Brendan Harkin: Talent challenges for C-level execs


"Begin anywhere." John Cage.

Forbes lists the five top talent challenges of today's C-level executives: 1) Lack of diversity - Today's businesses understand the value of diverse leadership; 2) Lack of key leadership successors - Organisations are scrambling to identify talent equipped with the leadership competencies to step into senior roles; 3) Competition for talent - There is a premium on top talent. Take a hard look at your organisation and ask, what is your unique proposition that will attract the very best people?; 4) A mismatch of current talent and future strategies - The leadership competencies required over the next decade prioritise agility, emotional intelligence, lateral thinking, cultural acumen, and comfort with uncertainty - in other words, "adaptive"; and 5) Need for digital expertise - Few organisations have yet to fully realise enterprise-wide digital transformation.

Economist Tim Harford has an entertaining article in the FT on "What we get wrong about technology - forget flying cars or humanoid robots, the most disruptive inventions are often cheap, simple and easy to overlook".

Another great FT article from the always-brilliant Rana Foroohar: Silicon Valley remains in a cognitive bubble, reluctant to engage with legitimate public worries over monopoly, privacy and tech-related job disruption, not to mention its own culture. Robert Tracinski suggests "the new Facebook boomtown looks a bit like a gated community, a pleasant, perfectly planned playground for the tech elite, separate from everything and everyone else". Meanwhile, in Apple's new so-called "mothership", female employees can have their eggs frozen but there's no daycare facilities.

Yet, the defining tech-industry story of the last decade has been the rise of Apple and Google. In terms of wealth creation, there is no comparison. Eight years ago, neither one of them was even in the top 10 most valuable companies in the world. But The Atlantic reports that there is a difference: Capitalism the Apple way, or Capitalism the Google way - shareholder control vs. executive control. But it might be a difference that makes no difference if you're just a mug punter having your personal data stolen every which-way.

Again from The Atlantic, Technology That Will Make It Impossible for You to Believe What You See. With these techniques, it's difficult to discern between videos of real people and computerised impostors that can be programmed to say anything. The President can be made as a lip-synching puppet. At the same time, Wired reports that AI will make forging anything entirely too easy. Welcome to the Matrix! (It's why the The Matrix film name-checked Jean Baudrillard and explicitly his book Simulacra and Simulation).

Extrapolating from past trends is useful but limiting in a world of such accelerating technological change. Science fiction can help. By presenting plausible alternative realities, science fiction stories empower us to confront not just what we think but also how we think and why we think it. They reveal how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be. The Harvard Business Review explains why science fiction is invaluable to the ambitious, and why companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have brought in science fiction writers as consultants. Storytelling with science fiction allows us to use the arts in order to educate and engage the public about scientific advancements and its implications. The XPRisE Foundation recently announced a science fiction storytelling competition. The initiative, in partnership with Japanese airline ANA, features 22 sci-fi stories from noteworthy authors. Each of these stories is from the perspective of a different passenger on a plane that travels 20 years into the future through a wormhole. Contestants will compete to tell the story of the passenger in Seat 14C. (Btw, if you want to be hip to contemporary SF, here's XPRisE's Advisory Council - it's a who's who - so prepare to be lost in the maze for many hours!).


"There is no complete theory of anything." Robert Anton Wilson

We're living in the Wild West of artificial intelligence, with products and companies popping up so quickly that we've had little time to understand what it truly means to integrate AI into our everyday lives. A new initiative at Google, called People + AI Research (PAIR), is the company's attempt to rein in its horses and focus on distilling user-centric design principles to govern interactions between humans and artificially intelligent systems.

Computer Vision and beyond from Cannes: How AI invaded Marketing's biggest get-together this year. Plenty of interesting examples of AI and Marketing here. Publicis have stated that the will not attend next year. Why? To invest the money saved in developing AI expertise.

Putting Art into Artificial: AI-Generated Art Now Looks More Convincingly Human Than Work at Art Basel. Deep neural networks are learning to make art and the results are impressive.

Even Politics is not immune to AI (maybe especially Politics is not immune to AI!). Could a Robot Be President? Some techno-optimists really believe a computer could make better decisions - without the drama and shortsightedness we accept from our human leaders.

Science Mag discusses the ways AI and Data are revolutionising scientific practices. The flood of data can overwhelm human insight and analysis, but the computing advances that helped deliver it have also conjured powerful new tools for making sense of it all. (A great glossary of AI terms included in the article).

