Where does one draw the line between personal interests and professional interests?
The line between personal and professional gets blurry, particularly if you have a home office and if you live what Bill Gates used to call "the web lifestyle." My email inbox contains project updates, appeals for help, ads for credit counseling and penis enlargement, invitations to speak at conferences, and a note from Mom. I take photos of new products and of my dogs.
Perhaps a better question is "Where should one draw the line between personal and professional?" My time used to be something like this:
I didn't confuse hobbies and vacation with managing a software start-up or selling training programs to large banks.
Yesterday I finished assembling a website for capturing and sharing the history and romance of Berkeley's paths for the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association. A hobby, right? Until I used the same skillset to put together a blog for the Workflow Institute.
If I kept a timecard (perish the thought), I'd have to give most of my waking minutes multiple codes:
It's Saturday morning and I'm preparing a presentation for Tuesday's meeting of the eLearning Forum. That's personal and professional.
I don't have an answer yet. I'll toss it to my subconscious neurons to work on. My high degree of personal and professional activites works for me. I get to do what I like in either realm. This feels right, so long as one sphere doesn't limit the scope of the other:
Do others think this way? Is there a problem?
From Norway comes this great -- and useful -- example of personalization. I just selected the cities/time zones I'm working in most frequenty. timeanddate.com configured a Personal World Clock for me on the web. Instead of everyone's time zones, I immediately see the time zones that matter most to me.
Time zones & the current time in each.
The service is free.
Related info: Jay's Time Page
The Race of the Time-Keepers, Elgin Ahead
Harper's Weekly, February 10 1872, Page 13
Note: A hundred and thirty-one years ago, time did not fly. It ran.
In other news, I just finished the first part of Zeldman's Designing with Web Standards.
I am going to take the plunge into compliant, semantic mark-up. If I do this right, you won't notice a thing except faster download of pages.
This feels like the right time to separate content and format for once and for all. I generate too many words to contemplate doing it later in life.
I used to do my HTML with Notepad. I've since done sites with HotDog, Fusion, HomeSite, ACEhtml, Cute HTML, and Dreamweaver 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and MX 2004. The most effective tech learning experience I've ever had was View/Source. See something I like? See how it's done. Do it. Marvellous. I'm afraid I'll be losing that with CSS stylesheets and so forth.
Today I had to look at some code from way back when. Geez. Line after line of superfluous cruft. So that nudged me into the revamping of all the content.
Of course, I'll consolidate and prune as I go along. If less is more, I don't have much of a site.
Before snoozing off into dreamland, I read a chapter of Bill Bryson's entertaining history of science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, every evening.
This explains why, when reading a splendid review of Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps in today's New York Times, I was thoroughly familiar with the story of a French longitude-measuring team that went through hell on earth trying to take precise readings in the Andes. (Beset by disease, angry natives, forbidding terrain, and foul weather for seven years, the two lead explorers refused to speak with one another for most of the expedition.) Their project had been commissioned by French polymath Jules Henri Poincare.
Poincare was immersed in measurements and maps, which led him to observe, in 1904, that distance is fixed but time is not. Time is sort of free-floating except in relation to other times. The very next year, Albert Einstein, who had been reviewing patent applications for all sorts of clocks and synchronizers, applied took this "time is relative" meme to simultaneity, which led him to conclude that time is relative to the speed of light.
From a cognitive point of view, it's interesting that neither Poincare nor Einstein came up with their insights out of thin air. If your job involves maps or clocks, it's only natural that you'd hypothesize about distance or time.
The review describes some characteristics of time in terms we can all understand (unlike most of the scientific writing on the subject):
There are as many different times as there are cultures. Some reflect changes as natural as the seasons, as arbitrary as the week or as old as the year; others, like the times of narrative, change with the life of the mind. Still others were first imagined in the fertile final years of the 19th century -- like modern industry's time clocks and time studies and the railroads' convenient longitudinal time zones.
In this one sentence, the review captures the discovery and nature of Einstein's relativity:
Some people have asked me why I write about so many different things on this blog. Others simply ask why.
Amigos, recording and reflecting is one way I learn things and stick them in memory. You've heard that if you really want to learn something, try teacking it to someone else? Well, you're here, aren't you?
Thanks for helping me learn more about time. And whatever else pops up today.
I was trying to doublecheck the wording of an aphorism from Ernest Hemingway that I thought said "Never confuse activity with results." Google pointed me to Lou Gerstner instead, presumably because he mouthed the words more recently and IBM gets a lot more hits than a dead author. It pays to think of such things when querying Google.
It's Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business by Christopher Meyer & Stan Davis.
I'm a third of the way into this book and want to record a few ideas to plant them in my head before continuing on.
If you can figure out how adaptation is embedded in biological systems, and then broaden this knowledge into a theory of general evolution, you can effectively apply the theory to many complex systems--including business.
How would a business measure successful adaptation? In biology, the metric is "fitness," measured as the relative ability of an organism to breed successfully in a given environment.
Code is code.
Create, connect, evolve.
Just as physics has core principles, so do adaptive systems. The basics involve:
This is bottom up. The ecology arises from the atoms up. The past fifty years have shown conclusively that distributed decision-making does a better job of satisfying demand than a centralized approach. Nonetheless, many of our businesses retain a suprisingly "Soviet" management style, using approaches developed in an assembly-line era that have more in common with a top-down mentality than with a bottom-up one.
"The molecular world is completely outside the normal common-sense range of thinking," says Alan Kay. It is this molecular sense that, over the next decade, will become our common understanding.
The connected economy is accelerating change, raising the bar for survival, and requiring a higher degree of adaptivenss from all of us. In particular, business needs to develop a new mental toolbox based on adaptive principles and an evolving economic and social environment. As stated recently in the journal Sicence, "Our quest to capture the system level laws governing cell biology in fact represents a search for the deeper patterns common to complex systems and networks in general."
Simulation is becoming a new scientific instrument, a "macroscope" allowing us to see the structure that dtermines the behavior of human-scale systems the way the microscope began to reveal the cell.
All forms of evolution arise from the interaction of independent agents follwoing a few simple rules. See "Boids". It's not a predictable world of command-and-control but, rather, a world of constant surprise and volatility, created by the interactions among low-level rules, acting form the bottom up. Translating sex into silicon, genetic algorithms allow us to redefine our objectives, replacing narrow individual "efficiency" with a boader concept of population "robustness"--the ability to cope with a volatile environment.
Often human programmers don't understand why a solution works, only that it does. Whether in vitro, in silico, or in vivo, what matters is what emerges, not the underlying mechanisms that got you there.
The remainder of the book promises to deal with adaptive management. I'm looking forward to it.
First of all, to everything there is a season. Note the scale on this graph: 250 years. The industrial era is history.
