How Glossolalia Is Related to Transe Proto-Language

Experiencing trance (see for example ‘How Trance Has Become a Scientific Experiment‘) leads to the experience of proto-language, supposedly some form of earlier language. During trance, we express ourselves in this way. I found out this is actually glossolalia, an age-old concept that has been observed in many situations since greek antiquity, and is also mentioned in Neal Stephenson’s excellent book ‘Snow Crash’ in the form of a virus infecting brains originating from the Sumerians.

Glossolalia is a practice in which people utter words or speech-like sounds, often thought by believers to be languages unknown to the speaker. One definition used by linguists is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning, in some cases as part of religious practice in which some believe it to be a divine language unknown to the speaker

The interesting part is how widespread this practice is amongst religions and spiritual practices. It can be practiced. It has great benefits in that it can be used to convey feeling without saying awful words that are then remembered by other people, thus great to use in situations where you are angry and unhappy.

The fact that glossolalia is recognized across shamanism, Christianity and many other religions and situations shows that it is a constant capability of the human mind to speak a language, which could be an early or proto-language.


How to Identify What Will Change and What Won’t in the Future

In this thoughtful post ‘Seeing The Bigger Future‘, we are called to reflect on what is actually change and what isn’t. Basic human needs don’t change irrespective of what technology we deploy, and there are some constants that will remain true, and even if AI develops beyond our wildest dreams.

While many things are changing around us, the secret is that some things never change. […] You don’t have to focus on the technological details to predict its progress. Anticipating what people will need is a great predictor of what will get built. Because while technology changes, human nature doesn’t. That means predicting “what” is often easier than predicting “how’. Why? Because technology doesn’t often look for a problem; rather, it is the response to one. A medium is just a tool. And the tool is just a way to accomplish something more efficiently.”

We should be careful not to be overwhelmed by changes in our tools. The basic needs we try to respond to are still the same. And focusing on those is what is really important.


How AI Can Support Creative Scientific Research

This provoking Scientific American article ‘AI Generates Hypotheses Human Scientists Have Not Thought Of‘ actually provides an excellent example of how AI can supplement human thought and together create a more productive and creative ecosystem.


Creating hypotheses has long been a purely human domain. Now, though, scientists are beginning to ask machine learning to produce original insights. They are designing neural networks (a type of machine-learning setup with a structure inspired by the human brain) that suggest new hypotheses based on patterns the networks find in data instead of relying on human assumptions. Many fields may soon turn to the muse of machine learning in an attempt to speed up the scientific process and reduce human biases.

The interesting part here is around reducing human biases, a topic which comes back several times in the article: avoiding preconceived ideas and theories and probably the burden of the institutional view on things. AI can provide an independent view and the combination can spark creative and innovative outputs.

I am convinced that we will find AI to be a great help rather than a competitor in all creative endeavors, like scientific research. And this is just the beginning!


How New Problems Require Clear Awareness

In this excellent post ‘New problems, old problems‘, Seth Godin distinguishes how we should approach known problems and new problems.: “a new problem doesn’t need fresh thinking, it needs clear awareness.”

Seth Godin underlines that most of the issues we face are known, or similar to issues we have already addressed. They don’t require much creativity. Except if we have to find another solution to solve a problem we could not overcome, or a problem which we have never seen. In that case, proper situation awareness is needed to ask the right questions and take the right actions. “We can begin by acknowledging we have a problem, identifying the constraints, the boundaries and the assets involved. And then we can go to work to solve it.”

Known problems can be addressed with known solutions. Resisting or new problems require creativity, and this starts with awareness.


How Splitting Megaprojects in Smaller, Shorter Projects Brings Huge Benefits

Following up from our posts ‘How Infrastructure Projects Cost Has Increased Dramatically in Developed Countries‘ and ‘How to Increase the Effectiveness of Infrastructure Projects in Developed Countries‘, this HBR article by Pr Bent Flyvbjerg provides some answers: ‘Make Megaprojects More Modular’

Bent Flyvbjerg is a Danish university professor that has been studying public infrastructure projects for a long time and is now professor at Oxford. He has written numerous articles showing that public infrastructure projects always have their cost underestimated and their benefits overestimated at investment decision, mainly for political reasons.

