Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 12

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 16, 2018

This is my 12th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-11.)

I have been discussing communications channels and overall communications systems that arise and function within businesses, since Part 7, focusing for the most part on how long tail event, rare challenges arise in a business, and on how new and emergent challenges would be addressed – where both of these contexts mean being able to effectively bring novel-for-the-business, combinations of expertise together to address the non-standard but important, and as quickly and effectively as possible.

I have primarily been discussing this from an Information Technology help desk perspective, and in terms of how problems are identified and resolved with escalation to appropriate next-level support as needed. And in that, I have focused on problem contexts where routine help desk task escalation options are not going to reliably suffice, and certainly if novel specialized skills and experience are called for. That, I add here, does not necessarily just mean novel specialized computer or network skills and experience, and at either a hardware or software level. The contexts that I make note of here are in fact more likely to arise when special skills are needed that related more to effectively using the computer and network technology that is available, in specific highly specialized business use contexts and where the people working for the IT department might know the technology that they offer, but not know the details of the services or business functions that it would be applied to. And the hands-on clients in a department or service who directly face the IT implementation problems that have brought this help desk into the picture, might know how to carry out fixed business processes in their functional areas that they carry out in the course of their work. But they might not know in any depth or detail, how the work that they do fits into a larger pattern and with all of the dependencies involved there, at a business model level. So I am primarily writing about the great gray area that can arise between the IT side of a newly emerging or unusual problem, and the business needs side and certainly when that side is viewed from more of a narrowly focused normative, standard processes perspective – as it will be and certainly at first.

To put this discussion thread into a wider perspective, I have also at least briefly touched in this series, on how the type of communications channels and communications capabilities that I write of here, would be brought to bear in wider contexts in a business, as for example when enabling innovative potential there. So the issues that I write of here, apply more widely than would be found in a help desk context. And with that larger, more wide-ranging context in mind, I concluded Part 11 with the following to-address list of topics points that I would at least begin to delve into here (as here-reorganized in numbered point format):

1. Bringing a business’ own house into order through improved communications and information sharing, of the type under discussion here. (I will continue to pursue help desk systems as at least one possible source of working examples there.)
2. Then, I will turn outward to explicitly bring business-to-business collaborations into this narrative.
3. And then I will delve into at least some of the issues of larger contexts that businesses in general have to be able to function in: regulatory law and its implementation included.

My goal in this topics point progression is to offer a more prescriptive and remediative take on these issues as they arise in-house within a single business, as a first step. And then I will look outward to more fully and explicitly address a wider business-to-business context, with for example supply chain involvement, and with at least selective consideration of emergent issues that first arise at that level of organization. And then I will take one more step outward from the level of the individual business, to consider factors such as regulatory law that impact upon both individual businesses, and business-to-business interactions.

I begin addressing all of this with the above Point 1 and with a goal of building this overall discussion to follow, on the foundation laid out in this series since its Part 7, with its focus on the underlying challenges that businesses face when they have to go beyond the routine and readily prepared-for to deal with the non-standard, and even the contrary to expected. And I begin that line of discussion by stating the obvious – the obvious, at least until you begin to think through how to implement it, while routinely, reliably safeguarding what has become a seemingly open-ended flow of sensitive and confidential data and data types that essentially all businesses have come to face. I stress “essentially all businesses” there, as online business activity with the big data accumulations that that compels enters this narrative, and as just one possible source of sensitive and confidential data exposure.

• Effectively dealing with the unexpected, calls for agile and situationally open communications, and with that potentially including the sharing and joint use of sensitive information as well as more openly allowed and public information.

This sounds obvious and even trite when so stated. Where does that first-cut simple solution to this problem break down? A business cannot proactively prepare to communicate in novel but necessary ways for dealing with the unpredictable and unexpected, when limited to rigidly controlled, allowed-only communications channels wherever sensitive or potentially sensitive information (e.g. proprietary business information) might become involved. And the larger the store of critically sensitive information that a business holds, making this type of communications remediation more necessary, the more likely it becomes that it in fact will develop and follow rigidly controlled communications protocols, and develop and promote the types of communications channels that follow from that.

This point of observation becomes particularly relevant and I add pressing here, because the open communications of the above bullet pointed simple solution, only really becomes an issue where information that a risk management office would want to oversee and control access to, has to be brought into now-necessary business conversations, and with novel and unexpected communications flow required that would involve people and offices that do not normally see and share this information, included.

It is impossible to offer a simple, one size fits all solution here for managing this conundrum: this conflict in what can be essential need for both openness and control. But I can offer some basic organizing principles that when followed can help a business and its functional areas: its risk management office included, thread the needle to find resolutions that work there.

The key to this is in developing flexibility and agility in business systems that would allow for and support rapid communications and resolutions when information access exceptions have to be made. Think of this as building frameworks for recognizing the unexpected and sharing an awareness of it, along with an active awareness of its significance. And this has to be coupled with a permissions system for making specific information access exceptions, that allows access to the set of sensitive information that has to be shared in order to resolve problems, while limiting this special exception access to that, and with monitoring of who has this access and how they might hold it, and for how long. Think of this as dividing business communications into two fundamentally distinct categorical types: the more usual flow of business process communications that always takes place in an organization as it operationally functions, and what might be considered a meta-communications system: communications about and concerning, and with a goal of managing those more standard business conducting communications flows. And here, both of these systems need to be robust and both need to be actively, and proactively used.

Risk management systems tend to become set as if in stone, through the emergence of standardized, vetted and settled processes and procedures, and information access patterns that have arisen and come to be taken for granted with time. That destroys any possible capacity for adaptive flexibility in the face of the unexpected. What I am writing of here is a need for a risk management system that is always going to be seen as a work in progress, and as a dynamically responsive and adaptable service in its own right, and with change-enabling communications within its own systems and connecting this type of office to the business as whole, to match.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment with Point 2 of the above to-address list, and will continue on from there to consider Point 3 as well. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

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Reconsidering Information Systems Infrastructure 5

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on July 13, 2018

This is the 5th posting to a series that I am developing here, with a goal of analyzing and discussing how artificial intelligence, and the emergence of artificial intelligent agents will transform the electronic and online-enabled information management systems that we have and use. See Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 374 and loosely following for Parts 1-4. And also see two benchmark postings that I initially wrote just over six years apart but that together provided much of the specific impetus for my writing this series: Assumption 6 – The fallacy of the Singularity and the Fallacy of Simple Linear Progression – finding a middle ground and a late 2017 follow-up to that posting.

This is a series, as just stated, that is intent on addressing how artificial intelligence will inform, and in time come to fundamentally reshape information management systems, and both in general for more localized computer-based hardware and software systems, and in larger networked contexts as they interconnect: the global internet included. And I have been focusing on the core term that enters into that goal in this series, up to here: what artificial intelligence is, and with a particular focus on the possibilities and potential of the holy grail of AI research and development: the development of what can arguably be deemed to be true artificial general intelligence.

• You cannot even begin to address how artificial intelligence, and artificial general intelligence agents in particular would impact upon our already all but omnipresent networked information and communications systems, until you at least offer a broad brushstroke understanding as to what you mean by and include within the AI rubric, and outline at least minimally what such actively participating capabilities and agencies would involve and particularly as we move beyond simple, single function-limited artificial intelligence agents.

So I continue here with my admittedly preliminary, and first step discussion as to what artificial general intelligence is, and when moved past the simply conceptual of a traditionally stated Turing test, to include at least a starting point discussion of how this might be operationally defined too.

I have been developing my line of argument, analysis and discussion here around the possibilities inherent in more complex, hierarchically structured systems, as constructed out of what are individually just single task, specialized limited-intelligence artificial agent building blocks. And I acknowledge here, a point that is probably already obvious to many if not most readers: I am modeling my approach to artificial general intelligence at least to the level of analogy, on how the human brain is designed for its basic architecture, and on how a mature brain develops ontologically out of simpler more specialized components and sub-systems of specialized and single function units, that both individually and collectively show developmental plasticity that is experience based.

Think bird’s wings versus insect wings there where different-in-detail building block elements, come together to achieve essentially the same overall functional results, while doing so by means of distinctly different functional elements. But while those differently evolved flight solutions differ in structure and form details, they still bear points of notable similarity, and because they seek to address the same functional need and in the context of the same basic physical constraints, if for no other reason. Or if you prefer, consider bird wings and the wings found on airplanes, where bird wings combine both air foil capability for developing lift, and forward propulsive capability in the same mechanism, while fixed wing aircraft separate air flow and resulting lift capability from engine-driven propulsion.

And this brings me to the note that I offered at the end of Part 4, in anticipation of this posting and its discussion. I offered a slightly reformulated version of the Turing test in that installment, in which I referred to an artificial intelligence-based agent under review as a black box entity, where a human observer and tester of it can only know what input they provide and what output the entity they are in conversation is offering in response. But what does this mean, when looking past the simply conceptual, and when peering into the black box of such an AI system? I stated at the end of Part 4 that I would at least begin to address that question here, by discussing two fundamentally distinct sets of issues that I would argue enter into any valid answer to it:

• The concept of emergent properties as they might be more operationally defined, and
• The concept of awareness as a process of information processing (e.g. with pre- or non- directly empirical simulation and conceptual model building that would be carried out prior to any actualized physical testing or empirical validation of approaches and solutions considered.)

