Best of Thinking Digital Newcastle 2016

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Yes I know its actually Gateshead but Herb Kim did call it TDCNCL after the newcastle train station short code? This also cuts out the confusion with Thinking Digital Manchester & London.

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get to Gateshead for this years Thinking Digital as its harder to justify with the Manchester one right on my doorstep. But there is something about the venue and atmosphere in the Sage which just makes a already excellent conference, great! Hall 2 in the Gateshead Sage is compact but the arrangement of seats just makes everyone feel like part of the event. This year was different as this year Thinking Digital went ahead with the 1.5 day format. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work but it seemed to work…

The workshop on the first day kicked off procedings. I signed up to the clearing the air workshop which I felt could have some good tips for running workshops and meetings in a more formal manner.

I wasn’t disappointed as I came out with lots of different techniques for getting a constructive meeting for all. At one point, I asked a question of Alison and she got where I was going with it down to a tee. You mentioned neurodiversity and started to give tips considering a range of diverse people.

It was Saul Cousins I think, who said this workshop wasn’t his first choice but he was very glad he choose it as a second place. Because I got agreement to come at the last minute, I had less choices but I was very happy with what I got back. I also found parallels with what me and Marie had done at Thinking Digital Manchester last year. We all seemed to be hovering around the same ideas.

As usual I tend to pick out the best talks and give them credit.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Mikko has spoken at Thinking Digital Newcastle a few times if I remember correctly and everytime I have nothing but praise for he talks. He’s got a endless supply of stories from the dark side of data security. This time he’s focus was on ransomware, this seamenly new type of crime. Seamenly because as Miko pointed out the AIDS malware was writen many years earlier and did the exact same thing.

During the end of his talk, I was also thinking about the lack of diversity in devices and services. This came after Mikko mentioned some ransomware which searches for Apple time machines and encrypts that too. I guess the job is made easier by most Apple users using the defaults? Easy of use or opionated design being exploited?

Lots to take away, but the main one being don’t click those links in emails (yes this was drummed home through-out the talk)

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Sarah I hadn’t actually come across before in real life but I was a little bit aware of her in passing through things I had read surrounding ethics of data, blockchains and idenity blogs. Herb set her up and she explained not only what a blockchain was but also why and where they are useful. It was a hard task but Sarah did a good job without getting too lofty.

I caught her briefly afterwards and said what a great job she had done and that we must get together and talk about the databox work, which I believed UCL are a part of. Hopefully next time I’m down in London and schedules work out.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Edward is a drummer influced by the prodigy album Music for the Jilted Generation, who then wanted to create house music using drums. Yes it sounds kind of insane but true. I mean how do you bang out a consistent 130 beats per minute over the course of 4-8 minutes? Thats pretty serious before you even consider all the other stuff which goes into house music.

Luckily with the advances in technology, its become a lot easier to control more elements from any interface you are happy to use. Ed performed and showed how it all works. I was certainly bouncing my head around as he played.

Ed contuned the great legacy of music at Thinking Digital.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

James talk frustrated me mainly because Microsoft Bing seemed to be capturing contextual data but for the simple (I say simple but compared to more interesting uses) sake of a better search result. This wound me up because I’m sure I tweeted something like…

This is only half the puzzle.

This is something I’ll touch on in my presentation in Bucharest. You need both contextual data and adaptive narratives. Google’s effort to understand the semantic meaning behind web pages, allows them to adapt the search results. Hence I ask (regularlly in Manchester) “should I take my umbrella with me?” It knows where I am, knows roughly where I’m going and the weather report. Rather than send me a weather pre made weather report, it answers back with a tailor answer drawn from the data its understood.

I’m not saying this isn’t what Bing is also trying to do but it didn’t come across that way. I felt they were missing the bigger picture.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Tom is usually the final talk but after 9 years doing many things including lighting his sweater on fire, coming back from the future and many other interesting antics. He injected his style of famous style of humour into the emoji debate.

Funny and enlighening? Thats Tom Scott.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

Katherine talked dispelled the crap (litterally) of whats going on in our gut. She talked about the microbiome and how it all worked. It was a good talk which honestly I hadn’t really considered or thougth about before. It was good to hear most fermented veg was as or even better than those probiotics yogurts which are all the rave now. More Kimchi and Miso is something I wrote into my mindmapped notes. Never really been a fan of those yogurts, always left feeling slightly sick.

The best image has the be the one below which sums up more than anyone would ever want.

Thinking Digital 2016 Newcastle

With Tom moved from his regular slot, I was wondering who could possibily end Thinking Digital on a high like previous years? Step forward MT Rainey OBE.

I knew nothing about MT, but it become very clear that she had worked with Apple and Steve Jobs in the very early days. I simply can’t do her talk any justice in my review as she covered many accounts of meeting Steve Jobs. She also touched on the multiple films including the latest one (steve jobs) and the Ashton Kutcher one (Jobs). She felt the latest one (Aaron Sorkin’s) was more correct but Micheal Fassbender got steve very wrong. He was more like Ashton Kutcher, which to be honest makes a lot of sense.