Today the life cycle of the information age has just peaked. It's all downhill from here. Over the next ten years, the molecular age will hit its growth phase.
Chris and Stan find a pattern in the lifecycles of economies.
They take the technology adoption cycle to a higher plane. Here's the tech version, describing both markets and the culture required to thrive in each.
Learn by Search & Replace. Make these substitutions...
Finally, here's what you can do about all this.
Gary Wolf, in the New York Times' review of Wired, a Romance:
Things happened quickly for Wired -- remember "Internet time"?
Here are some of the links I promised in today's webinar. Within 24 hours I'll post the presentation (with narration) as well. If you have questions, post them as a comment below and I'll answer them here.
There's information on blogs here, although I also recommend you simply poke around on this blog and visit some of the others I showed:
Unlike many bloggers, I think it's okay to go back to add additional material. That's because I view blogs as nifty content management systems more than as diaries. For example, here's an excellent article on blogging from journalist/entrepreneur Jeff Jarvis.
Request your copy of the eLearning Implementation & Action Plan Template here.
The unexpurgated "director's cut" of Lance's and my book is here
Jay's notes on Living on the Faultline (core vs. context)
Jay's white paper on Informal Learning.
My thoughts on the parallels between networking and learning first appeared here. This is a work in progress. If you'd like to be notified of new developments in this and the other topics I track, sign up here.
Sign up for:
Communication Arts’ Timeline of Design. 40 years of graphic images.
Time Orientation in Thinking
Focus: Immediate problem
Liability: No big picture
Function Develop Strategy
Liability: Overlook immediate
Focus: New Approach
Liability: Duplicate effort
Focus: What We Want
Function: Define the Future
Liability: No Reality Testing
|Measured in days, weeks, and dog years (for the business cycle). Absolutely everything was accelerated, from hiring to going public. Eighteen months was the magic number for major undertakings, from startup to ship, from funding to IPO. The bumper sticker was, "Stop for lunch and you are lunch." Says McNamee: "It was a kind of hormonal reaction. There was so much urgency that every standard -- for due diligence, leadership, recruiting, and investment -- was relaxed."||"The New Normal," says McNamee, "is about real life -- and real time. Getting things right the first time is more important than getting things done quickly." That's the opposite of the late-'90s mantra, "Fail faster to succeed sooner." Everything -- whether it be building companies or hiring top talent -- takes longer in the New Normal. Even more important in the new time frame: Don't waste your own time. Dedicate it to what you truly enjoy doing.|
While sitting in the little tiled room right off my office, where I do a lot of my reading, I came upon a one-page article by Seth Godin in Fast Company.
After Godin’s recent rap on seeing a Purple Cow, I was about ready to give up on the guy. The cow thing is such a blatant rip-off of one of the few famous alumni of my prep school, Ogden Nash, who wrote:
Besides, if you’ve ever been to Lenk, in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, you’ve seen lots of purple cows. They are the symbol of Milka chocolate, whose milk comes from the cows of Lenk. But I digress.
This month Godin talks about hard work. He points out that neither Richard Branson nor Carly Fiorina work longer hours than you or I. They just pick the right balance of stuff to work on. You know, the challenges that others don’t find reasonable.
This is inspirational. We’ve got as much time to work with as they do!
I’d better start picking better challenges to work on.
Feedster, a search engine for RSS data, making it a search for recent info, mainly blogs.
The New York Times
Is There Life After Silicon Valley’s Fast Lane?
By JOHN MARKOFF
Others, like Mr. Bratcher were burned out by a corollary to the tyrannical Moore’s Law: a pace of business that Intel’s co-founder and chairman, Andrew S. Grove, referred to as “Internet time” in 1996, at the onset of the dot-com boom.
Wall Street Journal
by Lee Gomes
Here's an excuse in technology nostalgia: Remember Internet Time?
From its origins, circa 1994, the phrase became canonical during the late 1990s. It was used to describe the accelerated pace at which, in a Web-enabled world, all business was supposedly going to be conducted. Business plans, product cycles, big decisions -- everything would be zipping along at a fraction of their traditional rates.
This is your business brain on speed.
Internet Time, along with cousins like Web Time and Warp Speed, became handy phrases to throw into book titles and PowerPoint presentations as proof of savvy topicality. Into newspaper articles, too; The Wall Street Journal mentioned the idea four times in 1996 but 43 times in 2000.
This column, though, marks only the second time the phrase has been used by this newspaper all year. Internet Time's time was short indeed.
In fact, what with the current free fall in tech spending, Internet Time has been replaced by its evil twin: let's call it Slowth.
Faster product cycles? Why bother? No one is buying anything anyway; take all the time you need.
Like New Economy, the term Internet Time was used seriously by some people, mockingly by others. (Back then, you picked your friends by which camp they belonged to.)
People in the former category invariably mentioned it with a celebratory, even reverential, tone. It seems to have never occurred to them that companies were taking two years rather than six months to bring out a new product because that's how long it took to get the new product right.
One can't help but suspect that Internet Time was a convenient excuse for companies of the period to sell stuff not fully tested, if not downright shoddy.
Back then, though, who would dare complain? People would suspect you were operating with an Old Economy paradigm, a fatal accusation for any career circa 1997-1999.
In retrospect, Internet Time was actually an amalgam of several unrelated phenomenon. In a few cases, the simple existence of the Internet did, as billed, allow for faster products. If you are making software, for instance, your customers were suddenly able to download new versions as fast as you could put them on the Web.
But most of the time, Internet Time was something else. In the fight between Microsoft and Netscape, usually hailed as the ultimate Internet Time battle, it was the sudden emergence of a big market coming up for grabs that drove the frantic pace. There would have been the same sense of urgency had the pair been making the very first generation of patio furniture.
Mostly, Internet Time was just a euphemism for Bubble Time. Venture capitalists were approving business plans in a single breakfast meeting for the simple reason that they wanted to get in and get out before the roof fell in.
The phrase Internet Time is traditionally credited to Tom Paquin, one of the earliest employees of Netscape. As the story goes, Mr. Paquin, around the summer of 1994, was asking other Netscape employees how long they had been at the company -- and how long it felt they had been there.
A four-month tenure, people invariably said, seemed like a year, maybe two. "Ah," said Mr. Paquin, "Internet Time."
That's how the story usually gets told. But Mr. Paquin said last week there was more to it than that.
The phrase, he said, was initially something of an inside joke among Mr. Paquin and his buddies. (And it was used to describe time perception not, as in its current meaning, time compression.) "Then the marketing and PR people picked up on it," he said.
It may be hard to remember now, but back then, Netscape was at the very center of the technology world. It was, for one, going to put Microsoft out of business. Reporters, politicians, the whole world flocked through its doors, asking about its ways, its secrets.
