Beneficial Intelligence

Beneficial Intelligence

A weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs and other IT leaders.

Episodes

July 23, 2021 6 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss humans and computers. Jeff Bezos went to space in a fully autonomous computer-controlled rocket. Richard Branson went to space last week, and he had humans flying his spacecraft. 

The Silicon Valley mindset is that you can program or train computers to do anything. However, as the continuing struggle to build truly self-driving cars has shown, some things are still very, very har...

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In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss competition. Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are competing who gets to space first, with both likely to blast off within the next two weeks. 

Competition is one of the great forces propelling the world forward. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spacecraft is based on SpaceShipOne that won the Ansari X Prize back in 2004. That prize was for a private spacecraft tha...

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June 25, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss pseudo-security. The lock on your front door is not secure. It takes an experienced locksmith an average of 7.1 seconds to manually an average door lock, and it's even faster with a "pick gun." 

If locks are so bad, why don't we have even more burglaries? Because your total security does not only depend on the lock. A would-be burglar has to contend with the risk ...

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June 18, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss how to choose what is good enough. 

How do you know when something is good enough? That requires good judgment, which is unfortunately in short supply. 

IT used in aviation, pharma, and a few other life-and-death industries are subject to strict standards. We can lean on standards like the GxP requirements that anyone in the pharma industry loves to hate. However, in the general I...

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June 4, 2021 9 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss unnecessary roadblocks. Amazon has a problem finding enough workers, and they have decided to get rid of an unnecessary roadblock: They will no longer test people for marijuana use. As marijuana becomes legal in more and more states, Amazon decided they only need to test truck drivers and forklift operators, not everyone. 

IT organizations are also always complaining that they ca...

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May 28, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss expectation management. I was doing a small renovation project in our summer cottage, and I needed a special type of hinge. I found it on the website of our local building supplies store, but when I got to the store, it wasn't there. It turned out that this store was part of a co-branded chain. They had an aspirational website showing all the items a shop could potentially c...

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May 7, 2021 10 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss gaming the metrics. We measure things to be able to manage them. But when we start using metrics to reward individual employees and teams, people will start gaming them. Newton's third law for business says that for every system the organization implements, the employees will implement an equal and opposite workaround that negates the system.  

Amazon is managing a huge workf...

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April 30, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss accidental publication. There are two ways organizations lose data: Through break-ins and through carelessness.  It is hard to protect your systems against determined hackers, but it should not be hard to protect yourself against carelessness. Strangely, this is just as big a source of data leaks as determined hacker attacks. 

Some accidental losses are the result of individual f...

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April 23, 2021 8 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss irrational optimism. IT people are too optimistic. It is a natural consequence of our ability to build something from nothing. Our creations are not subject to gravity or other laws of physics. A builder cannot decide halfway through a construction project that he wants to swap out the foundation, but IT regularly changes the framework in mid-project. 

Similar optimism informs ou...

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April 16, 2021 5 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss risk aversion. The U.S. has stopped distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It has been given to more than 7 million people, and there have been six reported cases of blood clotting. Here in Denmark, we have stopped giving the Astra Zeneca vaccine because of one similar case. That is not risk management, that is risk aversion. 

There is a classic short story from 1911 by ...

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April 9, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss biased data. Machine Learning depends on large data sets, and unless you take care, ML algorithms will perpetuate any bias in the data it learns from.  

The famous ImageNet database contains 14 million labeled images. However, 6% of these have the wrong label. The labels are provided by humans paid very little per image, so they will work very fast. Unfortunately, as Nobel Prize ...

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March 26, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss price transparency. In the U.S., a coronavirus test can cost $56 if you pay yourself, but $450 if your health insurance pays it. This lack of price transparency makes the U.S. healthcare system the most expensive in the world, costing the US 17% of GDP. Every other industrialized country is below 12%. There are now laws requiring hospitals to publish their prices, but they delib...

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March 19, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss blaming the humans. It often happens that a system failure is attributed to fallible humans. In that way, you don't have to admit embarrassing shortcomings in your system. 

A recently declassified report showed that a weapons officer blamed for accidentally firing a missile back in the 1980s was actually the victim of a system error. Boeing initially tried to pin the blame fo...

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March 12, 2021 8 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss wasting money. The business always complains that IT is costing too much. That is because we are wasting so much money. We're on track for worldwide IT spending of about 4 trillion, and surveys show that at least 25% of that is wasted. That's one trillion dollars we waste. 

IT organizations waste money in two ways: With what we build, and with what we run. 

It's a time...

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March 5, 2021 5 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss moving fast. Mark Zuckerberg is famous for saying "Move fast and break things." That was his way of communicating a preference for high speed, accepting high risk. It has become an unofficial motto of Silicon Valley, but Facebook now has billions of users and today have a different risk profile.   

Elon Musk, on the other hand, moves fast and breaks things. He is launchin...

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February 26, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss User Experience disasters. Danes consistently rank among the happiest people in the world, but I can tell you for sure that it is not the public sector IT we use that make us happy. We have a very expensive welfare state financed with very high taxes, but all that money does not buy us good user experience. 

Good User Experience (UX) is not expensive, but it does require that you...

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February 19, 2021 9 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss contingency plans. Texas was not prepared for the cold, and millions lost power. Amid furious finger-pointing, it turns out that none of the recommendations from the report after the last power outage have been implemented, and suggestions from the report after the outage in 1989 were not implemented either. 

As millions of Texas turned up the heat in their uninsulated homes, dem...

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February 12, 2021 9 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss risks and rewards. Humans are a successful species because we are good at calculating risks and rewards. Similarly, organizations are successful if they are good at calculating the risks they face and the rewards they can gain. 

Different people have different risk profiles, and companies also have different appetite for risk. Industries like aerospace and pharmaceuticals face la...

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February 5, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss doing the right thing. Google started out with a motto of "Don't be evil," but that has fallen by the wayside. Occasionally, employees remind Google of the old motto as when they forced Google to stop working on AI for the Pentagon. But they don't seem terribly committed, and their highly touted Ethical AI Team is falling apart after they fired the head researche...

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January 29, 2021 7 min

In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss amateurs and professionals. Recently, Gamestock shares have gone through the roof. That's because professionals were betting that the stock would fall, and amateur investors meeting on the internet decided to buy up all the stock they could. The amateurs seem to have won this battle, inflicting billions of dollars of losses on the professionals. 

Amateurs also build IT system...

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