Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 54 – the business context 3

This is my 54th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with a focus on the employee-to-employee and employee-to-business side of that as found in more individual jobs and careers contexts. See Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-51 for that side to this overall narrative. And in that context, I have also been discussing the business side of negotiating, starting with Part 52 and Part 53, as also found at that same Page 4 directory page.

I focused in Part 53 on what might be considered challenging, or at least potentially challenging contextual issues that can come to shape and even limit possible negotiations and from both sides of the table. Though in keeping with the overall orienting focus of this business-side phase of this series, I raised them in that more particular context:

• The problems that can arise from friction, where essential information that a here-business-side of the table negotiator would need, is not and even cannot be available to them in an error or gap free form and where and when it is needed.
• And how this overall phenomenon: business systems friction, can lead to restrictions on what people who are actually hands-on negotiating on behalf of a business, can even discuss let alone agree to.

And one of the consequences of these restricting processes, and of the first of them in particular, is that negotiations can enter gray areas of uncertainty. Though I have to add that restrictions on what a business-side negotiator can even discuss, and restrictions on what they can even consider addressing in any consequential manner can lead to gray area confusion and its consequences too, and regardless of how or why they become so constrained, too. Gray can flow both ways in this.

And that brings me to a crucially important point, and certainly where a manager has to negotiate under restrictive terms that they have real reason to see as going against their own professional interests, the interests of the team that they work with and lead, and the interests of its individual members – and even against the real interests of the business as a whole, as can happen when senior management in effect ties the hands of those under them, when facing disruptive change and when having to maneuver to accommodate that.

To take that out of the abstract, I began this business-side part of this series by returning to reconsider a particularly challenging negotiating context that I delved into in some detail from the employee side, in the first part of this series in its Parts 32-49: downsizings, where managers can often find themselves forced to in effect follow a set script and with no judgment or input on their side allowed for.

I ended Part 53 stating that:

• One of my primary goals here is going to be to offer approaches for finding if not creating some clarity in the midst of the fog of that grayness – and clarity that you can find useful in reaching better negotiated results that will hold with time.

And I begin addressing that by offering a basic suggestion that might sound more than slightly counterintuitive when faced in specific here-and-now negotiating contexts, with all of the pressures that they bring to bear and on all involved:

• The fog of grayness in this can become one of your strongest tools and certainly when you have to negotiate up a table of organization or chain of command, in order to be able to more effectively carry out negotiations on their behalf, or at the very least with their support.

Let’s take this out of the abstract by considering another real-world example. Corporate decides to end business support for employee development training, as this has been called in that business. Offering this as a special benefit and to both hands-on and managerial employees was a basic policy according to which those employees who meet all of their goals and a significant number of their stretch goals from their annual performance reviews and who score above some minimal high-level on their numerical scaled performance ratings, were given paid work time and tuition funding support, to take professional training courses or programs that would make them more valuable to the company. This might mean gaining new skills or expanding upon ones already held. This might mean gaining new professional licenses. My point is that this supported the business and it supported the people who entered into it; it benefited those employees and the teams they work in as well as the business as a whole. And now this program is going to be stopped, and for what are primarily short-term justified budgetary reasons, to the extent that any such explanations are offered at all.

I picked this example for a reason; it might arguably be seen as a fog and grayness-free decision. But that might only holds true in the abstract, and real uncertainty might arise in the specific instances that it would have to be carried out in.

You are a mid-level manager who has some technically skilled superstars on your overall team. One of the lower level managers who reports to you and who has one of these particularly high value employees on their immediate team, comes to you to tell you that he just got an email telling him that a skills and license upgrade program that that employee was told in writing he could attend under the old terms, was not longer going to be supported for them. This employee had gone to a great deal of effort to make sure that their participating in this would not be disruptive with that including, their having put in a lot of unpaid overtime work in preparation for it. And if this is canceled this way, the business will probably lose them as a result.

Where is the gray fog in this? Start with that written agreement to support this employee in their participating in this training program, that is now going to be overturned. Are exceptions going to be made for people who are already taking such a professional advancement opportunity now? And what of those who have been formally told, and in writing, that they would be able to do this for specific professional advancement courses or programs. Would that qualify as breach of contract, if this was entered into as a formally stated employee benefit for those who qualify for it, and it is suddenly stopped and even for those who were already enrolled – and who might not be able to back out without steep cancelation fees if nothing else? And even if this does not qualify as a legally restricted breach of contract, what am I supposed to do to address this at least breach of trust that all of my best people will see in this?

• Frame your side of this in terms of the uncertainties that can arise, in the specific contexts that you seek to address.
• Be very focused on precisely what you seek to accomplish. In this case that means finding a way to get the business to grandfather in employees who are already in this, and with that including anyone who was told in writing that they have been approved for one of these employee development options, and certainly if they are now financially committed there.
• And frame this in terms of risks and benefits to the business, whenever possible. Do not just make this all about risk or benefits to yourself or to the people on your team – and even if their concerns are in fact what would drive you to attempt this negotiation at all.

I have written in this blog, and certainly in earlier postings to this series, of negotiating with people as if from the same side of the table as them, and with a goal of reaching win-win resolutions from that. That definitely applies here – and with your goal being one of making senior management see a tapering of this program, rather than an abrupt ending, as a win-win with them coming out ahead too.

• If you can define the terms of where issues are gray and foggy, that are consequential to what you seek to negotiate towards, you can significantly contribute to the defining of any new clarity that might be reached to replace it.

I am going to continue adding to a set of more general business-side negotiating tips in what follows, but with this in place I am going to begin to delve into some of the specifics, as at least preliminarily listed in Part 52. And I will begin that with a discussion of a complex of issues that I of necessity pointed to in my working example here:

• Negotiating with peers and negotiating up and down a chain of command, however that might be defined in a business.

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.

China, the United States and the world, and the challenge of an emerging global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – 49

Posted in Uncategorized by Timothy Platt on July 25, 2020

This is my 54th posting to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic that we now face and that by now has found its way into essentially every nation on Earth, and into every facet of our lives. And it is also the 49th installment to this specific series on that.

I usually begin these installments with recent daily updates as to where we are now with this pandemic globally, citing data sourced from the World Health Organization. But I decided to break with that pattern for this posting, and with a goal of stepping back from the here-and-now of this challenge to take a longer term and a more widely considered contextualizing perspective of it.

I have written on a number of occasions about factors and circumstances, and of decisions and actions that have each in their own way contributed to creating this pandemic for its scale of crisis impact. The virus in that is a mechanism, and it is human behavior that has allowed and even in effect encouraged and enabled its pandemic spread and its expansive reach. So I would write here of the COVID-19 pandemic as both a medical and public health crisis, but also as a sociological one as well, though the term cultural anthropological might apply here too.

Why have so many of us become infected with this virus and so quickly? That number in effect makes the others that I keep citing here inevitable, as a by now largely predictable percentage of those infected:

• Become contagious but asymptomatic,
• Become more mildly symptomatically ill, or seriously or critically ill from it,
• Recover from it or die from it,
• And recover but with what are likely to be long term complications or disabilities from having had this disease.

That numerically large last category of all COVID-19 infection cases is still just coming into focus, even as the official number of cases as a whole has now come uncomfortably close to 16,000,000, and with that essentially certainly still only offering a significant underestimation of the actual number of those who have actually contracted this disease. Underreporting and even intentional refusal to report from some nations still persists and for a variety of reasons. All of these numbers are bad and tragically so and all will keep getting worse.

I begin this posting by referring back to a posting and a topic of consideration that I have returned to on a number of occasions now, that I first wrote about in this blog in early 2016 in the run-up to the Republican Party national convention of that year, in the United States: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs.

I wrote there of how a combination of partisanship, and of systematic breakdowns in our willingness and even our ability to communicate with each other, has led to a breakdown in meaning, as differing political factions have reframed and effectively redefined the basic terms that their opponents there use to represent themselves, making them into pejoratives. Together, we have broken our basic political vocabulary as a whole, as we have traditionally used it when communicating with each other.

That started with the denigration of opposition labels. But that quickly and perhaps inevitably lead to a fundamental destruction of our own labels too: our own basic words as would be needed to even begin to express our political identities. And when we cannot effectively communicate with each other across the barriers of our differences, how could we possibly come to see any possible points of agreement or similarity across them?

• What do words like conservative, liberal and progressive even mean now and certainly when they are used by opposing political voices? They all contained within them a positive value and message. But what do they mean now and what messages do they convey as they are variously used?

But is it not just that we have collectively destroyed the meaning of the words that we have traditionally used to describe ourselves for our beliefs and values, and the words that were similarly used by members of opposing political parties and perspectives. It is that it has become so automatic for essentially all of us to see anyone who would differ from us on anything, as being different from us on everything. And it has become all too easy and automatic to see any who would differ from us on matters of factual judgment or opinion as being evil and not just wrong. We have demonized our differences and as a result we can no longer even really begin to discuss them, let alone our points of at least possible agreement. And we find ourselves speaking past each other, and bitterly so, and not with each other. There is no basis remaining in our polity for finding a common ground with that, or for seeking out mutually acceptable and mutually beneficial solutions to our shared problems – and even when they arrive as a pandemic: a veritable force of nature that infects and spreads and that is immune to any influence from our partisanship or our recriminations, or our attempts to reframe reality as being acceptable to us or as being “fake news.”

Think of COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes it as representing an at least seeming ultimate reality check on our partisan hubris, that we think that we can bend reality to suit our divisive wills. And I write this in general terms because it does not matter that one political party and its extremists started this and certainly in the United States; all sides and factions are too quick to follow this path now.

The only way that we can prevail over a crisis like this pandemic and without paying the maximum cost for that of simply letting it run its course among us, is if we can come to acknowledge at least one shared truth:

• A fundamental need for societal stability and a fundamental need for open communications and a willingness to find common grounds and with a shared consensus in addressing widely shared problems.

