Technology Application Gone Awry? You Decide.

I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about this one. I read an article today about Russian Farmers using Virtual Reality to help their cows be more content, less stressed, and happier, in an effort to improve the quality of their milk production.

In the article titled “Russian dairy farmers gave cows VR goggles with hopes they would be happier and make better milk“, custom VR glasses are being used on cows at a farm located just outside of Moscow.

A special team of veterinarians, developers, and dairy production consultants developed these custom VR glasses for the cows and provide them with the experience of being in a sun filled field. Apparently to deliver a sense of calm for the cows.

While the results on milk production have not yet been conclusive, the team – according to the article – revealed a decrease in anxiety and a better emotional state of the cows. (Not sure how they tested that.)

In My View

I am not saying that the use of VR technology for this purpose is unreasonable, as I do believe there are many applications for technology yet to be explored. I know of farmers who play music in the milking areas as a means to calm their cows, but I a not sure the world is ready for herds of cows standing in a field wearing VR glasses projecting a field – in an effort to enhance nature itself.

The question I must ask is this, have we now placed so much emphasis on creating custom virtual environments to replace our real environment, that we must now include other animal species in the mix, rather than focusing on replenishing and maintaining our natural environment to provide naturally induced peace, tranquility and harmony back into our lives and the lives of other planetary species?

There are so many more questions I could ask, but I will let you decide for yourself.

Social Media Impact: A Hallucinogenic Reality

Hmm.. What is Bob up to? Or, what is he taking? The real question is what am I using? The answer to that is technology. I have technology of all types at my disposal and expectations to go along with them, based on promises made by the suppliers peddling them. (Isn’t it interesting how drug dealers and technology suppliers both refer to their clients as users and how the users get hooked on the suppliers products?)

Technology as we know, is embedded in each of our daily lives, both personally and at work. It grabs hold of you, enticing you to search for more, whether it be through social media, news streams, or video and music streams.

The power it places in our hands is strong and provides a force with which we can interact at all levels with minimal effort. According to an article published by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic titled ” Is it Possible to Become Addicted to Social Media?” the force can be so great that people can become addicted to it in the same ways they become addicted to alcohol and drug use.

In My View

Social media is a fantastic communications vehicle connecting family, friends, business acquaintances, etc. around the globe. It has rapidly become a platform of choice for news media, marketing and sales campaigns, and political campaigns.

Online shopping has been made simple, convenient, and many times, more affordable than traditional shopping methods, so it stands to reason, we humans would become so attached to using it. But do not let it become your hallucinogenic reality.

Just because you have 4,000 friends in Facebook, does not mean they are your friends, they are acquaintances. Just because something is the sale of the day, doesn’t mean you should buy it just because of the sale. Ask yourself if you really need it or is it simply an impulse purchase.

Are you addicted? I cannot answer that but if you cannot sit through a meal without looking at your phone for the latest news story, Facebook or Instagram post, or to answer a text message, and there are people who have physically come to enjoy your company, you just might be addicted and living in a hallucinogenic reality. If the first thing you do when you wake up – before you even leave your bed – is to check your phone, you just might be addicted.

Take a challenge of allotting time to interact on social media and read the news. Just as in the early days of email when the temptation was to immediately respond, set aside time for this as well. If you are out with friends and family, focus on them as they are the ones who are there with you in person seeking to interact with you live, not digitally.

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Where Have All the Humans Gone?

Each day I see and hear more talk about businesses automating using both hardware and software robotics. Manufacturing robots, logistics robots, transactional robots, and so many more applications are evolving to replace human dependencies in business.

While I typically favor technology advancement, I also tend to ask questions about the impact technology will have in relation to business operations as well as the worker population. From a business perspective, there are many advantages like improved consistency, efficiency, profitability, and the ability for robots to perform their tasks with little to no down time. There are even opportunities for robotic use in emergency response to aid in addressing human casualties, search and rescue, and situational assessment.

On the human side, what happens to those displaced by such automation, and what happens to our economy when humans are replaced by automation, there is no plan in place to retrain for other positions, and the potential that no other positions are available?

