system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The death of encarta

Seems odd to me more fuss hasn't been made about the shuttering of encarta.

The demise of a proprietary, non collaborative and paid-for offering - due primarily to the overwhelming popularity of its open, collaborative and free competitor - wikipedia - seems to be a clear example of a move to a more human world.

Without fuss or hype people have tacitly voted for a different way of sharing information and resources. This is the semantic mind in action....

Monday, 30 March 2009

hedging your mortgage....

Having mused about whether Gordon will allow the slow death of the pound, I now find myself thinking more practically about whether 25% interest rates are around the corner, and if they are - what I can do  to make sure I don't lose my house.....

There is an argument that everything we've seen so far - bank failures, retail sector woes and growing unemployment is all linear, expected, presumed. Many people (including it seems those increasing the mortgage stats last month by taking out fixed rates) are coming to realise that this isn't the end. That the country, punch drunk from the blows of the last 6 months, is blind to the fact that far from being at the bottom of a hole, we're simply teetering on a ledge of an even larger crater.

Around the corner might be non-linear, asymmetric chaos - the child of deep, visceral fear.

Imagine the scenario. In 3 months time after a continued stream of bad news with confidence and output declining faster than expected, the UK domestic stock market tumbles when the government fails to bail out a major retailer / manufacture (they've already refused to help a bank this week....)

Secondary industries stall, confidence collapses, consumption dies up to a trickle and the pound starts to slide. Public unrest increases, people start going genuinely hungry, international money gets scared, a 2nd bond auction fails, there's a run on the pound and the IMF steps in.

Interest rates go to 25%.

Is this likely? Is it plausible? Even if there’s only an outside chance of this happening, hedging makes a lot of sense given the downside risks. And to do so is weirdly easy.

HSBC is offering 3.99% for 5 years with £0 setup fee which you can hold for 90 days. If, like me, you've come out of a flexible deal some time ago, reapplying for a product such as this every 90 days could be the cleverest thing you ever do. In fact, everyone, regardless of whether they'd pay an early repayment penalty should do it. In all scenarios it surely makes more sense to take the hit than risk having to service a £250,000 mortgage at 25%. Monthly repayments of £5,500 anyone?

Friday, 27 March 2009

the semantic mind

Will the semantic web create a semantic mind?

A post from David Armano, an article about predicting divorce and a feature on crime hotspots from hospital inpatients all got me thinking about how the semantic web might change the real - human world - as we're so often told it will.

The semantic web, data visualisation and the objective measurement of subjective phenomena fascinates me - and I began to wonder whether by putting different data sets together, the semantic web might in time, create a collective “semantic mind” – or to put it more simply – make us humans less psychologically dysfunctional, by enabling universal “truths” about the human condition to become more commonly known and understood.

In other words, if data on very subjective experiencing, like relationships and psychological health were made more readily available - might it help people to challenge and change their own, and other people’s behaviors?

Lets take the divorce case as an example.

The research paper I mentioned could predict, with remarkable accuracy, which couples were more likely to be unhappily married based on the language they used. To many psychologist and linguistic experts, this perhaps wouldn’t come as any great shock. But for the majority of people without a training in psychology - they’d miss the clues. More than that. Even if the dysfunctional language hadn’t escaped notice, what mandate would anyone have to intervene? We live in a society world where the private sphere is still almost unchallengeable.

In this case, the computer algorithm has bought an important, but complex psychological phenomena to within the grasp of the “ordinary” person with a web connection. The data has started a conversation (and critically done so in a psychologically “safe” manner, where anyone in distress isn’t being forced to hear it, but is instead introduced to the idea ambiently, and as such is more likely to allow themselves to “hear” the implications for them).

More importantly though, the information has provided concrete evidence of the phenomena of language being a significant factor or indicator of an unhappy marriage. It is there on the web, at the click of a mouse for others to use, reference and interpret. Its core implications can less easily be fudged, greyed out or spun.

In my strand of psychotherapy, it is suggested that as individuals we construct 1 or more “selves” around our core "organism". This organism is the "real" us if you like - the bedrock of our personalities – where our intrinsic value set and personality lie. It is inconsistencies between this organism and our constructed “selves” that create psychological disturbance (so it is thought). Many people believe that as a collective we display many of these same “selves”. It is fascinating to think how many unhelpful, but well established collective “selves” could be examined and broken down, by the use of data in this way.

A cost / benefit analysis on the economic implications of nations turning the other cheek perhaps?A study of adrenalin levels in the blood of delegates at the G20 v. the economic output of the world for the next 12 months?

More on this in later post I think...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

twitter....we reap what we sow

Twitter makes perfect sense when viewed against a backdrop of a society that elevates an ignorant racist to the role of People's Princess #2 (aka Jade Goody)

Instead of leading lives of breathtaking new experience, friendship and fun - discovering all that is wonderful and interesting about themselves and the world - a generation gazes up its own twittering backside as it becomes increasingly detached from the natural world and "reality".

Billions of sad, lonely voices shouting into the darkness of cyberspace desperately hoping some strangers will emerge from the digital shadows to engage with them and validate what is left of their lives.

90% of what we think of as "social media" will be deemed an irrelevant fad in 5 years time. Douglas put it

Thursday, 12 March 2009

the solution to newspapers problems...

It occurred to me that the reason I don't buy papers anymore isn't because of the format, or the time lag in between the news occurring and them reporting it. I have grown apart from newspapers, because essentially I don't trust them. Or to put it another way. I've found a source of news I trust more

I've begun to call this lack of trust the "right to lie" - the permission the existing system gives media (and brands) to tell fibs. We now live in a society where the practice is so endemic, it is so widespread, we are no longer conscious of it. The theory of the big lie, really has been borne out in practice. Here

Deep down, we know Starbucks doesn't really care about its employees or those who grow its coffee. They are a PLC with a responsibility to their shareholders. This isn't a matter of debate. The law of the land, states this explicitly.

We know Jen hasn't really just broken up, with whoever for the 6th time. The global media conglomerate who report the important news, probably owns the hotel room in which they split up, likely manages both of them and is almost certainly going to make a film in which the 2 of them will star.

The trouble is, that brand communication, has become so reckless with the truth. So comfortable with telling outrageous lies, we now struggle to reconcile our organisms' natural internal bullshit monitoring system shouting "this is nonsense" with the reality of the lie.

Is it then, that newspapers are simply the latest casualties of a return to the mean - a return to being human? En-masse, we appear to be making a collective judgment that those who write independently are more truthful, more human?

If this is the case, from Murdock's perspective, the simplest solution to his woes would be to simply sack everyone who is left (except the commissioning editors of each major section) and print the best blogs as a daily paper.