Algorithms Rule!?

From the extraordinary/chastening book Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World, by Christopher Steiner:

"... The audience then voted on the identity of each composition.* [Music theory professor and contest organizer] Larson's pride took a ding when his piece was fingered as that belonging to the computer. When the crowd decided that [algorithm] Emmy's piece was the true product of the late musician [Bach], Larson winced." (*There were three, one each by Bach/Larson/Emmy-the-algorithm.)

" ... Which haiku are human writing and which are from a group of bits? Sampling centuries of haiku, devising rules, spotting patterns, and inventing ways to inject originality, Annie [algorithm] took to the short Japanese sets of prose the same way all of [Prof David] Cope's. algorithms tackled classical music. 'In the end, it's just layers and layers of binary math, he says. ... Cope says Annie's penchant for tasteful originality could push her past most human composers who simply build on work of the past, which, in turn, was built on older works. ..."

We've included more from Steiner's book, and some related other stuff in an attached PowerPoint mini-presentation.

Coming to Believe
Manifesto X 3

In June 2012, we released the Korea-inspired "Human Capital Development Manifesto." On January 1st, we added "What I've Come/Am Coming to Believe." Most recently, there came the "Education Manifesto/Polemic." Now I have combined all three, and put them into two files. First a PDF file; second, a PowerPoint presentation.

Herewith ...

Kuwait

Tom's in Kuwait on the Persian Gulf. He's speaking to the Institute of Banking Studies in Kuwait City.

Institute of Banking Studies, Kuwait City

Sunrise, NZ

Sunrise, NZ

Tom is now stateside, but caught his last sunrise in New Zealand earlier this week and he wanted to share the moment with all of us.

The "Thank You" Tweets

Got going on Twitter re "Thank You"-power. Herewith the riff. Brackets at the end of a tweet are the source when it's not me—brackets with question marks are "source unknown."

Herewith, in the order they were made:

Overdoing it on "Thank yous" is a problem—0.0000001% of the time.

Timing is not everything. Thank you is everything. [leadlikeahero]

Overdo thank yous? I am 70. I've had far more than my share of "Thank yous." Love 'em as much as ever! Please feel free to overdo it.

Whenever anyone does anything of any magnitude for me I am literally delighted. An effusive "Thank you" is always in order.

The wee-est of wee "un-necessary" efforts rate mega-"Thank yous."

Courtesy not only makes things easier, but heartfelt appreciation makes lives better. [??]

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough. [M. Eckhart]

Saying thank you is a supreme leadership "tool." Believe it!

Saying thank you is in a way selfish. Reward is huge appreciation for tiny investment.

The more crushing the pressure or nearness of a deadline, the more powerful the pause to say "Thank you."

The most effusive thanks from a leader should be reserved for someone who has the nerve to bring her/ him bad news in a timely fashion.

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?" [William Arthur Ward]

Eye contact may be the ultimate acknowledgement. (Hey, significantly reduces retail shrinkage.)

Sorry to sound like somebody's mom, but power of thank you multiplied by crystal clear eye contact.

When we're busy, we often fail to make eye contact. For God's sake ... work on this! (Sooooo common when one is staring at a screen.)

Thank you/eye contact: Great news ... you can consciously practice and improve.

Funny, we think about getting better at fly fishing or carpentry, but not when it comes to the likes of saying "Thank you."

Don't ruin a good apology with an excuse. Don't ruin a sincere 'thank you' with noise. [??]

When I say "Thank you" to someone, that's 100% it for that communication. No pollution

It's like calling to wish someone "Happy birthday" followed by a reminder of a looming deadline

"Thank you" isn't a starting point of something else. It is "the point." [Vala Afshar]

Hate to be crude, but someone who is thanked is in your debt. ("Thank you" is a power tool as well as a gracious-humane gesture.)

Re "Thank you"s: I am preaching my Mom's Gospel ... enforced with the Wrath of God.

Over to you ...

Takaka
New Zealand

Tom is giving a "hometown" NZ presentation on the issue of what a job will look like (if there are any, he says, admitting to hyperbole) in 10 or so years. It's new material that he's been working on for the past few months. The community group is the "U3A," the University of the Third Age.

