Kishore Mahbubani - Some notes
In a well filled Vereeniging in Nijmegen, Kishore Mahbubani gave a good speech on his perspective on the rise of Asia and the response the West in his eyes should formulate to that. It turned out I had picked up quite a bit already from fragments on tv, and flicking through his book last weekend, as several sections of his talk were verbatim renderings of earlier things I saw. It is, I know, unavoidable when you are asked to share the same story on several occasions and in several locations. Internet and the casual transparancy that comes with camera and blog equipped audiences do that. It just became a lot more apparant because they also showed excerpts of the excellent VPRO documentary before Mahbubani went on stage. It was good to be there though.
The basic argument is that the rise of Asia is unstoppable, already on demographics alone, but that it does not constitute a threat as Asia is emulating several worthwile aspects of the Western world. Those seven (of course seven...) are:
Free market economy
Science and technology
Culture of peace (with the EU as an example, but leaving out the debacle of the Balkan wars I'd say)
Rule of law
Education (the start of it all of course)
In short Mahbubani says Asia is succesful because they are adopting the things that are important to the West as well. The rise of Asia is now approaching the Islamic world from the east, which he said was surprising as he sees the modernization of the orient and Northern Africa as a more logical European task and influence.
The response he would like to see Europe make consists of four parts:
1) share power in bodies like the UN, IMF, Worldbank etc.
2) create a lasting strategic alliance with Asia (between EU and ASEAN primarily) and stick to it (unlike the last Asian economic crisis when Europe 'walked away')
3) create a long term vision towards the Islamic World (which he said should be a no-brainer given the mutual influence we had on each other over the centuries, with the Islamic world conserving Greek and Roman culture and knowledge through the European dark ages)
4) work towards a solution of the Palestine-Isreali conflict (now that both the Arab world and the Israelian PM seem to have grown tired of it all)
Kishore Mahbubani, The New Asian Hemisphere
Tomorrow evening I will attend a lecture by prof. Kishore Mahbubani on the rise of Asia.
I am very much looking forward to this, as I am interested in whether the Asian rise means a compounding of the worlds environmental problems, or an opportunity to bring about change for the better. Mahbubani holds that it will be the latter, but that much also depends on how the West will react. In the introduction of his book The New Asian Hemisphere he points to how the rethoric of a number of western nations is filled with references to a more 'dangerous' world. I find I share Mahbubani's optimism, though I am cautious as well as far from holding romantic notions about how disruptive and ugly certain trends can be.
As a kid in primary school I never forgot the time my teacher explained that demographically it would be unavoidable that the economic epicenter of the world would move to Asia over time. That was in 1982, so my primary school teacher was way ahead of most people. His message stayed with me very clearly.
In the past decades millions of people in primarily China and India have been lifted out of abject poverty, though much remains to be done. That is for certain a good thing. Over the past years I have seen how in the nearby Ruhr area many steel plants and related factories were literally packed up and shipped to China to be rebuild there. That I find promising from an economic perspective, but worrying from an environmental one. More recently I noticed how mainly Chinese are playing a bigger role in Africa. And of course there has been the clear rise and power of the Japanese economy in the past 3 decades, from which other Asian countries, such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore took their cue. All in all, we are not talking about competition here, though resources in raw materials are strained and finite (oil, ores), because when there are more connections there are more transactions and the pie gets bigger accordingly.
I also suspect there is much to do in terms of getting to know each other, we know little about Asia, and I very much suspect Asia knows little about us, apart from the tv-fed stereotypes we both hold. This was reinforced by the conversation I had with Hank Horkoff (of ChinesePod) on Online Educa in Berlin last week. He has been living in Shanghai since 2001 and had interesting stories about young Chinese that knew little about Europe and North America, but based on a millennia long history had an air of entitlement about their growing role in the world. That is bound to ruffle some feathers with us here in the West, unless we can get to know each other better. That means getting familiar with a different set of views and cultural values. Perhaps it is time to start making the effort of finding and adding more voices from Asia to my feed reader.
The lecture by prof. Kishore Mahbubani is organized as a Masterclass by HAN (a higher ed institute in the Netherlands) and Dutch national newspaper NRC. Previous sessions saw Charles Leadbeater and Peter Senge present I found out. That makes me look forward to this one too.
Full disclosure: I was asked to blog about this Masterclass, in return for being invited to the event by Hans Mestrum.
Technorati Tags: asia, china, mahbubani, economy, HAN, NRC
Online Educa Berlin - My Presentation
Early evening yesterday I gave a key-note at the second plenary session of the Online Educa conference in Berlin (over 2000 participants, from 90 countries, 92 parallel and 4 plenary sessions in 2 days). Together with Clive Shepherd and Donald Clark, it was up to us three to entertain those that still had the courage to attend this last and late session (17:45-19:00) after what was a long and intensive day.
It seemed the session went over well.
