Sunday, May 9, 2021

Visualization of the incomprehensible

Smutwood Peak
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

Einstein was asked to create a metaphor to explain his integrated energy-mass and warped space-time equations, and he said there simply was none. “The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanisms of thought.”

In the hundred years since Einstein and Minkowski revealed the interrelationships among space/time and light, and proof of the space/time continuum, there has been little speculation as to what could exist on this new plane, apart from Einstein’s discovery that gravity is due to the curvature of space-time in the fourth dimension.  Artistic visualization of the incomprehensible may produce the beginning of a solution. 

Artistic visualization of the incomprehensible may produce the beginning of a solution. 

Smutwood Peak is not a visualization of Einstein’s relativity theory.  It just happens to be the only thing I’ve painted this week.  I may use it in the graphic novel I’m working on.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

World Economic Forum Report: Visualized - A Global Risk Assessment of 2021 and Beyond

Click on image to enlarge

High-Impact/High-Likelihood Quadrant
Source: WEF Global Risks Report
Colour code: risks are ranked from Low (blue) to High (red)

The World Economic Forum methodology is briefly outlined below, and the top risks, as illustrated above, are listed.

Click on image to enlarge

The animated version of Visualized: A Global Risk Assessment of 2021 and Beyond provides an even better visualization, with annotations like the following:

1.      Unsurprisingly, ‘Infectious diseases’ is one of the top risks by both likelihood and risk.

2.      Youth aged 15-24 today are staring down a turbulent future chief among the risks they face being disrupted educational and economic prospects along with potential mental health challenges.

3.      The world’s economic output suffered greatly in 2020, and could continue to stall as monetary stimulus proves less effective while pushing debt/GDP levels higher.

4.      Although COVID-19 has accelerated the Fourth Industrial Revolution, its benefits are not all-inclusive and may worsen existing inequalities.

5.      Several countries are off-track in meeting emissions goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.  COVID-19 has also delayed progress in the shift to a carbon-neutral economy.

Note: Economists are apparently required to write within the constraints of their profession (the dismal science).

Monday, May 3, 2021

Data Mining and Synthesis of Information

Illustration from Inventing the Future (Pangnirtung Fjord)
InDesign document
©2019 Charlene Brown

The objective of data mining is to get the largest amount of useful information out of the mountains of data available, and do it without falling into the trap of measuring stuff just because you can, and then tracking useless data to no avail. The way to do this is to glean as much as you can intuitively before you start quantifying and fitting number-crunching formulas.

I figured this out almost fifty years ago while studying what is now called business analytics.  It was called management science when I got my MBA and operations research before that.  There was probably a lot less data to mine in the early `70s, but it seemed like a lot at the time. 

Synthesizing information through visualization, pattern recognition, trend analysis and extrapolation, in other words, going as far as you can in parsing the problem intuitively (heuristically), increases the likelihood of formulating a solvable optimization – and increases the chance the answer will actually make sense. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

2021 Liberal National Convention


Illustration from Inventing the Future
InDesign document
©2019 Charlene Brown

Policy resolutions, including several regarding or relating to Green Energy were raised (in some cases ‘fast-tracked’) at the National Convention, held April 8 – 10 on Zoom. Resolutions had originated with various Commissions (Women, Youth, Seniors) and Provincial branches, and were presented and workshopped on the second day. Several dozen, including four having to do with green energy, were put forward for debate and voting on the final day.

There were over 6000 of us attending the convention and, for each resolution put forward, everyone had a chance to request debate (four debaters were selected and debates were conducted only if there were at least 50 requests) and then vote on whether or not to advance the resolution to the (Election) Platform Committee. We voted in favour of three of the green energy resolutions, rejecting the one that stipulated the decommissioning of all nuclear power generators.

I voted in favour of the three, despite some misuse of the term ‘renewable’ in two of them, and was especially impressed with the third because it referred to alternate (not renewable) energy sources and, in listing them, did not include biomass.  If you read my April 26 blogpost, you’ll know that’s an issue for me.

