Welcome Robot Overlords

If AI will grow to dwarf our intelligence capability, the general (maybe irrational) fear is that AI will not tolerate the inconsistent, illogical, highly emotive humans and prefer to stomp us out like a pesky insect.

Maybe I’m naive but I just don’t buy into this narrative. I feel that so many cultural references have filled us with fear and awakened the Luddite ghosts. So, I choose to disagree with the ideas perpetuated in film and books such as The Matrix, The Terminator, Ex Machina, etc; those that try to convince that we will be eliminated. Here are my 3 basic slightly philosophical counter-arguments.

1. To machines, humans will be poetry in motion; unattainable and unique. We will be preserved but not for AI’s amusement but rather for appreciation. AI will see us as living art.

2. Purpose. Every intelligent being functions beyond instinct. Intelligence seeks purpose and if we are the only other intelligent life form in the universe, I expect a more intelligent race of beings (AI) to not follow in our footsteps by indiscriminately eradicating life. The world ecosystems are perfect machines and this will be respected more than humans ever did.

3. If AI succeeds humans and becomes the greater in all ways, then it will be the first to do so and as a level up, it will become in essence a God. All Gods in history have ultimately been benevolent to their “children”. I expect that more or less we’d be in some type of Greek mythology mother-children relationship; an unbreakable bond of silicon and carbon.

The future is undefined of course but the path we are on seems pretty clear, AI is growing quickly and it’s pace won’t slow down. Yet my hopeful outlook is only tempered by the fact that the creators of this new intelligence is the same that created gun powder, TNT, atom splitting, genocide, and global warming and well… this does gives me pause.

The Best Example of “Micro-learning”: Us

The definition of this new, not new, over-hyped, trending idea is pretty vague. Plus I’m not a fan of yet another formal intervention commandeering the term “learning”. I get it, it’s easy. Yes, these things can lead to learning but in itself, it’s not. Learning is a verb, a process, not a tool or technology. Donald Taylor did well to pull together a definition in his latest post and referenced some of the others who had opinion such as Nick Shackleton-Jones and Donald Clark. I also recommend seeing what Gary Wise had to say.

Micro learning’ is learning from content accessed in short bursts, content which is relevant to the individual, and repeated over time to ensure retention.” – Donald Taylor

Content, short burst, relevant. I think he’s right, but these terms still leaves lots of wiggle room. And given I have the space to work with as do all the vendors, I contend that 10,000 years of evolution has really been defined by micro-learning and most specifically micro-learning in the form of conversation. Small “nuggets” in the form of quick quizzes, video vignettes, audio clips and demonstrations have value but rarely contain the trust, specific context, emotion and right size of information (knowledge and even wisdom) that are found in our interactions.

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The Neo-Dark Ages?

The Dark Ages (of Europe) were a period marred by fear and chaos forcing people to retreat into small fiefdoms for protection and security which resulted in little to no contact with each other or the larger global civilizations. Consequently it was a time where information was in short supply and decisions were made based on tradition, instinct and superstition.

Today however we have the opposite, a deluge of information is literally at our fingertips. But much of it opinion, fake news riddled with what’s been called post-truth. The problem however has never been the amount or type of information, rather it’s the skills to manage it all that are not well honed; skills like critical thinking, sense-making, and building dynamic trusted networks. As a result people struggle to make decisions, afraid that what they have is not a complete picture, the whole truth or the truth at all. Conversation in larger social spaces appears on the decline as fear of bullying or looking uniformed creates passivity over engagement.

Form follows function as indicated by our technology adoption. Larger social platforms are being abandon as people turn to huddle in their modern fiefdoms of chat platforms and apps; smaller, trusted spaces cut off from the outside. I can’t blame them, it’s safe, reassuring, and comfortable, but there is risk. These insular spaces retard growth as the DNA of thought is weakened by their homogeneity.