We need to acknowledge and both publically and to others, and to ourselves that our divisiveness is as much a problem for us as this virus is, and that that in fact empowers this virus in its pandemic spread. And if we fail to achieve that, we risk losing a lot more than we see right now in this. The openness and ability and willingness to actually come together in search of a common ground, is a fundamental requirement for our democracy itself, and its survival.

I write a lot in this series, of the role that president Trump is playing in thwarting any national response to this pandemic, with his failure to lead and to actually act presidential there, and with that significantly contributing to our national failure to contain this disease. And his polarizing, divisiveness and his capitalizing on our political divides, and our inability to talk with each other have simply added to this crisis as it is playing out in the United States. But as I have already noted in this series, president Trump is a symptom here, even if a very consequential one, and not a cause. The challenges that I write of here are much more deep-set and they will not end with the end of his presidency – and even if he is overwhelmingly defeated in the November, 2020 US presidential election. These challenges will not end even if Trump’s political party: the Republican Party as he has rebuilt it into his own cult of personality, loses power and in both houses of Congress and by large margins and in many and even most currently Republican led statehouses where they face elections this year too.

• This may look to be a problem from the top, facing and influencing downwards but the real challenge that we face here is now grassroots in nature and a consequence of the collective turning away from democratic openness and connectedness by the many.

We see ourselves surrounded by economic and social injustice and inequality and in a context where global warming and environmental degradation go way too much unchecked, and certainly where governmental action in the United States as led from the top in Washington, DC is concerned. We are facing overall economic crises and healthcare and public health crises that are all but exploding out in scale around us. And we are still paralyzed in being able to come together to address these challenges. And that failure in our even collectively acknowledging the specifics that we face, has become our true existential crisis, in and of itself.

COVID-19 can be seen as representing a lens that is focusing a sharp light on deep underlying problems that have been developing for years now. We see that disease and its pandemic spread as the problem but it is in fact just a symptom of what we now face. The underlying problem that exacerbates that crisis and so much more, is what we should really be worried about – and not just because of how it has politicized even our basic tools for limiting this disease with that including more widespread use of even the most basic disease containment tools available to us such as the use of personally protective equipment and social distancing.

I end this posting with a metaphor. Imagine that you are trapped in a burning building with people who you do not particularly like and who do not particularly like you. But the building is burning down around you all and this is your collective home and the only one that any of you have. What should you individually seek to do there? What should they seek to do? And what collectively can you all at least attempt doing together in response to this crisis? How can you best act to save your shared home out of all of this and even your collective lives?

Our house really in on fire now and we really are in it while it burns around us. How can we come together and save it, ourselves, and each other? And what costs will we all pay if we cannot come together to do this?

I am going to continue this series in a next installment in a few days, where I will return to citing and sharing daily World Health Organization data, among other things. Meanwhile, you can find this and my earlier COVID-19 related postings to this series at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 365 and following.

Reconsidering Information Systems Infrastructure 16

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on July 23, 2020

This is the 16th posting to a series that I am developing, with a goal of analyzing and discussing how artificial intelligence and the emergence of artificial intelligent agents will transform the electronic and online-enabled information management systems that we have and use. See Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 374 and loosely following for Parts 1-15. And also see two benchmark postings that I initially wrote just over six years apart but that together provided much of the specific impetus for my writing this series: Assumption 6 – The fallacy of the Singularity and the Fallacy of Simple Linear Progression – finding a middle ground and a late 2017 follow-up to that posting.

I have been discussing the first of a set of four topics points since Part 13 that I have been offering as a tool kit, or rather a set of indicators as to where a set of tools might be found. And these tools would be used for carrying out at least part of a development process for enabling what would ideally become true artificial general intelligence.

Those topics points are:

• The promotion of ontological development that is both driven by and shaped by self-learning behavior (as cited in Part 13 in terms of antagonistically positioned subsystems, and similar/alternative paradigmatic approaches),
• Scope and range of new data input that might come from the environment in general but that might also come from other intelligent agents (which might mean simple tool agents that carry out single fully specified tasks, gray area agents that carry out partly specified tasks, or actual general intelligence agents: artificial or human, or some combination of all of these source options.)
• How people or other input providing agents who would work with and make use of these systems, simplifying or adding complexity to the contexts that those acting agents would have to perform in, shift tasks and goals actually required of them either more towards the simple and fully specified or more towards the complex and open-ended.
• And I add here, the issues of how an open ended task to be worked upon and goal to be achieved for it, would be initially outlined and presented. Think in terms of the rules of the road antagonist in my two subsystem self-driving example of Part 12 here, where a great deal of any success that might be achieved in addressing any overtly open-ended systems goal will almost certainly depend on where a self-learning agent would begin addressing it from.

Note: my focus here, insofar as I will bring that to bear on general intelligence embryogenesis, is on startings for that per se. The above repeated fourth tool set point begins, for what it addresses, by assuming that this is possible and perhaps even inevitable and addresses the issues of optimization so as to enable greater long-term developmental potential and its realization, from such a starting point.

I focused on the first of those points in Part 15, and primarily on the bootstrap problem of initially developing what could be considered an at least embryonic artificial general intelligence there, and with a supporting discussion of what ontological development might encompass, at least in general terms, in this overall context. And that led me to a set of Point 1-related issues that I raised there but that I held off on delving into:

• The issues of understanding, and deeply enough, the precise nature and requirements of open-ended tasks (n.b. tasks that would call for general intelligence to resolve) per se,
• The roles of “random walk” and of “random mutational”, and of “directed change” and how they might be applied and used in combinations, and regardless of what starting points are actually started from, ontologically, in developing such an intelligence capacity.

I went on to say at the end of Part 15 that I would in fact address these issues here, and I added, in anticipation of that discussion to come, that doing so will lead me directly into a more detailed consideration of the second tool packet as repeated above. And I will in fact at least begin to cover that ground here. But before doing so and in preparation for those lines of discussion to come, I want to step back and reconsider, and in somewhat further detail than I have offered here before, exactly what artificial or any other form of general intelligence might entail: what general intelligence as a general concept might mean and regardless of what form contains it.

I am going to address this from an artificial construct perspective here, as any attempt to analyze and discuss general intelligence from an anthropocentric perspective, and from the perspective of “natural” intelligence as humans display it, would be essentially guaranteed to bring with it a vast clutter of extraneous assumptions, presumptions and beliefs that revolve around our all too human expectation of our somehow being a central pivot point of universal creation. Plato’s and Aristotle’s scala naturae lives on, and with humanity presumed to be at the very top of it and with that held as an unassailable truth and for many.

• As a here-pertinent aside, the only way that we may ever come to understand what general intelligence really is: what it really means, is if we can somehow find opportunity to see it in a non-human form where we can in fact view and come to terms with it without that baggage.
• And this ultimately, may prove to be the only way that we can ever really understand ourselves as humans too.

But setting aside that more philosophical speculation to address the issues at hand here, I turn to consider general intelligence from the perspective of an artificial general intelligence to be, and from the perspective of a perhaps embryonic beginning to one as cited in passing in Part 15. And my goal here is one of at least hopefully shedding light on what might be the source of that first bootstrap lifting spark into intelligent being.

I am going to pursue that goal from two perspectives: the first of which is a broadly stated and considered general framework of understanding, that I will offer as a set of interconnected speculations. Then after offering that, I will delve at least selectively and in broad brushstroke detail into some of the possible specifics there. And I begin the first of those two lines of discussion by making note of an at least ostensibly very different type of series that I have been offering here, that has nevertheless prompted my thought on this area of discourse too: Some Thoughts Concerning a General Theory of Business as can be found at the directory Reexamining the Fundamentals for its Section VI and at its Page 2 continuation for its Section IX. And I specifically cite the opening progression of postings as offered in that Section IX here for their discussion of closed axiomatic systems that are entirely self-contained, and open axiomatic systems that are developed and elaborated upon, on the basis of outside-sourced information too.

I would argue, with the lines of reasoning offered there as impetus for this, that:

• The simple essentially tool-only specialized artificial intelligence agents that I write of here are limited to that level and type of development because they are limited to simple deductive reasoning that is tightly constrained by the rigid axiomatic limitations of the pre-specified algorithms that they execute upon.
• At least potential artificial general intelligences will only be able to advance to reach that goal to the extent that they can break away from such limitations. This of necessity means they’re at least attempting to successfully execute upon open ended tasks that by their very nature would fit an open axiomatic model, as discussed in my business theory series, where new and even disruptively new and different might arise and have to be accommodated too. And this means allowing for and even requiring inductive reasoning as well as its more constrained deductive counterpart.
• Gray area tasks, or rather the gray area agents that would carry them out might simply remain over time in this in-between state, or they might come with time to align more with a simple specialized artificial intelligence agent paradigm, or a more and more genuinely artificial general intelligence one. Ultimately, that will likely depend on what they do and on whether they canalize into a strictly deductive reasoning form, or expand out into becoming a widely inductive reasoning-capable one.

Even if this is necessary as a developmental and enablement requirement for the formation of a true artificial general intelligence I expect that it can on no way be considered to be sufficient. So I continue from that presumption to add a second one, and it involves how deeply interconnected the information processing is and can be, in an entity.

