3 min read

📰 🍄🐚 Organizational Mycology – March 23, 2023

This week we’re taking a look at a story that encapsulates Silicon Valley’s tendency to “move fast and break things” and exploring how we might begin to think about ways to “move slow and fix things.” We’ll also recap our participation in MozFest and plug our next Oblique Thinking Hour on the topic of Collaborative Oblique Problem Solving.

Something that caught our eye

Last week, Microsoft laid off an entire ethical AI team. It caught our eye given Microsoft’s heavy investment in OpenAI and its integration of AI into the Bing search engine, among other developments. With the rising popularity and hype around ChatGPT, DALL-E 2, and other AI applications, you can’t avoid the deluge of articles predicting how disruptive these technologies will be in domains as diverse as education, healthcare, customer service… just about everything!

Microsoft may be ignoring cautionary tales in AI ethics amidst all the hype, such as Timnit Gebru’s firing after exposing the dangers of Google’s large language models. Yet Microsoft’s move is in some ways unsurprising: We’ve had nearly thirty years of the “move fast and break things” Silicon Valley ethos dominating the narrative of what progress should look like. Expelling individuals who think differently about progress is not ideal, but can prompt new organizations with a mission to combat AI harms such as Gebru’s Distributed AI Research Institute.

DAIR’s approach, in contrast to traditional tech firms, made us wonder what it would look like to spend 10, 20, or 30 years “moving slow and fixing all the things we’ve broken.” This isn’t necessarily about stalling progress; rather, it raises the question of how we might focus our tech development on fixing things, route our resources to maintaining existing infrastructure, and develop judicious approaches to long-term climate and socioeconomic sustainability. We at OrgMycology are big fans of groups that support people and systems that provide stability rather than disruption, such as The Maintainers, Write the Docs, and Data & Society. Check them out if you’re interested in seeing examples of how to get into the “move slow and fix things” mindset! And please let us know if you’ve got other examples of such organizations by hitting reply.

What we’ve been up to

The OrgMycology team had a great time attending and running sessions at MozFest. Beth presented early results from her Boundary Spanning project and participants engaged in an insightful conversation afterwards. You can find the talk here if you’ve signed up for MozFest. Look out for future iterations of the talk, and stay in the loop by signing up for Beth’s substack!

We also held an Oblique Thinking Hour on biomimetic problem solving. We were lucky to be joined by participants from a variety of backgrounds, each bringing a unique perspective on how they connect natural systems to their work. We were particularly pleased to host a biomimicry expert, Nan Woodman, who had great feedback on our card deck and approach to running the workshop.

Engage with us…

Translating the Biomimetic Thinking Deck

We’ve had some interest in translating our Biomimetic thinking deck to other languages. Do you have another language you speak, would you be interested in helping this card deck become more accessible? Do you want to see the deck in another language? Let us know at [email protected].

April 12/13th 2023 Collaborative Oblique Problem Solving

In this Oblique Thinking Hour we'll demonstrate a collaborative problem solving technique that enables a group of any size to split into small groups, discuss shared capabilities and challenges, and feed their ideas into the larger group for discussion and synthesis. We'll be talking about general challenges and problems that anyone could relate to, but this technique can be used in any context. Come along, meet some people and have fun exploring with us!

In May we’ll be collaboratively creating a futures card deck, similar to the deck used in our Futures Thinking OTH.

Contact us at [email protected]