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Adopting Adaptation - Achieving Antifragility

April 9, 2020
The ongoing global pandemic has shown us all how fast we can adapt for survival.

In our last chapter Talking Today's Tools I wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

The ongoing global pandemic has shown us all how fast we can adapt for survival. We have been forced to change everything and adapt for basic survival. Moving forward, we all need to reset our minds to the tasks at hand. Adopting Adaption is just transformation by another name. Everything is on the table for new discussions and change.

David Suzuki, in an interview on the CBC websites, discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic may be an opportunity to transform the way we live. Key quote:

Difficult as it is now, this pandemic will subside and we will learn some profound lessons from the experience. It may provide a chance to reset priorities and direction for ourselves and society. It is a universal challenge for all human beings… In this disaster lies an opportunity to reflect and change direction in the hope that if we do, nature will be far more generous than we deserve.

When we started to write this chapter it was just called "Adopting Adaptation," but then this post, Nexus Deep Dive on COVID-19 from James Dice writing in his Nexus newsletter, reminded me we need to achieve more. In it, it found the word and the concept of “antifragility.” From the site:

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold, I’ve been reflecting on one pertinent part of Episode 1 of the Nexus podcast. My guest Nicolas Waern shared the three Vitruvian virtues that all buildings need:

1.     robustness (firmitas)

2.     usefulness (utilitas)

3.     beauty (venustas)

Hopefully, it’s obvious which virtue I’ve been pondering in the midst of this pandemic: robustness. How robust have our buildings been in the face of COVID-19? Since they haven’t fallen down, it might seem like they’ve done a great job.

But not falling down doesn’t feel like nearly enough in the face of this pandemic, does it?

No. We need more. It’s time to consider the work of investor, mathematician, and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His books Black Swan and Antifragile are two of my favorites—I’ve been thumbing through them quite a bit this week…

Antifragility is when you stress and break down your muscles at the gym and they don’t just recover—they get stronger. Antifragility is when the whole economy crashes and yet companies like Zoom, Microsoft, and Google are more essential to our lives, not less. The pursuit of Antifragility is the acknowledgment that returning to baseline is not good enough in a world full of disorder and constant change. 

Here are a few examples of calls to action that may lead us to Antifragile-ness.

This interview between myself and Nicholas Waern on the website, The Road to Future Ready Facilities and Digital Twin Thinking. Here’s an important passage:

Corona-fighting through a Digital Twin –

Combating future pandemics through a European Digital Twin initiative regarding a Pan-European National database. I helped a Digital Twin-company with a Euro Horizon2020 Granting proposal, with ecosystems thinking, overall value proposition and getting a consortium together based on my network and knowledge of cutting-edge technology with a benefits-driven approach. Basically how 200 databases could be ingested and indexed into a Digital Twin database, being able to trust that data, harmonize it, tied to a real use-case utilizing edge thermal imaging, crowd analytics, scalable mesh sensoring to help curb existing and future outbreaks based on heat, movement, air pressure and humidity factors in and around smart buildings and smart cities. This is a combination play with SEKAI, Natix, Bumbeelabs, Conectric and Platform of Trust also with Winniio partner company Wiredhut.

This article from the Memoori website, Will Mass Surveillance Become a Leading Epidemic Control Technology?, talks about the example of China, and both the possibilities and perils that the new connected age can bring:

In China, hospitals that were overflowing a few weeks ago now have an abundance of empty beds, huge makeshift hospitals built for the coronavirus patients are being disassembled, and there is now a little more certainty about the projected end of the lockdown measures. The reduction of COVID-19 cases in the country where they first emerged offers hope for all nations, as they deal with their own outbreaks.

While China has been heavily criticized for its use of surveillance in everyday life, the technical infrastructure they have created and the expertise they have developed over years of mass surveillance now forms the basis of the most advanced epidemic control system ever attempted. When a Chinese citizen arrives at a hospital with symptoms, the hospital staff will register their name with the central database, which will inform the healthcare system of everywhere that person has been in the last 14-days and every person they have interacted with. Those places can then be targeted for disinfection and those potentially infected people can be ordered to isolate, the people and places they encountered can also be identified.

This article from Stacy Higgenbottom, We don’t have to choose between the pandemic and privacy, argues that applying the Chinese system in the U.S. is giving citizens a false choice:

Given the rapid spread of COVID-19, governments around the world are trying out an array of new tracking technologies in an effort to identify where a sick person might have been and who they may have crossed paths with. Certain countries are using facial and temperature detection tools to determine if an individual is ill so they can monitor them or bar them from traveling. In the U.S., the FDA has announced it will relax rules around health care privacy to let patients use telemedicine. It’s also broadening the number of approved devices that can be used to remotely monitor patients. What’s less clear is how long such tracking might take place, where the data goes, and how long it will be stored.

