Income, wealth inequality and corporate monopolies

I found this video a interesting watch. A couple of the guests Timothy Snyder and Anand Giridharadas, focused on income and wealth inequality and corporations/monopolies.

Timothy Snyder reminded me very much of the talk and books (the spirit level and inner level) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett of the equality trust.

SNYDER: One of the fundamental problems with our American, right-wing politics of inevitability is that it generates income and wealth inequality and it explains away income and wealth inequality. And so, you get this cycle where, objectively, people are less and less well off and subjectively we keep telling ourselves this is somehow okay because in the grand scheme of things this is somehow necessary. Individuals and families no longer think ‘I’ve got a bright future.’ They no longer believe—and this is something Mr. Trump got right even if he has no solution and he’s making things worse on purpose—they no longer believe in the American Dream. And they’re correct not to do so. If you were born in 1940, your chances of doing better than your parents were about 90 percent. If you were born in 1980 your chances are about one in two and it keeps going down. So, wealth inequality means the lack of social advance, means a totally different horizon—it means that you see life in a completely different way. You stop thinking time is an arrow which is moving forward to something better and you start thinking hmm, maybe the good old days were better. Maybe we have to make America great again and you get caught in these nostalgic loops. You start thinking it can’t be my fault that I’m not doing better, so whose fault is it? And then the clever politicians instead of providing policy for you provide enemies for you. They provide language for you with which you can explain why you’re not doing so well. They blame the other, whether it’s the Chinese or the Muslims or the Jews or the Blacks or the immigrants and that allows you to think okay, time is a cycle, things used to be better but other people have come and they’ve taken things away from me. That’s how the politics of inevitability becomes the politics of eternity. Wealth inequality, income inequality, is one of the major channels by which that happens.

While Anand Giridharadas reminded me of Cory Doctorow’s new book/post in medium.

GIRIDHARADAS: If you’re telling me that there are companies that do none of this stuff, that pay people well, that don’t dump externalities into the economy, that don’t cause social problems. If there are such companies that exist, yeah, then once you’ve taken care of all that, great, doing some projects to help people is great. But I haven’t found very many such companies and more often than not when companies do a lot of CSR it’s because they understand that they’re not on the right side of justice in their day operations, so they want to do virtue as a side hustle. And the problem is a lot of these companies tend to create harm in billions and then do good in the millions. And you don’t need to be a mathematician to know that we’re the losers from that bargain. And you look at the B Corp movement, there’s a lot of companies that actually have an interest in trying to invent a new kind of company that is not predatory. There is, in the B Corp movement, a certification process for those companies now. The challenges of them is that it’s a great thing but it’s fundamentally voluntary and what this does is it means that if you’re an already good, virtuous company you may be motivated to get into this club. But if you’re Exxon or Pepsi you’re not going to be in this club. One of the things I’d like to see is how can we actually use the power of public policy to get more companies to sign up to simply not dump harm, social harm, into our society whether that takes the form of toxic sludge or obese children or workers with unpredictable hours and income.

The full transcript is here.

 

Happy Holidays to family, friends and followers (2019)

Happy Holidays card
Image taken during 2019 from my window

Here is my holiday card for the festive holiday period; for family, friends and followers. Happy Holidays and although I’m concerned about 2020 from a political and technology point of view. I’m also aware 2020 is a new decade to really embed some of the smaller changes into our future.

Enjoy the festive period and lets fight for the future in the decade of 2020.  2020 needs to be about humankind or even not faceless corporations, fake promises, lies and political manipulation. The era of human values and when we reverse global warming.

Rethink work: less professionalism will get you ahead

Most of the time, I think quite a lot about how the workplace is massively changing. I got into a conversation recently about my calendaring and why I wasn’t using the company calendaring system.

Although its a bit of a pain for colleague, the opposite is hell for myself. Diving myself into work and personal is something which doesn’t work in my head. I know it works for many people but the lack of flexibility is problematic.

