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Normal Accidents, High Reliability, Wicked Messes (ST-ON 2021-08-09)

Choosing topics for a Systems Thinking Ontario session, it seems as though the term “Normal Accidents” was not one familiar to many, particularly those who were not old enough to recall popularization coinciding with the 1979 movie The China Syndrome.  The interest then on High Reliability Organizations would also be news to most of our usual attendees.  Thus, a session based on readings was announced ….

Have we learned from brushes with disaster, or have we become complacent about complexities in everyday life?

This video has been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
August 9
(1h32m)
[20210809_ST-ON_Ing NormalAccidentsHighReliabilityWickedMesses FHD.m4v]
(FHD 578kbps 456MB) [on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
August 9
(1h32m)
[20210809_ST-ON_Ing NormalAccidentsHighReliabilityWickedMesses.mp3]
(90MB)

On March 28, 1979, an accident with a nuclear reactor occurred at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Twelve days earlier, an Academy Awards winning film The China Syndrome had opened with a story fictionalized from a 1975 fire at a nuclear plant in Brown’s Ferry, Alabama, raising public awareness of an issue. For a Presidential Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, sociologist Charles Perrow contributed organizational analysis report. On a sabbatical to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1981-1982, that report expanded to include other high-risk systems, becoming the Normal Accidents book, published in 1984.

In the 1990s, a group at Berkeley initiated by Todd LaPorte noticed some high-hazard organizations who able to consistently manage risks to be failure-free.… Read more (in a new tab)

Choosing topics for a Systems Thinking Ontario session, it seems as though the term “Normal Accidents” was not one familiar to many, particularly those who were not old enough to recall popularization coinciding with the 1979 movie The China Syndrome.  The interest then on High Reliability Organizations would also be news to most of our usual attendees.  Thus, a session based on readings was announced ….

Have we learned from brushes with disaster, or have we become complacent about complexities in everyday life?

This video has been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
August 9
(1h32m)
[20210809_ST-ON_Ing NormalAccidentsHighReliabilityWickedMesses FHD.m4v]
(FHD 578kbps 456MB) [on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
August 9
(1h32m)
[20210809_ST-ON_Ing NormalAccidentsHighReliabilityWickedMesses.mp3]
(90MB)

On March 28, 1979, an accident with a nuclear reactor occurred at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Twelve days earlier, an Academy Awards winning film The China Syndrome had opened with a story fictionalized from a 1975 fire at a nuclear plant in Brown’s Ferry, Alabama, raising public awareness of an issue. For a Presidential Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, sociologist Charles Perrow contributed organizational analysis report. On a sabbatical to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1981-1982, that report expanded to include other high-risk systems, becoming the Normal Accidents book, published in 1984.

In the 1990s, a group at Berkeley initiated by Todd LaPorte noticed some high-hazard organizations who able to consistently manage risks to be failure-free.… Read more (in a new tab)

Open Learning Commons, with the Digital Life Collective

With governance of online communications a problematique, the Systems Changes learning circle has actively been advancing our collaborations on the Open Learning Commons as an open platform, and the Digital Life Collective for semi-private communications.  Complementing the Systems Community of Inquiry, this combination of technologies presents alternatives for Systems Thinking communities who are uncomfortable with the terms and conditions of commercial providers (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn).

The systems sciences community was invited to participate in workshops at the ISSS 2019 Corvallis meeting in June.

The governance of the Open Learning Commons operates under Creative Commons licensing.  The Digital Life Collective operates globally as a member-owned platform cooperative, incorporated under a UK jurisdiction.

Joining these online platforms may not be as convenient as having a commercial enterprise “take care” of communications amongst individuals.  While I personally participate (and am named in groups of administrators) on most major social platforms involving systems thinking, my depth of involvement is consciously selective based on terms and conditions.  On a Dec. 23 thread on The Ecology of Systems Thinking group on Facebook, I responded to some questions, and have permission to repost the exchange publicly.

