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Archive for February, 2017

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Artschool 2017: V1 of new painting “The Drama”. Acryl on cotton canvas stitched on wooden board  – 122 x 82 cm.

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The way we think about change, disruption, and transformation (or whatever you want to call it) is going to be completely different in 5 years time. The speed of change is so big that our thinking itself is getting disrupted. The underestimated and ignored exponential power in all of this is the “power of networks”. This post is a follow of the post “Fintech 2017 – Quo Vadis?”

I think we are in the middle of a network blitzkrieg, a big shift driven by network powers.

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WW-II Blitzkrieg Stuka airplanes

But instead of the medium being the air and the devices the Stuka airplanes piloted by humans, the medium today is made of networks and the Stukas are replaced by hyper-connected computers driven my algorithms.

A lot of the reflection in this post are based on the following books and thinkers:

Kevin Kelly’s latest opus grande The Inevitable describes the 12 Inevitable Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future:

  • Becoming
  • Cognifyung
  • Flowing
  • Screening
  • Accessing
  • Sharing
  • Filtering
  • Remixing
  • Interacting
  • Tracking
  • Questioning
  • Beginning

In The Seventh Sense, Joshua Cooper Ramo talks about a “connected-age sensibility” to be able to read and understand networks:

The Seventh Sense, in short, is the ability to look at any object and see the way in which it is changed by connection

Even as this new age advances, most of our leaders still think in terms of disconnected dangers

We have to cultivate a new instinct, one intended to make us more human, in a sense, not only more technical

Think of how often, at moments of anguish or revolution, it is the fragile-looking bubbles of philosophy or art or science that endure.

And in Whiplash, Joi Ito explains how “Change doesn’t care if you’re ready”.

This is the power of pull over push—it leverages modern communications technologies and the decreased cost of innovation to move power from the core to the edges, enabling serendipitous discoveries and providing opportunities for innovators to mine their own passions.

All these insights are of course based on big theme of “we are interconnected”. In other words, new network rules of power apply in the “we are connected” era and our leaders are not prepared for it. That became even more apparent during the main WEF Davos session on the Global Economic Outlook. I watched it live after just having read the Seventh Sense.

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These leaders offer a lot of lip service to the “we are interconnected” meme, but keep on playing the old zero-sum finite games and wars. Witness Fink from Blackrock at min 11:46 when he almost joyful says:

“regulation inhibits new entrants and that is not a bad thing”

But networks come with their own dynamics. In his yearly situational awareness post, Jordan Greenhall goes deep on “Deep Code”, and “Deep State”, and describes very well what I have labeled here as “Network Blitzkrieg”:

“The Deep State developed in and for the 20th Century. You might say that they are experts at fighting Trench Warfare.

But this is the 21st Century and the Insurgency has innovated Blitzkrieg.”

Jordan is describing a blitzkrieg for Collective Intelligence, being fought on four fronts:

  • Front one: communications infrastructure
  • Front two: the deep state
  • Front three: globalism
  • Front four: the new culture war

The main point Jordan is making is that the Deep State is fragmented, and so far not efficient in responding adequately to the network blitzkrieg of the Trump cohort. A lot of the challenges of the Deep State seem to be related to the problem of not being able to shift to a network blitzkrieg mode, from tight synchronisation to loose synchronization.

Last year, Venkatesh Rao (aka Ribbonfarm) did a great tweet-storm-like-post on this topic of synchronisation. He calls our age the age of atemporality.

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Illustration by Venkatesh Rao

“In tight synchronization, you’re on the same clock as everybody else, fit yourself into the same templates, report up the same chain, and communicate via standard protocols.

Welcome to atemporality. So long as you thrive on loose coordination rather than tight synchronization, it’s a beautiful thing.”