The slides I used are online at SlideShare of course as well as embedded below:
My presentation consisted basically consisted of these messages:
1) It is not very useful to talk about Gen Y as a 'different species', because the world is changing, not these kids. The kids are adapting and so should we all. Treating the kids as having changed basically means you're not prepared to change yourself to adapt to the new environment we find ourselves in. Therefore Gen Y is everybody that is adapting. I held up my niece, my mother in law and myself up as specimens of Gen Y.
2) My learning, life, and work has shifted enormously in the past years, due to internet and mobile communication. It has had much wider effects than just the possibilities the technologies bring in themselves
3) That wider effect is because we have created new infrastructure and that has always had major impact on all kinds of aspects in our culture and society
4) We all, not just kids, need to adapt to that new world we created ourselves, we all need to become part of Gen Y. And then added a number of quotes of the group I work with at Rotterdam University, that you can see as signs of how far you are on the path to becoming part of Gen Y. Notice that none of these quotes are about technology, but about personal change.
Afterwards I had dinner with a group of Dutch edubloggers, which was quite a lot of fun. During that dinner I discovered how many potatoes you can hide under a Wiener Schnitzel, and embarassed myself by complaining to the waiter that the potatoes I ordered weren't there. To which the reply was: look under your schnitzel.4 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
The End of BlogWalk
We have decided to formally end the BlogWalk series.
After 11 sessions, bringing over 250 people interested in social media from all kinds of academic and business backgrounds together across three continents, we look back on a series of very inspiring meetings, that generated all kinds of spin-off and combinations of people collaborating.
When we, Lilia Efimova, Sebastian Fiedler, and Ton Zijlstra, started this in March 2004 it was a different environment. We felt the need to create a space for free format conversations between professionals around shared interest relating to social media. Then that type of space was scarce. Most conferences gave wall to wall death by powerpoint, leaving next to no room for real exchanges between participants. Informal meetings were just that, informal, leaving no room for any real exchanges around professional themes. We also felt the need to be able to meet those that we interacted with intensively on-line in a face to face setting.
The BlogWalk sessions served that purpose well. Our connections to eachother strengthened a lot. There are many BlogWalk participants I am in regular contact with, and there are a good number of them that I regard as colleagues and close professional peers.
The need we felt in 2004 however has been addressed, and the environment nowadays is different from back then. It seems that creating your own event, your own un-conference, has become more normal, and more accepted as a viable format for professional exchange and learning. I find, in fact, that a majority of the events I go to these days follow that free flowing format. Not quite a BlogWalk format though, as we aimed to really open the space up completely, with next to no structuring and programming beforehand. Free enough however to feel our needs from 2004 addressed. And it already showed in the frequency of the BlogWalk sessions in these past years. In 2006 and 2007 we only did one session. That is different from the 5 we did per year before that.
It was fun, it was inspiring, it was extremely valuable. I am glad we three had the chance of doing this in Enschede, Nuremberg, Vienna, London, Umea, Chicago, Mechelen, Sydney, Innsbruck, Seattle, Bonn and Amsterdam. (See a list of all BlogWalk salons) Now it's time to let BlogWalk as an event go. I'm pretty sure we will keep meeting like this from now on, there is however no need to call it BlogWalk anymore. Even if we may do so every now and then.
Thanks to all of you who participated!4 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
Shifting Cultural Categories: Work Place
This posting is part of a series of postings on how our understanding and interpretation of cultural categories is shifting due to our use of the two infrastructures internet and mobile communication.
This posting is about Workplace
Candle factory, 1919 (from Dutch National Archive)
Workplace Is All About Access
In order to be able to complete your tasks effectively and efficiently you need to be in a place that provides easy access to everything you need for those tasks. That means access to the raw materials, the means of production, the finances, the knowledge, the information, the colleagues, the clients, and any other relevant stakeholder or object to your business. In the pre-industrial era this meant that your place of work and your place to live would often be the same, that other people plying the same trade would be located in each others vicinity, as would others in your 'chain' of production. And it would mean that as an artisan you would be located in a city, as population centers have creating access to virtually anything as a primary role.
In the industrial era, with its large immobile means of production, people needed to live right next to the factories. Only there could they perform their tasks. Urbanisation, and 'workers neighbourhoods' right next to factories inclined steeply in step with each smoke stack that was build.
When our economy shifted to services more, and office 'white collar' jobs became more widespread, our behaviour didn't change much. We built our offices just as we built our factories. Large buildings with machines replaced by large amounts of paperwork. Work processes were similarly arranged as in the factory, with typewriting rooms and long hallways of offices. And when computers (late 80's) internet (late 90's) and cell phones (mid 90's) became commonplace in the workplace at first we carried on as before. But slowly more and more people are realizing that the fundamental rationale behind our work place organisation, access to all we need for our tasks, is being eroded.
Access in a Networked World
Internet and mobile communications are infrastructures with qualities that increase the accessibility of people and any digitally available artefact.
