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…

How to make an impact online with myself

Just before Thinking Digital Manchester, myself and Mari did a workshop on increasing your personal impact. I was interviewed by Krishna for Sage (The major sponsor of Thinking Digital)

You can hear the whole interview above, soundcloud and of course on the Sage blog. The interview includes…

  • A debate about authenticity and what I feel it means
  • How I manage what I post and share online
  • How to become comfortable with your online profile
  • Perceptive media and what to expect in the future
  • How I decide where to put my energy online
  • What I call success…
  • What I would do differently if I was to start today.

Its a nice interview and thanks to Krishna for being so lovely. Of course Sage for the opportunity.

Highlights of Thinking Digital Manchester

Thinking Digital Manchester

Thinking Digital is a breath taking conference which always wows and has become a stable part of the conference scene in the UK.  It was great to hear that Manchester would play host to the conference, but there was a worry that it wouldn’t live up to the dizzy highs of Newcastle?

Herb and the team set about taking the core elements of Thinking Digital and mixing it with Manchester. The results were great… It made perfect sense, rather than roll into Manchester with a exact formula, they will let it grow and mature like how Newcastle did. The conference took place in the darken space of the largest cinema at HOME, so my pictures didn’t come out too well. It certainly wasn’t the intimate feeling you get in Newcastle but I’m sure that will change and mature over time.

So enough blabbering, lets talk about the highlights…

Thinking Digital Manchester
Eddie Obeng

I missed Eddie when he talked in Newcastle, mainly as he was the first on, the 2nd day but I like his presentation style and what he had to say about counter intuitive thinking. Social media is broken, video conferencing is broken and we are digitally obese from the sugar, salt and fat of the digital era. Aka easy to use, convenience, and free. Very interesting metaphor

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Conrad Wolfram

When ever I hear Wolfram talking about what they have done recently, I always think darn they are really doing stuff I could use within BBC R&D. It certainly was big data to better intelligence. The notion of insight is always a tricky but wolfram certainly seem to be leading this emerging field. Great to see a British innovator leading the field.

Thinking Digital Manchester
Julian Treasure

Julian I wrote about before at another Thinking Digital and his TED talk is something quite special with 4+ million views and very positive comments. Excellent talk and lots to think about when talking with purpose, which to be fair should be a lot of the time really.

Thinking Digital Manchester
LJ Rich

Herb must say to LJ, you have this much time and yes to anything you want. Shes an amazing woman with some seriously amazing ideas. Her thoughts about looking at the other senses, is exactly what I’ve been thinking for a long while. Why does Media have to be visual and audible? What about media which you feel and or smell?

LJ crafted a performance which was amazing to hear and see but also tightly focused around what you feel too. This was done with popping candy. At the right moment we all put the popping candy on our tongues and were treated to a wonderful symphony of interactive glitching with audio and video, representing a meteor storm.

I can only start to express how this all connected together to create a immerse experience like nothing else I can really explain while sitting in your seat.

I had the joy of talking to LJ about maybe doing something together in the future, so watch this space… Its one of those great things about Thinking Digital

Thinking Digital Manchester

Stephen Waddington

Stephen pretty much said most of the things me and Marie talked about in our workshop the day before on increasing your personal impact. There were things which we had to cut short including lots about the Cluetrain Manifesto. I think I was nodding my head through most of his talk, amazing a lot of this hasn’t just made its way into the conciousness of most people by now.

Thinking Digital Manchester
Pam Warhurst

Pam is a force of nature and I have written about her and her incredible (pun intended) work. I also got the chance to point out her wikipedia page is using the photo I shot at a previous thinking digital. I even told her I visited Todmordern purely because of her great work.

This time she talked about her aspirations to build a network joining all the other communities working on similar projects together. She is seeking people to get involved and help with the technical side of it all. I already said I was interested and just waiting for her to get in touch.

The idea of more civic/community driven startups (if thats the right classification) is something I’ve thought about a lot. It also reminds me that I must start that Civic startup manifesto following a conversation I had in BarCampManchester6 and attributing the excellent/crowd storming work the geeks of london did with the hackday manifesto.

