25 July, 2015

The share economy: The Disintermediation trap

Yet another darling of the so called share economy has called it quits, home services startup homejoy has announced they will be shutting down operations.


This gets to a truth about the marketplace disinter-mediation that is all the rage these days a concept that is core to the very reason I started working on the AgilEntity framework back in 2001. I realized then that technology enabling the removal of various types of middle men coupled with the elimination of mobility requirements for getting work done would lead to a much more flexible workforce.

After I'd built the framework I teased these ideas in an email from 2006 which I later transcribed into a blog post on the coming "telepresent workforce".


In this post I predicted a future of offices as flexible work locations (what we see has emerged in the form of co-working office startups) but more change will come as companies become fully distributed in nature, allowing their existing employees to work more flexibly...particularly as knowledge work continues to eat up the majority of jobs in the workforce.

Earlier this year I followed up on that posting and predict a future of interesting upheaval of the real estate market in large cities where telepresent workers free from having to commute to offices leave companies without reason to keep tall buildings on their books. This will lead to a drop in real estate prices that will allow conversion of many of these buildings to living apartments and condominiums.


This change will be precipitated by businesses that are leveraging fully action oriented workflow based foundations that allow leveraging fully emancipated workers who almost never need to come to any physical "office" to do their work.

Still for the companies that have emerged to use technology to disintermediate exchange between a provider and a potential customer in the physical or virtual world a danger remains, the disintermediation trap is this danger and homejoy has fallen right into it.

"Homejoy cofounder and CEO Adora Cheung told Re/code that the “deciding factor” was the four lawsuits it faced from cleaners who claimed they were misclassified as independent contractors. That’s likely true — the liabilities and legal costs associated with the suits were no joke. But there’s more to Homejoy’s demise: its customer acquisition model simply didn’t pencil out, former employees and industry sources said.

Former employees tell FORBES that Cheung and the startup pushed relentlessly for high growth numbers instead of fixing its poor retention rates, which persisted both because Homejoy relied too heavily on deal sites like Groupon for new customers and failed to improve its core service because it couldn’t train its independent contractor cleaners."

 The problem with retention rates for any business in the space of marketplace disintermediation will be quite present since as a thin layer middle man the digital service is no longer needed once it has connected customers with working agents who they find are good for recurrent business.

This is why taskrabbit is having a hard time.

This is why elance, 99designs and many other such companies are going to have a tougher time than they expect.

Services that parsel out sub tasks are likely to do better as the creation of a rapport doesn't return a benefit to the client in the same way it does for services that require humans to be mobile ...for example, amazon's mechanical turk.

Uber interestingly is mostly isolated from this effect since Uber drivers do not become married by service to their customers as there is a high level of randomness involved in how customers use the service and place is a dynamic dimension that is static for the other types of services (the customer and the taskrabbits/elance have fixed locations they live from and once they establish a rapport what need for taskrabbit?)

This is why at WorkNetz (​ in stealth) the focus has been on harnessing a companies *existing* employee base first to emancipate them in critical ways that can radically improve business performance. (Contracting reach out from this basis is enabled easily)

Emancipating an existing workforce has several key advantages:

1) Company technical and process dna stays locked up, existing workflows aren't automatically leaked into a random contractor soup. Preventing the regression to the mean with other companies providing similar services that also use disintermediation technology.

2) Cultural dna stays locked up...a big part of where people work is working with others that feel the same about things that they do, that exists already in many companies and switching over to all contractors as employees loses a great deal of that character giving no contractor any feeling of place or loyalty.

3)  the service doesn't have to deal with the legal problems of contractors attrition since by default all your workers are already de facto employees, you are just leveraging the services provided by worknetz to maximize the value landscape you can derive from them while also "emancipating" them of the restriction of hegemony of time** and place that plague traditional employees forced to commute to specific places at specific times to be magically productive.

