The computer says ‘yes’, but can AI really drive happy accidents and social collaboration?

AI

David Byrne is a musician and a writer and lives in New York City. An extract from one of his articles appeared on the MIT Technology Review.  The article talks about the ubiquitous presence of Artificial Intelligence embedded in the  social interaction software and networks that we meddle with, day in and day out relentlessly.  We take it so granted, that I was compelled to write about his unique perspective on the effects of AI (Artificial intelligence) on our social life. You can find the article here.

Here, in the following paragraphs, you will find my perspectives (my 5 cents to it) on ‘Can AI really drive happy accidents leading to social interaction’ riding on David Byrne’s arguments.

We are swayed by the AI networks for social interaction

We as humans are so preset with the current way of life using all kinds’ of smart devices for communication and interaction that we have often forgotten to realize what it means to have a real human-to-human interaction.  In fact, would like to appreciate MIT Technology Review for giving such a clever title as “Eliminating the Human” in the article.

David argues that we are swayed by the artificial cues and matches thrown by AI (Artificial intelligence) that we have failed to recognize our natural instincts as social animals to trust our own intuition for social interaction and collaboration that consumes us.

There is a generalization, and the pattern is obvious.  We are entering into a world, which increasingly does not favor human interaction.  For example, if we go to the ever popular Amazon.com, the site acts and behaves like a machine and gives us recommendations on what to buy based on our past interests and even the review conversations are machine like.

Social networks are engineered predominantly by male software engineers

So are the other modern outlets like music stores, driver-less cars, online ordering and home delivery, speech recognition and personal assistants, big data and even popular social networks.  Though social networks have the social interaction part, they are less real.  They are the simulated version of our interactions.  The entire interaction happens from a software engineer’s point of view.  Partly because, the software engineering crowd is predominantly male and they do seem to share the feeling that human interaction is all noise and has less simplicity and efficiency.

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Understanding viral information flow and rumors in a corporate social network

viral information flow

The following is an extract from the original article published in ‘Warwick blogs’ by the same author in March early this year, 2017.

The figure is a  simple free form sketch of a viral information flow among people in a closed network. Some are happy and some are not. The sketch was drawn using ‘Sketchbook’ from Autodesk.

I just happened to search the internet on the influence of social networks and social media at workplaces. And I bumped into this article from Gallup business journal, which happens to be a gem not just from the insights that we can gain, but there is much to learn from social network experts like Dr. Jon Kleinberg.

The article that I am talking about is “The power of social networks” from Gallup business journal. You can find the link above.

The article interviews Dr. Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University. Dr. Jon is a professor of Mathematics at Cornell University and a recipient of many awards including the Rolf Nevanlinna prize.

The Rolf Nevanlinna prize (May sound new to many) is awarded by the International congress of mathematicians for outstanding contributions in the field of Mathematics aspects of computational and information science. This award is given every four years.

Now, what interested me in this article, was Dr. Jon’s expert views on information cascades and the contagion theory in the social network, that exists in the offices. Why certain messages go viral and how information flows and thrives in the social network.

I have mentioned about the fine synergistic relationship between Social media and Social network, in my earlier posts. Both exist to complement each other. The underlying structure of the social network, embedded inside the social media, makes it (Social media) more acceptable among the masses.

Social media is an ‘attitude’, it is the medium through which people interact and share information with others.

By sharing and by interacting with others, a social network is formed. We need a medium, a tool, in the form of a social media to control and better able to structure the network and fine tune it. We then leave it to be self -organizing.

We cannot enforce any strict rules on a social network. People’s behavior, ties, and connections within the network is self-regulating and self-organizing. It is like an organism which evolves continuously.

Now having said that, it needs some incentive structures to be built inside it. We need to motivate the masses.

Incentive structures and benefits should be structured in such a way, that it mobilizes people for a long-term sustainable change.

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30% of employees did not spend enough time to learn from external social collaboration – HBR Research

external social collaboration

Ideas can be life changing. All you need to open the door is one more good idea”

The above quote is from the American author Rim Rohn.

External Social collaboration has the potential to make those small hunches and ideas worthwhile to pursue. They can develop it into a workable idea and before you know, friendly collaborators will spur you to execute it.  The intentions of utilizing external social collaboration networks are good but how much of this learning is used and diffused within the organizations? This is something we need to know. Nevertheless, there are certain principles that need following within workplaces to make idea generation fruitful for everybody.

Perhaps this is what companies are doing to spur innovation. A recent article from Harvard Business Review titled “A study shows how to find new ideas inside and outside the organization” talks about how employees in workplaces can generate new ideas by networking not only with fellow colleagues but also with experts and industry luminaries outside the organization. You can find the article here.

Big companies like Proctor and Gamble, Lego, and Bausch use employees who have the necessary skills to network externally to source ideas for them. Social media collaboration within the consumer space can be a huge help. The time and costs spent my employees’ networking and collaborating outside their workplaces sometimes outweigh the benefits of generating new ideas required for innovation.

Balance Internal and External networking

However, there is a catch. According to the findings, employees who network extensively outside the organization with their business partners, vendors, and industry experts are not necessarily productive. In addition, employees who network within their colleagues inside the organization are not completely devoid of new ideas either.  There needs to be a balance.

Senior employees within the organization, network with a range of industry experts and they spend a considerable amount of time doing this. The amount of time spent outside the organization can hamper the proceedings of the internal meetings and inputs, where their ability is required. Sometimes, time spent outside can derail the efforts of time-constrained innovation that needs to happen within the organization. It was revealing to understand that 30% employees (Respondents) do not spend the time to learn from their external social collaboration.

This means they (30% of employees) do external networking in a casual way, which may or may not add value in the end.

External collaboration and building relationships outside the organization requires a lot of time.  Learning and gaining valuable industry nitty gritty not only takes time, it is an art as well.

There is a concern that employees, who spend time externally this way, may not understand the innovation needs and priorities of their workplace in the first place.

Spending time on how to execute those ideas internally within the workplaces is equally important, if not more, feel most of the organizations. The irony is that, only when we spend time externally with counterparts outside the workplace, will we learn more from them.

Please read our blog post article, Benefits of social media in the workplace An employee perspective

The studies further point out that employees sitting at their desks all day and spending time only within their business units should not miss out opportunities to learn more from their colleagues in other units. In fact, there were more ideas generated, when employees collaborated with other employee groups. Sometimes, employees’ source of inspiration could be just right across the desk. We fail to recognize this fact.

Simple principles to follow

In such situations, how can organizations balance collaboration in external networking and internal networking?  The answers lie in the following simple principles for external social collaboration within workplaces.

Let me explain these simple principles.

The manager needs to understand the ability and skill level of the employees

It is not necessary that the all the employees need to engage in external social collaboration. It is important to understand the current organization goals, priorities, and needs. External social collaboration activities need to align with the organizational goals. Managers should encourage both internal and external social collaboration and networking. It is imperative to understand and take up that approach that works best for them.

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Social collaboration in workplaces – Time and creativity Best Practices Part 2

Social collaboration in workplaces

This post is the part 2 of the series, Social collaboration in workplaces. You can find the part 1 here.

Today, we will talk about how social collaboration in workplaces can help in areas where with time pressure to complete the work, there is no place for creative endeavors.

“Don’t be fooled into thinking that time pressure will, in itself, spur creativity. That’s a powerful illusion but an illusion nonetheless.” These words are taken from an article in Harvard Business Review titled “Creativity under the Gun”. You can find the article here.

As the authors say at the end, it is all about dodging the bullets and bullets are a metaphor for all kinds of distractions.

With that in mind, what I would like to say is…

Do not rush creativity

Creativity needs some time to unfold. The sparks of insight that we encounter, need some time to internalize and recombine within the mind to fructify.

Research says that time bound and high-pressure jobs do not give rise to creative thinking nor new ideas.

Typically, in an organization managers give a day or two off after a task and particularly for tasks with tight deadline schedules. The fact is creative juices will not flow even after a day or two of completion. Employees often have to deal with something called the “deadline hangover” which lasts for several days. It could be because of exhaustion or post productive paralysis say some psychologists.

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The social network of the gods – The primordial soup of carbon atoms and water

carbon element in the primordial soup

Creating a dense social network by having the capacity to form connections is one thing and having a sustaining environment for those connections is quite another. The primordial soup (a mixture of carbon atoms, water, and other small elements) has both in equal measure.

According to many management thinkers and scientists, for social networks to be innovative and dense they need to lie at the edge of chaos between too much order and no order at all.

For collaborations and/or innovations to occur in social networks, we need two things. The first one is the capacity to make new connections and the second one is the randomizing environment, which encourages the collisions or the connections to happen.

Fortunately, for the primordial innovation engine (Our mother earth) has both the capacity and the randomizing environment to sustain stable connections over a long period.  The abundant existence of the uniquely talented carbon atoms, the so-called ‘great connector’ and water, the so-called “high-density network liquid” both need to act together for the connections to happen and sustain. This has made life and evolution possible on earth.

We have much to learn about social networks from mother earth and the very origins of life in this Universe. I drew inspiration from Steven Johnson’s book, “Where good ideas come from” to write about the connection between the primordial soup and social networks. You can find the book here.

Life would not have existed if there were no carbon atoms. Even if we had to search for life on distant galaxies, they too would be carbon based.

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Yochai Benkler – How the Internet’s social ties bonds us together

Yochai Benkler : Internet bonds us together

In the next few paragraphs I attempt to write about a chapter taken from the book “The wealth of Networks – How social production transforms markets and Freedom” written by Yochai Benkler.

Yochai Benkler is the professor of Entrepreneurial legal studies and Co-Director of the Berkman centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The book was first published in 2006. Yochai Benkler wrote about the future of the internet and how the internet is changing the society. The book is widely considered as an authority in the realm of our socially and digital networked world. The book with about 515 odd pages talks about the information economy and how we are all influenced by it and its contents stands true even after ten years since its publication.

What I attempt to do in the next few paragraphs is my own interpretation and understanding of one of the chapters in the book titled ”Social ties: Networking together’.

Yochai Benkler: The Internet’s influence on social relations is too soon to predict

Here, Yochai Benkler talks about two diagrammatically opposite views about how the Internet will affect the society and the community. The first one, which he elaborates as part of freedom and justice discourse  is that individuals will start living somewhat disconnected and arid lives.  This arid life will free us of the many worldly attachments like television and telephone and sometimes even our social relationships and make us grounded. Possible ! this effect was projected in the 1990’s. The other one was the ‘virtual communities’ where people interact, share and build a shared human communal existence.

New empirical evidence (Evidence which is hard, visible and experimented) shows that neither views will prevail. In fact it will be a mixture of the two. It is too soon to predict which way the direction of the Internet on social relations will take. It is obviously complex. Though Internet has clear effects on the human society, it will neither transcend or breakdown any particular aspect of it.

Thickening and loosening of relationships

Yochai Benkler elaborates further about the two types of effects that the Internet has on the human society. The first one is the thickening of relationships among previously not so tight relationships among friends, relatives and parents. The Internet has brought them together. Children who have moved away from their parents are now finding the Internet  a boon. They do not have to coordinate a time to talk to them or pay for long distance communication. The days of the email have changed all of that. The same is the case with long parted friends.

But this thickening of social relationships has also led to loose hierarchical relationships among their family members and friends. As individuals start connecting together again, they have weaved a their own peer relations and support networks. This will dismantle the hierarchal relationships which might have been stifling to some on their freedom to express their views and opinion.

The second one is the loosening of ties and relationships. They are the ‘loose relationships’. Many virtual communities may or may not fit into this aspect but that is the fact. This new aspect of ‘loose relationships’ might displace many of the age old, one to many communication models which exists now in the Television and Radio mass media. This old model will be replaced by a newer many to many model which encourages interactive participation and sharing of information.

The effect of Internet on everybody will not be same but the magnitude will vary among social relations and networks. Yochai Benkler agrees that the usage of the Internet and rise in the individual capabilities will not aid in social fragmentation and alienation. There stills exists the fear of disintegration.

To dissuade this fear of disintegration Howard Rheingold put it quite subtly in his now classic book of 1993  – “Virtual community“. Human beings inevitably will form a community and colonies. We have a hunger for colonies just like bacteria do. A portion of the text from the book ‘Virtual community’ is below.

‘My direct observations of online behavior around the world over the past ten years have led me to conclude that whenever CMC [computer mediated communications] technology becomes available to people anywhere, they inevitably build virtual communities with it, just as microorganisms inevitably create colonies. I suspect that one of the explanations for this phenomenon is the hunger for community that grows in the breasts of people around the world as more and more informal public spaces disappear from our real lives. I also suspect that these new media attract colonies of enthusiasts because CMC enables people to do things with each other in new ways, and to do altogether new kinds of things—just as telegraphs, telephones, and televisions did.’

Yochai Benkler goes on to say that online relationships not only restrict themselves with just being on the Internet but also forge their way to a healthy offline face to face relationships as well. Such face to face relationships are alive and kicking and exist along with the online Internet relationships.

Cheers.

 

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Does the internet make you smarter? Can Social media too?

Does the internet make you smarter?

Does the Internet make you smarter? to be honest, is a popular search term on Google shared by millions of people around the globe. Going by the  Search engines parlance, this is a long keyword and the search trend for this keyword is rising.

