Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘engineering/research/experiments’ Category

Re-designing: opportunity to reframe problems and solution
Excellent read
Note: I consider this article as an extended version of how Human Factors engineers and practitioners must approach problems and experiments, and focusing on the health, safety and ease of use of any product or service.

The wider determinants of health developed by Public Health England show that in fact, things like someone’s education, their job, who their friends are, how they get on with family, and where they live can actually determine how long they will live – even if they’re using the same doctor as someone living down the road but who is likely to live 10 years longer.

In the last two decades, design has been demonstrating a refreshing approach to addressing such complex problems. This is because design provides the opportunity to re-frame problems and solutions.

It explores ways of doing things that haven’t been tried before, to address problems that haven’t been well understood before.

But in this age of complexity and multiple dependencies, problems are constantly and rapidly changing too, and so must solutions. We need to move away from the romantic notion that a solution – whether it’s a service, product or policy – needs to go through a one-off and well-polished design process, beyond which it will continue to be relevant forevermore.

Reality is very different.

So we’re making the case here that as designers, we have a mission to build the capabilities of non-designers who work within the organisations that are transforming our future.

This means they are equipped with the problem-solving mindset to constantly interrogate, improve and innovate as realities quickly evolve, and things that worked yesterday soon become obsolete.

Urgency for prevention and early intervention: There is a sense of urgency to pre-empt problems before they happen in order to save time, resource and often even lives.

The recent NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) demonstrate this urgency. With an ever-increasing population, public services are at breaking point. (It has already broken down)

But since two-thirds of deaths among those under 75 are a result of preventable illness, there is a growing recognition that keeping as many people as possible healthy is the most sustainable investment.

This is where a lot of the STP plans are focusing their energy. Because design offers a lens into the future and a provocation for possible realities, it provides those committed to prevention and early intervention with the ability to understand future problems and to design solutions that can forestall them.

Systemic complexity: We can no longer think of products, services and policies outside of the systems they exist within and interact with.

For example, we worked with the Healthy London Partnership on a deep dive to understand the root causes of childhood obesity and to try out new ways of addressing this chronic challenge.

Our insight revealed that a one-pronged approach will never do.

We need to create positive and synchronised triggers at different points in the system: we need behavioural nudges that change the habits of individuals, we need social movements that influence and inspire whole communities, we need levers that transform physical obesogenic environments, and we also need legislation and regulation such as the Sugary Drink Tax to reduce temptation.

Design invites diverse people across the system to confront problems collaboratively, by creating solutions that leverage the collective power of everyone’s experience, expertise, resource and authority.

Ongoing transformation: In a time of austerity, we just can’t afford to keep slowly chipping away at the problem through little tweaks and tricks in the hope that it will one day disappear. We need to completely and continuously re-imagine how things might work better.

When working with a national charity, we realised that funding for children’s centres was at risk, and that they were struggling to reach diverse families. This meant we needed to completely transform the service, into one where children’s centres can go (literally ‘in a box’) into the homes of those who most need them, for a ninth of the cost and nine times the reach.

A design approach to problem-solving offered staff the opportunity to experiment with transformational ideas at a small and safe scale, fail quickly, learn fast and build confidence in the direction of travel.

What capabilities

Organisations need to develop a number of problem-solving capabilities to future-proof their solutions. In a recent Touchpoint article, my colleagues Jocelyn Bailey and Cat Drew argue that these capabilities are presumably less about skill and more about mindset and culture. Armed with the right mindset, organisations can then develop (and even invent) the unique skills, methods and tools to solve all types of diverse problems. This mindset is characterised by:

Deep human understandingthe approach invites curiosity and determination to explore what lies beneath people’s actions, decisions and perceptions.

Reframing challengesthe insight revealed through deep human understanding can help reframe the challenge to get to the bottom of the hidden root causes, rather than the visible symptoms.

Working with othersa design approach to problem-solving is humble. We admit that we don’t know it all, and we invite others who have experienced the problem in different ways or who are experts in related issues across the system, to come on board and shape the journey.

Learning by doingthe only way to test innovation is to give it a go. Design is a process of solving problems through doing, learning, improving and scaling. Starting small and imperfect can mitigate the risks of failure, and with every iterative cycle and every improved version, more investment and scale can be justified.

image: https://www.uscreates.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/uscreates_prototyping-1024×683.jpg

There are various ways that organisations can build the problem-solving capabilities of their workforce. Last year, I wrote an article with Joyce Yee in the Service Design Impact Report that reviewed different design capability models that the public sector draws on. There is not a one-size-fits-all model, and each presents its own benefits:

Structured trainingthis varies from one-day workshops to bootcamps. These are best for beginners who would like a taster of the mindset to assess whether it provides potential for the nature of their organisation’s challenges.

