Comments (4)

  • Rick Bullotta


    On this topic, Adam is both right and wrong. It isn’t just about the “smarts” in the cities, but he takes his argument too far. Anyone who has implemented technology in an industrial environment knows that there is an “action cycle” that has to occur to do anything useful that consists (in an oversimplified version) of:

    Sense – Decide – Act

    Any of those three elements can be performed by human or machine actors. Adam claims that it’s all about empowering the human. While that’s a virtuous goal, there’s a reason we’ve leveraged automation in so many different uses over the past century.

    There are many things that machines can do in terms of speed, environmental conditions, availability at all hours, and so on that have both unburdened people of the mundane and the dangerous, while at the same time extending our capabilities to operate at speeds and in situations that a human simply could not.

    It is also essential to make the data exhaust from those activities as well as human activities accessible to people (and systems) from which new insights can be drawn. This is the open data part of the argument, one which we wholeheartedly support.

    The bottom line is that Adam’s clear passion for human empowerment (and one that I also share) need not be mutually exclusive from the implementation of automation and “smart” technology.

    The optimal answer is “all of the above”, not “one of the above”

  • AG


    Rick, it’s not so much that I disagree with the idea that automation can be usefully applied to your “SDA” loop (itself, as I’m sure you know, a simplification of Boyd’s OODA cycle). It’s that I’m close enough to technology, and have been for long enough, to be rather skeptical about the time savings and other benefits of doing so when a full and proper accounting is applied.

    I, personally, spend at least as much time managing, negotiating and otherwise wrangling the automated systems that I’ve authorized to operate on my behalf as I would have spent on just e.g. paying the damn phone bill manually. And I like to think of myself as reasonably comfortable and conversant with the tropes of information technology — imagine what it’s like for the less confident and less empowered.

    Also, please do bear in mind the context in which I made these comments: a technotriumphalist industry faire, and a fairly dreadful one at that. For better or worse, I often find myself in a position where the best role I can play is “useful corrective,” and so it was here. Very fortunately, I was able to do so alongside a wise and insightful New York contingent that included Jake Barton, Laura Forlano, Anthony Townsend, Kazys Varnelis and Sarah Williams. For my money, what this small knot of people had to offer outweighed the entire rest of the event in terms of importance, resonance and relevance.

  • Rick Bullotta


    Appreciate the response, Adam. Really would enjoy chatting sometime about what you’re up to (and we’re up to). Probably some interesting things we can do to help each other.

    – Rick

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