Lovely quote to consider in her talk about Steve Jobs…

Ideas are a powerful patient for a brand

And the observation about lack of woman in Apple and the movies

It was another great Thinking Digital and I got to give John Thorp, Irini Papadimitriou,Will Dracup and Joe Faith credit for some very good talks too. I believe all the talks can be now watched here.

The 1.5 day format worked, my only grumble is when I go to Thinking Digital Newcastle, I tend to take most of the week. This means I’m fully present in the conference, open minded to all the talks and thinking about the connections. With a day lost, I felt the need to get back into emails during my stay, when usually I would leave it to next week. But I do totally understand. So over all it worked…

Lets talk about dating in the 21st century – Sunday 1st November

I have the absolute pleasure of sharing my knowledge, experiences and thoughts about online dating (or as I prefer dating generally) as a ragged university talk at one of my favourite venues, the royal exchange in central Manchester.

It on Sunday 1st November from 2pm – 5pm and its free to attend, so there is no excuse for not coming out to listen and take part in the discussion! I won’t even be using slides this time, it will be just me talking and throwing some thought out for people to discuss and fire back at me. Its going to be pretty raw or even ragged… (pun!)

I’m going to refer to quite a bit of stuff Aziz talks about in modern romance and heck might even use some of his open data source.

It won’t just be me, there will be Amber from Bristol University talking about the Mafia if you are less interested in the ways people meet and date in the 21 century.

I was introduced to Ragged talks when I attended one a while ago in the Castle Hotel. I liked the idea and instantly signed up to give a talk about something , of course I was pleased when I was given the green light to talk about dating and how much its changed from previous years gone by.

So what you waiting for…? Sign up now and I’ll see you at the Royal Exchange for a good discussion about dating. In the meanwhile, here’s my surface level talk about the same subject at the royal institution.

TDC14: Forget skynet, female-kind is ready for the shift

Thinking Digital 2014

I love conferences which have me almost punching for the sky in a FTW! (for the win) style. Thinking Digital 2014 almost had me at points punching the sky. Now in its 7th year! Thinking Digital hasn’t lost any of its impact and is still a pleasure to attend and take part in.

There is always great talks from the stage and I always have a hard time writing up the best ones to me. But this year I have had to separate out a couple of talks which really got me going for different reasons.

The one previous to this post is Aral’s talk from Thinking Digital and my personal thoughts interleaved. The next one I had to separate out is part two of Blaise Aguera y Arcas’s talk about machine intelligence and social changes. I got the feeling Blaise, had wanted to do this talk for a long while but never really had the platform to do so till Herb Kim allowed him the space to bring his thoughts together.

The basic talk was…

machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics.

Each one Blaise wrote about on his blog a while back.

He started off talking about everybody is worried about machine intelligence over taking human intelligence, the singularity, etc. Replacing jobs isn’t new and actually the move away from back breaking jobs isn’t such a bad thing. The move away from these back breaking jobs which require a lot of testosterone to jobs which are collaborative in nature is a good thing.

Then on to trends showing what females earn as a whole against their male counterparts is increasing but the amount of females university and beyond educated is growing massively compared to the males. Aka there will be many more women earning much closer to what men earn. We may see the end of the glass ceiling at long last?

Thinking Digital 2014

Right with all that in mind, less testosterone driven jobs and finally a culture more accepting of collaboration plus a workforce to suit. You got a different mindset writing the machine algorithms and code to power the machine intelligence.

Thats the basic premise (and I know it hinges on a lot of stereotypes and questions, I may be doing Blaise a disservice but to be honest you need to hear Blaise talk about it and making the points. The crux is that women will dominate economically and society will reflect and favor a less testosterone driven approach going forward. The idea of machine intelligence given a cock and balls was floated as a very bad thing. Interestingly

This for lots of male kind is worrying as they suddenly feel the strangle hold they held for so long slip away. There will be a backlashes and your already seeing some of it including the redpill community.

Thinking Digital 2014

In a surprising move by Herb, he opened the floor for questions. Of course knowing me I had to ask a question. I thought about it but had to tell the question is something I didn’t really think too much about because there was plenty of thoughts and connections floating around my head. The question came out and with some clarification I made the hole a little deeper for myself.

The question I was trying to ask was about the social backlash from female-kind (Blaise had only talked about the male backlash). I also used stereotypes to illustrate the point including the height factor, suggesting women may want a testosterone driven man over the alternative. By this point it was pretty much over and I gave up making the point. But interestingly Jemima understanding where I was going with the question, chimed in and gave a better question based on what I meant.

It was a truly fascinating talk and my number one highlight of Thinking Digital 2014. I really feel like I’ve not done Blaise’s talk enough justice… Hopefully once the videos are up, I will link to them and revisit this one. I said Blaise’s talk could be summed up like this. Machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics. Somewhere in there diversity of ideas and thought is changing the way we think about machine intelligence and this is a very good thing. Not everything has to be zero-sum and like it or not that seems to be a testosterone fueled thing.