And as part of that, I added that I will address the issues of specific knowledge based expert systems in this, and of granularity in the scope and complexity of what a system might be in-effect hardwired to address, as for example in a Turing test context. What would more properly be developed as hardware, software, and I add firmware here? I will also discuss error correction as a dual problem, with half of it at least conceptually arising and carried out within the simpler agents that arise within an overall intelligent hierarchically structured system, and half of it carried out at a higher level within such a system, and as a function of properties and capabilities that are emergent to that larger system.

I begin addressing the first of those topics points and I add the rest of the above-stated to-address issues, by specifically delving into one two-word phrase that I offered in it, that all else here, hinges upon: “emergent properties.”

• What is an emergent property? Property, as that word is used here, refers to functionalities: mechanisms that directly cause or prevent, or directly modify an outcome step in a process or flow of them. So I use this term here in a strictly functional, operational manner.
• What makes a specific property as so defined and considered here, to be emergent?
• Before you can convincingly cite the action of a putative emergent property as a significant factor in a complex system, it has to be able to meet two specific criteria:
• You have to be able to represent it as the direct and specific causal consequence of an empirically testable and verifiable process, and
• This process should not arise at simpler organizational levels within the overall system under consideration, than the level at which you claim it to hold significant or defining impact.

Let me explain that with an admittedly gedanken experiment level “working” example. Consider a three tiered hierarchically structured system of what could best be individually considered to be simple, artificial specialized intelligence, single task agents. And you observe a type of measurable, functionally significant intermediate-step outcome arising within that system as you track its processing, and both overall and for how this system functions internally (within its black box.) Is this outcome the product of an emergent property in this system? The answer to that would likely be yes, if the following criteria can be demonstrably met, here assuming for purposes of this example that this outcome appears in the second, middle level up in the network architecture hierarchy here:

• The outcome in question does not and cannot arise from any of the lowest, first level agent components in place in this system.
• The outcome only arises at the second level of this hierarchy if one or more of the agents operating at that level receive input from a correct combination of agents that function at the lowest, first level, and with appropriate input from one or more agents at the second level too, as they communicate together as part of their feedback control capabilities.
• And this outcome, while replicable and reliably so given the right inputs, is not simply a function of one of the second level agents. It is not a non-emergent property of the second level and its agents.
• And here, this emergent property would most likely become functionally important at the third, highest level of this hierarchical stack, where its functional presence would serve as meaningfully distinct input to agents operating there.

Think of emergent properties here, as capabilities that add to the universe of possible functional output states and the conditions that would lead to them, that might be predictably expected when reviewing the overall functional range of this system when looking at its element agents and their expectable outcomes as if they were more independently functioning elements of a simple aggregation.

To express that at least semi-mathematically, consider an agent A, as being functionally defined in terms of what it does and can do as defined by its output states, coupled with the set of input states that it can act upon in achieving those outputs. As such it could be representable as a mapping function:

• FA(the set of all possible input values) → {the set of all possible output values}A

where FA can be said to map specific input values that this process can identify and respond to, as a one-to-one isomorphism as a simplest case, to specific counterpart output values (outcomes) that it can produce. This formulation addresses the functioning of agents that can and would consistently carry out one precisely characterizable response to any given separately identifiable input that it can respond to. And when the complete ensemble of inputs and responses as found across the complete set of elemental simple function agents in a hierarchical array system of this type, is considered at this simplest organizational level, where no separate agents in the system duplicate the actions of any others (as backups for example), their collective signal recognition and reaction system: their collective function space (or universe if considered in set theory terms) of input recognized and input-specific actions taken, would also fit a one-to-one isomorphism, input to output mapping pattern.

That simplest case assumes a complete absence of emergent process, response activity. And one measure of the level of emergent process activity in such a system would be found in the level of deviation from a more basic one-to-one input signal to output response pattern observed when studying this system as a whole.

The more extra activity is observed, that cannot be accounted for in this type of systems analysis, the more emergent property activity must be taking place, and by inference, the more emergent properties there must be there – or the more centrally important those that are there, must be to the system.

Note that I also exclude outcomes convergence in this simplest case model too, at least for single simple agents included in these larger systems, where several or even many inputs processed by at least one of the simple agents in such a system, would lead to some same output from it. That, however, is largely a matter of how specific inputs are specified. Consider, for example, an agent that is set up algorithmically to group any input signal X that falls within some value range (e.g. greater than or equal to 5) as functionally identical for processing and output considerations. If a value for X of 5, or 6.5 or 10 is registered, all else remaining the same as far as pertinent input is concerned, a same output would be expected – and for purposes of this discussion, such input value deviation for X would be evaluated as moot and the above type of input to output isomorphism would still be deemed valid.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, where I will conclude my discussion of emergent properties per se, at least for purposes of this phase of this series. And then I will move on to consider the second major to-address bullet point as offered above:

• The concept of awareness as a process of information processing (e.g. with pre- or non- directly empirical simulation and conceptual model building that would be carried out prior to any actualized physical testing or empirical validation of approaches and solutions considered.)

And I will also, of course discuss the issues that I listed above, immediately after first offering this bullet point:

• The issues of specific knowledge based expert systems in this, and of granularity in the scope and complexity of what a system might be in-effect hardwired to address, as for example in a Turing test context. What would more properly be developed as hardware, software, and I add firmware here? I will also discuss error correction as a dual problem, with half of it at least conceptually arising and carried out within the simpler agents that arise within an overall intelligent hierarchically structured system, and half of it carried out at a higher level within such a system, and as a function of properties and capabilities that are emergent to that larger system.

And my overall goal in all of this, is to use this developing narrative as a foundation point for addressing how such systems will enter into and fundamentally reshape our computer and network based information management and communications systems.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations. And you can also find a link to this posting, appended to the end of Section I of Reexamining the Fundamentals as a supplemental entry there.

Building a startup for what you want it to become 33: moving past the initial startup phase 19

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on July 10, 2018

This is my 33rd installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-32.)

I began discussing big data as a driver of competitive success for businesses, at least in the context of this series, in Part 28. And more specifically, I have focused on the issues of in-house developed, and third party provider sourced data that would be included and used there, since Part 31.

I offered a to-address list of topics points that are related to data sourcing in Part 31 as a core part of this discussion, that I repeat here as I continue addressing their issues, with:

1. An at least brief discussion of businesses that gather in, aggregate and organize information for other businesses, as their marketable product and in accordance with the business models of those client enterprises. (I began addressing this point in Part 31 and Part 32.)
2. The questions of where all of this business intelligence comes from, and how it would be error corrected, deduplicated, and kept up to date, as well as free from what should be avoidable risk from holding and using it.
3. And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.

And I continue delving into Point 1 of that list here, from where I left off at the end of Part 32. To briefly recap this line of discussion, for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative, I have categorically divided all third party data gathering, organizing and bundling, and selling businesses into two general categories:

• The big players in this emerging industry, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook that tend to gather in organize and sell essentially open-ended ranges and varieties of largely individual consumer-based data, and to all types of business intelligence purchasing organizations (much of which is offered as anonymized demographic-level findings, though not all),
• And smaller niche market-oriented big data providers that tend to focus in on and specialize in meeting the needs of single target business-to-business markets.

I discussed data providers in Part 32 that specifically focus on gathering, vetting, bundling and selling retail auto and small truck sales leads to retail automotive dealerships as a working example of the second of those two categorical data provider types. And my key goal for this posting is to turn to and consider the bigger players in this field that have come to fundamentally shape, and I add drive this industry: the much fewer, much larger and more powerfully placed businesses that collectively dominate third party business intelligence providing as a business model, and both for demographics level detail and for offering individualized, personally identifiable data.

I want to very clear here, focusing for the moment on Google and Facebook in what immediately follows. I am going to discuss those two companies as they, are and as they are more commonly understood to be, at the level of their basic underlying business models and the level of what the public, by and large understands of them to be. As the evidence that underlies both views of these two businesses has been freely available for a long time now, I posit the differences observed between them: actually followed and publically assumed, are ones of interpretation and not of intentional deception. Both of these businesses are what they are, and they have in fact never sought to hide that for anyone who has really looked into them and how they generate their revenue streams. And in anticipation of further discussion to follow, this same disclaimer applies to Amazon too for when I discuss that business in the context of this series.

I will begin this narrative thread with Google. It is a large enterprise that comprises just one division of a still larger umbrella organization: Alphabet Inc.. And it was in fact the first business to have been developed that now currently resides within the Alphabet Inc. system, and it is still by far the largest, best known, and most powerfully placed entity in the overall Alphabet group. That said, it is a search engine providing social media business, with its email and other social media oriented services added onto an already powerfully placed, market dominating search engine capability. And crucially importantly for this discussion, most all of the services that it provides, and to the vast majority of its users, are provided for free to them.

