Looking for a fun job – look here!

Let me start by telling you a joke.

Five advices to men for a happy life:

  • Find a woman that helps you with the cleaning and the chores,
  • Find a woman that is a good cook,
  • Find a woman that you can trust and share your feelings with,
  • Find a woman that enjoys making love to you,
  • Last and the most important thing is that these four women should never meet.

So, I am writing an unusual job ad:

  • I am looking for an assistant who can do administrative tasks (but rather wouldn’t).
  • I am looking for a hacker who loves automation.
  • I am looking for an innovator capable of thinking outside the box.
  • I am looking for a people person who is good at understanding people’s needs.
  • And the most important thing is that it should be the same person.
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In other words, I am looking for a person who will be able to challenge us in any task we do and see if we can become more efficient without compromising on integrity, regulations and principles. Let me tell you about some of these tasks:

  • Expense reporting. According to regulations, each receipt needs to be scanned, attached to the expense report, and then the whole report has to be printed and submitted. Can we optimise things here? For example, I always prefer to get receipts in digital form, so that i can immediately forward them to my assistant. Or, maybe they can automatically go to my assistant or a special inbox with my receipts? Or should we integrate with SAP directly and skip sending receipts to inboxes? (note: Uber offers this functionality already). Can we automate report printing and posting as well?
  • Purchasing. I have a simple rule: I delegate to my assistant to approve all purchases that are obviously motivated and are under a certain amount. These are 95% of all purchases. This sounds like a simple script to me. Don’t tell my employees.
  • Time reporting. Some lucky people like myself do not need to do time reporting. But most of our employees face a complex project structure. For example, when you work on EU projects, you need to track all the hours, and report them accordingly. If my time is split between five projects, can I please have 5 buttons on my screen and click on them in accordance with the project I am working with? Or, can we let an AI figure out which project someone is working on judging from the context?
  • Monthly reporting. I have a feeling that most of the people find monthly reporting boring when it in fact should be joyful and an opportunity to tell your colleagues about your progress. Let’s make it joyful. Let’s forbid sending snippets of text via mail. Let’s forbid copy-pasting. Let people write about things they are proud of, or things that they believe need attention. Let us use our favourite platforms for that, and don’t force people to do it once per month. And every piece of news should be hash-tagged so that later on anyone could easily create an on-demand ad-hoc report. My boss should be able to check out all achievements of my organisation towards a certain stakeholder within a certain time interval, for example.
  • Keeping track of employee inflow-outflow. This sounds easy, but it’s not. For normal employees we need to track the status – empty position – job offered – contract signed – started. Not all of these states are reflected in our HR system but we still need to keep track. We also have many different kinds of interns – summer interns, master thesis workers, PhD students, postdocs, some with salary from our company, some without.
  • Employee onboarding. When you join our company you get an account, email address, computer, phone, desk, screen, chair, etc which is a pretty generic starter kit. Of course you can choose which phone you would like to have and which computer you would like to have. I can think of a simple web form for all new employees where the computer/phone model gets chosen, and an automatic purchase gets triggered.
  • Scheduling meetings. I start by saying that I love meetings. It’s probably the first time you heard anyone say that. The trick is that I became very picky with which meetings I attend. I simply choose the ones that I love – content-heavy and action-oriented, aiming at creating impact.
  • And anything else that you may find inefficient – challenge me!

The skills: hacking, scripting, SAP, Sharepoint, RPA. You come with an open mind and we give you access to our tools. You will also get this hoodie from me personally (used, by me, during my postdoc time in Paris).

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The Books I read 2019


1. Scener ur Hjärtat (by Malena Ernman and Svante Thunberg).
Elena’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Greta Thunberg’s parents open their hearts in an honest naked story of tough side of their life, explaining Greta’s path. Hair-raising to read for a parent.  Strengths: the “behind-the-scenes” story of glamorous Malena, one of the top Swedish opera signers.  Weaknesses: the text is not always consequent. For example, in the scene with Greta jumping up and screaming that the prime minister on TV is lying when he is saying that all of us have had some negative effect on the planet, while at the same time using generalisations throughout the book.