For IoT Day (which was March 30), Sudha Jamthe writing for the European IoT Council wanted to hear from people working to combat the virus:

We want to hear about what people are working on combating COVID19. As people stay home practicing social distancing, we are going through a huge shift in three key areas. So we should invite people to share how IoT, AI, data, Blockchain are affecting these:

1. Mobility: We are redefining mobility now when are asked to stay put. We don't have AVs yet but have telematics in managing fleets, public transport and rerouting of planes etc and data and AI associated with it.

2. Healthcare: Medical devices, supply chain of healthcare PPE, healthcare data sharing with blockchain etc.

3. Sustainability: Food production, supply chain, logistics to adapt to demand shifts as people buy in panic, delivery of goods with minimum human contact, indoor agriculture production.

Since so many people are now working from home, here’s an article, Unified, Intelligent, and Open for Business from Toby Ruckert, Founder/CEO UIB:

I’ve been a strong advocate of remote working policies (see here, here, here, and here) for many years. To me, the best people always were everywhere and a team member’s value (and productivity) has never depended on their screen being near mine, or other team members’.

The best people are everywhere. While UIB has a traditional headquarters office in a shiny Singapore CBD tower, up until two months ago, our globally distributed team had often been considered a disadvantage — a “mark” against us cited by potential investors, clients, and, surprisingly, new hires, who at times expressed concerns about not being “close enough” to each other.

Scott Cochrane, President, CEO, Cochrane Supply & Engineering, writing on talks about the opportunites this crisis presents in his article, COVID 19 and the BAS Systems Integrators:

We are hearing all sorts of stories from different buildings from hospitals to warehouses—there is some important activity keeping our services viable during the epidemic. While this is important and prioritized, there are many other ways to keep the rest of the team working effectively, still billing for hours.  

I asked Chris Bonzheim from ControlNET in Grand rapids Michigan about if he would need to do any staffing cutbacks. His response? “Absolutely not!  We had a six-month backlog, of which about 30% can be done remote. So, we are just re-prioritizing our plans to complete that work while working from our homes.” 

Chris added, “I am still looking to hire good people during these times.” 

Scott Papay, Sales Manager at LONG Building Technologies in Denver, has a very proactive approach to the situation as well. They are calling their customers and offering to put their unoccupied buildings in a setback mode to save energy while they are not using the building. In most cases, they are doing this for free as a public service and a good steward of the industry. These conversations have led to new opportunities to do work while the buildings are empty. So as they see projects/buildings shut down, new opportunities open up in buildings that had too much going on in them to allow for BAS services prior to the pandemic.  

Scott is not alone. We have heard from many integrators in a variety of areas that some school districts, universities, stadiums, factories and many more have opened up summer work early or started new projects to take advantage of the empty buildings. 

Another observation during the pandemic? More time for training! Given our current state of events, virtual training has exploded as a go-to means for not just kids, but for professionals and tradesmen to take this time to catch up on long overdue training.

Rick Rolston, CEO at BuiltSpace Technologies Corp., writes on LinkedIn:

Only 48 hours ago I had never heard of an airborne infection isolation room (AIIR). Now we are working to help mechanical engineers and BAS contractors rapidly recommission hospital rooms (and even existing non-medical and temporary facilities) into temporary AIIRs.  Here's what we were able to do in less than 24 hours, to help…

Here’s a press release from the WELL Building Institute about their new task force and its mission to reduce the health burden of COVID-19:

Former RWJF President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, UCLA’s Dr. Jonathan Fielding, 17th Surgeon General of the United States Richard Carmona, Harvard School of Public Health’s Joseph Allen to co-chair the effort to advance the role of buildings in protecting and enhancing health.

This article, The Smartest Buildings to Survive Lockdown Will Be Those Most Adaptable to Change, again from the Memoori site, asserts that we are right now undergoing an unplanned experiment that will (once it’s over) reveal a lot of data about how the built environment functions in a crisis:

Today, you don’t need occupancy analytics to know that your building is empty. Currently, there are approximately three billion people under lockdown across the world and the key business hubs of Asia, Europe, and North America are at the center of the crisis. Despite a few comments from overly-optimistic world leaders, no one knows how long these measures will have to be in place as the global and national health authorities continue to assess the rapidly evolving situation.

Eventually, however, the political tug-of-war between health and economics will start to shift as the pressure of collapsing markets forces world leaders to ease lockdown measures, probably against the most prudent health advice.

And here's the link to Episode 357 of ControlTalk NOW. In it I talk about the April edition of AutomatedBuildings, advances and advantages in the AI-driven technology wireless networks, the power of online education, and a special section on the lasting effects of COVID 19

We need to be the most adaptable to change; we need to be Adopting Adaptation and Achieving Antifragility .

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