in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #237 — Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman and band on stage at the ICA, 6 September 2023

Marika Hackman and band on stage at the ICA, 6 September 2023

A run of live gigs in my diary started this week with Marika Hackman playing at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The last time I saw her was back in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its initial acceleration phase. The two friends who came with me to this week’s gig are the same two that accompanied me back then. It was strange to recall the underlying feeling of stress and foreboding from back then, wondering at the time whether we should even be there. It was so good to see her live again; apart from a Covers album that was released during the pandemic she has been very quiet. Her new songs sounded fantastic and her old ones gave me goosebumps, despite the whole room sweltering in sauna-level heat. Her new album will be an insta-buy.

This was a week in which I:

  • Saw everyone else in the family head back to school for the start of a new year.
  • Met with a vendor for another review of a draft contract that we are trying to get in place.
  • Had a couple of excellent conversations about team retrospectives, specifically on whether metaphors are useful or a distraction. I came at the question from a cynical position but the feedback was overwhelmingly that metaphors help. You have to pick the right one for the audience and also think about neurodiversity.
  • Met with colleagues in China as part of our programme to change the way that we manage unstructured data.
  • Was given an education about data mesh architecture and how it differs from traditional approaches.
  • Met with the project team planning our technology-focused town hall event in November.
  • Reviewed a whole host of material that I have gathered about the future of the office, capturing the relevant content into a mind map. iThoughts is so good in that it is intuitive and frictionless, but I do wish that it could be used for real-time collaboration.
  • Met with colleagues and our People and Culture team on our ‘sustainable careers’ framework. Most of us being in the same physical space for the meeting felt like old times.
  • Had some excellent conversations with colleagues about how to build specific relationships within our team.
  • Met with the vendor that we are working with to deliver ‘clear writing’ training to our team later this year.
  • Heard about a couple of new projects that will soon be added to an already long list.
  • Met with our real estate vendor who are helping us with an office move in one of our locations over the next year.
  • Took part in our monthly non-financial risk review meeting.
  • Gave my presentation on large language models and generative AI to our office in China. It was interesting to think about how to reframe some of the messages given that access to ChatGPT and similar tools is restricted for people living there. It was interesting to read up on China’s new laws on generative AI, whose guidance seems eminently sensible to me.
  • Had some conversations following my blog post on how generative AI gets riskier as it improves. People pointed out that humans make mistakes too, so they may mess up when they create summaries or minutes of meetings. This is, of course, correct. But the instincts of a human as to what is or isn’t important, or what should be ‘left on the cutting room floor’ will be far better than a large language model that is summarising a meeting transcript. I use the screenshot below from this YouTube video to make a point — these tools don’t ‘understand’ what’s relevant and what isn’t.
Humans would not come to the same conclusion.

Humans would not come to the same conclusion.

  • Started coming to the conclusion that despite the issues, it is less risky to use a large language model to process and ‘translate’ your own data than it is to get it to generate something new for you. This seems counterintuitive, but the real risks lie in it making things up, which is exactly what it is designed to do.
  • Joined an internal webinar about a ‘hackathon’ that we run annually with Stellenbosch University, learning about how a winning team approached a data science problem.
  • Had a lovely random coffee with a colleague in New York and talked about their upcoming trip to Africa.
  • Turned another random coffee into a random lunch as my coffee partner and I were in the same office.
  • Stumbled across a PETA demonstration against Jet2’s sale of tickets to marine parks, outside their annual general meeting on Cheapside.
PETA’s demonstration outside the Jet2 AGM on Cheapside, London.

PETA’s demonstration outside the Jet2 AGM on Cheapside, London.

  • Continued to suffer from what I now think was a horsefly bite. At the start of the week, I thought about strapping my wrists to my desk to stop me from scratching it. It’s largely faded now, but gets worryingly visible whenever I exercise.
Horsefly bites are the gifts that keep on giving

Horsefly bites are the gifts that keep on giving

  • Loved the Saturday morning cycle club ride. A lot of the usual riders were away on a cycling weekend so there were some new faces that joined the group this week. The route, already long, was extended by some HS2-related roadworks that we couldn’t navigate our way through. It was super fast and super fun. I tried getting on the trainer on Sunday morning but struggled mentally and physically to get anything decent done; my legs were tired and it was so hot.
  • Went to a friend’s 50th birthday party. The birthday boy is a fellow Album Club member, so we decided a few weeks ago to buy him a vinyl box set as a treat. I was so relieved when it finally turned up the day before the party; someone had misinterpreted my post code which meant that the parcel had been on quite a journey around the country. The party was brilliant, with the weather being warm enough that people could be outside in the garden all night.
  • Enjoyed a lovely random Sunday afternoon barbecue at with lots of parents of our younger son’s friends. It was great to get to know them a little bit.
  • Started watching the TV series Barry after reading a review from earlier in the year. It’s exactly what we were looking for.

Next week: A gig, an Album Club and an eye operation.

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