We must empower a more diversified economy in 2016


Austin Christmas Hat 1

Those of us growing up in the 1960s and 1970s experienced tumultuous times that had some similarities to the last decade. Among many other contributions from our generation—which include both positive and negative influences—were some great artists, one of whom Bob Dylan is featured in a massive IBM ad campaign. Dylan’s poetry is timeless and quite relevant today:

The post WW2 era we grew up in provided the best economic conditions the world has ever known. The baby boom population explosion, of which I am at the tail end of, combined with vast sequential gains in productivity to create the ‘miracles’ of economies in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and China among others, or so it seemed.

Although a few credible experts have warned all along that the world’s trajectory wasn’t sustainable, and perhaps most of us intuitively realized same, the financial crisis contained a potential silver lining in revealing the stark naked truth: much of that ‘success’ in the post war era came at the direct expense of the future, and the bills are coming due.

Although woefully deficient in ethics with poor visibility of systemic risk—even in cases where desire for prevention existed, master politicians and financial engineers in both the public and private sector have masked structural problems in the economy for decades—from the public and each other, by employing ever-more complex short-term remedies in a misguided game of musical chairs.

Unfortunately, the resolution of the financial crisis has consisted primarily of the very same type of financial engineering—it’s the only hammers central banks have in their toolbox. While central bankers are justified in pointing fingers at political and fiscal malfeasance, it’s up to humble citizens like me to hold up a mirror and suggest that they take a look to see that such malfeasance would not be possible if not empowered by monetary policy.

One certainty is that the super majority of consolidated malfeasance in much of the world has been transferred to the balance sheets of central banks and national debt at direct cost to billions of people, many of whom followed the rules, not least those who saved all their lives just as their public institutions recommended.  Those savings have been taxed for nearly a decade now by monetary policy rather than a democratic process; by devaluation of currency, record low (or negative) interest rates, inflation from asset bubbles such as commodities and housing, and the need for hundreds of millions to tap their principal for survival. Also certain is that regardless of whether or which stimulus measures were necessary, one outcome has been a dangerous expansion of the wealth gap now at record level in the modern era.

It’s very important to better understand that the previous wealth gap peak in the 1920s was partially causal to the Great Depression and WW2, among other earlier great revolutions and loss of life. Today’s billionaires seem to understand the moral hazard and potential for backlash, which is presumably one of the reasons for the philanthropic pledges. A nice gesture that will hopefully do much good, philanthropy is not an alternative for economic diversification, though can help if targeted for that purpose.

The financial crisis represents precisely how corrosive moral hazard is realized at dangerous levels that can reach critical mass, which could be triggered by unforeseen events.  Moral hazard is a psychological phenomenon, which occurs from regulatory, governance and policy failures that then combine with the ensuing economic weakness to cause the next crisis.  In this case the trigger was regulatory failure followed by heavy-handed resolution that caused massive collateral damage, further harming innocent citizens worldwide. In such cases where the non-virtuous (aka vicious) cycle is not interrupted by a moral realignment, typically through accountability by the justice system, strong credible governance, and adoption of new systems that punishes crimes and rewards beneficial behavior, then civilizations can and do rapidly decline.

In hindsight from a high level view, from a hopefully wiser former business consultant who has studied related phenomenon for decades now, it appears that we enjoyed a long period of one-off exploitations of planet and people combined with ever-increasing public debt and corruption supporting promises by politicians and institutions that were far beyond their means to deliver.

The bad news is that the combination of public debt and future liabilities tragically promised by politicians—and now expected—some portion of which is necessary to survive in the high cost modern economy caused by these policies, can’t possibly be paid by the current economy.

The good news is that not all of that massive spend on R&D over decades has gone to waste, and we now have much more accountable systems that can indeed prevent the super majority of future crises, if only we can muster the courage to adopt them. We are also seeing dramatic improvements in systems that have the capacity for exponential productivity growth over time, which is the only method in our current economic system to cover national debt, unfunded liabilities, and the needs of a quickly aging global population, given the immense future needs in healthcare, environment and economics.

