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Archive for the ‘Corporate Values’ Category

A relatively short essay on what may capture your identity: about titles, maps, codes and signatures.

What’s your title ?

Your title is what is on your business card. It is what you put in the about us section of your website, or in the profile information of your social media. But how much of that is made up?

Darth Vader business card

That title is more a promotional thing. The good side of things. In that sense somewhat related to fakeness, or to rationality as defined by Nicholas Taleb in his latest book “Skin in the Game”.

Crafting your title is a form of ego design optimisation. In many cases that optimisation only makes sense in context of the organisation you work for. Titles also somewhat assume you do work, you do have a job. No job, no title.

Those titles are also ephemeral. You change titles as you change jobs.

But they are fairly meaningless. You will learn that people are only interested in what you can give them access to (money, investment, contacts, brain picking, etc). You risk becoming nobody without your corporate title and business card.

What is your map?

A better way to think about your identity – or “onlyness” as coined by Nilofer Merchant – is to think about your identity map.

Richard Martin already did the homework on this topic, especially when highlighting the Map of Days (HD PDF) by Grayson Perry.

map perry

Fragment from A Map of Days by Grayson Perry

 

“In the Map, Perry presents his complex personality and plural identity in the form of a walled city. Streets, buildings and other locales represent personal traits and behaviours, indicating a self-exploration that embraces both the positive and the negative, that poses questions, as well as providing answers, binding together truth and fiction.

 At the centre of Perry’s map is a labyrinthine garden, in which a figure walks, off-centre, pursuing ‘a sense of self’.  

I am getting somewhat obsessed by labyrinths and mazes these days. Some fans also refer to my labyrinths as brains or intestines 😉 If I could fabric 3D labyrinths that fit into a skull, that would be a good metaphor for the complexity of identity as well.

Labyrinth on landscape cropped

Petervan Artwork 2018 - Digital composition - Labyrinth on landscape

What’s your code ?

Some people refer to “code”.

Code is very similar to patrimony, very close to narrative, very close to structure.

Some refer to code as to formula. Others – like Christopher Alexander in the Timeless Way of Building – talk about “pattern languages”. The code of a house, of a building so to speak.

There is also “code” in fashion.

BTW: the Balenciaga show has a fantastic soundtrack. You can fine it here.

But the danger is around the corner: that the code becomes a gimmick, nothing more than a formula, getting formulaic, turning into meaningless clichés, and ultimately loosing spontaneity and becoming irrelevant.

What’s your signature?

I believe “signature” is a richer concept. There is no face anymore, no title, but there is a signature, your unique way of creating, executing and communicating.

There is a recognition that you are part of, influenced by a bigger set of interactions and community. Like Celine Schillinger did on her latest website. She labeled that page “Together”, a list of partners in crime.

In painting, artists and critics refer to somebody’s “signature”. They don’t talk about the handwritten signature on the bottom of the painting.

In the past, painters put their signature on the painting when done. These days this is not-done. That handwritten signature becomes a disturbance, distorts the coherence of the image. The signature distorts the signature of the image.

No, they talk about “touch”, “writing style”, and “symbolic script”. In dance one refers to the “choreographer’s writing”,…

What is the signature of your work? When you architect something, will your audience immediately recognise it as yours? Not because it resembles like a copy-cat of previous work, previous collections, but because it carries your unique signature?

And how does your signature reflect your sense for ethical, aesthetical, and spiritual advancement?

robert motherwell the voyage

Robert Motherwell – The Voyage – 1949

New American Painting Calalogue2

In the beautiful 1959 “The New American Painting” catalogue (PDF) of MOMA, Robert Motherwell said on page 56:

“I believe that painters’ judgments of painting are first ethical, then aesthetic, the aesthetic judgments flowing from an ethical context …

Without ethical consciousness, a painter is only a decorator.

Without ethical consciousness, the audience is only sensual, one of aesthetes.

When are you more than a decorator? When do you touch your audience beyond the cognitive, sensual and aesthetical? When do you resonate at an ethical and almost non-conscious level? What is your signature?

petervan-signature

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As part of my search for a new job, I was introduced to an organisation focusing on using design-led engagements to support innovation and understanding customer needs (needs, not problems, see my previous post on the tyranny of the problem solver)

Clouds above the sea

Lyonel Feininger - Clouds above the sea - 1923 - Oil on Canvas

Steve Jobs used to say “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

So, in preparation for the job interview, and to know what to tell the recruiter what to do, I started diving a bit into design-thinking and design-led engagement.