Maybe I could link them in some way for the benefit of everybody?

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Tom Chatfield

Tom’s talk was like a episode of Freakonomics live. He covered so much in his talk that I struggled to keep up.

Really interesting to hear about limited mental resources we all have, or as I prefer attention. He went off into a blog post I pretty much wrote a few days ago around swipe left or right culture. Which was a result of the substitution of difficult questions with easy ones (swipe left or right). Then talked about how difficult questions make us feel stupid and somehow ended up with what are we and physical stuff is a feature not a bug.

Good talk, wish I spent some more time at the social chatting to him. I was sandwiched between Wolfram and Tom, and to be fair I thought it would be better if they were sitting next to each other.

Thinking Digital Manchester
Lemn Sissay

Another new person I have never seen or heard of, till about half way through his talk. Reminded me of Jason Silva in his poetic wording and unique style.

Like Tom, so much was said and indicated, it was hard to tie the talk down to one singular thing. But the diversity aspect was well said and had me silently clapping and grinning.

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I wrote down uniqueness and quality on my mindmap for Lemn’s talk, very fitting. Interesting the effect of uniqueness. I recently had a lot of comments about my latest trainers (Adidas Spring blades).

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Thinking Digital Manchester was a very good conference with lots to take away, it doesn’t quite yet touch the legendary Newcastle events but I remember the original Thinking Digital in 2008, I can imagine in a few years time, it will be another jewel in the Thinking Digital crown. Home is a excellent venue with the bar, food and plenty of social space. But the cinema layout doesn’t have a patch on the sage two’s theatre. Imagine Thinking Digital Manchester in the royal exchange…now that would be something!

Regardless, the whole event was run very well and you felt like there was just not enough time in the day. It was seamless even with the new rash of technical faults (never happens at TDC usually). The format also worked well, but I did feel the social did need more emphases, as a lot of people didn’t realise the main social was on the night before the conference. Which makes for some fuzzy mornings I can imagine.

Excellent work Herb Kim and team… Me and Marie are looking forward to coming back with a even better workshop next year

A busy few weeks between dating, personal impact, #tdcmcr and #mozfest

Tokyo rush

The next few weeks are going to be pretty busy…

As usual its kinda of stressful but ever-so exciting!

 

Best talks of Thinking Digital 2015

Thinking Digital 2015

Another year has flown by and I’m able to reflect on the Thinking Digital conference again in a blog post. Unfortunately this time I missed the workshops as I was giving a presentation at the BBC Connected Studio Drama lab in Shoreditch. But I jumped the last decent train to Newcastle and got there for 0045.

Because of the late arrival, this had a slight impact on my sleep and so I missed the very first talk of the day by Luciano Floridi. It was one which I had hoped to have seen, especially with my work around ethics in data. A lot of people talked about it, so I’ll have to check it out for sure.

Here’s my highlights of another great Thinking Digital conference. Can’t wait till see it in Manchester by the way!

Steve Mould
Steve Mould

Steve I heard talk last year at Thinking Digital a while back and he was excellent then and he didn’t drop in form this year. Touching on the Quantified Self, Data Portability and the consequences of our data collection. It was well meaning, funny and also full of things to think about. Already seeking out Festival of the spoken nerd

Seb Lee-Delisle
Seb Lee Delisle

Seb I’m sure I have met before but his talk was about the elegance and joy of coding. Of course this included coding live which was funny and painful all at the same time. Only the brave do live coding in front of a audience at a Ted like talk. Well done Seb for making it a joy.

Sam Aaron
Sam Aaron

Seb wasn’t the only one to do live coding from the Thinking Digital stage. Sam, took to the stage with Sonic-pi and belted out live music while explaining what he was doing and how. As always with live coding there were issue along the way but Sam kept his calm and humor. So fun, he was invited back to do an encore. Excellent stuff, may have to play myself, and I’d love to see a DJ version (maybe time to hack the code at DJ Hackday?)