An excellently nuanced review of AI by one of China's leading investors, Lee Kai-Fu, in The New York Times, dealing with the promises and threats of AI. Lee's comments echo those made by Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma at the World Economic Forum in Davos back in January. Ma admonished the US for wasting the immense wealth it has earned as a beneficiary of globalisation. Ma explains that globalisation is not the cause of the US's economic misfortunes; instead, the blame falls squarely on a failed economic strategy that in the past 30 years has spent $14.2 trillion fighting wars while the national economy shifted from manufacturing to financialisation.

Meanwhile, China aims to make the artificial intelligence industry a "new, important" driver of economic expansion by 2020, according to a development plan issued by the State Council. Policy makers want to be global leaders, with the AI industry generating more than 400 billion yuan ($59 billion) of output per year by 2025. Key development areas include AI software and hardware, intelligent robotics and vehicles, virtual reality and augmented reality.

The Atlantic Council reports that we are living in a world awash in data. Accelerated interconnectivity, driven by the proliferation of internet-connected devices, has led to an explosion of data. A race is underway to develop new technologies and implement innovative methods that can handle the volume, variety, velocity, and veracity of big data and apply it smartly to provide decisive advantage and help solve major challenges facing companies and governments.

Urs Gasser, the Executive Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, has begun an excellent series on AI and the Law on Medium. He says "AI promises enormous benefits for the social good and can improve human well-being, safety, and productivity, as anecdotal evidence suggests. But it also poses significant risks for workers, developers, firms, and governments alike, and we as a society are only beginning to understand the ethical, legal, and regulatory challenges associated with AI, as well as develop appropriate governance models and responses.

For example, Big Data could make some people 'uninsurable'. Big Data can offer new business insights to insurers - but what about policy holders? "Some people may be identified as such high risk to insurers that they are priced out of insurance altogether". Btw, all that data being gathered by your bank and credit card is being sold to your insurance company to spy on you.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of the US tech giants is breathtaking: Hey folks, let's have open source algorithms (so cool, right!) but sharing data? No freaking way! Data hoarding is already well established as a defensive strategy among AI-centric companies. Google, Microsoft and others have open-sourced lots of software, and even hardware designs, but are less free with the kind data that makes such tools useful. That's why $79 AI USB starter kits are a great initiative but it remains to be seen what can be done with only a little data.

In A Crack in Creation, biochemist Jennifer Doudna describes the science behind CRISPR and the history of its discovery. This guidebook to the CRISPR revolution gives equal weight to the science of CRISPR and the profound ethical questions it raises. Also, Steven J. Heine's DNA Is Not Destiny: The Remarkable, Completely Misunderstood Relationship between You and Your Genes; and Matthew Cobb's Brave New World of Gene Editing: all three books are covered in one great review in the New York Review of Books.

(If you're interested in the uncertain future of genetic testing, here's a great article: almost 20 per cent of genetic tests returned a Variation of Unknown Significance (VUS) result. "That's a lot of uncertainty," says Robert Klitzman, a bioethicist at Columbia University in New York. People want genetic tests to be like pregnancy tests: "You're either pregnant or you're not. Instead, they're more like a weather report").

"We really haven't discussed this as a society. We're drifting towards it and the technology is very close to being available, but we just aren't talking about it." - Meanwhile, the future of porn is here ... and it's very, um, hands-on! High tech teledildonic devices, where tactile sensations are transmitted between viewer and live web cam performer, are being championed by PornHub. Laura Bates in a great article at the NYT lists many of the problems with sex robots.

The WaPo (if you can believe anything in the Washington Post) reports that "Mini autonomous police cars paired with companion drones and facial-recognition technology will begin patrolling the streets of Dubai by the end of the year to help identify and track suspects". James Vincent at The Verge is not so sure: "Dubai's robot -- an off-the-shelf model built by Spain's Pal Robotics -- won't be doing any real work. It's a tablet on wheels, designed to trundle around tourist centers and dole out directions. The same can be said of many other high-profile bots -- like Pepper, or various "home hub" robots. The work they do is usually just that of a mobile phone or a security camera. Occasionally, if they're big enough, they'll knock over a child, just to break up the routine". He recommends Jessica Riskin's The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument over What Makes Living Things Tick for a fascinating history of automatons and human agency. Book and reviews here and her Video Presentation here.

