Online…Really?

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Tom Friedman has a unique talent for spotting trends that impact our lives. So it was inevitable that he would talk about the sea change in our lives as we balance what we do in the “real” world with what we do in cyberspace. He even challenges the notion of what is real and what isn’t. While some pundits complain about this change, he embraces it. In his own words;

In 2016 we reached a tipping point. It was the moment when we realized that a critical mass of our lives and work had shifted away from the terrestrial world to a realm known as “cyberspace.” That is to say, a critical mass of our interactions had moved to a realm where we’re all connected but no one’s in charge.

After all, there are no stoplights in cyberspace, no police officers walking the beat, no courts, no judges, no God who smites evil and rewards good, and certainly no “1-800-Call-If-Putin-Hacks-Your-Election.” If someone slimes you on Twitter or Facebook, well, unless it is a death threat, good luck getting it removed, especially if it is done anonymously, which in cyberspace is quite common.

And yet this realm is where we now spend increasing hours of our day. Cyberspace is now where we do more of our shopping, more of our dating, more of our friendship-making and sustaining, more of our learning, more of our commerce, more of our teaching, more of our communicating, more of our news-broadcasting and news-seeking and more of our selling of goods, services and ideas.

Interested in this tipping point? You can read the complete article here.

Taking on the Threat

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Ballistic missile defense (BMD) is one of the most important missions for the United States’ military – and it is one that is growing in importance – with rouge nations such as North Korea and Iran possessing ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. Navy’s contribution to U.S. BMD is based on the Aegis weapon system and has been on patrol in guided-missile cruisers and destroyers since 2004. Aegis BMD has grown in importance based on its proven performance as well as its long-term potential.

For years, the U.S. Navy’s contribution to U.S. BMD was secondary to many other systems. Today, the U.S. Navy is “in the van” as we describe in our article in the US Naval Institute Proceedings.

What do You Like?

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Mindfulness and mindfulness mediation have been around for a while now, with more and more practitioners finding value in living in the moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. As one convert put it, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find out I didn’t show up for it.”

While millions have used this mindfulness discipline to help them in their personal lives, it has taken longer for it to take hold in the business world. But now, hard-boiled managers whose lives have been focused on the bottom line and returning shareholder value, have begun to embrace mindfulness in the workplace.

One example is the health insurer, Aetna, one of the hundred biggest companies in America. Its CEO, Mark Bertolini, has brought mindfulness meditation into his company for compelling reasons that help the company’s bottom line and increase shareholder value. In his own words:

We program C.E.O.s to be certain kinds of people. We expect C.E.O.s to be on message all the time. The grand experiment here has been how much of that do you really need to do?

Aetna is at the vanguard of a movement that is quietly spreading through the business world. Companies like Google offer emotional intelligence courses for employees. General Mills has a meditation room in every building on its corporate campus. And even buttoned-up Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock are teaching meditation on the job.

The aims of such programs are eclectic. Some, such as Aetna’s, are intended to improve overall well-being; others to increase focus and productivity. Most of the programs — from yoga sessions for factory workers to guided meditations for executives — aim to make employees more present-minded, less prone to make rash decisions and generally nicer people to work with.

Adoption of these unconventional practices in the workplace coincides with growing interest among the American public. More than 21 million people now practice yoga, double the number from a decade ago, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly as many meditate, according to the N.I.H.

Want to deep-dive into the idea of mindfulness in leadership and management? You can read the full article here.

You – Innovator

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Can you be an engine of innovation where you work. If you DON’T work in Silicon Valley, you may think that innovation is something only done there. But wait, read more.

No doubt, Silicon Valley has changed how we work, for better or worse. Our smartphones keep us connected to the office all the time while internet searches bring the world’s information to our fingertips. But people may not realize that it is the subtler aspects of how tech companies operate that often have a more lasting effect on other industries.

The “agile” part of this increasingly popular management concept is simple: Rather than try to do giant projects that take months or even years, create small teams that do a bit at a time. This way, small problems don’t balloon into enormous ones hidden inside a huge bureaucracy. And progress can be measured in small steps — one little project at a time.

Read more about “You, the innovator”

Autonomous Systems – A Dark Side?

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One of the most rapidly growing areas of innovative technology adoption involves autonomous systems. The U.S. military’s use of these systems – especially armed autonomous systems – is not only changing the face of modern warfare, but is also altering the process of decision-making in combat operations. These systems are evolving rapidly to deliver enhanced capability to the warfighter and seemed poised to deliver the next “revolution in military affairs.” However, there are increasing concerns regarding the degree of autonomy these systems—especially armed autonomous systems—should have. Until these issues are addressed, military autonomous systems may not reach their full potential.

While DoD officials have issued comprehensive guidance regarding the need to ensure that autonomous systems have operator oversight – especially for lethal autonomous systems, that has not sufficiently mitigated public concerns that the U.S. military will unleash lethal autonomous systems that may do unintended harm. In the face of rapid advances in artificial intelligence, the need to contend with enemy systems that operate at machine speeds, and the growing concerns expressed in popular culture about the way machines might turn on their human masters, these concerns have grown. In short, will HAL try to kill us?