With governance of online communications a problematique, the Systems Changes learning circle has actively been advancing our collaborations on the Open Learning Commons as an open platform, and the Digital Life Collective for semi-private communications.  Complementing the Systems Community of Inquiry, this combination of technologies presents alternatives for Systems Thinking communities who are uncomfortable with the terms and conditions of commercial providers (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn).

The systems sciences community was invited to participate in workshops at the ISSS 2019 Corvallis meeting in June.

The governance of the Open Learning Commons operates under Creative Commons licensing.  The Digital Life Collective operates globally as a member-owned platform cooperative, incorporated under a UK jurisdiction.

Joining these online platforms may not be as convenient as having a commercial enterprise “take care” of communications amongst individuals.  While I personally participate (and am named in groups of administrators) on most major social platforms involving systems thinking, my depth of involvement is consciously selective based on terms and conditions.  On a Dec. 23 thread on The Ecology of Systems Thinking group on Facebook, I responded to some questions, and have permission to repost the exchange publicly.

A federated wiki site on cPanel

Since my cPanel shared hosting provider supports node.js hosting, installing a federated wiki site beside the usual Softaculous packages is an option. The app requires node.js, and there is a variety of ways to deploy that.

In 2014, I had installed a federated wiki site on Openshift, but then didn’t maintain it as other priorities surfaced.  The site is now available at http://wiki.coevolving.com, and the prior content has been restored.

The installation isn’t a one-button procedure.  However, an administator comfortable with opening an SSH terminal onto your shared hosting account should be able to follow the steps below.  (If you have problems, the federated wiki community hangs out in a room on matrix.org).

A. Creating a Subdomain

(1) Through your browser, from cPanel … Domains … , create a Subdomain.

  • As an example, I can create a Subdomain wiki in the Domain coevolving.com, that will actually be stored in my Home (Document Root) as a wiki.coevolving.com directory.

Subdomain_CreateASubdomain

B. Installing Federated Wiki

(2) From cPanel … Software … Setup Node.js App.

  • In the Web Applications list, Create Application.  As an example, set:
      • Node.js version: 10.11.0
      • Application mode: Production
      • Application root: wiki.coevolving.com
      • Application URL: wiki.coevolving.com
      • Application startup: app.js
  • (If you leave the Application startup field blank, app.js automatically fills in as the default)

NodeJs_CreateApplication

  • At this point, the node.js environment is not yet activated, as the package.json has not yet been downloaded, and the Run NPM Install button is greyed out.
Read more (in a new tab)

Since my cPanel shared hosting provider supports node.js hosting, installing a federated wiki site beside the usual Softaculous packages is an option. The app requires node.js, and there is a variety of ways to deploy that.

In 2014, I had installed a federated wiki site on Openshift, but then didn’t maintain it as other priorities surfaced.  The site is now available at http://wiki.coevolving.com, and the prior content has been restored.

The installation isn’t a one-button procedure.  However, an administator comfortable with opening an SSH terminal onto your shared hosting account should be able to follow the steps below.  (If you have problems, the federated wiki community hangs out in a room on matrix.org).

A. Creating a Subdomain

(1) Through your browser, from cPanel … Domains … , create a Subdomain.

  • As an example, I can create a Subdomain wiki in the Domain coevolving.com, that will actually be stored in my Home (Document Root) as a wiki.coevolving.com directory.

Subdomain_CreateASubdomain

B. Installing Federated Wiki

(2) From cPanel … Software … Setup Node.js App.

  • In the Web Applications list, Create Application.  As an example, set:
      • Node.js version: 10.11.0
      • Application mode: Production
      • Application root: wiki.coevolving.com
      • Application URL: wiki.coevolving.com
      • Application startup: app.js
  • (If you leave the Application startup field blank, app.js automatically fills in as the default)

NodeJs_CreateApplication

  • At this point, the node.js environment is not yet activated, as the package.json has not yet been downloaded, and the Run NPM Install button is greyed out.
Read more (in a new tab)

Artificial intelligence, natural stupidity

Psychologist Amos Tversky, with Daniel Kahneman, collaborated not on artificial intelligence, but on the study of natural stupidity.  Their research into cognitive biases eventually became recognized in an emerging field of behavioral economics.  In hindsight, I can claim to have received an “A” in a Ph.D. course taught by the winner of a Nobel Prize in economics.