Meanwhile, independent small businesses (the largest employers) don't like credit card companies. Small businesses pay more in swipe fees than they make in profit in many cases, meaning that banks and payment companies make more money from those businesses than the owners do. This is why we are being forced into "cashless slavery" in which every single transaction is taxed by a few credit card companies, plus the government take. Bring on cryptocurrencies and frictionless exchange - Alex Tapscott, the author of Blockchain Revolution, shares how the blockchain - the technology behind bitcoin - is changing money, business, and the world (Video: 18 mins). As Peter Diamandis (from XPRisE and Singularity U) says, "At its core, bitcoin is a smart currency designed by very forward-thinking engineers. It eliminates the need for banks, gets rid of credit card fees, currency exchange fees, money transfer fees, and reduces the need for lawyers in transactions... all good things".


"I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive." Joseph Campbell.

The idea that we are living in some simulation created by a super artificial intelligence is the stupidest idea I've ever heard even if Elon Musk believes it (unless it's some kind of metaphor for the Gaming Government Media complex that we live in). I suppose it does abolish the reality of war, poverty, and misery at a single stroke which is great since all those other "people" are just simulations, right? But there is at least one reality that Elon Musk definitely believes in: the government's ability to collect the taxpayer's dollar and distribute it to private companies - Government "Flabbergasted" After Elon Musk's Most Bizarre Claim Yet - talk about a simulated reality! (btw, the comments section at Zerohedge are always brilliant and frequently hilarious).

Fortunately, Skeptic magazine has a neat and effective antidote to Elon Musk's delusions (or fabrications, if you wish): I AM NOT LIVING IN A COMPUTER SIMULATION, AND NEITHER ARE YOU by Peter Kassan. Comes complete with a one-page a BS Detection Infographic put together by a couple of 11th grade Physics students, based on Michael Shermer's 16-page Baloney Detection Kit.

Which brings me neatly to Ready Player One - the first photo from the set of the Spielberg film has been published. When I was SF a while ago everyone was walking around with a copy of the book like it was a gospel.

Will there be a new way for the working class of the future to earn a paycheck? Sure. Playing videogames. That's the bold prediction of Edward Castronova, an academic at Indiana University who studies the economics of online games. He argues that within 20 years, "playing games for money will come to be seen as a legitimate occupational choice for those whose skills are not valued by brick-and-mortar labor markets."

Meanwhile,for many young men video games are increasingly replacing work. Since 2000, men in their 20s without a bachelor's degree are working considerably less and spending far more time engaged in leisure activities, which overwhelmingly means playing video games. This group of men has also grown more likely to be single, to have no children, and to live with parents or other family members. The surprising thing about the stereotypical aimless young man, detached from work and society, playing video games in his parents' basement: He's actually happier than ever.

What happens when imaginary worlds are more enjoyable than the real one? A team of researchers from Princeton, the University of Chicago, and the University of Rochester discusses another class of individuals who are not working but are not counted as unemployed: People, primarily young men who are addicted to games. For such individuals, games provide a fantasy world that is far more enjoyable than the real world. As the person in the comments section notes: "

FIRST: these games are highly stimulating - life usually isn't - and humans easily gravitate towards "exciting" activities. Some of these games are incredibly complicated and take real mental horsepower to succeed at.

SECOND: Gaming is social - they are doing this with other PEOPLE online - people they chat with, become friends with, they talk about problems, share life stories/experiences.

THIRD: Work opportunities for younger people are crap - but at the same time (I observe) that they usually don't want to work at it either. I know many people who employ labor/etc. and they constantly complain about the younger folks just not giving a s**t, being late constantly, etc.

FOURTH: Imagine if you were 22 - here is what you might have personally observed if your older brother was, say, 30, went to college, had kids, and got divorced. He is horribly in debt, working at a job that isn't going to pay for the bills, the wife took off with the kid, he is shoveling money every month at her - she has four boyfriends (they pool housing assistance) and a habit and the kid - and there is nothing he can do despite fighting with the court system - write that check or go to jail. I have seen this EXACT situation and it is much more common than y'all realise".

Now, imagine tying all of that in with sex robots - young men just aren't going to leave the house (their parents' house that is).

Here's an extremely thorough and expertly produced report from on "Our Sexual Future with Robots" asking seven key questions: Would people have sex with a robot? What kind of relationship could we have with a sex robot?; Will robot sex workers and bordellos be acceptable? (they already exist btw); Will sex robots change societal perceptions of gender?; Could intimacy with sex robots lead to greater social isolation?; Could robots assist with sexual healing and therapy?; and Would robots help to reduce sex crimes?