U3A, Takaka, NZ

Winner’s 7
Winner’s Daily Dozen

Okay, it's just a list—and you've seen 100 like it. Nonetheless, it woke me up in the middle of the night—and I put a few Notes onto my iPhone. It—of course—made it into the electronic sunshine as a tweet. (I'm not terribly keen on "Winner's," but I couldn't figure out anything much better: "Success Factors" a little whatever; "Stuff" not too bad; pick your own—you get the idea, I'm certain.)

Winner's 7: Choose your attitude. Take the lead. Listen intently. Learn something new. Help someone. Arrive early/leave late. Eye contact. [Tweet: 139 characters with spaces]

Winner's Daily Dozen

1. Your call and yours alone: Consciously choose the attitude you take to work this morning. (Bingo: Positive, enthusiastic—regardless of how you feel inside.)
2. Realize that each day literally offers up on a silver platter a dozen leadership opportunities, regardless of your age/experience/rank/seniority/status. (So grab ONE.)
3. Arrive early. Leave late. (Out work 'em ... it works.)
4. Listen aggressively: Formally practice and improve listening skills. (Effective listening = #1 long-term differentiator.)
5. Learn something new today. Meet someone new today. (Reside permanently on the edge of your discomfort zone.)
6. Cherish your boo-boos. (No screw-ups today = Abject failure to nudge ye olde envelope.)
7. Civil. Always. (Make it a religion.)
8. Unbidden, help someone with some[little]thing. (Make it a religion.)
9. Take a nanosecond to say "Thanks" for the tiniest atoms of helpfulness. (Make it a religion.)
10. Smile. (Make it a religion.)
11. Eye contact. (Make it a religion.)
12. EXCELLENCE. Always. (Excellence is not an "aspiration." Excellence is the next five minutes. Or not.)

Manifesto/Polemic:
Best Teacher Corps Wins!

The ideas presented here—and as a PDF (revised as of
19 March 2013), hastily and in the roughest form—were developed subsequent to a discussion during my New Zealand sojourn on building a cadre of teachers that matches the likely needs of these turbulent times. (My only previous stick-your-neck-out effort of consequence concerning education is recorded as Chapter 22 in my book Re-Imagine: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age.)

The manifesto/polemic:

"The best educated nations win."
Or: "The best educated and most entrepreneurial nations win."

There is more to life than education.
There is more to life than entrepreneurship.

Yet these two variables are increasingly important in the years ahead—and those years are rushing toward us at an unprecedented pace. In technology change, yesterday's decade is today's two years—or less.

If these two variables are important, then it more or less follows that our teaching corps—especially for the first 8 grades—are the most important members of our society. (Singapore more or less—mainly more—believes this and acts upon it.)

Implication: The very best and the very brightest and the most energetic and enthusiastic and entrepreneurial and tech-savvy of our university graduates must—must, not should—be lured into teaching. (They need not stay for life—one would be happy with 5 years, ecstatic with 10.)

In the USA and other nations (many, if not most, if not almost all), the variables set out above and associated with excellence in teaching required to meet the challenges of 2020, let alone 2040, alas, do not describe our fresh caught teachers. One could even argue, stopping short of cynicism, that those variables are often the antithesis of the ones associated with those attracted to teaching today. This is simply unacceptable in the face of the most likely scenarios for economic excellence—or, for that matter, survival.

(FYI: To reiterate one of the initial points—we must attract instinctively entrepreneurial candidates—there are more of such candidates than one might imagine. Attracting entrepreneurial candidates, of course, requires a system that is open to change and which celebrates rather than condemns rebels. Concerning the proclivity or fitness for entrepreneurial adventures, Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus put it this way: "All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves we were all self-employed ... finding our food, feeding ourselves. That's where human history began. ... As civilization came we suppressed it. We became labor because they stamped us, 'You are labor.' We forgot that we are entrepreneurs." Bottom line: Super-genes are not required to foretell entrepreneurial talent—the millions upon millions converting to entrepreneurial ventures courtesy the Web are more or less proof of Yunus' assertion.)

