Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 19

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 8, 2019

This is my 19th 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 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-18.)

As noted in Part 18 of this, I have been discussing trade-offs and related contingency issues in recent installments to this series, regarding:

• Allowing and even actively supporting free and open communications in a business, in order to facilitate work done and in order to create greater organizational agility and flexibility there while doing so …
• While also maintaining effective risk management oversight of sensitive and confidential information.

And I have variously addressed this for several installments here now. Then in Part 18, I began addressing that complex of issues from a more strategically oriented, overall perspective and as a matter of overall information management strategy as it arises as a key pillar in any effective overall business strategy, as would be developed and followed in accordance with the business model and business plan in place. And to be more precise here, I began that by positing an idealized business, at least when considered from a communications and a key stakeholder involvement and inclusion perspective. And as a key part of that discussion, I posed a series of due diligence questions, that could serve as a hands-on exercise, that I repeat here as I continue addressing them:

• Operationally and certainly on an ongoing and more routine basis, what do the people at a business under consideration here actually do as their ongoing business processes as they carry out their assigned tasks?
• What information and types of it are in fact actually required for this work?
• And what might be routinely called for that is not in fact actually needed, by the specific employees involved as they carry out these specific tasks?
• Put slightly differently, what consequences if any would arise if specific data or data types were not visibly available to a given employee, carrying out a given task?
• And what if anything is being asked for that might in fact create avoidable risk for the asking business, the original sources of that information or both, and both for asking for and for holding this information and with the types of access that a given transaction type would create for it?

I posed these questions as an executive, or at least middle and higher level management exercise, and as a guideline for carrying out an arguably essential information management due diligence. And I said at the end of that posting that I would continue this line of discussion here, by challenging some of the basic assumptions built into the simplified business model of Part 18, with its frictionless stakeholder inclusion.

My more usual approach to this: to adding real-world complexities into a basic starter business description as posed here, would be to add friction and the challenge of communications error and bandwidth limitations into the development and sharing of essential business information. I have in fact addressed that complex of issues, and its risk management-based costs, as an ongoing topic in this blog and through several of its series. So I will focus on a specifically distinguishable and perhaps more consequential side to that set of challenges here and one that I touch upon in passing when selecting and phrasing my above-repeated due diligence questions: stakeholder inclusion and participation.

Let’s start considering that set of issues from the perspective of barriers and exclusion, as can arise from intentional business policy, or by accident and even by unconsidered default as for example when business systems friction becomes significant. I have written about silo walls in businesses in this blog, and about their consequences, for essentially as long as I have written about businesses at all here. See, for example, my 2011 entries: When Silo Walls Mean There is No Overall Corporate Culture – 1, and its Parts 2-4 continuations (as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 as its postings 209 and loosely following.) And I have at least briefly touched upon both underlying causes for silo walls, and consequences of them in this blog, with discussion of the later extending beyond the constraints of their impact on just corporate cultures per se. I continue that narrative thread here when I note that ultimately, these walls limit information development and exchange, and through what can become a toxic feedback-amplifying process where gaps and limitations in information and communication practices, thicken those walls, leading to further gaps there and increased friction.

• When people cannot effectively communicate, they cannot effectively work together – and that can and too often does lead to still further degradation of capacity communicate, and in ways that further degrade capacity to work together and certainly in a coordinated, productive manner.

This type of impasse: this type of vicious cycle can arise for a number of reasons, but the one that I would raise here as a “friction enabler” is driven by risk management concerns, and fear of negative consequences if – in this case, sensitive information were to be inappropriately shared and with the wrong people, where friction-related communications issues can leave employees at all levels of a table of organization uncertain as to what is and is not allowed in information sharing. And as events unfold this can come to mean fear of possible consequences in the face of after the fact determinations as based upon ex post facto guidelines.

Look to the corporate culture in place there, as it shapes a business’ strategy and planning, and its operations – as actually pursued and carried out. And look in particular for places in a business’ systems, and across its table of organization, where the rules for that are defined and enforced, where hands-on employees, managers or both are given responsibility but not authority, and where even a considered decision or follow-through can be harshly judged if everything does not proceed as ideally expected. Look for places where the people at a business see reason to fear being second-guessed after the fact and at any time, for extreme but still realistic examples of the phenomena that I write of here.

I have at least seemingly drifted fairly far from the original focus of this series in this developing narrative; I have in fact not done that at all. That is because “information economy” hype and hand waving aside, information does in fact drive businesses and the marketplaces they serve. And its availability, use and management shape both business performance and business success, and with that including business-to-market and back connections that make all of this work.

Put simplistically, a genuinely effective fully frictionless system would of necessity also be an organizationally optimized system with the right people communicating with the right people, and in accordance with effective, protective yet agile information management policy and practices. Such a business would not be too lean and sparse, so it would lack the gaps that that would cause. And it would not have functionality limiting (and friction-creating) barrier layers interposed in its operations and their execution either. Friction and its consequences challenge all of this and on all levels.

Information and its management, and information-related risk management are in fact key to all of that, and both for defining good and best practices and for carrying them out and for monitoring them and improving upon them as change comes to demand reconsideration and adaptive business process and business strategy adjustments – proactive or reactive. I am going to discuss those higher level perspective issues as raised here, in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuation pages. 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.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 39 – the jobs and careers context 38

This is my 39th 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 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-38.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. And as a part of that, I have been delving into the sixth and final entry to that list since Part 32, that in fact encompasses within it all of the first five of these challenges and more:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance.

I began this progression of postings by categorically addressing that challenge, with a foundation building discussion of downsizings per se and why particular businesses might turn to them. Effectively thinking through and negotiating for a better resolution for yourself and for your employment and for your career, than would be possible from simply accepting a default resolution that you would face if you remain passively disconnected here, calls for you understanding the people who you would meet with on this, and as well as you know and understand your own goals and priorities.

I began discussing the how of negotiating in this type of context, in Part 37 and Part 38, by raising and discussing a set of more generally stated issues and principles that essentially always come up as important in this type of context, and when entering into jobs and careers planning and negotiating in general. Then at the end of Part 38, I said that I would turn here to consider specific situations where this type of challenge can and does arise. And to put what is to come here in clearer perspective and certainly for why that is important, I repeat a basic point of consideration that anyone who would seek to negotiate in a jobs and careers context, always has to keep in mind:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. You need to know your own goals and priorities and what you would explicitly seek to avoid too, and why and under what conditions.
• And knowing what you have to, and in fact can negotiate about, calls for understanding the context and circumstance that you would do that in, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table for this.
• And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon. This, among other points of consideration, means you’re knowing when the person who you are meeting with can only say “no”, because they do not have the authority to say anything else. The first and perhaps most essential step to your actually being able to negotiate can be you’re actually finding and meeting with at least one of the right people for this who can say “yes”.

In a fundamental sense, this means negotiating to the specific circumstances that would bring a business to even just consider carrying out a downsizing, and it means negotiating effectively with the specific people who you would have to meet with and deal with in that. I have raised a series of downsizing-including scenarios in this portion of this series, summarizing them towards the end of Part 38. And my goal here is to begin to address them, one by one, starting with the first of them as offered there:

1. Payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing cost centers that most businesses face. So if a business has a set-back in its incoming revenue and they have to cut back on their expenses and significantly so in order to remain viable through a crisis period, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks are on the table.

Let’s begin addressing this challenge by considering it from the perspective of the employing business, and by acknowledging that the pressures that would bring its owners and its executive leadership to consider a downsizing here, represent an existential threat to them.

• I wrote in Parts 37 and 38 of this, of finding a way to negotiate with the decision makers here, as if you were sitting on the same side of the negotiating table as they are, with you seeking to present your case in terms of how meeting at least your core needs would help them to better meet their core needs too.
• The key question that you should be asking yourself, going into your first meeting about this, should be one of how you can show that you can be an effective and meaningful part of the solution to their problems, if you are kept on and allowed to so help.
• And this means you’re presenting your case in such a way and with such an impact, that would prompt the people who you meet with to want to reconsider how they should proceed, at least in their dealings with you. And this means you’re convincing them to want to meet with you again.

If that sounds familiar – if it sounds like a point of detail that I have made in earlier employee (or potential employee)-to-employer contexts, that it because it should. When you are applying for a possible new job with a hiring business, and land that first face to face interview there, one of your primary goals should always be to get called back for a second interview. In both cases: when seeking out a new job and when seeking to keep a job already held, this means you’re successfully passing an initial screening process. But in this situation and when facing a downsizing decision, this means successfully passing that hurdle when the people you are meeting with do not necessarily even start out thinking in terms of initial screenings, or selecting the right people to keep onboard during this, their time of crisis.

• Assume that the people you meet with who would ultimately determine whether you stay or go, are thinking and acting reactively; your goal is to help them to think proactively and with a focus on the positive of what they and others who stay on can do.
• What do you do professionally that would offer specific value as your employing business retrenches and consolidates, and with a downsizing carried out as a part of that?
• What can you successfully convince the people who you meet with, that you can do that would specifically help them and their business succeed through its crisis?
• And what do they need from those who stay on and who are retained, as they set the goals and priorities that would have to meet in order to keep their business’ doors open? I raised this question last here, but it is in fact the first of these questions that you should be asking here.

Together, the above points mean you’re directing these conversations, at least as much as you can, and away from how the people who you meet with would reactively respond to their crisis and even blindly so, and towards the actively and proactively possible and what they could do moving forward. Discuss the why of possible or already beginning layoffs and what has to actively be done to move forward for this business as positive steps. Discuss what you can do to help with that. And present yourself in this as an employee who in a fundamental sense sees this as your business too, for your sense of commitment to it.