It is clear why the AgilEntity framework  which implements the action oriented workflow paradigm developed by 2005,  is the perfect middle ground for market place disintermediate based businesses....it also explains why it was important to create a generalized solution for workflow management that worked on any type of vertical...not a purpose built disintermediating tool as all the above were designed to be....that focus enabled them to build services relatively quickly but left them horribly vulnerable to the dynamism of the customer base indicated above under a new contractor heavy business model.

The 34 slides give the 10,000 foot view in a few minutes:


Marketplace disintermediation official symbol

My rendition of a logo to symbolize generalized systems for market place disinter -mediating the execution of actions between agents engaged as buyer and seller in that marketplace.

On the left ingress and egress action requests and commitment signals by agents requesting they be performed. Those who need. (Say the person hailing a ride via Uber)

On the right ingress and egress action requests and commitment signals by those that can satisfy the request of the agents. Those who are the providers. (Say the drivers cruising around looking for fairs).

The center symbolically indicates the logic that is leveraged to enable matching of agents on either side (blue half circle meets red half circle) in order to enable a transaction.

The AgilEntity framework is a system that does this for any type of marketplace exchange that is modeled into the system leveraging the Action Oriented Workflow paradigm's statistical learning algorithms to perform efficient real time routing from and to the "best available" agents, however "best" is defined in the model of the type being exchanged making it the ONLY general solution available by design when I started work on the framework in 2001...an "Uber for everything".

Uber does this for cab rides only, Taskrabbit does this for chores and errands, Elance does this for small consulting jobs for development...etc.

Any marketplace engages the same heuristic. I've been meaning to create a graphic to encapsulate the concept for general use so here it is....if you want to represent the concept of market place disintermediation (or the "share economy") feel free to use this image.

I added a few .png versions of the image at various sizes to a google drive folder here, feel free to grab, use in slides and presentations and share the folder images. Marketplace Disinter-mediation symbol cache on google drive:

