Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Start-ups and puzzles.

I think I am a detail person. I can get lost in details, making sure that everything is just the way it should be. Even the innocuous areas are covered and catered for.
Then I like to step back, often before I have finished the task in hand too. I step back to gain a glint of context. To make sure that the perspective is right, and this is when I go a little crazy.
One by one, I see the related tasks pop into view. All require and deserve the care and attention that I have been giving my current task. I see it all and know that it is an incredulous task. Not merely daunting but soul shattering.

Slightly over the top, I’m sure I am however this can often stop me in my tracks.
Why though should it affect me this way? It’s a common problem surely? Undoubtedly it is, I’m just not sure I accept the common solution for the common problem.
A mammoth task is normally always broken down into smaller and smaller ‘bite size’ chunks to make the task more palatable. Sure, this is a fine solution and will always have application. If one person takes control, they can easily maintain perspective, and easily step out of the problem and make sure they are still on track.
The problem I have is when it gets to that next stage, when it becomes too much for one person. The chunks seem to get smaller and smaller the more complex the overall task and before you know it the context is thoroughly lost.

I think an example of this is something we have been seeing a lot of recently. I’m thinking about when a small start-up rapidly surpasses a massive corporation. I believe that a corporation gets so diluted that it can no longer see the complete problem. At which point it takes a small start-up to identify the problem that the corporation are not addressing and solve it quickly. They are in a position where the context is fresh on their mind. Everyone is eager to make a difference and they know their piece of the puzzle intimately and know that once it is complete, how it will fit with the rest. The main problem after the start-up is established is of course to stay on top. Often with the shear weight of that task the new kids on the block can fall apart. Perhaps that’s a discussion for another day?
Can you think of a time when a problem has been broken down so far that its constituent pieces can no longer be related to each other?

Yours, whilst trying to perfect pesky puzzle pieces,


PS: not all tasks overwhelm me like that, just sometimes I feel the delay whilst I try to process it all…

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Happiness as a Statistic

I heard a statistic the other day that frightened me. Well, frightened me more than the standard obligatory fear you get when you hear any statistic. The frightening number was that around 30 million Americans suffer from depression and that’s only the ones that are being prescribed Prozac, Valium and the other happy pills. There is also a very similar percentage of ‘depressed’ people in the UK as well; two countries that are meant to be on the forefront of economic growth.
Although this fact is scary in of itself, the scarier thought is that is appears to be hip to talk about happiness at the moment. Governments, sociologists, bloggers, economists all have something to say about it.
What I am worried about is that scientists are starting to understand what a happy brain should look like, the patterns in static that indicate elation. What worries me is that we could get the wrong end of the stick and prod and poke our brains chemically, sonically or physically to bend the waves from a sad face to a happy one. Happiness from the inside out if you will. Not in a Buddhist way of course, in a cold utilitarian way.
I just think of the Philip K. Dick conceived box that enabled you to dial in an emotion. ‘Please press one for happiness, press two for depression, press three for love…’ In a world where psychiatrists hand out anti-depressants like the Easter bunny hands out Easter eggs, this is surely the next step.
In a pessimistic way I wonder if happiness becomes another statistic that governments are rated on what route we will take. Will we download the emotion of the day through our technological gadget of the moment? Will we have a Monday pill which makes us forget the weekend happened and makes work the most exciting thing to happen to us? Will we opt for the artificial Orwellian future?

Press one you say?


Sunday, 16 January 2011

How vs Why

As I sit here and contemplate the universe... Well I don't do it all the time, though it is always fun to rationalise the world and I don't suppose I have gotten to the Universe yet. They tell me its big?

Right, subject mater: Ever wonder how a thoroughly educated individual can be utterly and unabashedly stupid?
Well, my thoughts on it boiled down to the following. Like the universe, the world is big and like the universe, the world is populated by many congealed masses. As one of those congealed masses in this world, strewn out amongst , it is very easy to feel small.
Faced with the enormity of the world like this an individual (I know I do this) will break down the infinite variables and possibilities into manageable chunks, and they will do this in such a way as to make it as easy as possible. The less time it takes them to get what they want out of one chunk, is more time they can spend on other chunks.
None of what I have said so far is bad, or even a hairs breadth from a sane way to deal with it all. The problem I have, comes from what a person does to break it all down.

Here I talk about the difference from seeing cause and affect, and knowing what relates the two.

An example! To add context to my blabbering... A simple one is using a TV remote. Most people understand that if you press buttons on the remote, the TV reacts. However not many people understand why it works.
Obviously in this situation the difference between understanding these two is not so profound. The off button makes Trisha go away or the off button transmits and infrared signal to the TV receiver which cuts the power.

Another! I see this still, and I have seen it a lot. College students are faced with many questions. About what they want to do with their life, whats the next step for them, what's the meaning of life... etc. And in the face of so many questions it is difficult to give any of them the time they deserve. So one important question they ask is 'How do I get a good job?' They know that they want to do something with their lives but they don't know what. However, when they look at the world around them, they see that educated people, with degrees, masters, PHDs all seem to have the good jobs and more answers than questions. So there you have the answer, if you want a good job, you need to go to University. That is the inevitable 'How' the darkside. The shortcut that can lead to so many problems. It is such an easy route that I do not blame anyone for going down it, it is just a shame that it is so dangerous. Again, I should add, that not all people come to this conclusion.

Faced with the quick answer to 'How,' what reason is there to ask 'Why?' Especially when answering a why question is so much harder and takes so much more time
So they go to Uni, come out with a degree (mostly) and then face the world, expecting a job, expecting to be experts, expecting answers. Funnily enough, none will come that easy. Going to Uni has posed more questions for them, to which they have asked how to get around them rather than why.
How do they get a good grade? Tick the boxes for what gives you points towards grade.
Why do they do this? Because it is far easier than truly understanding the depths of the field they are learning.

I think that it is so important to always try to understand why. Not only because actually understanding the way one thing works will enable you to understand another more fully but also because it will give you so much more.

I'm sure there are many examples people can think of where either they, or people around them have settled for how over why.

Yours, still asking why,

Victor Blemish