• Tightly compartmentalized, context and reach limited information processing that separates how tasks and subtasks are performed and with little if any cross-talk between these process flows beyond the sharing of output and the providing of input can make for easier, more efficient coding, as object-oriented programming proves.
• But when this means limited at most, and even stringently prevented cross-process and cross-systems learning with rigid gatekeeper barriers limiting the range of access to information held and with that established on an a priori basis, that would almost by definition limit or prevent anything like deep learning, or widely inclusive and involving ontological self-development as might be possible from accessible use of the full range of experience that is held within such a system.
• This means a trade-off between simpler and perhaps faster and more efficient code as a short-term and here-and-now imperative, and flexible capacity to develop and improve longer-term.
• And when I cite an adaptive peak model representation of developmental potential in this type of context, as I have recurringly done so in a concurrently running series: Moore’s Law, Software Design Lock-In, and the Constraints Faced When Evolving Artificial Intelligence (as can be found at Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 as its Section VIII) I would argue that constraints of this type may very well be among the most significant in limiting the maximum potential that an ontological development can reach in achieving effective general intelligence, or just effective functionality per se for that matter.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will add a third such generally stated puzzle piece to this set. And then, as promised above, I will proceed to address the second basic perspective that I made note of above here, and at least a few more-specific points of consideration. Beyond that I will more explicitly address two points that I said that I would delve into here in this posting, in Part 15 but that I have only approached dealing with up to this point in this overall narrative:

• The issues of understanding, and deeply enough, the precise nature and requirements of open-ended tasks (n.b. tasks that would call for general intelligence to resolve) per se,
• The roles of “random walk” and of “random mutational”, and of “directed change” and how they might be applied and used in combinations, and regardless of what starting points are actually started from, ontologically, in developing such an intelligence capacity.

And I will finish my discussion of the second of four main topic points that I repeated at the top of this posting, with that. And then I will move on to address the above-repeated Points 3 and 4 from the tools list that I have been discussing here:

• How people or other input providing agents who would work with and make use of these systems, simplifying or adding complexity to the contexts that those acting agents would have to perform in, shift tasks and goals actually required of them either more towards the simple and fully specified or more towards the complex and open-ended.
• And the issues of how an open ended task to be worked upon and goal to be achieved for it, would be initially outlined and presented, and how the capability of an agent to develop will depend on where it begins that from.

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

China, the United States and the world, and the challenge of an emerging global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – 48

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on July 21, 2020

This is my 53rd posting to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic that we now face and that by now has found its way into essentially every nation on Earth, and into every facet of our lives. And it is also the 48th installment to this specific series on that.

As usual, I begin this installment with newer updates to a set of basic epidemiological findings, sharing more recent globally sourced data as offered by the World Health Organization as to the current overall state of this pandemic:

• July 19 at 02:14 GMT: 14,422,471 reported cases with 5,205,991 currently active, 9,216,480 now closed, and with 59,913 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 604,823 closed cases reported as deaths (7 %)
• July 20 at 00:32 GMT: 14,633,037 reported cases with 5,294,335 currently active, 9,338,702 now closed, and with 59,878 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 608,539 closed cases reported as deaths (7 %)
• July 21 at 00:46 GMT: 14,845,017 reported cases with 5,333,949 currently active, 9,511,068 now closed, and with 59,807 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 612,829 closed cases reported as deaths (6 %)

I am going to focus, in the first portion of this posting, on three areas of immediately here-and-now relevance as we all collectively face this pandemic:

• Masks and other face coverings, and their actual usage rates,
• Vaccinations as they are being developed and as they will in time be deployed, and
• Herd immunity and how this might arise, but more importantly here, for how this possibility has become politicized.

These areas of consideration might seem to be quite separate and distinct from each other and certainly at first glance. But as I will argue here, there are also some significant synergies that arise between them too, effectively creating points at least of overlap between them, and certainly for their consequences.

I begin here with masks and with a New York Times article that outlines in some detail, as to where people are and are not wearing them in the United States:

A Detailed Map of Who Is Wearing Masks in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, the map accompanying this news piece shows the lowest levels of compliance with wearing a mask, where the pandemic numbers are surging upwards the most. But I cite this news piece for a different reason. The data that underlies this, was all self-reported by the people who were included in its surveys. They decided if they never, sometimes, usually or always wear a mask or face covering when going out in public. And that was how those 20% compliance intervals were determined, that show by color intensity on that map, from up 0% to 20% on through 80% or more. But what does this actually mean? That all depends on what you mean by “wearing a mask or other face covering.”

I live in a community that would self-report as being in that 80% or higher compliance range. But a face covering of whatever form can only offer protection if it is actually worn on a face and over its mouth and nose. So what does it mean if someone always puts their mask on, but with it kept below their face and across their throat? I see that all of the time, and from way too many people. And no, they generally do not bring those masks up over their faces if they find themselves in a more crowded situation where social distancing would not be possible. And what of the many, and certainly in hot weather, who have a mask on but only over their mouths and with their noses exposed, when they are breathing through their noses and any possible exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus would be by that route for them (or from them)?

This brings up several important points for me. The first is that self-reporting here, is meaningless because different people see “wearing” very differently, and consequentially so. So the only way to get meaningfully valid data on actual (effective) mask usage would be for epidemiological data collectors to take counts of what people are actually doing, in places with enough foot traffic to both create potential disease transmission risks and to provide statistically significant data sample sizes from the number of people counted.

This all becomes crucially important, to cite a second point that I would raise here, when public policy is based on what might be faulty overestimations of how much disease containment is being actively attempted and by the public at large. Poor data can only lead to poor planning and policy and that is certain to lead to poor outcomes.

And as a third point, I add that this can only lead to politicized arguments against wearing masks or other face coverings on the grounds that they do not work as promised by their (no doubt politically motivated) supporters. So the culture war, COVID-19 edition, continues. And overestimations of mask usage and other disease containment efforts can only serve to fuel that.

The second area of immediately here-and-now relevance that I would discuss here is that of COVID-19 vaccinations, as they are being actively developed and at a faster pace than has ever been attempted for any vaccine development effort, anywhere. I wrote earlier in this series that there were anti-vaccination groups that began speaking out against a possible COVID-19 vaccine from the earliest announcements that these development efforts were being carried out. We still have a ways to go before anything from that effort could be available for anything like more general use, but the anti-vaxxers are already actively speaking out against them with claims of their being unsafe, and even with claims of they’re being developed as a weapon aimed at the public as part of a vast conspiracy. See, for example:

There’s Another Insidious Side Effect of This Pandemic – More Anti-Vaxxer Activity, which I quote from here with:
• “The vaccine will inject you with an electronic chip, poison you, make you sick, they say” and
• “There’s no vaccine yet for treating the novel coronavirus, and scientists are multiplying efforts to find one. But already anti-vaxxers – a small but vocal group of people who don’t believe in vaccinations – have taken advantage of the pandemic to multiply disinformation on social media.”

And for further references on this phenomenon, added here because of the impact of these people on public health, and just from their already ongoing attacks against routine childhood vaccinations if nothing else, I add:

• This recent New York Times news piece: Mistrust of a Coronavirus Vaccine Could Imperil Widespread Immunity and
• This July, 2020 report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: The Public’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccination: Planning Recommendations Informed by Design Thinking and the Social, Behavioral, and Communication Sciences.

And to further highlight the significance of both this public health challenge and the anti-mask movement as discussed above, with so many refusing to wear a face covering at all when out in public and so many refusing to wear one correctly when they do, I add this final reference for here:

Older Children Spread the Coronavirus Just as Much as Adults, Large Study Finds.

I have been saying this for months now and I am not alone in that, by any means. And I add in this context that I also assume that younger children get infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and spread it to others too, just like they share the common cold and seemingly everything else contagious that they come near. But now it is official, so to speak and certainly for older children. The population at risk of actively spreading this disease is larger than has been officially accounted for and certainly where public policy and related planning are based entirely on official recommendations from organizations such as the US CDC. This just makes the issues raised here in this posting, that much more pressing.

And the third area of immediately here-and-now relevance that I would discuss in this posting is that of herd immunity. I have discussed this approach to effectively ending this pandemic in earlier postings to this series, and particularly in its Part 25 where I roughly calculated, for order of magnitude purposes, the possible consequences of only pursuing this disease management course. The numbers offered there for possible total number of COVID-19 fatalities were grim. And no new findings have been developed in better understanding this disease that would bring anyone to lower them, or any of the other key statistics that arise with them. More has been found out about this disease and its spread, in fact, that would raise a question that extrapolations of that type do not go far enough, and particularly when you add in the numbers of COVID-19 survivors who will in all likelihood suffer life-long injuries and impairments from having had this disease. But those who oppose masks and face coverings, and even social distancing, and those who oppose vaccinations against this disease in anticipation of that becoming possible, still turn to herd immunity as a cure-all.

So all three of these basic approaches to addressing COVID-19, hold at least one key point of detail in common between them. They are all heavily politicized and with that creating barriers to actually bringing this disease under control. But they all hold at least one more point in common. They all at least in principle, hold at least a potential capability for helping to break chains of transmission from person to person to person here, by limiting the likelihood that an actively infected, contagious person find others who are both vulnerable to being infected and who are not physically blocking such exposure through their own behavior.

Obviously, if an infected contagious carrier of this virus wears a face mask and consistently when out in public and if they social distance and watch what they touch, following prudent guidelines there, they are a lot less likely to give this disease to anyone. But even when uninfected and vulnerable people come in contact with contagiously infected others who are not being careful about any of this, if they are taking basic safety precautions themselves, they are still a lot less likely to catch this disease.

Vaccinations and widespread vaccination in particular would break disease transmission chains and reduce if not eliminate the development of new disease clusters, and of any real size. That, at least is a public health goal there. Masks and other personally protective equipment, if properly and widely used, hold that same potential. And finally, herd immunity, and whether “naturally arising” as discussed in Part 25, or artificially induced through widespread vaccination, would accomplish that too. All three can at the very least contribute to what in total could be an overall effective means of limiting the spread of this disease and of stopping it as a pandemic and both locally, and with time globally as well.

