Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Millennials and Quintessential LeadersBefore I even get into the heart of this post, I know that all of these characteristics don’t apply to every single Millennial, and, as with every other generation, there are hybrids (for example, I’m a Thirteener – Gen X – who was raised by older Silent Generation parents, and while I identify strongly with much of what defines the key characteristics of my generation, my core principles and values are very much Silent Generation, which has often and probably will continue to put me out of sync with most of my peers) and there are exceptions to the generalized characteristics of this generation.

I know that. You know that. So no need for flames or trolling if you’re a hybrid or an exception to the general Millennial characteristics. (more…)

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing UsThe Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As with The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr has brought the role of technology in our lives into focus with another aspect that I doubt many of us really understand in its pervasiveness in our everyday lives and what it is costing us, not just in obvious ways, but in ways that are fundamental to being human and be uniquely skilled to productively and expertly interact in and with the world of opportunity and possibilities we’ve been given.

The subtitle of this book is “Automation and Us,” and how automation has infiltrated every aspect of our lives and what we’re losing in the process is Carr’s subject in this book.

Automation, of and by itself, is not bad. It is the things we’ve automated and our relationship to automation (serving it instead of letting it serve us) that turns what could be a good thing into something that is destined to destroy us – our unique human abilities, skills, and talents – unless we take control and do something different.

One of the points that Carr makes in this book is that we have offloaded critical thinking skills, technical acumen, analysis, and creativity to technology. By doing this, we gradually lose the ability to operate successfully manually (without the technology) and use judgement, intuition, experience, and knowledge to navigate our lives and our professions.

Carr looks at the impact of automatic in the airline industry (specifically looking at how autopilot has degraded the skills of pilots to successfully deal with emergencies and crises when flying), in business (stock market, accounting, business decisions, human resources, hiring, etc., which have all been relegated to software to handle, with no human factors involved, resulting in the global financials messes we now deal with and with a loss of talent because there’s no human contact or intervention to recognize the talent), in medicine (with the advent of electronic medical records in most medical facilities, software is now making the decisions that doctors used to make and because the software adds procedures and tests, the costs, which were supposed to go lower, have actually increased exponentially) and in manufacturing.

He also looks at us and how we’ve turned over our brains to automation. We depend on social media to decide who and what we like (or don’t) and who we’re friends with (and who we’re not – anyone who chooses to limit this exposure disappears and becomes invisible because they simply don’t exist outside the virtual world) and we have chosen willing to live in this virtual world more than we actually interact with the real word.

We’ve given control of our lives to our electronic devices: to do lists, calendars, phone numbers, etc. We let our software do things we should be doing ourselves: spell-checking, grammar-checking, basic math functions, etc. We have fallen for the myth that automation gives us more power, when instead it erodes our power and our humanness.

People are much more extreme in their polarization of love and hate (nothing in between) in an automated world. It often seems that empathy, compassion, care, concern and love – all unique human abilities – is absent in the presence of a world that is automated. We lose our ability to relate to each other in any kind of real way and, as a result, we lose our humanness, and we become programmed to polarized points of view that we simply pick up and accept by what and who we choose to listen to, follow, and expouse in the landscape of technology (cable, streaming, internet, etc.).

We are losing our life blood – our hearts, our souls, and our minds, because we serve the god of automation that lacks emotional richness, deep understanding, and caring concern. I hope we reverse this trend, but I also am realistic enough to realize that we probably won’t and it will probably get much worse before it gets better.

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Quintessential leaders always ensure accuracy and truthAlexander Pope is often misquoted as having written “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

What Pope actually wrote in his famous “An Essay on Criticism,” was: “A little learning is a dangerous thing/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:/There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,/And drinking largely sobers us again.

It seems that Alexander Pope presaged what we now find in a world immersed in technology, where the educated and uneducated, the thinkers and the non-thinkers, the gullible and the prudent, the knowledgeable and the ignorant now equally have access to the same Big Data knowledgebase that lies just a few keystrokes away.

It is in the glut of this unfettered – and it seems, for most of humanity, unfiltered – access where quintessential leaders differ from everybody else.

Before we talk about what makes quintessential leaders rare and the unique in this area of modern life, we first have to understand the big picture of technology.

We also need to be aware of how, in many ways, if we are not constantly critically thinking, objectively analyzing, and consciously rejecting the insistent siren song that beguilingly calls us to rely on technology for everything neurological instead of building and growing our minds by actually using them, we become unquintessential leaders.

A brief overview of how technology will , if we allow it to rule us and we bring nothing to the table in terms of control, reason, logic, and thinking, make us unquintessential leaders is paramount to understanding the inherent dangers it presents to us as leaders.

Search engine results are based on data analysis, not quality, expertise, accuracy, or truthfulnessAll the search engines – Google, Yahoo!, and Bing are the big three (today at least) – are data-driven. From an internet perspective, websites – and their information – get “ranked” by keywords and hits (how many people visit, how often, etc.).

