Thursday, May 27, 2010

Will Technology Overcome Language Barriers?

I remember making jokes about futuristic scenarios on how technology would help us completely eliminate language barriers. Today, this is about to become reality, is it not?

Speech or voice recognition has dramatically improved over the years. When I dictate SMS messages in English into my Android phone, it now successfully translates everything I say into perfectly written English.

When, over time, Google translate becomes a widely accepted business standard (it is continually improving) it no longer is difficult to imagine simple tools that can process voice input and voice output in one go - at an instant. My prediction is that in just a few years this will become an effective tool to speak with any "foreigner", e.g. me talking with someone in Hindi or even Mandarin via some kind of "translator software". This will also, and maybe especially, include teleconferencing and webinars. While most of the participants may be speaking English for example, any participant can by pressing a button listen, and even participate, in their own language.

I guess the next challenge would then be to include intonation, huh..? Let alone, body language! No, even though the future may look bright when it comes to language translation, learning another language will always be an important and valued skill. What do you think?

p.s. Listening to Spanish training while writing this post ;-)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LinkedIn with Twitter Functionality

Finally, LinkedIn is taking Twitter seriously...

Now LinkedIn has put in place a full fletched Twitter integration. The up until now half hearted link to Twitter updates was about to become a "missing link". The integration allows a number of clever features, among others - which is what most of us have wanted for a long time...

...LinkedIn will, and I quote, "help [us] find relevant professionals to follow on Twitter".

So today you have one more good reason to ramp up your daily use of both Twitter and LinkedIn ;-)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mind Blowing Numbers

When we see growing numbers such as a million (1,000,000) or a trillion (a million million or 1,000,000,000,000) we gradually begin to realize that the number itself may well be feasible on paper, but the amount quickly becomes difficult to mentally grasp or let alone visualize.

Today I have two questions - please help me out - and let me briefly explain...

In much the same way as it is hard, or rather impossible, for the mind to understand the concept of infinity from an exploding point of view (like "there is no end to space") so it may also be the case in the opposite direction..!?

As children in elemantary school we learn about 0.1 and 0.001 as well as 0.00000001 etc. Think about this, for a second; is there an end to this? I mean, how small can a number get? Maybe, does it keep on going in exactly the same manner as exploding numbers, only in this respect moving inwardly "into space" almost as it were like an implosion? (I don't even know if this would be the proper use of the word "implosion".) And I mean seriously, not just from a philosophical point of view.

Two Questions
My first question, therefore is: Do you believe space is infinite - both ways?

My second question is: Would you please help me find online material where someone shared something to shed more light on this subject? (I suppose we may quickly move into Einstein's relativity..? which I find intriguing, to say the least!)

For instance, I quickly found a YouTube video that explains the vastness of the universe, but what about the other way around..? You see, they way I picture it, we're already living on an atom in the grand scheme of things, i.e. relatively speaking ;-)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Handshake and the Name

Shaking hands for the first time and picking up the name of the other person is harder than you might think. Most of us only hear our own name and afterwards regret that we didn't listen to learn the other person's name while we had the chance.

When we meet people for the first time in a business setting we usually shake hands. We also state our name and look each other in the eye. It's something that many of us do every single day.

Why would such a topic interest me? Well, there's a strange phenomenon in this cultural practice - a weakness that actually the majority of professionals "suffer from". Believe it or not, my stats indicate that approximately 5 or 6 out of 10 don't hear and/or remember the name of the person they greet in this way. Why? Isn't the name or identity the single one objective of such a traditional way to greet? I don't think it is. We may believe it is, but in reality, shaking hands has a completely different purpose.

Possible Reasons Why
I've actually thought about "the failed handshake" for quite some time. It's an interesting and telling tendency. I've mapped out a list of possible reasons for why this is the case. Maybe it's because:

  • meeting new people puts a little scare in us and we protect ourselves by being very careful and aware of what we say and do...
  • ...and thus we become much more focused on ourselves than on others the moment we leave our comfort zone.
  • stating each other's name comes so close in time that we're simply not listening the first few seconds before and after we speak.
  • finding the hand and looking the person in the eye takes too much of our attention...
  • ...and thus picking up the name almost becomes "multitasking" and too much for us.
  • we tend to focus on visuals in the beginning looking for facial expressions, clothing and looks, sound and scent.
  • we often greet more than one person at a time and get names mixed up. Most of the people I've spoken with about this say they simply give up by not even trying when there's more than three new people in the room.
  • we don't really care or don't really understand the importance of a name.
  • we hear the name, but quickly forget as the conversation moves into preliminaries (our mind is focused on what to talk about to break the ice).
  • simply lack of routine and/or an unconscious working style.

So What?
What is there to be done about this problem?

Simply being aware of our tendency to not listen and instantly remember a name makes a huge difference. Just focus on the name next time you shake hands with someone. Don't worry about appearances, what to say, how to shake hands or anything else. It will be OK. What's important is to hear and remember that name!