Think Like a Computer (if you want to stay relevant)

Episode 7 May 05, 2024 00:27:05
Think Like a Computer (if you want to stay relevant)
Think Like a Computer (if you want to stay relevant)

May 05 2024 | 00:27:05


Hosted By

Nina Alexander

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to the 7th episode of Debullshified – our break it or make it episode. Why, you ask? Because statistically around 90% of all podcasts don’t continue after their 7thepisode. So, let’s hope that we return next week. Just kidding, we will. Before we begin, this is your reminder that Debullshified is a place where we talk about marketing, business, and life. This podcast is for critical thinkers, savvy entrepreneurs and curious minds of all walks of life. Here, we worship no gods nor celebrities. We learn, we laugh, and we think independently. The task for today is quite […]
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Hello and welcome to the 7th episode of the Bolshevik, our break it or make it episode. Why, you ask? Well, because statistically around 90% of all podcasts don't continue after their 7th episode. So let's hope that we return next week. Just kidding. Of course we will. Before we begin, this is your reminder that the Bolshevik is a place where we talk about marketing, business and life. This podcast is for critical thinkers, savvy entrepreneurs, and curious minds of all walks of life. Here we worship no gods, nor celebrities. We learn, we laugh, and we think independently. The task for today is quite ambitious. By the end of this episode, I will attempt to explain in layman's terms, how computers think, and most importantly, what part of that we as humans need to understand and be able to replicate in a way so we can remain relevant. [00:00:58] The reason I am doing this is because technology is taking over a significant chunk of our lives and you will see some statistical data that has actually triggered this episode. Later on, I will also try my best to inspire you, although I will first need to scare you a little bit. But bear with me, I promise it is going to be worth the ride. [00:01:24] The latest changes in the world of tech have been emotional. [00:01:29] Wherever on the fence between fear and excitement you are, you cannot ignore the fact that the last few years have been turbulent and so much new technology has emerged that many people have simply abandoned the idea of staying up to date with new developments. You dont need me to tell you this, you know it already. What nobody has been talking about is that we are in for some serious turbulence and I don't think anyone is realizing it. [00:02:00] Here is what I'm referring. [00:02:02] According to an article in Forbes with the lengthy title rising use of artificial intelligence is fueling anxiety in business. 65% of people are anxious that AI will make them obsolete. [00:02:17] Now let's repeat this so it sticks. 65% of the people report feeling anxious that AI will make them unnecessary. [00:02:27] This means that six out of ten people in every company are going to work feeling anxious that very soon their work won't be necessary, that they will be seen as unnecessary, which defeats every desire to do your job well. [00:02:45] Six and a half to be precise. Out of every ten people go to work defeated. [00:02:53] And this comes on the back of society not having completely recovered from the anxiety that was caused by the global pandemic, and on top of this, struggling with the anxiety of increasing prices and decreasing buying power all over the world. Because yes, it is a fact. And it's not just the UK. The cost of living crisis is not in the UK alone. It is. Is in the US. It is in Thailand, it is in Kenya, it is in South Africa. It is in Germany, Spain. This is happening everywhere. [00:03:29] What we as a society fail to recognize right now is that this constant state of fear and anxiety is an avalanche in the making. [00:03:40] Anxiety causes an influx of all stress hormones that effectively then convert into sugar, which means that they try and feed your brain, but your brain is just too hung up on feeling anxious and worrying about the future, that it can't relax and it's making you ill because it. It's also feeling constant inflammation. So you're getting mentally ill and you're getting physically ill. Anxiety is the worst advisor in the world. It is a physical, almost physical disability. And everyone who has experienced a more serious state of anxiety will confirm that. [00:04:27] But why do you. Why do you think I'm saying that this is an avalanche in the making? Well, you think that people have been anxious since the beginning of time? Well, kind of, but they haven't been anxious all the time and certainly not the same kind of anxious. [00:04:44] When your anxiety is related to your physical survival, your body pulls together. It fuels up with adrenaline. Adrenaline makes you smarter. It does. It makes you more agile, more flexible, faster, and you're then able to pull through whatever adversity you find yourself in. [00:05:05] But today's anxiety is not this type. It is the type of anxiety that you would feel if someone just popped you over in the middle of the ocean and you know well enough that you're surrounded by sharks. It's the type of anxiety you would feel if you're in the cold waters. You know there are sharks around you, but there's no shore in sight. And even though you are surrounded by other people, they're just flapping helplessly, just as you are. [00:05:34] Now, if you have managed to visualize this, let me ask you the following. Can you picture yourself in the water surrounded by sharks? Other people who are crying out for help, helpless, feeling stressed? Can you, in that moment, focus and mentally prepare the questions that you will use in your next one to one with your most senior subordinate? [00:05:59] Say you're a marketing manager. You have to talk to your marketing executive next week, but right now, you're in the water with the sharks. [00:06:06] Can you come up with the questions? Is this something that you will be thinking about? [00:06:12] Yes. I'm asking you