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Leverage Technology to Increase Your Organization’s Human Factor
We live in an amazing era of technology-driven transformation that’s redefining how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, innovate, train, and educate—all in an amazingly short period of time. With that said, though, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the future is a human future. And when it comes to humans, it’s all about relationships and trust. If you don’t have trust, you don’t have a good relationship.
But trust isn’t something you give and receive freely. Trust is earned through key values, such as honesty, integrity, and delivering on promises. These types of values are true in every country and every culture all over the world.
Today we’re more connected to others than ever before thanks to the mobile Internet being on our phones. In fact, right now 2.5 billion people are connected to the Internet. At any one time, 30% of the world population is going online. And over 70% of the phones sold last year were smart phones, meaning that people have television, radio, and Internet access in the palm of their hand.
Despite all this technology, the human factor is more important for business success than ever before. For example, I know companies that have had breakthrough technology over the years and were using the latest equipment, yet they failed because they neglected the human factor of doing business. I’ve also seen companies using older technology, what we might call “legacy technology,” and they beat out their competitors because of their focus on the human factor.
So the question is, “Can you leverage today’s technology to increase the human factor?” The answer is yes! And if you’re in human resources or in charge of training employees, you are now in a position to not only transform your career, but also transform your organization because of the positive impact technology can have on the human factor.
Earlier I mentioned that we’re transforming how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, innovate, train, and educate over a short period of time. All those processes involve people. Without people, none of those things happen.
Let’s look at education and training specifically, which are things that cost money but are essential for companies to do, especially in a time of rapid change and transformation. I recently had an executive ask, “What if I spend a lot of money educating and training my people and they leave?” My response was, “What if you don’t, and they stay?”
The point is that you want your people to feel that they’re working for a company that’s vibrant and thriving. A strong human factor helps you create that mindset. You also want employees to feel that when they go to work, they’re going into a time machine to the future. Technology helps you create that. And when the two work in conjunction—when you use technology to increase the human factor—that’s when you have an engaged workforce that excels.
Following are some technologies to leverage that will enable HR and training departments to build the human factor in their organization.
Over the next two years we will be transforming how we educate and train people using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. All trainers know that the best way to learn something is by doing it. That’s what just-in-time training enables people to do. Rather than sit in a classroom and learn, people learn in real-time. Since most employees have a multimedia computer with them at all times (their phone or tablet), if they have a question or need assistance, they can simply touch an icon on their device’s screen and be connected to a live trainer who can help. If the trainer needs to see something to give assistance, the employee can aim the device’s built-in camera to the problem so the trainer can see it. When used in conjunction with classroom-based training, this approach would cut training costs tremendously.
With today’s technology we can deliver advanced simulations on not only mobile devices, but also on today’s gaming systems. For example, an Xbox 360 is a perfect tool to deliver three-dimensional photo-realistic advanced simulations to train workers—all while making it fun and game-like. I’ve identified five core elements of gameification that, when applied together, can dramatically accelerate learning. They are to make the training self-diagnostic (so it can know each person’s skill level and progress accordingly), interactive (where people actually do something as opposed to sitting and watching), immersive (using interspatial 3D where you go into scenarios versus having things pop out at you), competitive (the adrenaline rush keeps people engaged), and focused (which is a byproduct of the other four elements).
In the past, executives would decide what people needed to learn and then find someone to teach it to them. Today, learning is going social. By leveraging social learning, companies are empowering their employees to share their best practices and best ideas with each other, using tools like their own computer video system. And thanks to YouTube, companies don’t need high production and high expense on educational videos. With social learning we can get our own employees to be both teachers and students, sharing with each other because social is all about sharing.
Visual communications is very different from video conferencing. Video conferencing requires expensive equipment and is usually something only seen in mid- and large-sized organizations. And those systems are always booked by the executives. Visual communications is using free tools like Skype. The only equipment you need is a laptop, tablet, or smart phone to hear and see the person or people you’re talking to. When you can see the person you’re talking to, you can adjust your communications to them in real time based on their facial expressions and body language. Plus, if the kids are using visual communications when they play their Xbox games, shouldn’t we be doing it with our employees when we want to communicate at higher levels?
Training used to be all about customization. Today, it’s about personalization. For example, if you and I both have iPhones and we both choose AT&T as our phone service provider, I know for a fact that my iPhone is completely different than yours. Why? Because we’ve both personalized our phones with specific apps that are most useful for us. So in essence, we’ve each created a “my phone.” Similarly, we’re now starting to see not just customized education, but personalized education for the user, based on both achievement and menu of options that are determined by the user’s needs.
