Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (April 2021)

Deep fake technology

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed, seeing how Amazon won’t support public library systems and how good / prevalent deepfake technology is becoming.

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

You are seeing aspects of this with fashion taking on surveillance, Google finally being called out for the not so incognito mode in Chrome and introducing a progressive tax-like system following Apples store changes.


Meet the disruptors at publicspaces

Ian thinks: From the publicspaces conference where you can watch all the talks. I personally found Melanie Rieback and post growth entrepreneurship quite inspirational for all those new startups. We need more of this!

Evidence disappearing right under your nose

Ian thinks: This short documentary from VPRO, highlights the problem with archiving and moderation in critical cases like war crimes.

TransCopyright realised with Micropayments?

Ian thinks: Delivered at Mozfest 2021, Amber got me thinking when she mentions the dream of Ted Nelson’s TransCopyright (co-creator of hypertext) realised using web monetisation for attribution.

Why the excitement over non-fungible tokens?

Ian thinks: March become the month when most people heard the term non-fungible tokens for the first time, likely for a piece of art which sold for the equivalent of 69 million.

Some of the facts and myths surrounding China & America explained

Ian thinks: Useful overview from Wired magazine on the clear differences between the two but also the misconceptions which are portrayed by the media and each other.

We all knew Facebook is hooked on mis-information

Ian thinks: Interesting to see Facebook time their AI fairness paper on the same day. Who are they trying to kid?

A bank is the last place I think about when thinking purpose and human rights?

Ian thinks: I’m not so sure how much is honest in this video but Paypal, are not just saying the right thing but actually doing. Such a important difference from a lot of the D&I efforts being talked about now.

Forget GDP, Its time for a new metric and the UN is engaged

Ian thinks: Its great to hear the UN is considering a move away from GDP to natural capital. Its about time the alternatives are taken deadly seriously, for the benefit of us all. Of course BBC R&D are researching Human Values in a similar mind.

The walled garden is the new security through obscurity?

Ian thinks: Feeling comfortable behind a walled garden can make you reliant on them for security, but like the MIT piece makes clear this can be a bad mistake for your own security


Find the archive here

Publicspaces: You are not alone, join us…

I have been asked by friends and family what I do and I reply with a number of research questions. One of them boils down to researching what is the public service internet? When you start to break this down, theres a number of aspects including the physical network, protocols, apis, etc. But theres also the network of collaborators.

One of the collaborators I work closely with is the mainly Dutch publicspaces collective. I’ll be honest they are a amazing group of people and recently worked directly with them on the publicspaces conference as mentioned previously.

I share the interview with GJ which was filmed just before the conference, as a nice summary of Publicspaces but you should read the manifesto.

The Publicspaces conference kicked off in fine style. Originally Thursday 11th March was the European conference with Friday 12th March being the Dutch one. However things changed, which worked well. Heck I even learned a tiny tiny amount of Dutch during the conference, while managing a panel and taking part on another one.

The conference was excellent and you can see all the videos for all the sessions by clicking the one which sounds interesting. Some of my favor sessions include the keynotes chaired by the incredible Marleen Stikker, building connections, failed encounters and meet in the middle.

One of the main outcomes of the conference was for it to be a start of journey, in the Mozilla/Mozfest words… Arrive with an idea and leave with a community.

I personally have reached out to a few of the speakers and people in the community since the conference including Melanie Rieback. The community came together and we are now hanging out on Matrix.org under #PublicSpacesInt.matrix.org. We also started putting together the map of the network, which is ongoing work. There is also a special meeting happening on the 9th of April following the panel around the need for a digital European publicspace.

Found any of this interesting? Join a growing worldwide community on matrix (not just the Netherlands or even Europe).

How have I never come across Melanie Rieback?

One of the many highlights from the excellent Publicspaces conference today was discovering Melanie Rieback.

Everything I thought about after seeing the first dotcom/bomb era and seeing many friends chasing the dream of Silicon Valley’s unicorn. I struggled to come up with an alternative to the completely unsustainable growth charts going up and to the right. A few times I would talk about something which sounded closer to social entrepreneurship and Bcorps, and won’t lie drove my decision to work for a public company.

Melanie alongside Ethan Zuckerman talked about what it means to be truly disruptive. As you can imagine, its not the startup unsustainable formulaic pipe dream which every startup team/creator is hard sold.

Seeing post growth entrepreneurship, there is a lot here and speaks volumes to the work BBC R&D around sustainability and human values. I found this post a good summary, especially starting with Doughnut economics which I recently read and recommend.

The problem with exponential growth

The economist Kate Raworth makes beautiful analogies with nature in her book Doughnut economics. She says for instance that any living organism – let’s say a tree or a dog or a child – grows very quickly, almost exponentially at the very beginning of its life. At a certain point in time that growth starts to flatten off. Then it stops growing and starts thriving. If that tree wants to keep growing even though it already has reached its maximum size, it drops seeds. Then these seeds can grow again until they reach their maximum size. And so on. If this is how nature does it, why should it be any different with our businesses?

Exponential growth curve

This exponential curve is ubiquitous. You will find it in every MBA programme, every start-up incubator, pop culture, etc. It is very hard to get away from this curve. It’s the Silicon Valley model of entrepreneurship. There are three parts to this model:

  1. Capital
  2. Scaling
  3. Exit

I’m coming around to the notion, scale is the enemy of humanity. and likely fits in the unknown unknowns?

Like Kate Raworth who calls herself the rouge economist, I can see why Melanie Rieback’s ideas for post growth entrepreneurship doesn’t go down well with startup incubators, investment angels and VCs.

Looking forward to making the rouge/alternatives the everyday!