What’s Happened to Critical Thinking?

critical thinkingCritical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form a judgment. If I were to sum up the one skill I think has helped me throughout my career, it would be hard to find a better one than critical thinking. Unfortunately, we live in a world where opinions and facts are treated with equal weight, where facts are spun into huge stinking piles of BS to hide or justify an organization’s agenda.

I was recently moved to comment on a successful business person’s indoctrination they received from the Singularity University. They can think critically, yet appeared to have forgone that to come out with a list of pronouncements about the near future. That we’re entering a singularity, a period of rapid change, which will usher in a new epoch. The current fashionable thinking is from the technology epoch into the artificial intelligence epoch, using Ray Kurzweil’s model.

Some of the examples quoted is the rapid acceleration in technology included machine vision in autonomous cars. I was studying machine vision in the ‘80s during my degree. Its been a long time in coming, not some rapid acceleration. Self driving car experiments have been conducted since the 1920s. Promising trials took place in the 1950s. The first autonomous prototype cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab. What is presented as an example of a singularity, is a long hard 100 year long road. From the rapid acceleration misconception, a claim was made (opinion) that car ownership will be dead by 2025. It will not, the habits of people, the automotive ecosystem, existing infrastructure have delayed this so far and will continue to delay this. Traffic jams will not go away with autonomous cars, they will likely get worse, mass transit is the only way to solve the traffic issue. Facts are misrepresented, and a false near future is presented.

We also have the BS of flying cars again, this is an old one, there were real flying cars in 1956, James Bond had one in the 1974. Uber is just spinning BS to keep its inflated valuation. Every couple of decades the same old ideas are reinvented with all the same problems that will limit its practical application as it did in the ’50s, ’70s, ’90s and ’10s.

On space investments, what was once multi-country public investments is coming into the domain of private investment. Its a simple commercial proposition, get satellites into space and make money. The Mars stuff is a nice spin, to cover that fact tax payers will now be paying private enterprises. Do you see the trend here? Something that is not impossible, but not anytime soon, is spun to hide a simple commercial reality.

On Mars, send robots to perform experiments, mine, build out a viable infrastructure to start terraforming. You don’t need to send people, they are simply too fragile, there’s no need. Real life does not need to look like a movie. Yes the standard response to my points is: there are always technology Luddites, people who are unable to embrace the change we’re heralding, have faith in our vision. Faith is an over-rated virtue, putting faith in technology, without understanding the science, is the same as SciFi.

I could rant on more about the indoctrination of the Singularity University, but bringing this article back to telecoms.

Digital Transformation, Digital People, Digital X, FFS. Just stop it with the Digital Delerium. There are no Digital people. There are people, some understand technology, some understand business, and together they lower costs, solve problems and create new value. Like people have for hundred/thousands of years. Anyone who sells Digital Consultancy is a snake oil salesperson.

Telcos have you noticed you’re still over-paying the same vendors who got you into the situation you need a Digital Transformation away from? Have you noticed all the new service providers delivering services in ways you can not because of your legacy business models? Check out Dialpad. Digital has nothing to do with it. Its all about the 3Ps, People, Process and Product. Appending Digital will not solve your problems, you’re being sold a Digital Vision to cover the base commercial reality of you overpaying for software and services. Think critically!

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