In my first cycle of doctoral studies, I was guided at UBC by my supervisor Ken MacCrimmon into a PSYC546 “Seminar in Psychology Problems”, which was led by Danny Kahneman.  This course was offered shortly after the 1982 publication of the book Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases, edited by Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky.  With Kahneman at UBC in Vancouver, and Tversky at Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area, the back-and-forth flights to visit each other was frequent.  I uncovered more about the relationship between the two psychology professors in reading The Undoing Project. That book describes a difficult history of university faculty offers, not only around the two collaborators, but also the accommodation of wives Barbara Gans Tversky and Anne Treisman.

In late 1977, after Danny had told him that he wasn’t returning to Israel, word spread through academia that Amos Tversky might leave, too.  […]  Harvard University quickly offered Amos tenure, though it took them a few weeks to throw in an assistant professorship for Barbara. The University of Michigan, which had the advantage of sheer size, scrambled to find four tenured professorships — and, by making places for Danny, Anne, and Barbara, also snag Amos.

Read more (in a new tab)

Psychologist Amos Tversky, with Daniel Kahneman, collaborated not on artificial intelligence, but on the study of natural stupidity.  Their research into cognitive biases eventually became recognized in an emerging field of behavioral economics.  In hindsight, I can claim to have received an “A” in a Ph.D. course taught by the winner of a Nobel Prize in economics.

In my first cycle of doctoral studies, I was guided at UBC by my supervisor Ken MacCrimmon into a PSYC546 “Seminar in Psychology Problems”, which was led by Danny Kahneman.  This course was offered shortly after the 1982 publication of the book Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases, edited by Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky.  With Kahneman at UBC in Vancouver, and Tversky at Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area, the back-and-forth flights to visit each other was frequent.  I uncovered more about the relationship between the two psychology professors in reading The Undoing Project. That book describes a difficult history of university faculty offers, not only around the two collaborators, but also the accommodation of wives Barbara Gans Tversky and Anne Treisman.

In late 1977, after Danny had told him that he wasn’t returning to Israel, word spread through academia that Amos Tversky might leave, too.  […]  Harvard University quickly offered Amos tenure, though it took them a few weeks to throw in an assistant professorship for Barbara. The University of Michigan, which had the advantage of sheer size, scrambled to find four tenured professorships — and, by making places for Danny, Anne, and Barbara, also snag Amos.

Read more (in a new tab)

The impacts of platforms

Concerns in the larger research body of research on platforms often leads to a subset looking into the impacts of the platform economy.  Let’s try some more digests responding to questions.

  • A. Is a shift to platforms considered as disruptive innovation?
  • B. Do network effects lead to a platform economy of “winner take all”?
  • C. With digital platforms based in information systems, what are the opportunities for knowledge effects?
  • D. What is the logic of participation on a platform?
  • E. Should platform capitalism be seen as positive or negative?
  • F. As an alternative to platform capitalism, should platform cooperativism be considered?
  • G. In the larger context of the sharing economy, how might platform initiatives be categorized?

The rise of the platform economy may be described either by the metaphor of “We Don’t Know Who Discovered Water, But We Know It Wasn’t a Fish” or the fable of the “Boiling Frog“.

A. Is a shift to platforms considered as disruptive innovation?

In a clarification about definition of disruptive innovationClayton Christensen doesn’t see Uber as disrupting the taxi business, because (i) the innovation doesn’t original on a low-end or new-market foothold; and (ii) the innovation doesn’t catch up with mainstream customers until quality catches up to their standards.  With disruptive innovation seen as a process, Uber is categorized by Christensen as as an outlier to the taxi business, offering a better quality service in the regulated taxi industry.… Read more (in a new tab)

Concerns in the larger research body of research on platforms often leads to a subset looking into the impacts of the platform economy.  Let’s try some more digests responding to questions.