True, Google also generates significant levels of incoming revenue from business customers that purchase labeled advertising space on search engine results screens, with their placement in them determined by what key search words those customer businesses have paid for, and how much they have paid for them through a bidding system. And if you look to their social media-oriented tools, they also sell licensing rights to a wide range of them for use by client businesses, for use within those businesses’ own IT systems. They also license use of search tool applications that client businesses would use, for example in their own intranets. But most of what they provide as products and services, and certainly when considered on the basis of levels of usage levels achieved with their systems, are provided gratis to end users of their offerings.

Facebook is more of a pure play social media company that offers a communications and sharing oriented networking site that is so well known that most of its users think of the name Facebook as a basic word in their vocabulary: they see the name of that business as the name for this type of social media-oriented web site per se. And this business offers their social media services for free to any and all who would like to sign up and use their site.

All of the details just noted in the above paragraphs are true: on the face of things. Much of what I have just said there is at least crucially incomplete and certainly for Facebook, if not accompanied by some there-unstated caveats too.

While Google offers software and service as profitably marketed and sold product as a part of its basic business model, it is also at least in large part a data aggregator and organizer and a data seller, organizing and packaging and selling use of the user data that they accumulate through their free services. That is how they generate the majority of their incoming revenue. But at least to my understanding, this is at least primarily if not entirely sold for access, as anonymized data as for example when meeting the targeted marketing requirements of businesses that seek more effective advertizing placement.

Gathering, aggregating and organizing, packaging and selling user-based and user-derived data is essentially the complete real, underlying business model in place for Facebook. That at least appears to underlie essentially their entire business model, and with that only starting with their offering targeted ad placement services on their users’ Facebook pages.

What does this mean, as to the level of impact and reach that Facebook can leverage through its business offerings, and when marketing itself to its business and other organizational clients?

• As of the first quarter of 2018, Facebook claims to have some 2.19 billion “active users.” In practice that number represents the total number of open accounts in place in their system, where some individual users have more than one account (e.g. a personal one and a professional one), some accounts are open but largely if not entirely unused by the person who set them up, and some account holders have actually died and any activity showing on them is coming from others posting there, with perhaps a level of family member or similar reply activity. Nevertheless, and even with those caveats added, Facebook has steady access to what can best be considered unimaginably vast amounts of personal information and from a number of actively involved individual users that has grown so large that it represents a significant percentage of the entire human population, globally. See Number of Facebook users worldwide 2008-2018 as can be found on the Statista portal.
• All Facebook users have to agree to that company’s terms of use, in order to set up and use a personal page on the Facebook.com web site. And they have to agree to any changes made there if they are to continue to use this service, when and as Facebook rolls out such changes to their offerings: which it has done on a regular, ongoing basis and certainly for how it can and does use and share its site users’ data.
• More specifically, Facebook usage agreements require that all users agree that they have seen these terms of usage requirements and that they understand precisely how Facebook as a company can and does use data that they post to their web site, or that they pin to and post upon the Facebook pages of others. And these agreements also allow the company to use and to sell usage of at least some of the personally identifiable information that its member users enter into their personal profiles too, that does not show live on the site for reasons of personal privacy.
• Note, and this is crucially important here: only Facebook users who have explicitly agreed to these terms of service and data usage can view content offered through the Facebook site, and only registered users can access a Facebook screen and view its contents – and for very specific legal reasons. That type and level of access restriction imposed, drives new people to join this service. They have to join there to be able to see what their friends and family are posting and sharing there. But at least as importantly and certainly from a legally framed risk liability perspective, this policy serves to keep participation limited to those who have formally, legally agreed to Facebook’s terms of service and particularly for matters such as data usage and data sharing or sale.

Google and others in this major player business category, sell targeted online ad placement insight and access to other businesses. Google’s paid advertisement search screen placement service has in fact added a significant revenue generating capability to their search engine site. Facebook profitably offers targeted advertising services to other businesses too, where those client businesses buy access to specific marketing demographics from Facebook, as identified through analysis of user data as carried out on a massive scale on an individualized member user by member user basis. But more than that, Facebook as has been highlighted in recent news stories, also sells access to its individual users’ data and of all types too, and for use in a vast and seemingly entirely open-ended manner.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will, among other things at least briefly discuss Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica, and its use of their data stores. I will cite at least a brief and select set of in the news links related to how Facebook sells access to user data in general too, and as a matter of explicit intent on their part. Then I will turn to consider the third business that I promised to discuss in this narrative: Amazon and how it leverages the data that it collects through its web site as a major source of incoming revenue. Amazon is primarily an online retail business, and an online store but it also generates income from a wider range of services that includes targeted ad placement and work with partner businesses that sell through its systems, tapping into the strength of its brand name and its product inventory and its purchasing user data. Like Google, this primarily means offering access to anonymized and demographic level data and the value that can be developed from that. But in anticipation of further discussion to come, this is also were Point 3 of my above-repeated to-address list enters this narrative, and the problem of how individually anonymous, anonymized data really is and can be, in a big data context.

After delving into those issues, and the issues of Point 2 from the above list as well, I will explain why I am looking so deeply into issues that are more about business intelligence providing businesses than they are about businesses that might acquire data and processed intelligence from them. I will simply add at this point in this series, that when a business purchases access to data from a third party provider they are buying into both the strengths and the weaknesses of those providing businesses, and in ways that might not be readily apparent and certainly up-front.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and at its Page 2 continuation.

Moore’s law, software design lock-in, and the constraints faced when evolving artificial intelligence 2

This is my second posting to a short series on the growth potential and constraints inherent in innovation, as realized as a practical matter (see Part 1.)

My primary goal in Part 1 was to at least briefly lay out the organizing details of a technology development dynamic, that is both ubiquitously present and certainly in rapidly changing technologies, and all but ubiquitously overlooked and even by technologists.

• One half of this dynamic represents what can be seen as the basic underlying vision of futurologists, and certainly when they essentially axiomatically assume a clear and even inevitable technology advancement forward. I add that this same basic assumption can be found in the thoughts and writings of many of the more cautionary and even pessimistic of that breed too. The basic point that both of those schools of thought tend to build from is that whether the emergence and establishment of ongoing New is for the good or bad or for some combination in between, the only real limits to what can be achieved through that progression are going to be set by the ultimate physical limits imposed upon us by nature, as steered towards by some combination of chance and more intentional planning. And chance and planning in that, primarily just shape the details of what is achieved, and do not in and of themselves impose limits on the technological progression itself.
• The second half of this dynamic, as briefly outlined in Part 1, can be represented at least in part by the phenomenon of technology development lock-out, where the cumulative impact of mostly small, early stage development decisions in how new technologies are first implemented, can become locked in and standardized as default norms.

I cited a simple but irksome example of this second point and its issues in Part 1, that happens to be one of the banes of existence for professional musicians such as Jaron Lanier, who chaff at how its limitations challenge any real attempt to digitally record and represent live music with all of its nuances. I refer here to the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) coding protocol for digitally representing musical notes, that was first developed and introduced as an easy-for-then, way to deal with and resolve what was at the time a more peripheral and minor-seeming challenge: the detail-level digital encoding of single notes of music as a data type, where the technologists working on this problem were more concerned with developing the overall software packages that MIDI would be used in. The problem was that this encoding scheme did not allow for all that much flexibility or nuance on the part of the performer in how they shaped those musical notes, leaving the resulting music recordings more crudely, stereotypically formed then the original had been, and lacking in the true character of the music to be recorded.

One of the hallmarks of technological lock-ins is that they arise when no one is looking, and usually as quick and at least easier solutions to what at the time seem to be peripheral problems. But with time they become so entrenched and in so many ways, as the once-early technology they were first devised for grows, that they become de facto standards, and in ways that make them very hard to move beyond or even just significantly change. And such entrenched “solutions,” to cite a second defining detail of this technology development constraint, are never very scalable. The chaffing constraints that they create make them lock-ins because of this and certainly as the technologies that they are embedded in, in effect outgrow them. The way that they become entrenched in the more developed technologies that form around them, leaves them rigidly inflexible in their cores.

Human technology is new in the universe, so I decided while writing Part 1 to turn to consider biological evolution and at least one example drawn from that, to illustrate how lock-in can develop and be sustained over long periods of time: here on the order of over one billion years, and in a manner that has impacted upon essentially all multi-cellular organisms that have arisen and lived on this planet, as well as all single cell organisms that follow the eukaryotic cell pattern that is found in all multi-cellular organisms. My point in raising and at least briefly discussing this example is to illustrate the universality of the basic principle that I discuss here.

The example that I cited at the end of Part 1 that I turn to here, is a basic building block piece of the standard core metabolic pathway system that is found in life on Earth: the pentose shunt, or pentose phosphate pathway as it is also called.

• What is the pentose shunt? It is a short metabolic pathway that plays a role in producing pentoses, or 5-carbon sugars. Pentose sugars are in turn used in the synthesis of nucleotides: basic building blocks of the DNA and RNA that carry and convey our genetic information. So this pathway, while short and simple in organizational structure, is centrally important. And any mutations in any of the genes that code for any of the enzyme proteins that participate in this pathway are 100% fatal, every time and essentially immediately so.
• Think of this as one of biochemistry’s MIDI’s. If a change were made in the MIDI protocol that prevented a complete set of digitized notes from being expressed, any software incorporating that mutation would fail to work, and would constitute a source of fatal errors as far as any users are concerned. Any change: any mutation in the pentose shunt that limited its ability to produce the necessary range of metabolic products that it is tasked with producing, would be fatal too.