Therefore, page one of our search results is determined simply by data, not by quality of information nor by expertise. That is why most websites encourage you to share and share often their websites on social media. The more hits they get, the higher they go in the “organic” (non-paid) rankings.

The other way that websites get first-page ranking is that they pay a lot of money for keywords (there is usually someone working fulltime in the background at nothing but this who does the monitoring and upping the ante, pricewise, for specific keywords to stay at the top of page one).

This is known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. It is a budget hog for the organizations using it, but it gets results, so most organizations are willing to spend thousands of dollars a month to be in everyone’s faces when they do a search on one of their keywords.

The other side of the search engine equation is us – you and me. Analyses are continually run on our data – what we search for, what we click on, where we go on a regular basis in cyberspace (you and I may delete the browser caches on our devices, but the search engines never delete them) – and programmed algorithms pick up our searching habits and preferences and sheer down the available choices to what most likely fits what our aggregate data profiles tell them we want to see.

In other words, the internet is no longer a vast landscape of available information that we could cull through and get a broad perspective on about a topic. It is a miniworld of information that mirrors our past and, therefore, preferred choices. Our worlds, then, get smaller and smaller and smaller.

Having that broad overview of technology – their part and our part in mind – we now have to look at the relationship between who we are as humans and how the internet caters to that.

We humans have a lot more in common than we would like to believe. In fact, much of the hate, the condemnation, and the vitriol in our world comes from our rejection of our commonalities and our all-consuming pride in how we think we are so special and and so much better than everyone else.

Here’s a reality check for each of us. We’re not special and we’re not better than anyone else.

We all have the same limitations in the parts of us that matter and that determine how we see others and ourselves and how we treat others as we make our way through our lives.

Three of the things that all of us humans have in common – and which limit us to one degree or another – are biases, bigotry, and ignorance. 

The internet can feed these three things to excess if we are not aware of them and we are not consciously working to replace them with impartiality, fairness, and the kind of deep learning that Pope was referring to in his essay.

For the uneducated, the deeply and willingly ignorant, and the non-thinkers, the internet is a treasure trove of disinformation. Any bias, any bigoted thinking, and any ignorance can be found on the internet and it can be used to perpetuate bias, bigotry, and ignorance.

And it is. This quintessential leader shakes my head probably more than I do just about anything else at this point in my life at most of the stuff I hear, the stuff I see, and the stuff I read (I don’t read a lot of it because it’s so asinine, especially when I see the source, that I’m simply not going to waste my precious brain cells and time on a bunch of garbage that I know is not accurate and not true).

So what do quintessential leaders – those few of us who it seems have not completely lost our minds nor our ability to critically think, to analyze, and to prove or disprove objectively all information – do to ensure that everything we think, we say, and we do is both accurate and true?

  • We are aware of our own biases, bigotry, and ignorance and work diligently and continually to rid ourselves of those
  • We always consider the source of the information (Is it credible? Is it biased? Is it bigoted? Is it ignorant? Does it have an agenda?)
  • We always use critical and objective thinking as well as thoughtful analysis with all information we see, read, and Quintessential leaders take the time and effort to always ensure truth and accuracy in everything they say, write, and dohear
  • We never take any information we see, we hear, and we read at face value, but instead prove or disprove it thoroughly
  • We always speak and write less than we listen and observe
  • Before we ever speak and write, we deeply and thoughtfully consider our ideas, our words, and our presentation through the filters of accuracy and truth

This last point bears a little further explanation. Much of what is said and written on the internet is simply to generate content (again, this a requirement of Big Data and organic search engine ranking) and has little to no substantive value. 

In other words, voluminous content is just another way to manipulate a website to page one. The quality and the expertise of the content is irrelevant and the abundance of junk content on the internet proves that point.

The problem is when we the people fall hook, line, and sinker for the junk content. Often this kind of content has either something salacious or outrageous as its main point. We humans tend to gravitate to both and we love to share it with the rest of humanity.

It seems that the more preposterous, the more erroneous, the more sensational, and the more inaccurate information is, the more it gets consumed by the human race.

Veracity and accuracy, on the other hand, which are proven, well thought out, and fully explained don’t really titillate our biases, our bigotry, and our ignorance, and besides that, in our “I-just-skim-stuff-because-I-am-way-too-busy-to-actually-read-and-understand-anything” world, it demands too much time, effort, and self-reflection (we can’t stand the horror of possibly being wrong or needing to change ourselves) to come face-to-face with truth and accuracy.

For those of us who are striving to become quintessential leaders, we must look into our own lives to see which side of this equation we fall on.

Do we always ensure accuracy and veracity in every part of our lives, including the words we speak, write, and share with others?

Do we let our biases, our bigotry, and our ignorance rule the words we speak, write, and share with others, and in the process we propagate disinformation, misinformation, and lies?

Or do we – and this is a real trust-buster – sometimes ensure veracity and accuracy in what we do, including the words we speak, write, and share with others, and other times give in to our biases, our bigotry, and our ignorance and that is reflected in every part of our lives, including the words we speak, write, and share with others?

How are we doing?