Why Disruption and Innovation are coming and you aren’t smart enough to take advantage

The fundamental point of this ramble is this – most of you worrying about Disruption and Innovation have literally no idea what is round the corner and all your efforts are a probably an epic waste of time. Yes, this is a “the machines are coming!” post.

To give a little human context, on Friday Night after a couple of decent glasses of Red I got into a discussion with the BI Monkey’s other half about how her employer was chasing innovative customer experiences, vision and so forth. This set me off on a bit of a tangent on the scale of Corporate Vision as earlier in the day I have been reading about Elon Musk’s vision to get humanity to Mars, which eats most corporate visions for breakfast in terms of sheer breadth of ambition and scope. On the way got side tracked into AI (due to reading this earlier in the day). These coalesced over the weekend into this slightly rambling post.

Corporate vision beyond
Corporate vision beyond “great customer experience”

One point which I will totally fail to address but want to think more about is – if we create a true intelligence – why is is Artificial?

Disruption and Innovation you are (possibly) smart enough for

There are three rough classes of AI. The first of which is Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). Which means smart, but within very narrow boundaries. For example, my car has adaptive cruise control and though some tech voodoo is smart enough to be able to match its speed with the vehicle in front, apply emergency braking if needed and warn me if I stray out of lane. This is all very spooky on the first use but very quickly becomes something to switch on by default as I realise the car pays more attention to traffic than I do. Note I am not one of the majority of drivers who think they are better than average – I am definitely not that great and would rather a robot was in charge. Driving is hard and stressful, especially on busy roads (long country drives are a different story).

Anyway, the point is that the car is a way better driver than me, it’s smart, attentive, doesn’t get annoyed by the jerk in front cutting in and has absolutely no understanding of why it is going where it is going, what a sandwich is or how to play chess. It has a Narrow focus and is unlikely to move out from those guide rails.

Don't cut in front of these robot cars, you jerk
Don’t cut in front of these robot cars, you jerk

This form of AI can be disruptive as we understand it. Truly autonomous vehicles are going to disrupt our economy like you wouldn’t believe and we are less than 10 years away from it now (Volvo have just stepped up and said they will accept liability if their self driving cars crash). Innovations like Uber’s approach will leverage these disruptions.

What I will gloss over here is that this class of Disruption is going to hammer the economy by removing about 40% of jobs, and if you aren’t in a role leading the disruption in those 40% of jobs, you’d better retrain. A lot of the Disruption/Innovation axis cheerleaders like to skip over the fact that the massive improvements for customers will unfortunately remove the ability for a lot of those customers to actually earn anything, but hey ho. We can always hope for a Universal Basic Income, as per Steven Hawkings observation that one of the big future problems we face is not the lack of jobs but how the balance of power in society alters once most of us are no longer capable of adding any value to the economy.

Disruption you are probably too dumb for

ANI however is a limited threat as it still needs a lot of help from us humans to be designed, given a purpose and boundaries, yadda yadda. At some point – currently estimated at around 2040 (give or take 10 years) – we will create our first Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Which is AI that can learn, set its own boundaries, solve general problems  and no longer need handholding by us. At this point you can pretty much forget Innovation. The machines will largely be better at solving problems than us. Our best bet is that we can at least ask the right questions and still get some answers that a standalone intelligence cannot pose or use by itself.

The Disruption that is caused by the ability for us as a species to create an on-demand intellect to address problems will be that – as an economic resource – our value will plummet. A machine intelligence will be able to answer thousands of questions at once, have perfect recall and access to more data than we can hope to ingest in our lifetime and – best of all from an economic perspective – will have marginal input costs (it won’t need pay for a start) and no issues with motivation.

We will make the robots do all the Excel and they will never read Buzzfeed
We will make the robots do all the Excel and they will never read Buzzfeed

There will be a brief burst of innovations as people pose interesting problems to these new intelligences and apply the solutions, but try having competitive advantage when you can ask your AI how their AI solved a problem and you get an answer in seconds. R&D lag is gone, specialist expertise and accumulated experience is rendered worthless.

Then of course these AGI’s will take the next step.

The Disruption which will make your Innovation irrelevant

The next step in the scale is Artificial Superior Intelligence (ASI). This is where an AGI is smart enough to make  its self smarter and exceeds our intelligence altogether at a point known as The Singularity. At this point all bets are off. The ASI will be able to solve any problem we throw at it, create and solve new ones we weren’t even aware of and either drive us to extinction or gently herd us into the future in ways that will boggle our tiny little minds. The economy as we understand it will cease to be relevant so at least you won’t have to worry about your job.