So my plan for 2016 is to tap the exponentially decreased cost and performance improvement in computing hardware and algorithmics to extend our networked artificial intelligence system to the mid-market, NGOs, and governments to provide them with a world class system unavailable to anyone at any cost until very recently. My hope is that our Kyield OS will help even the playing field and lead to a more dynamic and robust economy of the type that is only possible with healthy balance of diversification. Soon thereafter we plan to do the same directly for small business and individuals.

“If your time to you is worth savin’
you better start swimmin’, or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’”
– Bob Dylan

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Legacy of the Tōhoku Earthquake: Moral Imperative to Prevent a Future Fukushima Crisis


An article in the New York Times reminds us once again that without a carefully crafted and highly disciplined governance architecture in place, perceived misalignment of personal interests between individuals and organizations across cultural ecosystems can lead to catastrophic decisions and outcomes. The article was written by Martin Fackler and is titled: Nuclear Disaster in Japan Was Avoidable, Critics Contend.

While not unexpected by those who study crises, rather yet another case where brave individuals raised red flags only to be shouted down by the crowd, the article does provide instructive granularity that should guide senior executives, directors, and policy makers in planning organizational models and enterprise systems. In a rare statement by a leading publication, Martin Fackler reports that insiders within “Japan’s tightly knit nuclear industry” attributed the Fukushima plant meltdown to a “culture of collusion in which powerful regulators and compliant academic experts”.  This is a very similar dynamic found in other preventable crises, from the broad systemic financial crisis to narrow product defect cases.

One of the individuals who warned regulators of just such an event was professor Kunihiko Shimizaki, a seismologist on the committee created specifically to manage risk associated with Japan’s off shore earthquakes. Shimizaki’s conservative warnings were not only ignored, but his comments were removed from the final report “pending further research”. Shimizaki is reported to believe that “fault lay not in outright corruption, but rather complicity among like-minded insiders who prospered for decades by scratching one another’s backs.”  This is almost verbatim to events in the U.S. where multi-organizational cultures evolved slowly over time to become among the highest systemic risks to life, property, and economy.

In another commonly found result, the plant operator Tepco failed to act on multiple internal warnings from their own engineers who calculated that a tsunami could reach up to 50 feet in height. This critical information was not revealed to regulators for three years, finally reported just four days before the 9.0 quake occurred causing a 45 foot tsunami, resulting in the meltdown of three reactors at Fukushima.

Three questions for consideration

1) Given that the root cause of the Fukushima meltdown was not the accurately predicted earthquake or tsunami, but rather dysfunctional organizational governance, are leaders not then compelled by moral imperative to seek out and implement organizational systems specifically designed to prevent crises in the future?

2) Given that peer pressure and social dynamics within the academic culture and relationship with regulators and industry are cited as the cause by the most credible witness—from their own community who predicted the event, would not prudence demand that responsible decision makers consider solutions external of the inflicted cultures?

3) With the not-invented-here-syndrome near the core of every major crises in recent history, which have seriously degraded economic capacity, can anyone afford not to?

Steps that must be taken to prevent the next Fukushima

1) Do not return to the same poisoned well for solutions that caused or enabled the crisis

  • The not-invented-here-syndrome combined with bias for institutional solutions perpetuates the myth that humans are incapable of anything but repeating the same errors over again.

  • This phenomenon is evident in the ongoing financial crisis which suffers from similar cultural dynamics between academics, regulators and industry.

  • Researchers have only recently begun to understand the problems associated with deep expertise in isolated disciplines and cultural dynamics. ‘Expertisis’ is a serious problem within disciplines that tend to blind researchers from transdisciplinary patterns and discovery, severely limiting consideration of possible solutions.

  • Systemic crises overlaps too many disciplines for the academic model to execute functional solutions, evidenced by the committee in this case that sidelined their own seismologist’s warnings for further study, which represents a classic enabler of systemic crises.

2) Understand that in the current digital era through the foreseeable future, organizational governance challenges are also data governance challenges, which requires the execution of data governance solutions

    • Traditional organizational governance is rapidly breaking down with the rise of the neural network economy, yet governance solutions are comparably slow to be adopted.

    • Many organizational leaders, policy makers, risk managers, and public safety engineers are not functionally literate with state-of-the-art technology, such as semantic, predictive, and human alignment methodologies.