And this brings me to Plan B considerations and questions of what might be possible and of what might be acceptable and both to you and to your employer.

• If you can stay on would you have to accept a pay cut or other benefits reduction, at least until this business is more securely on its feet again? This is a possibility that an employer might not even be allowed to suggest, legally, and even if they essentially automatically take it as a given that they will have to accept this personal cost for themselves. But that does not prevent you’re offering to accept this as a necessary part of your helping this business when it simply cannot afford to continue paying out payroll and related expenditures as if everything were moving along smoothly.
• Are there skills that you have that you do not have to routinely use at your current job, but that would offer ongoing value for your employer now, as they have to adjust their business and its work flows to preserve their core? What are they and how can you present them in these conversations, as proven and reliable capabilities on your part?
• Do you have a particularly useful relationship with any of this business’ key or at least significant clients, or with the contact people your employer works through in dealing with their suppliers or other supply chain partners? Could you help negotiate better terms with these external stakeholders, for your employer as it seeks to weather the storm it now finds itself in?
• And if you cannot successfully argue a case for you’re staying on full time, as an in-house employee through this, and even where you can convincingly argue that you would offer real value for your employer’s here and now, would part-time work or you’re taking a consulting position for a period of time offer a possible path forward?
• Keep an open mind and open ears there; what is your sense of what the people who you are meeting with, are willing to agree to as terms of their own employment there during this crisis period? Present yourself as being willing to accept the same types of changes in your terms of employment there too, and certainly until this crisis is over. Represent yourself as a real team player in this, and as someone who is willing to accept and work through the challenges as well as the benefits that come from that.

And if this cannot be made to work, make use of your willingness to do what it takes to offer value to this employer, when seeking the best possible letters of recommendation if you do have to move on. Use your willingness to offer positive value and both to the business and to the specific people who you work with there, to build bridges and to next possible employers if for no where else.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next installment to this series, where I will turn to the second scenario as offered in Part 38:

2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances as per the above Scenario 1, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 21: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 10

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on October 29, 2019

This is my 22nd installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there. And the most recent ten of those postings have focused on legacy building as both Trump and Xi seek to build for that. (Nota bene: this is the 22nd posting in this series, even though its title indicates 21 because I added in an unplanned for supplemental installment here, in order to address emerging news events with a Part 20.5.)

And to round out this background note as I seek to connect what I would offer here to the larger progression of postings that it fits into, I have been discussing Xi Jinping and his China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦) as his road map and his guiding vision, since Part 16 of this overall series, only deviating from that narrative focus with the above-cited supplemental addition to the series. (I primarily discussed Donald Trump and his legacy building there.)

And with that noted, I turn back to more fully consider Xi Jinping again here, and by invoking a detail from earlier postings in this progression of them, that I would argue is crucially important to understanding him and his policies and actions, and both as they play out within China and as they take shape internationally too. Xi’s China Dream represents the public face of all of his own dreams and ambitions, as well as serving as an orienting framework that shapes his public facing goals and ambitions. And it is grounded in and even fundamentally predicated upon a very particular, selective interpretation of China’s history. And that understanding of China’s history is one that he has sought to bring into resonance with a more popularly held historical mythos that holds sway within his country, as well as serving as a foundation for justifying his own decisions and actions.

What are the key driving tenets of that historical understanding?

• China has been a great nation and even a leading one and it can be again.
• But at the same time, China and her people have been brought low, and both from within and crucially importantly: from the outside, by foreign interference and threat.
• So any such return to greatness has to, of necessity, include a recovery from and a reversal of past wrongs faced, even as it would call for a positive New, too.

I have discussed both sides to this dual narrative here, starting with the Golden Age of the Qing Dynasty as an idealized image of what China was and could become again (see Part 16). And I have continued on from there in subsequent series installments to discuss the years of China’s Humiliation too, as a fundamental shaping influence. That Golden Age, quite arguably ended with the death of the Qianlong Emperor in 1799. And the Age of Humiliation that followed it, began in the years that followed. And the events that came to define that period in China’s history reached significant and even era defining levels of significance by the 1830s; it is often in fact thought of as having begun then and certainly if a time point for that is to be cited where challenges faced had already begun to show significant impact. And that era in China’s history did not end, at least according to the tenets of Xi’s China Dream, until the rise to power of Mao Zedong and the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and of the People’s Republic of China.

I ended my historical progression-based discussion of the years of humiliation, at least insofar as I have presented that up to here, with Part 20. And the one at least general-conceptual detail that I find myself thinking about as I review those postings in my mind, and their historical timeline is how so much of that history that I have at least selectively touched upon here, has in fact repeated itself.

There is an old saying to the effect that those who do not know history, repeat it (or at least its less fortunate details.) The same apparently applies to those who do study history but only very selectively and for how its lessons can be shaped to conform with their own already established and desired visions. The same seems to apply to those who seek to use history as a source of support for their own stereotypic understandings and as a forced-fit tool for promoting their own personal agendas. So my goal here is to – once again, briefly and selectively, raise and make note of a few parallels that I see of importance in a legacy-understanding context, and particularly for similarities and parallels that might be drawn, connecting the decisions and actions and their consequences of the late Qing when China was truly in decline, and decisions and actions and their consequences as found in the People’s Republic of China with its still unfolding history.

I begin with the non-Han: the people of China who in a fundamental sense are not thought of or treated as true Chinese and certainly by the state. The Xinjiang (Uyghur: شىنجاڭ‎; Chinese: 新疆) Provence of China (now the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region) was initially captured through military conquest in the 18th century as a part of a Golden Age Qing Dynasty expansion of China as a whole. And that served to shift that region from being an independent entity that held a tributary relationship to China and to the Dragon Throne, to the status of being directly controlled by China’s government and emperor as part of their nation. And even the name Xinjiang (meaning New Frontier), at least to my understanding only first came into use in 1768 as a name and a descriptor of that region. But this change in status was made to work, and certainly during the Qing Golden Age, and particularly as the Qing and its government pursued a more hands-off policy there, allowing for example, unimpeded observance of religious beliefs and practices by a largely Muslim local population. A complex local hierarchical structure was in fact allowed for with both local administrative leaders (baigs) and local spiritual ones too (akhoonds.) Then when the Qing Dynasty began to unravel, this mutually beneficial system began to break down, and what efforts to retain control there from the center: from the imperial government and ultimately from the Dragon Throne, only created more discord, and still more.

The late Qing’s attempts to control their Xinjiang province failed, and both from their inability to restore order there as a connected part of their overall nation, and from how their attempt at that drained essential resources that they could not afford to waste, and that might have been more fruitfully deployed elsewhere in facing very real threats. As one possible arena that they could in principle at least have focused on more effectively, consider the very real challenges and the overt threats of more of that to come, arising from foreign governments and their supportive business empires (e.g. the British East India Company and its far-reaching activities, as backed by the British military in what became the first and second Opium Wars.)

And I write of this history and of what was actually attempted there, thinking of China’s current repressions in its western territories, and their current attempts to achieve total control over Xinjiang and its people as a case in point example here, while still seeking to secure genuine loyalty to their current “emperor” from them, and to the Chinese Communist party that he leads.

China’s already vast and still growing system of Vocational Education and Training Centers (职业技能教育培训中心): re-education internment camps in Xinjiang, go beyond anything that anyone of the late Qing could have even imagined possible, for reining in and controlling a minority within their country, in order to retain control over them. And Xi’s system there is both formidable in appearance and powerful for its reach. But the fact that China’s Communist Party and government, and their leader, see this as necessary if they are to avoid seeing the western borders of their nation disintegrate from their control, is very telling. Ultimately, an ongoing need to display overwhelming power over one’s own people shows fundamental weakness at the core, and more so than it does strength at the periphery.

To finish at least this first phase of my discussion of this complex of issues here, unrest resulting from the breaking of a de facto covenant between Beijing and its imperial Throne, and the people of Xinjiang led to rebellion, with that coalescing around an increased observance of what became known as the New Teaching: religious teachings that were based on Sufism – a more mystically framed form of Islam, that came to argue that Qing rule was contrary to the will of the Divine: of their one God himself. And Xinjiang was not alone in this and even just for its growing resistance to and even overt rebellion against the Qing emperors, from its Muslim population. Muslim rebellions also took place across western and southwest China and particularly impactfully in Yunnan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, and starting as early as 1821 in Yunnan. Full scale rebellion began in 1855 there, and could not be fully repressed until 1873.

The more China’s central government sought to squeeze, the more the people they were squeezing resisted. And the victory they achieved from that was ultimately to prove both short lived and largely illusory, and precisely because of the levels of force they deployed to gain that.

The lessons of my first example here, of the unraveling of what had been a stable, mutually advantageous system connecting Xinjiang to China, had far reaching consequences for other ethnic minorities in China too. And the first such group to come to mind for me in that regard is the Miao of West Hunan and adjacent areas of Guizhou and Sichuan. They were settled agriculturalists who observed a religion that among other things meant their worshiping the White Emperor Heavenly Kings. And then China’s government decided to send large numbers of ethnic Han Chinese into that sparsely settled land, and in numbers that would have left the Miao a minority in their own lands – just as China is seeking to do now in Tibet and in Xinjiang! The rebellion that this mass migration led to, continued on from 1854 to 1873. But the anger and resentment behind it lived on and fed the continued unraveling of what had once been a powerful and sure Qing dynasty, and with that ultimately leading to an ending of hereditary dynastic rule in China at all.