But this all depends on widespread willingness to actually take advantage of these capabilities, and of the first two of them in particular as they are where it is possible to be proactive here. A gradual accumulation of immunity to the disease, to the extent that recovery from it leads to that, is only a reactive consequence. And this leads me to one final reference that I would offer here, that picks up on the issues of policy and planning as that might be based on faulty data, as touched upon above:

Inside Trump’s Failure: The Rush to Abandon Leadership Role on the Virus, which came with this tagline text:
• “The roots of the nation’s current inability to control the pandemic can be traced to mid-April, when the White House embraced overly rosy projections to proclaim victory and move on.”

The Trump administration is still doing that in the United States and with dire consequences to that are still unfolding around us all. And president Trump and the United States are not alone in pursuing such wistful folly. And that sad fact is reflected empirically in the data that the World Health Organization compiles and posts online every single day and on both a global and a nation by nation basis. And that sad fact is also reflected in the United States based epidemiological data, that the Trump administration is now trying to hide and block access to as discussed in Part 47.

And with this, I turn to the second topic area of this posting and a continuation of an already ongoing narrative that I have been offering here regarding possible healthcare and public health new normals, as they might arise as this pandemic ends.

I have been discussing healthcare access, healthcare insurance coverage as that fundamentally constrains what of that is even possible, and personally identifiable medical and related information and its accessibility and its privacy issues. And I have addressed these issues from both an individual and a public health perspective. Think of those and other related issues that I have also been touching upon here, as representing pieces to a larger overarching puzzle. And my goal here is to step back from the pieces to consider that puzzle as a whole.

I keep going back to those lessons not learned, coming out of the 1918 flu pandemic: the so called Great Influenza,” as I have written about that here in earlier postings to this series.

• What were the fractures and fault lines that both individual people and entire communities fell through then as that pandemic raged and as its consequences were so unevenly distributed and along racial and other discriminatory lines?
• What of them have simply persisted, unaddressed and right up to today and our here-and-now? We see at least some of the consequences of that failure every day if we look to the epidemiological numbers coming out of our current pandemic.
• But those numbers are consequences – effects in complex and impactful cause and effect systems. Only focusing on the effects might give us a sense of being concerned, but the only way to actually accomplish anything of value here is in facing and addressing those underlying causes too and how they arise and persist.
• What are we doing there? What can and should we do there that would have actual impact on this and change the effects – the outcomes reached?
• And with that I come back to the Trump administration in the United States, actively seeking to end the Affordable Care Act in the United States, and right now in the midst of a pandemic that is exploding for its numbers here, and when that would automatically take away the healthcare coverage of some 23 million people! This reflects what partisan politics can lead to when it becomes a goal in and of itself, divorced from any awareness of or interest in real world impact and consequences.
• But what can and should we do, societally? Any valid answers there, will all but certainly cut across any and all of our momentum-driven, blindered partisan divides and the barriers that we seem so eager to protect them with.
• Actually defining and carrying through on a comprehensive new normal that actually addresses the problems that we face here – longstanding ones included, will have elements that are certain to challenge and displease, and with no political party or perspective immune to facing that side of this.
• Actually creating a positive new normal that can work for us societally and without leaving out vulnerable individuals and even entire communities, will call for compromises and accommodations, and open acknowledgement of how it is not some “them,” some “others” who have made this change necessary.
• We have to acknowledge and we have to change and to drive change and even when that means stepping away from our standard as-usuals that have seemingly worked, at least for us.

I write this here in general and even abstract terms. But they only really take on meaning when considered for how they would play out in their details, and in the details faced by real people and real communities and in all of their diversity now. I am going to step back from my usual narrative thread as offered here, in a next installment to this series to raise and discuss some larger questions. And then after that I will return to these issues for the second part discussion of them in a next posting after that.

Meanwhile, you can find my earlier COVID-19 related postings in this series at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 365 and following.

Building a startup for what you want it to become 44: moving past the initial startup phase 30

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on July 20, 2020

This is my 44th installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-43.)

I wrote Part 43 of this series, in effect, as a lead-in to my posing an at-least potential conundrum that the founders and owners of a newly forming business can face, which I repeat here as I begin this posting:

• If you need to market and sell specific products or services, or some combination thereof at at-least some minimum threshold volume of completed transactions
• Before you can generate any significantly scaled positive market sourced responses that could come from that, and with even just a possibility of viral marketing value from that,
• But you need to develop that shared communicating reach in order to generate the sales levels that would make that possible,
• Where and how do you start?
• And what are at least some of the possible best practices approaches that you could deploy and build upon to keep a start there going and growing?

Those questions can apply as much to the context of new businesses that seek to sell more standard products or services, as it does for businesses that seek to offer the new and innovative. And that certainly holds true when a new business that would offer what is basically a more standard product or product line, would have to market and sell that in the face of an opposing name brand loyalty headwind, and when the basic commonality of their core products would make it harder to set them apart from their competition as sources of distinguishing value. Better, more customer appealing price points can help but marketing is still going to be essential there and even when such a manufacturer can show a cost-to-customer advantage.

That contextual point offered, I made note of what would for this blog, be more of a stock response to those questions in Part 43, when citing “social networking strategies and social networker taxonomies in that context” and when going on to mention “gatekeepers and opinion shapers.” And I will couch my response to this challenge as offered here, at least in part in terms of those types of information and opinion shaping and sharing resources. But my goal here is to develop this line of discussion in at least a somewhat new direction.

The obvious, and I add here-repeated part of that is that effective marketing of this type is going to call for actively, positively engaging people into conversations who others connect with and look to, and for both knowledge and insight. This obviously includes interactive social networkers; if you only reach out to and gain supportive messaging from people who no one pays any attention to and who very few even know of, you cannot expect to gain any marketing reach or momentum: any marketing traction from that. So connecting and engaging with an explicit awareness of who you would engage with in that way, and from a social networking taxonomy perspective should be a puzzle piece as you assemble your overall marketing campaigns and their underlying strategy here. And in that regard I cite one of my basic reference work resources on who these people are, at least when considered from the perspective of the basic business and related online social networking approaches that they pursue: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy.

Yes, the more actively and the more effectively engaged of the active networkers cited there are important and certainly where interactive is important in developing anything like viral marketing. That is based in very large part on two-way exchanges and two-way interactive communications and on networks of trust that can be built from that. There, leavening these at least potential conversations by actively bringing in people who are well connected and listened to in the first place, can only help. But this can only serve as a possible starting point enabler. So I turn from it here, to more widely consider the second here-repeated resource identifier text as repeated above: “gatekeepers and opinion shapers.” And I do so by in effect challenging a point that I just made:

Garrison Keillor may have come from a town where every child was above average – and even just there: not just when compared to the averages found in larger outside communities. But his town’s exceptionalism notwithstanding, you cannot find that type of pattern in the real world.
• In this context, I note that genuine viral marketing is by its very nature a mass engagement phenomenon. Only a limited few can ever achieve that 1% most connected status. In fact 99% are guaranteed to miss that mark. And 90% and even 95% of all networkers will miss it very significantly and certainly when social networking follows a Pareto principle distribution and one that is very stringent, with only a fraction of 1% of them genuinely qualifying as super-networkers.
• So viral marketing and the positive message spread that drives it has to be carried out for the most part, by people who are individually much more limited in their active networking reach. And that means multitudes of those networkers who I just all but discarded above “who very few even know of.”

How do you engage large numbers of these more locally acting networkers and locally effective opinion shapers?

The more super-networkers of my above cited social networking taxonomy reference can help to start a wider ranging conversation, but if a sufficient number of the less connected who they share a message on this with, do not bother to pass it on and as an accepted and agreed to positive, their effort will die down and disappear and quickly as everyone moves on to other issues and matters.

How do you engage large numbers of these more locally acting networkers and locally effective opinion shapers? I would offer an at least initial response to that question, as framed by the above points by challenging Marshall McLuhan and stating “… no, sometimes the message is the message, and how it is framed and presented can be more important than where it is presented. Sometimes the medium is not the message. And in fact the medium is only the message when that medium is so new and so publically riveting as such that it becomes a separate message in its own right.”

So I turn here to the core issue of this posting and it is one of shaping whatever message that you and your business would deploy in an attempt to break out of the conundrum challenge that I repeated at the start of this posting.

• Your message should be clear and unambiguous.
• It should be easy to remember, and to be remembered as being your business’ message.
• It should at least ideally, be at least somewhat entertaining, thought provoking or both.
• And it should be short enough so that others will repeat it and without message content mutating changes.

Ideally, it would also be enough of a marketing teaser to bring people who share it and who receive it from others, to go directly to your website and other online presence venues, because of it.

I have not been discussing any of this here in terms of strictly central broadcast, one directional messaging. And I only cite that here and now as a possible, more opportunistically achieved marketing augmentation possibility. One-way opinion sharing that fits a central broadcasting model will not disappear, but my focus here is on the growing and already tremendous reach and strength of the larger community as a message creating and sharing megaphone.

And this brings me to the question of what such a memorable and sharable message would include – and the coordinate issues of what it should not include as well. This brings me to the question and the challenges of developing and sharing a positive message, and the question of what “positive” even means there. I will turn to and address that in a next installment to this series, noting in anticipation of what is to come there that how you say what you say, can be more important – or at least more impactful, than what you say in this. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and at its Page 2 continuation.

China, the United States and the world, and the challenge of an emerging global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – 47

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on July 18, 2020

This is my 52nd posting to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic that we now face and that by now has found its way into essentially every nation on Earth, and into every facet of our lives. And it is also the 47th installment to this specific series on that.