    • Functional enterprise architecture that has the capacity to prevent the next Fukushima-like event, regardless of location, industry, or sector, will require a holistic design encapsulating a philosophy that proactively considers all variables that have enabled previous events.

      • Any functional architecture for this task cannot be constrained by the not-invented-here-syndrome, defense of guilds, proprietary standards, protection of business models, national pride, institutional pride, branding, culture, or any other factor.

3) Adopt a Finely Woven Decision Tapestry with Carefully Crafted Strands of Human, Sensory, and Business Intelligence

Data provenance is foundational to any functioning critical system in the modern organization, providing:

      • Increased accountability

      • Increased security

      • Carefully managed transparency

      • Far more functional automation

      • The possibility of accurate real-time auditing

4) Extend advanced analytics to the entire human workforce

      • incentives for pre-emptive problem solving and innovation

      • Automate information delivery:

        • Record notification

        • Track and verify resolution

        • Extend network to unbiased regulators of regulators

      • Plug-in multiple predictive models:

        • -establish resolution of conflicts with unbiased review.

        • Automatically include results in reporting to prevent obstacles to essential targeted transparency as occurred in the Fukushima incident

5) Include sensory, financial, and supply chain data in real-time enterprise architecture and reporting

      • Until this year, extending advanced analytics to the entire human workforce was considered futuristic (see 1/10/2012 Forrester Research report Future of BI), in part due to scaling limitations in high performance computing. While always evolving, the design has existed for a decade

      • Automated data generated by sensors should be carefully crafted and combined in modeling with human and financial data for predictive applications for use in risk management, planning, regulatory oversight and operations.

        • Near real-time reporting is now possible, so governance structures and enterprise architectural design should reflect that functionality.

 

Conclusion

While obviously not informed by a first-person audit and review, if reports and quotes from witnesses surrounding the Fukushima crisis are accurate, which are generally consistent from dozens of other human caused crises, we can conclude the following:

The dysfunctional socio-economic relationships in this case resulted in an extremely toxic cultural dynamic across academia, regulators and industry that shared tacit intent to protect the nuclear industry. Their collective actions, however, resulted in an outcome that idled the entire industry in Japan with potentially very serious long-term implications for their national economy.

Whether psychological, social, technical, economic, or some combination thereof, it would seem that no justification for not deploying the most advanced crisis prevention systems can be left standing. Indeed, we all have a moral imperative that demands of us to rise above our bias, personal and institutional conflicts, and defensive nature, to explore and embrace the most appropriate solutions, regardless of origin, institutional labeling, media branding, or any other factor. Some crises are indeed too severe not to prevent.

Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO
Kyield
http://www.kyield.com

Too Big to Fail or Too Primitive to Succeed?


Our economy very nearly experienced a financial version of Armageddon due to the gap between a primitive governance structure and highly sophisticated tools employed by a few with interests that were deeply misaligned with the needs of sustaining our national and global economy. We have all since unwillingly experienced the negative impacts of untamed technology while experiencing few of the benefits of the tamed; whether for resolution of the current crisis or prevention of the next.

Given the systemic nature and scale of the financial crisis, and in consideration of the poor ongoing economic conditions, it’s clear that the financial industry, political process, and regulators have all fallen short of achieving the individual mission of each, particularly in consideration of current technological capabilities.

For the past several months financial institutions have been attempting to convince regulators that they should not be labeled a Systemically Important Financial Institution (SIFI). The process of implementing the 2010 Dodd-Frank law in the U.S. has resulted in spin offs in an attempt to avoid increased U.S. regulation, while the new global rules for multi-national banks on top of Basel III, including surcharges and increased capital ratios, is resulting in a comprehensive rethink of the fundamental assumptions surrounding the global banking model.