Experiential learningin other words, learning on the job. Often this takes the form of design experts facilitating a series of problem-solving sprints within an organisation, based on a real challenge. Staff are invited to shadow the process, reflect on learning, and experience the benefits first-hand.

Coachingthis model is suited for more experienced organisations who have potentially benefited from structured training and/or experiential learning. They would be keen to lead the problem-solving process themselves, with the support of a design coach for strategic guidance, alignment, and constructive provocation.

Internal disruption: a popular example of this is the lab model, where an organisation invests in an innovation team embedded within, with a role to create and grow a movement and a culture that embraces a design mindset to problem-solving.

In today’s complex and rapidly evolving world, organisations need to start thinking differently about how they are future-proofing what they do and how they do it. They need to invest in people, not solutions. By better equipping their people with a problem-solving mindset, they are creating the enablers for ongoing improvement, innovation and future relevance.

 

Joanna is Design Director at Uscreates. She is a social designer, author, speaker and lecturer with over 15 years of practical experience in the UK, the Middle East and the United States. She leads on the development and delivery of service design, user centred innovation, design research, business modelling, communication and digital design projects.

Joanna has worked with over 50 public and third sector organisations – including Nesta, The Healthy London Partnership, the Health Foundation and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust – to help them better understand and address their challenges.

She has expertise across a broad range of social challenges including health and wellbeing, social integration, social action, employment, education and social enterprise. Joanna has a Ph.D. in design for social integration in design for social integration and is an RSA fellow. She is an associate lecturer at the University of the Arts London, Kingston University and Ravensbourne University.

Read more at https://www.uscreates.com/capability-training/#rtyugoxJFYpkkelH.9

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Talking about Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning

Dan Dennett. Philosopher, cognitive scientist
Dennett argues that human consciousness and free will are the result of physical processes. His latest book is “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” Full bio
I’m going around the world giving talks about Darwin, and usually what I’m talking about is Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning. Now that title, that phrase, comes from a critic, an early critic, and this is a passage that I just love, and would like to read for you.

0:28 “In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it. This proposition will be found on careful examination to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin’s meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in the achievements of creative skill.”

Exactly. And it is a strange inversion. A creationist pamphlet has this wonderful page in it: “Test Two: Do you know of any building that didn’t have a builder? Yes/No. Do you know of any painting that didn’t have a painter? Yes/No. Do you know of any car that didn’t have a maker? Yes/No. If you answered ‘Yes’ for any of the above, give details.”

I mean, it really is a strange inversion of reasoning. You would have thought it stands to reason that design requires an intelligent designer. But Darwin shows that it’s just false.

Today, though, I’m going to talk about Darwin’s other strange inversion, which is equally puzzling at first, but in some ways just as important.

It stands to reason that we love chocolate cake because it is sweet. Guys go for girls like this because they are sexy. We adore babies because they’re so cute. And, of course, we are amused by jokes because they are funny.

This is all backwards. It is.

And Darwin shows us why. Let’s start with sweet. Our sweet tooth is basically an evolved sugar detector, because sugar is high energy, and it’s just been

It wasn’t designed for chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is a supernormal stimulus. The term is owed to Niko Tinbergen, who did his famous experiments with gulls, where he found that that orange spot on the gull’s beak — if he made a bigger, oranger spot the gull chicks would peck at it even harder.

It was a hyperstimulus for them, and they loved it. What we see with, say, chocolate cake is it’s a supernormal stimulus to tweak our design wiring. And there are lots of supernormal stimuli; chocolate cake is one. There’s lots of supernormal stimuli for sexiness.

And there’s even supernormal stimuli for cuteness.

Here’s a pretty good example. It’s important that we love babies, and that we not be put off by, say, messy diapers. So babies have to attract our affection and our nurturing, and they do.

And, by the way, a recent study shows that mothers prefer the smell of the dirty diapers of their own baby. So nature works on many levels here. But now, if babies didn’t look the way they do — if babies looked like this, that’s what we would find adorable, that’s what we would find — we would think, oh my goodness, do I ever want to hug that. This is the strange inversion.

Finally what about funny.

My answer is, it’s the same story.  This is the hard one, the one that isn’t obvious. That’s why I leave it to the end. And I won’t be able to say too much about it. But you have to think evolutionary, you have to think, what hard job that has to be done — it’s dirty work, somebody’s got to do it — is so important to give us such a powerful, inbuilt reward for it when we succeed.

Now, I think we’ve found the answer — I and a few of my colleagues. It’s a neural system that’s wired up to reward the brain for doing a grubby clerical job.

Our bumper sticker for this view is that this is the joy of debugging.

