futurish_0002 ❤ Doodle with AI, The myths of flat hierarchy

Happiness is not The Great Gatsby

It was a grey autumn morning here in Helsinki. I went to a public sauna at around 7 am close to my apartment. At that time, I was by far the youngest among the early-morning sauna enthusiasts. So, I was sitting in the sauna with one older gentleman when he started speaking to me in Finnish. I politely replied in Finnish that I spoke English and that my Finnish was still very rusty. He swiftly switched to nearly perfect English, also apologising that his English was not that good. Humbleness at its greatest - a classic Finn <3

We talked about the US election and shared some laughs between two naked strangers in a 90-degree celsius room. It was a very ordinary moment, but a surprising ordinary moment. My point is, that we often tend to seek great and extraordinary moments to feel happy. Yet, what Finland has taught me is that happiness is found in such mundane and ordinary moments, such as having a wonderful conversation with a stranger in a sauna. 

Happiness is not The Great Gatsby. Happiness is found in the ordinary. 



Can a neural network learn to recognize your doodling?

This machine learning experiment powerfully demonstrates to you in a very hands-on and engaging way, what machine learning really is, and how it can help us already in our daily lives. It is part of the "AI Experiments with Google" collective where everyone can submit simple and hands-on machine learning applications. I still try to avoid using the term "Artificial Intelligence" too easily, as most "AI" applications are still mere machine learning, which doesn't imply that it is not intelligent. With neural networks, we have moved away from hard-coded algorithms done by humans, to self-learning machines. Yet, machine learning applications are still very limited as they require a very strict and predictable environment to do its magic. I really look forward to what we will see in this decade as machine learning and "AI" will advance even more. 

Tip: At the very end of the "Quick, Draw" application you can click on your doodles and you can see how the "AI" tried to match your doodle with the database or references the machine used to learn. So exciting :)

Pete: First off, this is super fun and an awesome way to make the concepts of machine learning accessible. Especially when you can see at the end how the system matched your design on previous ones. Very cool!

'Machine learning' really has become a buzzword though, hasn't it? A lot of implementations deeming themselves as such are in the end just simply man created systems with a very light backend with no signs of 'learning' or improvement - classed as 'Limited memory' (one of 7 types of AI).

I definitely can't wait for the future, but I hope that we tread carefully forward as the thought of AI in the wrong hands with the wrong data can be extremely terrifying. We had hope in non-profit organisations like OpenAI, but last year they turned 'for profit'. So let's scrap that and just hope more foundations start where they can create standards for use that everyone can follow and avoid this Terminator-esque future. Until then I'll keep trying to draw penguins.

Valve and the myths of a flat hierarchy

Valve Software is one of the largest video game companies out there. Widely known for games such as Half Life and Portal, as well as their game distribution platform, Steam. For many years now they were also known for their unique ways of management, or should I say lack of management, where they touted a 'flat hierarchy'.  There were no bosses or titles and games were formed simply if a group wanted to work on it - no need to ask for permission. 

I've long since thought about the practicalities of this. I love structure and process, there's a reason why these things even formed in the first place. Projects generally don't get completed quickly enough without it. If there is no single driver of what the idea of success is then how will you know it's been completed? These are several of the traits that actually ended up plaguing Valve and what caused them to release very few games in the past 10 years.

The video linked above in the headline is actually quite an interesting insight into their process. I specifically love the following quote; "We sort of had to collectively admit we were wrong on the premise that you will be happiest if you work on something you personally want to work on the most. We decided as a group that we would all be happier if we worked on a big thing, even if it's not exactly what we wanted to work on."

Gerhard: I remember having studied various forms of business structures during my years as a business student, among others the flat-hierarchy. It was described as a potential new method of doing things that should unleash innovation, increase autonomy and agency as an employee, and therefore result in better businesses for customers, employees and employers. Obviously, such things always sound better in theory than in practice. 

While I do believe in the power of self-organizing and self-governing in whole and in part, a flat-hierarchy cannot work if there is no shared purpose and principles. I found the framework of a "Chaordic Organization" very useful to understand why the flat-hierarchy at Valve resulted in chaos: "A Chaordic Organization is a form of organization formulated by Dee Hock and others in forming the VISA organization (Hock, 1999). The term 'chaord' is formed from the words 'chaos' and 'order'" (https://cio-wiki.org/wiki/Chaordic_Organization). 

If you have too little rules, structures, common goals, or principles you will end up in chaos (destruction). However, if you apply too many rules, structures, etc. then you will end up in order (oppression). The golden balance is achieved by providing enough shared principles and goals to create a state of "Chaord", in which innovation and creativity can emerge. 

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.

Henry David Thoreau

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 Pete & Gerhard