Saturday, November 12, 2011

Proactive thinking as a cultural change

Yesterday I've returned home from my last trip in Europe (last for the next few months I hope, at least no trip is now planned in the horizon).    I spent Thursday in Zurich in a all day meeting with partners in a consortium we have created applying for EU project,  we have reviewed several use cases, and talked with domain experts in several areas who told us that in their domains, proactive solutions simply don't exist.    Reflecting on that I think proactive computing might be enabler for cultural change.   We are very much focused on technology -- what is the architecture, what is missing beyond the state-of-the-practice, what are all the moving parts -- this is of course important -- but let's look at the bigger picture;  the society is governed by policies, regulations, rules...  Likewise, enterprises like to have strict policies to handle each situations, current analytic software serve this culture -- it typically serves those who make the rules, trying to constantly improve the rules by analyzing the past; the result is recommendation to the policy makers to refine the policies.  
Proactive thinking is different,  here the aim is to determine when following the current rules will yield wrong result and change it, if possible, in autonomous way.   If we take a simple example,   in the Zurich meeting we have discussed traffic management systems -- there has been a lot of work in this area,   there are system who sense traffic congestion and alert about it; there are systems which learn traffic patterns according to hours a day, day in the week, and other relevant segments, and make optimization for the traffic-light policies.  In many cases, traffic light policies are determined by persons who make additional considerations (a powerful politician that lives in some street -  entering and exiting this street in certain hours get priority), anyway, people generally want the power to make these decisions, and prefer that the system will behave according to consistent rules.  Proactive thinking in this case is identifying anticipatory traffic congestion and change the traffic light policies accordingly, overriding the regular policies, trying to resolve a specific problem.

This is a cultural change, since the culture typically prefers that the measures will be statistical, and the behavior of systems will be consistent,  this preference has deep cultural roots in certain societies, and reflect the inability of people to get real-time decisions, or improvise.    Those who will adopt proactive thinking may go beyond the cultural handicap and achieve relative benefits....  more about it - later

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