Chris Grey’s Brexit blog is a very worthwile read, bringing up the energy to weekly take a detailed look at what is happening in the UK regarding Brexit. Where many others run screaming frustratedly, or deludedly shout ‘get it over with’ as if there’s a simple Gordian knot style solution to solving the complexity of Brexit, especially as it has become based on mutually exclusive notions, as per the quote. Getting it over with simply means you return to the exact same issues the next day, after having needlessly created a gaping hole in your legal framework as well as economy which do nothing but undermine your ability to solve those issues, merely having taken them from ‘important to solve’ to ‘extremely urgent to solve’.

Read Revolution and counter-revolution (chrisgreybrexitblog.blogspot.com)

Brexit makes liars of everyone who tries to enact it, even if they are not by nature as mendacious as Johnson or as destructive as Cummings. For it derives ultimately from the lies within the Vote Leave campaign itself which, at heart, promised that Brexit could be done without negative consequences. This led May into such tortured positions on, for example, maintaining ‘frictionless trade’ whilst leaving the institutions that make that possible. It is still present in Johnson and the Brexiters’ underlying position that there can be an open border in Ireland whilst leaving the institutions that make that possible.

Today Lane Becker is celebrating his 46th birthday. To mark the occasion he is organising a conference in Austin, Texas.

Bringing together a cool line-up of speakers, he asked us to do a live video conversation at the start. To explain a bit about the history of how Lane came to doing birthday conferences. A few months ago I described that some the ripples of our birthday unconferences are more birthday conferences, such as Peter’s last June, and that also includes Lane’s events.

We had a live conversation at the start of Lane’s birthday conference, and described the history of how we came to do our first unconference for Elmine’s birthday in 2008, and then the subsequent events. We also tried share some of the main things that stand out to us.

That doing an unconference at home, which started as a fluke, brings a special vibe to it all. Everyone behaves informally, you’re a guest in our home, but still get into deep conversations and do workshops and sessions. How we learned at Reboot that bringing kids makes everything more real, more human. People talk less bs on stage if their kids are around 🙂

That it is quite amazing to bring together people from all our various networks, and see how well they hit it off.
There’s always a moment during an unconference when you look around you and see the energy and how everyone’s engaged, when it hits me how awesome it is to be the hosts to that. And how awesome it is that so many of our friends make the effort to travel to us.

That the 2014 Make Stuff That Matters was probably the best one yet, as it turned us from just doing sessions, to also letting participants learn new skills. And having a 14 meter mobile FabLab parked in front was pretty impressive too 🙂

And we talked about how some participants feel a birthday unconference can be life changing, pivotal. We suspect it has a lot to do with that it’s rare to spend time together and have deep conversations, without pressing needs yet tied to things of importance to your own life.

Happy birthday Lane, we hope you and your friends have a great event!

After ʻOumuamua in October 2017, now two years on Genaddy Borisov from the Crimea looked up and found a second interstellar interloper on a hyperbolic path, headed towards our sun.

Forbes says in the previous link “The discovery will be music to the ears of many who have been expecting more of these objects, too. Some estimates suggest that at least one interstellar object should be in our Solar System at any given time, while the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) plans to find many more of these objects. The European Space Agency (ESA), meanwhile, may even send a spacecraft to an interstellar visitor in the future.

That is indeed the significance I think. In between something occurring never, once, and often, there is not much probability attached to something just happening a few times, given the distances and time involved in the universe. The appearance of a 2nd something in space just two years after the first (which we almost missed, it was already flying away), likely means it is much more common, we just haven’t spotted much of it yet.

Below a simulation of the orbits of both objects, from Orbitsimulator.com

This is a bit of a surprising move by the Serbian government to me, given the EU candidate status of Serbia. Even if the two directions in which Serbia’s government and different generations look, the EU on one side, and Russia on the other, stand out clearly for all who visit.

When I was regularly working in Kyrgyzstan a few years ago Kyrgyzstan joined the EAEU, in my perception halfheartedly. Mostly because there seemed to be no consequence free way to not do so, as their neighbours Kazachstan and Russia basically are responsible for absorbing most of their exports, transports through Kyrgyzstan from China, as well as Russia being the biggest source of remittances of by Kyrgyz working in Russia.

Read Serbs Ignore EU Warning Over Plan to Join Russian-Led Trade Bloc

Serbia’s plan to join a Russian-led economic union is drawing ire from the European Union, which the Balkan nation says it wants to be part of.