I just mentioned Great Britain and its Opium Wars, and by extension the devastatingly demeaning treaties that that foreign power forced upon the Dragon Throne and upon all of China before it would agree to end them. And I freely admit that that was a red herring in this context. As damaging as those conflicts and those treaties were, with China being forced to cede both territory (e.g. Hong Kong proper and then Kowloon as well) and legal authority (through extraterritoriality), the “treaties” that foreign powers like Russia, Japan and yes – Britain among others, signed with Chinese minorities, and certainly at the expense of China’s central government, were worse. A succession of foreign powers made ongoing, concerted effort to weaken and undermine Chinese rule by encouraging, at the very least, insurrection from within China against it. This, I have to add, very definitely included Russian activity in Xinjiang, and particularly after the imperial court was forced to allow Russian traders and others, direct access to the region. And Russia capitalized on what they were now able to do there, to force the imperial government of China to cede Ili, in northern Xinjiang to Russia, just as it had been forced to cede areas of land along the Amur River in Manchuria. (As a side note, Russians helped to foment unrest in northern Xinjiang. Then they sent in military forces to quell that. Then they assured the Qing government that they would withdraw as soon as China restored order there, knowing that would not be possible and certainly with their ongoing participation. The government in Beijing knew that too, so they finally had to agree to let the Russians stay, and stay with what amounted to hegemonic power there too.)

How does this narrative of foreign intervention as a breaking down of China as a capable nation, mesh with Xi’s China Dream? The answer to that as a negative, and as a matter of what is to be righted is obvious. Foreign powers have at times reached out positively towards China and with a goal of achieving mutual benefit. But even when they do, goals and ambitions can change and positives can turn into negatives. Russia, for example, voluntarily agreed to and became a signatory to the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689, accepting wide-ranging trade rights in northern China and particularly in Mongolia that benefited them, in exchange for a border dispute resolution with China that served its interests. And Russia and China both benefitted from that as Russia relinquished its hold control over territory in what was the China side of the Amur. Then, as China began to collapse into weakness and discord as a nation, a later generation of Russians saw greater opportunity in expansive moves into China again. And that led to carefully planned out, systematic violations of the terms of that treaty, with incursions into Chinese territory that were specifically designed to end it, and entirely to Russian advantage. Count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov, the appointed governor general of Eastern Siberia, led this effort and as a matter of pursuing official if unpublicized policy towards China, as coming from the palace of the Tzar. (Interestingly enough, Muravyov is perhaps best known for having initiated the Hague Peace Conference of 1899, that laid the groundwork for the Geneva Conventions and the International Court of Justice (the World Court) at The Hague among other lasting measures.)

How does this narrative of foreign intervention, as a breaking down of China as a capable nation, mesh with Xi’s China Dream as a guide that would point to a positive path forward for him? How could he use this type of narrative to find and promote a path towards greater strength and resiliency for China as he seeks to realize the positive side of his China Dream?

Let’s consider the whole of what I have offered here, with the two parallel perspectives of the China Dream in mind: recreating greatness, while addressing past wrongs inflicted. And to start that, let’s consider what Xi has learned from the history of resistance to China’s central government, as has occurred in Xinjiang and in so many other places and for centuries and longer now. Xi has by all appearances, primarily learned that difference and diversity pose an existential threat to China and certainly as he envisions his nation. So if the lower levels of repressive, regimenting control that China’s leaders of earlier generations could bring to bear to suppress the different could not work, he would apply much more. And in fact Xi would bring to bear all that an emerging 21st century with its technologies can offer him for that. And my concern at least, is that when he feels threatened, as he clearly does by minorities that seek to maintain their traditional cultures and beliefs, outside of his and his Communist Party’s control, he will continue to apply more and more force to stop them – creating and reinforcing the very same unrest and pushback that he fears in the process.

I have already framed this set of issues and discussed it in terms of Xi’s and China’s current policy and practices for dealing with religious and other minorities in general (see for example: Xi Jinping and His China, … 6 for further details on that.) But with that noted, I cite the still unfolding history of today, of Hong Kong’s current unrest (and see my series: Xi Jinping and His China, and Their Conflicted Relationship with Hong Kong as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business 2 as postings 343 and following.)

Perhaps more pertinently, and certainly for its much more expansive reach, consider Xi’s policy based efforts to dominate all the South China Sea, the East China Sea, Southeast Asia and more, as he seeks to both recreate and expand upon the Qing Golden Age’s span of hegemonic control.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next installment to this series, and will simultaneously continue posting to my series on Hong Kong, as the issues raised here in this series specifically apply there. And in anticipation of how this series is developing for all of that, I expect to complete my parallel historical narrative as begun here, with a discussion two events that in their own way and for their respective generations constituted fundamental opportunities lost. The first of them comes from very near the end of the Qing Dynasty and was caused by the Empress Dowager Cixi and her conservative courtiers as they overthrew and ended what could have been the Hundred Days of Reform of 1898. And the second was from the rein of Mao Zedong when he started and then brutally ended his Let 100 Flowers Bloom of 1956.

Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 20.5: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 9

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on October 17, 2019

This is my 21st installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there, with this posting offered as a fractional installment number update to this narrative flow, added in here in order to address emerging news events. And it is my 9th installment in that, to specifically address their legacy-building visions, ambitions and actions.

I have primarily focused on Xi Jinping and his goals and ambitions in this, since Part 4 of this legacy-oriented progression of postings, as included here in this larger overall discussion of how he and Trump approach leadership per se. And I freely admit that I was at least initially planning on continuing my discussion of Xi and his China for several more installments here, before explicitly focusing on Donald Trump again, and his presidency and his legacy building ambitions and actions. But recent events have forced me to reconsider that, and offer at least one Trump-oriented series installment here and now. And in anticipation of that, I begin by noting that the two perhaps largest and most significant individual news stories to date in the Trump presidency, that have come to dominate coverage of his administration in recent days and weeks, only provide part of the impetus for my writing of him here and now:

• The still actively unfolding scandal of how Donald Trump, and both directly and through his personal emissaries, has sought to extort the new president of the Ukraine to influence the upcoming 2020 presidential election in the United States, by damaging one of his strongest competing candidates for election in a smear campaign.
• And Trump’s abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria: soldiers and civilians who have risked all to help American forces there and to help them succeed in their fight against terrorism in that part of the world.

And chaos has come out of both of these transgressions against reason and against moral duty and responsibility, and for at least the first of them, against the US constitution and the law too. So both have served to erode at least some of the support that Trump has managed to maintain over his core supporters, at least at their edges and for swing state and swing district Republicans in elected office who see continued blind support of him as a real threat to their staying in office. And Trump’s foray in foreign-supported dirty politics here in the United States has led to impeachment hearings in the US House of Representatives.

If these issues are not enough to prompt me to write about Trump and his decisions and actions, and their impact upon any legacy building ambitions that he might have, what is? My answer to that is simple:

• The basic mindset that has made both of those news stories possible, and that has really propelled the first of them in a direction that makes impeachment in the House and a trial in the US Senate seem all but inevitable now.

Donald Trump, as a rational person would have seen sufficient warning in the firestorm of rebuke and the calls for impeachment coming out of his contacts with the Ukraine’s president, to want to distance himself from all of that. His quid pro quo phone call with president Volodymyr Zelensky, trading the release of military aid funds already authorized by Congress in exchange for personal “favors” is now openly known, with as full a transcript as was taken of that now publically available and known. And the roles played in all of this by both president Trump’s Attorney general, William Barr, and by his own personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, and by at least two staff attorneys in Giuliani’s law firm: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, among others, is known too. And those two Giuliani associates are now facing criminal charges after being arrested at the Dulles International Airport while trying to flee the country on one way plane tickets out.

But Trump doubled down on this to use a term that he might have learned from his failed attempt at running a gambling casino, and openly admitted that he tried to get a foreign power to collude with him in digging up, or manufacturing if need be, dirt against at least one of his political opponents in order to influence the upcoming 2020 presidential election. And he then went on to publically ask China and their government to do the same for him too.

Basically, what he has done there is to eliminate any possible discussion, or need for it as to whether he actually did what he has been accused of doing, as impeachment papers are being drawn up, just leaving the question of whether his actions in doing so rise to the level of impeachable offenses. And his has done all of this while actively threatening some of his key supporters in the US Congress, where any congressional Republican vote lost, and even just in the House has to be considered a key loss.

The more Republicans vote to impeach in the now Democratic Party controlled House, the freer any Republican senators would find themselves, to challenge Trump and his hold on their political party and vote to convict too. And this brings me to some fundamental questions that I have found myself mulling over and that I would address here, at least to the level of offering them and a few orienting thoughts about them.

• What does legacy even mean in a Trump context and in a Trump world view?

My answer to that type of question is relatively simple and straight forward in a Xi Jinping context, or in the context of most any other leader who seeks to be remembered for enduring works achieved, authoritarian or not. And I have been at least relatively systematically addressing that and certainly from a Xi perspective for months now in this blog – and every time that I have raised the issues of Xi’s China Dream and how he understands it and seeks to realize it. Legacy in that sense is ordered and directed and long-term oriented and even when, as in Xi’s case he is now consistently taking actions and making decisions that undermine his own overall ambitions there, from how he is mismanaging the crisis that he has in effect created in Hong Kong as that is still actively unfolding. But long-term does not and cannot extend beyond the span of an unconsidered twitter posting or off-the-cuff spontaneous remark made in front of an open microphone, in Donald Trump’s world.

