Problems

With each CIIC unconference, further wicked problems submitted by participants are added to the list:

Submissions – 2018

We should address computing systems and systems work at the human scale and by using human psychology principles as a first class citizen. If we can address systemic problems in this domain, there is hope for other domains (once we can find the data). If we cannot in a domain where so much can be measured, what hope do we have elsewhere?

In computing systems much of the work is invisible, relying on human effort to construct internal models of how systems work to be able to develop, adapt and maintain such systems. At the human scale, the work itself has become increasingly invisible, with unseen teams collaborating remotely via text, apis, git repo documentation, and complex dependencies between internal and external teams.

The lack of visibility to this complex system causes much pain, with systemic problems typical of complex systems, problems defined in systems thinking as negative feedback loops, success to the successful, tragedy of the commons, etc. This pain appears at all levels from team operation to how companies compete in the global markets.

Computing systems and systems work should in theory be the easiest of human systems to visualise and model. Unlike other areas requiring data to be captured and converted (e.g. medical imaging), in systems work, all the data is available already on disk, with a CPU sitting next to it, it is just a matter of leveraging the data.

– Paul McIntosh


Organisations are using autism as an excuse to legitimise their approach of confining autists to specific roles and areas within the organisation. Along the way they reinforce stereotypes about what autists can or can’t possibly do.

Some of the big companies are starting to pay lip service to neurodiversity. “… The program has been such a success, SAP is currently working to expand it, with the goal of having 1 percent of its total workforce”. I cringe when I read these statements and absurd goals.

The marketing: Autism at Work. Can you imagine the same organisation labelling other diversity programs as “female brains at work”, “homosexuality at work”, “blindness at work”? Somehow autism can be “celebrated” as a subhuman category and no one bats an eyelid.

The reality: SAP, Microsoft et al. make a big deal out of aiming at 1% of “proper, certified by the autism industry” autists within their workforce, whilst at least another > 9% of their workforce don’t dare to openly identify as autistic, because they know what it would do to their career prospects.

Judy Singer (coined the term neurodiversity in her thesis in 1998): “Could not agree more, especially in the middle of 3 generations of women on the spectrum. Saw exactly this at the APAC 17 recruiting stalls. Reckon corporates would be happiest with autie techies in cages pecking code 24/7 with a chute in for pizza. And if you are not a techie, go volunteer at a library!”

Nick Walker (transdisciplinary neurodiversity scholar): “I was hired to be a keynote speaker at the Autism at Work Summit at Microsoft HQ earlier this year. When the organizers found out I planned to speak about integration of autistics into all levels of organizations, they cancelled my talk.”

Ryan Holtz (software developer): “I’ve worked for Microsoft in the past, and have literally been trying to get the word out about their heartless, bigoted attitude towards #ActuallyAutistic people for the better part of a year, to no avail. Set the Wayback Machine to circa 2015 or so. In that time frame, Microsoft were trying to promote themselves as some amazing place for #ActuallyAutistic people to work by making us out as little more than robots with all the personal agency of a fucking house pet. ‘We love autistic people,’ said their PR barrage, ‘because they’re too socially inept to realize when they’re being taken advantage of! We can demand that they work no end of unpaid overtime, and shaft them with inequitable social treatment, and they won’t know any better!’. That’s literally what Microsoft’s attitude towards #ActuallyAutistic people is: That we’re an asset who’ll work burdensome hours that would burn out allistic people, ‘cos we’re clearly all a bunch of losers with no social lives and fucking nothing better to do with our time.”