I believe that these approaches are great to create high quality information flows, but that something else is needed than noise-free rapid information transfer.

My good friend and ex-Innotriber Nektarios Liolios kindly pointed out to me during a recent chat that “noise free is not the same as conflict free”.

  • We indeed do need conflict, tension, etc to create flow, movement, change, advancement.
  • But we do need to get rid of the noisy primary motivations of prestige, status, tic-for-tac reciprocity, etc .

I think the key element missing in existing design-led engagements is (great) aesthetics.

As I said some time ago: there should be some ambition of advancement in aesthetics, morality, and spirituality.

I that context I found this great article about aesthetics:

Design used to be about sensitivity, beauty, and taste

The key performance indicator for design has changed from beauty to profit. Measuring design has transformed a handicraft into an engineering job. 

Google, Facebook, and Amazon are optimizing their products for us, as they are optimizing our minds, bodies and our kids for their profit. Humans are slowly adapting to that labyrinth, becoming lab rats of an omniscient industry that adapts to our needs as it is adapting us to theirs.

Labyrinth small V1

Petervan Artwork ©2018 - Hand drawn labyrinth 

Many labyrinths are “meandering”. We need similar meandering in design-led engagements.

We need to bolt-on something upfront that unites, aligns, encourages, and motivates teams at a level beyond the cognitive.

I think I know how to do that.

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There were some interesting posts the last couple of weeks; all indicating that there is something fundamentally wrong with how organisations measure people’s performance.

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Petervan artwork – detail of 2016 painting on performing
Acryl on Canvas

 

Some examples:

I could add numerous examples of other organisations I met where the people are merely serving the system, not the company or its customers anymore.

Whether it is lean, daily standups, filling the boxes of an archaic ERP system, personal improvement programs, re-orientation processes, competencies management, performance appraisals, or innovation ideations, acceleration and incubation programs.

Niels Pflaeging used to have a slide he called “the bullshit slide”:

Niels bullshit slide

Niels Pflaeging “bullshit” slide from 2014

 

In his recent blog post “Change is like adding milk to coffee”, Niels continues:

Take a step back and you will see that people act consciously and intelligently (overall), to other things than the change itself. They may resist loss of status and power – which is quite intelligent. They may resist injustice, stupidity and being changed. Which is also intelligent. The change may also cause need for learning that is not properly addressed. And these are the things that we have to deal with in change: power structures, status, injustice, consequence, our own stupidity, top-down command-and-control, and learning.

In other words, people don’t resist change, they resist bullshit.

As Niels’ slide shows, the bullshit is omni-present and something structural that needs to be fixed. Only structural change will change the behaviour and culture in your company, all the rest is tactical and innovation theater.

People have good antennas for this; they all feel deeply that they have become self-made self-imposed inmates of the golden cage, forced more than half of their working time doing the wrong thing: filling the forms, the quarterly updates, pushing up and watering down information and ideas upwards the hierarchy and doing nothing else but complying with the organisations’ processes. We are getting audited you know! It’s the process, stupid!

They all share that disjoint between one’s personal expectations of success and impact and corporate or even individual metrics.

I recently had a catch-up call with a friend in the Bay Area, and she was worried she’d become too conservative, she was staying too long with one company (18 months now, 2 years in a job seems to be a career in Silicon Valley…), and worrying all the time whether she was making the most significant impact.

We seem to have been brainwashed that our happiness, fulfilment or whatever you want to call this nirvana state is all about “realising your full potential”, some decades ago the mantra of one of the big tech companies.

I think this is exhausting. You will never reach your full potential and you will always be out for the next big thing. It will never stop. You will never be satisfied.

IMO, maximum impact is the wrong metric. We have to get rid of (comparative) scores in general: they are not real anyway – always ready to trick or comply with the system – and they are always about ticking the boxes about past performance. They don’t add value, at best the measure past value.

We need something that measures our individual progress – individual as opposed to comparing with others. Measuring our progress in building new, future capabilities. Measuring future value potential. Am I better at this than last month? Have I learned something new this week? Etc.