Observing this dynamic invites a mental imagery of bureaucrats, politicians, and academics in team competition, each applying favored remedies such as duck tape over economic journals in a futile attempt to plug giant leaks in the hull of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

When basic human greed clashed with globalization, networking, and technology, the combination introduced a complexity far beyond the organizational structures and tools available to regulators or corporations. Indeed, the reaction we’ve observed suggests that remedies employed to manage this crisis were designed for a war fought over seven decades ago during the Great Depression; an era when state-of-the-art technology was represented by the IBM Type 285 Numeric Printing Tabulator– capable of tabulating 150 cards per minute. The hourly sales of IBM today are approaching the annual sales of 1933, and billions of records are now run in seconds, yet our archaic regulatory system is employing printing presses in response to the largest financial crisis in 75 years.

A great deal has been learned in recent years beyond traditional economic theory about the systemic nature of networks, social behavior, contagion, and the global economy, with considerable investment in basic and applied research focused on technologies specifically designed to prevent systemic crises.

In the era of high performance computing on an increasingly interconnected planet with ever expanding pipes, economic tipping points can be reached very quickly that can bankrupt even the previously most wealthy nation on earth, particularly in a weakened economic condition suffering from structural problems. Focusing on SIFIs is of course essential, even if tardy by decades, but the emphasis should be on managing real systemic risk, which requires a very specific data structure that ensures data integrity, enhanced security, system-wide automation, modernized organizational structures, and continual, real-time improvement.

Without deep intelligence on the constantly changing relationships in a carefully constructed semantic layer, and automatically managed by pre-configured data valves, systemic risk is impossible to manage well, or even I argue at a level that is minimally acceptable.

Sophisticated new multi-disciplinary systems have been designed specifically to address the modern challenges in systemic risk management, but have yet to be built out and deployed. Policy makers should insist on the new generation of technologies to better protect citizens and the economy; regulators should embrace and promote the technology for it’s impossible to meet their mission otherwise; and financial institutions should adopt the technology due to rare ROI and sharply reduced levels of risk.

Clever is Cute as Sustainable is Wise


If the financial crisis confirmed anything, it is that the majority of humans are followers, not leaders, and that leaders throughout our society have yet to capture the significance of technology to their members and organizations.

One of the primary causal factors cited by thought leaders in studying crises is poor leadership, to include those who accept misaligned or conflicted interests. When we see “skimming off the top” in others we label it corruption, yet few see it in themselves at all, or choose to ignore it, resulting in the same outcome. While balance is obviously needed for survival—indeed managing that balance well is key for modern leaders, when we over-emphasize short-term profits, we then elevate the influence and power of those who are skilled at winning very short-term battles, rather than long-term wars. I have personally experienced that strategy in organizations and observed it in many others; it doesn’t end well.

One problem with the short-term leadership model is that the skills for software programming, instant trading, manipulating markets, or otherwise amassing great wealth quickly, does not necessarily translate to good leadership in a private company, government, or stewardship in philanthropy. Indeed, in my own observations and those of many others, quite the opposite is often true, yet our information institutions instruct society to emulate the clever rather than the wise. Should we be surprised then at the trend line of manipulation, polarization, and ever deeper crises?

Unlike the early days of the industrial revolution, in the second inning of the information revolution we now understand that most of the challenges facing the human species are long-term in nature, so we must realign our thinking and structures accordingly, including financial incentives and leadership development. Alas, since the long-term has been greatly compressed by consistent failure of short-term behavior, our entire species must now learn to act in the short-term on behalf of our mutual long-term interests. Easier said than done in our culture. The good news is that it’s quite possible…tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

The process of identifying, mentoring, and recruiting strong leaders often consists of conflicting advice that tends towards self-propelling cultures, regardless of organizational type. In addition to skill sets and track records sketched from misleading data, leaders are often selected based on ideology, dysfunctional networks, and susceptibility to peer pressure, instead of independent thought, good decision making, and wisdom.

Given the evidence, a rational and intelligent path would be to reconstruct our thinking and behavior surrounding the entire topic of leadership and organizational structures, and then tailor that thinking specifically for the environment we actually face, with tools specifically designed for the actual task. For many cultures, such a path begins by emerging from deep denial and embracing evidence-based decision making. Once emerged from the pit of denial, they soon discover among other truths that resources are not infinite after all, personal accountability is not limited to the inefficiencies of organizations, and that both the problems and solutions we face are inextricable from computing, organizational management, and personal accountability. Only then will the path to sustainability began to take shape in the vision field in sufficient form to differentiate the forest from the trees.