Read more of my Defense Media Network article about the possible dark side of autonomous systems here

Nice & Happy?

Made any New Year’s resolutions yet – or have you broken them already. Most of us make good resolutions and then sometimes struggle to keep them.

One part of that struggle is asking yourself whether being “nice” in today’s world is something that will make you happy. We see too many cases where “nice” people are not looked up to.

But David Brooks challenges that notion in his NYT piece, “Nice People Really do Have More Fun. It spoke to me and I thought it might speak to you. Here is part of what he said:

Thought provoking? You can read the full article here

Real Things

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We live in a digital world. But analog is making a comeback. Some of us sense it. Some of us feel it, but as Michiko Kakutani explains in his review of David Sax’s book, The Revenge of Analog, there are compelling reasons for this. He begins by saying, as Stephen King once wrote, “Sooner or later, everything old is new again,”

Here’s part of what’s in this killer-good review:

“In his captivating new book, “The Revenge of Analog,” the reporter David Sax provides an insightful and entertaining account of this phenomenon, creating a powerful counternarrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world. Mr. Sax argues that analog isn’t going anywhere, but is experiencing a bracing revival that is not just a case of nostalgia or hipster street cred, but something more complex.”

“Analog experiences can provide us with the kind of real-world pleasures and rewards digital ones cannot,” he writes, and “sometimes analog simply outperforms digital as the best solution.” Pen and paper can give writers and designers a direct means of sketching out their ideas without the complicating biases of software, while whiteboards can bring engineers “out from behind their screens” and entice them “to take risks and share ideas with others.”

You can read the complete review here

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

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Every four years, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) releases their comprehensive report forecasting global trends that have a major impact on our world. The current publication is, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.”  In shorthand – GT2030. Global Trends 2030 helps us have an informed and well-nuanced view of the future. This is not as easy as it sounds, for, as John Maynard Keynes famously said in 1937: “The idea of the future being different from the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behavior that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice.”

NIC has been in existence for over three decades and represents the primary way the U.S. intelligence community (IC) communicates in the unclassified realm.  Initially a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the NIC now works directly for the director of national intelligence and presents the collective research and analysis of the entire IC, an enterprise comprising 16 agencies with a combined budget of well over $80 billion.  In a sentence: There is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the most definitive analytical look at the future security environment.

Read a detailed look at this publication in my post on the Defense Media Network website here.

What do You Like?

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Michael Lewis has intrigued us with compelling ideas for a long time. His latest book, “The Undoing Project,” has gotten great reviews. It’s a great read.

But while the reviews have captured a great deal about the book, David Brooks’ recent piece in the New York Times has focused on the work of the book’s subjects, Kahneman and Tversky, and has gotten to the essence of what the book is all about, how we choose what we like. Here’s part of what he said:

“While most economics models assumed people were basically rational, Kahneman and Tversky demonstrated that human decision-making is biased in systematic, predictable ways. Many of the biases they described have now become famous — loss aversion, endowment effect, hindsight bias, the anchoring effect, and were described in Kahneman’s brilliant book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” They are true giants who have revolutionized how we think about decision-making. Lewis makes academic life seem gripping, which believe it or not, is not easy to do.”

“We don’t decide about life; we’re captured by life. In the major spheres, decision-making, when it happens at all, is downstream from curiosity and engagement. If we really want to understand and shape behavior, maybe we should look less at decision-making and more at curiosity. Why are you interested in the things you are interested in? Why are some people zealously seized, manically attentive and compulsively engaged?”

Want to deep-dive into how you decide? You can read the full article here.

The Need to Read

How do you engage with the world? We all have our own ways. And there is the inevitable factor that some of us are extroverts while some of us are introverts.

I’ve found that reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world. For me, it’s helped me understand many of life’s questions.

That’s why I was intrigued by Will Schwalbe’s article in the Wall Street Journal. Here is part of what he shared:

We all ask each other a lot of questions. But we should all ask one question a lot more often: “What are you reading?”

It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives.

Here’s one example: I met, at a bookstore, a woman who told me that she had fallen sadly out of touch with her beloved grandson. She lived in Florida. He and his parents lived elsewhere. She would call him and ask him about school or about his day. He would respond in one-word answers: Fine. Nothing. Nope.

And then one day, she asked him what he was reading. He had just started “The Hunger Games,” a series of dystopian young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins. The grandmother decided to read the first volume so that she could talk about it with her grandson the next time they chatted on the phone. She didn’t know what to expect, but she found herself hooked from the first pages, in which Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the annual battle-to-the-death among a select group of teens.

The book helped this grandmother cut through the superficialities of phone chat and engage her grandson on the most important questions that humans face about survival and destruction and loyalty and betrayal and good and evil, and about politics as well. Now her grandson couldn’t wait to talk to her when she called—to tell her where he was, to find out where she was and to speculate about what would happen next.

Other than belonging to the same family, they had never had much in common. Now they did. The conduit was reading. We need to read and to be readers now more than ever.

Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.

You can read this insightful article here.