Alexandra Depledge
Alexandra Depledge

I had never heard Alexandra’s story about hassle.com but I did try and use them to do my ironing a while back (which failed). Her story was pretty entertaining and gave a realistic view on startup culture. It was well told, passionate and emphasised the JFDI idea.

Jennifer Morone
Jennifer Morone

Jennifer was recommended by myself to Herb and although Jennifer was quite nervous, the points came across well. I think a lot of people who had never really heard of her or consider what extreme capitalism would be like. Some of the slides Jennifer put up were fascinating. There was a price on how much her natural waste costed if you were interested in purchasing some! We also had fun thinking about what happens if Jennifer was to have a relationship.

Partnership, merger, vicious takeover were all considered over drinks afterwards. Although funny for us, this is a reality for Jennifer.

Stefanie Posavec
Stefanie Posavec

Stefanie was fantastic and I kind of wish Jasmine was able to hear her talk (will have to wait for the video). Stefanie’s rebel against infographics was kind of fascinating. I disagreed with her on a lot of what she talked about but her focused seemed to be somewhere between Art and Design. For example the idea of data gathering by hand and the level of endurance needed is frankly insane, although I know people do it. Interesting point made about the behavior changing through the process of actual effort.

Catherine Mohr
Catherine Mohr

This one really got me, its spoke volumes. Catherine talked about surgery robots and the trend to towards smaller and better operations but her point is we need to turn our attention to diagnosis. Lots to think about and shes very right…

Thinking Digital 2015
Tim Leberecht

I loved this talk by Tim. Adding the romance to business. I took it as putting the human into business. If you take one of his slides you get the general picture. I felt this was a interesting talk when you consider the creative destruction talks by Max Lines of UberUK. Danger over data.

I especially like the un-quantified self over quantified self.

I don’t quite think romance is the right word, but I like it and it conjures up interesting visions in our super efficient and predictable business world. I like it all but I wonder if its all marketing or is there substance behind it?

#LJtunes
Lj Rich

LJ pretty much stole the show with her improvisational system. Basically #LJtunes is a idea which LJ thought to play tunes on a piano in the style of a different genre than originally produced. For example Lionel Richie in Dub Step, on a classic piano!

It was amazing, engaging and full of interesting tip bits, LJ was so great.

Herb Kim changes his shirt

I have to say almost every talk was great but these are the ones which stuck out for me. Other talks worth noting include Russell Davies, Ade Adewunmi, Tony Hey, Holly Goodier and Ken Banks.

I know some people didn’t like the dry ice machine but to be honest I quite liked it. It worked well with the music talks and added even more atmosphere. The idea of having one type of ticket was good but meant you had to be at the door pretty early to get a good seat.

Herb Kim is on fire with 8 years under his belt now. No wonder he’s so happy (with his new shirt style). Roll on Thinking Digital Manchester and the new format Thinking Digital next year with a starting price of only 99 pounds!

Amazing conference and amazing job done by everybody involved!

The descent of men not mankind

Thinking Digital 2014

I always get stick for not consuming a lot of BBC media but thats just the way I am to be honest (maybe one day I’ll go into this with more depth). However every once in a while I come across something which somebody recommends or links to.

Recently I have consumed the Future of Radio series (which I’m sure somebody thought after hearing about Perceptive Radio) and a very touching documentary about mixtapes which really sums up a lot of the thinking behind the physical playlist project. However its the Future proofing which has most impressed in the last month.

Can Civility Survive?

Mathematician Hannah Fry and guests look at whether civility can survive in the modern age

The Singularity

What happens if we reach the singularity, the day when machines match human intelligence?

No End of Pleasure

How will humans experience pleasure in the future?

The Descent of Man

Writer Michael Smith explores the uncertain future of masculinity.