First anyone connected to these infrastructures has access to any digital artefact (albeit documents, pictures, video, music, data sets, maps, voice packets) that is shared anywhere else on that infrastructure. Anything that is shared is shared as a perfect copy, undistinguishable from its original. This removes any scarcity of important pieces of information, as Wikipedia has written as its mission on its banner. As librarians, music companies, teachers, book publishers, and archivists, have found out, it also removes the need for many middle men that see themselves as gate keepers around that scarcity, forcing them to reinvent themselves whether they like it or not. In short I don't need to be in the same place as the dossiers, documents or other digital artefacts are stored that I need to do my work.
Second internet and mobile communications do not require a geographically fixed end point. Unlike with landline phone, railways, postal mail and other infrastructure, on the internet and mobile communication networks you are the end point. We are our own address. I don't need to know where you are to reach you. You don't need to be in a defined spot for me to have access to you. You don't need to be in the next cubicle down for me to have acces to you. I don't need to know where you are at all for you to be my colleague.
So if work place is about access, and as a white collar worker I can access any relevant document or any other person from anywhere, or as an artisan I can have access to customers from anywhere, then my work place can be basically any place. With ubiquitous access any place is as suited as any to stay in touch, sync and flow with my environment. With Wifi and coffee you're all set. And it is showing in how we are organizing our work, impacting us well beyond the technology alone. Some examples:
Units of Business, Wirearchy
When access to the things you need to be effective at your work is ubiquitous, it becomes a lot easier to self-organize or to form ad-hoc groups around more complicated or complex tasks. It cuts down on the need of large overhead and hierarchical structures. I am a one man business, and work in different project teams for different clients. Those project teams have other members that are one man business as well.
None of us have managerial overhead, except for what is needed for the tasks at hand.
In fact the number of one man businesses is rising steadily. In the Netherlands they currently account for 50% of all businesses registered, and the expectation is that it will be 60% in 2 years time. The rapid growth in the number of these businesses started in 2000, right when both mobile communications (65% of all those above 17yrs old that year) and internet (75% of all businesses that year, 50% of all households) reached high penetration in the Netherlands. That year was the tipping point for access it seems. These independent people collaborate heavily: 60% of them regularly work with other independents, and another 25% want to do so.
In these collaborative settings hierarchy is replaced by networked structures such as wirearchies. We take on roles and tasks. I may be the project 'leader' in one project, and the 'subordinate' in another, but it's always a role not a function, nor something permanently 'attached' to me. Because none of us is gatekeeper to the means of production or the needed resources, none of us can claim to be the 'owner' of the work, employing the others. In these teams there is mutual interdependence because only as a group could we have taken on the project. It shows in the places we choose as work settings; it is negotiated usually each time to fit what suits all participants best in relation to other obligations that impact their flexibility and mobility that day.
Work-Life balance, in itself a recent term, used to be defined extremely simple. When you were at work, you were working. When you were not at work, you were doing the other things that made up your life.
A conference for my wife's birthday. Work-Life balance?
Having a fixed location for your work, and other fixed locations for your other activities, there are very clear boundaries between them by the act of moving from one location to another. But with internet and mobile communications that boundary is blurring and disappearing. Reading work e-mail at home, booking your summer holiday over the office internet connection, different activities are now seeping and creeping into others.
Being used to link contexts to locations (because location meant access) since basically forever, we are learning to adapt to find a new way of balancing all our activities now that location as a determining factor is disappearing (because access is ubiquitous).
When you have access to almost everything from almost any place, your own priorities and the needs of those important to you are the only guidelines to strike a balance between your activities. I could read business e-mail during dinner with my wife, as could she. I could do some shopping in a meeting with a client, as could she. We couldn't before, now we can, so we need to learn to decide to do something or not more often than we were used to. Those decisions are informed by the truely scarce things, such as face to face time with somebody, which requires you to really be in the here and now, or the things that still are actually bound to a certain location.
Internet and mobile communications create access where there was none, making forms of organisation possible that weren't before, and decoupling the context you need for a task from fixed geographic locations. Because of it we are reshaping our work place, and our work place is shifting.1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Interdependent Things: New Side Blog
I have decided to create a new blog next to my Interdependent Thoughts, to write about Transient Technology, the Internet of Things, Mobile Applications, and Personal Production. In general these topics I think are fine to cover here in my regular blog. However, I am now also experimenting with electronics, internet aware objects and personal production in a FabLab. Any reports on those experiments, sharing designs etc., don't fit well in my main blog I think. For that purpose I've created the side blog Interdependent Things.
The title I think speaks for itself, Interdependent Things
Because interdependent these things truly are. They connect to the internet or to each other, or the way these things get created is the result of different people contributing and building different parts. It is all about the digital world nestling on a more basic level in our physical world. The world of bits is becoming an embedded part of the world of atoms.
If you want, add the feed for Interdependent Things to your feedreader. For now I have reposted a few entries from the past two months, that have also appeared in this blog.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink