Chunky Management and other lizard problems

The article at this link talks about “Narrowing Your Focus” as a mental model that enables us to solve large and complex problems.

I think what the article covers is actually two different mental models.

One is “Break it up into manageable chunks” and the second is “narrowing your focus”.

“Break it up into manageable chunks”, creates cognitive capacity and overcomes the subconscious fear of a large time and effort commitment. 

When confronted with a project that requires many things to be done, thinking about all of them at the same time is beyond our cognitive capacity and leads to a sense of overwhelm and therefore procrastination. 

Our lizard brain also fights the commitment of time and effort that is needed when we decide to commence a complex project that has many facets. And that leads to even more procrastination! 

When you break up the problem into manageable chunks, we can do it one chunk at a time. Cognition problem solved and reduced time/effort commitment too.

The second model “narrowing of focus”, applies to practically anything that requires attention and good cognition. 

Especially to all those people who are proud of their “multi-tasking skills” – somebody should to tell them that they are probably doing a bad job and would do much better by doing one thing at a time. 

This also applies to companies which do more than one type of business. A lack of organisational focus on only one type of business, makes it too difficult for companies to create a powerful driving purpose or the cohesive set of systems, processes, structure, people and culture that are needed for success. 

Coconut tree climbing robot – where are you?

Vegetable and fruit picking robots are fast making their appearance. And this means that planting and weeding robots are round the corner too.

So are we looking at the emergence of vast greenhouses or indoor farms where planting, harvesting, packing – everything is done by robots. Similar to modern automobile manufacturing plants? And soon, the mobile robots can do this in open fields too?

At this link is a fully mobile vegetable and fruit picking system.

Demonstrated for tomatoes and commercially available already. It’s many times more effective than human agricultural labor and works round the clock without tiring and without requiring any supervision.  

It’s easy to say that in countries like India, human labor is cheap and will not be  replaced by such machines. But to such people, I would say two things –

One that these robots will be mass produced sooner or later, will become better every year and the productivity will soon be better than the cheapest unskilled human labor, anywhere in the world. That’s inevitable.

Second is to ask them to talk to any coconut tree owner in Kerala. It is very expensive to find people to climb coconut trees and harvest coconuts. And labor is not easily available either. They would love to hire a robot for one tenth the cost.

E-Commerce box packing jobs set to disappear

Amazon, Flipkart and others employ thousands of people in their warehouses for moving and packing boxes.

This looks like it’s about to change.

Not just Amazon in the US, but also leading e-commerce companies in China like are now beginning to use robots to do this task, which could not be done by machines so far.

The box packing machines are made by the Italian company CMC srl and are called CartonWrap.

The packing machines are many tens of times superior and faster than humans at this job. Check them out here –

We can expect them to start making their appearance in the warehouses of the Indian e-commerce industry soon!

The Explanation Effect – You learn what you teach!

In the last few months, I started the practice of writing a post every alternate day on something interesting that I read in the previous day or two.

I read quite a bit (1-3 hours every day) and once every few hours of reading, some article or book chapter or piece of news catches my fancy. I then write a few paragraphs about my thoughts on it and post it on my blog.

This has resulted in enhanced retention of the ideas mentioned in articles that I write about. 

It just turned out that I remembered those articles or those ideas I wrote about, while I forgot most of the other stuff I read.

I wondered why this was the case, until I stumbled upon this article –

It appears that this is quite a well known mental model, called the Explanation Effect. If you explain or teach something to others, you are more likely to remember it. 

It’s a learning tool!

Obsolete skills

Reference article –

Technology makes earlier practices, rituals and ways of life redundant.

Technology destroys the past to create a future, which humans embrace as superior.

The tractor makes the bullock and the horse redundant in farming and makes it unnecessary to know how to rear an animal of labor. The automobile similarly made animal driven carts redundant.

Piped cooking gas and electricity in the kitchen makes it redundant to know how to light up and manage a charcoal stove. 

Civilisations have been built and have thrived by forgetting the past and embracing a new technology driven future.

Similarly, in the age of search engines like Google, does it make sense to memorise facts anymore in school textbooks?

In the near future, driving a car will be a useless skill. In an age where self driving vehicles are safer and indeed, humans driving a car on the roads may be banned as unsafe.

What are the skills that our generation has learnt but are now better forgotten? 

The jobs of the future are bypassing developing countries

The new wave of jobs is going to be concentrated in the developed world according to this article in the BBC

AI and robots will replace humans in many jobs in the coming decade. However, it will be wrong to think that such jobs will move to the developing world because in the developed world, labor costs are high.

Any new technology revolution destroys jobs, but also creates many new ones.  The same holds true for AI and robotics.

However, it appears that most of the new jobs created by this disruptive revolution, will be in the developed world and not in countries like India.

Earlier eras of wealth creation in the developed world created a large number of jobs in countries like India (software and back office services based on cheap labor)and China (manufacturing based on cheap labor).

However, it is these same services and manufacturing jobs which are threatened by AI and distributed manufacturing technologies. And the new wave of jobs is being created in the developed world with not much trickling down to us.

Moralistic vs Consequentialist thinking

Reference podcast –

Liv Boeree – World Champion Poker Player. Liv endorses consequentialism in her interview with Tim Ferriss

Consequentialist thinking is basically that the  consequences of your actions are far more important than the actions themselves!

We now live in an age where we have access to more data and information to understand the consequences of our actions. Consequentialists therefore say that our ethics and moral rules must be guided by our knowledge of the consequences.

I disagree for two reasons –

1. This kind of “greater good” thinking has resulted in some of the biggest disasters and human tragedies that the world has seen. From Stalin to Mao and worse. Consequentialist values lead to the pursuit of poor consequences by morally twisted individuals. We are all better off with a widespread and common understanding of basic values (morals?). For example – non-violence or inclusiveness 

2. We overestimate our ability to interpret data and understand the consequences. If all of us were good at it, we would all bet the same way and on the same horses. Consequences are usually expressed in the form of probabilities and not absolutes. And it is human nature to not only get the probabilities wrong, but also to bet against the best probabilities.

The threat to “Make In India”

Reference article (Video) –

Challenge for Make In India ?

The manufacturing revolution that Japan, South Korea and China rode on is possibly not valid for India.

Will Make In India ride a similar wave? Does it benefit from the same underlying assumptions that worked for China in the last 25 years?

One of the changes could very well be driven by advances in 3D printing and materials.

This link is a short 2 minute video on 3D printing and its impact on the future of manufacturing from Peter Diamandis.

Alexa – make me cheerful

Reference article –

Wearables on the wrist can read our emotions. And that can be used to create AI that knows and is empathetic to our feelings!

Dr Picard’s work opens new vistas.

On the other hand, could we have another type of wearable that uses neurostimulation (triggering brain activity through electrical stimulation) to change our feelings?

Alexa, I am feeling a little down right now. Make me cheerful please!

Amazon is the new search engine

Reference article –

Amazon replaces Google as the search engine for products.

And this is shifting dollars away from Google search advertising.

Just as we were all getting used to a duopoly of Google and Facebook cornering almost all online and mobile advertising dollars, we have the third one now coming up.