Anyway in this article, he explains the benefits of having smaller projects that also benefit from some series effect learning curve rather than going for very large, very long and one-of-a-kind projects that are necessarily going to suffer overruns and generate disappointments. “Two factors play a critical role in determining whether an organization will meet with success or failure: replicable modularity in design and speed in iteration. If a project can be delivered fast and in a modular manner, enabling experimentation and learning along the way, it is likely to succeed. If it is undertaken on a massive scale with one-off, highly integrated components, it is likely to be troubled or fail.”

Bent Flyvbjerg continues by explaining why speed is essential for megaprojects, because of our inability to predict the future beyond a few months or years. Iteration is also essential to improve, while picking existing and proven technology is also a major success factor.

There is a definite trend towards smaller infrastructure including series effect. Still, all projects cannot be made in a short time and using only proven technology. However, those are projects where we should accept a measure of cost and schedule overrun; most infrastructure projects can certainly be done using proven technology and on a smaller scale. The question of keeping consistency of a programme combining several smaller, shorter projects is also a challenge.

Still, to tackle excessive cost and delays of large infrastructure projects, splitting large projects into smaller, shorter projects using proven technology is certainly a way to go.


How to Use Deepfake to Promote Local Business: an Indian Application

I love this initiative in India for Diwali (one of the most important annual celebrations). A company has provided a platform allowing local businesses to generate short films promoting their business and using the image of one of the biggest stars of the country, Shah Rukh Khan. Watch the video ‘Supporting Local Retailers This Diwali | Not Just A Cadbury Ad Campaign Video

The idea is that anyone can insert the name of the business and a deepfake is generated with this name being inserted in the video. If can then be used for promotion purpose.

This is just the start. Expect such deepfake technology to be deployed for adds that would be personalized and adapted to your immediate location. Don’t be surprised if you get called by your name by some local star when you walk in the street, suggesting you should visit some nearby store! I hope we will just be able to turn some of it off.


How the Debate About Shorter Work Time Has Reignited

This Wired article promotes the 5-hours day: ‘The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five‘. Based on some experiments, the concept of compressed working is being more widely tested, sometimes with mixed results.

Some companies that have tested the concept reported mixed results. Shorter workdays result in people being more focused on their tasks, but also some stress about getting things done. There is also a debate between 4-day week and 5-hour days concepts.

Promoter of the 5-hours day assert that “Research indicates that five hours is about the maximum that most of us can concentrate hard on something. There are periods when you can push past that, but the reality is that most of us have about that good work time in us every day.” In that sense some organizations report significant effectiveness increase of having shorter days with no breaks. However “not all jobs are suitable to be done in five-hour bursts. Research may have found that people’s creativity dwindles after five hours of concentration, but not all jobs require people doing them to be creative. “There’s an awful lot of work that doesn’t require deep focus,” Pang says. In call centres, care homes and factory lines, staff are needed simply to get the work done and, as Ford Motor Company demonstrated, there is a very good reason to ask them to do it in eight-hour shifts“.

In any case, the debate about the best working timetable remains open. For creative work it would seem that shorter but more intense worktimes is favorable, and this needs then to fit around personal schedules.


How Third Workplaces Become a Trend

‘Third Workplaces’ are alternative working environments, close to home but within a dedicated working space, co-working with other people. According to this article ‘The rise of “third workplaces”‘, they are clearly on the rise. “People aren’t working from the office, but they’re not working from home either.”

Third workplaces allow to work outside of home constraints, concentrate on work in an environment that provides the possibility of such focus, coffee and sustainable, and (optionally) exchange informally with other people doing the same.

In my working environment, I have observed how this is really needed for people that don’t have the space at home to have a working desk, or have small children and can’t concentrate on their work.

According to the article, there are even startups created to benefit from the trend, not to mention older startups created around the concept of co-working spaces.

I have been working in my consulting company for 10 years not having any other office than a home office, being mostly in client’s offices and otherwise meeting people in coffees. I welcome such ‘third workplaces’ concepts and I firmly believe this will be a strong trend in the years to come.