Some would say its unprofessional but like the video points at, the future of work isn’t about people repeating the same task again and again.

As my tag line goes… Sometimes I forget my world is not mainstream (yet)

Flight shaming is taking off?

Flight shaming is taking off (nice pun), can travel be more ethical? Is something I read and think about quite a bit (the flying bit of course).

I’m guilty of flying a lot, for example a few months ago I flew to Amsterdam and back in the same day. Besides it being a bloody long day, I did spare a thought about my carbon mileage for the day. I did fly on one of those e propeller planes there and back, which I gather is better than a jet airplanes? But the flight shaming isn’t going away.

I think its a balance of understanding and conscious decisions. I agree with the writer of the guardian piece, that a family of 4 on a train to Spain isn’t at all practical and I personally can’t think of a better way to get there with kids. Yes going somewhere local is a nice idea but thats ignoring the cultural benefits of going to other countries.

Weirdly enough this came up in Re:publica, which I need to blog about fully. Johan Rockstorm’s talk was super sobering and someone asked him how it got to Berlin for the conference (maybe consciously or non-cons iosuly) flight shaming him.

He’s reply was good and balanced.

…so how can you get you know the world to transport itself in a sustainable way I think that the that the solutions is therefore not to go out and simply say stop flying I mean that that would be like the only message because I think that that just just creates a deeper rift between the aware environmental movement and everyone who just says oh no I’m not gonna I’m not gonna sacrifice that and therefore I rather put my head in the sand and and create my own little fake news story of something that will somehow make this not happen so therefore I think the solution for us to succeed to really have even the in does indifferent majority to surf along with us is to you know show that sustainability is the entry point for a better life that we can achieve better quality of life not just through by consuming and unnecessarily flying when we don’t need to yeah of course of course as in all forms of excessive consumption…

The living room of the future at the V&A museum

Living room of the future at the V&A Museum

Recently I had the joy of taking the living room of the future to the Victorian & Albert museum as part of London design week’s digital weekender. Its something I mentioned a few times previously.

It was quite a weekend with 97 people going through the experiences; Lancaster Uni’s living room primer, the original living room experience (as we had in Liverpool) and special showing of the S3A’s vostok.

We likely could have had more but the V&A’s maze like design made it very difficult for people to get to our ground stand in time for the 5min tour to the living room experience on the 3rd floor unfortunately. We actually over 200 people signed up via the free eventbrite link.

I personally apologise to everyone who couldn’t find our space on the ground floor or turned up late because of the maze like experience.

Lancaster Uni’s living room primer

The Lancaster’s living room primer using visual perceptive drama to make the point loud and clear. It uses Visual Perceptive Media footage to tell the story of the Break Up, which was written by Julius Amedume back in 2015.

Its quite a playful experience and is much more explicit about what its doing as a whole. This is why I call it a primer for the living room.

Living room of the future

Living room of the future

The original living room experience in full effect

Showing off the ambient nature of the experience which can be built using the living room framework. It was created with artists from the Western Balkans and Czech republic, and made possible with 3 UK universities Nottingham (databox), Lancaster (iot) and York (obm), FACT Liverpool, the British Council and our successful bid for the Objects of immersion.

It really shows whats possible with something much more abstract than explicit.

Living room of the future at the V&A Museum

Living room of the future at the V&A Museum

The Vostok-K Incident – 3D Spatial Audio demo

We always wanted to use 3D spatial audio in the original living room but we built the living room using similar technology as our timeframe for research was quite different. Its clear we would use S3A in the future. You could imagine a S3A app running on Databox, keeping the same privacy first HDI framework model we pushed earlier on.

You can read a lot more about it here and try it out for yourself here

Living room of the future at the V&A Museum

Living room of the future at the V&A Museum

All three experiences show off the possibilities and what could be coming to your living room in the near future. Looking forward to seeing what others could do with these technologies?