In previous posts and essays, Ribbonfarm even had a series on “Blitzkrieg”, where he described four categories of Blitzkrieg attributes:

  • Einheit (trust)
  • Auftragstaktik (clear mutual agreements), missionary tactical contracts
  • Schwerpunkt (strategic intent)
  • Fingerspitzengefühl (finger-tip skill) is the foundation

In The Future of Tipping, http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2014/12/02/the-future-of-tipping/,(a post about authoritarian command-and-control models to control the customer’s relationship to the brand, and hence tipping), he the four describes blitzkrieg attributes in John Boyd’s philosophy of warfare applied to business:

CEO sets clear intent (Schwerpunkt); HR develops strong trust culture (Einheit); operations focuses on developing strong, instinctive skills culture through tacit learning (Fingerspitzengehful); everybody manages/is managed through a cascade of mutually negotiated “contracts” that devolve as much autonomy as possible to lower layers (Auftragstaktik); the business relies on loose and agile coordination rather than tight synchronization/command-and-control.

Ribbonfarm, Jordan Greenhall, and Simon Wardley all focus on situational awareness, strategy, tactics, operations and doctrine. It would be great to have them together one day in one of Petervan Productions’ events 😉

Add to all this the lack of trust and Bruce Scheier’s insight that we are moving from the Internet of things (with a build-in computer) to Internet of Computers (with things attached to it), and you get a pretty dystopian but probably very realistic picture of the future something that James Bridle coined “A new dark age”.

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Drone shadow by James Bridle

James Bridle is a British writer and artist living in Greece. His work explores the impact of technology on society, law, geography, politics, and culture. His Drone Shadow installations have appeared on city streets worldwide, he has mapped deportation centres with CGI, designed new kinds of citizenship based on online behaviour. and used neural networks and satellite images to predict election results. A New Dark Age is an exploration of what we can no longer know about the world, and what we can do about it.

It is a “great” talk about Turbulence, Big Data, AI, Fake News, and Peak Knowledge, and like many if the authors mentioned above, he is alluding to a new digital literacy and legibility. A literacy that acknowledges that in our digital state, everything can be copied, except…. Trust.

Kevin Kelly asks, What can not be copied?” and his answer is “Trust. Trust must be earned. It cannot be faked”. Our hope is in what Kelly beautifully described as “generative qualities”.

These are qualities that are “better than free”. Qualities generated at the time of the transaction aka it is all about the experience what people pay for. In Kelly’s view, there are 8 generative qualities:

  • Immediacy
    • Access to beta version for ex, or when released
  • Personalisation
    • A film without explicit language
  • Interpretation
    • A manual, explanation of free DNA
  • Authenticity
    • A signature on goodies
  • Accessibility
    • Ownership sucks
  • Embodiment
    • White cottony paper bound book, it feels so good
    • The value of a paid ephemeral embodiment of something you could download for free
  • Patronage
    • It must be easy to do
    • The amount must be reasonable
    • There is a clear benefit
    • Money will directly benefit the creator
  • Discoverability
    • A work has no value unless it is seen

palantir

Saruman uses a palantir in Lord of the Rings

So what would be the defences against such network blitzkrieg?

One strategy would be to try to defeat the enemy with the same weapons. But that assumes we are playing finite games, and I feel we only can win this battle by playing infinite games.

We should not be naïve, and drop all our common-sense defences against data-, privacy-, surveillance- and cybersecurity attacks with state of the art defense mechanisms and tools, but another strategy in defending our humanity in the long term may come from those infinite games.

Or maybe our defense in this move from enlightenment to entanglement is in dropping the separation of body and mind, feeling and ratio, form and content.

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“Fame and success” by Hilde Overbergh – 2016
Part of expo “REFRAME” in The White House Gallery

Art may be inspiring here. In a recent conversation between art curator Hans Theys and artist Hilde Overbergh in the context of the expo “REFRAMED”, Hans arguments that form and content are inseparable, and that his sole criteria for assessing art are:

  • Is it well made?
  • Does it touch me?

Very much like Kevin Kelly, this is about what cannot be measured, what cannot be represented in numbers, big data, and algorithms.

In a very recent post Kyle Eschenroeder (also on Ribbonfarm) said:

The confidence created by our palantír-ish technologies is a confidence in our measurements, not in ourselves. The more minutiae we measure, the less respect we have for taste or experience

Caring puts us in the posture of playing an infinite game rather than a finite one. This means favoring “improvisation over fixed rules, internal sensibilities over imposed morals, and playfulness over seriousness.”