29 June, 2015

Technology as cure for a world on a Demographic precipice

This is a deeply informative set of projections on the current trends in population but as is often the case it seems to leave out the development of technological solutions applied to the social space that could radically modify the projections.
For example, the rising dependency ratio in the America’s and Europe and Asia over the next 50 years assumes that the current requirements of economic support for human survival will be the same in 50 years. However, with the development of extremely efficient means of production comes the ability to vastly improve the production levels of necessary resources (including fresh water which can be made on demand using solar powered desalination technology) while radically reducing the cost of producing and delivering those resources to where they are needed.
50 years, with the development of advanced green technologies for harnessing energy (from the sun and wind primarily) will come a collapse of the traditional fossil fuel industries. This collapse will negatively affect economies that are dependent on fossil fuel production and export IF they are still relying on them to drive their economies but in 50 years that is very likely given that radical reduction of costs for green technology to points that beat fossil fuels of all kinds are already projected for 10 to 15 years away let alone 50. Nations that are not trying to diversify away from such fossil driven economies are asking for a fiscal nightmare today.
That said, production of efficient energy coupled with the pending rapid advances in the distribution of things produced as well as services rendered due to the shift from a fossil driven transportation infrastructure to an electric driven one that is autonomous will again crush costs dramatically.
So even as these population centers in Africa balloon, the ability to actually fuel and feed the growing masses will be radically improved from what we have in place today.
So Energy production and distribution and transportation will effect major reductions in price that will forstall much of the economic gloom that would other wise occur under a growing population scenario in these centers what else can slow down this trend?
The major reason for the massive growth in non western or Asian populations comes from the entrenched cultural and religious mores that see it as a gift of God to have many children, unfortunately it is a potential curse to the planet in actual fact and is something that we need to strongly retard.
The continued distribution of information via the information conduits of the internet and the mobile web stands as a potentially powerful mollifying force against these backward views that to have more children is an inherently good thing. Education enabled by a distributed system of teaching tools and virtual universities, coupled with the development of increasingly intelligent systems for educating people could significantly slow the rate of growth by inoculating these new populations against the ignorance that has their growth rates projected at what they are.
Efforts by major corporations to expand access to information like Google’sproject Loon provide more than just a moon shot view into means of allowing them to get their services into other hard to reach parts of the world where wired infrastructure does not exist….it stands as a powerful means of enabling the access to knowledge that rapidly erodes the ignorance that would keep populations growing at unsustainable rates.
Another pending innovation not factored into the equation is enabled by increasing access to information coupled with rapidly developing artificial intelligence. Technology designed for workforce emancipation and global autonomous work routing , like the Action Oriented Workflow paradigmwill allow an increasingly knowledge based workforce to maximize value landscapes enabling people to work across multiple areas of their interest for multiple employees even as the availability of manual labor jobs dwindles away. Such technology is a critical piece in slowing the rate of economic discord in the developed nations and also of enabling a faster transition to a knowledge economy in the developing ones.
In the meantime we can expect a lot of discord to happen if African nations are not quick to recognize these problems and effect solutions today which given the strength of belief in religion and other forms of superstition seems like a daunting task.
On the other side of the growth equation the European and Asian nations may not have population deflation to the levels shown in these charts. The rapid introduction of gene editing technology applied to the problem of aging will give rise to revigoration technology and an age of oscillating senescence that will artificially sustain many populations without the requirement of new births. When death rate itself starts going down, population growth will still happen…so the next 50 years will see a shift in growth rates as the current apparent plateau in many nations begins to rise after such technologies are widely available, in my past analysis of the effects of this technology I’ve estimated this to be the case by the mid 2030's.
So there is a lot of work to do, technological pieces need to be put into place in Africa to reduce ignorance and religiosity, expand access to contraception and reduce population growth rates while making access to information and resources more efficient. In the first world or developing first world, work needs to continue reducing ignorance (as every where else) building the first energy efficient networks for lowered costs of production and delivery and for those nations with negative population growth, revigoration technology will emerge to allow population rates to continue rising or even be made to stay constant.
I’ve written in my posts on the need for building a self healing infrastructure (SHI) utilizing technological tools that I’ve felt some what less optimistic at our making it out of this century without major discord, I still feel discord is likely as though much technology will be available it will not be distributed evenly which is a major problem that must be solved …especially if we are to avoid having pockets of economic instability or religious regression or both throw entire regions into turmoil (see Isis).

Originally posted in medium.

18 June, 2015

Neopolitan people and Rachel Dolezal

So the idea that Rachel Dolezal is in some way a fraud by taking the risks that she has to embrace a black identity to me are absurd for several reasons.

I've seen all the analysis from various people of color on this, trying to paint Rachel as some kind of fraud by "appropriating" black culture...but this makes sense only when you realize that the perpetrator is actually is NOT giving up their primary identity.

Elvis was appropriating African American culture ...he didn't identify with it beyond his use of the music...he didn't want to BE black.

Yet here comes Rachel, a woman who has actually embraced the identity of being black by going so far as to accept the label of being black when it is levied *against her* based on others perceptions of her appearance.

This is the critical piece, when she decided to identify as black is completely irrelevant....the fact is she really feels that she is black (in terms of experience) and is willing to suffer the thorns that come with *being black* by definition of that association.

Nothing else matters from that point, she was able to "pass" as black and by doing that, she immediately suffered everything of what it means to be black (as perceived by every one who saw her who was NOT black but assumed that SHE was black...such is the power of white entitlement)  She tanned herself, she curled her hair...people (some non zero percentage) saw HER as black and thus TREATED her that way.

She's been confronted and is not giving up her appropriation....rather, like Jesus she's choosing to wear the crown of thorns. Either she is suffering a deep psychosis OR she really feels a strong affinity to black experience to such a degree that she chooses to experience the pains of being black even though she does not have to.

That perception of treatment is enough....so now the question is how much of an experience of being black must a person have to be "black".

Is Beyonce "black "enough?

Is Vanessa Williams "black" enough?

