Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

For AI to get creative, it must learn to break rules (and so do humans)!!

Anne says: Continuing the theme from my post last week – another article on AI – however, this time, it’s about creativity. The obvious question at this point might be: Why? Why do AI systems need to be creative? The answer is straightforward on the surface: To enhance machine-learning and to have AI solving problems by thinking “outside the box” faster and better than people.

The deeper answer explores how AI will only be effective in the ways we’re expecting it to operate and respond if AI can problem solve, which requires creativity. Right now, AI systems struggle with any of the basics we, as humans, use on a daily basis – even to the point of understanding how we use metaphors.

To enable AI to be creative, researchers are using GANs or Generative Adversarial Networks. As one network generates images based on a set of guidelines (human intervention), the other network evaluates the images based on the knowledge of the guidelines. The key element is how the second network provides feedback to the first and helps it improve the images to more accurately meet the guidelines. These GANs are currently being used to augment creativity but rely on humans to evaluate the originality or creative aspects. In practical terms, GANs are being used to generate new content or images rapidly to assist creative people develop their concepts.

Reflect for a moment on the number of times, on a daily basis, you resolve challenges, develop contingency approaches, create forward plans – like considering what you’ll have for lunch. Many of these activities are constructed in our minds, we don’t write down step-by-step actions for walking to the cafe and selecting lunch. We also have the ability to modify these plans, with limited effort. Now consider what guidelines you would need to provide the GANs to have the capability to plan and modify even simple tasks.

Some of these challenges with AI appear to replicate current workplace processes when new digital technologies are introduced – the response requires the capability to modify (or break) the rules and processes if we’re going to achieve new ways of working. But how do you provide guidelines for breaking the rules? Perhaps we’ll learn more from AI programming than expected…


Be social, live longer.

Helen says: I recently enjoyed a Ted Talk given by developmental psychologist Susan Pinker. In her address, Susan highlighted how face to face interactions and close personal relationships are vital to our longevity.

Women typically live six to eight years longer than men and Susan put this down to the fact that women are more likely than men to “prioritise and groom their face to face relationships”.

Citing Julienne Hold-Lundstad’s work, Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-Analytic Review, Susan revealed close relationships and strong social integration were far more powerful predictors of longevity than well-established factors such as weight, exercise, diet, hypertension, drinking and smoking.

Is it possible then that social contact may better protect us than some medications? Could our modern way of life, with fewer people living in extended families and more people living alone, living away from family, putting off getting married and having children, be putting us at greater risk?

Apparently, we spend more time online than any doing other activity (up to 11 hours a day). Susan was asked, does interaction in person, versus social media, really make a difference? Her answer was, “No, it’s not the same thing. Face to face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters and, like a vaccine, it protects you now in the present and well into the future. So simply making eye contact with somebody, shaking hands, giving somebody a high five is enough to release oxytocin which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress, and dopamine is generated which gives us a little high and it kills pain…all of this passes under our conscious radar which is why we conflate online activity with the real thing”.

Research into the impact of newer technologies such as digital face to face encounters is in its infancy, but Susan suggests that even small changes in design, like changing the position of the camera on screen to allow us to look into the eyes of those we are talking to, could have a positive impact.

In Julianne Holt-Lunstad’s review, she concludes that “Efforts to reduce mortality via social relationship factors will require innovation, yet innovation already characterizes many medical interventions that extend life at the expense of quality of life. Social relationship–based interventions represent a major opportunity to enhance not only the quality of life but also survival.”



“This Is Serious”: Facebook begins its downward spiral

Jakkii says: Here I go again, talking about the problems with social media in society, but this time from a brand new angle – the potential impact on one of the platforms itself.  It posits that Facebook’s bullying behaviour and the tactics it has used to increase value, marketshare and time on site may ultimately lead to its own demise. But then again, will their newly announced approach of de-emphasising news in favour of an emphasis on human connection help it push through to the other side?

It’s impossible to predict where Facebook and other social sites will be in five years. Will they be largely extinct? Will they be more akin to Netflix, or like TV channels we can group-comment on? Will they have fixed their problems and be thriving? Just a couple years ago, most people believed Twitter was dead on arrival, and then Donald Trump came along and made it his 24-hour mouthpiece. Facebook could go in this direction, saved by its foray into scripted content, or the mass adoption of virtual reality. Or, it could be split up into half-a-dozen pieces.

I won’t say much more about this one, except to recommend you give it a read and, as always, have a good think about the society we are creating and the one we want to end up with.


The Japanese words for “space” could change your view of the world

Nat says: When we talk about ‘space’, we often also talk about time. For example, when you say you will meet someone for lunch, you give both a place and a time for your meeting. I am not about to go on a spiel about the space-time continuum and the theory of relativity, but what I want to do is draw your attention to how you perceive space in your life. The article uses a meeting room to illustrate the point. In the western context of business, a room is seen purely as a place for people to meet. The room then needs to have certain features in relation to the purpose and needs of the meeting agenda, such as a whiteboard, overhead projector, enough chairs, proper lighting, etc. However, in Japan, space is understood from the perspective of how the space shapes relationships through four types of interactions. These include:

  • Relational space (how physical distance and presence of other people in the space can affect relationships)
  • Knowledge-mobilization (the ability for people to think, share ideas, and make connections in the space)
  • Location (the ability for people to arrive at the space, which can affect their mood upon arrival)
  • Negative space (the stifling of thought and a lack of room to ‘breathe’ in the space)

Office design and layout has become somewhat of a movement in recent years, especially in relation to the co-working evolution. This is where there is a shared office space for people, predominately knowledge workers, who can all work in the same physical location regardless of the work they do or who they work for. The design of modern classrooms and universities can also be related to space. For the purpose of presenting an idea, a lecture theatre to an audience might make the most sense. However, for people to go away and work on that idea, breaking off into teams in small rooms equipped with a whiteboard might make more sense than everyone staying in the lecture theatre. It is the marriage between space and purpose – just as it is when you meet your friend for lunch, in which the right space can translate into the subjective feeling of quality of time spent. You might have a better experience in a quiet cafe rather than in a busy food court of a shopping mall.

I even remember an academic telling me about different knives and how their purpose means they occupy a difference space in someone’s home. For example, a hunting knife might live in the garage, whereas a vegetable knife will live in the kitchen. They are both ‘knives’ but they are used for different reasons, and they therefore occupy different spaces. It is a curious thing that we seemingly use space in this manner in our private lives, but seldom do we think about the role of space in shaping relationships in a workplace context. I for one am always mindful of space when I go and talk to professors at uni. I am entering their space, which is an area they have made their own, and I am their visitor. Not only does it affect how I behave, but there is also an implied position of power, on their part, as their title of ‘professor’ becomes associated with their space. Going for coffee with them instead changes the dynamics of the conversation precisely because of the change of scenery; of the different space.

With the rise of things like remote working, and employees who are spread across different geographic regions, perhaps we will see greater attention paid to space and time in relation to technology. After all, the spaces we craft are technological spaces which comprise both material and digital formats in current contexts. Maybe we might even see more VR gain momentum in playing a role in office ‘space’ and employee connection in dispersed working contexts. Next time you go to a meeting, consider its space and how you feel in it, because when you change space, you also change the quality and feeling of time spent within it, which in turn plays a role in shaping your relationship with others.


The four breakthroughs that will revolutionise long-haul flights in 10 to 15 years

Joel says: It’s no secret that Aussies love travelling. This week on the ABC an interesting opinion piece was published detailing some potential breakthroughs that will hit the travel industry in the next 10-15 years. After reading it, I wish they were coming a bit sooner to be honest but it looks like it could be worth the wait.

By 2035, there will be almost twice the number of passengers as 2016 so it’s obvious some changes need to be made to make the user experience a more enjoyable one.

1. Long-haul and ultra-long-haul will become the norm

Despite the physical challenges for both flight crew and travellers, legacy and budget carriers will continue to launch long-haul and extra long-haul services. Why? To begin with, to satisfy travellers’ zest for discovering new destinations that are unknown, remote or difficult to access. Virtual and augmented reality technology is allowing travellers to discover secluded, “Instagram-friendly” places, assuring airlines of a sustainable demand for long-haul flights.

Meanwhile, the market for short haul services will shrink due to competition from alternative modes of transport like high-speed rail, self-driving cars and cruises

2. Supersonic aircraft will co-exist with current jets

While long-haul flights open a door to the world, travellers still face the physical challenge of long hours aboard. But is there an alternative? Yes — board a supersonic.

A sleek new supersonic jet being developed in the US could reduce a journey between Sydney and Los Angeles from 15 hours to just 7.5 hours. Tokyo to San Francisco is five hours instead of 11, New York to London is just 3.5 hours.

3. Cabins will get a make-over

Your time in the air will be more bearable as cabins are improved, with more ergonomic design, better menus and enhanced entertainment systems.

While cabins will still be divided between first, business and economy class, even economy will get a facelift:

  • Aircraft will be windowless as all walls and ceiling panels become digital displays
  • You’ll board through a hotel-style central double door
  • Cabins will be configured by function, such as family, senior and group zones and booths, and multipurpose spaces for relaxation and self-service

4. Technology will radically change your journey

The development of mass commercial air travel revolutionised how we connect with one-another. Now, the digital revolution is set to make air travel a more seamless experience.

In the not-too-distant future, robots will serve travellers both at the airport and onboard. Pilotless flights will be in operation.

Security measures will operate through artificial intelligence, including facial recognition, retinal and fingerprint scanning. Blockchain technology will ensure the privacy of your data.

The next 15 years will be an exciting time for air travel. With technology constantly evolving, we can’t say for certain what the future may hold.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future, This Week Podcast


This week: break-in-news, I spy with my data eye, and fashion out of fashion. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The break-in-news:

China’s energy megaproject: the floating solar power station

Adidas pair of sneakers that doubles as a Berlin train pass

DNA testing can come with any surprise you want

Neutralising phones

The stories this week:

Strava fitness app can reveal military sites

No one wants your used clothes anymore

Other stories we bring up:

An Australian was the first to know Strava is revealing potentially sensitive information

Zeynep Tufekci’s Op Ed on the data privacy debacle

MIT Review comments on the Strava case

Our season 2 podcast discussing Strava

Fashion topics get a spot on the Davos agenda

George Soros comments on social media at Davos

It’s a Musk: Elon Musk’s flamethrower


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Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch…

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Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch…

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Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch…

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