It was can civility survive which got me interested in the series. Actually something Zoe posted on a similar vein got me thinking about the connection of doing things the modern way. Not relying on the legacy of the past. I mean for example, I mention Sarah quite a bit, shes lovely but shes an ex. Why should I be afraid to mention her? Anybody finds this weird could do with a strong reminder that its 2014 FFS! The same applies to most of the points Hello Giggles makes especially

  • The wallet reach

  • Being terrified to mention your ex

  • Feeling any embarrassment about online dating

  • Sticking out a terrible date out of politeness

But this blog is about the descent of men… Which I would if creating a mindmap for, would cross check with Blaise’s talk from Thinking Digital (video online now and MUST be watched) which also crosses over with The Singularity documentary from the BBC and many more posts including this one.

Listening to the documentary about the uncertain future of masculinity, I felt like how I felt when blaise gave his talk. Its a little scary from a male point of view and its clear to see why some men are rebelling. They like things how they are and don’t want it to change. The change is scary but theres no excuse for ignorance and hostility! They have to get use it because its going to happen and frankly its a great thing for humankind and the diversity of the human race. I urge men to look at this all as a positive thing!

It always reminds me of my position as a feminist and that blog post which really solidified my view.

Another video which must be watched…

Aral Balkan – Free is a Lie – Thinking Digital 2014 from Thinking Digital on Vimeo.

Aral drives me a little crazy, I end up writing massive long blog posts about his talks. But I have to give it to him, the showmanship and underlying ideas are pretty much good. You can see for yourself in the talk which got me writing about the 5 stacks.

Don’t forget to check out my blog for BBC R&D connected what happened at the Quantified self and Thinking DigitalThe panel discussion which I made reference to, is also up and Tom Scott’s video telling us its all going to be ok.

Maybe next time you should come to Thinking Digital and experience it for yourselves?

Blaise’s video from Thinking Digital must be watched!

Blaise Aguera y Arcas (Day 2) from Thinking Digital on Vimeo.

I said Blaise’s talk from Thinking Digital was great and almost had me at points punching the sky! ftw and all that…

Luckily the questions are cut off at the end, so nobody has to see/hear the room of laughter… Thanks Herb! 🙂

The best of the rest of Thinking Digital 2014

Thinking Digital 2014

As mentioned in the previous 2 blog posts. Thinking Digital 2014 was excellent and further proves this conference is getting better everytime.

I pulled out 2 great talks and already wrote about them previously…

But there were more great talks, worthy of talking about.

Thinking Digital 2014

Jeni Tennison
Got to love Jeni, shes wonderful, warm and so down to earth. I’ve known her from my XML/XSLT days. Her talk reminded me of the struggles and endless fight to liberate data when I was leading BBC Backstage. Those fights are almost never ending… Glad to hear some of the battles are finally being won.

Thinking Digital 2014

Meri Williams
I have known Meri for years and years and always associate her with Newcastle. But I knew she worked very internationally. Her talk was great and had me thinking alot about my own position. She said we should all be asking ourselves, “Can someone like me can be successful here?” I specially like pointers to Dan Pink’s Drive and the term seagulls management. Great talk Meri, lots to take away…

Thinking Digital 2014

Mariana Mazzucato
Never heard of Mariana but after an introduction from Chi Onwurah the local MP for Newcastle or Gateshead. Mariana launched into a massive talk, outlining how the public sector should/could act more like the private sector. Ultimately she started to debunk the myths of public vs private as she does in her book entrepreneurial state (must look into this). This renew my faith in the public sector again.

Thinking Digital 2014

Erin McKean
Returning to the Thinking Digital stage again, Erin this time turned her talk towards new types of discovery. She said discovery should be ambient and contextual. Almost feeling like serendipity. I would suggest perceptive as a way to think about this stuff?

Thinking Digital 2014

Jennifer Gardy and Peter Gregson
Another returning speakers and this time teaming up together to do something new. This time Jennifer and Peter decided to visualise DNA through the medium of music. Some artistic direction was applied but the result was beautiful.

Thinking Digital 2014

Hayley Parkes
Hayley provided more music and what stunning music. So stunning that I dare not take a picture while Hayley was playing because the sound of the prism spinning might distract from the music. I was amazed at the story of Hayley and further provides me with the joy to know that the debate over nature vs nurture is wide open.