Is Haile Berry "black" enough?

Is Jennifer Lopez "black" enough?

As a Latino (yes, Hatians are Latino) I am very well aware of the weird middle zone that one is fitted into as a result of the binary tendencies of African Americans (twisted by the pathology of their unique experience, granted) ...in a very similar way people of Haitian descent have been put into a limbo of ethnic experience....distinct from English speaking Caribbeans by virtue of language and culture, distinct from Spanish speaking Caribbeans by distinction of language...yet with no ability to "appropriate" either group as an identity because of phenotype association that exists for most Haitians. (They tend to "look" clearly, "black")

Ultimately Dolezal (mental illness or not) has a genuine perception of herself as "black" and the question is not weather or not she's being authentic...but rather, why is it that we can't accept that how she defines HERSELF is how we should accept her??? She is it appears a Neopolitan person.....she has chose to embrace the rainbow, sure it is the case that blacks lack that choice...but that is irrelevant to the fact that once she chooses to be black, once others see her as black....then the full weight of what that means falls on her in a very similar if not identical way to those "born" black.

The hypocrisy that stands out here from those who have attached Rachel for claims of "appropiation" is that if they feel Rachel can't choose to be who she claims to be....then neither can any one else, I can't embrace being "latino" because others think I don't "look" latin enough, a person who claims being born female in a males body can't either (yes, there is an intersection here....the math is clear). Another person who is half Asian and half Jewish and attends ceder can't either...it goes on and on.

And thus now we can look at what this all boils down to....when we consider what technology is doing  at the moment.

In my chapter in the book The future of business, I cover the cosmecutical industry that I predict will be a billion dollar industry in the next 10 years. The ability to utilize gene editing technology to precisely modify genotype and phenotype will open up an entire new vista of possibilities particularly with regard to the pesky intersection of identity and race that the Dolezal event marks.

Within the next 10 years, Rachel will actually BE able to change her hair and skin color to phenotypes that are part of "black" dominant perception. Assuming she does this.....what level of experience does it take for her experience to be authentic? If a blonde Nordic person lives as a black person for 2 decades and suffers the various types of discrimination that entails fully aware of its existence why should we not recognize the embrace of that identity?

How would that be measured??

Anyone in my view who is willing to jump into the fire is some one whose view should be respected (even if it inspires confusion).






10 June, 2015

Cosmecuticals: The trigger to an injection of innovation in fashion to come?

A recent post posits that the time for Men in the Western world to give up the embrace of the beard is nigh. The author of that article probably hasn't noticed something interesting about the last 20 years of fashions evolution.

It is safe to say that starting around the turn of the century we haven't created any fundamentally novel innovations in fashion. Everything is some type of remix of what came before...I see this clearly when I walk down a street in Brooklyn or Manhattan or the Bronx.

Different people freely wearing what ever style era clothing they feel comfortable with, there is no clear distinction to clothing of 2015 as distinct from clothing of 2010 as distinct from clothing going back I'd say to about 2005. 10 years of relentless remixing of what came before rather than anything really new.

thick tie or skinny tie, fitted shirts or loose shirts, skinny jeans or bell bottoms...just walk through Williamsburg to see what the hipsters are wearing.

Everything. From every Era.

Over here some guy wearing plad!

Over there some girl in a hoop skirt.

Over here some guy in baggy 90's like grunge jeans.

Over there some girl in super colorful tights.

Same with hair and makeup...tons of mixing. thick eye brow on one girl, pencil brow on another sitting next to her on the train. Big 80's hair on one girl , next to short pixie crop from 90's (or mid 60's if you paid attention) on another girl. Now I am sure that depending on where you are population density varies the variety of fashion forms that can be found (a small town is likely to have very homogeneous fashion trends) but it is clear that the trend in large cities has moved toward any style as the norm, a rainbow mix of fashion from eras going back to Victorian times in some cases.

It's all rather fascinating ...I wonder if this is just a intermediate period before some sudden break into something completely unique and different emerges....possibly enabled by radical injection of technology into our fashion?