As usual, I begin this installment with newer updates to a set of basic epidemiological findings, sharing more recent globally sourced data as offered by the World Health Organization as to the current overall state of this pandemic:

• July 16 at 01:54 GMT: 13,691,570 reported cases with 5,067,610 currently active, 8,623,960 now closed, and with 59,617 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 586,820 closed cases reported as deaths (7 %)
• July 17 at 01:11 GMT: 13,937,253 reported cases with 5,076,816 currently active, 8,860,437 now closed, and with 59,935 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 591,957 closed cases reported as deaths (7 %)
• July 18 at 01:31 GMT: 14,189,018 reported cases with 5,134,514 currently active, 9,054,504 now closed, and with 60,142 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 599,339 closed cases reported as deaths (7 %)

I offered Part 46 of this series as a digression into the frustration that many now feel, given the way that so many communities and their citizens fail to respond to this pandemic with any care or forethought. That most definitely applies to communities as found across much of the United States, though that nation holds no monopoly on toxically politicizing this crisis and at everyone’s expense.

I wrote of challenges faced there, and concluded that digressive note by saying that I have no real answers as to how to fix the impasse that we all now face from that. And I only add here that any realistic resolution to the challenges that I raised in Part 46, will have to include the voices of a diversity of perspectives, and with participation of people who start out politically motivated towards being COVID-19 deniers included. No one side or group can resolve this challenge on their own, and certainly when it is our failures to communicate and to be able to work together across our divides that are at the heart of our current impasse. And unfortunately, the only way to bring that diversity into a constructive dialog as a first step towards resolving it, would be if one or both of two conditions were first met. And I raise them here in terms of those who are opposed to being forced as they see it, to curtail their rights by having to wear masks, limit face-to-face business activities, stay out of indoor dining restaurants and more:

1. The only way that true ultra-conservatives who now see this as a left wing partisan political hoax, will take any of it seriously enough so that they would be willing to take the measures needed to limit COVID-19’s spread, is if they see with their own eyes what it can do to their own communities and even their own families. That, unfortunately, is already really beginning to happen, and certainly in states like Florida and Texas as already discussed in this series. But even seeing this with their own eyes might not prove to be sufficiently convincing for Trump’s roughly 40% of the voting population: his true believers. Fact based evidence certainly has not convinced him and he still acts and speaks and twitter posts accordingly. And regardless of any conflicting evidence, they still chose to believe in him.
2. So as a second essential requirement here, a voice has to arise that even extremists in denial will have to at least listen to and consider for what they say, who would argue in their terms and in their idiom, a need to social distance, a need to wear masks, and a need to otherwise contain this disease so as to slow and stop its spread. Visible evidence of the success of that approach in New York State: once the hardest hit of all states in the United States for this disease and now the one doing best for it, is not enough. An effective right wing spokesperson for constructive change in how we respond to this disease is going to be needed. But there is no competing voice that Trump’s ultra-conservatives would turn to and accept as their voice now, and I certainly do not see any rising contenders for that either, and anywhere.

So the numbers that I have been reporting in these postings for where we are now, in fighting this globally disease, will continue to go up and up and they will get much worse, and tragically so. This disease will not simply disappear as if by a miracle, as president Trump keeps declaring. And that extrapolation from where we are now will prove true even if the many who have been infected by COVID-19 up to now, and who have become seriously or critically ill from it, or who have died from it up to now, but who have not been counted in any official tallies, are never recognized for what they have endured and even if they are never added into any official counts. The actual numbers will keep going up and so will our more limited, officially confirmed case counts.

And with that, I turn to the news and recently and currently unfolding events as they inform this narrative. And I begin with president Trump as he has become a poster child exemplar of COVID-denial, worldwide, and a shining example of what his type of denial can bring and to so many. (Sorry for the sarcasm, but I do feel a measure of both despair and anger at what he does, and particularly when it is all so self-serving as he seeks reelection and at whatever cost and to however many.)

As president Trump sees things, the only way that he can get reelected, short of being offered even more massive election interference help from Russia than he received in 2016, would be if COVID-19 were to effectively disappear in the United States between now and November. Even he must realize on some level that that is not going to actually happen. So he has decided to take an alternative approach, and make it harder to see the scale of this pandemic in the United States, even if he cannot not actually make it invisible. What has this campaign included? Among other details, I would point to:

1. Reopening everything that he can force or intimidate into reopening and as quickly as possible, so as to restore at least a semblance of normality to the economy and to daily lives, while
2. Demanding a significant reduction in the numbers of diagnostic tests for COVID-19, claiming that they cause the disease.
3. And he has now decided to order all hospitals to stop reporting COVID data to his own government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention: the primary clearing house for gathering, organizing and sharing such data in the country.

I have already discussed the first two of those points in this series, and with references that offer further details to them, so I will focus on the third of them here, as a new elaboration on this developing theme. And I begin doing so by offering these news references:

Trump Administration Strips C.D.C. of Control of Coronavirus Data (which came with this tagline text: “Hospitals have been ordered to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all patient information to a central database in Washington, raising questions about transparency.”)
Trump Administration Orders Hospitals to Bypass CDC in Reporting COVID Data.
Coronavirus Data Has Already Disappeared After Trump Administration Shifted Control From CDC.

The Trump administration claims that it is carrying out this change because the CDC has been up to a week delayed in bringing its incoming data together and reporting it, and that is true. Their technology in place is such that a great deal of the data that comes into their offices from state and local sources, has to be manually entered into their database systems and with all of the delays and all of the opportunities of what should be avoidable data errors that this would bring. But the United States Department of Health and Human Services facility that is supposed to take over this task, is hamstrung in the exact same way and to at least the same degree – and its personnel are not up to speed for carrying out this type of work and at the volume of it involved here. But perhaps more to the point, that new facility for this is being directly, overtly, politically managed insofar as it is being directly hands-on run by Trump appointees who are going to oversee what is brought into their system, how it is going to be organized and labeled there, and how it is going to be shared and with whom. And that has already led to visible gaps in the data that is visible from there.

So the above Point 3 in Trump’s agenda here, is to control the pandemic data and make anything too troublesome in that, to simply disappear from public view – so the disease can too. And if it is not removed per se, it can always be relabeled and “reinterpreted” too.

I have presented Part 46 of this series as a digression, and in a sense it is. But it strikes to the heart of this pandemic and to what is driving it. The virus is a molecularly scaled device that infects and moves on to infect again, and repeat. That is the basis of this pandemic. But what makes this is a pandemic and a still expanding one is entirely in human hands and a matter of how we as vulnerable potential hosts to this virus act, and with that either limiting and stopping that infective spread or enabling it.

• What have we actually learned since the 1918 flu pandemic?
• What, in fact have we learned since the Black Death, or Great Plague as it is also called, of the mid-14th century?
• What have we actually learned from any of our historical plagues or pestilences of the past?

Looking at how many fail in their response to our plague and pestilence of today, a realistic answer to any of those questions should probably begin with “not much.”

And as I keep saying here, the numbers – the real numbers, keep going up and up and up and they will continue to do so and even where it should be the most possible to bring a disease of this type under control.

And with that, I turn to the second, more forward looking portion of this posting where I have as a matter of intention if nothing else, been focusing on possible healthcare and public health oriented new normals to come, as this pandemic ends and becomes history for us.

I began a more detailed discussion in Part 42 of personal medical and related information and its legitimate use, and its legitimate security and access control issues too. But as important as individually sourced, personally identifying information is in this context, it only represents one aspect of a larger and more comprehensive medical information management challenge. Another face to this can be found in healthcare-related business intelligence and in how this pandemic has made that a prime target, and for both private sector, and for state and state sponsored actors. I will focus here on the later of those two general categories and begin with China, as the surreptitious and otherwise irregular acquisition of trade secret and other confidential and proprietary data from business sources has been an ongoing tool for developing their own businesses and industries as they strive to make them world class, competitively.

At least initially looking beyond the confines of medical and related information per se in this, one of their most powerful information acquisition tools can be found in the mandatory technology transfer agreements that so many foreign businesses and types of them have had to enter into, with Chinese counterpart ventures, if they are to be permitted access to China’s vast markets. And a basic pattern can be found in how these agreements play out, that I would illustrate here with a transportation systems example. (I cite this example for its clarity and completeness.)

Currently, the largest manufacturer of railroad rolling stock in the world is the Chinese CRRC Corporation Limited. In 2018, the most recent year for which I have precise numbers, CRRC generated 20.9 billion Euros worth of revenue from sales of rolling stock worldwide. Their closest competitors, Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier generated 8.1, 7.9 and 7.2 billion Euros of revenue during that same period. So CRRC generated 90% as much revenue then, as the combined revenue generation of its three largest and most powerful competitors. For a reference on this, see Leading Rolling Stock Manufacturers in 2018, by Revenue of Rail Activities.

CRRC began as a smaller locally Chinese partner with these three foreign based businesses, and with others in their industry and sector as well. And they all separately teamed up with CRRC under the auspices of China’s legal mandates and government required licensure agreements that included specific technology transfers from them to this, their local Chinese partner business. In return, they were given opportunity to bid for business in China, and with direct access to their market for rail technology for any bid that they could win. And they did make some sales there. And then they ran into the Chinese government’s red tape and all that that added to their costs and both directly monetarily and through the costs of delays. And CRRC ran with this flood of proprietary information, selecting best of breed options and possibilities out of all of it. And they build the best of it into their own separate business line production and sales efforts. They capitalized on every single advancement and on every synergy that they could create from all of that, and with government support that made it possible for them to undercut any and all competing manufacturers for price and both within China and with time, globally as well. So they are the biggest and the most powerful business in this important manufacturing arena now.

That is most definitely not a medical or a pharmaceutical example but it illustrates a number of points that apply much more generally. A first is that China does offer foreign businesses at least a possibility of being able to tap into the revenue and profits possibilities of the largest nationally based marketplace on this planet, and that allure can be overwhelmingly compelling and certainly if a business only thinks short-term there. And the second point that I would raise from this is that China’s government and its Communist Party and its businesses: state run and private sector all included here, work together and ruthlessly in an ongoing effort to capture and dominate business sectors and entire industries, and globally. And they, of course, make use of their technology transfer agreements as a tool for achieving that.

