Weekly Download 15.20

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Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Gene Amdahl, Pioneer of Mainframe Computing, Dies at 92 pays tribute to the “father” of the IBM System/360 line of mainframes. My early career started in large mainframe environment, which was my first significant exposure to technology. In fact, the name of this blog “ZMAB15” represents my first username in the work environment, for a VM Machine running on an IBM System/360 mainframe.

Attention, Addiction, and Technology delves into what happens when we give technology too much importance and lose harmony and balance as a result.

“We have become so obsessed with technology — particularly in its digital form — we have forgotten the primacy of purpose, the importance of compassionate action taken with flesh and bone. Instead, we seem to seek only distraction from the challenges (and yes, the ugliness) of the real world, and to embrace instead a virtual world where we are queens and kings and constantly pleasured.”

I Don’t Own, I Uber provides one individual’s comparison of the costs of owning a car vs. using Uber as your primary transportation. My two millennial daughters interested in big city living intuitively understand the convenience of not owning a car. I, too, lived in Chicago for seven years before purchasing a car. I believe this shifting model is here to stay. What other large purchase items, which are frequently viewed as a right of passage, might be better to rent rather than own?

This article’s title speaks for itself: 7 Drawings to make you feel better.


The Mad Feast

Mad Feast mech.inddMy wife and I have had season tickets to the American Players Theater for many years. In mid-November we were heading to Spring Green to catch one of the plays and decided to stop on the way at Arcadia Books for an author reading from The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food.

Here’s how the event was billed:

“Following his critically acclaimed Preparing the Ghost, renowned essayist Matthew Gavin Frank takes on America’s food in a richly illustrated culinary tour of the United States through fifty signature dishes, and a radical exploration of our gastronomic heritage.”

Some of the state dishes that are profiled in the book include deep-dish pizza (Illinois), hummingbird cake (Alabama) and, of course, bratwurst (Wisconsin). Frank was a passionate and engaging speaker and we enjoyed his quirky writing style (the passage read was on the Minnesota hotdish). We were treated to a sample of hummingbird cake prepared by The Kitchen (the bookstore’s café). All in all, the afternoon was a delightful prequel to another lovely evening at APT.

  • Learn more about the author at his website
  • Check out this interview with the author from the Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio

 


Linear or Logarithm?

The article Predicting the Future and Exponential Growth certainly caught my attention right from the beginning, by asking, “How many times would I have to fold a sheet of paper for the height of the folded paper to reach the moon?” It goes on to build on its thesis, “Human beings have terrible intuition for exponential growth.”

Looking in a historical rearview mirror can encumber our projections of the future, especially in a period of exponential growth. The article helped articulate my perspective on why now it is more important than ever to look at the business challenges of today and the factors contributing to those challenges, then create strategy based on what the emerging future might look like. The linear progression of the past may not be that relevant.

I am currently working on a technology plan for my organization. We find ourselves with a legacy architecture that has existed for a long time. Its not that we didn’t realized it needed to change—we saw that need several years ago. The factors contributing to the need for something different include new technologies, mobile workers, need for sharing work and a greater geographical reach of our business.

Perhaps what we didn’t see was how the change curve was continuing to accelerate. There’s a tricky bias in looking back. If you don’t look far enough, it’s easy to think you haven’t changed much, as any small portion of a curve look like a relatively straight line. We have to take a longer-term approach to be able to see the magnitude of change and how it accelerates over time. Here’s where logarithms come into play. In doing so, it becomes clear that if we don’t significantly increase the pace of change, we will fall further behind.

Breaking out of a comfortable speed limit of execution is really difficult. What must change to accelerate execution? It’s not just a headcount and funding solution, it’s revisiting historical approaches, beliefs and methods. The journey has just begun.