And once Trump says or posts something, he can never take it back and regardless of how self-damaging it proves to be. Retraction would require his admitting that he had made a mistake and if he did that on anything, however seemingly trivial, his entire presidential administration and in fact his entire adult life and personhood might unravel as more and more possible errors and mistake well up to the surface, demanding their own recognition too! That, at any rate seems to be how he views that ego challenging existential threat possibility. (For trivial there, remember his insistence, in the face of direct photographic evidence to the contrary, that his in-person inaugural crowd at his presidential swearing in, in 2016 was huge, was tremendous, was the biggest ever.) So Donald Trump: the actual person has created Donald Trump: the image, and Donald Trump the image of a president, has emerged as a fragile, unstable presence that could shatter if successfully challenged on anything. And this means that Trump cannot learn, and by that I mean anything.

You cannot learn unless and until you can admit, even to yourself that you do not know everything already, and that you might be wrong on at least some of what you assume.

• How does this impact on the basic question that I am addressing here, regarding the nature of legacy building, at least where such efforts might have at least something of a chance at succeeding?

Successful legacy building is of necessity a team sport where others with their varying expertise are brought in, and in ways that would bring them to want to support the overall vision of that effort. This means bringing in people who know things, and who can do things that the legacy builder at the center of all of this does not know and cannot do themselves. And successful legacy building has to be a learning curve activity as an intended is shaped into a possible and achievable, and from there into a realized and in the face of any and all set-backs and challenges faced.

That is an area where Xi Jinping has not been very successful either, and certainly in the context of Hong Kong. History will show how successful Trump is at that, though his prospects there do not look good for him right now.

That noted, I would conclude this posting by citing one more quality that any long-term sustainable legacy building effort would require and on all levels, from determining what should go into it and with what priorities, to enlisting support in developing it from key potential stakeholders, to enlisting general support for it as an ongoing symbol and presence. Xi is certainly trying to achieve that, as I have been arguing in recent installments to this series. Donald Trump has at least seemingly come to see his long-term legacy in terms of simply getting reelected for a second term – which is a big part of why he has tried enlisting foreign support for this reelection efforts; he is trying to recreate the type of then-Russian interference on his behalf that got him elected to office in 2016 in the first place. And now, and with his current scandals and worse coming to haunt him, he legacy building effort seems to have shrunk down to simply serving out the fullness of the term of office as United States president that he is going through now – and with his getting reelected if he can make it successfully through the emerging Congressional scrutiny that he is currently facing.

Thinking back over what is rapidly approaching three full years since he was first elected president, I remember mulling over and in fact citing what can only be considered a legacy oriented poem for Trump’s type of vision, as written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in late 1810 or early January 1811, titled Ozymandias.

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

What is Donald Trump’s lasting legacy likely to be?

• He and his supportive Republican led Senate have pushed a large number of ultra-conservative jurists into lifetime tenure positions in federal courts, including the US Supreme Court. And he may very well add at least one more like-minded jurist there too, who’s only defining litmus test qualification required by him is likely to be found in their politics.
• He has done much to unravel all of the positive international treaties and all of the alliance forming nation-to-nation support systems that generations of his predecessors in office have worked so hard to build for the United States: Democratic and Republican presidents alike. And in fact Trump has done more of that in his purblind xenophobic strivings than any of America’s enemies have ever been able to achieve. (As a side note on this, Xi Jinping has actively, and surprisingly successfully cut off and isolated Taiwan by bringing nation after nation to withdraw their ambassadorial and consular recognition of that island nation; he has wielded this same basic isolationist approach against Taiwan and its peoples that Trump seems to be attempting with regard to the United States. And yes, Trump has by all appearance been attempting to do this to the United States, at least actively alienating all of our key allies, even if they do keep their embassies here, and without the aid of a foreign leader such as Xi Jinping to help move that along.)
• And to cite a third leg to this statuesque edifice, Trump has actively fought against any efforts to address or even acknowledge the legitimacy of climate change and global warming and certainly as consequences of human activity. And he has done so both within the United Stated and internationally and even as progressively more and more dire evidence emerges to refute him on this. He calls all of that, “fake news,” the same way he does anything he sees as challenging him or his understanding of the world around him.

And the impact of these efforts on his part and of others like them will endure for generations after he is gone from office and even as …

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

I am going to return to my intended narrative as noted towards the start of this posting, in my next, more regularly planned out installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 38 – the jobs and careers context 37

This is my 38th 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 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-37.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. The first five of those challenges were scope-limited, and in ways that limited the range of issues that would have to be dealt with in finding ways to resolve them. And the sixth and last of that list was and is a more general and all-encompassing challenge, for the range of issues and considerations that it can and does involve:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance (see Part 32 through Part 37.)

Over the course of those five installments I have discussed what downsizings are, when considered beyond their end results, with employee-impacting layoffs and even massive ones. For purposes of this series and for purposes of hands-on and managerial employees who would seek to negotiate better terms for themselves in the face of these events, this means discussing and at least briefly analyzing the Why of downsizings, as considered from their particular employer’s perspective. And understanding that set of issues as it would apply to them, is vitally important for anyone facing such an event. I have also discussed Who is going to be at risk and at greatest risk of being caught up in these downsizings, where understanding that and being able to individually plan accordingly, calls for an understanding of precisely why their business might pursue this path too. And then after discussing the Who of this from the perspective of employees who might be at risk, I briefly discussed the issues of Who would be involved from the business side of this too; you cannot negotiate in a vacuum, and knowing who you might meet with and who they would have to speak for and answer to is important. Then finally, in Part 37, I began discussing negotiations and the negotiating process itself, as that might be made possible and as it would play out in this challenging context.

My goal here is to continue that line of discussion. So for smoother continuity of narrative, I repeat a basic guiding principle that I have held up as fundamental for effectively negotiating about essentially anything of importance as an employee, where mutual agreement would have to be reached. And that guiding principle offers a basic perspective that holds particular importance in the types of situations that I raise and address here:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. You need to know your own goals and priorities and what you would explicitly seek to avoid too, and why and under what conditions.
• And knowing what you have to, and in fact can negotiate about, calls for understanding the context and circumstance that you would do that in, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table for this.
• And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon. This, among other points of consideration, means you’re knowing when the person who you are meeting with can only say “no”, because they do not have the authority to say anything else. The first and perhaps most essential step to your actually being able to negotiate can be you’re actually finding and meeting with at least one of the right people for this who can say “yes”.

You need to know and understand what you seek to achieve, and your priorities there. You need to know and understand what your supervisor: your direct boss there seeks and why, and what the people who they have to answer to want. And you need to know that as thoroughly as you know your own needs, preferences and priorities. And you need to understand what the people who you meet with can even begin to negotiate about, and what is more likely not even going to be on the table for such discussion.

• Negotiating is a process; think of this as taking place in steps and with a possibility that new stakeholders might become involved as a negotiating process proceeds.

Once again, this is all context-driven and I keep stressing this for a very simple reason. Most of the time, even the people who are most at risk of being laid off in a downsizing simply seem to drift into it and without planning and without proactive preparation for making an effort to protect their own best interests. And all too often we do not even really think through what those best interests would even be, and even just in the immediate here-and-now that we are facing.

I began discussing negotiating in this context, in general terms that would apply in essentially any impending or early stage downsizing, as there are some general issues and principles that would essentially always arise in them and regardless of the specifics of why a particular downsizing might take place. And one of my goals for this posting is to continue and complete that background-level line of discussion. Then, and with the points raised there in mind, my goal is to turn to and at least begin to consider the specific downsizing scenarios that I raised earlier in this posting progression: the specific Whys that would lead a business to pursue this type of course. And my goal there is to at least shed some light on the types of issues and the types of approaches for addressing them, that would come out for those specific why-based scenarios – so you, the reader can focus in upon the right issues, where you might be able to more effectively argue your case, and with a focus and orientation on your negotiating that would connect with the overall plans of the people who you meet with – and in ways that would help them to address their concerns and help them to meet their needs too.

I strongly recommend that you review at least the second half of Part 37 as explicit preparation for what is to follow here, as my general comments on negotiating here, are grounded in what I offered there. And with that noted, I continue my Part 37 analysis of how you might better negotiate for better terms in a downsizing environment as follows:

• When you negotiate or try to do so, in a workplace context such as a downsizing, you do so when facing what is most likely the most pressingly, immediately significant power asymmetry that you could ever encounter at a job. So while it can be possible to negotiate under these conditions, it is vitally important to take a nuanced approach when considering your own goals and priorities. This is not the time or place for simple binary, all or nothing planning or execution on your part.
• I have been writing of goals and priorities here, but it can be easy to lose track of what is and what really isn’t important, and both in your immediate here-and-now and when looking forward and longer-term, and particularly when facing challenging and impactful conversations that might not start out all that collegial.
• As noted before, your goal is to turn that around: that perhaps more-confrontational start, by finding effective ways to meaningfully, realistically, accurately present your case as one of aligning your needs and goals with those of your employer – and with those of the specific managers and others who you might meet with. (I focus on the people who can in fact say “yes” there, but even a perhaps earlier business-side representative who can only say “no” on their own, might be able to play a role in helping you to reach out to and connect with someone who can say “yes”.)
• That last detail is vitally important; it means you’re cultivating whatever support that you can achieve with anyone you who are meeting with on this, and even if they can only say “no” on their own. They still might be able to play an effective gatekeeper role, and they might be able to help you reach out to those who can say “yes”. So frame your side of any conversation with them, in ways that would lead them to want to escalate their conversation with you up to a higher, or at least different level if that is the one positive response that they can offer.
• And this is where Plan B considerations enter this discussion and the process flow that I write of here. I will have more to offer on this set of issues in discussion to come, and simply note here that Plan B approaches, like negotiations approaches in general, should never be seen as being simple A or B, binary in nature. Effective Plan B jobs and careers preparation, and Plan B execution if that becomes necessary, is not just about you’re getting everything that you want, or nothing of that, and with only those two extreme case possibilities coming out of that.