Its the Tamagotchi where the future went wrong?

My Tamagotchi is everything that went wrong with our future

Is one of those articles you read and shake your head realising the hard truth and how right it is…

The Tamagotchi offers the option to turn off the sound. But if I turn it off, I’ll miss the notifications and accidentally kill my hateful son. At this point, I’ve kept him alive for so long, I’d feel too guilty to pull the plug on my virtual spawn.

And anyway, what’s one more beeping annoyance in my life? The Tamagotchi is just another red dot for me to clear off yet another screen. At least this one doesn’t monetize my engagement through targeted advertising.

My smartphone, I’ve realized, is also a Tamagotchi. My laptop is a Tamagotchi. My tablet is a Tamagotchi. These new Tamagotchis have nicer screens and more than three buttons, but more importantly, they’re hooked into much more elaborate guilt trips. Now it‘s not just a virtual pet at stake; it’s my friends, my family, and my work being held hostage in order to keep me pressing these stupid buttons.

My favorite new development in our terrible Tamagotchi future? The “digital well-being” trend to “fix” smartphone “addiction.” More Tamagotchi buttons, so my Tamagotchis can stay alive longer.

Terrifying vision of the future, by looking at the past… no idea why it persisted in its different forms honestly…

Re-decentralising the internet one step at a time

2 sides of the internet

You may have noticed a lot of blog posts about decentralising the internet? Last year I had the pleasure of spacewrangling the decentralised space at Mozfest, and I wrote down my reasons why I switched from the privacy and security space while in Tallinn. This year I won’t be spacewrangling (although I’m very happy to see Mark and Ross still involved in the wrangling)

Here’s the call for action.

Can the world be decentralised?

In this parallel dimension, people self-organise into open groups that create art, write code, and even build cities. Their technology runs on consensus and their society is fuelled by data. But data is not just a resource — it’s an extension of individual identity and collective culture. People give informed consent to data gathering and enjoy transparency of use.

Journey to a new world and bring back powerful, resilient technology; explore radical, paradigm-shifting ideas; and take part in cutting-edge discourse. Explore protocols like DAT, IPFS and ActivityPub, alongside ideas such as net neutrality and proof of stake. Experience decentralised platforms like Matrix and Mastodon, and support the equal commons of all.

Let’s discover this wonderland, together.

I do have things I want to submit and the deadline is August 1st. So you got some time to put something in, and it doesn’t need to be super detailed, just enough to explain the overall idea. Get in there and submit now!

Buckminster Fuller's quote
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete

My thoughts about important this really is goes super deep, as I’ve seen how the internet has been hijacked by a monolithic culture of private businesses with a winner takes all attitude.

Of course I’m not the only one thinking and talking about this. Many people and organisations are, including the W3C, Mozilla, Dot Everybody, BBC and Nesta to say a few.

I’ll be joining a critical panel about this exact thing at Futurefest this weekend. Tickets are still available and to be honest 2 years ago I was blown away by the festival topics and speakers.

The internet isn’t where we want it to be. With power increasingly centralised in the hands of very few players, citizens have little say in where we want the internet to go next. But challenging existing dynamics won’t be easy: we find ourselves caught in the crossfire between the dominant American models (driven by Big Tech) and the increasingly powerful Chinese model (where government reigns supreme). Is there scope to create a third, European model, where citizens and communities are in charge?

In this session, we discuss alternative trust models for the internet. This session is part of the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative. We will hear from Manon den Dunnen, strategic specialist at the Dutch National Police, Ian Forrester, Chief Firestarter at BBC R&D and Marta Arniani, innovation strategist and founder of Futuribile / Curating Futures. Chairing will be Katja Bego, senior researcher at Nesta and coordinator of the Next Generation Internet Engineroom project.

Sounds like a very good panel right? I can’t see many punches being pulled either. Get your ticket now.

TED2018_20180414_1RL3522_1920

Finally something else related which I saw recently is Baratunde Thurston‘s New tech manifesto.

This project is based on the Medium feature for its “Trust Issues” series launched in June 2018. That feature was written by Baratunde Thurston, focused on data, and titled:

A New Tech Manifesto: Six demands from a citizen to Big Tech

We present the Living room of the future…

living room of the future flyer

I’ve been working on the living room of the future and write about it quite a few other places including the BBC R&D blog.

Its part of the reason for the radio silence recently, but honestly the team of 3 universities and 2 arts organisations have been hard at work to create the live demonstrator of the living room of the future.

living room of the future

I won’t lie, its bloody exciting not only for the experience but what it enables and stands for. I highly recommend taking part in the research if you are able to come to Liverpool from Thursday 3rd – 8th May.

Of course I don’t want to reveal too much and although its hard to do much of a spoiler as its about a shared experience. Our twitter bot is doing a good job showing the inners of what going on if you are wondering.

There has been a question for a while which people always ask. Why the living room? To which I answer sensitive place, common private area for discussions, there are existing social hierarchies at play in the space and its place for small audiences. Its also a complex space which I’ve seen talked about a lot recently.

BD3-34 - Pilsen St bedsit with armchair

I found Millennials don’t need living rooms, piece from the Independent fascinating.

A prominent architect has argued millennials do not need living rooms and their housing prospects would be greatly improved if size regulations were overhauled.

Patrik Schumacher, who took over as head of Zaha Hadid Architects after the legendary founder died in early 2016, said “hotel room-sized” studio flats were ideal for young people who led busy lives.

In a paper published by the Adam Smith Institute, he suggested size rules should be reviewed to increase the number of studio flats available to those on lower incomes.

While a 25-square-metre flat is the minimum in Japan, in the UK the minimum is 37 square metres for a one-bed.

Although reading through the piece, it sounds like a land grab to change the regulation and fit even more property in smaller spaces. There is a slight point that the price of property is super high and this could help (IF) prices don’t increase they are currently.

Polly Neate, CEO of housing charity Shelter, hit back at the architect’s remarks. “Tiny homes don’t necessarily mean cheaper homes, and at Shelter we know that having a decent place to live is vital for people’s well-being. So compromising on space and quality isn’t going to do anyone any favours,” she told The Independent.

“Homes in the UK are not expensive because they are too large, they are too expensive because our housing market is broken. When big developers realise they can squeeze, for example, 20 tiny homes on the same patch of land that once fit just ten then the price of land will rise to reflect this.

“The solution to the housing crisis is not to build ever smaller homes but to bring down the price of land and build the type of genuinely affordable homes that people actually want to live in.”

My thoughts went back and forth while reading but I wondered if the living space is squeezed what will disappear? Maybe the living room or kitchen will be first to go, looking at Japanese flats for example.

There was a choice in building the living room of the future, that it should be big or small? What was it it and what wasn’t. We decided on small to reflect the trend on smaller shared spaces and the need for the 3rd space.

Looking at the other side of the living room project, it was also fascinating to read about the UK’s first smarthome with Apple home kit baked in. The obviously scares the life out of me but every buyer of smart homes should read the house which spied on me and also the follow up which explains how it worked.

The house which spied on me

In December, I converted my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco into a “smart home.” I connected as many of my appliances and belongings as I could to the internet: an Amazon Echo, my lights, my coffee maker, my baby monitor, my kid’s toys, my vacuum, my TV, my toothbrush, a photo frame, a sex toy, and even my bed.

Its super revealing and a very good long read. It speaks volumes about the different data which flows around our homes and spaces like the living room.

So what you waiting for, get yourself a ticket now!

15th Feb, a evening about the future of dating with myself?

