Wednesday, January 29, 2020

fighting that knee jerk reaction

I've spent last few days in bioethics and regulation educational training. I have a lot of bioethics, ethics, and regulation background and this was merely some "freshening up" skills. Still though, like a lot of times I wonder a basic question:  Why have a read and seen so much SciFi?

I mean, if you ask me I was always a fantasy person - not a scifi one.

I of course read Tolkien (and a lot of other fantasy writers, long before George R.R. Martin - the ones before him when I was a youngster Llyod Alexander David Eddings Raymond E. Feist Jenny Wurst and Elizabeth Moon ) and while I read some SciFi it was never my thing. It took me until early 20ies when I took bioethics to understand why I didn't fancy reading the Scifi.... It's simplified to say like this but still; "it's too complicated so I don't relax when I read it".

A lot of it deal with "what is human?" (hint, it has to do with soul and that robots don't have one but humans who are created by God does... ) and when you look at some of the bioethics questions today, a lot stems from "is it a human specimen?".

It's still the way I end up explaining my knee jerk reaction to all of the new computer based stuff. The AI, the ML (machine learning), the Telehealth, the big data..... all of it I have a visual of either Terminator world I saw as a young teenager, or the Gattaca (what a movie!) when I started my career as a biotechnologist or Alexa/Echo being in more than 50% of the homes of my friends supporting their next google/amazon search based on previous conversations. I know that I'm weary of this. I know that I think about it more since I work with privacy laws, bioethics, international law and views on a lot of biomedical research and future. 

However, after sitting through a couple of discussions and pitches the last couple of days I had to remind myself - "not to be scared and worried. Everyone else at the table is ok with this. It's only you who wants to disconnect the computer and go back to keeping everything on paper"*

At least I know I'm having a non actionable reaction and need to work through what I'm really concerned about (difference in what "people think can be done" and what "companies sells as being able to be done") and how this might be affected by people who are not working in good faith, and what they can accomplish with stuff that is available out there.

And I have very mixed feelings on AI. Especially after that final lecture on AI at AER2019"The learning is only as good as the training pilot program is devoid of bias." Indeed. My thought would be that there is still a lot to be learned, and there still is a huge value of having some regulations keeping track of what people can do in the meantime - before the next scare/scandal.

*glorious days. SO easy to keep privacy and preventing from exploitation. Of course, there would be no future breakthroughs either so not a viable way going forward...

Friday, January 24, 2020

being a night owl

It's one of those things that you know. If you're a night owl or an early morning riser. Don't get me wrong, I wake up at 6 am most weekday mornings. It doesn't mean that I like it though. Nor that my head is in the game. More often than not I mumble "is it morning again?". And it's not because I haven't slept enough. (There are many times nowadays as old when I am in bed at 10.30pm for a good 7.5 hours of sleep.)

However, when given the choice and opportunity - I stay up late. Like tonight. Sure, I have avoided a few things that I have to do and once completed these, I notice that I feel content and wanting to write something in this blog. I also wrote something smaller in another setting, and I am feeling the happiness filling me.

There is something about being awake in the darkness, in the quiet, in the stillness - that makes me so happy.

I wrote most of my PhD thesis at night as well. Most often I thought it was because I needed quiet so when most people in the department started getting home to their families and kids, around 4pm, then I started gearing up to write. Then when I was a post doc similar pattern appeared. And now, far away from the academic concepts, still I find my writing spot in the dark of night.

I thought it was due to that "if need be I can work through the night and not sleep" in case of a deadline. While that might be a rational thought for me, and one of the underlying reasons, I really think it is more to the fact that my brain isn't really functioning in the morning. Also, I spend a lot of time during the day having my brain thinking through the assignments and sorting through a bunch of thoughts and such, and then when sitting down after 5 pm, it all falls into place and I can easily write it up.

You see, while I wake up at 6 am on the weekdays. I wouldn't say I'm awake until 8am. And that's regardless of coffee or so. I just need a good 60+ mins to wake up and be sociable enough to interact with people. And kick my brain in gear.

One of the reasons I've had my fair share of complainy thoughts of "why does everyone think it is so noble to be at work at 6.30am and leave at 3.30pm?" and also mentioning to my bosses over time that if they want me the most productive, forcing me to be at work 7.30am is not in their best interest. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm privileged to be able to not have to come in at certain early hours every single day.  I'm not taking it for granted. And during my time as a mail person, I did start at 5.45am every single day and didn't complain about it. But then again, it wasn't a problem solving job either...

I am still wondering, when will it be considered "as good as being in at 6.30am" to work a full day (or/and more) and stay until 6pm? Or even, and this is pushing it, not counting the hours of coming in and leaving but focusing on the work that's produced.

I know, I know. It's not the way it is. Just my little dream world. For now though, happy writing in the dead of night. sleep well!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

new year, new me?

It's that saying "out with the old, in with the new", "The King is dead, long live the King" and other niceties. Happy New Year! Now, let's go.

The start of this new year, the new decade, coincided with a deadline for a huge project I'm involved in being moved up. When finding out about this change in schedule and delivery, there were some mapped out alternatives and suggestions of fast tracking some processes. However, what happened later could be referred to as "crashing the project".  Both of these terms are of course project management terms.

It's not really descriptive of what happens in a team with a project. To explain the terms quickly, one could say that fast tracking means working on several things in parallell rather than sequential. It increases risk, maybe especially when you develop things at the same time although the things are technically building on each other. And crashing is adding resources and increasing the cost but making the project faster.

In real world it meant that in the first part of the "let's work hard for the deadline" was developing a few things in parallell to avoid the time between "now this is complete, start with the next part". And then the second step was "stop working on any other project and go all in on this one and work OT if needed".

I would admit to thinking when I learned all these fancy terms that "increase resources" meant "hire additional people to help". I would say now that it usually means "stop working on other stuff and focus on this Project" since there's seldom a long period of time that this happens (in my place of business anyway). Needless to say, it's rare that you can "stop doing everything else" in a job, so it's a struggle balancing leaving all the other stuff for a short time vs working a little too much.

Which brings me to my point of this post. There is nothing that makes it so clear who you are as when you are faced with pressure and how you deal with this pressure is (for some of us) telling. I tend to get very focused on the task at hand (finishing the project). Depending on how much extra things that are in the background, and on the team, I tend to drop the shining smile and become a bit more blunt. As I said, focused on the tasks e.g. "We need to do A, F, G and K to finish. Let's do it!".

And while I definitely have worked on my personality expression over the years, and was raised as a very polite non-pushy person - there are limits to my patience and emotional bandwidth with people waffling and not contributing.

Lucky for me, there's a gif and a video (1-1.14 in the link) expressing how I felt when this phase happened.

"You don't know what I look like when there is a deadline that we can meet but it will require actual work and getting things done in a timely fashion".

Of course it's not quite as melodramatic. I was never in love with the project, and the project never loved me back to start with. But it is a good reminder that the last part of project is often the hardest. And that it requires something special to motivate the team and get everyone to perform great. The "actual finishing" the final things, wrapping up the present, tying the bow and writing the documentation and filing it so you can find it when you need to revisit, that takes effort. Especially when there are a plethora of other things waiting to get done and demanding your attention. And it is why it's so important to keep politeness and decency, and after the project is complete - have a "we did it!" celebration and hopefully a short relaxing time to regroup and get energy for the next thing. One can hope. Happy New Year indeed!