With this all noted, and at least as a more generally grounded starting point for considering the particulars, I turn to the specific downsizing scenarios that I first offered here in Part 32 and that I repeat here with re-phrasings as needed. I will begin to delve into them individually staring in my next installment to this series.

1. Payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing cost centers that most businesses face. So if a business has a set-back in its incoming revenue and they have to cut back on their expenses and significantly so in order to remain viable through a crisis period, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks are on the table.
2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances as per the above Scenario 1, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.
3. And a key driver there can be an intended and even vitally needed attempt to move beyond legacy and out of date, and both in what a business brings to market and in how it does that, where this would involve in-house redevelopment too.
4. All of this noted, in reality downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.
5. And to cite another scenario that can be more Who oriented, and certainly from the perspective of who is bringing it about, a new, more senior manager who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there. Consider this a confrontational career enhancement tactic on their part.
6. And as a final area of consideration here, consider the last-in, first-out approach as it can by default impact on younger employees and more recent hires and regardless of what they do and can do that might be needed by the business. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach though they are not the only ones that do. But this type of retain or let-go determination can also be skills-based, or location based if for example it is decided to close a more peripheral office that might not have been as much of a profit center as desired or expected. So even there, it might be possible to argue a case for being retained at a job.

As just noted, I will begin successively addressing these six scenarios as specific real-world examples of how these negotiations might be pursued, starting in my next installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 17

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 3, 2019

This is my 17th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I have been discussing gorilla and viral marketing in more general terms in this series, laying a foundation for more detailed analysis as to their reach and effectiveness, and for even knowing how well they are performing for your business –if that is, they are at all. So for example, I explicitly if briefly discussed the issues of outside-shaping control in any genuinely viral marketing campaign, where “viral” in that context ultimately means “coming from members of the consumer community and marketplace” and where publically visible messaging contributions offered from there, might or might not be legitimately grounded and as either false-flag negative, trolling efforts or as equally false-flag positive messages. And even more genuine viral sourced messaging might or might not have real impact potential depending on a variety of factors too, many of the more important of which might be predictively understood.

Then I ended Part 16 by offering the following four point tool set of basic issues for consideration when thinking about, developing, reviewing and refining a gorilla marketing campaign per se:

• If you want gorilla marketing to work effectively for your business, as a generally developed creative ongoing effort, you need to know the market that you would reach out to and connect with, from your business’ side of the conversations that you seek to develop there.
• And you need to know that market and the people who comprise its defining demographics, as its actively involved participants at the very least, help co-create this marketing reach with you from their feedback and reviews. And I stress that collaborative “with” here as their individual and collective voices are crucially important to all of this.
• And you need to know this, your market as well as you would know your own Marketing and Communications staff, and the guidelines that they work under in a more traditional, business-centric orienting marketing campaign.
• And the urgency of these points of observation doubles, at the very least in a genuine viral marketing context, as does the degree of challenge in helping to make this type of marketing campaign work, and reliably and effectively so.

I offered this checklist of value determining, question-raising issues: this analytical tool set if you will, in Part 16, in the context of having just reconsidered one of the early tools that was used in attempts at determining the effectiveness of online marketing and sales, and commercial web design and development per se for that matter and certainly as they would support online marketing and sales success: eyeball counts. And I began addressing that earlier analytical approach by stating that no one knew how to develop actionable value out of the data that they were accumulating from this. No one knew how or when simply viewing online content translated into action and ultimately into successful sales transactions – even as online marketers and web developers touted the overall eyeball count numbers that their clients achieved through their web site and related development efforts.

• No one really knew and certainly at first, when or how to best determine when page views and eyeball counts actually meant anything.
• That meant they did not know how to develop an online presence and design it in detail so as to improve the numbers of consumers who would do more than just look, increasing their conversion rates: the rate at which those page and content viewers actually entered into a sales transaction from this experience, and completed it.

More is known now, of course, as to what those numbers mean and most of that insight comes from developing more nuanced understanding as to what a site visitor and viewer is actually doing, with that including an understanding of metrics such as:

• Where they clicked from to reach a page that is being page view-count tracked,
• What links if any on that page they click to when leaving,
• And where they in fact leave to.

There is a lot more to this, of course, but the basic idea offered there should be fairly clear. Eyeball counts, in and of themselves offer very little real marketing analysis value; it is the context that those views arise in that tells everything. And I offered that perspective there, and briefly recapitulate it here because a very similar set of underlying principles applies in the context of the later generation marketing, and marketing analysis demanding approaches that I have been discussing here: viral and gorilla marketing and their more effective use.

• Context and contextual understanding and the accumulation of data that can support that type and level of understanding is everything here, and exactly as proved necessary in an earlier, simpler eyeball count measured, central broadcasting model online marketing world.

The primary difference here, in fact is that when interactive supplants central broadcasting, and two-way and multi-direction communications and information sharing supplants a simpler one-way information flow model, the level and diversity of detail needed in that contextual data increases by orders of magnitude if any effectiveness at all is to be achieved. And the forces of competition for market share that have continued on and continued growing, and from way before the advent of internet and from the earliest marketplaces, simply make the scale of this data required now, essentially open-ended – and certainly as that imperative might be argued for by market analysts and by the data providing businesses that service their needs. And with this noted, I turn to consider the role of and the limitations of big data in this still rapidly evolving business and marketplace context.

• Eyeball counts and the demand for progressively more complex and comprehensive contextual data that would make it possible to derive meaningful, actionable insight from its numbers, have come to include and even fundamentally require the accumulation of progressively more and more complex data sets, that only began with the three basic metrics that I just listed above here.
• Big data as a business enabler began there, and certainly as online became critically important to business success and for more and more businesses and business types.
• Modern online marketing with its newer gorilla and viral marketing manifestations: forms that can explicitly take advantage of the interactive internet, have made big data a business survival essential, and certainly where a business seeks to do better than simply get by.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider a basic conundrum that this dynamic has built into it:

• I have been writing here of the need for more and more data, with more and more variable types to fill their database fields. And I add here a corresponding need for all of this data to be more and more accurate and more and more real-time up to date too.
• And augmenting the number of such variables (and the data accuracy for what populates their database fields) does in principle mean an increased and improved capability to analytically study a consumer and potential consumer base in finer and finer detail, parsing it into progressively more refined demographics and sub-demographics and in ways that would lead to more effective business decisions and of all types.
• But the more data types that would be called upon and used in any given such analysis or set of them: the more variables that would have to be coordinately analyzed in making use of this data, the larger the numbers of consumers that data would have to come from, in order to achieve sufficient data set sizes so as to make the requisite statistical tests that would be used, even just mathematically valid.

My goal for the next installment to this series is to begin with an orienting discussion of these points, and how they arise as valid sources of concern. And then I will discuss data evaluation at the trade-off levels of knowing what of a set of possible information held, holds the most value and would offer the most actionable insight in a given situation: in the course of developing, running and evaluating the outcomes of specific marketing campaigns. And I will also discuss how this opens doors for third party data providers to enter this narrative and very profitably for themselves.

And as already noted at the end of Part 16, I will also at least briefly outline how and why I would cite big data’s use here as holding potential for creating both business systems-positive and societally-negative impact, depending on how it is done and on how it is regulated.

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. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 17

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 27, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

The types of issues that I raise and discuss in this type of series, always have their roots in the histories of the peoples and nations involved in the issues and challenges discussed in them. So I have been approaching the issues and challenges of national security here, with specific relevant historic narratives and timelines in mind, as I consider and discuss specific case study examples. I take that approach in my consulting work and in how I think about these issues in general too, so I offer that as my basic approach here, to put this in wider perspective. And as part of that, I have been exploring Russia’s approach to national security, as a case in point source of working examples for this series, since Part 13.

More specifically, I have been developing and outlining a selectively considered timeline of the threats and challenges that Russia has faced over the centuries now, in Part 13, Part 14 and Part 16 of this, with that developing narrative leading up to and including a brief and selective biographical note concerning Vladimir Putin himself: Russia’s current leader, and with a goal of discussing that nation’s current and emerging national security strategies and how they implement them, as shaped by a combination of Russian national history and Putin’s own personal history and perspective.

I digressed from this largely chronologically organized narrative in Part 15, to offer a more generally stated perspective on how most if not all nations currently see, understand and plan for cyber-defense and offense in all of this. But my goal here is to complete, at least for purposes of this series, my Russian historical narrative, and then turn back to consider some still very open issues and questions that are at least implicitly raised in Part 15, to at least begin to offer some thoughts as to how a better, more resiliently effective national security doctrine might be developed that would more effectively take advancing cyber-dimensions of threat as faced, into account.

I intend to raise and discuss several other case study examples in this series after completing my discussion of Russia as such, to further develop and expand upon that narrative line. But I begin all of this here with further consideration Vladimir Putin and his Russia, and with the world context that he and his country face. And I begin this with an at least briefly selective discussion of what I have come to think of as the Putin Defense Policy and its underlying doctrine, as first cited here in Part 16. And I begin that by noting a point of detail that might or might not seem immediately obvious to a reader:

• When a policy or doctrine, or plan if it is called that (e.g. the Marshall Plan) is explicitly named after a single individual as its defined and defining source, that generally means that it is grounded in their own more individual understandings and their own preferred goals and priorities, and as much so as it is in the needs of whatever societal order that it would be developed for.

And yes – I have written in this blog of the Marshall Plan as an example of a massive, comprehensive infrastructure rebuilding program, but it was at least as much a massive mutual defense initiative too. And that face to it and its imperatives created the support that made its infrastructure redevelopment side possible too.