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2. Becoming Michelle Obama (by Michelle Obama)
Elena’s rating 3.5 of 5 stars.
Michelle tells the story of her childhood, supporting parents, how she and Barack met each other, and how it was to be the first lady. Lots of ground covered, but a real sleeping pill for myself, especially when listening to Michelle’s monotonic tone of voice. Also, felt almost like bragging with all the extraordinary things that she’s been doing.   

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3. Gott om Tid (by Bodil Jönsson)
Elena’s rating: 5 of 5 stars.
I loved her “Tio Tankar om Tid”, and I loved this one as well. Bodil is on the mission of slowing down the time, which is exactly what I need in my life as well.  

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4. Folk med Ångest (by Fredrik Backman)
Elena’s rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Very entertaining, takes turns and you get fooled by the author all the time. Does not require too much of brain power and a nice read after a hard working day.         


5. Hjärnstark (by Anders Hansen)
Elena’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.
The original version was too slow for me, and the short version was just right. My rating is for the short version, including some extra points for the fact that I have started running more thanks to this book.  

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6. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (by John Carreyrou)
Elena’s rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Breathtaking from the beginning to the end and based on a true story of a med-tech startup in Sillicon Valley.

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7. Factfulness (by Hans Rosling)
Elena’s rating: 3 of 5.
The facts were good, the repeated reasoning around them too trivial.  

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 8. Weapons of Math Destruction (by Cathy O’Neil)
 Elena’s rating: 4 of 5.
A book about artificial intelligence and it’s negative effects due to biased data.       Interesting real-life examples.  

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9. En Bur av Guld (by Camilla Läckberg)
Elena’s rating: 4 of 5.
The first book of Camilla Läckberg that I really liked. Read on one breath. The only thing that I did not understand is why she had to make the main character a murderer; unnecessary in my opinion, hence lower rating.  

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10. Miljardmakarna (by Emma Ahlén Pouya)
Elena’s rating: 4.5 of 5.
Inspiring story of two immigrants who built a commercial imperium in Sweden written by wife of one of them.   

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11. Den extraordinära berättelsen om Jonas Paulssons plötsliga död (by Alexander Karim)
Elena’s rating: 2 of 5.
Alexander is a great actor but has a way to go when it comes to books. This was his debut that from the beginning felt entertaining but in the end turned out to be a copy-cat of stories such as Groundhog Day, Memento or Benjamin button.  

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12. Britt-Marie var här (by Fredrik Backman)
Elena’s rating: 3 of 5.
A predecessor of Folk med Ångest that I read after it. Cute at times but too slow.  
  
  

My summary of 2019

Few hours left of 2019. Time for the summary. To start with, I thought i would check in on my new years resolutions for 2019. I did not manage to hold all of them, so i still do have something to work on. Here’s a selection:

  1. Keep my house clean – kinda OK. At least the awareness is there now.
  2. At least one internal and one external blog post per month – Fail. I love to do this and always have plenty of things to write about but…
  3. Workout at least twice per week – kinda OK. We got our running routines on weekends back and it feels great. Kudos to Anders Hansen!
  4. Kilos lost -2 (c) Bridget Jones. But i heard that curves are back in fashion.
  5. Read more books. I am a slow reader and never read with my eyes any more. This year I read 12 books, see my book club.

Looking back at my 2019, it feels like an OK year, nothing extraordinary. Here are my highligths:

  1. Became a member of the board of directors of RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden).
  2. Ended up on cover pages of NyTeknik and DI, TV4’s Nyhetsmorgon, UNESCO’s remarkable women in technology, and among top three nominees for Engineer Powerwoman Award at Hannover Messe.
  3. Sold my apartment in Saint Petersburg (with mixed feelings).
  4. Reorganised my team of AI Research at Ericsson for better efficiency.
  5. Became a member of Åsa’s leadership team
  6. My elder son Alexander got into a prestigious boy choir
  7. And I spent a lot of quality time with my family and friends in Sweden, Russia and Spain ❤

My set of new year resolutions for 2020 includes more time with my parents, and more reading, among other things. Happy New Year!