As I've written in the cosmecuticals chapter in the Future of Business book, the ability to change our hair texture and color will be a huge industry that there is a ton of demand to embrace, interesting novelty will be possible that is currently not possible once we can modify those genes in various non natural ways...and those will shape what designers come up with to compliment the new combinations of humanity that we'll be providing them as inspiration.

So that's my bet....that we are just at a point before a state transition occurs as enabled by this technology to come. Links: http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2014/02/cosmecuticals-are-closer.html http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2014/07/tyras-cloudy-fashion-crystal-ball.html

19 April, 2015

The end of the Hegemony of time, how the AOW paradigm allows us to unlock and present our creative potential.

This article makes the case that brainstorming is an ineffective means of inspiring creativity or innovation. It is yet more evidence to support the dominant reasons behind my inventing the Action Oriented Workflow (AOW) paradigm. A quote from the article above confirms what drove my intuition:

Claims about the success of brainstorming rest on easily tested assumptions. One assumption is that groups produce more ideas than individuals. Researchers in Minnesota tested this with scientists and advertising executives from the 3M Company. Half the subjects worked in groups of four. The other half worked alone, and then their results were randomly combined as if they had worked in a group, with duplicate ideas counted only once. In every case, four people working individually generated between 30 to 40 percent more ideas than four people working in a group. Their results were of a higher quality, too: independent judges assessed the work and found that the individuals produced better ideas than the groups.

One of the guiding hypothesis for my invention of the action oriented workflow paradigm was the insight that ultimately people are not their most creative when they are saddled with any kind of pressure to perform, it is true that many seem to be less troubled by various stresses under the need to perform but that is not the same as saying that they are unbothered...just better able to deal with them than others.

The ideal performance environment for the generation of creativity or performance of a type desired is actually thus one of ultimate peace.

In business, pressure looms like a giant across multiple levels. Employers are under pressure to perform their daily or monthly acts to achieve some (usually arbitrary) company , department or division goal. Managers are double pressured by possible dissension in the ranks of those they manage or pressure from  upper management. The ability for people to optimally create or perform is compromised by default.

The common practice of using gatherings of people to discover solutions to existing problems mixes together the sources of social pressure and coupled with cost and time constraints leads to short cuts to completion that otherwise would not be taken and by being taken only lead to the slow build up of increasingly inefficient processes that ultimately fail as addressing a companies given market while leading to workers who are over taxed, over stressed and incapable of giving their best work.

I saw in 2003 when I started building the code for AOW that leveraging the potential ability for people to be most creative when they were at peace would lead to a potential revolution in how companies recruit work from their employee base...more over I saw it as a tool that could potentially help them recruit work from any potential provider of that work...so long as a degree of confidence in their competence could be determined...but how to do this automatically?

Realizing that decoupling work or action execution from executing agent was the key, coupled with a large volume of potential performers ...the tyranny of large numbers would actually be inverted ...the more potential agents the more likely that any given action can be done by some one both willing and competent at performing it.

By 2005 this "explicit" workflow version of AOW was completed...it wasn't until 2011 that I would extend it to allow an "implicit" workflow...which would gather historical data of action performance from agents and use that to predictively route future actions to agents discovered in real time. This is done using a statistical learning approach that I codified into the term action delta assessment or ADA.

Together AOW and ADA present a brand new way of thinking about harnessing the work potential of people by enabling them to be emancipated of most of the traditional pressures of performance indicated above. The hegemony of time now broken an "emancipated workforce" could not provide continuous quality in their performance as requested from a global pool of potential but not necessarily "on call" workers.

In the years since I've been talking about this technology more openly...others have voiced similar views on the future of work. I recently read of the work of a British creator of a system that tries to approach AOW but doesn't quite hit the mark as it lacks the critical work routing elements, as the deployment of technology continues to benefit the rentiers and upper classes already flush with cash the need for a way to leverage the power of knowledge in free labor pools will continue to rise and AOW enabled systems will become the dominant ones. The simultaneous realization of these ideas by other technologists is a  comfort to the value that is inherent in the approach.

