Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Personal Micro-Manager

Salman Khan used to record short videos for his cousins to help them with school work. He also helped them in person, but eventually they told him they prefer the videos (no offence), because they could pause them. This was part of the impetus for creating the Khan Academy which has the mission to provide free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. The idea is to flip the classroom. You do the lessons at home where you can 'pause the teacher' without embarrassment. The actual lessons then become tutorials where teachers can focus on helping kids with the specific areas they are struggling with. It also removes the hours of marking I remember my Mom doing growing up (she was a teacher).

It reminds me of my allergy to micro-management. I hate being told what to do. I love working in teams where we identify a problem and chip away at it. What I hate is when I feel like I am merely the muscles or machine to carry out a task. An extension of someone else's task performance ability. I am the youngest of three brothers. I still have flashbacks to being told to take a cup to the sink. If I had seen the cup, and taken it - it wouldn't be a problem. If I had been on the way to pick the cup up, and a brother had said, 'take the cup to the sink'... suddenly it would have irked me. Even though I would have done it anyway!

This may simply be a chip on my shoulder. But I think there is a connection to the pausing of teachers. Sticking your hand up in class to ask a question risks sounding stupid. We hate being judged or belittled. Meritocracy and Hierarchy are shorthand for signalling that we are 'better than someone else'. All sorts of emotional reactions come up. They may have nothing to do with the person giving the instruction. Just learnt emotional behaviour from other relationships.

I suspect if we each had our own personal Artificial Intelligence-based Micro-manager, it would actually be awesome. An Axela (Alexa in reverse) which gave us instructions... but knew us so well, that we learnt to enjoy following the instructions as they reflected our preferences better and better. Initially we wouldn't want to do what we were asked, but gradually we get better outcomes when we listen. And listening is easier when it is judgement free.

Free Will v Following Instructions. I doubt I will be the first to outsource choices to an Axela, but it is actually less frightening to me than outsourcing them to a person.

Would you listen to an Axela?

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