to do it whilst you're trying to stay afloat and also while you're trying to identify the shadow in the distance, because you cannot quite tell if it's just a wave or if it's a shark's fin. Impossible, right? And also stupid. Well, this is the state most people are in. It goes without saying that some are experiencing anxiety more, far more overwhelmingly than others. But ironically, the more intelligent a person is and the less likely they are to be out of a job, the higher the anxiety, the funny, but not funny. Haha right. [00:06:47] So what does this tell you? [00:06:50] To me, it means that worldwide we are actively incapacitating our most valuable people by creating uncertainty after uncertainty after uncertainty. All in the pursuit of some sick fast economic growth just because we want that percentage of revenue this year to be higher. [00:07:13] And whilst anxiety is tormenting the most capable among us, the less capable ones in society remain weaponized with ignorance. [00:07:23] Ultimately, we are slowly designing a funky version of idiocracy, which is a film that I boast fearlessly dislike and also I find myself recommending the entire time. [00:07:38] But wait, this isn't a doom prophecy. I told you, I'll have to scare you a little bit. I know that everything I just said so far doesn't sound very promising, but there is a way out. And not every person with a high iq is hiding in the corner, shivering with anxiety. [00:07:57] And the way out is simple, it's through education. [00:08:01] Why? Well, because the only thing that we truly fear is the uncertain. [00:08:07] When we are in the know, when we can spot the sharks and we can identify them, we can maneuver well enough to protect ourselves or we can accept our destiny. Either way, anxiety will disappear, which is always a win. [00:08:23] And since quite some of the anxiety is created by the evolution of technology, well lets talk about it. Lets learn something about computer thinking that might just help you overcome worries and maybe you will be able to help someone else too. [00:08:39] So well start with if this then that. [00:08:42] The simplest, most basic thinking on which all computer programming was based upon just until recently, is the concept of if this, then that. [00:08:53] Usually this would be a single activity. Aka if the user clicks to minimize the window, hide the window from the screen. [00:09:03] If the user selects some text and they click on the b icon, make the text appear bold. You get it. [00:09:11] Often, however, the action would be one but the outcomes or the follow up actions would be many. For instance, if the user clicks on the image, make the image larger and darken everything around it. This happens when you're on a website and you want to enlarge an image. Very often you'll click on it, it pops up a little bit bigger and then everything darkens. This is a single activity, causes a series of other activities. So you can get the final result. And they all seem to happen simultaneously, although they don't. [00:09:41] Or if the user clicks to open Adobe Photoshop, for instance, on their computer, the actions that would happen would be load the app, connect to the Internet, verify that this is a paying account and that the subscription is up to date, then load the brushes, load the color palettes, and so on and so on. [00:10:01] Now, for each of those things to happen, a software developer actually needs to sit down and physically write the code that directs every action. They need to write a step by step guide for the computer that it will follow every single time. [00:10:16] They need to tell the computer where the brushes will be stored, how to load the color palette, and all that jazz. Everything needs to be spelled to the dots. Boring, right? And some of us thought that computer programming was a fascinating thing to do, while in reality the majority of the job is spent on writing similar instructions and making sure that they don't clash with instructions that you have written three days ago and have completely forgotten about. [00:10:41] Now, the trickiest bit about computer programming is that every time you want your codes, whatever you've written to do something, when prompted, you effectively have to feed it the information that it will be working with or the database. Now imagine it this way. If you wanted to have a very simple search that displays some results, you will need to have a table with the possible results, aka the data. You will need to have a field where you will type what you are searching and obviously a button that you will click and that will trigger everything that's happening on the backend. So once you type in whatever you want to search and you click the button, the computer code will take whatever you've written and compare it to every single line in that table to prompt you the result, to show you the result. But in order for this to happen, you have to tell your code that the table can be found on your desktop and that it is titled my new data, for example. [00:11:43] Move the table elsewhere and the program stops working. [00:11:47] This is what traditional programming is in an essence, and how computers used to think. And as a matter of fact, for the majority, they still do. You give your computer the data, you tell it what exactly you want it to do and what method to follow, and then it will give you the outcome. [00:12:07] It's pretty much the same as with employment, don't you think? Many people get hired in factories or other places and they get given the information that they will be working with, the data, they get given the tools, they get told the methods, and then they produce an expected result. [00:12:29] Now, let's talk about how machine learning changed the game. Before AI became a thing, the wizards in the world of computers have been working on machine learning, which is effectively what enables AI in the first place. No machine learning, no artificial intelligence as simple as that. And if you think it's something new, let me change your minds. Machine learning, or at least the modern version of it, has been in development