Laura Bates in a great article at the NYT lists many of the problems with sex robots and takes apart the argument about reducing sex crimes. She begins with sex dolls already on the market that have multiple "personality" settings, including "resists your advances". In other words, you rape them

Blay Whitby, a philosopher concerned with the social impact of emerging technologies and the trivialisation of robots in the media says "We really haven't discussed this as a society. We're drifting towards it and the technology is very close to being available, but we just aren't talking about it." Meanwhile, an example of the future of porn is here ... and it's very, um, hands-on! High tech teledildonic devices, where tactile sensations are transmitted between viewer and live web cam performer, are being championed by PornHub.

The next Art movement is happening at the Eyeo Festival. Here's a compilation of the keynotes and projects there.

USC Professor Azad Madni uses model-based, data-driven stories to enhance collaboration, engagement, and decision making in complex systems engineering creating an innovative solution that engages all involved parties, helps them develop a shared understanding of the problem, and allows them to collaboratively explore options with different assumptions before making informed decisions together. His method: interactive storytelling.

A new exhibit at Canada's largest art gallery is pulling classic paintings from their canvases into three-dimensional space. Artist Alex Mayhew and Director Ian Kelso interview and video.

Ten wonderful rules for thinking about design from Todd Lombardo - my favorite is No. 10: "Ask the Tough Questions Early".

And here's a stunning visual of the social media universe - all of this basically created in the last ten years.


"I have devoted my life to uncertainty. Certainty is the death of thought and creativity" Shekhar Kapur.

A brief history of polaroids in art: featuring Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, Keith Haring, Chuck Close, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Muhammad Ali

We're smack in the middle of the digital revolution, leveraging artificial intelligence, virtual reality, machine learning, optimisers, while the Fearless Girl bronze sculpture on Wall Street is probably the most honored piece of advertising in recent history. At Cannes, it won 18 Gold Lions including four Grand Prix trophies, and the coveted Titanium Grand Prix. That's right, the Fearless Girl statue is an advertising PR stunt. It was commissioned by an investment firm named State Street Global to promote one of their funds.

A new documentary on David Lynch: The Art Life traces Lynch's early career as he moves from art into experimental film. Ava DuVerney has released the first trailer for her new movie A Wrinkle in Time. With the film, DuVernay officially became the first African-American woman to direct a movie with a budget over $100 million - and by the looks of this trailer, she's going to make every dollar count.

Arts newsletter "It's Nice That" has been running a "Nicer Tuesday" event in London and publishing the videos - there's some seriously fabulous stuff to look at - and well worth subscribing to their weekly newsletter - here's a teaser from the video artist Weirdcore showing off some extraordinary visuals (Q: Why has he pixilated his face? A: Because real-time public surveillance of facial recognition is already happening, but we're not being told anything about it).

Fantastic review of Joel Dinerstein's book THE ORIGINS OF COOL IN POSTWAR AMERICA in

The Times Literary Supplement. Clue: "Keeping Cool" originally meant not reacting to racial provocation and insults. Saxophonist Lester Young started wearing sunglasses so people couldn't see if he was reacting to abuse and humiliation. Other Jazz musicians followed suit.

Bee Porn: enjoy these incredible HD pictures of bees by Alejandro Santillana- phenomenally complex and beautiful creatures. And that's before you even start talking about the freak-out of having compound eyes.


"Vigorous writing is concise. Omit needless words. Make every word tell." Birthday boy E.B White from the incomparable 'The Elements of Style' (Free downloadable version here)..

First and foremost, it's Ian Curtis's birthday this edition - take your pick: Transmission, Atmosphere, Love Will Tear Us Apart, or any number of other Masterpieces. He was 23. RIP.

It's David Hockney's birthday this edition too and a show called "Happy Birthday Mr. Hockney: Self-Portraits" opened at The Getty in LA this week. (Also includes some polaroids!) You can also learn how to paint like him in 4 minutes - it's simple, right? :-)

Call-outs to Tom Stoppard (I picked the extraordinarily prescient masterpiece Brazil- and if you've seen the film, you'll also love this 20 minute behind-the-scenes documentary), and also the great Ingmar Bergman - here's a very nice short video essay on the Master's major techniques and symbols.

Some quintessential New York songs from birthday girls Debbie Harry "Rapture" and "Heart of Glass", or the immeasurably beautiful "We are Family" by Debbie Sledge and Sister Sledge.

From the other side of the pond, Marc Almond sings about (what else?) Tainted Love and Glaswegian Jim Kerr from Simple Minds sings about (what else?) The Waterfront.

Meanwhile, from Australia, who could forget the immortal Bon Scott - "It's a Long Way to the Top if You Want to Rock and Roll" filmed on the main street of my hometown Melbourne - "I'll tell you folks/it's harder than it looks". They might have been more famous and conquered the world, but they were never any better than this moment.

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