Future of dating with Ian Forrester

I was asked by Ahmed and other Manchester futurists to talk about the future of dating. Of course I said sure thing…

So I have combined a few of my blog posts, thoughts and foresights into a combination which I actually think could be or could lead towards a possible future of the way we match and connect in the future.

Should be fun as it won’t be just a talk like the TEDX talk 2 years ago but a workshop involving people in creating their own dating service on the night.

Shooting the Proscenium Arch

https://www.flickr.com/photos/charmainezoe/12387932253

I heard the term but never really understood what the Proscenium Arch actually was…

In his 1997 book “Architects of the Web,” Rhapsody founder Rob Reid calls this phenomenon “shooting the proscenium arch,” referring to the “proscenium” that frames a traditional stage. It’s the idea that when new technology arrives, the first thing people do is try and force old technologies onto the new format. He writes:

“The proscenium arch has many forms, and it lurks at the birth of all media. Early radio broadcasters whose announcers read directly from newspapers were shooting the proscenium arch. TV broadcasters who pointed their cameras at chitchatting radio announcers were shooting it as well. But the proscenium arch’s day always passes quickly, as famil­iarity with a new medium grows, and content evolves in directions that its earliest pioneers could not have foreseen.”

Why the future of online dating is a bigger deal than you think

https://twitter.com/sitdowncomedian/status/924676036494798850

Mozilla Festival 2017 was great and I’m hoping to write up details as usual, but I wanted to give another pointer to Evan Prodromou for giving the session about dating on the open web.

I realize it seems trivial to people thinking only of press freedom, but romance and sexuality are a huge part of human existence. Almost all major dating sites are owned by a single company (Match.com). It’s an area that requires privacy and gradual disclosure. Open dating systems are fascinating — posting one or more profiles on the open web in a way that preserves your privacy but allows gradual disclosure and connection.

Evan’s slides had a lot in it but as there was a lot to cover, there wasn’t enough time for much discussion. On top of that, when talking about personal & sensitive topics, it sometimes takes time for people to warm up and join the discussion.

Almost 24 hours later in the same space (learning forum 2), I talked about the same subject. I started by flicking through Evan’s slides, looking at Tantek’s blog and throwing in my own thoughts about decentralised dating. As Evan said, it seems trivial to most people but it’s having a major effect on our society.

We had more discussion and although it doesn’t seem like it from the photo, had quite a few people joining. It was good to finally have that critical discussion about not just the technical make up of online dating but its good and bad effects on society and the core of our identity.

Another thing Evan started was to submit the problem space of online dating to the W3C as a community interest group. Although I couldn’t find it in the list of submitted, although he did start adding to a etherpad.

The future of personal transportation?

Bucharest tech week expo - future of travel

I had the joy of going to Bucharest as part of Techweek there. It was quite something and I honestly was caught totally unaware of how different from my previous experiences in eastern europe it was. The weather was wonderful and hot and I pretty much walked around with my swingblade trainers. My only complaint was having to give 1 star to a uber driver for a crazy ride.

While at Bucharest Techweek, there was a expo which showcased some of the latest consumer technology. It was very popular and for good reason. There was a lot of personal transportation technology. Everything from hoverboards & segways to electric assisted cycles & electric cars.

Bucharest tech week expo - future of travel

I hoped the electric skateboard would be great but it really sucked. It was more like a long board with little flexability you get with skateboards. I also tried one of those hoverboards and that thing with one big wheel and you sit on.

I spent a lot of time on a segway, something I haven’t done since BarCampLondon3 at Google’s headquarters in London Victoria many years ago.

Bucharest tech week expo - future of travel

But quickly moved from one with handle bars to one with the handle bar replaced with a thing between your legs. I’m happy to say I never crashed or fell off once. I actually got so comfortable with it that I started doing videos riding around the expo on it.

Such a shame you can’t legally ride these things around in the UK, you can actually buy it though; and not as bad as I first thought too. I mean expensive but not the 3k I guessed.