Yet another of the many disciplines related to this topic defines psychosis as a “mental disorder characterized by symptoms, such as delusions that indicate impaired contact with reality”.  An appropriate translation of insanity might be “refusal to adopt tools and models designed to achieve sustainability”, aka survival.

If this sounds familiar in your organization, it could well be traced to your leadership development model and process, for leaders are the decision makers who have budget authority. Perhaps it’s time for your organization to redefine strategic from clever to wise, and synchronize the organizational clock with present-day reality?

Unacceptably High Costs of Data Silos


Above is a screen capture of an internal Kyield document that displays an illustration of the high costs of data silos to individual organizations, regions, and society based on actual cases we have studied; in some case based on public information and in others private, confidential information. This is intended for a slide-show type of presentation so does not go into great detail. Suffice to say that human suffering, lives lost–human and otherwise, and wars that could have been prevented that were not are inseparably intertwined with economics and ecology, which is why I have viewed this issue for 15 years as one ultimately of sustainability, particularly when considering the obstacles of silos to scientific discovery, innovation, and learning as well as crisis prevention.

 
Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO
Kyield
http://www.kyield.com

Thoughts on the Santa Fe Institute


A topic of considerable thought, discussion and debate for many of us long before a series of ever-larger crises, the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) chose the theme of complexity in regulation for their annual meeting this week. Prior to sharing my thoughts on the important topic of simplifying regulation in a future post, which will be covered more extensively in my book in progress, I want to focus a bit on SFI.

I was fortunate to attend last year’s 25th anniversary meeting at SFI, but this year I was only able to view the final full day via webcast, which was excellent. The official SFI about page can be found here, although having written many of these descriptions myself; I’ve yet to write or read one that captures the essence of the organization, people, or contributions, so please allow the liberty of a few additional lines in first person.

I have been following SFI regularly for over 15 years, and since moving to Santa Fe nearly two years ago have had many interactions. SFI essentially pioneered complexity as a discipline, but has also been a leader in what I refer to in my own work as a mega disciplinary approach to discovery, without which frankly many researchers and their cultures can become blinded, and discoveries stalled, with R&D performing substantially below potential.

One of several strengths at SFI is their ability to draw from a very broad universe of scholars, each of whom is a leading expert in a specific discipline, but also share an interest in complexity theory—which affects everything else, as well as the need to work across disciplines to optimize learning.

The intimate size and environment of SFI is no doubt partially responsible for attracting so many leading scholars to contribute and engage. After living in Santa Fe, visiting the campus and attending multiple events, with a great many exchanges with larger institutions for 30 years, I can certainly understand the appeal for permanent faculty, visiting scholars, post docs, and business network members.

This year’s event was organized by Chris Wood and David Krakauer, who are two individuals at SFI I have had the pleasure to get to know recently (forgive my informality here; it comes natural). David heads up the faculty and Chris divides his time between research, administration, and running the SFI business network. These two represent a diverse faculty and also make an interesting combination, with Chris being the calm diplomatic type while David exudes sufficient rebelliousness at times for me to wonder, despite his brilliance, how he prospered at Cambridge (due to my own rebel instincts and frustration with academia), until reflecting on his current role. It is precisely the challenge when shepherding deep diversity that brings out the best in people; one of several skills David demonstrates when leading groups.

A good way to learn more about SFI from afar is to view a sample of their research online, including videos. Their model, however, like many—is not perfect, as the institute is substantially dependent on donations in what has been a very uncertain time and economy of late, so for those who may be seeking a worthy tax deduction this year, I would urge you to consider a donation.  For larger corporations and foundations, I recommend exploring the SFI business network, which is similar in many respects to the experimental virtual network I operated in the late 1990s, but also benefits from the physical conference interactions throughout the year, not just with SFI scientists and staff, but also with other business network members. Several of our network members have also been business network members of SFI, so I have known quite a few over the past dozen years, including Franz Dill on our Kyield advisory board who represented P & G for many years at SFI. For corporate and foundation executives in particular, I highly recommend viewing a short video interview with SFI Vice President Nancy Deutsch to explore relationship options.

