first finds of 2019

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
—Kurt Vonnegut, via @ShaunCoffey

@robpatrob“In Athens, democracy degenerated into populism, leading to the war with Sparta and defeat. Maybe there is a cycle?”

@PhilosophyMttrs“Word of the Year” — Ultracrepidarianadjective noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise


citizen sensemaking

Finland has taken a private-sector initiative to introduce people to Artificial Intelligence and turned it into a state-supported program to train 1% of the population.

“The idea has a simple, Nordic ring to it: Start by teaching 1 percent of the country’s population, or about 55,000 people, the basic concepts at the root of artificial technology, and gradually build on the number over the next few years.” —Politico 2019-01-02

This is a good idea and nobody could find fault with an educational program that helps citizens understand types of technology that affect much of their lives. But is it enough? Is it merely treating symptoms instead of looking at systemic factors? Is the long-term objective of the Finnish government to train 1% of citizens in 100 different things, so that all of them know something about a specific field that someone else has considered important?

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” —Old Adage

Or is the real objective of any democracy to foster an aggressively engaged and educated citizenry?

Teach people to learn for themselves how to fish and they can learn anything else for a lifetime. —Harold Jarche (more…)

embrace the snowflakes

Q. Why in the age of the internet does the British army need the ‘snowflake generation’ more than ever?

A. Their compassion in dealing with local populations, and their technological prowess, are essential qualities in any modern military operation

Major Heloise Goodley, army chief of general staff’s research fellow at Chatham House, says that new skills are needed for the modern, machine-augmented battlefield.

“The proliferation of automation and artificial intelligence has not decreased the requirement for a human component in war, but it is changing the decision making and cognitive skills required of those soldiers. The army needs soldiers who have the intellectual and psychological aptitude to work in an increasingly automated operational environment, the very computer skills Generation Z have become derided for.” —The Independent 2019-01-05

This is not your father’s Army. It’s not even the Army I left 20 years ago. Back in 1998, on leaving the Army, I felt that global digital networks would change everything — they have. I have more recently noted that the future is networked & feminine and that we need to retrieve gender balance to adapt to new societal and economic realities. That balance is not just masculine/feminine but a balance that utilizes a broad range of human capabilities —  including “phone zombies” & “snowflakes” as the UK recruiting posters state. Just look at the leadership skills that 32,000 respondents indicated were the most important in today’s work world. (more…)

the democratization of media

“You’re just hearing about it [microaggression] more, because the people who have been suffering it for a long time have decided that they aren’t going to suffer it anymore. The disempowered recognize that it’s time for them to be heard.

Social media gives them a platform to broadcast that message for the first real time in history. Prior to a decade ago, they’d have to find some way to get their message out through media dominated by the very people who were looking down on them and oppressing them. The democratization of media gave them an equal playing field now.” —Peter Kruger, on Quora

Last year I wrote a series of posts on the retrieval of feminine characteristics necessitated by a network society. This started with the future is networked and feminine, the most viewed post I have ever written here.  It was summed up in retrieving gender balance, a much less controversial title. My intent with these post was to show how diversity is essential for innovation, and ignoring or sidelining 50% of the population is just plain stupid. Heather McGowan gave some positive feedback which I appreciate, given my own privileged position in society. (more…)

nine shifts — one is critical

Nine Hours

In 2004 Bill Draves and Julie Coates wrote Nineshift: Work, life and education in the 21st Century. That was the same year I started blogging here. Nineshift is based on the premise that there will be a major shift in how we spend 9 hours of each day.

“There are 24 hours in a day. We have no real discretion with roughly 12 of those hours. We need to eat, sleep, and do a few other necessary chores in order to maintain our existence. That hasn’t changed much through the centuries, so far.

That leaves approximately 12 hours a day where we, as individuals, do have some discretion. That includes work time, play time, and family time.

Of those 12 hours, about 75%, or 9 hours, will be spent totally differently a few years from now than they were spent just a few years ago. Not everything will change, but 75% of life is in the process of changing right now.”

The authors put forth that society will significantly shift what we do with those nine hours and this will be complete by 2020 — one year from now.

  1. People Work at Home — “Work is an activity, not a place.”
  2. Intranets Replace Offices
  3. Networks Replace the Pyramid
  4. Trains Replace Cars
  5. Communities Become More Dense
  6. New Societal Infrastructures Evolve
  7. Cheating Becomes Collaboration
  8. Half of all Learning will be Online
  9. Education becomes Web-based


best finds of 2018

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. Here are the best finds of 2018.