Elena’s Book Club

Inspired by my colleague and friend Didem I’m hereby starting a book club. I can’t keep Didem’s pace of one book per week, but in 2019 so far I have read these books:

  • Scener ur Hjärtat (Malena Ernman)
  • Becoming Michelle Obama (Michelle Obama)
  • Gott om Tid (Bodil Jönsson)
  • Folk med Ångest (Fredrik Backman)
  • Hjärnstark (Anders Hansen)
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (John Carreyrou)
  • Factulness (Hans Rosling)
  • Weapons of Math Destruction (Cathy O’Neil)
  • En Bur av Guld (Camilla Läckberg)
  • Miljardmakarna (Emma Ahlén Pouya)
  • Den extraordinära berättelsen om Jonas Paulssons plötsliga död (Alexander Karim)

I’ll tell you what I thought of these some time.

Tokyo with IVA15

Just a couple of hours left from my visit to Tokyo as part of the Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) Innovation Leadership Program’s (IVA15) delegation. Japan is always interesting, in so many aspects. It’s the country with the longest life length in the world. The country always scoring among the highest in the world in innovation, with its high ranked universities and strong traditions.

It’s been an intensive week with 15+ visits to companies, universities, research institutes and authorities.

General Impressions

Human-centricity has been lifted in every presentation we’ve seen. Perfectionism in craftmanship has always been key component of the Japanese tradition, which is reflected in the quality of Japanese food, hand-made goods, and the precision of manufacturing processes. Respect for each other is another key component, reflected in all human behaviors. A short crash course by our guide from Business Sweden on how to dress, greet and sit, and where not to put the business cards that you receive was valuable. Still, I managed to break the social norms a couple of times by having my legs crossed when sitting.

There are many more jobs than job takers. People work very hard and taking full vacation is considered bad style. There are several ways to improve the situation – guest workers from other countries, encouraging more women to work. Artificial Intelligence is considered to be the game changer and life saver. AI is at the core of Japan’s vision of Society 5.0/5.1. Opposite to how the discussions go in Sweden when people worry about the effects of automation and AI, people is Japan look forward applying AI to automate jobs. “If you lose your job in Sweden you can come and work in Japan”, one of them said. And for the first time I saw that the authorities are looking not only at replacing that low-end, repetitive, dangerous and boring jobs that no one wants to have but also the high-profile jobs such as directors and strategists. Agree completely – when companies are fully digitalized they can just as well use AI as a managing director. As long as it works together with a human board of directors.

Every time AI was mentioned it had a human in the center – “human-centric AI”.

Great concept for many reasons, including the comforting one – “AI is my trusted partner, but I’m in control”. Quite some work still remains to ensure that we humans are in control, which is also something that we researchers like – stay tuned for upcoming papers on that matter.

Picture source: https://www.japan.go.jp

Toyota

Toyota is a role model for production system design with its definition of lean production and the Toyota Production System (TPS). We saw it in action and it’s amazing. TPS adheres to a number of principles and the objective function is to minimize “waste”. The definition of waste can vary and a simplified version means time waste. It can include more parameters such as sustainability impacts or material waste. Many productions plants (such as Ericsson and Scania) have implemented their versions of TPS. An immediate thought of an AI researcher: the production plant planning problem can be automated, since it’s very well defined.

Sony Computer Science Lab

A company under Sony’s wings with some 20-30 crazy scientists on a mission to change the world. Can AI win a Nobel prize? Can AI become a Michelin star chef? And researchers’ KPIs didn’t only include papers, patents and industrializations but also impacts in art. One exhibition showed robots developing their own language. For any object they detected they mapped a sound and then could communicate through these sounds with each other. In the end they were chattering in their own “natural language” about the visitors of the exhibition. This is as such not ground-breaking nor directly applicable in industry but very cool and makes AI understandable for those not in the field. It is an illustration of a collaborative learning process, which has a big educational value as well as an artistic component.

Picture source: © Julien Gremaud for Digital Brainstorming

Cyberdyne

All Sci-Fi lovers were mind-blown. Others too, I believe. A lot can be said about the company and the cool CEO who took us through the history, development and successes. This was truly human-centric. Similar to Steve Jobs, the CEO of Cyberdyne, Prof Yoshiyuki Sankai, once had a dream. He wanted to help people and address the potential problems of the aging population of Japan. He built a system that non-intrusively reads bio-electric intentional signals of a human, amplifies these signals, actuates the robotic part of the solution – a cyborg-like exoskeleton, and closes the loop by sending the signals of performed movement back to the brain. Applications included patients with spinal injuries who learned to control the exoskeleton with their brain and later restore the function of their bodies without using an exoskeleton. The company applies brain research from the Nobel prise winning researchers.