In My View

I see many benefits of robotics and automation in the workplace. I also see many challenges for both humans and the economy as a whole. If humans are to be replaced over time by automation, what employment opportunities exist for displaced human employees, and what training is available to prepare these individuals to be employed in fields where living wages can be earned?

Society must look ahead to prepare for the inevitable time where humans are faced with employment challenges due to corporate automation. Training and focus should be on the trades, technical service and support for hardware robotics, Helpdesk support for software robots, and more including areas rapidly advancing in #d printing of vehicles, building, bridges, etc.

Embrace technology but at the same time, we must look to the future and prepare humans in these areas.

Community or Battleground

I had an interesting conversation with a friend about social media and how it has changed the world as we know it.

For many, social media serves as a channel of communication for family, friends, and colleagues to keep in touch, share ideas, and exchange pleasantries. For others, it has become the pulpit from which political, religious, racial, and other points of view are distributed.

I am not saying this is a bad thing, as we all have our perspectives on life, and the freedom to share our views in this country more than most. I welcome differing viewpoints shared in a civil manner. (Isn’t this what we once did sitting with friends in a social gathering while enjoying a beverage of some sort?)

I think the thing I find most difficult in all of this is how social media has evolved and continues to evolve into just another communication channel for mass media, politicians, etc., provoking outrage, hatred, and discontent throughout our society.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets originally created to bring people together, are now the cause of splits between friends, families, communities, and society as a whole. Not because of the technology, but by the way this technology is used by we humans.

In My View

The thing that is lacking, and seldom taught anymore, is social etiquette and soft skills like acceptance, personal interaction, respect for others opinions, and the ability to communicate without taking everything as a personal attack.

This needs to be taught by example from parents, leaders, the media, and educators. In our society, we have the right to an opinion and to voice that opinion. We also have a responsibility to respect there are other opinions without taking things personally and immediately attacking those who do not see the world as we do.

Use the social technologies and embrace that we can now communicate with each other in more ways than ever imagined, but do so with respect as this is one of the most basic freedoms we have – Freedom of Speech – something which many around the world are denied.

Don’t let our social communities devolve into yet another battleground.

Social Networks and Societal Meltdowns

I was reading an article this morning in The Atlantic titled “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks – Why it feels like everything is going haywire” by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell.

In this article, Haidt and Stockwell likened the impact of social networking to a doubling in the gravitational constant of our universe. If this were to occur, the change would be so great as to move the Earth closer to the sun, increase gravitational pull on people, buildings, etc. causing collapse and devastation never before seen.

In relation to social networks and modern day technology, while the intent was to bring humans closer together using social networking as the common agent of communication. While this is mostly true, the other side of this is increased societal polarization, release and acceptance of disinformation, and the rise of what philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke termed “moral grandstanding”.

In other words, humans posturing to enhance perceptions of themselves in the eyes of others, in order to gain acceptance and even leadership recognition among their peer groups and beyond.

In My View

Haidt and Stockwell have hit on an area we should raise concern and an awareness that we live in an age where more information/disinformation is created, shared, and used to generate acceptance or controversy than any other time in history.

Once again, I see this as not the technology at fault, but the human element using it in ways it was not originally intended to be used. Jut look at Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms and how they devolved from a way to keep connected with friends, into communication tolls to reach the masses with one’s own views/opinions regardless of factual realities presented in the content.

Technology is a wonderful thing benefiting many, yet as with most things, it is also a tool that can be used to distract and disrupt society. We see this everyday where dissemination of opinions and views once discussed civilly, are now the impetus of disruption and societal breakdowns, even among families and life-long friends.

As humans, we control how we choose to use technology and how we react to its use. If there is a controversial message that runs across your desk, an opinion you do not agree with, the question to ask is one of engagement, or discarding it, and if you engage, what is the message you will send?

We must take control of the technology in our lives and not let technology take control of us by not letting our social networks become the beginning of a social meltdown.

10 Years + $31B = An Unholy Mess

Or at least that is what an investigation by Fortune and Kaiser Health News reported in an article titled: “Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong“.

The article focuses on healthcare where the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of February 2009 was supposed to make information management in healthcare a more streamlined by making patient records more accessible and give more time back to clinicians to focus on their patients.