Does this description of the pentose shunt suggest that it is the best of all possible tools for producing those necessary building block ingredients of life? No, it does not, any more than any current centrality of need for MIDI and its particular standard in music software as that has been developed, indicates that MIDI must be the best of all possible solutions for the technology challenge that it addresses. All you can say and in both cases is that life for one, and music software for the other, have evolved and adapted around these early, early designs and their capabilities and limitations, as they have become locked-in and standardized for use.

Turning back to biology as a source of inspiration in this, and to the anatomy of the human body with its design trade-offs and compromises, and with its MIDI-like design details, I cite a book that many would find of interest: and particularly if they have conditions such as arthritis or allergies, or know anyone who does, or if they are simply curious as to why we are built the way we are:

• Lents, N.H. (2018) Human Errors: a panorama of our glitches, from pointless bones to broken genes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.

This book discusses a relatively lengthy though still far from complete listing of what can be considered poor design-based ailments and weaknesses: poor design features that arose early, and that have become locked-in for all of us. So it discusses how poor our wrist and knee designs are from a biomechanical perspective, how humans catch colds some 200 times more often than our dogs do from how our upper respiratory tract is designed and from immune system limitations that we have built into us, and more. Why for example do people have a vermiform appendix still as an evolutionary hold-over, when the risk of and consequences of acute appendicitis so outweigh any purported benefits from our still having one? Remember that surgery is still a very, very recent innovation, so until very recently acute appendicitis and a resulting ruptured appendix was all but certain to lead to fatal consequences. And this book for all of its narrative detail just touches upon a few primarily anthropocentric examples of a much larger list of them that could be raised there, all of which serve as biological evolutionary systems examples of design lock-in as discussed here.

Looking at this same basic phenomenon more broadly, why do cetaceans (whales, dolphins, etc), for example, all develop olfactory lobes in their brains during embryonic development, just to reabsorb them before birth? None of these animals have, or need a sense of smell from birth on but they all evolved from land animal ancestors who had that sense and needed it. See for example: Early Development of the Olfactory and Terminalis Systems in Baleen Whales for a reference to that point of observation.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, where I will introduce and briefly discuss a point of biological evolutionary understanding that I would argue, is crucially important in understanding the development of technology in general, and of more specific capabilities such as artificial intelligence in particular: the concepts of fitness landscapes as a way to visualize systems of natural selection, and adaptive peaks as they arise in these landscapes. In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I add that I began to at least briefly make note of the relationships between steady evolutionary change and disruptively new-direction change, and the occurrence and stability of lock-ins in Part 1. I will return to that set of issues and discuss it more fully in light of adaptive peaks and the contexts that they arise in. Then after developing this foundational narrative for purposes of this series, I will turn very specifically to consider artificial intelligence and its development – which I admit here to be a goal that I have been building to in this progression of postings.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I also include this in my Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 directory as topics Section VIII. And also see its Page 1.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 24: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 16

This is my 24th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-23.)

I have been discussing, since Part 20 of this, a brief set of what can be seen as hiring process exceptions that can categorically arise in businesses, and that impact upon employees and potential employees as well as upon management, when they arise. And my goal in that developing narrative has been to use these real-world business process-based, interpersonal interactions as grounding points for discussing more general issues that would help illuminate and develop a more general theory of business as a whole.

I began discussing two such hiring situations in Part 23, that I repeat here as I continue to address them, as renumbered here from the original, more complete list. Please note that both of these exception scenarios are offered in contrast to a more normative hiring context scenario that they would prove to be an explicit exception to, with their normative counterpart offered first:

1. More routine positions, managerial or not – versus – special skills and experience new hires, hands-on or managerial. (Here, the emphasis in this second possibility is in finding and bringing in people with rare and unusual skills and experience sets that are in high demand, and at levels of need that exceed any realistic pool of available candidates holding them.)
2. And job candidates and new hires and employees who reached out to the business, applying for work there as discussed up to here in this narrative, doing so on their own initiative – versus – professionals who might not even be explicitly looking for new job opportunities who the business itself has reached out to, to at least attempt to bring them in-house as special hires and as special for all that would follow.

I started out comparing and contrasting these two hiring exception scenarios in Part 23, and then began to consider them from a participant-oriented game theory-based strategy perspective there, building that line of discussion from the points of similarity and of difference that I had just noted for them. Or to be more specific here, I began to so analyze the first of those two hiring scenarios in that installment in that manner. My goal for this posting is to take that same approach as a tool for examining and understanding the second of those scenarios too, and with further points of comparison between the two added in while doing so. And I begin this by at least briefly repeating, and then expanding on a basic point that I made in Part 23 when considering the above renumbered (and somewhat rephrased) Scenario 1, that holds pivotal importance in any theory of business as a whole and across wide ranges of context as they would arise in them:

• The phenomenon of competing alternative strategies, and how real world business contexts can come to require reconciling and coordinately following more than one such strategic approach at the same time – or at least finding a workable and mutually acceptable hybrid combination of them.
• It is obvious that different participants: different players, to couch this in game theory terms can and often do hold to differing and even overtly competing strategies and goals as they interact and seek to influence the interactive processes that arise between them and the goals reached from that.
• When I raise the issues of competing strategies here, I am focusing on competing alternatives that can arise and play out within the individual participants involved there, as for example when they individually have to simultaneously find and promote negotiated approaches that would work for them on both a short and a long-term basis, or in accordance with essentially any other dichotomous (at least) parameter that would hold importance to them, while pressing them with significantly differing alternative best paths forward.

As noted in Part 23, potential new hires who would fit into a Scenario 1 pattern as offered above, and both from their own perspective and from that of a hiring company, generally have specific currently must-have skills and experience sets that that hiring business feels compelled to add to their staff capabilities and as quickly and early as possible. This type of scenario is most likely going to arise for businesses that operate in very fast paced and rapidly changing, technology-driven business arenas that are continually racing to achieve an ever-changing goal: top position in a very competitive industry. As such, this scenario is usually all about businesses seeking a new and cutting edge technology advantage over their competition, and certainly while the defining edge sought in winning this is new and emerging skills-set driven race, would still hold first mover advantage for them in capturing emerging new markets. And that dynamic leads to both short-term and longer-term consequences, and a need for both short term and long term strategy and from both the would-be employee, and from the would-be hiring business perspective, and with game theory-defined strategic understandings to all of this, to match and for both sides of this too.

A job candidate seeking out this type of hiring opportunity has to be able to leverage any possible advantage that they might be able to offer from their holding a still rare, high demand skills and experience set, while those special capabilities attributes still hold this type of defining value for them. So they need to be able to negotiate towards a hiring decision from their side of the table that would leverage their being able to achieve their goals, and help them gain the best possible terms of employment and compensation levels, commensurate with the current (but perhaps soon to fade) special value of what they have to offer now, and with a short-term strategic approach pursued in doing this. But at the same time, if they want to stay employed at that business longer term instead of only pursuing shorter-term gigs as an ongoing career path, they need to develop a relationship with this hiring manager who will be their supervisor and direct boss there, and with this business, that is not going to chaff and create resentment there too. This, of course holds for terms of employment and the details and levels agreed to in the overall compensation package.

I offer that last point with my own direct experience in mind, where I once found myself taking a consulting assignment that could in principle have lasted longer than it did – but I negotiated terms from too much of a short-term perspective and not from a longer-term one. So that business agreed to bring my in to work with them, but at a pay rate that they came to see as too out of range from what they paid others at the same level in their organization to be long-term sustainable. That realization on the part of this hiring business, I add, colored my entire work experience there, and even as I successively achieved the goals that I was initially brought in to work towards. And that brings me to the hiring manager and business side of this. They seek to meet the short term strategy requirements that they face in being able to bring in necessary and even essential skills and experience, but in ways that are going to be longer-term sustainable too – assuming that is, that they are not simply hiring short-term and intentionally so as their basic strategy.

Now let’s consider these same types of issues from a Scenario 2 perspective, where a business has decided to seek the services of some specific individual as a new hire, who they reach out to and attempt to convince to work for them, and regardless of their current work and employment status. These efforts are not generally directed towards addressing short-term needs, and the people they would bring in usually have skills and experience sets that they would want to retain longer-term. So their shorter term and here-and-now strategies and tactics for this would revolve around their seeking to catch the interest of such a potential hire, and in ways that would bring them in through their doors. Their longer-term strategy here would align with that, and function as a continuation of it, with a goal of finding a mutually agreeable overall, terms of employment and compensation package that both sides of these negotiations could live with moving forward.

• Both the potential new hire and the potentially hiring business in this, seek to reach an agreement that would best serve their particular needs and for both of these hiring scenarios. Short term, and certainly when only considering that timeframe, this would likely mean both of these two sides pursuing more of a win-lose strategy approach, that would at least likely turn out to be at least somewhat close to being diametrically opposed.
• But both of the types of scenarios under consideration here, and the above-stated Scenario 2 in particular are essentially never short-term only and for either side of the negotiating table. So it is usually in the best interest of all parties to seek out more of a win-win solution here and once again, most certainly where Scenario 2 applies.