After all, all of us, if not some of us have spent half of our lives surfing on the internet. My 8-year-old daughter is no newcomer either to the internet. Just like other eight-year-olds on this planet, she spends about 3-4 hours a week watching Youtube and playing games on the internet. Well, I decided to gather some information.

Does the Internet make you smarter? the straight answer is, Yes.

Logging on could spark a little bit of genius in all of us.  When you bounce your thoughts and share your knowledge with others, there is every chance that new ideas can come into this world.

Thinking is not solo anymore

But there still exists some contradictions on this subject around the world. Probably in the past, thinking alone and gazing at the stars would result in a sudden epiphany of sorts, a flash, a spark or a light bulb moment. Well, that was the past. A popular belief that emerged partly from passed on stories and life histories of some of the inventors.

Increasingly, there is research pointing out that new ideas and innovations do not stem from a single moment of euphoric thought but from bouncing and successive iteration of ideas over a period of time.

It all starts with a slow hunch says Steven Johnson, the author of the best-selling book  “Where do good ideas com from”, you can find his TED talk show here. And still Clive Thomson, the author of the popular book  “Smarter than you think” is very optimistic on the use of social media. A good review on the book can be found here from Newyork Times.

You can also read our blog post:  The age of social media: Our participation makes it a way of life

The current trend of using social media for mere trivia and gossip would change. Instead, people would find interesting and creative ways to spend their time on the internet. This includes thinking differently and solving new problems by sharing and bouncing ideas with each other.

There is nothing to fear from Facebook and Twitter.

Associate trails of the web is analogous to the human brain

Tim Berners-Lee created the internet architecture. The simplicity and the beauty of the Web lie in its interconnected hypertext Webpages. The web pages are connected through a primary channel called the link.

Lee, however, drew some of his ideas for the web from the Memex. The Memex was an information storage system that was first described by the inventor, Vannevar Bush. The system works analogously to how the human brain works.

Just as how the human brain indexes new ideas and information through associative memory for later use,  the internet system connects information web pages through certain cues (Hypertext links) thereby creating associative trails for ease of access and for later use. This brings us to understand a bit on how ideas pop up in our brain.

The human brain network is as complex as the internet

As Steve Johnson talks about it in his book, any idea that pops out of our consciousness is a work of millions of neurons in our brain all firing in sync with each other to produce an idea.

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The pros and cons of social networking in a modern world

pros and cons of social networking

Social networking as we all know is the use of applications and websites to communicate with many other users or to find people with similar interests to one’s own. Social Networking is on a developing pace more than ever.

It is quite remarkable to think about it and how to use to target and make contact with potential clients over the world. A significant portion of the general population on the planet totally depend on the web where they make a living with the assistance of web-based social media.

The merits of Social Networking in Our Society

Just a few of years back, individuals have a tendency to convey utilizing wired contraptions, for example, phones or ham radios. Today, the web has reshaped our reality beyond our imaginations. Individuals now make use of desktop or smartphones only for work additionally for communication and fun too.

Some part of the perpetually growing popularity of the internet as another method for communication is the approach of long-range social networking sites. These are restrictive sites that can be utilized by everyday citizens to post individual profiles, pictures, recordings, music and messages. Clients of social networking websites can welcome other “companions” to join their system to have the capacity to view and share individual data with each other.

There are a few social networking destinations today, among the popular ones are Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Most people from these websites are young people who simply cherish the organization of companions and other individuals. Nonetheless, did you know how critical Social Networking sites are?

  1. When looking for a job

A few organizations in the US and Europe are exploiting social networking websites to get talented workers. Then again, work candidates make proper use of these sites to post their resume and certifications. It’s an incredible device one can use keeping in mind the end goal to make a decent impression to an organization.

  1. Closer to family and friends

By keeping up a profile on these websites, your friends and relatives don’t need to call you all the time. One can exploit posting messages, pictures and personal recordings of themselves for their friends and family to see again and again. It’s shabby, quick and constant innovation accessible to everybody.

  1. Crisis

Have you known about a few a great many people saved using social networking websites? Twitter has been an extraordinary apparatus for some to hand-off messages to a large number of concerned residents in a snap in times of catastrophe and natural disasters. Individuals who look for gathering pledges and gift can utilize Facebook or MySpace destinations to call unto liberal people.

 

Many individuals consider these destinations as a work of the fallen angel. It could be. In any case, one must understand that anything can turn out to be great or awful relying upon the individual’s expectations. Social Networking destinations have molded our reality in any case, and it will end up being an essential device if it’s utilized for useful purposes.