Time for Cities to Talk About Abandoning Meat?

Ikinari Steak
Hummmm I will certainly miss steak…

More calls to reconsider our meat intake for the sake of the planet. Adrian hon a while ago mentioned a similar thing, suggesting eating meat will become like smoking is now? People will do it but looked upon as maybe selfish and causing harm.

I’m confident that in a hundred years, eating meat will be regarded in the negative way we now view racism or sexism – an ugly, demeaning, and unnecessary act. Like smoking, it will simply fall out of fashion because we’ll find better and healthier alternatives, although we’ll still occasionally eat humanely reared-and-killed animals. Note that I still eat meat even though I should know better.

To be fair, although I am very much in favour of eating meat mainly because the alternatives will cause me harm or even kill me (I kid not). I have been professionally advised multiple times not consider being vegetarian for this exact reason. Yes I could survive but it would mean lots of supplements to make up the things I get from meat.

Although I do see this becoming a really big problem and honestly for the sake of sustainability and longevity of the planet I have started limiting my meat intake a little. However in this blog, there is a lot of arguments which seem to indicate a high cost (the real cost) of meat might make people reconsider? Controversial maybe but in the same way sugar tax came into effect in the UK recently, I’ll be interested in the data which comes back. Or other places where they have done this type of thing?

So why cities? The post has some interesting thoughts….

This is where cities come into play. Obesity and climate change are two of the biggest challenges they’ll face in the 21st century. Ninety percent of urban areas are coastal, and their citizens will be the ones to feel the effects of rising sea levels and freak weather most deeply. So, too, will their health services and economies experience undue strain as the majority of their residents tip the scales and become overweight or obese. For cities, the consequences of inertia will be fatal.

But action must be born out of more than just necessity. Cities are also well placed to manage these changes. (The successes mayors have had in promoting activities like cycling, for instance — which also delivers enormous health and environmental benefits — is a testament to this.) The c40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, featuring 40 of the planet’s most influential cities, has claimed that city leaders have the flexibility which nation states lack: “City mayors are directly accountable to their constituents for their decisions, and are more nimble than state and national elected officials to take decisive action — often with immediate and impactful results.”

And this means they can interface with their citizens directly, getting to the root of problems and attitudes — the fact is, one study found that 90 percent of people’s justifications for eating meat boil down to it being “nice, necessary, normal, or natural.” Meanwhile, the majority of “meat-reducers” in the United Kingdom attribute the choice to improving their personal health — not animal welfare. Cities can move the debate beyond the ideological quagmire that governments, media, and activist groups are currently bogged down in.

Lots to think about… and it certainly makes good points about how our cities could be the biggest driver for this all. Of course it’s always great see my home of Bristol mentioned quite a bit in the examples although I’m sure there are many other shiny examples all over. That and the writer might have a bias to Bristol too.

Emerging tech and Future narratives Manchester – #etechmcr

sometimes I forget my world isn't mainstream
sometimes I forget my world isn’t mainstream

I love living in Manchester but recently I noticed there is something missing.

Looking into the future…

I don’t mean tomorrow or even next year but 5-10 years out.

There’s a lot of initiatives like the recently won smart cities fund, graphene institute, quantified self, perceptive media, things/iot startups, open data, LoRa, 5G dev, crypto currencies and even DIYbio, etc… but you need to be in the right circles to hear about them.

So I started a event – Emerging Tech and Future Narratives meetup to highlight them and bring them to a wider audience. The name I will gladly admit comes partly from the amazing Oreilly Emerging Tech conferences.

Every event will be interesting and worthy of your time with special guests and fascinating topics.Not running on a regular schedule, it will be different but will fit around great speakers schedules.

This fits with what I do in BBC R&D and hope to combine some of our thoughts with the wider digital community in the North west and beyond.

I want to thank Jennifer O’Grady for clarifying my thoughts on this in a Friday lunchtime conversation in the northern quarter.