But when approaches for capturing critically important business intelligence through legally framed initiatives such as this cannot be used, state run and state allowed and supported cyber hacking is resorted to as well, and on a vast scale. And with that in mind I turn to a specifically medical and pharmaceutical example that comes directly from the flow of news coming out of this pandemic: COVID-19 vaccination research:

U.S. to Accuse China of Trying to Hack Vaccine Data, as Virus Redirects Cyberattacks. China has been actively involved in this.
U.S. Says Chinese, Iranian Hackers Seek to Steal Coronavirus Research. Iran has been too.
Russia Is Trying to Steal Virus Vaccine Data, Western Nations Say: “The hackers have been targeting British, Canadian and American organizations racing to create coronavirus vaccines.” And so has Russia too.
Russia Trying to Steal COVID-19 Vaccine Data, Say UK, U.S. and Canada: “Hackers backed by the Russian state are trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research from academic and pharmaceutical institutions around the world, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said on Thursday.” And all of this continues, and at a progressively faster pace as research has continued there, and with that leading to there being more critically important information that would be considered to be worth stealing.

And while China, and Russia and Iran have all made reputations for themselves for their state sponsored and supported cyber-espionage activities, it is certain that others are actively involved in this effort too, and certainly given the pressures and imperatives arising from this pandemic. Being a first or even just an early source of an effective vaccination for COVID-19 would be invaluable and in much more than just a strictly monetary sense and for any nation to be able to claim.

Any meaningfully effective new normal, for our healthcare and public health systems has to include effective protection of information that is developed and held by businesses too. And in that regard, I note that:

• The initial distinction that I made here between individual personal medical information and medical intelligence as business knowledge blurs in any real world circumstance, and certainly when it involves vaccination research or similar product development activities. Such data is of necessity replete with individually identifiable medical information about everyone involved in any trials entered into there.
• And that same individualized data challenge arises for businesses that, for example, develop and hold genetic information about their customers, as discussed in Part 42 here, that are not themselves healthcare in nature at all. So this is not just about how the companies that hold this data might use it or intentionally share it with other businesses through licensing or other agreements (e.g. insurance companies to continue with that genetic data example.) It is about cyber-crime vulnerability and its consequences too, where that can have unexpected healthcare and public health impact.

I am going to continue my dual narrative approach to discussing this pandemic in a next installment to this series, in a few days. Meanwhile, you can find my earlier COVID-19 related postings in this series at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 365 and following.

Moore’s law, software design lock-in, and the constraints faced when evolving artificial intelligence 13

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on July 17, 2020

This is my 13th posting to a short series on the growth potential and constraints inherent in innovation, as realized as a practical matter (see Reexamining the Fundamentals 2, Section VIII for Parts 1-11.) And this is also my tenth posting to this series, to explicitly discuss emerging and still forming artificial intelligence technologies as they are and will be impacted upon by software lock-in and its imperatives, and by shared but more arbitrarily determined constraints such as Moore’s law (see Parts 4-12.)

I have for the most part, focused here in this series on electronic computers and on the underlying technologies and their implementations that make them possible. And that has meant my at least briefly addressing the historical sweep of what has been possible and of what has been accomplished in that, and from the earliest vacuum tube computers on to today’s more advanced next generation integrated circuit-driven devices. And I have addressed issues of design and development lock-in there, and in both a software and a hardware context, and Moore’s law as an integrated circuit oriented, seemingly self-fulfilling prognosticator of advancement. Then I shifted directions in Part 12 and began at least laying a foundation for discussing quantum computing as a source of next-step advancement in this still actively advancing history.

I ended Part 12 by offering this to-address list of issues and topics that will arise in this still embryonically forming new computer systems context, adding that I will address them from both a technological and a business perspective:

• A reconsideration of risk and of benefits, and both as they would be viewed from a short-term and a longer-term perspective,
• A reconsideration of how those issues would be addressed in a design and manufacturing context,
• The question of novelty and the challenges it creates when seeking to discern best possible technological development paths forward, where they can be clear when simple cosmetic changes are under consideration, but opaque and uncertain when more profound changes are involved,
• And lock-in and certainly as that becomes both more likely to arise, and more likely to become more limiting as novelty and the unexpected arise.

I begin at least preparing for a discussion of those issues here by offering a more fundamental science and technology perspective on what is involved in this new and emerging next technology advance context. And to put that in a need and demand based perspective, I begin addressing those issues by sharing links to two relevant news-oriented pieces that relate to the current state of development of quantum computing, and a link to a more detail clarifying background article that relates to them:

Google Claims a Quantum Breakthrough That Could Change Computing,
Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor and this piece on
Quantum Supremacy per se, where that represents an at least test-case proof of the ability of a quantum computing device to solve a problem that classical computers could not solve as a practical matter, for how long its resolution would take with them (e.g. seconds to minutes with even just our current early stage quantum computer capabilities, as opposed to thousands to tens of thousands of years with the fastest current supercomputers that we have now.)

Think of the above news story (the first reference there), the research piece that directly relates to that same event (the second reference there), and the detail clarifying online encyclopedia article (the third reference offered there) as representing proof that quantum computing has become a viable path forward for the development of dramatically more powerful new computer systems than have ever been possible.

That noted, quantum computing really is still just in its early embryonic stage of development so we have only seen a faint preliminary glimmer of what will become possible from this advance. And given the disruptive novelty of both this technology and its underlying science, and certainly as that would be applied in anything like this type of context, we cannot even begin to imagine yet, how these devices will develop.

• Who, looking at an early generation vacuum tube computer could have imagined anything like a modern cutting edge, as of this writing, solid state physics based supercomputer, of the type so outpaced now in the above cited benchmark test?

And with that noted for orientation purposes if for no other reason, I turn to consider quantum computing per se, starting with some here-relevant quantum physics. And that means starting with at least a few of the issues that arise in the context of quantum indeterminacy as that plays a central role in all quantum computer operations.

Let’s consider the well known but perhaps less understood metaphorical example of Schrödinger’s 50% of the time more than just maligned cat.

• A cat is put in a box with a radioisotope sample that has a 50% chance of producing one radioactive decay event in a given period of time. And if that happens, that will trigger a mechanism that will kill the cat. Then after exactly that 50% chance, interval of time has passed, the box is opened and the cat is removed from it, and with a 50% chance of it still being alive and a 50% chance of it now being dead.
• According to the principles of quantum indeterminacy, the condition of that cat is directly, empirically known as a fixed matter going into this “experiment.” The probability of that condition pertaining then and there as a valid empirical truth is 100%. The cat starts out alive. And when the box is opened at the end of this wait, its condition is once again directly, empirically known too, whatever it is. And once again, the probability of that condition, whether alive or dead can be empirically set at 100%, as a known, valid and validated truth. But the condition of that cat is both unknowable and undetermined while it is locked inside that box. And that last detail: the indeterminacy of that cat’s condition while in the box, is the crucially important detail here, and both for how this narrative applies to quantum physics per se and for how it applies in this specific context. And that most-crucial detail is also where this is least understandable.

Is the cat close to 100% alive and just a fraction over 0% dead immediately after the box is closed, with those condition specifying percentages “equilibrating” to 50% and 50% just as the box is opened? Mathematically at least, that is what the basic rules of quantum indeterminacy would specify. But that description just serves as an attempt to force fit classical physics and related scientific expectations and terminology into a context in which they do not actually apply. Those terms: dead and alive apply in a pre- and a post-experiment context where the condition probabilities are empirically resolved at 100%. They do not in fact hold meaning while the cat is in a here-assumed quantum indeterminate state.

Now let’s take this same pattern of reasoning and apply it to a circuit element, or rather its equivalent, that would manipulate a qubit, or quantum bit of data in carrying out a calculation in a quantum computer. Going into that calculation, that piece of data might have a known or at least knowable precise 0 or 1 value. And the same applies when this calculation step is completed. Think of those states as representing the classically observable states that that cat is in, immediately before and after its “experiment.” But the value of that qubit can best be thought of as a probabilistically shaped and determined smear of possible values that range from 0 to 1 while that calculation step is actually taking place.

What is the information carrying capacity of a qubit? The basic answer is one bit, though it is possible to pack two bits into a single qubit using a process called superdense coding. But that, crucially importantly only represents the information capacity inherent to a qubit outside of that in-between indeterminacy period when that calculation step is actually being carried out. Then, during that period of time, the actual functional information carrying capacity of a qubit becomes vastly larger from the vastly larger range of possible values that it in effect simultaneously holds. And that is where and when all quantum computer calculations take place and that is where those devices gain their expansively increased computational power – where that is a function of the speed at which a calculation takes place and a function of the actual volume of information processed during those involved time intervals.

I have to admit to having been in a mental state that is somewhat equivalent to a quantum indeterminacy here, as I have been thinking through how to proceed with this posting Part of me has wanted to in effect dive down an equivalent of Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole and into some of the details buried under this largely – if still briefly stated metaphorical explanation. Part of me has wanted to keep this simple and direct, and even if that means leaving out areas of discourse that I at least find endlessly fascinating, and with discussions of Dirac notation and linear algebra and of Hilbert space and vectors in it – sorry, but I mention this for a reason here and even when I have chosen to follow the second of those two paths forward from here.

• Quantum computing and the basic theory behind it, and the emerging practice of it too, involve very long and very steep learning curves, as they contain within them a veritable flood of the unfamiliar to most, and of the disruptively New to all.
• And that unavoidable, 100% validatable truth will of necessity shape how the four to-address bullet points that I started this posting with and that I will discuss in detail, will be generally understood, let alone acted upon.