"Internet Time," said Mr. Paquin, was something that Netscape marketers began offering as a window into the company and its new world. People ate it up.
It may have been one of the first instances of a tech company marketing a form of Internet Exceptionalism. That's the notion that the Internet is a wholly new place where none of the old rules apply. That idea, of course, became the central tenet of the subsequent Internet bubble, and eventually ended up costing a lot of people a lot of money.
Mr. Paquin still thinks that Internet Time is a meaningful notion in the confines of technology. But he says it's not, as boosters tried to claim, the new world order.
Says Mr. Paquin, "To say some guy in the chemical industry ought to be shipping new products every six months -- that's just crazy."
An article by two academics, Moving Past Time as the Criteria: The Application of Capabilities-Based Educational Equivalency Units in Education, suggests that the "Carnegie unit," which equates college credits with hours spent in class with a qualified instructor is hopelessly out of date.
I couldn't agree more.
The Carnegie Foundation for Advancement in Teaching defined a college unit as 750 classroom hours back in 1909, long before the advent of the Internet, the computer, television, tape recorders, or the ballpoint pen. It's no surprise that simulations, distance learning, and online collaboration count for naught in the Carnegie scheme.
The researchers propose the Capabilities-Based Educational Equivalency (CBEE) unit as a replacement. The say the CBEE "offers an approach that is not time-dependent but is responsive to emerging technologies, supportive of systematic instructional design, and focused on the achievement of learners."
For each course, CBEE units are determined from Course Objectives (Given appropriate resources, learners will be able to…). Type of Objective (Gagne type) and Instructional method (text, online reading, async chat, etc.)
Colleges face a huge problem. They have no way to recognize what students learn outside of class.
I don't think these authors have the answer. Outcomes are outcomes. How one reaches them or how Gagne would pigeonhole them is irrelevant.
On a practical level, implementing competency-based education would probably involve more voodoo than what colleges are saddled with now. If a student learns three times as much in a Princeton course as in a Podunk U. course, does she receive three times as many credits? If not, why not?
I've assessed experiential learning for college credit in university assessment centers; it's the intellectual equivalent of touring the sausage factory.
I won't say where, but I've also developed lists of competencies for accredited off-campus degree programs. Most of the time, we developed the course before writing the competencies. This is like Charlie Brown painting the target around the arrow he has shot into the wall.
And what would happen if to courses that rate no CBEE units? A story in the August 14, 2002, New York Times reported "One day in 1931, Hamilton Holt, president of Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., startled his colleagues at an academic conference when he declared that Yale and Columbia, which he had attended in his youth, 'taught me virtually nothing.' The reason, Mr. Holt explained, was that the lectures delivered by his teachers, as with those delivered by professors almost everywhere, were examples of 'probably the worst scheme ever devised for imparting knowledge.'"
Your comments on my perspective are welcome.
Time by Design makes watches and on-screen clocks that are intriguing but difficult to read.
Their site is a charming collection of quotes and observations about time.
It shouldn't be a surprise, but it never fails to grab my attention: a one-hundred year-old menu listing steak for a dollars, scrambled eggs for a quarter, and beer for a dime.
The surprise comes from confusing the value of 1902 dollars with that of 2002 dollars. Thanks to the ravages of inflation, one 2002 dollar is worth one 1902 nickle. Expressed in today's values, the old menu's steak goes for $20, the eggs cost $5, and the beer is two bucks. No surprise there.
We live in a world that has sped up since 1902. A hundred years ago, my great grandfather might spend half an hour writing a letter and half an hour each way carrying it down to the Post Office to mail. These days I dash off an email in a matter of minutes. An hour is worth more to me, at least in business terms, because I can do more with it than in the past.
So, what's the time equivalent of the obsolete prices on my old menu? Is time really more precious now than it used to be?
At this point, all I have is questions.
Walking saves time. Huh? It's true. The Washington Post says so.
Okay, we admit we don't have good comebacks for any of those. But for the rest of the excuses -- the more common ones you're probably using and that keep you in the high-risk category for just about everything you don't want to happen to you -- we offer the following irresistible rebuttals.
1. I DON'T HAVE TIME
Yeah, right. Do the words "computer solitaire" ring a bell? Just how many "must-see" TV shows do you have on your list this season? How about all that Web surfing for . . . what were you looking for again?
Ah. We thought so.
The important thing to understand regarding walking and time is that, when properly done, walking is actually a time generator, giving back more time than it consumes. We know of nothing else in the universe with this incredible ability.
For starters, walking lets your brain do something else while your body is moving: talk, think, connive, dream, plan, negotiate, work through the budget numbers, relive a vacation, recite epic poetry. Walking is essentially mobile multitasking.
"After millions of years of evolution, we are programmed to think while we walk," says Ellen Vanderslice, president of America Walks, a national coalition of pedestrian advocacy groups. "Walking keeps you organized. It actually puts more time in your day."
(Walking is, however, not compatible with talking on the cell phone. We refuse to provide any cover for those people you see on hiker-biker trails, suburban streets and city crosswalks yakking into the digital tin can like some schizophrenic bond trader. In fact, if you see them, tell them we said to cut it out.)
Then there's the idea that walking time makes the rest of your time more productive. It clears your brain and makes it work better when it's devoted to work later on.
"Walking increases blood flow to your brain," says Wendy Bumgardner, walking guide for About.com and a reformed sofa spud. "Studies show clearer thinking in seniors who walk for exercise versus those who do not. I find that going for a walk, you usually, first, stop thinking about the problems at hand. After a while, you can take up those problems with a fresh perspective and can prioritize them better."
Ron Looper, president of the Chesapeake Bay Country Wanderers, measures the extra time walking provides differently, even cosmically, by looking at the dividends it pays on the back end of life.
"Time is all you have," he reasons, "and walking for exercise probably will help extend your amount of time on earth."
All of which is to say: You don't have time not to walk. Next excuse?
The New York Times reports, Forbes ASAP, Magazine of New Market, Shuts Down
"There is no market for a dedicated new-economy publication," said Monie Begley, spokeswoman for Forbes.
In remarks in August, Steve Forbes, president and editor in chief, said that the company was responding to "a fall-off that hasn't been seen since the '30's."
Drat! Forbes ASAP was one of my favorite magazines. Its special one-topic issues were absolutely wonderful; I read them all cover-to-cover. The issue on Happiness featured articles from P.J. O'Rourke, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George Plimpton, Noall Bushnell, Lance Armstrong, John Perry Barlow, Jesse Jackson, and Christie Hefner. For me, ASAP's special issues were the timeliness of a magazine combined with the quality of a damned good book.