Thinking Digital 2014

Suzy Muclahy
Following Jennifer and Peter, Suzy Muclahy explained a number of the processes in the brain and body. The most interesting one for me was the stroke, which is something like #mybrushwithdeath. I later spoke to Suzy about a number of things including #mybrushwithdeath. Such a shame we didn’t get to spend more time talking, because we were bouncing from subject to subject.

Thinking Digital 2014

Steve Mould
Wasn’t expecting much but Steve’s talk about science and ultimately self siphoning beads was funny, witty and entertaining. I especially love the dubstep remix.

Thinking Digital 2014

Jemima Kiss with Christian Payne and Meri Williams
In a nice turn around for Thinking Digital, Jemima chaired a panel discussion mainly about the post-snowden era and whereables. As you can imagine, it was all about post-snowden and Aral’s recent talk. The last 5mins was about whereables and to be fair it wasn’t anywhere as interesting as the rest of the debate. Great to hear Jemima go through the timeline of what changed since last year.

Thinking Digital 2014

Tom Scott
After Aral’s talk and the panel discussion with Jemima Kiss, the mode and tone was low. Not because of the great talks but because there was a feeling that things were not right in the digital world.

Tom Scott’s finishing talk was Tom in 2030 looking back and talking to us in 2014. The main message was don’t panic, humanity will live out and we will prevail. And he’s right, don’t get me wrong. Everything is worth fighting for, but in the end we will prevail. We owe a lot to each and everyone of the whistle-blowers, hackers, journalists, etc which help us make sense of whats happening out there. Privacy is a human right and there will be a massive backlash once people feel its gone too far. The question is when enough people think its gone far enough…?

Thinking Digital 2014

A very fitting and uplifting end to another fantastic Thinking Digital conference. I’ll be clear and say all the speakers were great and although they may not have gotten on to my highlights list, they were all great. Thanks Herb and his wonderful team for putting on yet another great show, I especially like the Q&A by the way (more questions from the crowd please!)

Tickets for 2015 are live now by the way. Looking forward to another exciting thinking digital…

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.

I’m dying to experience Tokyo by 2016?

Tokyo - 東京

Forever I have wanted to experience Tokyo. For me its always been a place of technological progress. I know its not for everyone, but the culture is so wildly different and technology is at the core.

So why have I not already been?

Well its bloody expensive and to be honest I have this vision of going bankrupt just searching through the market bins of Shibuya

I lived with a Japanese lady for a while and we would talk about me going to Tokyo. She always pleaded with me, please go with someone who can speak Japanese because my allergies will kill me.

I almost went once for work but my wedding clashed (Sarah would have killed me dead if i changed it for Tokyo) with the trip so instead Lisa went to keep an eye on Dave.

I’ll be honest although I have always wanted to go, I have a hard time justifying paying for holidays. New TV, better phone no problem. But 1 week away in Denmark? It feels like a world apart in my mind.

Watching Graham Hughes again (first time at Thinking Digital) at TedXSakford. Made me think what is stopping me? This was further realised after watching Steve Mazan in his inspirational and funny video (must watch!). It also answers the question I had about death and if the only way to make people wake up is with death.

Anyhow, I’ve decided by 2016 I will go to Tokyo and experience Japanese culture. Its got to be done! And I’m going to do it. Its now been added to my Schemier along with visiting South Korea.

People of the internet you can help me by recommending cheap places to stay, food which won’t kill me, best time to go and cheapest way to get there (within reason).

If you want to help Graham Hughes out. Vote for him on sos-island.com. He gets my vote for the inspired challenge he set himself and ultimately for prompting me to go…

My highlights of Thinking Digital 2013

Herb Kim gets TDC13 underway

Herb Kim the founder and creator of the Thinking Digital conference.

This is my usual best of Thinking Digital… Bear in mind I missed half the conference as noted here.