I repeat those topics points here, noting that my goal for this posting was to at least begin to address the technological side to quantum computing, in order to at least start to set a framework for thinking about them as they would arise in real world contexts:

• Where I will offer a reconsideration of risk and of benefits, and both as they would be viewed from a short-term and a longer-term perspective in this new and emerging context,
• A reconsideration of how those considerations would be addressed in a design and manufacturing context,
• The question of novelty and the challenges it creates when seeking to discern best possible technological development paths forward, where they can be clear when simple cosmetic changes are under consideration, but opaque and uncertain when more profound changes are involved,
• And lock-in and certainly as that becomes both more likely to arise, and more likely to become more limiting as novelty and the unexpected arise.

I will at least begin to more explicitly address these points and their issues starting in a next series installment. Meanwhile, here are two excellent reference works for anyone who would like to delve into the details, or at least a lot more of them than I have offered here (where I only skirted the edge of that rabbit hole in this posting):

• Bernhardt, C. (2019) Quantum Computing for Everyone. MIT Press.
• Hidary, J.D. (2019) Quantum Computing: an applied approach. Springer.

The author of the first of those book references claims that they should be understandable to anyone who is willing to put in some work on this, who is comfortable with high school mathematics. It makes use of linear algebra and a few other topic areas that are not usually included there, but it does not assume any prior knowledge of them. The second of those books uses more advanced mathematics and it presumes prior experience in them of its readers. But it goes into corresponding greater depth of coverage of this complex and fascinating topic too.

• Both books delve into issues such as quantum entanglement that are crucially important to quantum computing and to making it possible, so I do offer these references for a reason. And crucially importantly to this discussion, and as a perhaps teaser to prompt further reading, it is quantum entanglement that in effect connects a quantum computer together, so that the calculations carried out qubit- by-qubit in it can be connected together in carrying out larger and more complex calculations than any single information processing element (as touched upon above) could manager or encompass on its own, and no matter how it is recurringly used.
• And both books at least begin to address the issues of quantum computational algorithms and that is where the there-undefined mathematical terms that I cited in passing above come into this.
• All quantum computational algorithms function by shaping the probability distributions of possible values that can arise between that 0 and that 1 in an indeterminate state. And that is described in terms of mathematical machinery such as linear algebra and Hilbert space theory. And as all of the data that would be processed in or created by the execution of those algorithms, tends to be expressed in terms of Dirac notation, or bra–ket notation as it is also called, that actually becomes quite important here too.

Setting aside this set of references for the moment, and my at least attempted argument in favor of looking deeper in the technology side of quantum computing through them, or through similar resources, I add that you can find this posting and this series and related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3. And also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I also include this in my Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 directory as topics Section VIII. And you can also find further related material in its Page 1 directory listing too.

When the simplest is not the most expected: rethinking Occam’s razor in light of disruptive change

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 16, 2020

We all tend to slip into ruts, following patterns of behavior that have worked for us up to now, and that we pretty much automatically assume will continue to work for us and effectively so, moving forward. And that can be reasonable and even most of the time.

That approach does not in and of itself at least, account for the possibility that circumstances and needs can shift and evolve over time, bringing what has been routine into a progressively less and less effective focus for what it can accomplish now. So it is always important to carry out at least regularly recurring reality check reviews and evaluations that would consider updates there. But gradual and evolutionary arise over time and they can more usually be accommodated in that type of standardized planning framework. And then the emergently disruptive arises and seemingly out of nowhere. And those more usual routines can break down or even become fundamentally irrelevant.

Consider routine bricks and mortar business processes and face-to-face sales transactions and other critical functionalities here. Routines are established and followed and even precisely so, and for valid due diligence and risk management reasons. And things proceed smoothly and easily, or at least relatively easily with that. There are always going to be situations where exception handling processes and escalations in who would manage them and carry them out, have to be resorted to. Good managers know that from time to time, they will be called upon to resolve problems and even when the basic systems in place are very effective for mainstreaming most everything done according to those standard operating procedures.

But then the disruptively novel arises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic that we now all face. And businesses are shuttered, at least as bricks and mortar, face-to-face interaction enterprises. And suddenly any and all business activity that would be done through them, has to be carried out remotely and online. And most of the businesses that suddenly find themselves facing that new approach to how they operate, and as an absolute imperative if they are to continue, have absolutely no experience doing anything like that and even just on a reduced business activity scale.

• What aspects of their pre-disruptive old normal, translate from face-to-face to remote-and-online, and at least relatively directly so?
• What can be done to smoothly make those transitions work?
• And what has to be completely reframed and even replaced in order to achieve the same goals that those old normals would be expected to achieve?

The more disruptively novel a challenge, the more widely impactful its reach in how it forces a need for such change. And a challenge like COVID-19 forces change essentially everywhere in a business, for how it functions and both internally, and as it connects to its customers and market, and as it works with its suppliers and other supply chain partners. And this brings me to the specific issues that I raise in the title to this posting.

Occam’s razor can be thought of as a rule of thumb that is much more commonly found to hold true than false, according to which a simplest explanation or approach is more likely to be the best. And when couched entirely in terms of causal explanations, the word true is usually used there. But what is simplest and where should you look for it?

When all is going as expected, in a normative ongoing way, and when business as usual is de facto presumable for its representing that business at its (at least near) best, answering that is easy. That question in effect becomes:

• What is simplest when the standard operating procedures, understandings and expectations that are in place are held up as if a gold standard?

The first thing that genuinely disruptive change does is to throw away those gold standard benchmarks and the performance scales that they would be built around. And the more disruptive a change that has to be accommodated and worked around, the more likely it is going to be that at least some of the key simplests that you need to think and plan in terms of, are going to be disruptively new and novel too.

Simple and simplest can still be best, and certainly when that means reorienting and restarting in a new emergent context would be easier and faster from pursuing them. But seeing and understanding what that functionally best simplest actually is, can be a challenge in and of itself. And the businesses that can accomplish this first, will gain a first mover advantage for their being better able to function in this new working environment and both more effectively and faster for that. And when they start accomplishing this earlier then their competition can, they will be in a better position to begin to fine tune and optimize from their first-take and early new normal efficiencies too, so this need not just be a short term and initial advantage.

The key to all of this is in starting out by questioning what simple and direct mean, and with a focus on how changing needs and circumstances have redefined them for your business. And that often means starting with the fundamentals and the basic business model in place and working out from there.

So I offer this as a cautionary note update for businesses that suddenly face a need to make accommodating change, in response to what for them might even be an emerging existential crisis – as is the case for many businesses facing COVID-19. Don’t try to simply, or simplistically reach for an older, pre-disruptive change understanding of what to do next, as an easy and comfortably familiar approach to responding to the disruptive new reality that you face. Don’t limit yourself to a quick ad hoc resolution there; look at this strategically and with its possible and its likely immediate and longer term consequences – and opportunities in mind.

You can find this and related material at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

China, the United States and the world, and the challenge of an emerging global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – 46

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on July 15, 2020

This is my 50th posting to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic that we now face and that by now has found its way into essentially every nation on Earth, and into every facet of our lives. And it is also the 46th installment to this specific series on that.

As usual, I begin this installment with newer updates to a set of basic epidemiological findings, sharing more recent globally sourced data as offered by the World Health Organization as to the current overall state of this pandemic:

• July 14 at 01:40 GMT: 13,235,751 reported cases with 4,963,845 currently active, 8,271,906 now closed, and with 58,881 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 575,525 closed cases reported as deaths (7 %)
• July 15 at 02:06 GMT: 13,457,458 reported cases with 5,029,011 currently active, 8,428,447 now closed, and with 59,579 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 581,221 closed cases reported as deaths (7 %)

I have as a general pattern here, divided the vast majority of these postings into two sections with a first of them focusing on more here-and-now issues related to this pandemic and the disease that has created it. The second of those two posting sections has then dealt with longer-term issues and with a focus on what might come after this pandemic as our new normals take shape and become our new routine realities. But the two are inextricably interconnected as the range of possibilities that can even be considered in any new normal future, will of necessity be grounded in our here-and-now and in how our current expectations, plans and actions work out. And our here-and-now in that, and its possibilities are equally constrained by the basic, unconsidered, axiomatic assumptions and presumptions that we bring to the table with us. And certainly when they are grounded in all but religiously held ideological partisanship, they are likely going to be very resistant to change, and regardless of the depth and significance of any reality checks that COVID-19 and it emerging details might raise. In that regard, to be more specific here, the types of epidemiological numbers: the types of factual empirical data that I repeat here in these postings, do not necessarily matter.

So a great deal of the first part of each of this series’ postings has been about how we societally, and both intranationally and internationally, have failed here. A great deal of this first part narrative progression in this series has been about the Why of our all seeing such rapidly expanding numbers, and for all of the types of epidemiological metrics that I keep citing here at the start of these postings.

But let’s take that out of the abstract and with some specific national details, to more fully illustrate at least what this means as our emerging new reality in this more here-and-now context. So I continue my first part of posting narrative here, today, starting with the World Health Organization’s most recent data, as sourced to them from the United States. Note: I turn to that organization rather than the US CDC to ensure that these numbers and the above cited global ones would be equally current, making more direct comparisons between them more valid. And with that, here are the United States totals for the same date and time as offered globally, above:

• July 15 at 02:06 GMT: 3,545,077 reported cases with 1,805,739 currently active, 1,600,195 now closed, and with 16,337 active in serious or critical condition (1 %), and 139,143 closed cases reported as deaths (9 %)

I have been doing a great deal of thinking as to the why of this, and both for how self-destructive partisanship is shaping our response to this disease and in so many places, and for how mounting evidence keeps proving how self-destructive, so much of that really is. Wearing protective face masks and social distancing are just partisan political rhetoric from a liberal left and from extremists of that ilk? Telling people that they should not congregate in large numbers in enclosed places such as indoor dining restaurants and bars, and certainly where disease containment and other efforts to prevent viral spread are not possible there, is just a callous challenge to freedom and personal liberty? And the numbers keep going up and up and up and particularly when many in an area would answer those questions with “Yes!” And the state of Florida, to cite just one possible cautionary warning example here, has now seen several single day increases in their total number of COVID-19 positive cases of 15,000 and more.