Scores are after the fact. They are confabulating. They are past-performance indicators.

IMG_0023 cropped

Petervan artwork – Left overs of tape cutting – Feb 2017

 

We need some future capabilities indicators, showing our own individual continuous learning and cultivation of new skills. Our capacity to making-the-right-cut for the future.

Haydn Shaughnessy once coined the term KCI – Key Capability Indicators. I liked that a lot. At that time, the term was in the context of organisational innovation indicators. I wonder what individual learning indicators would look like.

petervan-signature

 

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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.

blitzkrieg

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.

wef

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.

synch

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”.

drone-james-bridle

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.

fame-and-success-hilde-overbergh

“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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Artificial intelligence. Cognitive computing. The Singularity. Digital obesity. Printed food. The Internet of Things. The death of privacy. The end of work-as-we-know-it, and radical longevity: The imminent clash between technology and humanity is already rushing towards us. What moral values are you prepared to stand up for—before being human alters its meaning forever?

This is not me saying this. This is Gerd Leonhard a new kind of futurist schooled in the humanities as much as in technology. A musician by origin, Gerd connects left and right brains for a 360-degree coverage of the multiple futures that present themselves at any one time. In 2015, Wired Magazine listed Gerd as one of the top 100 most influential people in Europe.

In his most provocative book to date “Technology vs. Humanity: The coming clash between man and machine” (Amazon Affiliated link), he explores the exponential changes swamping our societies, providing rich insights and deep wisdom for business leaders, professionals and anyone with decisions to make in this new era.

If you take being human for granted, check-out this trailer for a movie he made with Jean-François Cardella, his film producer.

 

 

Gerd has a new book out and it is and i recommend it strongly, and i am not alone.

 

“Gerd Leonhard is most definitely a member of Team Human. Here’s his convincing and heartfelt call for the reinstatement of people and purpose into the technology program.” – Douglas Rushkoff, Author of ‘Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus’, host of the ‘TeamHuman’ podcast

“Gerd Leonhard provides a fascinating look at the impact of exponential technologies and the dilemmas we will face in adapting to—or being adapted by—these. His book really makes you worry—and think.” – Vivek Wadhwa, Academic, Researcher, Writer, and Entrepreneur.

 

A good overview of the book can be found in Forbes’ recent interview with Gerd Leonhard and his reflections on digital ethics:

“Like sustainability, ethics is often thought of as a nice to have, a thing to consider when you have time, a luxury, non-monetizable. But now it is becoming clear that those distinctly human things that are not measurable (I call them the “androrithms” – as opposed to algorithms) such as emotions, intuition, beliefs and ethics are what sets us apart from machines.”

Gerd’s thinking is of great relevance to financial services. Because the whole value proposition of the financial services industry is about to change, it needs to reinvent itself in order to discover and grow new values and revenue streams.

 

Gerd_illustrations_27_5_16_v3

 

“In general you can say the financial industry has been asleep at the wheel for the past ten years, but it has woken up with a start,” says Leonhard, and

“The Darwinian megashifts of exponential technologies eventually challenge most of our assumptions, meaning somebody is going to reinvent the way we think about stock markets and what a stock-market actually is. After we get the blockchain and a global digital currency, the next step is to revamp the entire logic of the stock market. And that is imminent.”

In addition of the book and the film, Gerd has created a unique experience called The Future Show Live. The Future Show Live will demonstrate what exponential technologies are doing to our world of business and society and will create a context around financial services, pointing people towards how they can innovate from inside an organisation and not rest on outmoded systems.

We will need to embrace technology – but not become it. We will need to find ways that technology will actually serve humanity (i.e. support human flourishing and contentment) not vice versa.

Gerd Leonhard will be hosting The Future Show Live at Sibos at the Innotribe stand next to the main Sibos stand on Wednesday, 28th September from 9:30-10:15am.

55x19copy  All illustrations are by Gerd Leonhard and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

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A couple of weeks ago, Pim de Morree and Joost Minnaar contacted me to check whether their Corporate Rebels idea was related to Corporate Rebels United, our movement to unite change agents worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally from deep within the fabric of our organizations.