It's ironic that the final issue deals with feedback, since feedback from the marketplace is what's closing ASAP down.
Surrender to the self-correcting system.
It is emerging as the defining metaphor of our time. Like other great scientific phenomena discovered over the past two centuries--natural selection, genetics, relativity, nuclear fission, DNA, digital--feedback is about to burst out of the theoretical stage and into everyday life. "Feedback is what has been missing from science since Newton," says British scientist Steve Grand, who is trying to develop artificial life forms. "We thought it was a rare phenomenon--now it's hard to name anything in the universe that isn't feedback. Life itself turns out to be feedback."
We are starting to rethink science in light of feedback. It is at the heart of the most compelling new inventions. And now we are seeing the first signs that it is beginning to reorganize both corporations and national economies.
"We don't even have the words yet to describe this," says Grand. "We don't yet have the names. Before this is over, we're going to need a new mathematics, a new physics, and a new ontology of the world."
Welcome to Feedback Universe.
Mix that information in a vast shared database with mountains of data coming in about you from millions of sensors scattered across the landscape in roads, cash registers, and video cameras, and it soon will be possible to construct a virtual image of you--your tastes, interests, patterns, and perhaps even dreams--that will be almost indistinguishable from the real thing. This will be the face of retail--and probably law, education, health care, and entertainment--in the 21st century.
The classic explanation goes like this: You prick your finger, which irritates the nerve endings at the site of the wound. These inflamed nerves fire off electrical signals, which travel up the larger nerve pathways to your brain, where they are decoded as pain. The brain, itself a bundle of nerves, responds by sending a message back down a nerve path to the muscles in the finger, ordering them to contract and pull the finger away.
It appears mechanically straightforward. But the clue that it might not be so direct comes from a simple but shocking fact: In many of those nerve pathways, there are at least as many nerves heading toward the senses as there are heading away from them toward the brain. This suggests a much tighter and faster feedback loop than anyone imagined.
So what's going on? Nobody's quite sure. But one strong possibility is that even as the senses are telling the brain what they are encountering, the brain is telling them what they should be experiencing.
Grand compares this to a virtual reality system. The world is so complex that the human brain cannot deal with it directly. So instead, based on the information flowing in from the senses, the brain constructs, in real time, a simplified and weighted view of the world, one that picks out the important things from this infinite field of data. It is this vision of reality that the brain sends back out to the senses. "Brains are really billions of feedback loops," he says.
I should be focusing on finishing the presentation I will be delivering four days from now, but some ideas are nagging me to be expressed and I'm not that good at arguing my brain out of such notions.
Several recent memes are influencing the way I conceptualize my website and my professional direction.
The notion of object orientation has me pondering what size unit is appropriate for my newly designed website. Also, the separation of form and substance, thanks to stylesheets, is liberating. And using a search engine instead of a hierarchy or indexes adds flexibility, too. The title of David Weinberger's book about the web, Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, describes the blueprint for the new internettime.com. In tmie, half the site will be Easter eggs one trips over accidentally.
Nothing is ever finished. I used to complete a page or a white paper or a chapter and figure that is was "done." No longer. There's always a new perspective. And, since everything seems to be connected to everything else, things are always in flux. This is just as well, since people (including your author) engage with unfinished works but are bored when everything is over. Hell, they may have something to add; hence the need for two-way authoring. I like the way Movable Type encourages me to come back to add on to items I'd posted a while back.
Time is accelerating and is more important than it used to be. When I mentioned this to a management consultant friend, he asked, "Do you have any proof of that?" My response was, "Can't you feel it?" For the last dozen years, I've been drawn to the study of time, without explanation, like the moth to the flame. (I can identify with the Richard Dreyfus character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind who was obsessed with Devil's Tower.)
This notion that relentless time is moving ahead is goading me to shift over to the new internettime.com before I normally would have. It is not finished. It's half-baked. But then, it never will be finished. And I have experiments I want to conduct on the web and cannot afford the time to keep two sites up to date.
Finally, I'm reconceptualizing the role of the site itself. At first, we positioned ourselves as an authority on eLearning. When we'd figure something out, we'd clean it up and present it on the site. The new role is inquirer. We invite people to look over our shoulder as we explore how the world works and how to make it better. The inquiry leads outside of our familiar domains but we have the courage (or is it chutzpah?) to boldly go out on that thin ice. Psychology? Cog-sci? Design? Socio-biology? The new science? Entropy? Chaos? No problem.
Times of our lives by Karen Wright, in the current Scientific American
Adrenaline and other stress hormones make the clock speed up, as do cocaine and meth. Parkinson's patients and dope-smokers have less available dopamine and experience slower time. States of deep concentration or extreme emotion may flood the system or bypass it altogether; in such cases, time may seem to stand still or not exist at all. Because an attentional spike initates the timing process, people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder might also have problems gauging the true length of intervals.
Circadian rhythms are something else again. "Confined to a petri dish under contassnt lighting, human cells still follow 24-hour cycles of gene activity, hormone secretion and energy procution. The cycles are hardwired and vary by only a few minutes a day!
Most animals have extreme changes throughout the year, for hibernation, molting, and the all-important procreation. We humans get seasonable affective disorder. Big deal.
Another article by Paul Davies in the current issue of Scientific American.
Traveling into the past is rather trickier. Relativity theory allows it in certain spacetime configurations: a rotating universe, a rotating cylinder and, most famously, a wormhole -- a tunnel through space and time.
Time dillation occurs when two observers move relative to each other. Hence the twins paradox: the space-traveler twin returns to find a much older twin back on earth. This happens on airplanes, too, but a few nanoseconds here and there are easily overlooked.
Gravity also slows time. A clock in the attic runs faster than one on the ground. The amount is trivial close to Earth but must be factored in by the GPS system.
Davies proposes a time machine constructed of a couple of wormholes. Place one next to a neutron star -- that will slow down time a bit. Go in one place, come out somewhere else in space and in time. How are we going to do this? Quantum mechanics pops up. Sounds like voodoo to me.
I've begun reading the Scientific American special issue on Time.
"From the fixed past to the tahgible present to the undecided future, it feels as though time flows inexorably on. But that is an illusion." So writes Paul Davies in That Mysterious Flow.
Nothing in known physics corresponds to the passage of time. Indeed physicists insist that time doesn't flow at all; it merely is.
Einstein famously wrote... "The past, present and future are only illusions, even if stubbon ones." Einstein's startling conclusion stems directly from his special theory of relativity, which denies any absolute, universal significance to the present moment. According to the theory, simultaneity is relative.
As to why our brains think time exists, Davies suggests that maybe it's due to the irreversible process of entropy. Things get messier over time; they never un-mess. New memories add to the brain's entropy. Maybe we experience this as the passage of time?