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In other words, telepathy is now possible. If I can learn to control a robot through brain signals then I can also send binary information to others, using the power of thought only.

#IVA15 at Cyberdyne

Physical Twin

The concept of a digital twin has been around for a while. It is used to describe a digital representation of a physical thing on some abstraction level that continuously maps to the state of the physical thing. Before the introduction of cyber-physical systems this has been called a model.

Source: https://iiot-world.com/digital-disruption/the-right-representation-of-digital-twins-for-data-analytics/

Digital twins are widely used nowadays when we interact with physical things such as cars or robots. The beauty of the concept is that you can interact with the digital representation mirroring the behaviour of the actual thing you want to control. Controlling hardware involves embedded programming, adaptors and protocols, and these are abstracted away for you. Examples range from an app for your thermostat to a full representation of a manufacturing plant. And telecom radio sites have digital twins as well.

Looking at my 10-year-old son I start wondering how much physical things the new generation craves about. He’s very much into the digital world as many other kids and, unlikely his sister, does not care much about physical stuff. His room is pretty empty and his most important things are his computer and his phone. He’s very quick at spending his monthly allowance on computer games and in-app purchases. His heroes are digital, and physical things are of no interest.

Source: https://www.monash.edu/venues/venues/computer-labs

With my background in computer science I do admire the shift towards the digital, and the appreciation of pure-software products, with the willingness to spend money on those. This is a really good trend from the sustainability perspective as well. But empty rooms are really no fun, and I keep buying my 10-year-old nice pillows, pictures and other decorations.

And now it’s time for me to share my business idea with you – up for grabs, first come first served! What if we could bring that digital things that miss the physical side to life through “physical twins”? Similar to Disney et al selling their soft toys looking like Mermaid or Nemo. But a twin for real, acting in real-time and real-life, along with its digital original. And it should not be so big of a step given the 3D-printing techniques, the cost of motors and modems, and the fact that the digital model has already been designed. Wouldn’t you love your favourite character from SIMS walk around in your house? Do you see the scale if we could right-click and order home physical twins of our favourite game characters? Personally, I would immediately invest in a couple of friendly dinosaurs from Lost Eden.

Internet of Empathy and Emotional Attachment


Some years ago my parents got themselves a robotic vacuum cleaner iRobot Roomba. They immediately gave it a name – Vasya. Sometimes Vasya would get stuck, and sometimes he would start sneezing out all the dust he had collected, and they thought it was cute and gladly told stories about Vasya. And studies show that when people turn in their broken robotic vacuum cleaners to a repair shop, the prefer not to have them replaced but rather repaired.

We do get emotionally attached to things. The day we decided to sell our motorcycle was a sad day because of that emotional attachment. All that feelings came up: the excitement of the first decision to buy, picking a model and a color, waiting for the delivery, seeing it for the first time, driving it for the first time. And the decision of selling if was simply because of that guilt that i don’t have enough time to drive it and it deserves a better owner. 

Attachment to intelligent things can be stronger. Our little Nao, for example. He came to us in 2009, worked and traveled with us, learned new things, and, last year, he actually moved out and now he lives with his new family in Gothenburg. And I must say that when I got to see a video of him traveling by train i get this warm feeling that everything is fine with him. 


But what about things that don’t resemble a living creature? We used to kick our misbehaving printers, TV-sets (before the era of flat screens at least) and computers. At least i never got hard feelings when watching the “printer scene” from Office Space over and over again.





    We fell empathy and get emotionally attached to things for different reasons:

    1. Something resembles a living creature (works with toys as well)
    2. Something exhibits an intellect similar to a living creature (in this case the thing does not necessarily need to look like one).
    3. We have memories connected to the things (such as traveling together with your bike)

    A combination of these certainly makes the case stronger. Boston Dynamics, for example, build humanoids and animal-looking robots that not only move in a way living creatures do, but also act with an intellect, and a purpose, such as rescuing people from fire. People find the situation adorable and react as if these were living creatures interacting with each other (see youtube comments).


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    Would people ever like to hurt such intelligent creatures? What feelings do you get when watching the poor things getting abused? This is for sure a necessary evil, such as experiments on rats in medical tests. I have no idea how the coming generations will see such things. I can only hope that there is a shift into treating all things with respect, the similar way you treat a living creature.