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Ask HN: My company wants to move towards AI and blockchain. Should I stop them?
14 points by __tk__ 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments
My company is planning to make investments into AI and blockchain solutions. I am very confident in saying, that the people who plan this, do not understand how these technologies work or when they can be useful.

All the while a big chunk of our operations is under heavy load and if it wasn't for dedicated colleagues, things would start to fall apart.

Should I make an effort educating my managers or can moving towards new technologies fix old problems?

It is "sales pitch", whether is it to raise external funds or to make the CEO sound funky. It is just marketing bullshit.

People love "magical" solutions to problems. The less they know the better. If the company said "It will take 10 years of hard work to change the culture and improve our operations" the CEO would be fired. Compare that to "We are going to focus on the most advanced and exciting technologies available, Blockchain and AI". It is a much better story.

I think these are your options:

1. You do not care about the company (Looks like this is not the case here): a. You have no emotion towards the company and your work doesn't get affected for the foreseeable future. b. You have no interest in the area and want to stay away from it.

2. Educate them how to do it right (You love the current company): You are in the company for long time and/or you know the people will take it in right spirit! a. It is possible to convince the managers! b. "dedicated colleagues" might be of help here.

3. Say goodbye: a. You see that they are doing it in the wrong way. Managers won't / dint consider your opinion. b. Your career gets affected by it.

4. They might be right: a. They might be right either technically or to get some funds. Finding out which one might be useful.

Unless you have more details to share about the company, I think you are the best judge which path to choose.

Overall, I feel it is not worth putting effort in educating them unless you know its taken positively and your growth in the company isn't affected. In other words, do you feel it is "worth investing your life" for? There is always a new company where you could be more happy about your career is what I feel!

It is not your job managing the managers, is it? As an employee, you will gain nothing from speaking sense against the tide. It may also be that the entrepreneur in chief or the CEO is seeing something you can’t or aren’t allowed to, and want to have a go?

I think you should. People are always attracted to new shiny objects and most folks don't understand the complexities of blockchain and AI. While I think it's worthwhile to educate your management team, I think the best way to do this is to align their blockchain / AI aspirations to core competencies for your company.

Deploying technology for technology's sake is a problem I see often--this comes down to people's attraction to new shiny objects; and it's extremely important to make sure that this tendency doesn't have a negative impact on the core business. I work for a leading AI and blockchain behemoth and I see this all the time--quite honestly it benefits my firm's sales but it's a massive problem for shareholders.

My advice for most leadership teams is to focus no your core business. Blockchain and AI are all the rage right now, but they are complicated to implement--especially in production! AI systems are very brittle and AI-Ops is not simple. There is a great paper from google titled "Machine Learning, the high interest credit card of technical debt", I suggest you have a read.

In terms of your company, if you believe these solutions will improve your core competencies and provide a competitive advantage then you should absolutely invest in these capabilities. However, it's really important to get the basics right before moving onto fancy new technologies that aren't well understood.

There is a great meme/cartoon that I like to show folks that depicts a teacher and a few students in a class where the teacher is demonstrating basic arithmetic on the blackboard and one of the students raises their hand and asks "when do we get to machine learning." I like to use this cartoon when I discuss these types of solutions because it helps me to put things in perspective.

Moving towards new processes can fix old problems. technology only helps if it slots into a process bottleneck and 10x it.

But changing processes is way more about the human capital than it is about any technology solution. People have vested interests to do what they're doing, or to keep doing what they've always done, or to angle for this position or another.

Frankly, if they're already at the staging of planning to make the investment, I wouldn't bother. People are telling a story, about who they are and who they will be, and they're buying out of that story. If they're already bought into that story, they don't want education.

Sorry, I know it sounds defeatist, but it'll save you aggro by just shrugging and accepting that's where they're at.

It isn't really your company unless you own it. If its owners and the managers they employ don't listen to the workers they pay for actually having a clue that's their fault, not yours. Unless the company fails and you can't find another decent job it isn't your problem either.

In my opinion, bad or troublesome processes cannot be fixed by new technology. Especially not by hyped technology like AI or Blockchain.

Now, whether or not you should make an effort to educate managers, is hard to tell. i would say it depends a lot on your relatioship with said manager, and how you think he will react to critisism. If your manager is a driving force behind th epush towards AI and blockchai you already lost.

I usually did not keep my mouth shut in such instances. And long-term, I was more often right than not. In the short term, I was also more often looking for a new job than not. I would be cautious about open critisism and wait for the right moment. But I would expect that question to be very political.

I'd assume it will fizzle out on its own without any intervention if things are as you describe.

At a lot of companies, the management is constantly talking about how they're going to do trendy new things, as that tends to be what upper management or investors want to hear. A lot of the time it's pure lip service, or they spend some money on it and then quietly kill it.

While you could clearly do that (educate them), it's all about - are they willing to listen?

If you're asking here, my take is that they're not. (Also, the fact that they're thinking into investing into this, just shows how clueless they are.)

So probably - just silently look for a job and leave while you can.

Don’t bother. Companies dumb enough to pursue this route are also the kind where dissenting opinions are punished.

What does the company do?

It's an IT service provider.

Do the opposite, encourage them.. Because it is on one level a good idea.

Show them things like AutoML. Mention that Machine Learning isn't 100% accurate, and it will be a while yet until it is.

Explain how blockchain is an older technology and how things like proof of resource is a better way without needing expensive ASICs to keep the network secure.

Talk about hashing algorithms, ecc, which ones are the best etc. Get a promotion, make sure its done right.

What is your role in the company?

Can you "stop them"?

I'm a security analyst.

I could possibly educate them about common use cases and misunderstandings.

Education is probabbly the best route, don't tell them you're there to dissuade them, just show them what it can and what it can't do ;)

I've only been in a few situations where "Oh man this is a terrible idea." and education works.... sometimes even if to direct all that energy into something more benign. Sometimes "Ok now they're going to waste a bunch of energy on X ... but at least X isn't going to hurt Y." is a win ;)


Anything less than rapturous enthusiasm will get you branded as a pariah and spike your tenure at that company.

I've never been able to convince anyone to not blow their own foot off. And when things do go south, as they always do, the truth sayer becomes the scape goat.

Advice I got from Luke Hohmann in the 90s: You have to let people fail on their own. Meanwhile, prepare plan B, if you want to pick up the pieces afterwards.

My advice: Take notes, play amateur ethnographer, anthropologist, socialist. Learn how these fads, cults, groupthinks play out.

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