– Jorn Bettin


Reflecting on the strength and resilience of modern short-cycle methods in research and solution design and development. Generally speaking, at least in Western cultures, there appears to be a global focus and growing social pressure on methods for cyclic work within collaborative teams (agile and iterative). That focus tends to be characterised by simplification, efficiency and optimisation: GTD (Getting Things Done), minimum viable outcomes, the customer as the paramount stakeholder etc. It can be argued that (a) some work isn’t suited to this approach, and (b) value can’t exist in isolation for a single stakeholder: it’s exchanged in some way.
A. Deep work
A.1. In what ways might we incorporate slower, purposeful work (personal flow/ hyperfocus, deep thinking time, reflection and foresight research, architecting for growth and change) to support cyclic work methods?
A.2. What relationships – touchpoints and interactions – does deep work have with cyclic work?
A.3.1. If deep work needs its own approach, what factors are key to success?
A.3.2. If deep work is in some respects orthogonal to short-cyclic work, can it be incorporated effectively with short cyclic work? If so, how?
B. Customer Value
B.1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of “Customer Value” as a primary focusing lens for products and projects?
B.2. How can sustainable value be created in contexts where a primary focus on customer value is mandated? What key elements need to be balanced to achieve customer value and address the broader set of contextual concerns?

– Paul Szymkowiak


How important is expertise? How critical to success is expertise, and how can we determine what and how much is needed?
A. Can largely self-managing, open collaborations work in the absence of certain knowledge, skill, and skill competencies that many practitioners in the same field might deem important? If so, how and to what extent?
B. On a related note, can “unnoticed” or “unknown” issues – such as biases or fundamental errors (conceptual, logical) – be self detected and managed to resolution by the group itself in the absence of expert insight/ knowledge?
C. If access to specific expertise (knowledge and skill) is critical to some extent, how might the members of a collaborative work effort identify missing expertise within their work cycles, so as to minimise negative impact and identify ways to address that deficit?
D. How might members in a collaborative work effort determine what represents expertise in their context, and self-determine what constitutes sufficient improvement toward a useful level of expertise?

– Paul Szymkowiak


The Dandenong Mechanics’ Institute currently has several capital attainment programs in operation centred around a new development of small frame jet engines of simple and rugged modular design. The Institute has a need for supplementary skill investment.

The initial application for this class of engine has been used in a high return/low investment application in the form of a family of high end boutique motorcycles. This application has limited market prospects, but a high public profile to showcase Institute and member ability and a high capital return per unit for small investment possibility plus access to other beneficial peripheral industries.

As a result of testing derived from the Jetbike, this family of engines is now to be applied to a small, low cost, easy to build and maintain, ultralight high performance aircraft. The market for this type of aircraft is very high based on those types currently in production which command very high prices and are much sort after by private and commercial entities.

These engines are also to be used and marketed in a series of small, lightweight and powerful marine engines. The small marine engine has many benefits in recreational boating using more safe, environmentally friendly fuels with significant weight and space saving capabilities for power output, however, the market for this form of marine engine type would be difficult to break into due mostly to traditional viewpoints held within the industry.

Secondarily and because of the control requirements of these engines along with their subsystems, the PIC controller designed thus far for the task has many and varied control applications in other fields such as motor control, system control and interface, robotics, general automotive and many other applications.

The Institute has a need for supplementary skill investment specific to the current inter-exchange capital establishment projects now in development. These are for:

  1. PIC programming and board construction specific to current project requirements in consultation with the current design team.
  2. Aerodynamic design and structural design consultation specific to current project requirements.
  3. Assistance in manufacture of some components needed to complete projects already in development and establish for multiple manufacture, post prototyping and testing.
  4. Consultation on other uses or derivative programs for those developments already produced in current projects.
  5. Marketing assistance for any collaborative and Institute benefit projects completing design, testing and prototyping.

– Andrew Russell


How can New Zealand agriculture move from unbranded commodity food production to high value products that meet consumers requirements for high quality ethical food products.
– Nic Lees


How do we improve electrical efficiencies in aquaponics systems?
– Ira Munn


The opportunities and limitations of vertical farming and lab based agriculture.
– Jorn Bettin


A co-ordinated community response to the Guava Moth. Addressing the damage done by the Guava Moth, which is devastating feijoa and other crops.
– Di Hibbert


The role of nutrition and urban agriculture on human physical and mental health.
– Jorn Bettin


Problems submitted in 2017

Problems submitted in 2016

Problems submitted in 2015


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