Saturday, 3 January 2015

Delegation for humans

I've already written a large article about the important topic of delegation in evolution. However, because that article focuses on delegation as a general phenomena in evolution, it doesn't spend much time discussing delegation of tasks between humans. This article covers delegation of tasks by humans.

I've made this article into a bullet-pointed list - to make it easier to scan:

  • Delegation is an important social skill. Most people never get very good at it. They are at the bottom of the "delegation tree": they have tasks delegated to them, and don't do much delegation themselves.

  • Delegation facilitates hierarchical organization. If you can't delegate tasks, you can only do the things you know how to do. Getting other people to do things for you increases the tasks you are able to perform. It does this by augmenting your skills with the skills of others.

  • Delegation led directly to large-scale civilization. Without delegation, there's no civilization. Our delegation abilities drove progress.

  • Delegation often involves programming other humans. One of the core delegation strategies involves dividing a task into many pieces, which can potentially be performed in parallel - and dividing the task up between multiple workers, and then integrating the results. This operation is widely known as divide and conquer. Google's 'Map-Reduce' algorithm is based on this idea - as are the Hadoop and Spark projects.

  • Humans are experts at delegation. While other animals delegate tasks, humans are masters of delegation. Their programmability allows a wide range of tasks to be efficiently delegated.

  • Delegation is not confined to humans. Other animals can delegate. Social insects demonstrate delegation of tasks from queens to workers. Mutual grooming is a type of task delegation. Non-human animal parents frequently delegate tasks to their offspring.

  • Delegation fossilizes. The builders of the Egyptian pyramids used delegation. The people on Easter Island used delegation. If a civilization has mastered delegation, the fossil record bears witness to that.

  • Agriculture facilitated delegation. Increased population densities resulted in more willing workers.

  • Money and trade were key technologies enabling delegation. Bartering also allows you to trade favors with others - but Money and trade helped people to do things for each other on a larger scale.

  • The evolution of language helped people to delegate. Delegation ability was probably improved substantially by Turing-complete spoken languages.

  • Delegation is a core management skill. When people talk about management, they are often talking about delegation. Managing almost any large or complex project involves delegating some of the tasks to other agents. "Management" is a more general term than "delegation".

  • Programming humans is harder than programming machines. Machines, generally speaking, do what you tell them to do. They can be literal minded and hard to communicate with, but they are generally willing slaves. Humans, on the other hand, have conflicting allegiances. They need motivating. Rather than working as a team, they often like to compete with their co-workers. They get bored, sick and tired. They are sometimes deceptive. They steal your trade secrets. They resign.

  • Management is harder to automate that computer programming is. It is harder to automate than most tasks are. It's a fairly safe bet for those seeking job security while migrating away from the tide of automation.


1 comment:

  1. This is where memes are seen as being at the heart of management science, and its overlap with information systems. Three points of disagreement:
    1) delegation facilitates hierarchical organisation; well yes that tends to be the usual expression, but delegation is also employed in rarer organisational morphs, such as network structures.
    2) programming humans is harder than programming machines: (ignoring the original and overlooked point of NLP) power and authority, along with state schooling (as distinct from education) of obedience, enables manipulation. Direct their interests and the human will programme themselves (even pay for their own technical instruction and certificates).
    3) management is harder to automate than computer programming is: the hard part is breaking obsolete routines, or "don't automate your traditions" (cant find ref) warns of parasitical memes embedding themselves at the expense of rationalization. I think these unchallenged autonomous routines/memes may well be labeled as "fossils" though.