Julian Treasure got us thinking about our hearing and how important it is. I specially liked two statements he made. Sound has a impact on cognition and don’t architects have ears? He pointed to some very nice spaces with apple styled touches. The kind of place most people would agree is nice but once he mentioned the amount of sound bouncing around the surfaces and reflecting off the floor, it was a different matter.

Maggie Philbin is one of those people who you grew up with on screen and she had become a geek hero of many men in the UK. The Tomorrow’s world presenter talked about technology for a bit then got around to her main points about the lack of diversity. Something about hearing it from Maggie really laid it out for lots of people. I had the pleasure of seeing Maggie giving the Perceptive Radio a once over too. What a woman!

Maria Giudice

Maria Giudice was a interesting lady with an interesting story to tell but what I really took away was her DEO idea (Design Executive Officer). She correctly pointed out CEO’s mainly don’t have the background of designers and those who do, generally break through because they are natural disruptor, people centric, intuitive, imaginative, etc. She had a DEO toolkit which included…

  1. Change mindsets about design, Design = change and change leads to radical change
  2. Focus on people and relationships
  3. Think we not me, collaboration is the name of the game
  4. Champion creative culture, Write on the wall make it a creative space
  5. Iterate and change, be open to change
  6. Be true to yourself

I guess if I wanted to know more… I would have to buy the book which is coming out soon…

Aza Raskin
Aza Raskin I have had the pleasure of meeting before years ago when he was working with Mozilla. Then I also got to eat dinner with him during the first night with others. Aza is one of those people who you can’t help but like. It was a really interesting time chatting with him too because his company Jawbone had just bought Body Media for 100million. Aza had no problem with talking about such things and was happy to talk about the quantified self elements of Jawbone including the wrist band Jawbone up. It was even more interesting to me after just been at the Quantified Self europe conference a week before.

Aza’s main point was about Design being the art of turning constraints into solutions. But are we actually asking the right questions? Do we even really understand the problem were solving?

Lots of food for thought… And I’d love to know more about the Jawbone hack!

Sugata Mitra
Sugata Mitra is always impressive and was one of my highlights of last year but with New Zealand teachers Jo Fothergill & Tara Taylor-Jorgensen who had flown 1000’s of miles to come talk at Thinking Digital the talks were even more epic. You can’t help but feel the educational system will be fine when he talks. I also had the joy of hooking up Jo and Tara with mr whirl wind Alan O’Donohoe before they flew back to New Zealand. Chance and opportunity came together at just the right moment I think.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes on reflection was maybe the best talk of the conference.

On New Years Day 2009 Graham Hughes, set off on an epic journey from his hometown of Liverpool. He wanted to show that the world is ‘not some big, scary place, but in fact full of people who wanted to help you.’ He used buses, taxis, trains and his own two feet to travel 160,000 miles, 201 countries in exactly 1,426 days – all on a shoestring of just $100 a week.

I’m not usually the biggest fan of the talks about the amazing things people have done but there was something extra special about Graham. He was just a everyday  Jo. He made it into every single country on planet earth without flying not even once. Such a epic story and the story was told so well with some incredible sub-stories, when the videos come out for Thinking Digital 2013, you must see this video. Epic and so down to earth. I also like to think I helped him with an introduction to someone I know at YouTube. I believe his storys are good enough to make him a bit of internet superstar, hopefully the youtube connection will be the start of it. Actually I need to check in and see if anything happened?

Jack Andraka
Jack Andraka I didnt’ quite get at first but as he told his story how he applied his mindset to the problem of pancreatic cancer, after losing a family friend to it. Using just Google he researched a new pancreatic cancer test that is 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and potentially almost 100% accurate. He’s only 17, openly gay and already been described as the Alan Turing of our age. His talk was exactly what you would imagine from a 17 year old guy. All over the place but understanding the gravitas of what he was explaining you couldn’t help but feel how epic his journey has been. I really wished I had stopped and chatted to him in the hotel the next day, could have called a taxi and still have made the train.