How The Covid Crisis Is Leading to a Historical Shift in Employment

The future of the workplace is one of the big question marks at this time. Plenty of people write and contribute on this topic. In a series of posts we will explore some of those thoughts. First, on the basis of this Capitalogix blog post ‘The Rise Of Remote Work‘, let’s just observe how prevalent remote work is becoming.

This post – based on US data – shows that after the pandemic-driven transformation, remote work is appreciated by people and particularly in some industries, software & IT being of course the main adopter.

The shift in how people work is translating in what is called “the great resignation” with many people moving out of more traditional employment and changing industry. This excellent Atlantic article dated October 2021 ‘The Great Resignation Is Accelerating‘ provides data on this historical migration and changes in worker expectations. This affects in particular the hospitality industry (hotels and restaurants), but also many other industries.

I love however the conclusion of the post: “The culture of work is in a massive period of transformation. Regardless of where your specific company or industry ends up, all businesses will have to increase the amount of employee care they provide. Just as the heart of AI is still human, so is the heart of our businesses.” The point is that employee expectations about life quality has risen, and organizations have to adapt.

The Covid crisis has unexpected effects on the employment market. It is certainly only an acceleration of existing trends. Still, it will require a lot of adaptation capability for organizations.


How to Increase the Effectiveness of Infrastructure Projects in Developed Countries

Following up from our previous post ‘How Infrastructure Projects Cost Has Increased Dramatically in Developed Countries‘, what can be done to make those projets more effective, quicker and less costly? I believe that new approaches to authorization process, construction and project execution could be a response.

Societal requirements and expectations will continue to make it harder to settle land claims and manage stakeholder input into very large projects, which will always have their share of opponents. However, while still maintaining the rights of stakeholders, it should still be possible to accelerate the regulatory authorization process, in particular by accelerating and remove some layers of legal recourse. It has been done in France for example for offshore wind farms after the previous regulatory framework was found to create excessive delays before the project could start.

At the same time, construction approaches should be reviewed. It makes increasingly more sense in development countries to modularise projects instead of looking for stick-and-build approaches or any approach with high manual work. For example for piping, replacing large quantities of on-site welding with pre-fabrication including of modules that could then be poured in the reinforced concrete structures.

In any case, the delays and hurdles to build infrastructure projects hurt the economy and create substantial delays before the infrastructure we need is actually contributing to our well-being. Innovative and creative solutions must be developed and implemented – we can’t continue on the current trend.


How Robot Clusters Are Increasingly Effective

This MIT post ‘“Particle robot” works as a cluster of simple units‘ describes a research project about very simple robots working in clusters to undertake jointly substantial tasks such as moving objects or moving about jointly.

I tend to believe that exploiting cluster behavior of relatively simple robots is probably one of the most innovative applications of robotics and that it will transform approaches focusing today on large machines. Progress of research in this field is also essential to understand the behavior of natural clusters of birds and other animals.

Particle robots can form into many configurations and fluidly navigate around obstacles and squeeze through tight gaps. Notably, none of the particles directly communicate with or rely on one another to function, so particles can be added or subtracted without any impact on the group. In their paper, the researchers show particle robotic systems can complete tasks even when many units malfunction.”

The best feature of clusters is certainly resilience to the loss or destruction of one component while still be able to continue the mission. In civilian and military applications, clusters will certainly develop to address dangerous situations where resilience is paramount.

Robot clusters will certainly be a common feature in a decade from now, and it is essential to keep up with this interesting development.


How Becoming Nimble With Change is an Essential Competency

In this post ‘Becoming Nimble at Dealing with Ever-Changing Plans‘, Leo Babauta expands on our difficulties to adjust in a world changing increasingly quickly. The ability to be nimble is an essential competency today (and I am still personally working on it!)

He shares some principles to reflect upon:

  • Every change is a training
  • Use changes to stay present
  • Learn to relax with uncertainty
  • Practice flowing with changes
  • You can find focus in chaos, with practice
  • Structure is very helpful, but don’t be attached
  • Finding joy in the middle of the storm

Developing this competency is certainly essential in an accelerating world where plans change. The Covid situation has added another layer or unpredictability in particular when it comes to travel or work plans. Let’s get better at it!