Now I’m not going to have time to spell it all out, but I’ll just say that only some kinds of debugging get the reward.

And what we’re doing is we’re using humor as a sort of neuroscientific probe by switching humor on and off, by turning the knob on a joke — now it’s not funny … oh, now it’s funnier … now we’ll turn a little bit more … now it’s not funny — in this way, we can actually learn something about the architecture of the brain, the functional architecture of the brain.

Matthew Hurley is the first author of this. We call it the Hurley Model. He’s a computer scientist, Reginald Adams a psychologist, and there I am, and we’re putting this together into a book.

Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet? Philosopher Dan Dennett has answers you wouldn’t expect, as he shares evolution’s counterintuitive reasoning on cute, sweet and sexy things (plus a new theory from Matthew Hurley on why jokes are funny).

How Anti-Depression Drugs Work?

New insights into how selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors work suggest they reverse inhibited nerve regeneration and connectivity that may underlie depression

Rather than a shortage of serotonin, a lack of synaptogenesis (the growth of new synapses, or nerve contacts) and neurogenesis (the generation and migration of new neurons) could cause depression?

Research shows that people with depression often have lower than normal levels of serotonin.

The types of medications most commonly prescribed to treat depression act by blocking the recycling, or re-uptake, of serotonin by the sending neuron. Image: NIMH

Jeanene Swanson published in Scientific American this Dec. 10, 2013

Unraveling the Mystery of How Antidepression Drugs Work

Depression strikes some 35 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, contributing to lowered quality of life as well as an increased risk of heart disease and suicide.

Treatments typically include psychotherapy, support groups and education as well as psychiatric medications. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, currently are the most commonly prescribed category of antidepressant drugs in the U.S., and have become a household name in treating depression.

The action of these compounds is fairly familiar.

SSRIs increase available levels of serotonin, sometimes referred to as the feel-good neurotransmitter, in our brains. Neurons communicate via neurotransmitters, chemicals which pass from one nerve cell to another. A transporter molecule recycles unused transmitter and carries it back to the pre-synaptic cell.

For serotonin, that shuttle is called SERT (short for “serotonin transporter”). An SSRI binds to SERT and blocks its activity, allowing more serotonin to remain in the spaces between neurons. Yet, exactly how this biochemistry then works against depression remains a scientific mystery.

In fact, SSRIs fail to work for mild cases of depression, suggesting that regulating serotonin might be an indirect treatment only. “There’s really no evidence that depression is a serotonin-deficiency syndrome,” says Alan Gelenberg, a depression and psychiatric researcher at The Pennsylvania State University. “It’s like saying that a headache is an aspirin-deficiency syndrome.”

SSRIs work insofar as they reduce the symptoms of depression, but “they’re pretty nonspecific,” he adds.

Now, research headed up by neuroscientists David Gurwitz and Noam Shomron of Tel Aviv University in Israel supports recent thinking that rather than a shortage of serotonin, a lack of synaptogenesis (the growth of new synapses, or nerve contacts) and neurogenesis (the generation and migration of new neurons) could cause depression.

In this model lower serotonin levels would merely result when cells stopped making new connections among neurons or the brain stopped making new neurons.

So, directly treating the cause of this diminished neuronal activity could prove to be a more effective therapy for depression than simply relying on drugs to increase serotonin levels.

Evidence for this line of thought came when their team found that cells in culture exposed to a 21-day course of the common SSRI paroxetine (Paxil is one of the brand names) expressed significantly more of the gene for an integrin protein called ITGB3 (integrin beta-3).

Integrins are known to play a role in cell adhesion and connectivity and therefore are essential for synaptogenesis.

The scientists think SSRIs might promote synaptogenesis and neurogenesis by turning on genes that make ITGB3 as well as other proteins that are involved in these processes.

A microarray, which can house an entire genome on one laboratory slide, was used to pinpoint the involved genes.

Of the 14 genes that showed increased activity in the paroxetine-treated cells, the gene that expresses ITGB3 showed the greatest increase in activity.

That gene,ITGB3, is also crucial for the activity of SERT. Intriguingly, none of the 14 genes are related to serotonin signaling or metabolism, and, ITGB3 has never before been implicated in depression or an SSRI mode of action.

These results, published October 15 in Translational Psychiatry, suggest that SSRIs do indeed work by blocking SERT. But, the bigger picture lies in the fact that in order to make up for the lull in SERT, more ITGB3 is produced, which goes to work in bolstering synaptogenesis and neurogenesis, the true culprits behind depression.

“There are many studies proposing that anti-depressants act by promoting synaptogenesis and neurogenesis,” Gurwitz says. “Our work takes one big step on the road for validating such suggestions.”