Tom Scott burns his top to make a serious point

Tom Scott… What can I say. A talk you can only really do once and once only. Fire and Tom’s hoody, heck what more can you ask for? No but seriously Tom delves into the idea of archiving our memories. This is something I tried to do a while with my old phone. Memories are funny things, and they certainly make you pause for thought. I for example have my yellow Brazil football top, I’m surpised it even fits from 1998! The same year I went to Ibiza and go that crazy Brazil haircut. Maybe I should set fire to it too?

Aral Balkan

I already talked about Aral Balkin in a previous blog but he was rather good even if I disagreed with a lot of what he was saying. Well rehearsed and cleverly put together for the maximum effect each time. I won’t take that away from Aral, well done.

Also worth mentioning…

Chris Thorpe

Rachel Armstrong

Chris Thorpe and Rachel Armstrong for expanding our minds further than I could maybe take at that moment. My notes are pretty flat but I remember being slightly moved by what they were saying.

Alexa Meade

And finally, Alexa Meade for simply stunning pieces of art which I had only seen once or twice. Important never to forget the impact art can have in a new medium. Painting directly on to people is something very special and the time and dedication really impressed me. She was such a lovely lady too. I don’t know if I would ever let anyone paint on top of me. The feeling of uncleanliness would maybe drive me slowly nutty.

Another great Thinking Digital conference, I just wish I had seen more of the first day…

Storytelling from Thinking Digital 2013’s stage

Ian on Stage at Thinking Digital

Thanks to Documentally for the picture

Thinking Digital 2013 for me started on Monday with a lovely dinner with a number of other people in Newcastle. I find its always worth booking in and getting to Newcastle/Gateshead a day early so your not flapping around and carrying luggage. But this time I specially need the time to make sure Perceptive Radio was fine. Anyway at the dinner I met quite a few people including Aral, Aza and others.

The next day I spent most of the morning making sure Perceptive Media was working as it should. Surprisingly it everything worked as it should and brushed up on my presentation before heading to the Thinking Digital workshop Harnessing the power of story

Great leaders beginning with the Alexander the Great, have long known the emotional power of story in helping engage people behind a cause or a company. Today more than ever in our chaotic world of information overload, facts are not enough.  We want something that’s meaningful, a message that is compelling and memorable. Similarly, understanding our own story helps us to relate to others and the world around us, to understand how we can contribute and what drives us beyond a paycheque.

The course was fully booked and seemed to be filling up with even more people.

Mari talked about the hero’s journey in some depth and at the end split the group up into 3. Those wanting to exploit stories in presentations, those who wanted to use stories to get a better grip of there careers anwent for the d those wanting to better their lives. I originally signed up for the first and through the process of the hero’s story decided actually I’d like to see how this could help my career but by the decision point decided actually I’ll see what if anything this could do for my life.

I found the whole thing really interesting but the details I’m not going to reveal in my blog sorry… There was something very strange about the instructor. She seemed to know everything about me, I couldn’t work it out. Had she gleamed all this from our brief chat on the phone and by googling me? If so I’ve been far too public 🙂

Later it turns out that I did know her but hadn’t recognised her till she wore her glasses… I say this because it slightly freaked me out. But only slightly… By Wednesday I was running on adrenaline and you needed to be for the 7am start.

I love Thinking digital except this time I missed most of Wednesday preparing for my time on stage with manager Adrian. If it was just 5min talk it would be fine but doing a couple of workshops in lunch with something your not certain will work as expected was scary.

You know how they say don’t work with young children or animals? Can I add robots and machines to the mix. The biggest problem I had was the wifi which required you to press I accept to get online. How do you do this on a device which has no screen at all? On top of that each client was isolated on the network, so you couldn’t ssh, rdp, vnc, or anything into another machine. This made setting up the radio for the environment very tricky (to be honest I was tearing my hair out by 9:30pm)

Anyway I solved the problem and I decided the wifi leases were maybe long enough to allow me to take the radio offline. So I did and during the talk on stage I did the grand reveal of the perceptive radio. After the grand reveal and Adrian finishing up, I didn’t have the heart to grab it in the middle of Maggie Philbins talk, so shes got it on the counter while she talks about Tomorrows World. Ironic don’t you see…

After the talks, I took the Radio downstairs for the public demos. There were only meant to be 2 but due to demand we stretched it to 3. Anyway I can happily say they all went extremely well, with me showing some of the basic functionality and of course playing the whole Breaking Out play. Questions were well received and lots were new to do with the radio. Just enough adrenaline to do an audioboo with Documentally.

