are sure about how to manage, secure or protect them.

My wife’s phone recently went nuts and started flashing the LED for alerts but that setting was not turned on under settings. Another friend’s phone started acting strangely and randomly and the vendor ended up giving him a new device. His phone was an iPhone 6 which is awfully old to be getting a free exchanged unit. My wife’s Apple Watch battery/system was so poor that the battery ran down every day mid-afternoon with everything turned off. She had to charge it twice a day. Apple support said it was within specifications. Right.

Our home networks are vulnerable and we don’t even know what we need to do to harden. Apple TV can support multiple streaming sources, but nothing is simple and they each authenticate differently. We have devices to open our garage doors with who knows what security. What about our cars?

Apple and Steve Jobs used to talk about removing and simplifying. Matthew May writes about subtracting and eloquence in his books (well worth the read).

Unfortunately, companies continue to make things more complicated.

Our ice maker has a light to remind us to clean the filter. I have no idea how to clean the filter.

Supply Chain Fails

A year and a half ago I ordered a number of actual, physical paperback books to give to some friends at an event where I was speaking. The book was one I wanted to hand out related to the topic of our discussion and my time with them. A certain big book company began shipping these books in separate shipments from around their universe. However, the books kept coming and went way over the amount I ordered. I kept getting new shipment notices in email when I had already received the ones I had ordered.

This particular company is a big web based company and it is hard to actually talk to someone there. I sent emails and finally got a hold of a person and explained the problem. The first person couldn’t understand and didn’t fix the problem. I called again and got another person who did see the problem and managed to cancel what was happening. I offered to ship books back, but they said keep them and give them away.

Seven months ago I ordered some socks from another online business and got double the shipment.  Two weeks ago I ordered some running apparel and instead of three items, I got six. In both these cases, I offered to return the over shipment and they told me to just keep them.

A big company which ships a lot of books and two smaller, niche companies who are probably closer to the edge getting their order management and shipping wrong.

I don’t know if this is IT or order management or their online revenue engine, but in any case, companies big and small must get this right. You can’t stay in business long if you are getting so many shipments wrong.

I should have ordered iPads.

 

Facts vs Narrative

In reading several books lately and through several observations, I’m better understanding the need for leaders to look for the facts and avoid the narratives. Too many leaders have a narrative or worldview or agenda they are driving that are not based on facts. It might be regarding climate change or it might be spending in an organization or it might be a new program that someone wants to start or stop. In many cases, poor leaders are driving or driven by the narrative independent of the facts.

The facts are sometimes hard to spot and the facts might not be the facts because they might be created or driven by a narrative further up stream. So even the facts needs to be questioned and discussed. However, if you want to be a leader, if you want to have an impact, if you want to succeed, you’ve got to be looking for the underlying facts.

In some contexts, this means looking for the ‘root cause’ in others situations it might be clearly understanding ‘the goal.’  Either looking backwards to the cause or forward to the destination. In either case, find this first. Look for this.

The world is a strange place right now with narratives driving so much.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Just finished reading (actually listening to on Audible) Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker. I first found Eric on his blog which I follow via email. You can see some of the content posted here.

I’ve read a lot of leadership and getting things done and how to be better kind of books over the years and I’ve posted about some of my favorites on this blog on the reading page.  This has to be one of the very best of these books that I’ve read and I highly recommend it. I’ll be adding this book to that page.

Listening on Audible is great, but I can’t highlight the text as it goes along. If I could, I’d share a number of specifics. I’ll likely go through this one again on Kindle.

Ideas around work-life balance, your weaknesses might really be your strengths and that being on the edge is usually better than being in the middle. And about people like Einstein, Genghis Khan and Ted Williams.

I’m thinking about getting some extra ‘real’ copies to give to some friends.

You can also follow Eric on Twitter @bakadesuyo. I don’t know Eric and haven’t met him. The links to the book are amazon associate links however.

Some Interesting Reading

I tend to share things of interest mostly on twitter (@brewerma) and not on the blog. However, I thought today I’d share a few interesting readings of late.

The High Cost of Fitting In by the founder of Puppet Luke Kanies.  We shouldn’t be trying to fit in.

The formula for winning at life is actually incredibly simple which includes several pearls like ‘write it down’ and ‘realize you are responsible for this.’ The article was written by Mark Manson.

Stop asking for easy on the besomebody.com site. Worth the watch and following along.

And an interesting article about Occam’s Razor at a wonderful site that has lots of interesting material. Follow them too.

And How to Overcome Your Fear and Get What You Want on Medium by Josh Spector. The point about ‘the alternative is scarier’ is one of my favorites. We can’t be comfortable with the status quo and we’ve got to try new things.

 

 

 

A Single Leader

In the past few years, I’ve been aware of two different organizations that have been greatly impaired by failures of a single person. In the first case, a trusted leader failed to properly do their job and accomplish their responsibilities and the organization nearly sank as a result. I don’t know what that person was thinking. In the second case, one arrogant leader who thought he knew everything and didn’t need any advice from anyone else made poor decisions, spoke authoritatively of things he knew little about and left key resources to neglect.

Great processes and lots of good people, can be overwhelmed by a single bad leader in the wrong place.

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