Scientific American's current issue is about TIME.
"Punctuality comes from within, not from without," writes Harvard University historian David S. Landes in his book Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World. "It is the mechanical clock that made possible, for better or worse, a civilization attentive to the passage of time, hence to productivity and performance."
A team from France and the Netherlands set a new speed record for subdividing the second, reporting last year that a laser strobe light had emitted pulses lasting 250 attoseconds--that's 250 billionths of a billionth of a second. The strobe may one day be fashioned into a camera that can track the movements of individual electrons. The modern era has also registered gains in assessing big intervals. Radiometric dating methods, measuring rods of "deep time," indicate how old the earth really is.
Doc posts a nice blow-up of the different rates of change from the Long Now Foundation:
Bandwidth is time-dependent, so I'll put this handy table from JOHO here.
From The Wealth of Knowledge by Tom Stewart,
On a lakeside near Zurich, a city where Lenin plotted Bolshevist revolution, ur-capitalist Dean LeBaron, former fchaiman of Bastterymarch Financial Management, contrmplates the information revolution: "We financial analysts were brought up looking at charts whose x-asis represented time.You'd see trends. Time was a wave. In the new economy, I'm beginning to think time is a quantum. What comes next bears no relationship to what came before." That glorious abstract image becomes earthy as LeBaron explains: "It use to be that information oozed out into the makret. Now it's dumped out all at once."
My dinners with Pierre (et ses amis)
Last week in France, home of Bergson and Proust, I noted some differences between French and US notions of time.
Steven Wright on timely subjects:
Ever notice how irons have a setting for PERMANENT press? I don't get it...
Four years ago..............no, it was yesterday.
I just bought a microwave fireplace... You can spend an evening in front of it in only eight minutes...
I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time". So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
Today I met with a subliminal advertising executive for just a second.
My girlfriend asked me how long I was going to be gone on this tour. I said "the whole time".
"I put instant coffee in my microwave oven and almost went back in time."
Just in time strategy for a turbulent world
Lowell L. Bryan
The McKinsey Quarterly, 2002 Number 2 Risk and resilience
"Kenneth, what is the frequency?"
Such traditional strategy formulation often pays lip service to the perspectives of the capital markets, to changing industry structures, and to the forces at work in the environment. But in reality, a "visionary" corporate strategy is often an internally driven reflection of what the company wants the world to look like.
But suppose we no longer believe that the future is foreseeable. What if defining and achieving an enduring competitive advantage is really just a conceit that must be abandoned? What if the outstanding fact of business, as John Maynard Keynes once described it, is the "extreme precariousness of the basis of knowledge"? What if it is no longer possible to block out the "noise" of the world’s messy reality in order to rationalize a plan to achieve predetermined outcomes?
Although the world is increasingly complex, confusing, and uncertain, serendipity doesn’t have to be more important than skill in the crafting and implementing of corporate strategy. Traditional deterministic approaches to strategy aren’t likely to be up to the task of helping companies negotiate these dangerous waters, but executives need not put the fate of their businesses entirely in the hands of chance. As the global environment continually changes and risk levels rise, a portfolio-of-initiatives approach holds out the opportunity for corporations to be as flexible and adaptive as the markets themselves.
'A New Kind of Science': You Know That Space-Time Thing? Never Mind
Sunday NY Times Book Review
By GEORGE JOHNSON
From the very beginning of this meticulously constructed
manifesto, the reader is presented with a stunning proposal: all
the science we know will be demolished and reassembled. An
ancient error will be corrected, one so profoundly misguided
that it has led science down the wrong avenue, until it is
approaching a cul-de-sac. The mistake (as everyone who hated
calculus will be happy to hear) is trying to capture the
richness of the universe with mathematical equations --
Newton's, Maxwell's, Einstein's. All are based on an abstract,
perhaps dubious idea -- that time and space form a seamless
continuum. Whether dealing with an inch or a second, you can
chop it in half and the half in half, ad infinitum. Thus things
can be described with unlimited, infinitesimal precision.
Wolfram contends that this, the common wisdom, gets things
upside down: the algorithm is the pure, elemental expression of
nature; the equation is an artifice. That is because the
continuum is a fiction. Time doesn't flow, it ticks. Space is
not a surface but a grid. A world like this is best described
not by equations but by simple step-by-step procedures. By
"I think we agree, the past is over."
Geroge W. Bush, on his meeting with John McCain,
Dallas Morning News, May 10, 2000
Obliscence, Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter
by Geoffrey Sonnabend
In his three volume work Obliscence, Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter, Geoffrey Sonnabend departed from all previous memory research with the premise that memory is an illusion. Forgetting, he believed, not remembering is the inevitable outcome of all experience. From this perspective,
"We, amnesiacs all, condemned to live in an eternally fleeting present, have created the most elaborate of human constructions, memory, to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrieveability of its moments and events."
Sonnabend did not attempt to deny that the experience of memory existed. However, his entire body of work was predicated on the idea that what we experience as memories are in fact confabulations artificial constructions of our own design built around sterile particles of retained experience which we attempt to make live again by infusions of imagination - much as the blacks and whites of old photographs are enhanced by the addition of colors or tints in attempt to add life to a frozen moment.
Sonnabend believed that long term or "distant" memory was illusion, but similarly he questioned short term or "immediate" memory. On a number of occasions Sonnabend wrote, "there is only experience and its decay" by which he meant to suggest that what we typically call short term memory is, in fact, our experiencing the decay of an experience. Interestingly, however, Sonnabend employed the term true memory, to describe this process of decay which, he held, was, in actuality, not memory at all.
Seriousness is an accident of time. It consists in putting too high a value on time. In eternity there is no time. Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke. Herman Hesse (1877 - 1962)
Anywhere is walking distance, if you've got the time. Steven Wright
Use the Blog, Luke
by Steven Johnson in Salon
But both Blogdex and Bookwatch share a conceptual limitation with most individual blogs, a limitation that is hard-wired into the software used by the great majority of webloggers: They are organized around time.
Time is central to the philosophical DNA the blogs share with journalism: Both compulsively feature today's link, today's controversy, today's top books. This might seem like an obvious organizational principle, but it comes with great restrictions. Google, for instance, is largely oblivious to time: When you use Google, you're usually not looking for up-to-the-minute info, you're looking for authority and depth. (Try getting a useful stock quote directly from Google and you'll understand immediately.) Many of the bloggers that I follow comment on links that are time-sensitive on the scale of a year or two: Someone's rant on the latest XML spec revisions is just as relevant next week, though probably not nearly so relevant a decade from now. But because those links fall off the front door every few days, they effectively enter a de facto oblivion, where I have to hunt them down actively three weeks later when I'm looking around for useful assessments of XML. The beautiful thing about most information captured by the bloggers is that it has an extensive shelf life. The problem is that it's being featured on a rotating shelf.
