Did We Even Hear the Same Presentation (Watch the Same TV Show)? – The Answer is Probably No

December 12, 2014

First Friday Book Synopsis

Did we even hear the same presentation, or read the same book, at all?

You know the confusing feeling. You’ve heard a presentation, or read a book, or seen a movie or tv show, and you say one thing about it, and the other person did.not.get.that.at.all. Their reaction was totally different.

Well, I’ve got a news flash for you. You did not hear the same presentation, or see the same tv show…

Oh, of course, it was the same presentation, or the same tv show — but in reality you are two totally different audience members. What you are wrestling with right now is different from that other person. You received the book, speech, presentation, show differently because you are different people.

These thoughts are prompted partly by the seemingly everywhere-present criticism of last Sunday’s The Newsroom episode, dealing with issues of campus rape allegations. Aaron Sorkin even issued a…

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11 reasons computers can’t understand or solve our problems without human judgement

September 8, 2014

The Urban Technologist

(Photo by Matt Gidley) (Photo by Matt Gidley)

Why data is uncertain, cities are not programmable, and the world is not “algorithmic”.

Many people are not convinced that the Smart Cities movement will result in the use of technology to make places, communities and businesses in cities better. Outside their consumer enjoyment of smartphones, social media and online entertainment – to the degree that they have access to them – they don’t believe that technology or the companies that sell it will improve their lives.

The technology industry itself contributes significantly to this lack of trust. Too often we overstate the benefits of technology, or play down its limitations and the challenges involved in using it well.

Most recently, the idea that traditional processes of government should be replaced by “algorithmic regulation” – the comparison of the outcomes of public systems to desired objectives through the measurement of data, and the automatic adjustment of those systems by algorithms in…

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A New Era of Risk Management?

February 14, 2014

A New Era of Risk Management?.

A New Era of Risk Management?

February 14, 2014

The Multidisciplinarian

The quality of risk management has mostly fallen for the past few decades. There are signs of change for the better.

Risk management is a broad field; many kinds of risk must be managed. Risk is usually defined in terms of probability and cost of a potential loss. Risk management, then, is the identification, assessment and prioritization of risks and the application of resources to reduce the probability and/or cost of the loss.

The earliest and most accessible example of risk management is insurance, first documented in about 1770 BC in the Code of Hammurabi (e.g., rules 23, 24, and 48). The Code addresses both risk mitigation, through threats and penalties, and minimizing loss to victims, through risk pooling and insurance payouts.

Golden Gate BridgeInsurance was the first example of risk management getting serious about risk assessment. Both the frequentist and quantified subjective risk measurement approaches (see recent posts on belief in…

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Space Commercialization

July 12, 2013

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately talking with reporters about the commercialization of space, e.g. tourism, exploration and businesses such as mining.  Kind of interesting to see this surge in interest from business and popular press, not sure what’s driving it.  Maybe the success of Space X and the impending Virgin Galactic flights, or the on going political battles in the US as Congress directs NASA to focus on manned missions to the moon and Mars and not on asteroid capture.

Thought I’d share here some of the reasons that commercialization will be successful and some of the issues that need to be addressed.  One, we have very successful (rich) people that are innovators in their fields (Musk, Bezos, Allen) all interested in space and willing to take the financial risks associated with these types of projects.  The technologies  needed to make these missions work are available and not limited to governments, NASA is redefining itself and open to partnering with private ventures.  Google is underwriting the Lunar X Prize to send a robot to the moon, we can expect a successful mission to be followed by a human launch.

During the space race of the 60’s we missed an important question about what happened after we reached the moon, “what next?”  The space shuttle was built not to explore but for assembly of the ISS and earth orbit, there was no mission/objective to catch the public’s interest. And we know the public is interested,  just look at the response to the Mars robotics missions.

The private business involvement can actually help expanding our reach in space by handling the support/sustaining missions and allowing NASA to focus on exploration and long term plans.


Time for a One World Space Program

September 10, 2009

My career as an engineer began with the USA space program in the 60’s. We achieved Kennedy’s vision in 1969 and then sat back wondering what’s next. Space shuttle, a glorified truck with wings? The ISS?

Our biggest successes have been through our unmanned – robotic missions. Think of the excitement about the two Mars rovers and the extended life they have achieved.  Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on these strengths and move from manned to unmanned missions?

Under the Bush Administration a return to the moon followed by a mission to Mars was announced, of course there was no funding. So now the Augustine report states that NASA needs to revisit these missions and
manned space missions. At the same time the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Russians and S. Koreans are creating their own programs.

With a slammed economy and 2 wars is now the time for the USA to broach the idea of a single unified space program?  We can combine our strengths and achieve reaching Mars.  This certainly makes more sense than all of these nations engaging in a race to the moon (with the associated costs)  and beyond.

I know this is rather Star Trekian, but maybe space can be the place where the countries of the Earth come together.

Networking is More than Showing Up

August 13, 2009

Woody Allen said 80% of success is showing up.  For anyone attending a networking event this unfortunately isn’t true.  Showing up and talking with no one or just one person all night won’t get you very far.  First off it’s selecting the right event to show up at, are there people there you want to meet?  Does it involve people from the industry you want contacts in?  For example, if you’re interested in medical devices you don’t want to show up at a meeting of civil engineers.  Second, is it a meeting that has networking built into it’s schedule, i.e. social time, or is is a lecture format in an auditorium that isn’t conducive to networking?  If the latter you may want to focus on the learning opportunity as opposed to networking.  All events offer the chance to network, some just better than others.  Make sure you pick your event.

One of the best ways to network is to volunteer. Consider helping with registration at a meeting, refreshments, meeting arrangements.  Just think if you’re the registration chair for a meeting, this will give you the chance to meet all of the attendees, and you won’t need any awkward openings, just start with name and employer.  Or arrange a meeting, great chance to call someone up invite them to speak and learn more about their business. 

 These are just some ideas of ways to think about networking and through volunteering expand your networking opportunities.

Bad Economy = Career Opportunity

June 23, 2009

For a lot of people a bad economy means bad opportunity, when in reality with the right attitude this economy can proivde plenty of opportunities.  First off you need to think creativly about your skill set and where these can be applied.  Now can be the time to change industry and take advantage of some of the new opportunities being funded by the stimulus $’s from DC.  Energy is one place to look, utilities, alternative energy technology  companies – think solar, wind, wave.  The auto industry is seeing the birth of new companies.

As in any start-up period there will be a shake out of companies and anyone pursuing these opportunities may look at several job losses.  If this doesn’t fit your current needs then think about temporary work. In a sense today we’re all contingent workers with people moving in and out of companies whether by choice or being pushed.  Better to always be looking for the next challenge than waiting and worrying.

Hello world!

May 5, 2009

I am looking forward to having the opportunity to share with you the latest on systems engineering, career trends and how volunteering can help you build a network.  There opportunities out there, you just need to be open to take them.