This leads me to the final crucially important point that I would address here in this posting: business systems friction and the fact that neither side to the negotiations that are under consideration here is going to know enough of the information that is held on the other side of the table to be able to make an optimally best-for-them decision when crafting the offers that they would propose. Neither side, for example, is certain to know if their counterparts on the other side of the table are negotiating with others too, and even if they do know that they are unlikely to know the crucial details they would have to compete with there. And neither side is going to know the outer parameters as to what the other side would deem acceptable, and either in detail for specific points or in overall balance where significant trade-offs might be possible.

How conservative in their thought and actions are the people involved in these negotiations? And how much would they seek to press the limits of what might be possible and achievable for their side, on the assumption that they could probably concede ground if needed when making adjusted offers and still keep these negotiations in play? Personalities involved, and basic business and negotiating styles pursued here can become very important, and both in shaping any dual or alternative negotiating tactics and approaches pursued, and in identifying and understanding the thinking on the other side of the table. (Look to the corporate culture in place in the hiring business, and the corporate cultures that a potential hire here, have succeeded in and even thrived in, that they might turn to for guidance as they negotiate possible next career moves that they might accept.)

• The points that I have been making here, and certainly in the last several paragraphs, while framed in terms of a hire-or-not negotiations, hold much wider importance in understanding the dynamics of business decision making and the agreements and disagreements that can arise in them, and both when dealing with outside stakeholders and when negotiating strictly in-house and across what can become highly competitive boundaries there.

I am going to more fully explore and discuss that last bullet point in my next series installment. And then I am going to turn to and consider the last hiring scenario from my original list in the next installment to this series, as first offered in Part 20as noted above: nepotism as a specific case in point example of how hiring process exceptions can take more toxic forms. I will consider intentionally, overtly family owned and run businesses in that context, that simply seek to keep their business in their family, there. And I will also discuss more overtly problematical examples of how this type of scenario can play out too. Then after completing that line of discussion, at least for purposes of this series, I will step back from consideration of theories of business and special case contexts that they apply to, as an overall special categorical form of general theory, to delve into a set of what have become essential foundation elements for that discussion, with further consideration of general theories per se. I began this series in its Parts 1-8 by offering a start to an approach to thinking about and understanding general theories as such. I will add some further basic building blocks to that foundation after completing my business theory discussion here, up through a point where a new hire first successfully joins a business as an in-house employee, hands-on or managerial. Then I will turn back to further consider general theories of business per se, on the basis of that now-enlarged general theory discussion.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 12 – the jobs and careers context 11

This is my 12th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-11.)

I have been progressively discussing the stages in a job search in this series, starting for that in its Part 2. And I have developed that narrative to a point where I assume that you have been selected as one of a small number of top candidates who have been brought in for interviews: first with someone from Human Resources and then with the hiring manager who owns this job opening and this hiring process for it. And as a part of that last stage in this overall process, I have been discussing interviews with other stakeholders who this hiring manager would bring into this process.

More specifically, I have been focusing here on these stakeholder interviewers since Part 9, where I introduced and began discussing this following list of to-address points:

1. Why would a hiring manager bring other stakeholders into what is essentially their hiring decision making step? (See Part 9 for my discussion of this point.)
2. And closely aligned with that question: who would they bring into this process and what would these stakeholders discuss with a job candidate? (See Part 9 and Part 10.)
3. And how would their input and insight be used in making a hire-or-not decision? (See Part 10 and Part 11 for my discussion of this.)
4. And given these questions and their issues, how can you as a job candidate most effectively meet with, and communicate and negotiate with these people, each with their own reasons for being included here and each with their own goals and interests in this process, so as to help you to achieve your own desired goals out of this overall interviewing process?

I began addressing Point 4 of that list towards the end of Part 11 by offering the following orienting thoughts, which I repeat here as I will build from them in this posting:

• Anyone who is brought into this process as an involved stakeholder interviewer has had to find ways to push this added task into what was already a very, very busy work schedule and in the face of tight deadlines that they will still have to meet. Having to meet with job candidates will not qualify as a valid excuse for delays in delivering their expected results for their regular workload task requirements. And this holds for stakeholders who chose to be included and even actively so, as much as it does for those who are “requested” to participate.
• And everyone so involved as participants on the interviewer side of the table, is going to have their own specific reasons for having been included there too. The candidate who is selected and hired will have an impact on what they do and on what they have to do and get completed. So they have reasons for wanting to be there and for wanting to be involved in this, and even if they have to get creative to find the time to do this too.
• Now, and given the dynamics of the first two of these bullet points, how can you as a job candidate better understand the underlying needs and priorities of the people who you meet with: the hiring manager and these stakeholder interviewers included? And focusing back on these stakeholder interviewers again, how can you find and develop a sense of shared alignment between what you offer and can do, and what they want and need, and in a way that would show that you are the candidate who they could most easily and comfortably work with in achieving their goals? How, in other words, can you make allies out of these people, for when they report back to the hiring manager who will make the final officially stated hiring decision here?

I begin this posting and its narrative by drawing a crucially important point of comparison between these interviewer participants and the hiring manager who at least nominally brings them into this process. Ultimately, a hiring manager takes on the task of hiring a new member of their team and with all of the time and effort consuming commitment that that calls for, starting with developing a business vetted and approved job description, because they want to find someone who can make their life easier at work, by taking some critically important task or set of them off of their desk so they do not have to worry about them, or directly deal with them anymore, themselves. Stakeholder interviewers, for the most part, are brought into this process because the work that a new hire would carry out in this position, would address one of their more significant workplace goals and priorities needs too. So while they might grumble at the inconvenience of having to add this interviewing task into their already overloaded work schedules, they can still see this as worthwhile and regardless of the ripple effect consequences they would have to face when so participating, that taking on this commitment is going to have on their own work schedules and efforts.

• You can think of this point as an all but axiomatic truth: the people who would be drawn into these interview processes as stakeholder interviewers are always going to be busy and in demand, and they are always going to hold positions of significant responsibility – and regardless of their titles held at work. People who have idle time on their hands at work and consistently so are not going to be called upon for this type of interviewing task, as they are not going to be crucially involved in or counted upon for completing any of the more pressing work that any new such hire would have to do.

If you find a business where the above point does not hold, you have probably found a business that you would not want to work at, unless of course your goal is to help them institute or carry through upon a change management remediation.

If your goal here is to “make allies out of these people, for when they report back to the hiring manager who will make the final officially stated hiring decision”, how can an active awareness of this context that they are meeting with you in help you to achieve this? Finding a more effective way to address that question, is to core topic of this posting. And I begin at least, to answer that by highlighting a point that is all too often lost to the interviewee when seeking employment, but that is crucial to their success in getting hired to a best-for-them job:

• You are interviewing the people who you meet with at a hiring business, just as they are interviewing you.

What does this mean in a practical sense, in this context? Yes, a significant part of these conversations will involve you’re answering questions and providing information that is more about yourself and your background, training and skills, and goals. But from your perspective, you’re listening and asking questions, and insightful ones can be much more important. You are there as a possible answer to at least one of the problems or challenges that each of these interviewers brings to the table with them, when they meet with you. So you need to listen to their expressed needs and priorities and you need to ask questions that explicitly connect to and address them. And it is important that you provide supportive feedback responses to what they say as they answer your follow-up questions there, that indicate that you are listening, that you understand what they are saying and that you share an awareness with them of the importance of the issues that they have brought with them. So actively listen and learn – and offer further details as to your own background and experience and your own job and career goals as appropriate, that mesh with what they are looking for and with what they need. Note: I just said “offer further details” there, as it is very likely that these people will have reviewed copies of your resume and cover and any other you-provided documentation that is available to them (e.g. your LinkedIn or other online profile and certainly as can be found on professionally oriented networking sites.) So these people will start out already knowing the basic details of your professional background and you probably will not have to cover that level or type of detail about yourself unless one of these interviewers asks questions that would call for that.

• Put somewhat differently, but with the same end point goal as the core point that the above narrative is directed towards, you cannot effectively present yourself as the answer to someone else’ problems if you do not know what those problems are, or if you cannot convey a clear sense to them that you do understand and value those issues and challenges.

Too many of us go into an interview presuming that this meeting is all about us. Interviews are in fact about us insofar as the people meeting with us are hoping that they will find us to be an effective source of answers and solutions to their problems – or at least to one of them. And that is the central area of discussion that these interviewers are going to be most concerned about. They generally ask at least some more general questions about the people who they meet with to interview, but ultimately, we are there as interviewees as possible answers to at least one of their more pressing needs, and these meetings are ultimately all about that. So our goal is to present ourselves as their best choice in addressing those needs and concerns.

