In search of excellence

Added on by Bill.

There is a tendency of the human species to analyze to the finest level of detail. Just watch a golf game on TV and you will see numerous replays of the professional's golf swing with the identification of and commentary on each nuance. No doubt this tendency is a result of evolution; our forefathers that correctly assessed a situation were more likely to survive it (golf swings excluded).

So it was with interest I read the article Emotion robots learn from people on BBC.COM:

"The human emotional world is very complex but we respond to simple cues, things we don't notice or we don't pay attention to, such as how someone moves," said Dr Canamero, who is based at the University of Hertfordshire.

It made me wonder where this would lead. First, an enumeration of the cues. Then an assessment of these cues in terms of their meaning. Some refinement of that interpretation to include context. Followed by the specification of appropriate responses to those context-sensitive meanings, then programming of the robots, some lab testing, further refinement of the algorithms, leading to productization resulting in a broader set of data and more refinement leading to another product cycle. And then what will be hailed Robot 2.0.


Is that the end? No. Then will come the HBR articles and management books enumerating all the cues and appropriate responses. These will, of course, be based on studies of the employees of various leading companies and demonstrate without doubt the benefits. Then will come the round of courses on how to identify these in our employees so we can better understand and respond; to improve our annual employee satisfaction assessments.

The processing of cues will have emerged from our subconscious to frontal-lob processing enabling one to apply formal training to generate tuned and consistent responses to each cue.

How did we get this far :)

The decision maker

Added on by Bill.

Bush recently declared himself the decision maker. Jon Stewart countered that voters are the decision makers. Obviously a difference of opinion, but was one right? Was one wrong? My train of thought went through the following sequence:

The voting public made their decision and elected Bush. Leaders are elected to make decisions. So there's truth in both points of view, but there is also a sequence to these decisions and a transfer of responsibility that comes with expectations.

A leader is constrained by his mandate, the system of laws and the opposition (or checks and balances).

The mandated authority, and the direction decisions are made, is defined essentially by the party platform and the promises made. If decisions are made outside the mandate then it is up to the opposition to raise the question. In such instances the Leader can ignore, compromise or give in. The voter gets to conclude the question the next time the Leader is up for election.

Party platform: provides a principles-based framework in which decisions are made. Put alternatively, the voter can expect that all decisions made will align with the principles. Some people will vote for a party regardless of who the candidate is, primarily because they support the party principles and/or do not support the principles of the other parties. This is a reasonable basis of voting.

Specific promises: sometime candidates will make specific promises, either at a national or local level, generally driven by some issue. Sometimes people will respond to these promises and cast their vote accordingly. This is also reasonable, especially when the party platforms are indistinguishable in the eyes of the voter (and the promised outcomes are).

Party leader: the role of the party leader is to articulate the platform (principles), and apply them to current issues (thus to some extent is related to the previous point). The leader is also the face of the party, and this is where we get into the charisma and charm; the emotional side of an election. The substantive element of the leader is in the former role: interpreting and applying the principles to current issues. It is up to the voter to determine if the interpretation is acceptable or not and then vote accordingly. Voting by leader is reasonable if the principles of the alternative parties the voter would be willing to support are sufficiently close, in their mind.

Track record: this is essentially a question of whether the party has made decisions consistent with their platform, principles and or promises. Inconsistencies will no doubt be raised by the opposition, and thus are intended to establish a foundation of mistrust: "while you may agree with their principles and promises, you can't actually trust them to carry them out." There certainly is validity in raising questions of trust, especially when it is policy or principles related. When it comes to character flaws or other indirect reasons one must be careful as when all parties are painted as untrustworthy then the whole process is degraded.

During the mandate the government may look to the polls for guidance. A government that makes decisions by poll, and when such decisions conflict with their principles and promises, is abrogating their responsibility. Having said that most platforms are sufficiently vague that in practice they have some level of flexibility.

In the case of Bush, he is in his last term and apparently has little concern for the future of the party for which he stands and therefore is willing to take actions without consideration to their impact on the party. As such he has made decisions, right or wrong, and is executing them. That is his right. If there is a concern over his course of action then it is up to the opposition to fulfill its role and ensure that the leader plays within the legal framework. A government is an organization of laws, not of a man. If the man is unconstrained in undertaking inappropriate actions then it may be a failure in the system of laws. Or it could be the checks and balances put in place are not enforced.

Experiments in Kinetic Photography

Added on by Bill.

In a recent entry I talked about the photographic technique [called camera tossing] of purposely blurring pictures for effect. I had the opportunity to try out the less risky cousin [called kinetic photography] at the basketball game the other day.

The arena offered a lot of lights that I thought might offer some interesting shapes. Going over the results, my conclusion is no. Now the question is that due to the environment or my skill. However, I did get one shot, quite luckily no doubt. I was fortunate enough to be able to keep the subject in focus (or close to it) yet blur the background.