This led to a surge in electronic healthcare records (EHR) software solutions with poor user interfaces, lack of standards, and little to no interoperability between them. In this regards, the article points out that “Instead of reducing costs, many say EHRs, which were originally optimized for billing rather than for patient care, have instead made it easier to engage in “up-coding” or bill inflation (though some say the systems also make such fraud easier to catch)”.

While the concept of the ARRA is sound, and with good intent, the execution of it was poorly planned if planned at all, and certainly the rush to provide EHR solutions missed the mark on usability, quality control, and adaptability. According to an American Journal of Medicine study, an ER Doctor will make approximately 4,000 computer clicks during a single shift and the Annals of Family Medicine cites that out of an 11.4 hour day, Doctors are spending more than 5.9 hours of time working in an EHR applications as opposed to 5.1 hours with patients.

In My View

This is a prime example of well intentioned legislation gone afoul. In order to legislate something of this magnitude, there should be an awareness of what the impact will be overall, guidance on the intent and a base set of requirements that can be considered standards, and emphasis on usability at the user level.

When government – or C-Level management for that matter – decide to move forward with an overarching mandate like ARRA, it is their responsibility to at minimum, understand the reality of what is in place, what it will take to reach their goal, and the impact it will have within the user community.

It is not a bad thing to initiate efforts to simplify and standardize but it is a bad thing to shoot in the dark with hopes of hitting the mark.

Same As It Ever Was

Yes, that is from a tune by the Talking Heads, but what I am talking about here is that here we are in September of 2019, and I am still hearing from folks that while technology has moved forward, the fundamental issues voiced by businesses today, reflect the same issues we heard decades ago.

Technology has advanced and its use to automate business processes like metadata application, proposal generation, invoice processing, and other business processes are still an issue. The underlying cause appears to remain the realignment of the user community to the new ways of working.

Change management, governance, and yes, even structure of information is still a challenge. Most importantly, these questions are coming more frequently from the IT folks who are being tasked with and held accountable for better management of the infrastructure and aligning it to the business.

As I have said in the past, technology alone is not always the best or complete solution. The evidence is clear to me that in today’s world, the fundamental issues in business remain the same. Information organization, consistency, find ability, defensibility, and change management are still a challenge that technology alone has not been able to fully address.

If you really want to resolve a business issue, you must peel back the symptom statements from the stakeholders to reveal the underlying problem.

If the stakeholder issue is that it takes too long to process claims or sales orders, that is the symptom of an underlying problem. Look for the real cause. Perhaps there is a dependency on information related to this process that must be complete before the process can move forward.

Identify what a complete information set consists of and look for reasons why it is delayed in coming together. If the problem is that the information is both in digital and paper form, look for ways to bring the information into the process at the first touch point so the complete package is compiled sooner. Scan upon receipt rather than further into the process where is can be delayed, misplaced, or even lost.

Involve the users in the process and solicit their feedback on both the problem and their suggestions on how to address it. This not only provides firsthand insight, it also aids in change management by making them part of the solution as opposed to the recipient of yet another operational mandate.

The technology is there and ready, but is your organization ready for the technology?

Preservation: An Ancestral Lesson

It is amazing to visit the Europe and the Mediterranean regions, exploring the ancient ruins in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey. The architectural accomplishments of the past and how these structures have survived these many years is astounding. When you stand amongst the ruins and see major portions of these ancient buildings still standing, knowing that the design was by human not software, and that the writings and carvings have been preserved and interpreted so that all can understand their meaning, it is all the more impressive. This led me to think about our Castlecurrent times and the question of what will it be like centuries from now, and what will remain of our existence?

Will the infrastructures we put into place today, stand up to the tests of time? Will our information stores still be available and more importantly, accessible? The ancients documented many things through stone carvings, etchings and paintings that have endured the tests of time and they provided keys to unlock the mysteries of their meaning through translation tools like the Rosetta Stone. So what about your technology infrastructure and file formats? Are you planning for the preservation of your information assets and transformation of your infrastructure?