Make the Human Factor Your New Priority
All these factors are transforming training and education, and they are raising the bar on the human factor in organizations. Remember, in times of rapid technological transformation, it’s the human factor that will win the race, not the technical factor. So you can either be passively transformed, letting all of these technologies sweep down upon you and change your world, or you can actively be the transformer and use these tools to add value to your organization and increase the human factor. Which option will you choose?
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
If computers can beat us at chess, maybe they could beat us at math, too.
- Most everyone fears that they will be replaced by robots or AI someday.
- A field like mathematics, which is governed solely by rules that computers thrive on, seems to be ripe for a robot revolution.
- AI may not replace mathematicians but will instead help us ask better questions.
The following is an excerpt adapted from the book Shape. It is reprinted with permission of the author.
Will machines replace us? Since the origin of artificial intelligence (AI), people have worried that computers eventually (or even imminently!) will surpass the human cognitive capacity in every respect.
Artificial intelligence pioneer Oliver Selfridge, in a television interview from the early 1960s, said, "I am convinced that machines can and will think in our lifetime" — though with the proviso, "I don't think my daughter will ever marry a computer." (Apparently, there is no technical advance so abstract that people can't feel sexual anxiety about it.)
Let's make the relevant question more personal: will machines replace me? I'm a mathematician; my profession is often seen from the outside as a very complicated but ultimately purely mechanical game played with fixed rules, like checkers, chess, or Go. These are activities in which machines have already demonstrated superhuman ability.
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
But for me, math is different: it is a creative pursuit that calls on our intuition as much as our ability to compute. (To be fair, chess players probably feel the same way.) Henri Poincaré, the mathematician who re-envisioned the whole subject of geometry at the beginning of the 20th century, insisted it would be hopeless
"to attempt to replace the mathematician's free initiative by a mechanical process of any kind. In order to obtain a result having any real value, it is not enough to grind out calculations, or to have a machine for putting things in order: it is not order only, but unexpected order, that has a value. A machine can take hold of the bare fact, but the soul of the fact will always escape it."
But machines can make deep changes in mathematical practice without shouldering humans aside. Peter Scholze, winner of a 2018 Fields Medal (sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of math") is deeply involved in an ambitious program at the frontiers of algebra and geometry called "condensed mathematics" — and no, there is no chance that I'm going to try to explain what that is in this space.
Meet AI, your new research assistant
What I am going to tell you is the result of what Scholze called the "Liquid Tensor Experiment." A community called Lean, started by Leonardo de Moura of Microsoft Research and now open-source and worldwide, has the ambitious goal of developing a computer language with the expressive capacity to capture the entirety of contemporary mathematics. A proposed proof of a new theorem, formalized by translation into this language, could be checked for correctness automatically, rather than staking its reputation on fallible human referees.
Scholze asked last December whether the ideas of condensed mathematics could be formalized in this way. He also wanted to know whether it could express the ideas of a particularly knotty proof that was crucial to the project — a proof that he was pretty sure was right.
When I first heard about Lean, I thought it would probably work well for some easy problems and theorems. I underestimated it. So did Scholze. In a May 2021 blog post, he writes, "[T]he Experiment has verified the entire part of the argument that I was unsure about. I find it absolutely insane that interactive proof assistants are now at the level that within a very reasonable time span they can formally verify difficult original research."
And the contribution of the machine wasn't just to certify that Scholze was right to think his proof was sound; he reports that the work of putting the proof in a form that a machine could read improved his own human understanding of the argument!
The Liquid Tensor Experiment points to a future where machines, rather than replacing human mathematicians, become our indispensable partners. Whether or not they can take hold of the soul of the fact, they can extend our grasp as we reach for the soul.
Slicing up a knotty problem
That can take the form of "proof assistance," as it did for Scholze, or it can go deeper. In 2018, Lisa Piccirillo, then a PhD student at the University of Texas, solved a long-standing geometry problem about a shape called the Conway knot. She proved the knot was "non-slice" — this is a fact about what the knot looks like from the perspective of four-dimensional beings. (Did you get that? Probably not, but it doesn't matter.) The point is this was a famously difficult problem.
