Perspectives on Design Thinking

Design Thinking is an approach, created by the Stanford Design School, to solving problems by empathy, focus, brainstorming, and rapid prototyping. Empathy for placing yourself in the role of others to understand their goals and behaviour, focus to limit the scope of the problem that is solved, brainstorming to think out-of-the-box about solutions and finally repeated prototype and test to determine the viability of solutions in an early phase.  Obviously Design Thinking has a lot in common with Perspectives. For some more words on the commonalities between Design Thinking and Perspectives please read this.

Contexts as Behavioral Markov Blankets

Karl Friston has a very simple and elegant explanation of the definition of life from cells to bacteria to brains and human behaviour. In his theory of Free Energy, a Markov Blanket is a border that separates the inside of a system from the outside. If there were no such a border we would observe only dissipating energy and increasing entropy. 

Karl Friston

In his view, at every scale, from cells to bacteria to brains, the entity adapts to its environment to sustain its existence. A cell will only show simple, mostly chemical, behaviour. Brains will show complex behaviour, with human brains as the ultimate example.

A Context may act as a Behavioural Markov Blanket. It introduces an inside and outside, not in a physical sense but in a sociological sense. It defines a border within which certain behaviour is relevant and expected. 

This is easily put in an evolutionary explanation of cognitive development. As a way to structure reality, to be able to understand it and to choose relevant and expected behaviour. This as a prerequisite for social interaction and cooperation.

Based on statistical evidence and Bayesian learning strategies, Friston explains that human behaviour is mostly determined by minimising the difference between ones expected behaviour in a certain context, and the behaviour one actually shows. Friston calls this Active Inference and maybe it is not a coincidence that this is abbreviated AI. 

In Perspectives, we explicitly model the possible actions a role may perform in a certain context. Because of its non-deterministic nature, the model will not predict the actual behaviour of the users.  Maybe Friston's theory of Free Energy and Active Inference will one day provide a statistical background for expected behaviour in contexts, instead of just observing what happens. And maybe Friston's work may actually lead to a comprehensive theory of consciousness.

For a short introduction into Friston's ideas, please watch this interview.

Edge computing

According to some experts, within a few years, the server capacity and bandwidth will fall short for supporting all we want to do with our devices. Therefore we will have more computing and persistence on our smartphones and tablets. this is called Edge Computing. This in addition to cloud computing and the kind with a name I especially like: Fog computing, a term coined by Cisco.

Question is, what kind of computing is done on the Edge? Every device manufacturer hurries to add neural network processors to their smartphones and tablets. This is necessary because already server capacity it too limited to compute speech-to-text and face recognition remotely.

However, Big IT will make sure that our precious behavioural data will still be send to their servers. It will be interesting to see what excuses they will come up with for doing so.

Time to make edge computing the dominant architecture and to gradually switch to distributed computing. InPlace, our own distributed computing platform will do just that. It will use Fog and Cloud Computing only when necessary. Let's not waste the enormous amount of computing power we collectively hold in our hands!