In my view, the ancient civilizations were well aware that in order to preserve their history and transfer their knowledge to future generations, adaptation and translation to emerging languages was essential. Long term preservation of their information with a means to translate to a common form was part of the plan, thus the creation of the Rosetta Stone. You need to think in the same way as the ancients, in that years from now, information that is vital to your organization must not only be made available but accessible. Additionally, you need to look at what you currently have, determine the value of that information, and update to today’s standards as a first step in your preservations efforts. Do you still have information created in Word Perfect, Lotus 123, or  some other application from the past? If so what is in those files, can you access that information, and how can you transform it into a useable format of today?

You need to look toward the future and prepare for transitional migration to newer formats and media. Information preservation is an essential part of any information management environment and should be part of yours. If as an organization, you are ready to move forward with preservation planning but are not sure where to begin or what to do next, seek professional assistance and/or training to get you started. Don’t wait until it is too late and that information is lost forever.

Reactive Response IS NOT Preparedness

Here we are in Florida, awaiting the first hurricane to directly impact the State. Dorian is predicted to hit the East coast sometime Monday, impacting a large portion of Florida. Weather reports have presented this in many lights, including that the Tampa area may not be impacted at all. It is still too early to tell.

This morning I stopped into a local gas station, to find a line of folks filling gas cans just in case. The news showed how many of the wholesale outlets were being drained of their bottled water inventories, and hardware outlets were selling plywood, generators, gas put-out-firecans, and batteries at a rapid rate. All in the name of preparedness. This caused me to stop and think, is this really preparedness or is is reactive response to the news and weather reports? Most of are like firefighters waiting for it to happen then reacting to put it out.

In my mind – with gas as the exception – most of this should have been done long before now, stocking bottled water, canned goods, fitting plywood to the windows, and all the rest, should have been done months ago as part of a preparedness plan rather than running around now hoping things would still be available.

This is also the case with many businesses, especially those in the small and mid-sized sector. Disaster preparedness is not front of mind and what happens is reactive response when some potential catastrophe is looming. Now they are asking, what do we do if we are flooded? Can we mover the servers? What about our paper information? How do we protect that? If power is out for any length of time, how do we continue to operate? And of course, when it is all over, how do we get back to a normal level of operations and in what timeframe?

In my view, every business – and every household for that matter – should have a disaster preparedness plan in place that details who does what, when they do it, and how it gets done. Additionally, there should be a detailed plan for how the business recovers and reestablishes normal operating levels. Are you really prepared or are you one who takes action as a result of reactive response?

Going Back to Green

As technology advances and we begin to realize its potential, we must also look at the short and long term impacts it will have on the environment. For example, using plastic bottles in place of glass. Glass would seem much greener in that the bottles would be returned to the store and in return you would get a few cents back for each one. These bottles would then be sent back to the beverage supplier to be washed, sanitized, and reused. Granted there were other issues such as breakage leading to potential hazards of cutting someone, but they were nonetheless, recycled for reuse.

Plastic bottles are much more convenient, won’t break, and can simply be disposed of. Of course it is the “disposed of” that presents the challenge. The impact it has on the Polutionenvironment is becoming a major challenge in that plastic bottles don’t breakdown quickly – if at all. The are now being seen as a major pollutant, floating on the shores of rivers, lakes, and the oceans. They can be found in forests, cities, and mountains just lying there, discarded by humans. Convenient? Yes. A growing, unplanned for issue? Yes.

My point here is that there are many positives for technology advancement and use, but we must also consider and plan for the impact this will have and make accommodations to prepare for the impact it will have – even in the office. While the type of ecological impact described in the above scenarios may not directly relate to an office environment, it does apply to the implementation and impact new technology will have on your information ecosystem.

People and processes will be immediately impacted with implications for long term effects. Technology introduced into a business organization must not be viewed as a one-time event but as a planned and carefully orchestrated program with an eye on continuous improvement to prepare and accommodate the ever changing business landscape and regulatory requirements regarding the management and protection of the data you hold.

We do many things in both our personal and business lives that impacts those people and places around us. The key to improvement, quality, and longevity, is to take care of our ecosystems whether they be information or environmental. By all means, we should adopt and use technology. At the same time, we must use it intelligently and plan for the impact in order to address it and manage it before it becomes an issue.