solid since 2012 2013. [00:12:58] This is more than eleven years already, and the first time someone has spoken about it was back in the 1950s. So the concept most certainly isn't new. [00:13:10] Alongside this development from 2012, hardware has been growing its capacity, allowing computational power to increase. And when I'm talking about hardware, I am talking about computer chips, computer storage, the ability of computers to just run faster and perform more tasks. In simpler terms, you need less power when you are performing simple tasks, and then far more power when the tasks become more in number and also more complex. [00:13:39] It is the same for just about anything. You need less tools to remove the weeds from your small front garden, and a completely different set of tools to work your allotment, let alone a properly large agricultural plot. You see the connections. [00:13:56] So add these two together, which are hardware power or computational power, and ongoing work on machine learning. Model top it up with a programming model called transformers, which was introduced in 2017. And voila, here we are today with more and more artificial intelligence tools, left, right and center. [00:14:19] What is the difference, you ask? Well, remember earlier on when I said that previously old programming way, you would have to supply the data and the method, aka step by step guide, and then your computer will give you the result because you have told it what to use and how exactly to do it. Well, things have shifted dramatically. In the simplest words possible nowadays, you would provide the data, you would provide sample results, or you would, for instance, give it a bunch of information and you would tell it that in previous instances, I was able to draw this and this result out of that information. And then you will let the machine, you will let the computer figure out how you got the results from this data. [00:15:10] By doing so, it will create its own method. You are effectively letting it create its own neurological connections. It's kind of like being thrown in a pool when you're five, so you can figure out swimming for yourself. [00:15:27] This is an incredibly large change. Creating the methods is the reason that it took us forever to develop new software, creating the path, the step by step guide. This is what it takes so long. This is what takes forever to write down. And this is why it took us months and often years to create new software. [00:15:48] The more complex the app or the program or however you want to call it, the more time it would physically take a software developer or a bunch of software developers to actually write every single possible scenario using the if this, then that. Thank you. [00:16:06] Well now we will no longer have to do the same thing. Or at least not all companies will have to do the same thing. [00:16:13] Now is computer thinking starting to make sense? I hope that so far I was able to explain the changes. Even though I am by no means a computer specialist, all I am is an incredibly curious person, which is the type that breaks down the radio to see how it's done. [00:16:31] Now let's see how this is going to change things and what we can realistically expect. Again, please note that I am no computer specialist, just a person who observes, reads and has made quite a few accurate predictions. [00:16:47] First things first, I genuinely believe that the giants are only about to get bigger here. I am referring to all large technology companies that we are already familiar with. Just like with everything else, the development of AI tools takes resource and this resource is still largely human. So the majority of the work that will be done will be done in large corporations because they can afford to hire the best talent. [00:17:18] Some new companies will also appear again. As with everything else, some companies will strike gold with innovative solutions and will be able to grow quickly. Other companies will muddy the waters and then will fall into oblivion. But this is life. As consumers, we will see more and more enhancements on tools that we are already using. For example, right now you can use Google Maps to get from point a to point b and it is rather single minded. It only gives you the fastest route. The maximum flexibility you have right now is to avoid roads with tall taxes. [00:17:58] If you live in the UK, however, where highways get jammed on a regular, you will know that the alternative routes which Google Maps give you often aren't an option. I have fallen victim to that multiple times and have driven on roads where you get to choose between not scratching your car's paint and not colluding with another car. [00:18:21] In the future, once AI gets involved with Google Maps, we will be able to choose alternative ways based on a set of requirements, not just one requirement. Get me from point a to point b fast. [00:18:34] The requirements might be something like I want to get from Oxford to Cambridge in up to 2 hours, but I want the most scenic route where my car won't get scratched by the bushes on the side of the road. Right now, not an option, but incoming data analytics platforms will also become very different, and I personally find this fascinating. So far, analyzing data has been one of the most challenging tasks, and many companies are not at all data driven despite their claims. Why? Well, because it's damn hard to get the data and even harder to clean it and analyze it. Part of me tends to think that artificial intelligence was created simply because we all thought that we were going to get a news data. And at the end of the day, we are still using statistical methods which are 100 years old, despite the fact that we actually, actually can collect data. [00:19:32] Anyways, I digress. What about humans? Are we becoming obsolete because of AI? [00:19:38] I don't think that there is anyone out there, regardless of how educated, how smart, or how rich, who can predict what is going to happen. For all I know, by the time this whole thing unfolds, the planet may not be suitable for living on anymore, so future