But the bloggers needn't be anchored to the headline-news mentality. Think of them as less like a newspaper substitute and more a kind of guardian angel, hovering over your shoulder as you surf. (The Alexa software created by Brewster Kahle relied on a similar approach: He called it a "surf engine.") Punch up a URL and if Jason, or Andrew Sullivan, or Sopsy has an opinion about that page, you see their comments in a floating window alongside your main browser window. It's a simple enough trick: Sites like Blogdex are already tracking blog-borne references to different URLs. All your browser would have to do is send an additional request to a database of blogged URLs anytime you pulled up a page: If there's a match -- if one of the bloggers you're following has referenced the URL -- their comments get sent back to your machine and appear in the floating palette.
[interesting riff on collaborative filtering via blogs]
There are almost as many potential ways to manage that new flow of information as there are bloggers providing it. But to open up these new avenues, the bloggers are going to have to shed their dependence on the traditional journalistic models: Instead of going to today's blog the way you pick up today's paper, the bloggers should follow us around, providing context and commentary, supplementing our libraries and our memory. Many blogs out there possess the standards and intelligence of conventional journalism, but there are already too many of them to keep track of the way we subscribe to old-style magazines or habitually tune in to favorite TV networks. If the blogging population expands at the current rate, soon enough you'll be able to spend an entire day just reading the front doors of all your bookmarked blogs. Better to do away with the dependence on front doors, and let your favorite bloggers come to you.
zeit·geist | Pronunciation: 'tsIt-"gIst, 'zIt | Function: noun | Etymology: German, from Zeit (time) + Geist (spirit) | Date: 1884 | Meaning: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era
I don't have enough time.
It's really beginning to irritate me when someone complains, "I don't have enough time." Why? Well, you have the same amount of time as you always have. Often, saying you don't have enough time means, "I don't have enough time for you."
Since the amount of clock time you have is fixed, in fact it's a rare constant in this topsy-turvy world, saying you don't have enough is simply a statement of your priorities. It's short for, "I don't have enough time for X."
A friend of mine is going through a divorce, a move, looking for a job, watching after two kids, and tending some messy, third-world, hardly-know-em houseguests. When she said she didn't have enough time to continue with our group, she was saying that more immediate needs were being forced upon her. Time wasn't the issue so much as fate having dealt her a rotten hand to play. Twenty-four hours a day of relationship and moving and job anxiety is a bitch. Jamming forty-eight hours of misery into every day is obviously not the solution.
A colleague and I are wrangling because I suggested her work was less than useful in getting a report done. The reply came back that in her "not so spare time." she had gotten the ball rolling. On one level, I'm angry that I wasted my time decoding what she'd written. On another, the "not-so-spare time" comment carries with it the hint that her time is worth more than mine. Or than somebody's. Aside from that, it confuses effort with results.
Hearing someone complaining not having time is about as pleasant as hearing about their flu symptoms or the time they laughed so hard they blew milk out their nose. Better to tell it like it is. For example,
"I have so much time that I can waste some complaining about the tough time I'm having sorting out my priorities."
"You're using your time on such pitiful activities that it's worth your while to listen to me drone on about the inevitable. How about the economy, eh?"
"When I can't get my life in order, I blame external factors like time instead of shouldering responsibility for the choices I have made."
I'd tell you more but the dogs are hungry, I haven't finished doing my taxes, and the house needs vacuuming.
My theme for the way ahead is to look around, not forward.
John Seely Brown, in Forbes
We all have the same amount of time. Some of us use it more wisely than others.
"I don't have enough time" is another way of saying "This is not sufficiently high on my list of priorities to consider doing."
from Insiteview, Tom Shugart's Weblog
"Time-economics, what exactly does this mean? Is it how we spend our time - productively, purposefully, meaningfully, wastefully? I have been thinking about the time issue, in terms of both blogging and reading blogs and the articles they point to. Has anybody else thought about how to define time-economics? What is wasted time? How does it fit into the bigger questions of meaning and purpose? How precious a commodity is time?"
I guess I'll take a stab at it, Mike. The key lies in your next-to-last question: "How does it fit into the bigger questions of meaning and purpose?" You ask about the use of the term, "time-economics." Good question. "Economics" is associated with money, and "Money" shares some commonalties with "Time."
Money and Time both have the illusion of being very real. Indeed, about as real as you can get. Money is tangible and measurable. You can use it in an infinite variety of ways. Time is tangible and measurable on the face of every timepiece on the planet. Again, you can use it in an infinite variety of ways.
In actuality, however, time and money are not "real." They are both inventions of man--highly useful--created for the purpose of facilitating human interactions. But they are not Fundamental Entities of the same realm as those that are "really real"--Purpose, Meaning, Experience, Love, Energy, Power, etc. They are representations of those entities. People, for example, often describe the essence of money as Energy or Power or Spiritual-Connection-to-the-Abundance-of-the Universe," whatever. The point being, if you want to address your money situation, first address the fundamental abstractions underlying it.
Using this analogy, suppose we say that that the essence of Time is purpose and meaning, or that time is the representation of purpose and meaning? I remember a popular workshop of the 80's, "The More Time Workshop." Their slogan was, "You can't manage time (because it's not really real), what you manage is experience." The idea was that, instead of looking at time, you looked at the quality of experience that you intended to produce, and let your time-based agenda shape itself around that.
This philosophy is behind Stephen Covey's approach, isn't it? He stresses building out your plan from the foundation of your governing principles. (Correct me if I'm wrong, Mike).
So what's the point? To put it as simply as possible, I guess it's that we should evaluate our blog time in terms of our purpose and meaning and quality of experience and not by the mathematical yardstick of minutes or hours passed.
Returning from vacation, I'm able to look at old behaviors with fresh eyes. Do I really need to read the newspaper compulsively? How often do I really need to check up on what's going on in the world? Wouldn't it be healthier to start the day with a glass of pineapple or watermelon juice than a cup of coffee?
My nine days off the grid were serene. Now I'm noticing the extent to which email interrupts my life. Coming home to 1400 emails, most of them offering me debt consolidation, better long distance rates, a deal on toner cartridges, or a more vigorous sex life, is only a nuisance.
The interruption comes from needlessly checking email every time I send a message (Doesn't anybody love me any more?) or responding to email in almost real time (rather than batching the non-urgent ones for later processing). Blocks of time are more productive than lots of little snitches of time. I'd be better off checking email only a couple of times a day and responding to non-critical email only at the end of the day, or every other day.