Unlike universities and federal labs that grew large physical empires with massive overhead, the small size of SFI, fewer conflicts, independence, location and talent attract exceptional human quality, providing a rare situation certainly worth preserving and improving. My hope for SFI is that the community and entity will continue to adapt, evolve, and forge a strong and diverse financial structure that could become a model for the future.

While it may not always be obvious to some of my colleagues in business and finance, the independent theoretical research produced by SFI is essential for thinking through and eventually helping to overcome the world’s most pressing challenges, which is from my perspective excellent long term strategic alignment for any mission statement.

Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO
Kyield

Why Kyield is not supporting the mHealth Summit


After struggling with a very difficult decision, we have decided not to attend the mHealth Summit hosted by the Foundation for the National Institute of Health.

From the mHealth Summit web site: “The mHealth Summit: A public-private partnership of the Foundation for NIH, is an unprecedented event that will bring together researchers, policy-makers, collaborators and visionaries from around the world to exchange ideas, novel approaches, research and findings surrounding mHealth issues both in the United States and in developing countries.”

Mission statement of the Summit:

“The mission of the mHealth Summit is to explore the use of mobile technologies to improve public health, particularly regarding underserved populations; health research, training, and education applications; and delivery systems, in the U.S. and around the world.”

To the best of my knowledge, the Kyield healthcare platform is the most novel in the world relative to meeting the mission and objectives of the Summit, but the mHealth policies contain a fatal flaw that may prevent those who engage from achieving an economically sustainable model, without which it will be impossible to achieve their stated goals. The applicants for the mHealth technology presentations were required to be free to consumers (see quote at bottom of article).

While the proposed model for our semantic healthcare platform is currently “free” to consumers, professionals are well aware that this is a misleading statement. The consumer of course pays for the service, but may do so through insurance premiums or taxes. In fact we simply cannot know yet which economic model will prevail as it depends in part on choices made in the future by regulators, consumers, and industry partners, aka the market.

An additional troubling issue is that Bill Gates has agreed to be the keynote speaker. I clearly recall as an early booster to Microsoft in the early 1980s when Bill was battling the destructive economic force of “amateurs” providing free open source software. He correctly argued then that an industry built on free services could not support the essential ecosystem required of the challenge and also achieve the vast potential of the technology. I and many others supported Microsoft then in part due to their economic model, which was dependent upon a very diverse ecosystem of primarily small business developers to serve customer needs. The Microsoft model was then a powerful force in helping the economy emerge from a deep recession, particularly in Washington State following the Boeing crisis.

I argue strongly that healthcare technologies cannot be supported financially by advertising, government, and/or philanthropic models alone. Indeed, it is a tragic mistake to use the mHealth platform in an attempt to force this unrealistic economic idealism on emerging novel applications. Regardless of location, patients need not more dependence on gatekeepers with conflicting interests, but rather empowerment to make better decisions based on actual data, certainly to include economic choices that lead to sustainable systems. The novel innovations the Summit sponsors are seeking similarly do not need charity, but rather viable and sustainable economic models with the flexibility to test various models free from ideology or strategic conflicts.

The leading cause of unsustainable healthcare costs in the U.S. is the lack of functional markets due to just this type cultural influence. Whether sourced from idealism or strategic conflicts, the results are the same. Are medical devices and pharmaceutical ventures required to provide free services to consumers to be included in this mHealth global network? Are doctors and hospitals required to provide free services? Are foundation staff members required to work for free? I assume not.

Free is not a sustainable economic model. In the near term the model serves the interests of predatory pricing strategies by those very few entities that can afford historic price wars. In the long-term free economic modeling leads to dependency on entrenched interests, which is precisely how our healthcare system became unsustainable. As the decision maker for Kyield, I therefore cannot in good conscience support or participate in the mHealth Summit.

Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO
Kyield
 

PS: The actual mHealth Summit language for Research Technology Demonstrations (after a paragraph of technologies sought):

“Technologies must have a demonstrated health research application, and be alpha/beta prototypes or available to consumers free of charge. Commercially available technology are not eligible for this technology demonstration session, but can be shown on the exhibit floor…”