generations might have a whole other set of problems for the time being. However, I don't see the majority of the jobs being lost. Sure, some of them will be as we move forward in time, and this predominantly relates to purely administrative click in, click out type of jobs. The ones where you go for your soul to die, you know. And even though I appreciate that for some people these jobs have been absolutely perfect and exactly what is needed. Well, these people will probably need to reskill. [00:20:30] Which leads me to my key point. [00:20:33] Learn how to challenge the status quo. Are we all swimming in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks that we can't see? Yeah, I am sorry to have to bring this visual again, but this is largely the reality for the most for most of us, whether we realize it or not, in the middle of wars, which we're in the 21st century, I cannot believe there are people still stupid enough. But anyway, let's not digress. So, in the middle of wars, in the middle of a technological revolution, in the middle of a global economic crisis, there is only one thing worth doing, which is challenging the status quo. And I dont mean starting a revolution, although that might be a good idea, but I dont mean that. And I dont mean changing industries inside out. All I am referring to is finding more creative, better, more pleasure inducing, or at least easier ways to do the tasks that we have to do instead of focusing on the doom and gloom that reality may seem. Quite often, I urge you to find ways to entertain yourself by challenging something you do regularly and working out ways to improve it. Why? Well, because creative thinking and analytical thinking are amongst the two key skills that we will need to develop for the foreseeable future. And this isn't me talking. This is the World Economic Forum and a bunch of other organizations who have surveyed the world and looks at the future changes. And they're telling us that the key skills we'll need to develop are critical thinking and analytical thinking. But if you go back to how computers used to think, and how people used to be employed to do their job back in the day, there was a strong correlation. Computers were given the, given the tools, given the methods, given a very clear output. With everything changing and everything being up in the air, we need creativity more than ever, because we don't know what is coming. And it's not just us, it's employers as well. It's companies, it's governments. Nobody knows what's coming. So we all need as much creative and as much analytical thinking as we possibly can have. [00:22:56] So these are the skills that you will need to focus on. And I will also have mentioned people skills in here, but this kind of has always been necessary. So how do you develop your creative and analytical thinking? A while back I heard someone ignorantly claim that creative skills are either innate, you're born with them, or they're non existent. [00:23:20] Absolute nonsense. [00:23:23] Everyone is creative. There isnt a single person walking this planet who doesnt have creativity thrust upon them. [00:23:32] There are only people who havent had the opportunity to express it. Creativity sees like a muscle, the more you use it, the better it gets. You dont have to trust me on that. Trust Elizabeth Gilbert with her book Big Magic, which is one of the most magnificent books out there. Trust any other person who was able to silence their inner critic and unleash their creativity. [00:23:57] I could do an entire episode on it. But in a nutshell, if you want to be creative, start creating. If your job is in admin, start formatting your documents like a piece of art. If your job is in sales, start treating sales conversations like theater. Place. Script them in advance or describe them afterwards. If your job is in finance, well, I'm lost there. [00:24:24] But there is a way to creatively enrich everything that you do in order to find your way. Your method. Try all out different ones until one of them clicks and makes your mind do a happy dance. [00:24:40] Try until you have found a million ways that don't work. You can be creative about the processes in your office. You think a process needs to be improved? Well, design the improvement. [00:24:52] Demo it to your senior leadership. Trial it out, get it denied, redesign it and present it through another angle. Get it shut down again. Rinse and repeat. [00:25:04] Change is based on critically assessing the world around us and constantly trying to make it at least a little bit better. [00:25:15] Every time you want to change something, try and be ready to fail. Rinse and repeat until you make it. This is how you will find your creativity. And the more you do, the better you will get at it. [00:25:29] And whilst you are doing this, you will be developing your critical thinking and your creative thinking. [00:25:37] See, it doesn't happen by solving crosswords alone or by doing Sudoku. It's about a series of small actions. It's about constantly questioning everything. [00:25:49] Remember what it was like to be a child. You would always ask why? [00:25:54] This is what critical thinking is before it gets shut down by adults who tell you it is what it is. No, it's not. [00:26:02] Critical thinking is the desire to understand the whys of the world and then figure out the hows of the world and figure out if they're good enough for you. And then creative thinking is lit up when the hows of the world are not good enough and you work to change them. [00:26:21] This is my friends, how you will make yourself relevant, with or without artificial intelligence on the horizon. And despite any changes that will be happening in the world, this is how you will find what moves you forward. And while remaining relevant, you might just find what makes you happy. [00:26:45] My name is Nina Alexander and recording this for you was a pleasure. Remember that the world is full of mysteries and so is your potential. Keep exploring, stay curious, and as always, thank you for debulsifying one more topic with me.

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