Not sure if it is a separate pattern, but I recognise the general gist of what Bryan Alexander writes. I suspect that ideas having come slightly before their time, until technological and societal circumstances are more conducive to an idea, is part of this. Thinking of speech technology as an example.

What data would we need to see if these patterns do occur. And where might that data already be available? I do like Bryan’s name for it: Bloom Bust Boom cycles.

Read When new ideas boom, bust, then come roaring back: around the U-bend (Bryan Alexander)

Lately I’m thinking about the re-emergence of ideas over time.  I’d like to get a better handle on that process, hopefully with a model, and so try to better anticipate when such a thin…

During our work on shaping the Tech Pledge last week, we looked into progress as it is mentioned in the Copenhagen Letter as being different from just innovation. The Copenhagen Letter was written in 2017 as output of the same process that now delivered the Tech Pledge.

20190906_163157
Thomas, Techfestival’s initiator, reading the Copenhagen Letter
at the start of this year’s CPH150

Progress is not a fixed point on the horizon we said. What is progress shifts, with public opinion and new ideas of what is good, just, true and beautiful emerging, and with the movement of time itself. When the first steam engines appeared their plumes of smoke heralded a new age, that drove industrialisation, nation forming and, through rail roads, changed what cities were for and how city and countryside relate to each other. Steam engines still exist at the very heart of every electricity plant in the world, but progress has moved on from the steam engine.
We also realised that progress does not have fixed and static definition, and so we are free to fill it with whatever definition we think fits in the context we are looking at.

In terms of technology then, progress is a motion, a process, and in our group we defined it as (new) technology plus direction/sense of purpose. Technology here, to me at least, being not just ‘hard tech’, but also ‘soft tech’. Our methods, processes, organisational structures are technology just as much as fountain pens, smart phones and particle accelerators.

So we named a number of elements that fit into this understanding progress as a process and search for direction.

  • It is a part of human nature to strive for change and progress, even if not every single individual in every context and time will be so inclined. This desire to progress is more about setting a direction than a fixed end state. Hence our use of “(new) technology with intended direction” as working definition.
  • We need to be accountable to how anything we make fits the intended direction, and additionally whether it not externalises human or ecological costs, or conflicts with our natural systems, as these are often ignored consequences.
  • We recognise that direction may get lost, or ends up in need of change, in fact we realise that anything we make is largely out of our control once released into the world.
  • So we pledge to continuous reflection on the direction our tech is taking us in practice. Not just during its development or launch, but throughout its use.
  • Whether we want to use the tech we created ourselves, or see our loved ones use it is a smell test, if it doesn’t pass our emotional response something is off.
  • What doesn’t pass the smell test needs to be explored and debated
  • We have a civic duty to organise public debate about the value and direction of our tech right alongside our tech. Not just at the start of making tech, but throughout the life cycle of something you make. If you make something you also need to organise the continuous debate around it to keep a check on its societal value and utility, and to actively identify unintended consequences.
  • If our tech is no longer fit for purpose or takes an unintended turn, we have a duty to actively adapt and /or publicly denounce the aspect of our tech turned detrimental.

20190907_120354Working on the pledge

Regardless of what the Copenhagen Pledge says in addition to this, this reflective practice is something worth wile in itself for me to do: continuously stimulate the debate around what you make, as part and parcel of the artefacts you create. This is not a new thing to me, it’s at the core of the unconferences we organise, where lived practice, reflection and community based exploration are the basic ingredients.

To me what is key in the discussions we had is that this isn’t about all tech in general, though anyone is welcome to join any debate. This is about having the moral and civic duty to actively create public debate around the technology you make and made. You need to feel responsible for what you make from inception to obsolescence, just as you always remain a parent to your children, regardless of their age and choices as adult. The connection to self, to an emotional anchoring of this responsibility is the crucial thing here.

So there I was on a rainy Copenhagen evening finding myself in a room with 149 colleagues for 24 hours, nearing midnight, passionately arguing that technologists need to internalise and own the reflection on the role and purpose of their tech, and not leave it as an exercise to the academics in the philosophy of technology departments. A duty to organise the public debate about your tech alongside the existence of the tech itself. If your own tech no longer passes your own smell test then actively denounce it. I definitely felt that emotional anchoring I’m after in myself right there and then.