Listen. Ask questions based on what you hear, and to gain further insight and understanding, as you peel back the layers and unearth the details of the issues you have been brought there to discuss. And selectively add further background details as to who you are and what you can do, that would address their needs and priorities, and in ways that would indicate that you are someone they could comfortably work with. And you’re listening to them and you’re showing interest in what they have to say, and you’re offering mirroring comments and asking clarifying questions, will go a long way in you’re establishing yourself as the candidate they would most want to bring onboard and work with. You will have made these interviewers your allies to the extent that you can accomplish this.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, where I will assume that you have become the top choice candidate and that the hiring manager who you have met with, and other involved stakeholders would like to bring you in as a new hire. That means, as already noted in earlier anticipatory notes concerning series installments to come, discussing negotiations as to terms of employment. Then, looking ahead, I will turn to consider the new hire probationary period as will begin with your day one on this new job.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And I particularly recommend your at least briefly reviewing a specific job search best practices series that I developed here on the basis of both my own job search experience and from working with others going through that: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search isn’t Working, as can be found at Page 1 of my above-noted Guide as its postings 56-72.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 42: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 12

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on June 28, 2018

This is my 42nd posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business, posting 173 and loosely following for Parts 1-5 and Macroeconomics and Business 2, posting 203 and loosely following for Parts 6-41.)

I began a more detailed discussion of the bookkeeping and accounting, operational-details side of innovation in a business in Part 40 and Part 41. And I focused in that on the more budget organizing and management level of analysis and decision making as they determine how a larger, longer-term research project or program would be funded out of a business’ overall operating budget. Then I added on outside-sourced pressures to that narrative with inclusion of marketplace and business competitor-sourced factors and complications, and how they shape product and service prioritization decisions as possible marketable offerings are prioritized for funding and for more general support for their possible development, production and sale.

My goal for this next installment in that progression is to tie the above-noted lines of discussion as offered up to here, back to the accounting and bookkeeping systems decision making processes that are in place in this would-be innovative business, in order to tie together all of the perspectives to this complex of issues that I have been addressing here. That of necessity means my breaking open the essentially black box, monolithic representation of research and development per se that I have been citing here, to consider it as a dynamic and mutable process and system of them too, and with all of the strategic and operational trade-offs and compromises that that can entail: cash flow and money management ones included. My goal here is to prepare for that discussion by offering an organizing framework for it.

There are a number of starting points that I could develop this line of discussion to come from, but my goal here is to develop this narrative in as hands-on practical a manner as possible. So I will begin with the basic choice options that arise that would have to be managed, and both for their possible planning and execution and for their funding, if pursued. This means thinking through and understanding what research and development, and what more immediately-marketing facing specific product or service design and development options might be pursued. And it means thinking these possibilities through and for their costs and benefits in light of a detailed understanding of what else at that business is clamoring for such support. Basically, think of this as addressing the dual questions of what resources and funding levels that they would require are going to be needed, and what of this can be made available and with what impact on the business as a whole as those decisions are made and carried out.

• Peeling back the layers of the onion there, what has to be done on an ongoing and/or more remediative or business development basis that any research and development effort would have to compete with for available funds and support?
• What is the priority level for supporting at least the single most promising and potentially beneficial product or service development initiative under consideration here? And as a coordinated bookend question to match that with, what other, non-product and service development needs have as high or higher a priority level on a due diligence and risk management basis as that? Here, think special case and emerging for those business needs, and think of them in terms of the funding capacity that this business has after accounting for more standard necessary ongoing business functions.
• The goal of these questions is to lay out the basic business needs and expenditures context that any new and next product or service development would have to compete with,
• And then see where those potential funding requirements would fit into that overall picture, as far as relative needs and benefits are concerned. Then it becomes possible to filter out the lower priority but perhaps nice contextual business needs and opportunities from the more pressing ones actually faced, and certainly when focusing on the most pressing new and next development goals for this business for what they could bring to market going forward.

The above, of course requires that realistic possible product and service development options be reviewed and considered, so as to effectively and realistically identify and focus on the most pressingly important of them in that prioritization exercise. And as more explicitly noted in the above four bullet points, the same would be done for business processes in place, and with a focus on anything that would not simply fit into that business’ ongoing routine for its ongoing operations without offering specific defining value. What is routine and standard, and pursued in a way that creates positive net value for the organization that carries it out? What is simply done because it is done, and even when it might cost more to continue, at least in-house than it is worth, for whatever positive value it might still create? And what non-routine, internally facing possible business development expenses might be in place or under consideration? And what is the potential overall funding pool level left over:

• Net of basic essential ongoing business processes and particularly for processes and systems of them that should be maintained,
• And when also setting aside any reserve funds for risk management purposes that might need to be drawn from the incoming revenue stream,
• And of course the setting aside of revenue sourced funds for business profits that would leave the business in the hands of shareholders or other owners?

This is all about putting research and development, and from more open-ended endeavors on through specific more one-off product-focused ones, into an explicit context and both for overall levels of funding that might be available for this type of expense, and for the overall priority that this type of expenditure would hold for the business as a whole.

Up to here I have primarily focused on a context where the business under consideration would have one clearly identifiable highest priority research and development project, that might potentially be taking place and that would have to be budgeted for and supported, at any one time. Any references to greater complexity of need in this up to this point have been detail-free and of minimal analytical value.

Realistically, any innovative business is going to have to develop and maintain an innovation development pipeline, with a stream of New in it, and with various innovation possibilities at different stages of development pursued in it. So the above discussion as presented in this posting is more of an innovate-or-not one, than it is a representation of an analysis as to how to prioritize and fund innovation per se. As such the above type of analysis, which I have been offering here can be thought of as a simplified presentation of a more complex possibility where this business would have to take several or even many innovation development options and opportunities into account, and through the same types of prioritization comparisons as briefly outlined above. Then, and with an ongoing innovation development pipeline assumed for the moment, and with explicit consideration of the costs (and risks) versus benefits analyses assumed, and the prioritization decisions that would come from them presumed to be in place,

• What would have to betake into account in detail as far as expenditures already made for efforts already underway are concerned, and as new and next expenditure requirements are considered, if a decision to proceed with a given innovation effort continues?

This posting’s narrative, as noted towards its start, has been offered as a foundational background to a line of discussion and analysis that I initially offered to develop at the end of Part 41 and that I repeated offering here, above: “breaking open the essentially black box, monolithic representation of research and development per se that I have been citing here, to consider it as a dynamic and mutable process and system of them too, and with all of the strategic and operational trade-offs and compromises that that can entail: cash flow and money management ones included.”

The devil as they say is in the details, and any realistic analytically based decision making process of the type that I have been outlining here, has to explicitly consider those details, if the right decisions are to be made. I will explicitly turn to that next phase of this overall discussion in my next installment of this series, where I will at least initially focus on the single highest priority innovation development project under consideration and just that, as I did here – but with consideration of what goes into making that innovative effort work. Then after addressing that simple organizational model example, as I did here, I will at least begin to add in the nuances of simultaneously (and more realistically) seeking to develop and maintain an ongoing innovative presence in your industry and when addressing the ongoing needs of your market and your customer base. I will expand this discussion to explicitly consider true innovation pipelines.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 38: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 18

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 25, 2018

This is my 38th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-37.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I focused in Part 37 of this, on franchise systems as an exit strategy that a young business’ founders and owners can build towards, as their new enterprise exits its earliest stages of business development and starts to become consistently profitable. That financial transition point serves as the starting point for a new business’ first real growth phase, and when viewed from the perspective of a franchise system-facing business model, that is when those business owners stabilize and effectively complete their first storefront that they began their business with, at least to the point where it can begin to serve as a prototype model for overall business systems expansion, through a replication process and through bringing in contractually licensed franchise holders to run these new outlets, as they are developed. (As a point of digression of some relevance here, that means in a would-be franchise systems context that this first storefront has reached a point in its development where it can begin to build brand strength that it can use in marketing its pattern as a viable franchise option, and first growth stage here means both further building out that storefront itself as a business in place, and developing marketing strength and reach from it too, as a basis for wider-ranging growth.)

I discussed founders, and those who would set out to build this type of business empire in Part 37. And I turn here to more directly consider the question of what types of people would seek out franchise opportunities as participants in this type of system. And I begin with the obvious – which I refer to as such because the points I will raise here, enter into essentially every pitch that franchise systems have ever offered as they seek to find and bring in, franchisee managers for their outlets:

• People who seek out, or who can be drawn into the possibilities and potentials of becoming a franchisee in this type of business, seek greater autonomy and independence and greater long-term growth opportunity than they have been able to achieve when working in-house for someone else and under their direct guiding management. Here, the guiding mantra that informs those recruitment pitches is “be your own boss and with a proven brand name and business support system to back you up, and increase your chances of success, and your speed to achieving that too. Come in and grow with this franchise system business, as a key participant in its success and as a key beneficiary of its success too.”

There are of course two sides to that bullet point and certainly to my more generically stated recounting of this basic sales pitch: independence, but in the context of a larger proven and established business and business model. And that means accepting trade-offs, and of a very particular type and blend.

Think of taking on a franchise license opportunity as fitting in between two other distinctive and commonly pursued alternative options:

• Continuing on as an in-house employee and manager, and
• Breaking away entirely from that career path pattern and seeking to build your own startup, and your own business future from it.