A few years before Piccirillo's breakthrough, a topologist named Mark Hughes at Brigham Young had tried to get a neural network to make good guesses about which knots were slice. He gave it a long list of knots where the answer was known, just as an image-processing neural net would be given a long list of pictures of cats and pictures of non-cats.
Hughes's neural net learned to assign a number to every knot; if the knot were slice, the number was supposed to be 0, while if the knot were non-slice, the net was supposed to return a whole number bigger than 0. In fact, the neural net predicted a value very close to 1 — that is, it predicted the knot was non-slice — for every one of the knots Hughes tested, except for one. That was the Conway knot.
For the Conway knot, Hughes's neural net returned a number very close to 1/2, its way of saying that it was deeply unsure whether to answer 0 or 1. This is fascinating! The neural net correctly identified the knot that posed a really hard and mathematically rich problem (in this case, reproducing an intuition that topologists already had).
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
Dr. Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin and a number theorist whose popular articles about mathematics have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Slate. His most recent book is Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.
Laughing gas may be far more effective for some than antidepressants.
- Standard antidepressant medications don't work for many people who need them.
- With ketamine showing potential as an antidepressant, researchers investigate another anesthetic: nitrous oxide, commonly called "laughing gas."
- Researchers observe that just a light mixture of nitrous oxide for an hour alleviates depression symptoms for two weeks.
The usual antidepressants don't work for everyone. That's what makes a new study of the antidepressant properties of nitrous oxide so intriguing. It looks like just a single low dose of what your dentist may call "laughing gas" can help alleviate symptoms of depression for weeks afterward.
The study, from researchers at University of Chicago and Washington University-St. Louis, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Resistance to anti-depression medications
Nitrous oxide: two atoms of nitrogen, one of oxygenCredit: Big Think
According to the senior author of the study, Charles Conway, "A significant percentage — we think around 15 percent — of people who suffer from depression don't respond to standard antidepressant treatment."
"These 'treatment-resistant depression' patients," Conway says, "often suffer for years, even decades, with life-debilitating depression. We don't really know why standard treatments don't work for them, though we suspect that they may have different brain network disruptions than non-resistant depressed patients. Identifying novel treatments, such as nitrous oxide, that target alternative pathways is critical to treating these individuals."
"There is a huge unmet need," says lead author Peter Nagele. "There are millions of depressed patients who don't have good treatment options, especially those who are dealing with suicidality."
If ketamine can help, can nitrous oxide?
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
The researchers wondered if some of the anti-depression properties seen in ketamine might also apply to nitrous oxide. Nagele explains, "Like nitrous oxide, ketamine is an anesthetic, and there has been promising work using ketamine at a sub-anesthetic dose for treating depression."
The researchers conducted a one-hour session — they describe it as a "proof-of-principle" trial — in which 20 individuals with depression were administered an air mixture with 50 percent nitrous oxide. Twenty-four hours later, the researchers found a significant reduction in the participants' symptoms of depression versus a control group.
However, the individuals also suffered the unpleasant side effects that laughing gas often causes in dental patients: headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Smaller dose, longer effect
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
"We wondered if our past concentration of 50 percent had been too high," recalls Nagele. "Maybe by lowering the dose, we could find the 'Goldilocks spot' that would maximize clinical benefit and minimize negative side effects."
In a new trial, 20 people with depression were given a lighter nitrous oxide mix, just 25 percent, and the individuals tested reported a 75 percent reduction in side effects compared to the a control group given an air/oxygen placebo. This time, the researchers also tracked the effect of nitrous oxide on symptoms of depression for a far longer period, two weeks instead of just 24 hours.
"The reduction in side effects was unexpected and quite drastic," reports Nagele, "but even more excitingly, the effects after a single administration lasted for a whole two weeks. This has never been shown before. It's a very cool finding."
Nagele also notes that, despite its popular renown as laughing gas, even a light 25 percent mix of nitrous actually causes people to nod off. "They're not getting high or euphoric; they get sedated."
Delivering help to people with depression
Nagele cautions, "These have just been pilot studies. But we need acceptance by the larger medical community for this to become a treatment that's actually available to patients in the real world. Most psychiatrists are not familiar with nitrous oxide or how to administer it, so we'll have to show the community how to deliver this treatment safely and effectively. I think there will be a lot of interest in getting this into clinical practice."
After all, Nagele adds, "If we develop effective, rapid treatments that can really help someone navigate their suicidal thinking and come out on the other side — that's a very gratifying line of research."