Another season, another book… and a new plan :)

tobusytoimprove

You probably saw that yesterday I published a new book within the “Connecting the dots” series, this time on Business Intelligence and Big Data.

I was pleased to see that the announce of the visual summary on Slideshare http://tinyurl.com/BIBigData was viewed by 150 people in 1hr, and relaunched and liked on Twitter by a couple of accounts that doubled that in few more hours (the book itself is at http://issuu.com/robertolofaro/docs/relevantdata – and soon on Amazon).

As you probably remember from other posts, I spend zilch on advertisement, I just post on my social networking profiles, and in this case it was interesting how something on a relatively boring (if you are not in business) subject could be interesting.

I had actually planned to write also another book this summer, on Robots&Humans, initially as a “fiction” book- and I had decided to skip re-reading science-fiction on robots until I was done.

If you write fiction, probably it is fine to avoid what covers the same subject (unless you are a famous author looking for ideas by having somebody else reading relevant books, and then brainstorming while pretending that you knew nothing about them :D).

But if you do not write fiction, usually it makes sense to have a look at what is currently being written on robots&humans.

Eventually, I decided that fiction would be something for the future (beyond few pages, I find my fiction quite boring- imagine a poor reader).

As I wrote this morning on Facebook.com/robertolofaro (my business&personal profile):
“incidentally: next the two books that I will publish will be on Expo2015 and Robots&Humans- with few unusual twists 🙂

no, no fiction for the time being: I am still too much in a “business mode”, anything that I were to write it would be unbearably boring- akin to a robot writing for an audience of humans 😀

maybe I will have to spend some time re-learning how to draw cartoons for my UHF to “reactivate” my fiction writing skills”

One of the first pieces of “feed-back via email” that I received yesterday was… somebody “pushing” a toy that will eventually be on the market and that connects a system to provide answers- the dream of any lazy student 😀

I knew about that while I was writing the book, but when writing about the future of Big Data and Business Intelligence I wrote (as I did in the past) about “knowledge toys” that could work as your virtual assistant, I was thinking about something more “mature” than that proposed toy- and a for more mature audience.

I didn’t want to advertise a product-to-be on a crowdfunding platform.

Not only because isn’t yet available in stores and tested on the market, but also because I am quite skeptical about the rationale of presenting that toy as something that helps kids to develop cognitive abilities.

If you read once in a while my blog, you know that one of the most common words is “bookworm”: because that is what I am, was, and will be, also if I prefer to move around to sitting within a library (actually- I prefer to sit in my own library or to write while I travel in noisy places, helps to force focus).

99% of what I did in business was thanks to what others transferred to me in terms of knowledge and experience (the 99% “perspiration” and 1% “inspiration” of T. A. Edison), mainly through books, conferences, and, yes, also while working.

I was offered in the past to work as a “business coach”, but I prefer to see business coaching as a “collateral benefit” of other activities, not as the prime motivator, as I observed too many of those “business coaches” (even before it was fashionable to call them so in Europe) spend more time re-asseting their “jack-in-the-box” role or “mastermind” than acting as a catalyst to let others develop.

Being a lifelong “active bookworm”? It takes a willingness to continuously learn and test the boundaries of your ignorance, and an attitude to serendipity in knowledge: if I had had a “cognitive toy” answering any question with just a perfect, standard answer, would I have visited libraries to “explore” their catalogue?

Would I have started buying and reading books at 9 to complement the library of my parents with something that I found interesting (archeology, cultures, languages, science, well before technology and business books)?

Would I have picked once in a while books just following a single “unanswered question” or “unsatisfactory answer”, sampling a further domain that eventually was useful e.g. while in the Army, while in politics, while in business- sometimes decades later?

If your kids never develop the abilities to find their own answers, structure their own questions, do a trial-and-error, they might be more efficient in doing what is asked of them that replicates what has been done by others, but how could they develop critical thinking abilities?

Hence, the picture along with this post… (from here: https://performancemanagementcompanyblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/tobusytoimprove.jpg)

And, frankly, when I was 14 or 15 and for the first time went to see an “electronic brain” (a mainframe terminal) and used it “informally” to write my first computer programs (in Fortran IV on a punched card machine), but initially I wanted just to see if that could be the way to try doing what I was interested in: transferring knowledge without having to learn.

I will skip the philosophical discussions about the concept- let’s just say that already as a teenager I understood the value of “learning” vs. simply “replicating what others learned”.