So, we have to hope that we get Multivac or The Culture. The alternative is less about the ASI being hostile, and more about it being as indifferent to us as we are to a microbe. We may not consciously set out to destroy a microbe, but we may do so through our actions because we do not consider the microbe as we act.

Gratuitous Cthulu Picture because you may want to get eaten first
Gratuitous Cthulu Picture because you may want to get eaten first

Are we all going to die, BI Monkey? What should we do?

The safest course of action is to transfer all your money to me immediately and …  I haven’t thought about step 2. Perhaps take more of an interest in this subject so we can be better prepared for the coming changes. We still have 20 years to Disrupt and Innovate like it matters in the meantime.

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Oracle VirtualBox not allowing to delete a snapshot

Trying to delete a snapshot on my VM to free up some space I got this error:

Failed to delete the snapshot XXXX of the virtual machine YYYY
Hard disk ‘ZZZZ’ has more than one child hard disk (2).

Fortunately I found an easy solution here on Nicholas Jolet’s blog, repeated below:

In the snapshot manager, there were only two snapshots linked to my virtual machine.
I could delete the newest one, but I was not able to delete the oldest one/root snapshot.

To resolve this issue, I went to the “File > Virtual Media Manager” menu, then the [Hard Disks] tab and I’ve expanded the tree under my virtual machine.
I’ve deleted one snapshot that was not linked to any virtual machine, or snapshot.
After what I was able to delete my oldest/root snapshot.

And it worked perfectly!


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Two quick ways to fail at Social Marketing

I use LinkedIn quite alot for keeping track of business contacts and colleagues, and also for keeping up to date with thought within the industry using the Discussions. However the Discussions are fraught with spam and lousy social marketing. Here I will highlight two of the most ineffective practices, because they are really getting on my nerves and people keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

How to guarantee nobody reads your content

Simple – ask people for an email address before they can read or download it. Since you’re interested in putting people off, why not ask some marketing questions people don’t want to answer as well?

Imagine I was in the street and demanded name and address details before giving you a pamphlet. How many pamphlets do you think I would manage to hand out? Just like in real life, you have to give something to get something in return. If your article is any good – and relevant to the reader – a simple link to a sign-up page for further articles will garner more genuine, targeted responses. People who are interested in what you have to say will sign up – not those few people who may be interested but turn out not to be once they access your content.

If you want people to read your articles – give them away. Ask for involvement later, not upfront.

Got any spare change, mate?

So the next issue is how to effectively ensure nobody pays attention to your product or service. It’s very easy – just cut and paste your standard marketing blurb into a new post, or maybe as a response to a discussion without putting it into context.

For example: Have you heard of [Super New BI Product]? It will [Insert lies about product] and save your business [made up number] dollars. Just click here [link no-one will click on] to find out more or email [sales manager you will never email] to find out more about our amazing product and services. If you are even reading the end of this paragraph i’d be surprised – your brain has already tagged it as [spam].

Again, this is the equivalent of jumping in front of someone in the street and demanding they listen to your pitch. You will get as much attention as a homeless bum asking for spare change. It’s called social marketing for a reason. You need to engage with people, explain how what you offer potentially could assist them and you are willing to help.

Then they might talk to you, and you might get the business you are dismally failing to acquire using your current approach.


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Thinking about using Cognos Data Manager for your ETL?

Please, please, please don’t.

It’s ugly. It’s unwieldy. It’s hard to debug. It’s inefficient. It’s entirely geared towards delivering simple warehouses using Cognos tools. It’s got settings hidden everywhere.

I’m sure it was pretty good at some point in the past. But i’d rather use DTS, which has all the above flaws, but nowhere near as bad.

Update – following answering a query on a forum to ask why SSIS vs Cognos data Manager, I added a few reasons for this:

1) It’s old product – so it lacks functionality that SSIS has, in terms of connectivity and capability – most work has to be devolved back to the database layer via SQL, e.g. aggregation

2) If you think debugging SSIS is hard, Data Managers only audit function is the logs, which are massive text files you have to trawl though after execution

3) It’s slow, and very “Black box” – unlike SSIS you have very few options for performance tuning by changing settings

4) It cannot be extended – so no custom components, and very poor scripting support.

5) Settings can be deeply hidden and often the only way to find things is by trawling through components until you find them.

6) There’s a very good chance DM will be deprecated as IBM has too many ETL tools and this ain’t one of the good ones!

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