Month: December 2015


The Birth of Artificial Intelligence
Robot and human hands almost touching – 3D render. A modern take on the famous Michelangelo painting in the Sistine Chapel; titled, “The Creation of Adam”.


As I read Michele Martin’s blog, A Deep Dive Into Thinking About 21st Century Leadership, the first paragraph immediately caught my attention. She is creating something called a “Leadership Lab” that she plans on launching in January. Back in 1987-1990 I participated in Air Force ROTC in college, and once per week we had “Leadership Lab.” It was designed to teach us, as future Air Force Officers, what leadership was all about. I sometimes laugh because a decent amount of the time was spent teaching us to march in formation, which is an activity that I’ve only done 3 or 4 times since being on active duty. But it did allow each one of us to learn a bit about leadership. When I think about how much leadership has changed in those short 25 years, it amazes me. The Air Force has changed and the world has changed.

When I worked as an I.T. manager, I was enveloped in technology. As a manager, I would quickly be left behind if I didn’t embrace technology. I had that job for about 6 years and saw a huge change in technology over the course of that time. When I started, we were mainly using Windows 95, but had a number of machines running Windows for Workgroups 3.11. By the time I left, we were running Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. The operating systems we used didn’t present many management challenges except that we had a continual change in different applications that the company needed in order to run. Keeping up with versions that would run on our changing operating system was a challenge. Also, working with individuals and departments to sift through their “needs” vs. “desires” on software and hardware was a difficult task. It was often my responsibility to decide whether or not a software package was needed out in the field, as well as manage the expectations of the employees in regards to software and hardware.

One of the first things I was exposed to in this course was Nick Bostrom’s talk while at TED in 2015. One thing he talked about was that we need to get a handle on creations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). He mentioned that there is no OFF switch to the Internet. He believes this could also be the case with Artificial Intelligence. His viewpoint is that we may not be able to turn off an AI entity if it got out of control. He also brought up the point that machine intelligence is the last thing we need to invent. Once machines get more intelligent than the human brain, they will become better at inventing than we are. That is a profound and scary thought. That statement really makes me wonder how much Artificial Intelligence will change our landscape beyond what we currently know.

I was amazed at the statistics Dr. Watwood showed about his blog posts in 2013. Although he only posted 41 times on his blog, he had over 6,600 hits that year from 4,675 unique visitors. That underscores what I tell my students, subordinates, and children, that what you post online can go a lot farther than a person expects it to. I was really glad that we were required to create our own blog and how easy it was to make it look nice. I feel that this could be a useful leadership tool in the future. If nothing else, it is a good way to share information with employees.

During the course I not only had to research a tool on my own, called Padlet, but I was able to see quite a few other Web 2.0 tools that others had researched. Without a doubt this gave me a great overview of some tools that I will be able to implement in classes I teach. I had heard of about 75% of these tools, but had never taken the time to learn about them. So being able to read others’ reports on these tools was great. In addition, I learned about several tools I had never heard of.

Knowledge management (KM) was a topic that came up and it reminded me of the leadership nightmare of how much information is really out there. Just because an organization may have a nice looking knowledge management system in place does not mean that it is used correctly. As I researched the knowledge management systems in the military, I was reminded that there are quite a few disparate systems out there. Each one is used to a different extent, and there is no standard way to organize the data. I may easily be able to access the different KM sites within my organization, but if I can’t think along the same lines as the person who organized it, I’m stuck trying to navigate around to different sections of the page in order to find what I’m looking for. I’ve often found that it’s often easier just to walk to that office and ask them to provide me with what I’m looking for, which is opposite of what a KM system should be.

The last half of the class dealt more with new and emerging technology. Although I keep up with technology fairly well, I have to say that it was still overwhelming. Just the Internet Trends slide show alone boggled my mind that somebody put all of these technological ideas into one presentation. I imagine multiple people were responsible for it, but it still amazed me. Part of the information presented showed me how much technology has changed over the years and how much and how quickly it is predicted to further change. This really underscores how much a leader must stay on top of technology. Some may argue that this is the reason that a leader hires technical experts. I agree that leaders need to surround themselves with people who are the experts in technology. But I also am a firm believer that a leader needs to embrace this technology as well and have a certain level of understanding of it.

I really liked the article entitled, 6 ways work will change in 2016.  The discussion on how some companies will be built to be mobile from inception is a fascinating concept. Most companies nowadays that allow people to work remotely have had to do it as an afterthought. I was really excited to read the prediction that we will see more video and less PowerPoint. Although I really think PowerPoint has been and is a great tool, it is often overused. I can barely work a day in the Air Force without seeing some type of PowerPoint presentation. It has gotten a bit stale and is in need of something different, in my opinion. I do worry about the discussion about work-life balance, as I have already seen that many people, including me, are expected or required to be always on, always responsive, and always available. Gone are the good old days when a person could leave work at 4:30 and not have to think about work again until 8:00 the next morning.

Being a leader has always been a tough task. Since the first time people got together to work towards a common goal, there have been issues. Some people work harder than others, some are smarter than others, some work well with coworkers, some don’t work well at all with others, some are easy to lead, and some are tough to lead. Besides the people aspect, the environment has changed as well. Technology is something that facilitates being a leader, but also can make leadership more difficult. Being a leader means keeping abreast of new developments and everything else happening in the work environment, and that includes technology. In the article, 7 Requirements to Be a Leader Today, Ron Edmundson covers what he believes to be the attributes that leaders should have today. They provide a great summary of what we have covered in this class and I believe a leader will be very effective if these 7 items are embraced.