I’m proud to have taken part in this policy development process, but suspect that whatever American President Biden says in the next few weeks will have much more influence on the eventual Liberal platform.  And on the Opposition Platform.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Role of Artificial Intelligence:

Illustration from Inventing the Future
InDesign document
©2019 Charlene Brown

Because AI has the ability to process “big data” it could be applied to huge problems involving complex systems.  However, in order to be reliable in forecasting the future, it needs to incorporate the intuitive aspect of human intelligence.  How can that be programmed? 

·         It is possible that properly coded ­algorithms might eventually enable a computer to execute heuristic processes (roughly defined as common sense), but it is more likely that heuristic processes can serve as a good first step in data analytics by synthesizing data into a form AI can handle

 ·         There are apps that make political forecasts by using AI to comb through Twitter – sort of like a really big Delphi study* without having Delphi participants’ opportunity to reevaluate their input.

 * The Delphi Technique can be an especially useful research methodology when there is no true or knowable answer, such as in policy decision-making, or long-range forecasting. A wide range of opinions can be included, which can be useful in cases where relying on a single expert would lead to bias. 

·         The World Economic Forum Global Risks analysis, which I will write about in a few days, describes a method of quantifying expert opinion that sounds similar to a Delphi study. 

·         Design thinking considers input from experts in different fields – marketing, design and  engineering.



Friday, April 30, 2021

Confounding Factors

Illustration from Inventing the Future (Burgess Shale and Emerald Lake)
InDesign document
©2019 Charlene Brown

Forecasting the future is made more difficult by confounding factors such as:

·         Disruptive technology/innovations: Are today’s disruptive transformations (block chain, genome sequencing, robotics, energy storage, AI) comparable to the disruption caused by railways, automobiles, electricity, computers or the internet?

·        Black swan events: unpredictable, massive impact, highly improbable, eg. 9/11, collapse of the
Soviet Union, Covid-19

·        Wild cards: low probability, high impact events.  The difference between Black Swans and Wild Cards is that Wild Cards are imaginable (ie predictable to a certain extent), temperature increases, Halley's Comet, 2008 financial crisis, religious conflicts, financial unicorns (or alicorns), pandemics, wars, and tipping points (actions of a complex system which has become unstable). 

Using wildcards in disruptive innovation ideation sessions can enrich discussions and help people to imagine 'what if?'





Thursday, April 29, 2021

Forecasting the Future on Zoom

Illustration from Inventing the Future (Gabriola Island)
InDesign document
©2019 Charlene Brown

I won`t attempt to summarize everything I learned in a ‘Forecasting the Future’ class at UVic that I Zoom-attended earlier this month.  Actually I did try to summarize everything, but ended up with way more information than I’d ever try to squeeze onto this blog.  So I’ll just write about the three topics that relate to Predictive Visualization – Complex Systems, Confounding Factors and the Role of Artificial Intelligence.

Complex Systems:

A system is complex if it has diversity, connection, and interdependence.

·         Non-adaptive complex systems follow rules of behavior and equations of physics, and can be modeled and predicted.  Climate projections are non-adaptive complex systems that should be relatively easy to model, except for some randomness and chaos.

In climate modeling, parameterization a succinct mathematical description of a complex process can replace factors like randomness and chaos that are too small-scale or complex to be represented physically.  Millennials would describe parameterization as a hack, by which they would mean a clever, subtle, even mystical computer program – a digital poem, rarely appreciated by non-hackers.

·         Adaptive systems adopt new rules when circumstances change and are harder to model and predict.

Chaos theory deals with adaptive complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can result in unintended consequences. Techniques are emerging to make predictions using chaos theory

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

An Actual Predictive Visualization


Unmet GHG Reduction Targets*
Watercolour, marker and computer
2021 Charlene Brown

 Actual and projected increasing GHG emissions are represented by the solid and dotted black line, with optimistic GHG reductions that didn’t materialize shown in cyan dots.  A couple of surprises which led to economic downturns resulting in sharp reductions in emissions have been labeled in magenta. Surprises vary greatly in the degree to which they may be understood and anticipated.  Visualization and even chaos theory may point the way.

 *Derived from Émissions de GES du Canada: Cibles non-atteintes, produced by Équiterre in 2018.