People want to work across their value landscapes, to maximize their inherent values ability to derive compensation...and on their own schedules...yesterday I did art, today I write code...tomorrow I build a pc...the optimal system would be one that can find my desire to work when I am most willing to commit some action from my set of skills....it is by dynamically harnessing this truth over all available workers...that we simultaneously improve the efficiency of companies and the people they employ. AOW as implemented in AgilEntity​ is that system. I'm still evangelizing my solution but find solace in the direction of the future with more and more people stumbling into what I saw as clear as day a dozen years ago and started building the future I wanted to live in, that future is now.


14 April, 2015

Commercial Drone future, why the skies will not fall.

So the other day a few Luddites opined in one of my Facebook threads that they felt that the upcoming drone revolution would not be practical in cities. This short video shows exactly why they are wrong:


As a technologist who has built complex distributed system I had to chuckle at the doubts being described. People who don't work in technology have no clue of the large reduction of complexity and errors that attends having a good design. Consider the internet we are using...designed to ensure that our communications find their way to the desired destination...even with constant breaks in the communication channel across the internet...magic ? No, good design, expected packet loss and routing via  tcp/ip , udp at the low level through routers and switches and what seems like a hopeless problem is routinely done trillions of time per second across the whole globe.

The video above demonstrates in a few seconds why those Luddites are wrong, consider first that planes today are mostly human driven still...and thus prone to the machinations of humans as well as their errors. Then consider the incredible density of flights...over a short 7 hour span with zero failures.

Now make them all robots and you can get even more dense while not increasing the failure rate at all since unless a systemic problem asserts (a nightmare scenario Luddites like to mention with no real reason to assert it other than playing "what if") they'll just continue to fly getting from place to place...just like the packets being routed variably around the internet to convey this message to you. Now the analogy is not exact since the internet in fact does factor in "dropped" packets and a real route system can't exactly do that since material costs are finite unlike information being transmitted electronically which can be regenerated if it doesn't reach it's destination but good design will virtually eliminate the equivalent of "dropped" packets in dense areas.


I've explained variably in my responses to these Luddites but here's the meat of it.

1) Once Commercial Drones are given multiple ways to sense their environments (Intel is releasing a chip set that allows cheap 3D sensing of environments) they'll be easy to build so that they can fly autonomously and engage natural collision avoidance heuristics.

2) Once enabled with communication radios they can provide predictive data to nearby drones allowing yet another reduction in the possibility of collisions by adjusting courses from further off to avoid them...even while navigating in close proximity to near by drones.

3) Drones should be designed with redundant rotors...taking out a rotor on a drone should not make it catastrophically fail (fall from the sky). Good design will assume a rotor can die at any time and the drone can then initiate an emergency redirect to ground, ideally at known land zones for drones that experience such failures.

4) Drone rotor power in my design would be independent, if using a battery the battery system would take 4 independent cells, each feeding independent circuits to the rotors and thus preventing a catastrophic failure of any one battery from bringing down the entire drone.

5) Delivery logistics to final destinations in apartment buildings will be handled by simply having packages delivered to the roof of such buildings or designated delivery platforms placed out side windows or common areas for buildings. Surveillance cameras will continue to be widely deployed and will be far smarter than today, so fears of theft are again more fear than fact.

:All of these are base constraints that the lucky engineers working on building commercial drone delivery at Amazon and other companies would be wise to put into practice if they are to avoid the Luddite fears of drones falling from the sky mentioned above.

Looking at this chart of humans driving air planes over a 7 hour period and considering the difference in susceptibility to errors that automated systems are compared to humans..makes it pretty clear to me that these folks are wrong.

I made a wager that 10 years from now we'll see a large US city with some level of commercial drone deliveries happening. I stand by that statement.