Wise Words

“Susan Sontag was asked what she had learned from the Holocaust, and she said that 10% of any population is cruel, no matter what, and that 10% is merciful, no matter what, and that the remaining 80% could be moved in either direction” —Kurt Vonnegut, via @holdengraber

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Victor E. Frankl, via @euan

“As the preliterate confronts the literate in the postliterate arena, as new information patterns inundate and uproot the old, mental breakdowns of varying degrees – including the collective nervous breakdowns of whole societies unable to resolve their crises of identity – will become very common.”Marshall McLuhan (1969)

@StuartMcMillan“The only thing you need to feel extremely smart is a lack of curiosity. The perpetually curious will always think they’re dumb.

@mmay3r“The internet doesn’t fracture truth, it reveals the many competing truths that always existed but were flattened by centralized broadcast technology.”

@lukewsavage“Billionaires like Bezos and Musk are obsessed with space travel because it helps them maintain the illusion that they’re technological prometheans at the vanguard of civilizational progress, rather than greedy plutocrats who happen to own expensive bits of paper.”

@MazzucatoM“David Ricardo was in 1821 talking about effect of mechanization on jobs and wages. But as long as profits were reinvested in the economy, new jobs appeared. That stopped with maximisation of shareholder value. Blame financialization & bad governance, not robots!” (more…)

perpetual beta 2018

The great thing about a blog is that it gives a view of my thinking and how it has progressed or changed over time. This year marked 15 years of freelancing and one new initiative was the perpetual beta coffee club — a community of professionals focused on work & learning in the network era — which now numbers over 50 members. A community is not a network and I am seeing more demand for safe community spaces online. Our community of practice has become a place to share ideas and have deeper conversations in a trusted space with an international group of professionals.

Speaking of changing practices, I decided to get rid of Google Analytics on this site because I did not want to be part of the growing surveillance economy. I also stopped using Google’s Feedburner service for email subscriptions. As a result I lost over 500 subscribers. Later I found the IceGram service, which does not track subscribers. You can sign up on my Contact Page. This year it also became obvious that vanity metrics — views, likes, retweets, etc. — are of little business value, so it’s best to just ignore them. I am. (more…)

work in 2018

When we look at the future of work, the loss of current jobs, and the effects of automation, we should use a compass to guide us, not a list of what the skills of the future may look like. That compass is self-determination theory which states that there are three universal human drivers — autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We need some control over our lives, we want to be good at something, and we want to feel that we belong with other people. These three drivers are what make us do what we do. Skills are just one aspect of being engaged at work. Even highly competent skilled workers can be disengaged or aimless. (more…)

democracy and equality

Will technology empower or frustrate learning and will established powers control individuals or will something new emerge? These were the questions asked during the The Edinburgh Scenarios in 2004. The resulting scenarios were as follows.

Web of Confidence: Technology advances, power shifts to emergent players.
U Choose: Technology frustrates, power shifts to emergent players.
Virtually Vanilla: Technology advances, power retained by established players.
Back to the Future: Technology frustrates, power retained by established players.

A similar question is being asked by the European Union in looking at the future of government. Four scenarios have been put forth.

DIY Democracy: the societal gap increased drastically, governments are not able to provide proper public services and citizens have to look after themselves.
Private Algocracy: the power over data, data analytics and decision making are fully moved to multi-national data companies who is taking over the regulation.
Super Collaborative Government: all the promises of open governance, digital government and public sector innovation come true.
Over-Regulatocracy: the government is engaged for the wellbeing of individuals and economy but processes became so complicated that even public benefits are hard to claim for.

In both cases it is a question whether digital networks will empower people or only those who hold power. These kinds of questions can help us map a way forward. I hope the EU initiative has more impact than the Edinburgh Scenarios did. These exercises may make us feel empowered, but the test will be if those currently in power take action. I think states will continue to try to take control, such as requiring back doors in all crypto-technologies. Large platform companies will continue to harvest data on a global scale and become too-big-to-fail. However, these scenarios might give some impetus to citizens to put pressure on governments and corporations to push for  democracy 2.0. Here is my mash-up of these two initiatives. (more…)

our echo-chambers can kill us

Cultural Echo-chambers

Innovation is about making connections — connecting people and connecting ideas. The broader and deeper the connections, the more potential for serendipity. This is why systemic factors like gender or racial bias put organizations and societies at a disadvantage. They lose diversity and they become less innovative. History has shown us this, such as the chase for the atomic bomb during the Second World War. The Germans refused to engage Jewish scientists, some of whom then worked for the eventually successful US Manhattan Project.  Looking further back in time, when Tasmania was cut off from the rest of the Australian continent 10,000 years ago, Tasmanian society began to lose much of its collective knowledge.

“If your number of minds working on the problem gets small enough, you can actually begin to lose information. There’s a steady state level of information that depends on the size of your population and the interconnectedness. It also depends on the innovativeness of your individuals, but that has a relatively small effect compared to the effect of being well interconnected and having a large population.” –How Culture Drove Human Evolution

As Esko Kilpi states, “Unlike mechanical systems, human systems thrive on variety and diversity.”

Our echo-chambers can kill us. (more…)