Leadership In An Algorythmic Universe


Are we in control of financial markets, our landscapes, communication and ultimately of our universe? According to Kevin Slavin, as algorithms are increasingly used to break out ‘big things into small things’ and build ‘small things back into big things’ we have less and less control over our universe. In this TedGlobal talk, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture.

‘We are riding these things that we can no longer read’ and we lost sense of our world. You can find those algorithms everywhere, in financial markets, but everywhere else. Algorithms lock in loops with each other without human supervision. Netflix “pragmatic chaos’ for example is trying to understand what movie you want to watch in order to present it to you. ‘Epagogix’ is an algorithm that movie moguls use to determine whether a movie will be a hit or not. Cleaning robots are algorithm based. Have you ever been in a button-free lift (one of those where you have to select your floor before you enter the lift).

We are increasingly designing our world with algorithms. ‘If you are a wall street algorithm and you are 5 micro-seconds late, you are a loser’. The closer you are from the place that the internet is distributed from, the more advantage you have. So algorithms trading companies hollow out building next to the building where the internet originate to close the deal 3 micro seconds faster, and gain that competitive advantage and squeeze revenue out of that space.

We are now writing code we can’t understand, with implications we can’t control. Which leads to a question that has been at the centre of philosophers and scientists attention for a few decades now: do we have enough wisdom to handle the complexity that we have created in the world? The answer so far has been negative.

Wisdom is not taught as a skill, but can be developped in many ways. At The MasterMinds, we hope to make a contribution through the trainings and the experiences we facilitate for the public (check the schedule of courses here).

Developping the ability to think systemically is one of the requirements for the leaders of the 21st Century who will be faced with a world that is increasingly complex and uncertain. We address this specific issue during the Collective Values module of the NLP Master Practitioner Certification course, based on the work of Clare Graves (next course in November 2011).


Leave a Reply