At least from my admittedly limited experience, most of the people who would find real appeal in becoming a franchise license holder have worked as managers, and generally lower level managers in more traditional businesses. And they have felt stymied there from a lack of opportunity for advancement, and from a lack of appreciation of what they can and in fact do contribute to the business they work for. And franchise opportunities also appeal to those who actively seek out opportunity to break into management and have more of a say in what they do professionally, and who seek to lead and manage larger efforts than just the work of their own hands. A driving need for the type of independence that I cited in the above bullet point enters into all of this.

And a desire to build towards success with a level of support that can ease the way towards that, and reduce the chances of failure in this, also holds real appeal here too. A well run, franchisee-friendly and supportive parent company does in fact provide stable and supportive structure and help while giving their individual franchisees a great deal of hands-on, day-to-day independence in running their own operations in their own storefront.

This type of career move can, and for many franchisees does serve as their last major career step transition in their work life. Well run and effective franchise businesses actively seek to recruit good people into their systems who can really succeed in this type of work environment as local franchise managers. And they seek to retain them, and their growing knowledge and skills sets for making their franchises thrive. So the approach to understanding these overall business systems and from both an overall business owner, and from a franchise holder perspective that I offered above is realistic, and certainly as an intended goal and for all stakeholder types in this type of venture.

Returning to the two career path alternatives to this franchise option that I noted above: a prospective franchise license holder, or a current one for that matter who might be questioning their decision here, needs to ask some basic questions as part of their own due diligence-based decision making process for their moving forward:

1. Would (or do) you have the level and types of support from the parent business that you need and want?
2. Would/do you actually have the independence that you seek, in being able to be your own boss and run your own storefront?
3. Or are you too hemmed in and in ways that are important to you, by the terms of the contractual agreements that have to be agreed to and signed in becoming a franchisee there, and from either a Point 1 or a Point 2 perspective?
4. In that, and as a specific case in point source of examples, are you required to use specific supportive services (such as, for example parent company provided cleaning supplies and only them) that you could acquire locally on your own and less expensively, improving your own bottom line and without cutting corners on maintenance and storefront appearance?
5. Are some of the centrally mandated and run quality control measures that the parent company provides and mandates, disruptive and in ways that they need not be, from a local franchise perspective?
6. And is the parent company too restrictive in what it allows their local franchisees to offer their customers, denying opportunity to them to effectively address local and regional tastes and preferences that they see real potential in meeting?
7. And this is where local autonomy or at least a measure of it in what is offered to the customer enters this picture too. And I close out this list of points with an open question that I have in effect been leading up to here. How can a franchise system parent company and their perhaps very widely dispersed franchisees with their local storefronts, reach and maintain a more optimized balance between what is systematically standardized across the entire system and in its overall branding and brand value, while also allowing for local diversity to address local community and related marketplace diversity?

And that last numbered point leads me directly to the issues that I will turn to in my next series installment where I will consider the issues of business-wide consistency, as well as storefront-level flexibility, and both in prototyping new product or service possibilities and in addressing local-to-store opportunities and challenges. What is and is not supported and even encouraged and rewarded in this? I will at least begin addressing this complex of issues in my next installment. And meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Building a business for resilience 30 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 22

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 22, 2018

This is my 30th installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-29.)

I have been discussing an approach to understanding how businesses are functionally organized in practice, and regardless of table of organization considerations for that, since Part 28 when I parsed a basic business model into intra-communicating tiles: groups of employee participants who actively communicate with each other within these groupings and on a regular basis. And as part of that, I discussed the boundaries that arise between these tiles, that participants in them are less likely to effectively communicate across and certainly on a default ongoing basis. Then I offered and at least briefly and selectively explored a case study example of how this type of tiling can lead to breakdowns and disconnects in the face of the unexpected and unplanned for, and when new problems arise that would require wider-ranging communications and action to resolve, of a type that do not more normally take place.

This discussion thread does not presume that such contexts and problems have to be permanently intractable as a consequence of this communications-limiting tiling: only that any effective response to or resolution of them can be delayed and with all of the added ripple effect consequences that delay can bring, and certainly when they involve critically important business flows and effort to achieve important business goals.

• There I assume as an in-effect axiomatic assumption, that when a business process breakdown could realistically be expected to degrade or even break the customer experience with that organization (as a working contextual example), and with anything like a significant potential likelihood of doing so,
• That makes both this breakdown and any business processes that it would arise within, critically important – and both for any overtly fragile or otherwise breakdown-vulnerable business processes involved and for any consequential or collateral breakdown incidents that also arise from this type of event.

Then I concluded Part 29 with the following note as to what would follow that installment:

• “I raised the issue of attention-limiting and communications-limiting tiled operational systems that span larger and more complex work flows in Part 28 and I have continued that line of discussion here (n.b. in Part 29.) And I come back to the challenges that this all-too common a reality creates and both for business resiliency and agility and I add for overall here-and-now business effectiveness too. I am going to turn in my next series installment (this one) to at least begin a discussion of how this type of challenge can be remediated, and both reactively and where possible: proactively too.”

The last sentence of that point fairly neatly summarizes what is to follow here as I continue this narrative. And I begin addressing that with communications and by offering a generally stated, but nevertheless generally valid point of observation that arises in this type of context:

• Improving communications in this is important, but simply addressing that might lead to misleading and functionally disconnected effort.

The key to this is in precisely how and where communications are improved, and with who is involved in that, and with what types of follow-up enabled by it and with what prioritization for that proposed action.

I begin addressing this by citing a point of distinction that I have made on a variety of occasions in this blog when addressing innovation, and particularly disruptively novel innovation and its communications needs. Ultimately enabling, developing and supporting and realizing value from innovation in a business, depends on how effectively that organization can institute an effective back-channel if you will, unstructured, or at least less-structured communications system that can address the novel information flow needs that innovation, and disruptive innovation in particular require, while still maintaining effective risk management oversight of genuinely sensitive and confidential information. And I have posited this in contrast to the more routine, standardized and vetted communications channels that would form the backbone of a business’ information sharing system.

This is not a context where the types of “unstructured, or at least less-structured communications” that I wrote of above can offer positive value, and certainly when their usage would drive a business for how its efforts are coordinated. And turning back to my banking example from Parts 28 and 29: the ad hoc workaround communications and resulting efforts to organize solutions that those bankers had to resort to became part of the problems they were trying to resolve, and not parts of any real solution to all of this, as instances of what should be seen as a single comprehensively recurring single problem and fitting into a single problem type. That point of observation holds true precisely because all of these localized problem remediations as separately carried out by involved bank officers, were always more one-off and disconnected from any larger context, than they were anything else. These efforts did not connect into the more standard communications capabilities or the more standard communications channels that were in place. And that meant they were not tracked for outcomes by any of the business practice due diligence systems in place, and their occurrence was not entered into corporate memory and they did not and could serve to help develop a framework at the bank for more effective, standardized long-term problem resolution. The instance-by-instance solutions that they did lead to simply helped mask the larger underlying problems that had led to their being needed in the first place.

I am not arguing a case for eliminating a less structured communications approach from this type of context entirely, and particularly when the problem itself that has to be addressed is disruptively new and novel. But that approach can play its most valuable role here, in bringing the right people into these problem clarification and remediation conversations so they can continue on from there by bringing these issues into the business’ structured communications channels, and with all of the people needed for this type of resolution formally brought in through that. Both less-structured and unstructured, and highly structured and systematically tracked and documented for that, are needed in a business’ communications system. And this is a case where structured holds paramount importance, and if anything like a long-term and lasting problem resolution can be achieved: and for new and unexpected problems as much as when addressing any more predictably occurring needs.

I use the terms open and closed, and selectively porous in the titles to the postings in this posting progression, and explicitly note that I am writing here of the values and roles that all of those options can play in a same organization and particularly when they are resorted to on an effective context by context basis, and when their use is in some functional sense coordinated as needs arise and change. And I cite two other terms that I frequently use in this blog in this context too: resilience and agility. A business cannot legitimately claim to have achieved either of those two qualities in what it does or how, if it does not cultivate and achieve and maintain them in its communications systems, and by finding and achieving an effective balance of open and closed, and unstructured and less structured, and highly structured and standardized communications capabilities. And a significant measure of what constitutes resilient and agile in this type of context can be found in how effectively participants can switch between these various communication channel types as needs arise and change.

But even the most agile and responsive and effectively including communications capabilities can only go so far. Effective communications, and with the right people involved in them have to lead to active, effectively prioritized action, and with feedback monitoring and resulting reviews included in all of that too. I am going to turn to that complex of issues in my next series installment. And I note in anticipation of that, that I will consider both reactive and proactive approaches to change and to effectively addressing it. And I will at least begin to discuss corporate learning, and the development and maintenance of effectively ongoing experience bases at a business, and particularly in a large and diverse business context where this can become a real challenge. In anticipation of that, I note here that this is not so much about what at least someone at the business knows, as it is about pooling and combining empirically based factual details to assemble more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge. And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the necessary fruits of that effort to work by making essential details of it accessible and actively so, for those who need them and when they do.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Reconsidering the varying faces of infrastructure and their sometimes competing imperatives 2: adding in a second case study example

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on June 19, 2018

This is my second installment to a series on infrastructure as work on it, and as possible work on it are variously prioritized and carried through upon, or set aside for future consideration (see Part 1.)