Finding and educating these new-criteria teachers requires a revolution in both content and the incentive structure needed to attract the best of the best—and to induce them to experiment boldly once aboard the education train.

(FYI: Re content, there is a school of thought prevalent in the USA which demands an immediate curricular shift toward "STEM"—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. To be sure, no harm done, lots to applaud. However, Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda recommends instead "STEAM"—science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. His argument is based upon an assessment of future bases of competitive advantage as computers make vast inroads to existing jobs; the concept arguably—or, in my opinion, inarguably—makes a great deal of sense.)

This necessary revolution in teacher inducement and development, no matter the urgency assigned, will not happen overnight—or in the next five years, even if one and all, including teachers' unions, agreed on the premises above.

In the meantime, we cannot wait ...

Our universities today do turn out magnificent "products" who can meet the specs above and de facto launch the education revolution—today. We must immediately move to unmistakably and with governmental approval and towering private sector contributions bag these candidates as they march out of the graduation auditorium with their spanking new degrees.

(FYI: In my opinion, the impact of the new technologies is such that we need a very young teacher corps—one that has the demographics of the Facebook or Twitter new-hire corps. Assertion: With rare exceptions, older teachers—35+??—will have the devil's own time identifying with the experiences of the students who walk into their classrooms, circa 2020—and, for that matter, circa 2013. And the devil's own time embracing new "upside down" approaches to teaching. For example, as many forward thinkers have said, the teacher must in effect partner with, rather than dictate to, students who in many ways are more technically qualified than they are; and partner with students in ventures that de facto foreshadow a penchant for entrepreneurship.)

Role models needed: Teach For America is an example of an approach that appears to provide a semblance of a road map for others. It is hardly "the answer" to this "save the nation" need. But it does provide an exceptionally worthwhile and tested case—both its successes and failures, the latter of which illustrate the pushback that this entrepreneurial approach induces in, at least, the USA. Teach For America, however, is almost proof positive that, under the right circumstances, the very best and the very brightest from leading institutions can be attracted in numbers to, at least, a stint as educators; this proven attraction predates the 2007++ crash, so it cannot be written off as merely a response to a lousy job market for graduates. (Teach For America is but one example. In particular, courtesy charter schools among other efforts, a plethora of de facto experiments are in train in the USA.)

Also, in the role model set, could be the likes of the Robertson Scholars—a "full ride" university scholarship program established by philanthropist Julian Roberts and overseen by an evaluation process so rigorous that it merits comparison to the Rhodes program, though at the university entrance juncture. In one way or another, identifying these future "save the nation" teachers is a bit like developing sports champions; while one can go far too far, ID-ing talent early is an imperative strategy. Which is to say that the attraction to, in effect, nation-building-through-a-matchless-teaching-corps should mark university entrance as well as post-university work. (FYI: This latter assertion about funneling top university candidates into the system in no way suggests funneling them toward schools of education—alas, the latter are often laggards rather than leaders in developing the needed skills laid out at the beginning of this paper.)

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day! This may not be a traditional gift-giving holiday, but I thought I'd give your curiosity a gift today. Patricia Martin (disclosure: she's a client of mine, not Tom's) has pulled together a list of Top Women (you've probably never heard of) Shaping Digital Culture. These are some truly fascinating women doing remarkable things. From a creator of an open-source EPUB reader to researchers reporting on sociological images to the Chief of Technology at the Brooklyn Museum, these women are leading projects that are sure to spark your creativity if not your interest. Check them out.

Best of the Cool Friends
John Maeda

John Maeda became a Cool Friend back in 2006, when he was an MIT professor and a member of the MIT Media Lab. Now, he is president of Rhode Island School of Design. An arts administrator with technology in his background, he is at the forefront of the push to get STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) changed to STEAM (A for Art), a campaign Tom has embraced, as you can see in his recent "What I've Come/Am Coming to Believe" posting. In light of the effort by both Maeda and Tom to gain recognition for the importance of art in education, now is a good time to revisit Maeda's Cool Friends interview.

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