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RWaaS combines people, processes, AI, and suppliers into new virtual services. (Freepik/flaticon)

We treat workers like shrink-wrapped software, boxing up jobs and shipping them off to their workplaces. Now that remote work is acceptable, what happens when these jobs are finally unboxed?

It’s hard to find a silver lining, but one positive and far-reaching impact of the pandemic is the widespread adoption of remote work. Individual managers will embrace or resist remote work on their own timetables. But as a society, the pandemic accelerated us into a future that would have otherwise taken years if not decades to arrive. Remote work is here to stay and it constitutes the most disruptive change in a generation.

Entrepreneurs and investors love disruptive change. But we don’t always treat it as such in the moment.

There are good reasons why entrepreneurs pursue incremental opportunities. It’s difficult to fit a new venture into a complex system. There are innumerable intentional and unintentional consequences to our decisions. …


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Science is eating startups. We need a philosophy that’s built for the challenge. Precisely. One. Philosophy.

The Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams said, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” I guess he wasn’t well acquainted with entrepreneurship. In this game, if you succeed one time out of ten, you’re far outperforming the field.


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President Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore)

Trump’s superpower is entirely human and all too common. Recognizing it is the first step to defeating bad explanations.

This the first post in a series that explores the pandemic and its impact on problem-solving and knowledge creation.

Do you think Trump has a superpower? Depending on your leanings, he’s either a political genius or an idiot savant. “He is completely unencumbered by the truth,” wrote Charles Blow, “the need to tell it or accept it.”

Trump attributes his success to his gut and his style is certainly fast and intuitive. But the ability is altogether human, used and abused by all of us. Trump marshals industrious little rationalizations called ad hocs to fatigue his foes.


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A gallery of AI artists and their art. (Source: AIArtists.org)

Our enduring musical preferences illustrate the challenge for AI.

It returns as predictably as the seasons. Call it Bacon’s Comet: The idea that the age of creative AI is now upon us. Machines are not only accelerating discoveries (so the argument goes), they’re now making their own independent discoveries. And just in time, since the world is demonstrably more complex than feeble human minds could hope to comprehend.

All of this is quite wrong. It’s been wrong for hundreds of years. In the 17th century, Francis Bacon claimed our only hope for liberation was an autonomous scientific method where knowledge emerges inductively from raw observations. He was wrong, but his idea retains all the commonsense appeal today that it once did. It was wrong in 1900, when Lord Kelvin remarked, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” It remained wrong when John Horgan popularized this same “evil idea” in The End of Science in 1996. It was wrong in 2008 when Chris Anderson celebrated the end of theory and the liberation of big data. …


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Cardboard sign on The Promised Land sculpture in Portland, Oregon, reminding military personnel of their duty to follow The Constitution. (Ted Timmons)

Chaos, cancel culture and secret police. The protesters arrive just in time.

“The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.” From Napoleon of all people, a stunning testament to the destructive power of silence. In our revolutionary times, “silence is violence” is once again a rallying cry for change.

But silence isn’t mere complicity, it’s often compelled. Silence through obfuscation and conformity. Moments of silence. Codes of silence. Silent majorities. Silent screams. Silence inhabits all our inexplicit drives and motivations. It possesses our emotions, our institutions, and our culture. We’ll need more placards.

Yet silence, in all its forms, is utterly incompatible with a civil society. Movements may be summoned in silence, catalyzed through quiet displays of solidarity. But silence cannot sustain us. It cannot explain and so it cannot persuade other people to change. …


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How did facts become such a conversation killer?

This the sixth post in a series on the pandemic and its impact on progress and problem solving. In the last post, we looked at uncertainty in science.

The gruesome toll should make the pandemic undeniably salient, undeniably factual. But the denials mount as fast as the casualties. In his latest of many statements downplaying the pandemic, Trump declared that 99% of COVID-19 cases are harmless.

You may think this a lamentable reflection on human nature (and you’d be right). But it’s also a comment on the nature of facts. I don’t want to dwell on misguided people behaving badly. …


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Anthony Fauci and Mike Pence, March 31 2020 (The White House)

The pandemic is killing the myth of The Science. But are we ready to embrace an uncertain reality?

This the fifth post in a series on the pandemic and its impact on progress and problem solving. In the last post, we looked at the crisis of expertise.

The pandemic challenges even the strongest enclaves of expertise. Our most respected universities and professions are under siege. Most disruptively, we’re learning that our most vaunted institution, The Science, doesn’t exist at all.

The Science is a figment of our collective imagination. It’s called whenever one needs an all-purpose statement of authority: We need decisions based on the science, the data, the facts. Similarly, when broad objections to sciences are levelled, they are frequently rooted in these same authoritarian terms. Merrill Matthews asked liberals, “Will someone please tell me which ‘science’ I am supposed to believe?” Rush Limbaugh was more pointed, remarking, “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. …


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Peter Navarro and Jared Kushner (Eric Bridiers, Dominique A. Pineiro)

Expertise is not problem solving. The pandemic clarifies the difference with tragic efficiency.

This the fourth post in a series on the pandemic and its impact on progress and problem solving. In the last post, we looked at the impact on our values.

Experts once went about their business in relative tranquility. They were authoritative, credentialed and respected. Most tended to the same activities their entire careers. Academic institutions and communities of practice were well defined and largely stable.

Today, there’s a crisis of expertise. Many consider experts parasitic, a conceit of the elite. Technology has made information abundant and accessible, creating armchair experts of every fabric and style. Old stock experts have been squeezed out, overrun with people that maintain a posture of expertise but none of the substance. Their mimicry runs so deep that these faux experts are themselves often unaware the difference. Privilege and celebrity provide fertile environments. …


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Lockdown protestors in Grove City, Ohio (Paul Becker)

The virus isn’t just attacking our values, it’s highlighting their true nature.

This the third post in a series on the pandemic and its impact on progress and problem solving. In the last post, we looked at conspiracy theories and why their misconceptions envelope all of us.

The toll of the pandemic on our values may be the most momentous impact of all. In the world of explanations, values are top predators. But they are seriously misunderstood creatures.

Largely unexamined, they seem impervious to reality, the immutable standards by which we live our lives. But like it or not, our values are explanations. They may be stubborn. They may voraciously consume our weaker beliefs. …


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Bill Gates is caught in the most popular conspiracy theory of the pandemic. (Mohammad Jangda)

Conspiracy theories are often treated like weak explanations, easily debunked. This misconception only makes their webs stronger.

This the second post in a series on the pandemic and its impact on progress and problem solving. In the last post, we looked at ad hoc rationalizations and their most famous enthusiast, Donald Trump.

Conspiracy theories are easily refuted, and so they’re often underestimated as weak. Treating them this way invariably backfires.

Consider the most popular conspiracy theory of this pandemic. It claims that Bill Gates created the coronavirus and aims to profit from it. As reported by the New York Times, Gates warned us in 2015 that an infectious virus could threaten the lives of millions of people. By April of this year, The Gates Foundation committed over $250 million to fighting the disease. On its face, these are not villainous deeds. But anti-vaxxers, members of the conspiracy group QAnon and right-wing pundits like Laura Ingraham seized on his advocacy as evidence that Gates planned all along to use a pandemic to gain control of the global health system. A complex network of explanations began to form around this idea. …

About

Peter Sweeney

Entrepreneur and inventor | 4 startups, 80+ patents | Writes on the science and philosophy of problem solving. Peter@ExplainableStartup.com | @petersweeney

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