I began this series in Part 1 with a negative example of how this type of need and response system can play out, as drawn from recent events on the island of Puerto Rico. That example centered on how that island was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and how this disaster and its impact on the island’s critical infrastructure was addressed. More specifically there, I wrote of the failure of the United States government to bring their Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its emergency response capabilities to bear on this problem at anything like a significant level of action. And I wrote of the US governmental decision as made by President Trump, to in effect abandon Puerto Rico and its people in the face of this disaster. Puerto Ricans are American citizens; and they have been facing a fundamental need for what amounts to comprehensive critical infrastructure rebuilding in the face of what they have gone through from this storm: the worst historically to have ever hit their island and with records going back centuries now for that, to the time of the early Spanish explorers. And Puerto Rico and its people have been officially and formally left to their fate by this failure to follow through, and in the face of both longstanding American tradition and in the face of FEMA’s basic charter as a government agency.

I stress here that that charter mandates that this agency spearhead national government-led responses to disasters, and that it has in fact stepped forth to do that on numerous other occasions and for other American communities. But this time, President Trump visited the site of devastation to proclaim that any help from his government would be limited and of very short duration, and with nothing else to be expected. That “and with nothing else” has come to include a lack of any federal coordination or support in any longer term recovery effort too. And what effort has been mounted there has been plagued by corruption in how recovery and reconstruction contracts have been doled out, and inefficiency, and by what can only be called large-scale theft of funds that were to go towards this effort where funds have been allocated for it.

• This disaster still continues and for many as I write this, with many on the island still without electrical power to their homes or businesses, and over half a year after the hurricane first hit.

This is a series about infrastructure and its priorities, and politics. I began it with an overtly toxic example of how need and even pressing need, and political ideology and personal political ambition do not always align and in either a functional, or a moral or ethical sense. I picked a very real example to start this series with, that is still painfully playing out as I write this second installment. And it is one that I am sorry to say will likely still be playing out: dragging on, and for as long as I write to this series and beyond. And this still in the news story, is one that highlights how need and justification for action and commitment, and an idealized presumption of how infrastructure development and maintenance should be carried out, do not necessarily hold true in the real, politically charged and politically governed world that we live in.

I finished my discussion of that case study as far as I went with it in Part 1, by offering a somewhat cryptic comment as to one of the consequences of all of this, that I said I would explain and clarify here:

• “The impact that this failure to lead or to act (n.b. in addressing Puerto Rico’s problems), have had significant repercussions in the continental United States too. In anticipation of that, I note here that ongoing and unresolved damage to Puerto Rico and its infrastructure and its businesses, have had repercussions that reach into virtually every hospital in the United States.”

That assertion calls for clarification. And I begin offering that clarification with some ideologically grounded background points that can be found in President Trump’s tweets and in his more lengthy public statements and actions. Trump likes to proclaim that all Mexicans are “thieves and rapists” (though “some of them might be nice people”), to cite a parallel example of his disdain for Hispanics of all sorts. And he likes to say in justification of his decisions and actions in this disaster’s context, that Puerto Rican’s are all indolent and lazy and that they just live off of handouts and welfare from the US government. But Puerto Rico has come to play a significant, and even crucial role in the overall US economy too, and in some very specific areas of its production and manufacturing systems. Pertinently to the above repeated consequences bullet point and as an example of the island’s critical role in American manufacturing, essentially all of the intravenous hydration fluids used at essentially every hospital and clinic in the continental United States were produced by businesses located in Puerto Rico. These are vitally important healthcare resources for treating a very wide range of hospital and clinic patients, and for a very wide range of conditions and in meeting a great many types of patient needs. And those businesses were heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria, and were left without electrical power after that. They still have not recovered and a real, full recovery for them might take years if it is to happen at all. Meanwhile, US hospitals have found themselves rationing the IV fluids that they can acquire from alternative sources, and prioritizing what necessary medical care they can afford to offer that calls for this type of resource, with the more limited supplies they still have. This affects people who have to be able to receive medications that have to be delivered intravenously and with supporting IV hydration, and hospitalized patients who cannot take fluids orally among others, and impacts on the healthcare of many in need.

• When critical infrastructure systems are maintained and even improved to accommodate advancing need, this positively affects individuals and communities and even entire nations. And the ripple effects that spread out from that type of development effort through indirect benefits accrued, can be just as profound as the direct impact of this work being done where it is.
• And a failure to so act, has consequences that are at least as impactful and that can be just as far reaching – just in a different direction.

I said in Part 1 that I would turn to consider a second case study example, after concluding my at least initial take here on what has been happening and not happening in Puerto Rico. And I begin that with the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its convoluted City versus State politics – and the impact that the tug of war resulting from that ownership conflict have had on this crucial transportation infrastructure system and on its reliability and safety.

I began addressing this complex of issues at the end of Part 1 in my brief anticipatory note as to what I would discuss here. But I begin fleshing out that brief opening note here with some relevant background material that I offer in order to more clearly indicate what is involved in this example. The most recent ridership numbers that I have access to from the MTA itself indicate that as of the end of 2016:

• An average of 5,655,755 rides were taken on this subway system every weekday,
• And average of 5,758,201 rides were taken on it every two day weekend, and
• A total of 1,756,814,800 rides were taken on this subway system for that year as a whole.

This makes the New York City MTA the seventh most heavily used subway system in the world, by ridership numbers (see this MTA facts sheet.) And to share another scale metric, this subway system as of this writing, now includes in it more than 665 mainline miles of track that run along 22 interconnected route lines, along with several permanent shuttle lines added in to more effectively interconnect this system, each with their miles of track too. This system currently includes 472 stations in operation (with a total of 424 if stations connected by transfer walk-throughs are counted as single stations), located throughout the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx and with a line running along the Hudson River-facing coast of Staten Island too. The NYC MTA is the largest metropolitan subway system in the world and significantly so, when scale is determined on the basis of numbers of subway stations included. And New York City would basically grind to a halt if this system were to significantly go down and for any significant period of time. The NYC MTA is very genuinely an example of a crucially important, vital critical infrastructure system.

I stress here that this is the New York City Metropolitan Subway system that I write of here, managed and run by a government agency that has Metropolitan in its title. And this was a City agency and the management and maintenance of it was under City government control and oversight – until that is, the State government moved in to take what effectively amounts to control over the MTA. Why and how did this happen?

I have already at least started to address that dual question at the end of Part 1, in anticipation of this installment, and for continuity of narrative repeat what I said of this there. Then governor Nelson Rockefeller imposed a layer of state control over the city’s MTA and its decision making authority in 1968, in order to garner more votes for his own reelection bid of that year. He saw his polling numbers to be weak in the New York City metropolitan area and decided that if he stepped in and blocked a planned, and I have to add needed five cent fare increase in the cost of a ride on the subway, he would garner more votes from appreciative New Yorkers (see Why Does New York State Control the Subway? That’s the 20-Cent Question.) So Rockefeller stepped in with the help and support of the state legislature in Albany that would suddenly gain veto level control over the New York City MTA and its budget and its planning, and comprehensively for that: not just control over fares charged in that system.

• And yes, Rockefeller did win his reelection bid, so this political gambit did at least seem to work for him. But this change of controlling authority was of open-ended duration, and it still holds as a defining fact for the MTA and for New York City as a whole for its ongoing consequences: 30 years later and with no end to that in sight.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, where I will at least briefly and selectively discuss how Albany politics, and New York City subway system priorities as set by Upstate politicians who never themselves ride on this subway system, and how their priorities and their resulting decisions are skewed to put that politely when compared to actual need. So, for example, even when a subway station is being rebuilt as a major redevelopment initiative that is approved by Albany, it is rare that any effort be made to comply with the US Federal government’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in that. As a result, most of the subway stations in this system are still not handicapped accessible. And that federal law was passed in 1990, fast approaching 30 years ago too!

I will discuss systems maintenance and how the MTA’s track and signaling systems are in disrepair, and how as a matter of irony the fare for a ride on the subway system has kept going up and up in spite of these and other failures to actually effectively prioritize or maintain this system. And I will at least briefly make note of New York State’s current governor and his political ambitions, bookending the starting point to this example as that began with then Governor Rockefeller and his political ambitions.

After concluding that case study example, I will turn from the negative and the cautionary-note view of infrastructure development and maintenance, to consider the positive side to this. I will discuss the post-World War II European Recovery Program: commonly known as the Marshall Plan. And then I will step back to address the topics and issues of this series in more general terms. As part of that, I will explore and discuss the questions and issues of what gets supported and worked upon and why in this, and what is set aside in building and maintaining infrastructure systems. I will discuss China’s infrastructure building outreach as a part of that, as that nation seeks to extend and strengthen its position globally. And I would at least touch upon and make note of a variety of other infrastructure development and maintenance examples too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. I also include this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I include this in my United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) directory too for its relevance there. I begin this series with an American example, but it addresses globally impactfull issues and events.

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