So our defense against a Network Bliztkrieg may be in the subconscious, where we don’t care about the fakeness our realness of the news and our reality, but more about what makes us unique as human beings: the ability to play infinite games and truly care.

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Artschool 2017: another study sketch for a new painting. 
Small format 20x30cm, Acryl on cheap paper

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Nicolas de Staël – Five Apples – 1952

I am now one month into detailed scripting of my upcoming performance “Tin Drum is Back”. As mentioned in my last post, the narrative arc seems to be about evolving archetypes and levels of maturity.

In 2015, I was struck by lightning, by the work of fashion designer Dries Van Nooten. I wrote extensively about that experience here. It was the start of a more intense journey to let myself get touched by beauty, and to start experimenting with the creative orientation myself (Art academy, etc.)

Two years later, this 2015 expo is still resonating with me, and every time I tell the story of that experience, I get emotional, emotional like in tears of happiness and beauty. Happiness and bliss like a warm jelly feeling down your spine. I started paying attention to this emotion, opening myself to it, and wondering and exploring how it cracked me open (and very closed at other moments…)

Obviously, first thing that goes through mind, is the famous Leonard Cohen song “Anthem”, with the famous phrase:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering 

There is a crack, a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in.

How the light gets in…. But I started wondering how the light gets OUT… Like my skin would be lattice. Like the skin of this musallah.

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King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC)
Riyadh / Saudi Arabia. Architect’s rendering of the musallah. 
Image Credit: Zaha Hadid Architects

What is needed for somebody to crack open like this? To get rid of all the ballast, and to stand in full onlyness ànd vulnerability ànd feeling happy with the way that is?

Another more recent moment when the lightning stroke was on a Saturday morning, where by full coincidence I hit the video of “Wild is the Wind” by David Bowie as part of the “David Bowie last 5 years” BBC documentary:

 

Wild is the Wind” is the first song of this amazing concert that is worth watching every of its 60 minutes. However, when he sings and smiles “you’re life itself” (at 2:40 and 4:10) that’s when shivers go down my spine and tears start rolling. Every time again.

Why is this? What is happening to me? Is Tin Drum about finally daring to stand in fire and vulnerability? Of letting my “onlyness” coming OUT through the crack(s)? Instead of hiding in a Hannibal-like shadow of complexity and impenetrability?

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Film posters and book covers of Günther Grass' The Tin Drum

Cracking open seems to be about daring to stand in the fire, allowing the truth to come in and out, and allowing to loose myself and letting myself getting overwhelmed. It is about letting go of my masks, my defences.

Khurshed Dehnugara recently (my highlights) wrote about being overwhelmed in “cracking open”:

Being overwhelmed is something we are fearful of and at the same time can be helpful as we transition from one age to the next.

If our defenses are always solid, never breached, then the possibility of anything novel emerging is reduced. It often takes a moment of being overwhelmed before that part of us that we are defending can be seen. In the moment of being hurt, overloaded, caught out, tripped up or humiliated – we get a chance in those moments to see and work with the part of ourselves we spend the rest of our time enclosing in a protective shell.

As we spend time at the edges of what we know and can cope with, the container is strengthened.  When we can’t cope, the cracks can allow us to integrate an experience that has been shielded for a lifetime; but refuses to go away or stop causing problems in the rest of our lives. 

During my sabbatical, I am indeed spending time at the edges of what I don’t know and what I don’t know to cope with. At the edges of my existing communities, at the edges of new – more artistic – communities.

Also, the painting lets me re-discover the true meaning of being in the flow. But I have to get more clarity. Tell the story with fewer words, less images, less brush strokes, less gimmicks. I am trying to say too much. I am still trying too much to impress, not express.

“The more easy gimmicks, the more solid the content needs to be”, says my paint-coach Ann.

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Extract of Petervan painting “The Containers” in process – Feb 2017

So many metaphors between paint and real life. The longing for clarity of touch, pitch, colours, harmonies, and chords. But for now, still too much noise, both physically and mentally.

The sweet spot is where the crack is

where frequencies and overtones create the mystic.

What are your cracks? When was the last time you built defences against standing in the fire? When was the last time you put up a wall and defences against it? When was the last time you allowed the crack to put a spell on you to get in touch with your true self?

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