Anyway: being able to write programs was a motivator to teach myself English (as all the associated books were available only in English), but was also a disappointment, as I had already studied few years books on how the brain worked (from Eccles to Brazier), and computers sounded like that old song from Peter Gabriel, “we do what we are told to do… one voice… one truth” (I think that it was “for the love of Big Brother” :D)

Electronic, yes, but brain? Give me a break. More than a decade later, after studying and using some AI tools (and a language, PROLOG- I still have a pile of books on that), I toyed with a tool (I think from Kurzweil) to play with “neural networks”: interesting concept, but still primitive, at the time.

So, I shifted from further programs in Fortran IV, to studying how to write a computer language compiler, using those concepts also to “dissect and learn” languages (a grammar is a grammar- and language patterns can be considered “Lego bricks”).

Something that, by chance, was useful in the first year of my university studies: I was tasked with writing a program emulating a theoretical machine, I ended up writing what the professors’ assistant said was a “true URM compiler”- for me, it was obvious that it was what was useful, considering what I had studied years before and what I observed in the lab (specifically- the issues that my classmates had with the Pascal compiler available on our VAX machine).

My older readers know that I am equally skeptical of softwares pretending to select the news for you, as obviously they would keep you in the same tunnel that you already entered, not open your mind to something else.

We are starting to see automated machines (I consider also software able to make small choices “robots”) making decisions with an expanded “adaptability” (in a recent past a minimal change in the environment made it impossible for robots to operate): why should we reduce our ability to adapt?

It is true that our current social model, based on a continued expansion of GDP can be kept only if we find less resource-intensive ways to expand our economies, but reducing the ability for critical thinking, as the Germans had planned for Ukraine and Russia in WWII after the successful completion of the invasion isn’t the best way to benefit from our collective abilities.

Back then, the aim was to reduce the level of scolarity to elementary school, to avoid having people who could lead a riot (idle brains- as all the “serious” positions were to be assigned to the new rulers), i.e. what was purely “functional” back then (basic reading, writing, maths).

Nowadays the target seems to be an equally “functional” level (technical training), but it is a shortsighted approach that could actually increase the ability of few rabblerousers (like the typical luddites) to generate trouble, thanks to the reduction in critical thinking abilities generated by those “policy” choices.

I will skip the discussion about Marx and others assumption that industrialized countries were ready for a revolution, that instead occurred… in Russia (do you now Lenin’s quip about “Soviet power plus electrification is communism”? You wouldn’t say that if your country were already industrialized).

Equally interesting is all the discussion about the “sharing” (somebody say “scraping”, other say “renting”) economy, i.e. the one supposedly represented by AirBnB, Uber, and various crowdfunding platforms.

Incidentally: there is an Italian weekly magazine that started before I was born as an investigative journalism magazine, became de facto the “house organ” of an unofficial political party (the blatant manipulative element of both the daily and the weekly is simply unbelievable, sometimes), but once in a while, when they remember that they are journalists, they can create surprisingly interesting material.

The August 15th week in Italy traditionally is when almost every business is closed.

Therefore, also newspapers and weekly magazines fill pages with nonsense, or “low brain intensity” material.

This time, somebody at that magazine (“L’Espresso”) decided to use the pages available to do something that you would have expected from Wired: almost a monograph on the “sharing economy”, from different perspectives (not just business or technology).

As usual in Italy, obviously there are few interviews with “gurus”.

Anyway: also the interviews with Rifkin and others are an apt complement to the package.

Frankly, after reading (in English, Italian, and few other languages) plenty of articles and essays on the “sharing economy” or “uberization” that were between the partisan for and against and the disinformation, and misleading commentary also from business commentators, I hope that, at least in Italy, somebody will read it- cover to cover 🙂

Unfortunately, the next issue of the magazine is back to the same “standard fare”- so, it was an “episode” of journalism, now it is back to grandstanding “Cicero pro domo sua” 🙂

There are few experiences and ideas probably worth sharing about those issues, in a more structured way than what I did with previous posts (or in 2007 and 2008 with my fictional United Hamster Front on stage6.divx.com), but the first chance will be within the book on the Expo2015.

Anyway, for a while, the book that I released yesterday will be the last one focused purely on business issues, as I wrote above.

In the next few months of 2015 and 2016 there will be some interesting evolutions in both Europe and Italy, and therefore there will be plenty to think and write about.

And, yes, also my Chinese studies are continuing, so eventually I will add more reading material on wodeshudian.wordpress.com, but in early 2016.

For the time being… I am now to move onto doing something manual (preparing my luggage for the week), and therefore… off the keyboard, and my computer will turn into a media player 🙂

Have a nice week-end!

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