Week 7 future-technology

On the Horizon: Emerging Technologies

Future technology is one of my favorite topics, although it is hard to find time to keep up on everything that is currently out there, let alone all of the technology that is predicted to come. So I was glad to be able to view the resources in this class that discussed the most current technology as well as what may be coming. I have seen technology change a lot in my lifetime. In my job as an Air Force navigator I started out navigating across the world using manual methods such as mental and written calculations based on ground speed, heading, wind, and a few other variables. I backed this up using a sextant, from which I took readings from the sun, moon, and stars to help refine my position. Needless to say, this was extremely challenging. I was so happy in the mid 1990s when my squadron purchased crude hand-held Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) units that I could check out for a flight. They were not very fancy, but at least gave me a basic latitude and longitude that I could use to back up my other calculations. Nowadays in the planes I navigate, we have multiple GPS feeds, combined with an Inertial Navigation System (INS) to navigate with. We also have technology to communicate with Air Traffic controllers via a datalink, communicate back to our squadron, and allow our leadership (or anybody with the username and password) to track our aircraft position anywhere in the world. Technology has definitely changed in the 25 years since I joined, and it’s hard for me to imagine where it will be 25 years from now.

As a leader in the Air Force this has huge implications. When I used to navigate using manual methods, virtually all navigators knew the ins and outs of navigation and could easily adapt during equipment malfunctions. Today, there is so much reliance on technology that navigators can easily tend to become nothing more than button pushers without knowing what is happening behind the scenes. As a matter of fact, the Air Force renamed navigators to Combat Systems Officers (CSOs), which more reflects that they operate systems instead of truly navigate. The problem surfaces when equipment fails, which it periodically does. The airplanes I fly in were built from 1957-1963, so they are old. Even though a lot of the equipment has been updated, there are still many old aspects to it, which can cause technology to fail when we need it. If leaders don’t ensure that new CSOs understand and practice “old school” navigation methods, they may find themselves in a dangerous situation when equipment fails and they don’t know how to recover.

As a leader in the college classroom, I also have seen many things change due to technology. When I started teaching 15 years ago, no students brought laptops or tablets to class. The iPhone was still seven years from being introduced. Nowadays almost every student has some type of smartphone and many bring laptops or tablets, hopefully to take notes and not play games during class. Teaching methods have also changed. Many textbooks have an instructor companion site that gives good instructional ideas, PowerPoint presentations, videos, or other items that can be used in class. In most classes that I teach there is also an electronic/online classroom to supplement the brick and mortar classroom. The online classroom is a great repository for PowerPoint presentations, documents, and much more. This lessens the amount of physical paperwork I have to deal with and keep track of as an instructor. In a computer class that I teach, I have software on the instructor PC that allows me to view any of the student PCs in the classroom, if needed. If a student is having a problem on a particular assignment, with a simple keystroke I can take a look from my desk. I don’t use this method, as I prefer to walk over to the student and have some interaction. But the technology also allows me to bring up any student or the instructor’s PC onto the projector screen. This is handy when I have a teaching moment that I want to show to the entire class. In this particular course (ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership) I learned about a lot of technology that I either didn’t know existed, or had never used. I was amazed at how many things that are out there that I could potentially integrate into the learning environment. I look forward to trying some of these tools out. I am also anxious to see how technology in the classroom changes even further in the coming years.

The Internet Trends slideshow really amazed me, even though I feel like I stay up on technology more than the average person. Cell phone penetration changed from 1% of the population in 1995 to 73% of the population in 2014. This doesn’t even account for the increased capability of the cell phones in 2014 compared to those in 1995. Looking at the slide showing how technology has changed from 1975 to the late 1990s and comparing that to how much it’s changed from the late 1990s until today was also astounding. That slide really shows how frantic the technological pace has become. The amount of Internet capacity that is taken up by video is something that I tell students in all of my classes, as I think it is an interesting fact that many do not know. It shows them the heavy load that is being carried across the Internet. The slide show mentioned that 64% of Internet traffic was from video. I personally wonder if too many more people get Netflix, Amazon streaming, Vudu, or other subscriptions, how much the Internet can take without causing a slowdown. I was also interested to see how Internet usage differs around the world, especially in China and India. China’s citizens are using technology, mainly smartphones, to pay their utility bills, apply for passports, look up their driving violations, book hospital appointments, and order food online. This technology is happening in the United States, but has been a lot slower to catch on. From a leadership perspective, in many cases we are going to be forced into having to allow our workers to have access to this type of technology throughout the day.

Kevin Kelly brought up a lot of interesting points in his video. One that really caught my attention was where he discussed the fact that many/most of these devices now have eyes, in the form of a camera. He discusses that not only are we looking into these devices, but they are also looking back at us. There is technology that can track our eyes, for example. He showed an example of a heat map that shows where on a particular page the most attention is being given by our eyes. From that, the website can adapt to how we are using it. It can also potentially recognize our mood and whether or not we’re paying attention. It is much like looking through a two-way mirror except that the software can adapt from our actions. This may be scary to some, but at the same time should hold much promise for future technology. I can see how this could be used to target ads or important information that the content provider wants us to see, by putting it in the areas of the page that our eyes are looking at more often. I’ve already seen how online ads have changed over the past few years. In situations where the user is able to skip an ad after a certain period of time (normally a small number of seconds), the advertisers have become more creative and in that short amount of seconds they try to hook us in so we don’t skip the ad. As a comparison, television ads from years ago didn’t necessarily need to catch our attention that quickly since we had no way to fast forward through them or skip them. As technology changes, advertisers will have to continue to adapt. Leaders should take this as a lesson that we should now continually be adapting in our leadership style and methods to account for changing technology. What works and is in vogue today may not necessarily be effective 5, 10, or 20 years from now.