Saturday, November 18, 2017

The devil wears Brioni (and a silk tie)

In my book Flexibility (1) I argued 8 years ago that men should not be in positions of complex policymaking. Trained to hunt and gather for hundreds of thousands of years, they do not have the experience to deal with societies that show diversity and differing needs. For most of their life, they spent time fine-tuning process skills and their brains specialized in optimization and not in complexity. But now, they are pushed into jobs they are ill-equipped to do. To make matters worse, they have no clue about it.
Men have been problematic. Their brains appear incapable of understanding interconnectivity and they seem to spend a lot of time counting scores and money. That's appropriate as their incentives have been driven by the quantity of trophies they collect and the mouths they feed. Such was their power they ran over civilizations who have shown trends of progress but they completely arrested any such notion. If humans do not figure this out soon, they could be dragged down by testosterone and ignorance. The outcomes of this movie can only be bad and the fact that the opposite gender is gentle and brainy means that the stalemate is going to continue for a long time.
Men, responsible for most of the ills in the world, appear still to be in charge. It is unclear, why.
(1) https://www.crcpress.com/Flexibility-Flexible-Companies-for-the-Uncertain-World/Eapen/p/book/9781138112391

Sunday, November 12, 2017

All roads lead to autoimmunity

Recent news that (1) Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by a haywire immune system is a constant reminder that the era of seeking external targets and influencing them by chemical means is over. Humans have conclusively proven that they are capable of killing anything that invades their bodies. As they win wars, they seem to have lost the battle as the overriding threat to life now appears to be their own immune systems, marginalized by drugs.
This is a new regime - autoimmune diseases account for most of the health care costs today and drugs that help solve external problems are commoditized and rendered irrelevant. The single cell organisms that made havoc for a few hundred thousand years have been tamed and even bacterial resistance created by the overuse of antibiotics is handled with relative ease. Although the common flu makes impressive comebacks every year, the recent discovery that could result in a long-term vaccine against it, attacking the stem of the virus rather than its head, is welcome news. But, humans have failed to stop their own bodies attacking them and herein lies the conundrum. They seem to win small wars but always lose the battle.
To go further, a dramatic shift is needed in life sciences. Century-old companies, trigger happy and target focused, have to realize that they have to dramatically change their R&D focus. Making incremental improvements to already solved problems, albeit interesting, will not make a difference to healthcare costs or utility. Thier chemistry know-how could be handy, but now perhaps it is time to look inward. The human appears to be a fairly simple machine with a single pump that supplies the lifeblood and a single CPU that makes decisions. The failure of the pump or the CPU is catastrophic and that remains to be the biggest reason for the loss of life. The respiratory system that provides the necessary fuel takes the next biggest share and, here behavior seems to have played a big role just as in the next slice representing the metabolic syndrome channel.
Humans never had "enough," to eat. Their feeble bodies and primitive tools won against the mighty animals only occasionally and their bodies are trained to operate with a few hundred calories a day. But now, they throw out thousands of calories after stuffing themselves with a few more thousand and this has created havoc in their own systems. Their plumbing seems to have been designed badly to start with and now with particles floating in the system that is not capable of eliminating them, their organs are failing. And their bodies and immune system, confused and lethargic, are attacking them.
To make further advancements in health, knowledge, and culture, humans have to figure out how not to lose to themselves.
(1) https://www.alzheimers.net/5-11-16-early-alzheimers-caused-by-haywire-immune-system/

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The coding myth

As the world turns upside down aided by accelerating technologies and disruptive business models, forward-looking individuals and companies are making alternative plans for the future. Outdated education systems, clamoring to catch up with the present by providing classes online or designing graduate degrees in analytics and artificial intelligence, may be sending the wrong message to their customers. As the CEO of a fortune 100 company recently remarked, "We need more coders," and this appears to be the consensus even in those companies who are reluctant to hire coders from the "other sex." But this notion may need to be challenged - Does the world really need more coders?" What evidence do we have for this?
Coders always had a cult status and coding has been a coveted activity. However, it is unclear why this is the case. Coding is a mechanistic activity that we are very close to teaching machines how to do. However, designing what to code is not that easy. So it may not be coders and coding that we need but a deep understanding of what coding can do. And here, experience appears to matter. It is ironic that as millennials attempt to systematically dismantle the generation that has given them grief, what they really need is the raw experience of the ones they would like to exclude. The portraits of billionaires rising from code country may have created the wrong impression - for every one of them, there are millions who have simply perished coding.
Lately, it has been the gamers who made coding sexy. Some, after getting bored at the games they helped create, have set out to replicate the human mind. This is not technology but marketing and it clearly seems to have worked as the search giant stitches together technologies for the future - mind, body and all. Far away from the Silicon heart, there are large assemblies of coders - ready to make anything come alive to make their masters happy. Most did not attend fancy schools and some, none at all, but they all know how to code. But now that we can automate coding, what will the coders do?
Humans, prone to myopia, do not seem to learn from the past - but the machines they build, certainly do.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Carbon-Silicon transition

For nearly five billion years, Carbon dominated the Earth. Now there are telltale signs of the rise of Silicon as a viable alternative. Available examples of Carbon-based life appear uninteresting with an extremely slow evolutionary slope and it may be time to make a transition. As Silicon rises to replace Carbon, it will affect the most advanced systems first and humans are certainly in the mix.
Silicon has been equally capable from the beginning. However, Carbon was a powerful and efficient tactician and the systems powered by it, robust with little volatility. This could be its Achilles’ heel as it is volatility that aides exponential evolution. Slow moving Carbon has taken too long to make systems of sufficient interest and in the process, it seems to have lost the race. The time has come to retire bad designs and replace them with those that can substantially advance thoughts and ideas. A world without the fallibilities of Carbon-based systems could be substantially better and likely more appropriate for the current environment.
As the space enthusiasts look for extra-terrestrials outside Earth, they don’t seem to recognize that the ET is already here and humans are being slowly and systematically replaced by such Silicon-based life. There is no turning back now. The only saving grace for the last iteration of Carbon is that they played an important role in their own elimination. The first signs of the transition will appear in cyborgs, not the kind portrayed in Sci-Fi movies. Sophisticated cyborgs are already replacing conventional business processes, by forecasting better, allowing better designs and slowly removing inefficient Carbon from decision processes with less costly and more effective Silicon.
The end of Carbon-based systems could be near. Its cousin, just below it in the periodic table is positioned to take a dominant position on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the universe.