Perceptive Radio and Me

You don’t want to miss the Audioboo Documentally recorded after I finished the workshops, to be fair I sound knackered but it still came across well. Cheers for the photo too 🙂

I won’t lie, once my commitments were fore-filled and alittlebit had gotten me a very lunch (bless her motherhen reactions), I crashed as the last of the adrenaline left my body. The live lounge was my paradise for the next 20mins (dark with a projection of what was happening next door) while I caught up with some nap time. Kate assure me I wasn’t making a sound, so thats great. That power nap really did something to me and I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.

User experience design with Aral

Safety dip

Before I start on this little rant, its worth pointing out this is following a talk from Aral Balkan’s talk at Thinking Digital 2013. I have still yet to write my review of the best talks and my own experience with Perceptive Radio but I had to stop and moan about Aral’s talk.

Aral is a friend and I like him a lot but even in the early days I disagreed with him on so many things.

Aral showed many examples of really bad user experience design, many where they got the focus wrong.

User experience bugs me, I agree with a lot but then there are many examples where it seems like a simple no brainier. I would generalise what Aral was showing but I lost my notes by accident in the wifi handover (hoping there still on my tablet and just need to load up evernote and sync the notes. So as I was saying user experience is important but they sometimes go too far…

Here’s something I tweeted last year…

“Frankly this is the worst keypad layout I’ve seen in the wild. #Metrolink should be a shamed of this! http://yfrog.com/odgevclj”

Aral spoke about washing machines and how complex they are. He suggested all you need is a some places to put the washing powder and fabric conditioner. A button or two to maybe start a programme and thats it. Well no I disagree. My mum is a genius with the washing machine and she knows exactly what to put in for the weight and volume of clothes. To be such a expert required time and effort, shes proud than shes mastered the washing machine.

Having a single button machine would rob my mother of her mastery of that machine.

Now I imagine Aral would say, for the bulk of people, all they want to do is get there clothes clean and they don’t really care. And he would be right. I generally don’t care but robbing people of the ability to master a system or device seems a real shame and I’d say is criminal.

After Arals talk and a slight break for audience clapping. He launched into how he’s been involved in helping the next generation to learn how to get their digital skills. How ironic that most of us got our start by mastering the computer by ultimately being geeky.

If you subscribe to the idea that we are almost all geeky about something (coding, design, cars, cooking, paintings, trains, stamps, celebrities, tv shows, beer, phones, films, cocktails, gardening, farming, sports, etc). Most of these require experience, understanding and mastery. Robbing someone of this seems at least to me anti-human.

Not that I’m saying you should have to go through an ordeal to get a ticket for the train/metro/tram. The example of the CTA machine is a total joke, I remember looking at it when I last was last in Chicago and thought what level of hell does this machine come from?

Heat control

I would say the showers in most modern hotels is up as a example of a great user experience because they have that recommended option but if you know better you can press the button and get even more heat. Yes the button protects you from burning but it can also be easily bypassed. Now thats my kind of user experience.

Aral mentioned a few other things which had my fingers tapping.

“Design can not be democratic, design is opinionated and full of assumptions.”

Design can not be democratic? I say rubbish, designers work in small groups and collaborate on problems all the time. I would go as far as to say design in isolation is art. Design doesn’t have to be opinionated, in actual fact user experience design is about designing around the accordances of the user. This means working around them and not making assumptions…

Anyway everything I’ve said is just my view and I’m sure I would say the same to Aral’s face. Looking forward to next time we meet and of course 🙂 Which will be soon… Good talk even though I was screaming inside 🙂