Hard Work or Magic?

March 16, 2017

I came across this interesting quote:

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have got ourselves. I suggest, furthermore, that when you feel that you could almost have written the book yourself—that’s the moment when it’s influencing you. You are not influenced when you say, ‘How marvelous! What a revelation! How monumental! Oh!’ You are being extended. You are being influenced when you say ‘I might have written that myself if I had not been so busy.’” – E. M. Forster, “A Book That Influenced Me,” from Two Cheers for Democracy

It reminded me of a quote from the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe on the famous physicist Richard Feynman:

“There are two types of genius. Ordinary geniuses do great things, but they leave you room to believe that you could do the same if only you worked hard enough. Then there are magicians, and you can have no idea how they do it. Feynman was a magician.” — Hans Bethe

I’ve written on Feynman a number of times previously, see here.

 


Job Interview Hell

March 1, 2017

dt150801

Fortunately my days of giving and sometimes attending interviews are now past but I’m still interested in the process of how people get promoted, get new jobs etc. It’s a common topic when I get together with (younger) friends and colleagues. In my own experience most interviews have been reasonably civilised affairs, with both sides trying to achieve something informative and useful, even if the process is inevitably a bit fraught and artificial.

In this respect, I came across this set of ‘tough’ interview questions (originally gleaned from the careers website Glassdoor):

1. “What on your CV is the closest thing to a lie?” – Marketing and Communications Employee, The Phoenix Partnership

2. “What am I thinking right now?” – Regional Director, TES Global

3. “How would your enemy describe you?” – Advertising Sales Grad Scheme, Condé Nast

4. “If you had a friend who was great for a job and an identical person who was just as good, but your friend earned you £2,000 less, who would you give the job to?” – Associate Recruitment Consultant, Hays

5. “What’s the most selfish thing you’ve ever done?” – Graduate Consultant, PageGroup

6. “You are stranded on the moon with a group of other astronauts and you need to travel 200 miles back to base, here is a list of 15 items salvaged from the wreckage of the spacecraft you were travelling in. List them in order of importance.” – Sales Employee, Turnstone Sales

7. “If your best friend was here what advice would he give you?” – Central Clearing Counterparty, American Express

8. “Describe your biggest weakness. Then describe another.” – Forward Deployed Software Engineer, Palantir Technologies

9. “How do you cope with repetition?” – Product Specialist, Tesla Motors

10. “How would you describe cloud computing to a seven-year old?” – Graduate Scheme, Microsoft

11. “There are three people, each with different salaries, and they want to find the average of them without telling any of the other two their salary. How do they do it?” – Technical Delivery Graduate, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

12. “Who is your hero, and why?” – Product Quality Employee, GE

13. “What’s your the biggest regret managing people so far?” – Area Director, Regus

14. “What would you ask the CEO if you met him one day?” – Performance Analyst, British Airways

15. “You have 50 red and 50 blue objects. Split these however you like between two containers to give the minimum/maximum probability of drawing one of the colours.” – Operations Analyst, Clearwater Analytics

16. “What does social justice mean to you?” – Content Marketing Manager, ThoughtWorks

17. “What is your coping mechanism when you have a bad day?” – Consultant, Switch Consulting

18. “Are you a nice guy?” – Product Manager, Badoo

19. “Provide an estimate for the number of goals in the premier league.” – Management Accountant, VAX

20. “Tell me about your childhood.” – Learning and Development Employee, Next

They are actually quite interesting questions, although hardly likely to be appreciated in the stressful atmosphere of a job interview.

For question 9, I’d be quite tempted to reply ‘Can you repeat the question please?’. Well, at least you’d then know if they had a sense of humour!


Thanks For The Memory

February 14, 2017

From a recent article in Fast Company, although I’ve read similar views elsewhere:

But that cost to accuracy is the price of admission to your long-term memory. When you recall a memory, it feels as though you’re just summoning it up wholesale, but in reality your mind is reassembling disparate bits of information from various locations in your brain, using its schemas as assembly instructions to build something coherent. So maybe you combine details of two totally different events or remember something that didn’t happen at all.

It’s worth remembering this when you’re obsessing over mistakes or unfortunate events (situations you perceive you could have handled better, often with the benefit of hindsight). They may not have happened as you imagined them anyway, even if the emotional debris remains!

 


Everyone Gets The Future Wrong

February 13, 2017

Official trailer for Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog)

From a review of the movie on Ars Technica:

“No one ever gets the future right,” cosmologist Lawrence Krauss tells Herzog. We never got our flying cars and Moonbases—we got the World Wide Web instead. The future is daunting because it’s something we haven’t thought of yet. It’s not going to be a utopian interplanetary society of jetpacks, but it’s not going to be The Hunger Games either. Even someone who says “we’re all going to hell in a handbasket!” is trying to put the future into a tidy little box. So it says a lot that Herzog, a filmmaker who once threatened his leading man with a rifle and ate his own shoe on a bet, can’t make up his mind where we’re headed.

 


Mathematical Models of Innovations

January 18, 2017

Interesting article spotted in The MIT Technology Review:

And yet the process of innovation is something of a mystery. A wide range of researchers have studied it, ranging from economists and anthropologists to evolutionary biologists and engineers. Their goal is to understand how innovation happens and the factors that drive it so that they can optimize conditions for future innovation.

This approach has had limited success, however. The rate at which innovations appear and disappear has been carefully measured. It follows a set of well-characterized patterns that scientists observe in many different circumstances. And yet, nobody has been able to explain how this pattern arises or why it governs innovation….

The adjacent possible is all those things—ideas, words, songs, molecules, genomes, technologies and so on—that are one step away from what actually exists. It connects the actual realization of a particular phenomenon and the space of unexplored possibilities.

But this idea is hard to model for an important reason. The space of unexplored possibilities includes all kinds of things that are easily imagined and expected but it also includes things that are entirely unexpected and hard to imagine. And while the former is tricky to model, the latter has appeared close to impossible.

What’s more, each innovation changes the landscape of future possibilities. So at every instant, the space of unexplored possibilities—the adjacent possible—is changing…

The team has also shown that its model predicts how innovations appear in the real world. The model accurately predicts how edit events occur on Wikipedia pages, the emergence of tags in social annotation systems, the sequence of words in texts, and how humans discover new songs in online music catalogues…


Photography Mapped

January 5, 2017

photographymapped

Screenshot from the interactive graphic

Following on from last year, I plan to do a few more photowalks in London this year. Part of this will be me getting to know my cameras better and hopefully using them better. From the controls, there are obviously a large number of options, which can sometimes seem overwhelming (I’m very much an amateur in this).

I recently came across an interactive graphic from Simon Roberts (a London based animator and designer) that helps quite a lot. The link is here and there’s a screenshot of the interactive site above:

A big part of my day job is using design and animation to make complex things more comprehensible – through this project I’m applying these skills to photography…

I adapted this design into an interactive diagram to help you explore the connections yourself. There are a total of 23,814 different photo combinations you can take (although most of those are either very overexposed or underexposed).


What If Technology Was Aligned To Your Values?

January 4, 2017

A series of three short videos on how technology could better align with your needs/values.