Here’s Blaise’s thought from his blog which gives a lot more insight and information, than I could.

Documentarlly did a great little interview with Blaise on Audioboo

Machine Intelligence

I think that just as the Inter­net has been such a great dri­ver of change across so many spheres over the past 20 years, we will see machine intel­li­gence in the same role over the com­ing decades.

Today, we are as an intel­li­gent species essen­tially sin­gu­lar. There are of course some other brainy species, like chim­panzees, dol­phins, crows and octo­puses, but if any­thing they only empha­size our unique posi­tion on Earth— as ani­mals richly gifted with self-awareness, lan­guage, abstract thought, art, math­e­mat­i­cal capa­bil­ity, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and so on. Many of us have staked our entire self-concept on the idea that to be human is to have a mind, and that minds are the unique province of humans. For those of us who are not reli­gious, this could be inter­preted as the last bas­tion of dual­ism. Our eco­nomic, legal and eth­i­cal sys­tems are also implic­itly built around this idea.

Now, we’re well along the road to really under­stand­ing the funda­men­tal prin­ci­ples of how a mind can be built, and Moore’s Law will put brain-scale com­put­ing within reach this decade. (We need to put some aster­isks next to Moore’s Law, since we are already run­ning up against cer­tain lim­its in compu­ta­tional scale using our present-day approaches, but I’ll stand behind the broader state­ment.) When we reach this point, we will find our­selves no longer alone. It’s dif­fi­cult to over­state the impor­tance that moment will have in our future history.

It may well result in fur­ther non­lin­ear­ity in the “rate” of his­tory too, since minds and what we’ve dreamt up with them have been the engine behind his­tory and its acceleration.

Gen­der Selection

For many thou­sands of years we’ve lived in a male-dominated soci­ety. I don’t think that we’re shift­ing toward “female dom­inance” so much as I think that the whole idea of dom­i­nance is a male par­a­digm, and that it is this par­a­digm that is being selected against— by increas­ing pop­u­la­tion den­sity in the urban cores, increas­ing edu­ca­tion, larger work­ing groups, increas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion, ris­ing tech­no­log­i­cal lever­age, global trade and so on. It may be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine this now, when the vast major­ity of the world’s cap­i­tal is still in the hands of men and many of the STEM fields (which are also among the highest-paid) are still over­whelm­ingly male, but I think that men— and espe­cially “manly men” exhibit­ing many of the clas­si­cal cor­re­lates of high testos­terone— will be at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage in 30 years time. This rep­re­sents a pro­found upset of the patri­ar­chal sys­tem that has defined vir­tu­ally all of recorded his­tory, so … it’ll be a big deal.

Post-subsistence Economics

As machine intel­li­gence, robot­ics, and tech­no­log­i­cal lever­age in gen­eral increas­ingly decou­ple pro­duc­tiv­ity from labor, we will con­tinue to see unem­ploy­ment rise even in oth­er­wise healthy economies. The end state is one in which most forms of human labor are sim­ply not required. In 30 years, if not sooner, we will be fac­ing this unprece­dented sit­u­a­tion— and whether it’s heaven or hell depends on whether we’re able to let go of cap­i­tal­ism, eco­nomic Dar­win­ism and the Calvin­ist ethics that implic­itly under­lie these sys­tems. With­out a change of course, we will see mass unem­ploy­ment drive a rad­i­cal accel­er­a­tion of the already dra­matic imbal­ance between the very wealthy few and every­one else, lead­ing to ugly con­di­tions in the cities and ulti­mately vio­lent uprising.

On the other hand, if we are able to set aside our Calvin­ism, we will real­ize that given the tech­no­log­i­cal effi­cien­cies we have achieved, every­one can live well, with or with­out a job. Cap­i­tal­ism, entre­pre­neur­ship and other sys­tems of dif­fer­en­tial wealth cre­ation could still func­tion on top of this hor­i­zon­tal base; but every­one must be fed and housed decently, have access to free health care and edu­ca­tion, and be able to live a good life. I assume the nation-state will still be a rel­e­vant legal and eco­nomic con­struct in 30 years (though I’m not sure, as cor­po­ra­tions or pos­si­bly other struc­tures will com­pli­cate the pic­ture); my guess is that we will see both paths taken in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, lead­ing to mis­ery and war in some, where either the ben­e­fits of accel­er­at­ing tech­nol­ogy are slow to pen­e­trate or Dar­win­ian eco­nom­ics are left unchecked.

Sex­ual and lifestyle freedom

In 30 years, I think that not only will the more pro­gres­sive places in the world have fin­ished rec­on­cil­ing them­selves to the wide spec­trum of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and expres­sion, but also to a wide vari­ety of life con­fig­u­ra­tions beyond the nuclear fam­ily built around a sin­gle life­long pair-bond. There are many forces con­tribut­ing to this shift, and I sus­pect that an empir­i­cal case can be made for this in much the same way as for the gen­der ideas above. This is the least devel­oped of my six ideas, but one that I think will have pro­found implications.