It's not game-changing if the game doesn't change

Produced by DALL-E

“It is only in our decisions that we are important.” Jean-Paul Sartre

I don’t know about you, but for someone who tries to understand what’s going on with the way tech is evolving, it’s been an exhausting couple of weeks. Some of my favourites are at the bottom, but first some thoughts…

Hype Blindness

Much like with the phenomenon of banner blindness, I noticed myself skimming past anything that people were calling “game-changing”. It’s everywhere.

So I started wondering to what extent that claim was really true.

What is “the game”?

Sadly, the objective of “the game” for almost all organisations is to make money. Organisational motivations for making money vary, and the end goal, what they want to use that money to achieve, varies too. Some goals are laudable, but the goal requires income.

I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see an end to capitalism during our lifetimes. I’m ambivalent about whether that’s desirable, even. But it does pain me that the way society defines value is in monetary terms. The latest idea from the UK government to limit access to degrees that deliver lower “lifetime earnings” made me cross, I’ll admit. I’m from an Arts background myself. Arts + Maths. Yes, I know, an odd pairing.

Playing the game

So, when the developers of new technology (and, yes, I’m thinking mainly about AI models here) claim their work is “game-changing”, I wonder “Well, is it really?”

Does ChatGPT literally change the game if the objective of the game is to make money? I’d say it doesn’t. It makes a lot of money. It makes a lot of money for the same set of people that already have quite a lot of it: the monolithic surveillance capitalists that already control much of the digital ecosystem.

What changes, perhaps, is how we play the game, not the game itself. Is chess still chess if a computer helps you play?

Decision Science

So how might we play the game differently, given the state of emerging technology?

I’m an advocate of the notion that an organisation’s value is the sum of the decisions it makes and executes. The accumulation of small decisions collectively defines who we are, whether as individuals or organisations.

Domino chain reaction Domino chain reaction meme

So decisions are important. There’s an excellent article about decision velocity in the GitLab TeamOps Handbook that might interest you.

Regardless of what happens with the raft of new AI models, I think it’s more important than ever to make sure that even our small decisions are considered in light of what we’re trying to achieve, and for whom.

That might sound onerous but there are a whole set of tools we can use to make this easy. Yes, I made one too. It’s not a sales pitch, it’s because I think this is one of the most important things organisations can do when things are changing so fast. (OK, maybe slightly pitchy).

When making decisions, codify your values, make sure your high-level goals are clear, and define whose needs you’re trying to serve. Add your ideas and options to a decision intelligence tool, then decide.

It's not game-changing if the game doesn't change
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It's not game-changing if the game doesn't change