So what is the Putin Defense Policy and what is its underlying doctrine, and both as Vladimir Putin and his government seek to lay out and prioritize a strategic and operational plan for safeguarding and advancing Russia and that nation’s interests, and as they would advance Putin’s own more individual needs and understandings too? I begin addressing that question by posing a second one, that might at first glance seem unrelated and even non sequitur here. For all of their differences what do Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin most significantly hold in common, and even as share defining traits?

• All three see themselves as the essential leader of their time, and as indispensible for that.
• All three see any posited distinction between their own personal goals and ambitions and the realization of their visions for their nations, as being arbitrary and false.
• And all three pursue their more unified, if sometimes blurred and out of focus plans there, through authoritarian means, pursuing that approach to leadership as a shortest and most direct path to what they see as their inevitable success, and with a minimum amount of resistance or pushback to slow them down allowed for.

I have been addressing Xi and Trump in this regard in a concurrently running series (see Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the Contrasts of Leadership in the 21st Century as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 299 and loosely following.) And I at least briefly consider Putin in this same type of light here, as I raise and discuss his vision of Russia and of how best to safeguard it: his nation, while meeting his own more personal ambitions and needs too.

Ultimately, Vladimir Putin does not see as valid any distinction between his meeting his own needs and interests and his meeting Russia’s. (This same point, I add, could be said about Donald Trump and his vision of the United States, and Xi Jinping and his vision of China, and I explicitly note that here as a brief add-on note to the above cited series about them.) How does that play out as Putin shapes and implements his policies, both foreign and domestic? My goal for this posting is to at least briefly answer that question, and certainly as far as his foreign policy and his approach to national defense as included there is concerned.

I have, of course, already offered a key goals-oriented and goals-defining part of any real answer to that question, in the course of writing Part 16 to this, when I observed that what Putin:

• “Seeks to do is to reestablish the old protective buffer zone, or at least part of it, as that reached its greatest scope under the Warsaw Pact and certainly when considering Western threats. And as a continuation of old approaches of developing such protective buffer zones, the Putin Policy as it has emerged, also calls for the creation of what amount to cyber buffer zones too: areas of Russian dominating cyber influence and control.”

And the second half of that here-repeated point strikes to the heart of what Vladimir Putin has been operationally developing as his defense plan. He has come to see flexible hybrid systems of response and of proactive action that include use of both traditional military and cyber capabilities as fundamentally important, and has actively worked to both develop and use such combined, flexible capabilities as he evolves and advances his foreign policy s a whole.

I cited his government’s moves on the Crimean Peninsula and on Eastern Ukraine in Part 16, and add here that this involved:

• Direct military intervention with Russian soldiers and officers entering into the Ukraine in false flag garb as supposed Ukrainian citizens,
• Support of actual Ukrainian forces whose interests aligned with his own, organized as local “home grown” militias, and
• Provision of military equipment and supplies, military officer guidance and military intelligence findings to support all of this.

But that, in and of itself, only addresses Russia’s deployment and use of more conventional forces in this overall campaign. Putin’s Russian has orchestrated and led a campaign to reestablish a vassal state buffer zone there between his Russia and the West, and one that has just as importantly included a very active cyber component, and both to hinder efforts from the Ukraine’s Western-leaning government from effectively countering this action, and for sewing disinformation and both within the Ukraine itself and in the West as to who has been doing what there and why. That has prominently included enlisting and leading an army of third party social media trolls and related non-Russian, non-Ukranian agents, along with deploying explicitly Russian assets.

Initially, those Russian cyber-assets were organized as smaller specialized units under the command of Russia’s Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU). But Putin’s Russian cyber-warfare capability (thought of there more broadly as an information-warfare capability) has now been reorganized under a single overall unified cyber command. And non-Russian, largely civilian cyber agents and explicitly Russian cyber-assets as drawn from that command and its operational units, have been and are used in parallel with each other and according to a basic doctrinal approach that closely mirrors how Putin and his planners and field commanders have made use of both local Ukrainian and Russian-sourced conventional military assets.

• For a brief but telling discussion of this emerging Russian cyber-capability, see Russia’s Approach to Cyber Warfare: a 2016 CNA Analysis Solutions paper, prepared in collaboration with the US Center for Naval Analyses, for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

I began my discussion of Russian cyber warfare and of Russia’s weaponized cyber capabilities here, with a focus on events that have taken place in and near the Ukraine. But this was not Russia’s or even Vladimir Putin’s first use of cyber capabilities as a source of tools for carrying out his foreign policy. This campaign was not his counterpart to the Spanish Civil War, as that was used by Nazi Germany before World War II, to test new weapons and tactics there, and gain real-world proven proficiency in their use. He did that earlier as a key due diligence step, when he had forces developed within his military and his own intelligence service: the FSB (formerly the KGB), carry out cyber-attacks against what he saw as unsupportive and therefore hostile governments in the Baltic States, and against their nations’ private sectors too. Estonia was a particular target there. And Russia’s attacks there have served as test runs for all that has followed elsewhere.

Putin and his government and his military have used a combination of local Russian-supportive citizens of those countries and certainly in Estonia, working in concert there with Russian cyber-warfare and other assets (e.g. Russian operatives on the ground), to disrupt government and private sector functions, as a very direct threat for those nations to stay aligned with Russian interests or else.

• When Putin made his test-case moves on Estonia and the Baltic States, and then when he launched his attacks on the Crimean Peninsula and on Eastern Ukraine, he had his planners and his senior officers in place deploy networked computer resources such as denial of service attack-directed botnets, with them including veritable armies of security compromised personal computers and from all over, globally. And a large proportion of this activity was operationally directed out of a former, once Warsaw Pact ally and vassal state: Rumania.
• His campaign also made use of outsider-sourced cyber-attack assets: cyber-trolls and discontents from a more open-ended geographic range who his people could convince to contribute to this effort, and through the spread of online disinformation directed at them, if nothing else.

I have written of the flexible use of combined forces and asset types in all of this, and if the Putin Defense Policy has uniquely innovative aspects to it, is in how he has developed, and test-fire vetted this and in ways that few other nations can begin to claim to have done to match. That assurance of reliable usability makes these capabilities all the more dangerous in his hands, as Putin can consider them and use them without the pause for thought that attempted use of untested resources would always bring with them. But I would end this posting by raising another point of strategic and tactical consideration that is most certainly as much a part of Putin’s built-in way of thinking as any of the lessons learned that I made note of in Part 16: the concept of correlation of forces. See this now-declassified 1976 United States Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) SRI report on The Soviet Concept of the “Correlation of Forces” as that would have shaped at least Putin’s early understanding of this concept. This is the vision and understanding of this basic military planning tool that would have informed his own training.

• Introduction of cyber-weaponized systems in general, and of crowd sourced weaponized capabilities as a particular advancement there, necessitate a complete reevaluation as to how an accurate risk and opportunity evaluation of the correlation of forces in play could even be determined, as part of a meaningful planning exercise.

And that point of observation at least begins to highlight the measure of significant of the disruptive novelty of what Putin’s Russia is both developing and life-fire testing, and right now.

With that noted, see this 2017 US Military sourced white paper:

Demystifying the Correlation of Forces Calculator for how it has baked into it, so many of the basic force identity and capability assumptions that enter into the above cited Soviet era Russian document on this planning tool, and for how it fails to take new and emerging cyber-capabilities into account. Yes, its more detailed understandings of more conventional forces differ from what was offered there, but its essentially complete focus on them remains the same and even in an age when cyber threat has to be assumed and accounted for too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will further discuss cyber weapons and cyber weaponization, reconsidering among other issues, what dual-use technologies actually are in this fast changing context. And I will also further discuss the challenge of understanding and calculating correlations of forces and how they have to be redefined for the 21st century, and in an explicitly cyber-inclusive and cyber-ubiquitous context. That among other things will require my discussing symmetrical and asymmetrical conflicts and how they are being fundamentally redefined here too. Then I will at least briefly touch upon Russian efforts to influence and even suborn foreign referendums and elections, and in places like the European Union and the United States. Then, and after offering more summarizing comments on the Putin Defense Plan as a whole, I will turn back to reconsider and expand upon the cyber doctrine issues that I first raised here in Part 15. And I will continue on from there by at least briefly discussing other case study examples of relevance here too.

And as one more anticipatory note as to what is to come here, I will at least briefly address a key detail in all of this that I have cited here without explanation but that does merit more detailed consideration too: the fact that Vladimir Putin does not and probably cannot see any fundamental distinctions between his meeting his nation’s needs and his own. What I write of here is national in scope and focus but it is deeply personal to him too.

All of that noted, I end this posting with one final thought:

• Any conflict or potential conflict, and any use or possible use of force that in any significant way or degree includes use of cyber capabilities, automatically renders the theater of operations involved, global. And it is never going to be possible to meaningfully calculate correlation of forces or force symmetries or asymmetries or any related measures for such contexts if this simple fact is not taken into account and fully so.

I write this posting thinking back to a face-to-face conversation that I have had with a senior officer on the United States side of this, in that nation’s emerging cyber command, that would lead me to question how thoroughly the points that I would raise here are understood for their fuller implications.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 3 and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 37 – the jobs and careers context 36

This is my 37th 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 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-36.)

I have been discussing a series of workplace issues in this series, since Part 25 that call for effective communications and negotiating skills. The first five of them were all focused and specific in nature (see Part 32 for a full list of them, with appended links to where I have individually discussed those negotiations-demanding contexts up to there.) And the sixth and last was a more open-ended challenge that in fact includes within it, the first five challenges discussed here and more:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance (see Part 32 through Part 36.)