A 19-year old fashion graduate posted her year achievements…

An awesome year!!! And more to come….
Adrea Choukeir's photo.

2013
Adrea’s 2013 Year in Review
Check out Adrea’s biggest moments from the past year.

Six tips for your last-minute application to the European Social Innovation Competition

Monday, 3 April 2017

Life happens. Deadines can sneak up on you. It’s understandable. So if you’ve yet to submit your application for the European Social Innovation Competition, you’ll be relieved to hear you are not alone.

The 2016 competition received 84% of applications in the final week, so there is still plenty of time for you to send us your ideas.

This year, the competition is looking for social innovations to ‘reboot’ equality through fresh approaches to digital inclusion, the collaborative economy and skills development, with the top three ideas awarded €50,000 prizes.

We’re looking for inspiring ideas from people all across Europe who believe in making the most of skills and technologies to close the gap in our society and compete in a changing economy.

We want innovators to create business models giving everyone an equal chance to seize the opportunities brought by technological change – like last year’s finalists, Capital Digital, who train 15-20 year old migrants and asylum seekers in technical and pedagogical skills to teach coding and programming to their 9-12 year old peers in the poorest neighbourhoods of Brussels.

Or like one of our speakers at this year’s launch event in Athens, Fairmondo, a cooperatively-owned marketplace that promotes fair goods and services and responsible consumption.

Innovators, procrastinators, ‘I’ll do it later’-ers: I have some good news for you…

  1. The application form is only seven questions. That’s it. Seven questions stand between you and a chance to win €50,000.
  2. The form is a maximum of 1000 words. It really is a very straightforward application. Make sure you leave some time to fill in your contact information and answer the evaluation questions.
  3. You only need to have an idea. All ideas are welcome, and if they are not mature yet, we’ll help you reach the stage of prototyping and implementation. Twenty-three out of last year’s 30 semi-finalists had been working on their idea for less than a year when they entered the competition. The support we provide throughout the competition, such as the three-day mentoring academy in Madrid, will help you bring your idea to life or support the development of an existing project.
  4. You can apply in your own language, as long as it’s one of the 24 official languages of the European Union.
  5. Individuals, groups and organisations can apply. It doesn’t matter what your legal structure is. You don’t need to form a team or find partners. You just need a good idea for rebooting equality in Europe. One of last year’s winners, Project Virtuous Triangle, were undergraduate students whose project was only an idea when they entered the competition.
  6. The competition is open to participants from European Union Member States and Horizon 2020 participantsResidents from 44 countries are eligible to apply (and yes, that still includes the UK).

It’s not too late to submit your entry, but make sure your application form is complete and submitted through the online platform by 12 noon Brussels time (that’s 11 am GMT) on Friday 7 April.

If you have any questions, please consult the FAQs or drop us a line on info@socialinnovationprize.eu.

How your “English” sounds?

First need to differentiate between American and English.

Then differentiate among Scottish, Irish, Whales, Australian, Canadian, Indians…

What do you sound like to a foreigner?

Sarah Barness posted on The Huffington Post this March 6, 2014

Girl Speaks Gibberish With Perfect Accents To Show What Languages Sound Like To Foreigners

Girl Perfectly Demonstrates What Languages Sound Like To Foreigners

19-year-old Finnish YouTube user Sara is here to unveil the mystery. Although she is speaking total gibberish, her spot-on accents give us a clue as to how you might sound to someone who doesn’t speak your language.

To hear UK and American English accents skip to 0:50 and 1:12.

But trust us, this whole video is worth watching. Since being uploaded on Monday, it has racked up over 2 millions views.

We hope this girl plays musical instruments, because she clearly has a VERY good ear.

What American English sounds like to non-English speakers
Prisecolinensinenciousol, a parody by Adriano Celentano for the Italian TV programme Mileluci is sung entirely in..
ESTIONS

How English sounds to non-English speakers
‘Skwerl’. A short film in fake English. A film by Brian & Karl: http://www.brianandkarl.com http://brianandkarl.tumblr.com/ Screenplay: Karl…

Asked To Kiss Strangers

In seconds, a first kiss can go from insanely awkward to completely perfect.

Filmmaker Tatia Pilieva managed to capture that transformation in her short film, where she pairs off 20 strangers and asks them to kiss.

What Happens When 20 Strangers Are Paired Off And Asked To Kiss? Magic

Posted: 03/11/2014 9:17 am EDT Updated: 03/11/2014 3:59 pm EDT

Print Article

Watch above as the couples’ uncomfortable introductions turn into small, sweet romantic moments.

UPDATE 3:50 p.m. Tuesday, March 11: Wren studio, a womenswear brand based in Los Angeles, announced on Twitter that this video was shot as part of an ad campaign for their Fall 2014 collection:


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