The Pros and Cons of Social Networking

Social Networking has turned out to be progressively well-known these days as there are a lot of destinations that offer this administration. MySpace and Friendster are the most widely known websites that plan to construct groups of individuals who share regular interests and exercises, or who are keen on investigating the premiums and exercises of others.

THE PROS

A long range interpersonal communication site resembles a virtual meeting place where individuals can hang out and talk about various subjects. Anything under the sun, truth be told. Some utilization these systems administration destinations to advance their web journals, to post releases and refreshes or to utilize them as an extension to a future love intrigue.

These are only a couple of the reasons why social networking is getting a considerable measure of consideration of late – it makes life additionally energizing for some individuals.

THE CONS

Nonetheless, it is best to ensure that well-being and security are the top priorities of the social networking site that you as of now make use of. Twitter is on account of the social networks sites require or give you the alternative to giving personal data, for example, your name, area, and email address. Unfortunately, a few people can accept this as an open door for data fraud or as we all know, identity fraud. They can duplicate your data and put on a show to be “you” when participating in illicit exercises. So be careful of what you enter on a social media website.

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Social listening: Go beyond data and look for meaning

Social listening for social media conversations

We listen to social conversations all the time. Listening to these conversations helps us to understand other people and also understand the world. Active listening also helps us to learn and build relationship with others. That way, listening is a very important skill. A new kind of listening has surfaced in the recent years ­­– listening to social media and it is called as “social listening” by some media experts.

Social listening happens when you listen to conversations that happen around your brand or company on social media. A simple act of listening to understand others has gained prominence in the commercial world. Now social listening (Commercially at least!) is all about gaining insight about your brand and company by paying attention to the conversations that happen on social media.

Companies have begun to realize the importance of gaining insight and market intelligence about their products and services.  An interesting article in the HBR: “How to get more out of social media-think like an anthropologist” talks about how data scientists and managers should read into these online social media conversations and not straight away reject or pass them.

There is an emphasis on meaning management. Managers glean data, not just on consumption patterns of top brands and general perception of the products but also the culture, the geographical and political landscape of the place and the people. When you want to find meaning in a conversation, you need to understand the context.

Data managers and data scientists need to move away from looking at data as merely points on a graph, when they glean from social media sources for information processing. Even though Big Data analytics is essential, understanding social media conversations requires, delving deep into the culture and social perceptions of the people involved to gain insight.

Social listening requires cultural sensitivity and understanding context

Interestingly, the authors in the article point out that, modern day Data scientists lack the skill and effort required to understand and glean the meaning out of such conversations. Truly to their job and function, as data managers, they have the reductionist attitude.  They reduce complex data into lower level data as Ones and Zeros.  It is good for other data processing (for example: – Efficiency and profitability calculation), but may not add any value to the process of meaning management for online social media conversations.

Social listening efforts for gaining insight and understanding customers requires marketing professionals and company personnel alike to straddle between information and meaning. As mentioned earlier, finding meaning requires sound understanding of the context.

It is time for cultural sensitive data analysts and info-culture builders within organizations to read the meaning out of such conversations.  Such culturally sensitive data analysts can take complex data and form higher order and meaningful information out of social media conversations.

Finding meaning in a conversation involves context. Context is naturally out of the question for information processing professionals and data scientists. Context involves, for example such information deriving questions such as: “Who said it?”, “Why they said it?” and “What are the challenges ?”. Answering such questions gives meaning and valuable context to social media conversations.

Insight and intelligence can be derived from the context.

It is touted that gaining insight through social media conversations should be a regular feature for company personnel. This should not be relegated to the marketing department alone. Infact, the ‘C’ positions of the organization should also get into this art of social listening as an everyday affair.  Understanding “Customer thought and intent” is after all the Holy Grail in business.

Social listening has the potential to drive innovation and corporate strategy. A recent example was the social media conversation, about a major food chain brand which went viral on Whatsapp, a popular social media tool. The conversation and spread on the social media was about the poor quality of uncooked chicken which was served to customers. Even live photographs of the food condition went viral.  The food outlet was shut down eventually after the event. This event alerted the company officials to rectify their grave mistakes.

There are many such examples around the world. Data scientists need to be sensitive to such information on social media. There are all kinds of signals sent about a brand. Some are true, some may not be and still some are amplified by culture as well. Thorough research may be required for the company to make a response but then the representative samples may not include the actual consumers. Any information coming out of social media is relevant as long it talks about the situation or the mistake at hand.

Finally, what makes it worthwhile is that, it pays every effort to interpret online social media conversations and embrace the context involved in the conversations to gain insight and to understand customers thought and intention.

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