I have attempted, over the past five installments to this series, to lay a foundation for what I would turn to and discuss here, with:

• A more detailed discussion of what downsizings are, as considered from the perspective of businesses that carry them out – the What and Why of this,
• A discussion of Who is at risk of being caught up in these events from the employee side of them, and
• A corresponding discussion of the Who of this from the business’ side.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to discuss the How of this, and of negotiating in this type of context as that might be made possible. And to repeat a point already made in this narrative, that is crucially important to all that will follow here:

• “One size fits all” approaches do not and cannot work for you, and certainly if you seek to reach a best-for-you possible resolution from your communications and negotiating efforts.

This means negotiating to the specific context and with the specific people who you would meet with, and according to a then-and-there realistic and relevant understanding of both what you seek to achieve, and of what they can and might negotiate on.

And with that noted, I will return to reconsider the specific scenarios that I have raised in this posting progression so far, each based on a separate and distinct rationale as to why a business might have even considered downsizing in the first place. And I will discuss and develop them in this series as working examples for how you might have gotten caught up in this type of predicament, and as working examples of the types of issues you that might have to be able to negotiate on, and how. But before delving into those specifics, I will set the stage for them by considering more general negotiations issues that would apply to essentially any potential or emerging downsizing scenario that you might find yourself facing.

And in that, I start out assuming only one point of detail on your part as a hands-on employee or manager who is facing the possibility of being let go: that you would prefer to stay on with this employer, at least until a time and circumstance of you’re choosing. I assume that you do not want to be let go now and that if you leave you would prefer to do so as a result of your own decision making processes. And I start out discussing negotiations here, by making note of some of the crucially important details that you have to find effective ways to address and regardless of why your employer is considering this type of path forward.

• The first and foremost point to remember here is that when you seek to negotiate to keep your job in a business that is at least actively considering downsizing as a tactical response, you do so in the context of a very real and significant power asymmetry. And you have to at least tacitly assume, unless and until proven otherwise that your employer starts out already at least half convinced that it would make sense for them to let you go as a part of that.
• But even if this assumption is valid, it has most likely been decided upon, on the basis of categorical considerations of job types, and not after considering you in particular. This is crucially important. Yes, downsizings are used to sweep up and dismiss employees who are at least nominally good enough at their work assignments to be retained there, but who do not fit in, in the corporate culture, or who have come to be seen as trouble makers in some way. But the primary dismissal targets for these events, and officially at least the only ones are good employees who that business would otherwise actively want to keep on staff. And they are selected by the numbers and more usually according to job titles and work categories held. So negotiating to stay, has to be grounded in bringing the people you meet with, and ultimately the person or people who make the decisions here, to see you and think about you as an individual.
• What do they most want and need for their business, coming out of this?
• How can you best present yourself as a viable and even necessary part of the answer that they need to be able to find for that question, as they ask it themselves?
• And how can you come to more effectively negotiate with these people as if you were working from the same side of that negotiating table with them, in helping them to better and more easily achieve their goals? I will propose you’re taking a consultant’s approach there, as I will explain in detail as I delve into the issues raised by the points in this list.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, expanding on these and related general principles. Then after doing so I will discuss the specific downsizing scenarios that I have already at least made note of in this series, to take that out of the abstract. And as part of that narrative, I will discuss Plan B options and fallbacks, and both for their own immediate value as offering specific alternative paths forward for you, and for the value that even having other options can give you in an impactful negotiating setting.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 17

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 21, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I began working my way through a briefly stated to-address topics list in Part 12 that I repeat here for its last two entries for smoother continuity of narrative, as I continue addressing their issues, and those of the second of them in particular:

2. Begin that (nota bene: a discussion of basic issues of communications and information sharing and their disintermediation) with a focus on the human-to-human communications and information sharing context (see Part 14 and Part 15.)
3. Then build from that to at least attempt to anticipate a complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges that we will all come to face as artificial agents develop into the gray area of artificial intelligence capability that I made note of earlier in this series (n.b. in Part 11). More specifically, how can and should these agents be addressed and considered in an information communications and security context? In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I will at least raise the possibility here, that businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate. And the issues that I raise and discuss in this series will among other factors, serve as compelling bases for their having to address that complex of issues.

I began to explicitly discuss the issues and challenges raised by the above Point 3 in Part 16, there focusing on acceptance of the Different, and on pushback against that as it arises too. And in the course of raising that complex of issues, I posed a series of open questions that I left to the reader to mull over – as we will all have to and certainly as the gray area artificial intelligence agents that I have been writing of here, become realities that we cannot ignore for their commonality or their impact. And we will see and have to deal with and have to live with: coexist with gray area artificial intelligence agents before we have to deal with artificial intelligence agents that so palpably demonstrate true artificial general intelligence that we cannot ignore their claims to personhood without falling into the self-defeating trap of overt bigotry. So I focus on them, as it is in our dealings with the gray area agents where we will have to rethink and even redefine what words like “person” even mean. It is our experience with them that will shape our learning curves for this, and compel us to pursue them.

I wrote at the end of Part 16 of what might be considered pure Point 2, human-to-human scenarios, and pure Point 3 human-to-artificial intelligence agent scenarios. And I also raised the possibility of gray areas developing between them too, with the development of artificial replacement parts that would be connected into human brains to correct for damage or loss or for augmentative purposes. We are still so early in this, that no one yet can even begin to imagine the range of possibilities that can and will be pursued and realized there. But I am going to step back from that more speculative area of consideration, at least for now, to bring this discussion back to our current here-and-now. And I do so by raising the issues of how our current generation artificial intelligence agents are being responded to now, and how their presence is coming to reshape our human-to-human, Point 2 realities as well.

Let’s start this line of discussion by considering the so widely used talking and connecting agents that have become basic and even seemingly essential elements to our day-to-day lives and for an ever-increasing proportion of humanity: our increasingly ubiquitous virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. And my area of focus here, when considering them is not in what they can do – it is in how we change our behavior and reshape our expectations when using them, to bypass or mask their limitations as we seek to communicate with them as if they were more generally intelligent than they actually are.

I have held up the possibility of open-ended natural conversation as a quintessential artificial general intelligence agent goal in this blog and have discussed that challenge in a certain amount of detail and in several series of postings here. Current virtual assistants do not come close to meeting that type of benchmark goal. So people: human people who make use of these agents quickly learn to speak in the very particularly stilted and limited way that such agent can “understand” now, fitting into their expert systems database-stored conversational patterns that they can act upon as they receive questions or requests.

• Current virtual assistants are at best just still relatively low-end gray area artificial intelligence agents insofar as no one would realistically consider them as displaying anything like general intelligence and even just of a low intelligence quota (IQ) form.
• But those same people go to great lengths to in effect reshape themselves to confirm to the limitations of these systems, so they can pretend(?) they are smarter and more generally so than they actually are.
• I used the word plus caveat “pretend(?)” there with reservations as I am not sure what phrasing would be best for describing this phenomenon. I simply add here that that is only one wording possibility of many that are probably all at least somewhat valid and certainly situationally. Think of that as at least anecdotally supporting evidence of at least my acknowledgment of the nuanced uncertainties with which people, myself included, face when confronting and dealing with the not-this, not-that of the artificial intelligence agents that we see around us now.

Setting that aside and focusing on how the behavior and the limitations of these agents shape our behavior, I explicitly state the obvious:

• We change ourselves in our effort to help our current more limited artificial intelligence agents to function for us as if smarter, and certainly if they attempt to converse with us.

Now let’s consider this reshaping from a different direction. And for that I turn to consider efforts to improve and optimize the industrial shop floor and certainly where manual and repetitive labor are concerned, by requiring that people working there behave more like machines – more like artificial specialized intelligence agents that have been or could be developed to carry out those same specific tasks.

Amazon has come under particular fire for this, and with news stories coming out seemingly globally about their emerging business practices there. See, for example:

I Worked at an Amazon Fulfillment Center; They Treat Workers Like Robots and
Inside an Amazon Warehouse, Robots’ Ways Rub Off on Humans.

But Amazon does not hold a monopoly on this. See, for example:

As Workers Are Increasingly Treated Like Robots Where Will The Breaking Point Be?

And this leads me back to the issues of pushback that I raised as a point of consideration and concern in Part 16, and certainly when coupled with the way that more and more low skill and repetitive tasks that can be encompassed in a set algorithm are being turned over to robotic agents and taken out of human employee hands and both locally within single businesses and globally across entire industries.

• Think of the robotization of low skill and repetitive labor human employees, as an unstable, unsustainable first step towards the robotization of those jobs with their being turned over to artificial specialized intelligence agents and the robotic machinery they run.

And with that, I complete a process of presenting this narrative from a perspective that is more likely to lead to lose-lose results than any other that I can think of – from positing all of this as it would actually play out in zero-sum, complete win or complete lose terms, to phrase this in game theory terms, where either humans in effect dehumanize themselves at least in part so as to be able to accommodate the limitations of their emerging artificial intelligence tools, or they find themselves in a winner take all contest with an opponent who can evolve and adapt so quickly and so fully, and certainly when compared to the pace of biological evolution and more normative cultural change, so as to ensure an eventual human loss.