  • A. Is a shift to platforms considered as disruptive innovation?
  • B. Do network effects lead to a platform economy of “winner take all”?
  • C. With digital platforms based in information systems, what are the opportunities for knowledge effects?
  • D. What is the logic of participation on a platform?
  • E. Should platform capitalism be seen as positive or negative?
  • F. As an alternative to platform capitalism, should platform cooperativism be considered?
  • G. In the larger context of the sharing economy, how might platform initiatives be categorized?

The rise of the platform economy may be described either by the metaphor of “We Don’t Know Who Discovered Water, But We Know It Wasn’t a Fish” or the fable of the “Boiling Frog“.

A. Is a shift to platforms considered as disruptive innovation?

In a clarification about definition of disruptive innovationClayton Christensen doesn’t see Uber as disrupting the taxi business, because (i) the innovation doesn’t original on a low-end or new-market foothold; and (ii) the innovation doesn’t catch up with mainstream customers until quality catches up to their standards.  With disruptive innovation seen as a process, Uber is categorized by Christensen as as an outlier to the taxi business, offering a better quality service in the regulated taxi industry.… Read more (in a new tab)

Platforms, an emerging appreciation

The term “platform” is now popular in a variety of contexts.  What do “platforms” mean, and what research might guide our appreciation?

Let’s outline some questions:

  • A. What came before the rise of platforms?
  • B. What types of platforms are there?
  • C. Why take a platform approach?
  • D. How do platforms manifest?
  • E. Why might a platform not be viable?
  • F. How are digital and non-digital platforms different?
  • G. What don’t researchers know about digital platforms?
  • H. What are the economic consequences of the platform economy?

The articles cited below are not exhaustive, but they may give a sense of the ballpark.

A. What came before the rise of platforms?

The industrial age was typified by descriptions of “supply chains” and “value chains”, which otherwise may be called “pipelines”. Marshall Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker, and Sangeet Paul Choudary write:

… platforms differ from the conventional “pipeline” businesses that have dominated industry for decades. Pipeline businesses create value by controlling a linear series of activities — the classic value-chain model. Inputs at one end of the chain (say, materials from suppliers) undergo a series of steps that transform them into an output that’s worth more: the finished product. [….]

The move from pipeline to platform involves three key shifts:

1. From resource control to resource orchestration. The resource-based view of competition holds that firms gain advantage by controlling scarce and valuable — ideally, inimitable — assets.

Read more (in a new tab)

The term “platform” is now popular in a variety of contexts.  What do “platforms” mean, and what research might guide our appreciation?

Let’s outline some questions:

  • A. What came before the rise of platforms?
  • B. What types of platforms are there?
  • C. Why take a platform approach?
  • D. How do platforms manifest?
  • E. Why might a platform not be viable?
  • F. How are digital and non-digital platforms different?
  • G. What don’t researchers know about digital platforms?
  • H. What are the economic consequences of the platform economy?

The articles cited below are not exhaustive, but they may give a sense of the ballpark.

A. What came before the rise of platforms?

The industrial age was typified by descriptions of “supply chains” and “value chains”, which otherwise may be called “pipelines”. Marshall Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker, and Sangeet Paul Choudary write:

… platforms differ from the conventional “pipeline” businesses that have dominated industry for decades. Pipeline businesses create value by controlling a linear series of activities — the classic value-chain model. Inputs at one end of the chain (say, materials from suppliers) undergo a series of steps that transform them into an output that’s worth more: the finished product. [….]

The move from pipeline to platform involves three key shifts:

1. From resource control to resource orchestration. The resource-based view of competition holds that firms gain advantage by controlling scarce and valuable — ideally, inimitable — assets.

Read more (in a new tab)
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