This is like giving up smoking. I'm already in denial. Just one more peak. Cripes. I'm closing Outlook until after this afternoon's meeting. I promise.
Time here is less precise. At home, if I say I'll arrive around 8:00, I mean anywhere from 7:45 to 8:15. Here we'd have more latitude. 8:00, mas o menos, means "between 8:15 and 10:30." I wonder if this comes from different metaphors for how the world works. In spite of the fact that Einstein debunked Newton's view that the universe is a giant mechanical clock, Americans tend to think in terms of on/off, cause/effect, gears meshing, and everything running "like a Swiss watch." I sense that Guatemalans are somewhat pre-Newtonian, seeing things in spiritual terms. Things are more loosely coupled, bound together with magic and beliefs instead of drive shafts and fan belts.
Before the Spaniards arrived, the Mayans had come up with a calendar that was only off by 30 seconds everything 30,000 years, mas o menos, but the timing was left to the priesthood. Priests were astronomers; astronomers were priests. They built Tikal to calculate and celebrate equinoxes, solstices, and eclipses. On one wall in the departure area of the Guatemala City Aeropuerto hang clocks displaying the time in California, New York, Paris, etc. The hours are of course all different. Here, so are the minutes. It's 9:32 and 11:03 and 6:15..
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.
In today's email:
My life has been severely tampered with and cursed!!
I have suffered tremendously and am now dying!
I need to be able to:
I am aware that there are many types of time travel, and that humans do not do well through certain types.
I need as close to temporal reversion as possible, as safely as possible. To be able to rewind the hands of time in such a way that the universe of now will cease to exist. I know that there are some very powerful people out there with alien or government equipment capable of doing just that.
If you can help me I will pay for your teleport or trip down here, Along with hotel stay, food and all expenses. I will pay top dollar for the equipment. Proof must be provided.
Please be advised that any temporal device that you may employ must account for X, Y, and Z coordinates as well as the temporal location.
I have a time machine now, but it has limited abilitys and is useless without
If you can provide information on how to create vortex generator or
where I can get some of the blue glowing moon crystals this would also
be helpful. I am however concerned with the high level of radiation these crystals give off, if you could provide a shielding or other crystals which give off a north polarized vortex field just as strong or strong enough to make a watch stop this would be great.
I am aware of two types of time travel one in physical form and the other in energy form where a snapshot of your brain is taken using either the dimensional warp or an electronic device and then sends your consciousness back through time to part with your younger self. Please explain how safe and what your method involves.
Also if you are one of the very, very, few beings with the ability to edit the universe PLEASE REPLY!!!
Only if you have this technology and can help me exactly as mentioned
please send me a (SEPARATE) email to: [email protected]
Please do not reply if your an evil alien!
The Timeline of Computer History at The Computer Museum History Center in Mountain View
I remember when most of this happened. My first program: 1965.
excerpts from the New York Times, February 8, 2002
Eye Cell Tied to Body Clock Shocks Experts
By SANDRA BLAKESLEE
With the help of three kinds of blind mice and some ugly frogs, scientists have discovered a new class of light-sensing cells in the retina.
The cells, which are different from the rods and cones that enable vision, appear to reset the body's master biological clock each morning and night. The researchers said that while the finding was made in mice, it was certain to hold true for humans, with implications for possible treatment of sleep disorders, jet lag, depression and other maladies involving the body's internal clock.
Dr. Berson said a deeper understanding of the new photoreceptors might lead to novel treatments for disturbances of the body's internal clock. It may turn out that people who have defects in the newly described system could suffer from "time blindness," similar to colorblindness.
Three kinds of blind mice posed the problem. [See how they run.]The first was a mutant mouse that lacked all its rods and 95 percent of its cones. "These animals are blind, yet they are as good at responding to light in setting their daily rhythms as their sighted litter mates," Dr. Foster said.
"I'll never forget the first time we did the experiment," Dr. Berson said. "We gathered around the rig. The cell was sitting in darkness. We hit it with light. Nothing happened for almost a second. Then all of a sudden it began to spike. We went crazy. The missing photoreceptors in the retina and the cells that talk to the clock are one and the same."
I discovered long ago that long, uninterrupted blocks of time are more productive than time that's continually interrupted by the distractions of email, ringing phones, and conversation. On the drive from Berkeley to Santa Clara this afternoon, one person said she simply cut off her phone when she needed peace. Another cuts off her computer to avoid email part of each morning. I realized that I'd fallen back into old habits, grabbing the phone whenever it rings, complusively checking for email, and hopping from one project to another. That's crazy. Tomorrow I'll see what it's like to go phoneless for a while and to forget email for the first three hours ot the day.
The acceleration of time is a major factor driving my blogging.
When I started opening up and sharing what was shaping up in my head five or six years ago, it seemed incredible to be able to put ideas into a web page every now and then.
Now it's as if things decay much faster. The stream of business flows faster. Last month's revelations are old hat. People want to know what happened yesterday. Or two hours ago. Hence, the immediacy of blogging is a winner.
InternetTime.com is a knowledgebase of legacy content. That's great for newbies and researchers. It doesn't speak to people who want to keep up and be in the know. I'm going to shift the focus at InternetTime.com more to blogging and less to static pages. I'll need some metatags to be able to retrieve things with a search engine. Because they are chronological, most blogs aren't very hot at retrieval. How often do you see a search button instead of "archives?"
Time-Reversed Human Experience: Experimental Evidence and Implications
Let's revisit the philosophy of Hume.
"People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Albert Einstein
The effects considered here involve information flowing backward in time. This worries some philosophers because they imagine that time-reversals necessarily evoke logical paradoxes.
These implications are, of course, heresies of the first order.
I believe...the implications of all this are sufficiently remote from engrained ways of thinking that the first reaction to this work will be confidence that it is wrong. The second reaction will be horror that it may be right. The third will be reassurance that it is obvious.
Jay's take on this: Don't hold your breath waiting for this to happen.
yesterday i was shopping at peet's coffee. on the counter was a 1/2 pound sack of jamaican blue mountain coffee. having sampled a pound of this rare, luscious coffee when i moved to california in 1974, i figured it would make a nice gift. then i noticed the price -- $39.99! whoa. no coffee beans rate that level of tariff. in '74 i paid $5 for half a pound of blue mountain beans at the farmer's market in el lay.
this got me thinking about how values change over time. money, sure. that's inflation. but also human values. organizational values. like trying to preserve the HP Way fifty years later. or clinging to command and control when even the military is poised to give it up. or only accounting for hard assets when soft assets have become more valuable. it's foolish to follow business traditions that date from before the PC, the net, ecological consciousness, and slow rates of growth.
by the way, the $5 of 1974 is equivalent to $17.99 today. the price of jamaican coffee has significantly outpaced inflation.