I developed Part 16 of this series, around a morally and ethically grounded principle, that might in the long run also qualify as a best path forward, survival and success strategy too, and for all involved:

• An inclusively democratic principle of presumed value and significance in all people, and with an openness to accepting Different from others as a realization of that principle, is a fundamental goal that humans and human societies can and too often do find difficult to achieve, and even when significant effort is made to do so.
• And it is going to be necessary to both rethink and expand upon all of the assumptions and decisions that we could or would make in achieving that principle, as the emergence of new forms of intelligence and of personhood arise.
• That emergence will, of necessity mean revisiting issues and even basic understandings where this principle has already been realized in practice, as those understandings have to be stretched and reframed in new, larger contexts.
• And to at least selectively expand upon that point, from what I offered in it in Part 16, this more expansive reconsideration and reframing will of necessity have to include a more expansive revision of the first of these bullet points too, that is not just drafted in anthropocentric terms. As soon as artificial intelligence agents begin to gain cognitive capabilities that even just significantly begin to approach general intelligence, they will face the same issues, uncertainties and challenges that are expressed in that point too and both as they have to coexist and live with each other and as they have to do so with human people.

We have to find ways to reframe all of the issues that we face and that we will come to face in this, in win-win terms, and in ways that would benefit all involved parties: our emerging artificial intelligence agents included, and certainly as they develop levels of information processing capability and reasoning power, as to qualify as having genuine intelligence (and even just deep-end gray area intelligence there.) And we certainly need to at least substantially start developing this new vision and approach by the time that genuine fully capable artificial general intelligent agents start arriving on the scene.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment. And then after more fully exploring the of-necessity changing issues of what personhood and intelligence mean, and how we should approach all of this societally, I will turn to apply that understanding to a business setting and to communications and information sharing contexts as arise in that context.

And with that offered in anticipation of discussion to come in this series, I close this posting by at least briefly turning back to the add-on text that I have appended to the end of the above-repeated topics Point 3, and every time I have offered it.

• Businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate.

A complex of pressures arising from many directions will force this on businesses and from early on, and with those pressures coming from as diverse a range of sources as legal mandates to protect sensitive personally identifiable customer information, and civil rights concerns. I will of necessity delve into this complex of issues too, in the course of developing that line of discussion.

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 also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 20: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 8

Posted in book recommendations, macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 16, 2019

This is my 20th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there. And it is my 8th installment in that, to specifically address their legacy-building visions, ambitions and actions.

I have primarily addressed Xi Jinping’s narrative in this since Part 4, building from a preparatory start to that, that I offered towards the end of Part 3. And my primary focus in all of this has been on Xi’s China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦), as it has served as an historically grounded, and historically justified foundation for all that he seeks to do.

And then Hong Kong erupted into protest again, in response to actions taken by Xi Jinping himself and by his hand-picked administrative leadership in that city, and with the most egregiously visible of that carried out and pushed forward by Carrie Lam: Hong Kong’s most senior administrator – who Xi himself explicitly had put into office there. So I changed directions in what I offer here, to focus on that immediate here-and-now, actual-legacy-realized news story and its history and context. Xi’s dreams and ambitions are one thing, representing his long-term and overall intentions; Hong Kong and its unfolding events are another as they represent his legacy that he is actually building it. (See my now six postings in the series: Xi Jinping and His China, and Their Conflicted Relationship with Hong Kong, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business 2, as postings 343 and following.)

I have three specific follow-up postings to that Hong Kong-related series in mind, as of this writing, and may very well add more to that list as ongoing events continue to unfold there. I will simply say here in that regard that Xi’s brinksmanship approach to dealing with Hong Kong is both fueling a questioning of his judgment and his leadership in Beijing now, and fueling ambitions towards full independence in Hong Kong itself. But I will turn to that in future postings, and not today.

My goal for this posting is to turn back to Xi’s Zhōngguó Mèng and to the partly historically real, partly stereotypically fantasy foundation that it is built upon. Think of this as my turning back to more fully consider Xi’s and China’s here-and-now, and both in terms of that Dream itself as it has become Xi’s road map, and in terms of how he seeks to follow it.

Xi’s Dream is built upon two pillars: one positive insofar as it affirms what a China that is effectively led can achieve, and the other negative and grounded in the historical set-backs and humiliations that a great Chinese leader could undo and remediate from, while restoring his nation to its rightful, golden age path. I briefly outlined that positive image, golden age side of this Dream, as a perceived past glory to be restored, in Part 16 of this series. And I began writing of China’s fall from that golden age in Part 17, Part 18, and Part 19.

It is no accident that I have devoted more time and effort into presenting that darker side to Xi’s vision and narrative here, as it is clear that he has focused more on righting perceived wrongs, than he has on the details of that golden age too. And I continue that side of this narrative here, and with a goal of moving it forward along its timeline, from the 1830’s to at least the birth of Communist China and the system that Xi himself leads, and the system that he is at least as constrained by too.

I have already at least briefly raised and discussed the challenges that foreign powers and their commerce and profits oriented manifestations, created for China during this troubling period. More predatory behavior on the part of business-oriented enterprises such as the British East India Company, and more entirely private enterprises such as Jardine, Matheson & Company, and Lancelot Dent and Company, fundamentally shaped British foreign policy and how it was executed throughout Asia, and for generations, and with the British military intervening as needed to support that. And in China, this first-commercial and then military intervention and domination led to the Opium Wars and to the unequal treaties, as they came to be known, that ended them, and with first Hong Kong and then neighboring Kowloon being ceded to Great Britain as foreign owned colonies.

The historic emperors of China lived and ruled under a Mandate of Heaven, and according to a fundamental requirement that they maintain stability throughout their lands and for all of their peoples. The golden age of the Qing Dynasty ended and that mandate unraveled.

Provincial governments no longer turned to or fully supported the Emperor or their court in Beijing and the Forbidden City that was to be found at the heart of that larger urban center. Local governments no longer turned to or fully supported their provincial leadership as had always been both required and expected of them. The Qing Dynasty had a numerically small, lean and agile bureaucracy that developed a tradition of working collaboratively with their provincial governmental counterparts to create and maintain stability and order. And it was those provincial level officials who directly worked with and managed local government officials in a similar manner. But all of this began to unravel, and from foreign sourced pressures and from environmental challenges as already touched upon here, and by challenges to the food supply, and unrest began to grow.

I could write here of war lords and others who set up local and sometimes not so local enclaves within China where the Emperor and his officials had no voice or influence. China became rife with them. And I could write of larger and more individually notable outright rebellions as they arose and played out and particularly during the later Qing Dynasty as it spiraled into decline and failure. This list of rebellions in China at least briefly notes nine of them, and that is in fact an incomplete list, only touching upon more notable possible entries. All of these upheavals, all of this unrest had long-term, debilitating impact and all contributed to the death of both the Qing Dynasty and of dynastic rule per se in China. But perhaps arbitrarily, I cite three of these catastrophes by name here:

• The White Lotus Rebellion of 1796-1804 as a direct attack upon the Qing Dynasty and its legitimacy,
• A messianic uprising that came to be known as the Taiping Rebellion of 1850-1864 that was led by Hong Xiuquan: a self-proclaimed younger brother of Christianity’s Jesus Christ, come to Earth just like his older brother, and
• The Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901, which was among other things an anti-Christian, anti-foreign influence uprising.

For a fuller and more detailed discussion of Hong Xiuquan and his uprising, see:

• Spence, J.D. (1996) God’s Chinese Son: the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. WW Norton and Co.

The end result of all of this chaos, as arising from within China and as imposed from the outside was the abdication of China’s last imperial ruler, its last dynastic emperor: Pu Yi, or Henry as he was also called. And dynastic empire gave way to the Republic of China of 1912-1949, with its chaos, including Japan’s invasion and conquest of much of what is now China, with the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. And I end this so briefly sketched historical timeline by citing Mao Zedong and his ultimately successful war against the Republic as he established his People’s Republic of China to replace it and all that had gone before, at least in mainland China itself. And then Mao’s version of chaos began.

Xi Jinping has built his Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng out of this, as he seeks to return his nation and his peoples to the partly real, partly imaginary glory days of China’s golden age past, and with a goal of completing the dreams and ambitions of his country’s past great leaders and to their fullest possible extent. And Xi’s adversaries of today, are cast into the molds of adversaries past, from the years and decades of humiliation that he seeks to redress. And the adversities that these modern day versions of China’s past repressors create, mirror the adversities of that same image of China’s past too.

• Who is United States president Donald Trump in this? He is a wicked reincarnation of China’s foreign tormentors of those troubled and troubling years, that China’s Communism has sought to block and that Xi sees himself as finally completely ending as a source of threat. And Trump’s trade wars against China and the tariffs that drive them are simply a next generation iteration of what past foreign tormentors have inflicted upon China, as they attempted to subjugate that nation as a vassal state.
• And the “agreement”: the treaty that finally returned Hong Kong and Kowloon back to China from British colonial rule, is at least according to this imagining, a next-generation repetition of and continuation of the affronting humiliations that an early generation British government imposed on China, and certainly as far as those lands are concerned, with their Transfer of Sovereignty over Hong Kong.

And this brings me both to the uprisings taking place in Hong Kong as I write this, and Xi’s response to Donald Trump and other foreign aggressors. And this is where Xi’s efforts to control his people and his country, enter this narrative as his Dream plays out both within the borders of his nation and beyond them too. I am going to continue this narrative with a 21st installment to this series, and with a goal of pursuing that complex of issues. And I will also continue my Hong Kong-related series as briefly outlined for moving forward, towards the start of this posting.

In anticipation of that, I add here that I will at least briefly discuss the house that Mao built and that Xi now seeks to rule over: the Communist Party of China and the government that that Party leads and controls, and at least something of the history that this: Mao’s legacy has created. That history constitutes Xi’s fundamental grounding reality as a leader, and it would be impossible to meaningfully discuss his Dream or his legacy building efforts without taking that narrative into account too.

Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

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