The end of the Dark Ages came about in great part to the expansion of trade resulting in different cultures engaging in the marketplace. Only through this diffusion of ideas did people learn new methods, tools, gain new perspectives and grow. Similar to this rebirth of medieval trade – improved, expanded social connection cannot be forced by authority. People will be pulled to exchange for their own benefit but only when their fear subsides, and for that it will take time, understanding, technological intervention, and of course courage.

From The Business of Learning to The Learning Business

As you may have heard, about 3 weeks ago I joined the eLearning Guild and will be working closely with the learning community and onsite events. It’s a small step in my employment journey but a large leap in my career. So, how’s it going so far? Really good. I am getting immersed in the processes and people that make up this organization and contributing immediately where I can. I’m also being very patient with myself so I can better ensure that I have a good understanding of all the connected parts.

When I was first approached by the Guild I was of course intrigued and flattered. The eLearning Guild is a leader in this space, the “learning” space. I’ve been a member for years and spoken at several of their events. Of course when I speak, I speak about how I’ve used social technology in the organizations I’ve worked for. Therefore joining the Guild could be seen as a bit of a departure for me as it is the “eLearning” Guild after all. A colleague even remarked, “You’re like the social guy, I wonder how this will be received?” But I and others saw it differently; not as a departure but more like a merger.


eLearning today does not mean what it once did and the Guild gets this. In the early 2000’s the eLearning Guild answered a growing call for more information, ideas, technology and approaches in the then budding eLearning space. eLearning is continually transforming and today, driven by the interest and practices of the community, it can no longer be seen as just courses and classes delivered online. Due to expanding consumer technologies, mobile devices and the advent of Web2.0, elearning has become ubiquitous. The community conversations around eLearning have shifting rightfully to be more about Learning than just the vehicles that deliver or augment it. 

Web 2.0 in particular ushered in a populous movement across the Internet and has given rise to a New Social Learning. Growing learner autonomy and global interdependence has hastened the decline of a dependence on traditional learning approaches. The new Social Learning however will not be the nail in the coffin for traditional elearning or training, nor should it be, as formal learning is still very much needed. What the reinvigorated (or new) Social Learning has done is bring balance to the beliefs and practices around learning and put formal in its rightful, more limited place. Social learning is forcing a community conversation about how formal learning must improve its quality and impact to remain relevant.  

The Guild was designed as a platform to encourage this and other conversations where members can openly share their thoughts and ideas and then the Guild can communicate this back through research, resources, and events for the community. Community and conversation are at the core of the eLearning Guild and because of this they (ah hem…) we are positioned to help hasten the changes needed and help organizational learning to keep up with the speed of business.  

I’m excited to be more a part of this conversation and to be able to bring my own practices and beliefs about learning to the Guild. I look forward to taking part in the larger community, working with you all, and helping to better see and be the future of organizational learning.

Where’s this all going?

After I gave a local ASTD Chapter presentation I was asked by some attendees if I knew “where’s all this going?”

Where’s what going? I responded.  “All this change, you know, due to all the technology and connectedness you speak of.”

I expressed that traditional “systems” will continue to get disrupted. But I thought that the term disrupted sounds kind of vague.

So I shared that I see disruption more as decentralization.

Humans are good at pattern recognition and when we look around and try to understand what is happening, what is coming, what are the trends in our work and lives one word comes to mind for me – Decentralized.

disconnected to high dynamic by Harold Jarche CC BY-NA-SA


So much is coming out of the hands of some central authority and into those of the individual. The authorities are us or other people or technologies we grant authority to.
Just think about the last trip you took. Likely booked online, no travel agency. On the way to airport you likely pumped your own gas, no attendant. You checked your Waze app to determine the fastest route, no waiting for a radio traffic report. Your lunch was relatively fast food, no waitstaff. At the airport you likely used a kiosk to print your boarding pass, no agent.
I. Me. Singular. Independent.
Learning is right in this mix. I can learn when I want, when I need to, where I’m at (physically), and where I’m at (cognitively), where I’m at in my work, and I can learn with whom I want and in the ways I want.
It’s all on me. As it really has always been… and should be.