History and Art Timelines
Explore the past through this multi-disciplinary look at the chronology of historical events in relation to artistic milestones.
Timeline: A Media History Project
This timeline Web site represents a major undertaking for its producers and a bona fide treasure for teachers and other Web surfers. The project compiles major historical events in world history in a tidy chronological format, from 3500 BCE to the present.
Western Civilization Chronology
Delve through the history of Western Civilization, from the prehistoric times of the Hominids and Mesopotamia to the American Cold War, which culminated in 1989.
THE NATURE OF TIME
by Humberto Maturana
The awarenes that the notion of time arises as an abstraction from the coherences of the experiences of the observer that he or she uses as an explanatory notion is not a problem. What becomes a problem in the long run, is the unaware adoption of the notion of time as an explanatory principle that is accepted as a matter of course giving to it a trascendental ontological status
the foundations of the notion of time in any domain rests on the biology of the observer, not on the domain of physics which is a domain of explanations of a particular kind of experiential coherences of the observer.
Experience arises spontaneously literally out of nothing, or, if we wish, from chaos, from a domain about which we can say nothing which does not arise from the coherences of our experiences. This that I say is valid for any domain of experiences, be this life, physics, quantum physics, human relations, ... All these different domains of experiences are experiential domains lived as domains of explanations of our experiences with our experiences. But our experiences are not disordered, they arise coherent as the arise in us from nothingness. So, we exist in this wonderful experiential situation in which we as observers that exist in the present, are the source of everything, even of that which we may treat in the coherences of our experiences as observers as entities that through their operation give rise to the operation of observing and the explainig of their occurrence in a closed domain of explanations. The great temptation is to transform the abstractions of the coherences of our experiences that we distinguish with notions such as reality, existence, reason, space consciousness ... or time, into explanatory principles.
An important insight gained from some of the more recent projects in member companies of the Society for Organizational Learning has led to the distinction between two different sources or processes of organizational learning: one that is based on reflecting the experiences of the past (Type I) and a second source, one that is grounded in sensing and enacting emerging futures (Type II). Each of these processes is based on a different temporal source of learning and requires managers to work with fundamentally different learning cycles.
The temporal source of Type I learning is the past, or, to be more precise, the coming into presence of the past–learning revolves around reflecting on experiences of the past. All Kolb-type learning cycles are variations of this type of learning (Kolb 1984). Their basic sequence is action, concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and action again (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: The Kolb Type Learning Cycle (Learning From the Experiences of the Past)
The temporal source of Type II learning is the future, or to be more precise, the coming into presence of the future. Type II learning is based on sensing and embodying emerging futures rather than re-enacting the patterns of the past. The sequence of activites in this learning process is seeing, sensing, presencing, and enacting (see Figure 2).
Fig. 2: The Other Learning Cycle (Learning From Emerging Futures)
While OD and organizational learning have been mainly concerned with how to build, nurture, and sustain Type I learning processes (Argyris, 1992; Schein, 1987; Senge et al, 1994), some more recent experiences suggest that today’s business environment presents most companies with challenges that require a new source and process of learning. These challenges are concerned with how to compete under the conditions of the new economy–that is, how to learn from a reality that is not yet embodied in manifest experience.
In dealing with the new economy challenge, Type I learning is no longer effective as the single source of learning, because the previous experiences embodied in the leadership team are no longer relevant to the challenges at hand. And the experiences that would be of relevance are not yet embodied in the experience base of the leadership team. The issue for management is how to learn from experience when the experience that matters most is the not-yet-embodied experience of the future.
This may turn out to be, well, duh!, but while making breakfast this morning it occurred to me that there's no such thing as standing still in time. The universe is happening, with you or without you, and what feels like being immobile is actually swimming more slowly than the current of events. Instead of the Newtonian-world choice of taking action or not, the issue is whether to stay with the current or get ahead a few strokes or let it wash over you.
CLOCK, n. A machine of great moral value to man, allaying his concern
for the future by reminding him what a lot of time remains to him.
--Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), "The Devil's Dictionary," 1911
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How many hours do you weigh?
Measurement is meaningless unless you're using the correct units of measure. We think of time in seconds, hours, days, months, and years. We weigh things in ounces, pounds, tons, grams, and so on. And we have to match the appropriate scale, seconds or year?, to convey meaningful information. If you ask my age and weight, it's not very useful for me to tell you I'm about 25 billion seconds old and weigh .087 tons. Yet business people do this every day.
Yesterday at the monthly meeting of eLearning Forum, someone said "When companies aren't making any money, they don't spend any money." We've all seen it happen. The issue is why. Business is cyclical. We're in a recession. Good times will return. Can you imagine a better time to recruit great staff? The price is right. Very talented people are looking for jobs. It's a buyers market. Think back to the sellers market eighteen months ago, when signing bonuses for IT people reached ridiculous levels and researchers were saying that lack of IT staff was holding back progress. Are businesses' memories so short that they don't remember paying six-figure salaries to 25-year olds who possessed a needed skill?
Let's look at this. Assume a business cycle, from highpoint to trough and back to high, is about three years long (the red line below). Medium-term plans should be pegged to the cycle, for averaging out the high and the low is the best overall representation of the operation of the business. But that's not how it works. Instead, business thinks in terms of the earth revolving around the sun (the blue lines below). The fact that we call these years makes this no less arbitrary.
The tic-marks of years aren't a problem unless we try to use them as blinders and look at only one interval at a time. For instance, this year is looking something like this:
Decision-makers who use the wrong units of measure, e.g. years instead of cycles, always by when prices are higher.
the tyranny of the calendar
The concept of the calendar year is an agrarian anachronism. Farmers know there's a time to plant and a time to reap. Summer, fall, winter, and spring are vital concepts for a planter.
But I'm a knowledge worker, not a farmer. My cycle is the business cycle. Its duration is more likely to be three orbits of the sun than one. Its seasons are Prosperity and Recession. Prosperity is the season to earn. Recession is the season to reflect to reflect. Prosperity is a season to do, recession a season to learn. Prosperity is the season to apply intellectual capital, Recession is the season to buld intellectual capital.
Bookstore shelves are filled with calendars for the next year. Father Time (and Dick Clark) will usher out the old year; a ball will drop in Times Square and Baby Time will come forward in his diaper. People will kiss. Some will resolve to change their ways. Few will keep these commitments, because the agrarian cycle is not in phase with their personal cycles. Less than two out of a hundred of us are farmers now. Better we should have five-year calendars or life-calendars. Days? What difference does a day make in the larger order of things? Maybe months -- a good unit for planning a trip -- or quarters, the time it takes do create business results.
My little dog must think it queer to stop without a dollar near. Turn, turn, turn. To each his own season.