Yes, a significant and growing number of states that are now seeing massive second waves, have begun pulling back from their quick and unconsidered first reopening attempts. But on a federal level, the Trump administration is still demanding that all schools reopen as normal, and with full classrooms, in the Fall in a few short months, and regardless of the number of new cases, or the numbers of serious and critical cases of this disease, or of deaths from it. The United States as a whole is entering a massively scaled second wave for COVID-19 infections that has already dwarfed the first and it is still rising. And president Trump has now more or less officially declared that internationally renowned experts on infectious disease and epidemiology, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci are his political enemies for challenging him on his opinions and decisions.

Florida is not alone in what it is going through now, and neither is the United States as a whole. But both have been trend setters for how negative consequences can arise and expand outward, in a situation such as the one we face now with this pandemic.

This addresses something of the Why and I add the How of this crisis, at least for how it has proven impossible in the United States to in any way step out ahead of it. What can we do to in any real way correct that problem? That is a lot more difficult to even begin to answer.

At least in principle, we need to find a way as a society, to be a society again and not just an assortment of self-isolating groups whose members see other groups there, and their members as being evil for their being different. I keep going back in my thinking about that side to this challenge, to a posting that I first offered here early in the 2016 Republican Party nominations process, leading up to that year’s national election: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. We are divided because we do not, and seemingly cannot talk with each other, and with emphasis there on “with.” We talk past each other when we seek to communicate across our boundaries and barriers at all. And how can we come together to face and resolve a national crisis when we are divided that way, and when we cannot act together as if we were still a single nation at all?

• If a crisis like a global pandemic, ravaging our nation cannot bring us together, what can?

We are most certainly not going to come together as a single people while Donald Trump is still serving as president. But even if Joseph Biden is elected in November, and even if he wins that election overwhelmingly and with his party taking control of both houses of the US Congress, that in and of itself cannot resolve this impasse. And that is because Trump is not a cause here. His election and the fact that his base remains loyal to him no matter what he says or does, simply verifies a truth that should already be well known. Trump is a symptom here and not a cause. So what can we do about that? How can we heal that festering wound so we can deal with our larger shared problems, this pandemic included?

I cannot offer any answers to these questions, but see a need to raise them here as they and the challenges that they represent underlie all that I write of here, as the United States and its citizens would deal with this pandemic.

And with that, I end this admittedly digression of a posting and with a goal of returning to the narrative threads that I intended to pursue here, as I ended Part 45. I will turn to that dual here-and-now, and what-comes-next discussion in a next installment here, in a few days. Meanwhile, you can find my earlier COVID-19 related postings in this series at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 365 and following.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 35: a second round discussion of general theories as such, 10

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on July 14, 2020

This is my 35th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-25 and its Page 2 continuation, Section IX for Parts 26-34.)

I have been successively discussing three closely interrelated topics points and their ramifications in this series since Part 31, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. Provide a brief discussion of the generality of axioms, and of how a theory elaboration can lead to reconsideration of the axioms underlying it, where that can lead to accepted axioms already in place, now being reconsidered as special cases of more general principles,
2. Adding, subtracting and modifying such axioms in general, and
3. The whole issue of consistency, and even just within constrained sets of axioms. And I will frame that discussion at least in part, in terms of outside data, insofar as that makes these theories open – and with a reconsideration of what evolutionary and disruptive mean there.

And as part of that still ongoing line of discussion, I have been addressing its Point 3 since Part 34. And to bring this preliminary orienting note up to date as a start to this posting and its discussion, I concluded that installment by stating that I would address the following more derivative points here, doing so in light of what I have been offering in response to Points 1 and 2 and my start to addressing the above Point 3 as well:

• Reconsider the issues of consistency and completeness, in light of the impact created by disruptive and seemingly disruptive examples, as for example raised in Part 33 (with its Higgs field example) and Part 34 (with its three physics sourced examples.)
• This will include, as noted in Part 34, my addressing the challenge of direct and indirect testing of potentially validatable assertions that would fit into an open general theory, and what those terms actually mean in practice: direct, indirect and validatable.
• Yes, that will mean reconsidering my Higgs boson/Higgs field physics example from Part 33 again too. And I will also mean my further considering what evolutionary and disruptive mean: terms and concepts that I have made at least case-by-case level use of throughout this blog. And I will also, of necessity connect back in that to my discussion of compendium theories as discussed in this series in its Parts 2-8.

And with that offered as orientation for what is to follow, I begin with the first of those three to-address topics points and with a bipartite distinction that I made in Part 34 as to how issues such as theory consistency could be considered: as overall and (at least ideally) all-inclusive body of theory spanning determinations, or as case-by-case determinations.

• For a closed axiomatic body of theory such as Euclidean geometry, any such effort, as conceived on a more strictly case-by-case, derivative theorem basis would be grounded entirely upon deductive analytical reasoning, and with a goal of determining adherence to and consistency with the set of underlying axioms in place.
• For an open axiomatic body of theory that begins with such an axiomatic framework but that also allows in (and even requires) outside evidentiary support such as experimental or other empirically sourced data, inductive reasoning becomes essential too – and the starting axioms that might be in place as this evidence is brought in, can be as subject to challenge as any newly proposed derivative theorem or lemma would be.

For purposes of this phase of this overall narrative, I simply point to closed bodies of theory for purposes of what might be considered simplest case comparison, as overall theories of physics, or of business, or of any other such empirically grounded reality are by their very nature, open. And that is where change and disruptive change enters this, where they might arise as a matter of planned intention and as conceived innovation, or without such a priori intention (even if inevitably so and as a result of a “law of unintended consequences.”)

What do simple change and disruptive change mean in this context? I would argue that the most salient general point of distinction between them lies in where they shed light on and differ from the routinely expected and predicted.

• Simple change does not challenge underlying theory, even if it can, or at least should be able to provoke the bringing of theory implementation into focus and even into question. For a physics example of this, I point to the so called paradox of radiation of charged particles in a gravitational field, as discussed in Part 34 (which at the very least had simple change elements to it.) For a business example, I would cite essentially any more-minor business process adjustment, as for example might become necessary if a manufacturer has to change where or how they source some essential supply that would go onto their own products and their production. This obviously does not in any way challenge basic underlying business theory. It most probably would not challenge that enterprise’s basic business model in place or its strategic or operational planning either – unless that is, this now needed change and any realistic accommodations to it would of necessity have disruptive consequences.
• But genuinely disruptive change, and certainly as an extreme for that, can challenge everything. In a physics context consider the accumulation of repeatedly verified and validated experimental findings that were both incompatible with classical physics and even incomprehensible to it, that led to the development of quantum physics. For a business and I add an economics context, consider the advent of electronic computers, and certainly as they transitioned from being rare “not for here” curiosities into their becoming ubiquitous business necessities – and for how that qualitatively transformed the role of and even the nature of information in a business context. Read something of business theory from right before World War II, and from today and look at the difference and at how much of that difference is explicable in information collection, organization, and usage terms.

And this leads me to two observational points, the first of which might be more obvious than the second and particularly for anyone who has been following this blog:

• The truly disruptive can raise red flags in how it sheds questioning spotlights on what was established theory. But it can be better at that than it is at presenting alternatives to those now-old and outdated understandings. Once again, consider quantum physics, or at last its early states where it was agreed to that those new and disruptive experimental findings were valid, but where there was no consensus as to what they collectively meant – no consensus or anything like it as to how they should be interpreted or understood, or of how a new generally stated axiomatically grounded weltanschauung could best be developed around them.
• And this old foundation-breaking without a corresponding at-least quickly following new foundation-making, can only lead to the arising of a (hopefully productive) compendium theory next step that would offer localized explanatory and predictive theory for specific types of disruptive outside data findings, that would at least hopefully serve as puzzle pieces for developing a new more general axiomatically grounded foundation around.

Note that while I have been discussing the above Point 3 here, I have also been explicitly discussing Points 1 and 2 here as well; they cannot in practice be separated from each other in any meaningful discussion of any of them.

And with this, I return again to my Higgs field example of Part 33. What axiomatic assumptions does the presumption of this mechanism for conveying the Higgs force carry with it, aside from the perhaps more obvious ones of its being selected and framed so as to be as consistent as possible with already established particle physics and related theory, and (hopefully) with a mainstream understanding of general relativity too? I have already cited one other axiomatic assumption in passing, with the notion of this serving as a reprise of the old theory of an aether for conveying the electromagnetic force. (OK, photons as force conveying boson particles do not need or use that type of mechanism, by maybe Higgs bosons do …. See this piece on the Michelson–Morley Experiment.)

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will continue addressing the issues raised in the first three bullet points of this posting, with a continued focus that is (as here) largely aimed at the above-repeated topics Point 3. And I will continue addressing that, with Point 1 and 2 diversions, in terms of the three derivative topics points that I offered here. And with business theory and business practice in mind as I prepare to do so, I finish this posting by posing a few basic questions, the first of which is a reprise from the first general theory discussion of this series of its Parts 2-8:

• If a general theory, or rather an attempt to develop and organize one remains in effect, in perpetual turmoil from the consistent ongoing arising of the disruptively new and unexpected and from all directions,
• Does that effectively preclude any real emergence from a compendium model overall understanding there with the development of an overarching axiomatically grounded general theory?
• And what does this mean as far as overall body of theory consistency and completeness are concerned?

Addressing those questions will bring me directly into a discussion of the second of those derivative bullet-pointed topics, and a more detailed consideration of:

• Direct and indirect testing of potentially validatable assertions that would fit into an open general theory, and what those terms actually mean in practice: direct, indirect and validatable.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there.

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