There are several other organizations that have similar objectives as Corporate Rebels United:

Last June 2015, we organized our second Rebel Jam, this time as a co-production of Corporate Rebels Unites, Rebels at Work, and Change Agents Worldwide. The recordings of that Rebel Jam are available here:

rebels

The work of Pim and Joost is different, with a focus on employee (dis)engagement and happiness, and in the longer run, Pim and Joost hope to develop a business out of their research about corporate heroes. There is nothing wrong with wanting to develop a business, as long as you are transparent about your intentions, I suggested Pim and Joost.

I also invited them to write an essay about their work and ambitions, and that I would be happy to share it on my personal blog and the blog of Corporate Rebels United.

They followed suit, and sent me their essay, which I am happy to reproduce below, without any editing from my side.

+++ Start essay

Pim de Morree and Joost Minnaar, Corporate Rebels, travel the world to meet their employee happiness ‘heroes’. They want to learn what works best and share their learnings with everyone.

pim and joost

Joost Minnaar (L) and Pim de Moree (R)

They believe the way most organizations are run nowadays is outdated. Gallup’s research reports show this time and time again; 87% of employees are disengaged with their work. Once you realize that we spend roughly 40 hours a week on this activity then you can only conclude that it’s time for a radical change.

They themselves made a radical change once they both faced major demotivation after working for only 2.5 years. They quit their jobs and decided to start a quest for the happiest organizations around the globe. For a year (starting from January 2016) they dive into the world of employee happiness as Corporate Rebels. It’s their profound believe that work could and should offer much more satisfaction than it does nowadays.

Happily, there is reason for hope. Various pioneers (they call them ‘heroes’) around the world have found a solution. Organizations, academics, entrepreneurs and business leaders’ illustrate that they are achieving amazing results by increasing their employees’ happiness. They show that once people are happy at work they perform better and go the extra mile. An obvious win-win situation.

rebels time line

The Corporate Rebels visit the world’s happiest workplaces and try to discover what we all can learn from them. What do the pioneers do different than traditional companies? How did they made a successful transition? What works well? What doesn’t work? How can their approaches be spread across the world? A lot of questions as you can see.

In order to answer all those questions they have compiled a ‘Bucket List’ with the heroes they visit. The Corporate Rebels travel the world to expose their secrets. By checking off their ‘Bucket List’ they learn what works and share it with everyone that wants to listen. Only then, boring work can become a thing of the past.

rebels logo

The Corporate Rebels spread their learnings and experiences through their website (http://www.corporate-rebels.com), blog, newsletter, press, social media, inspirational talks and workshops. This is how they pursue their mission to make work more fun. To inspire employees and organizations to make a change. A change towards more happiness and more success. The Corporate Rebels hope to make the world a happier place; one employee at a time.

+++ End essay

 

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Windows at Brussels Airport after suicide bombings on Tuesday. Credit Pool photo by Frederic Sierakowski

Windows at Brussels Airport after suicide bombings on 22 March 2016. CreditPool photo by Frederic Sierakowski, in NYT article “Je Suis Sick of This”

In the aftermath of the terrible Brussels terrorists attacks, I encourage you to watch the full 1h50m LiveStream of the “A Conversation on Privacy” of just a couple of days ago.

3heads-Image-facebook-1-1000x510

The conversation was positioned/framed as “The balance between national security and government intrusion on the rights of private citizens” and featured renowned linguist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald. Nuala O’Connor, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, was the moderator.

It is clear from the reactions of the public in a full house Centennial Hall of the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioural Sciences in Tucson Arizona that Chomsky, Greenwald and Snowden were playing a home match, but that should not underplay some of the key points they were making.

There are basically four big chapters in this conversation:

  • What is privacy, and the effects of mass surveillance (nobody in its right mind is questioning targeted surveillance)
  • The Brussels and other attacks and the (in)-efficacy of mass surveillance
  • The FBI – Apple case
  • The role of journalism

I am looking forward to a full transcript of this conversation, in the meantime I made the following bulleted notes:

  • On privacy
    • When discussing privacy and security, are we discussing security of State, Corporations, or Citizens?
    • The statement “if you don’t have anything to hide, you have nothing to fear” does not cut it at all:
    • Everybody needs to be able to think and explore in a space where you are not subject to other people’s judgment, where you can make decisions as result of your own agency
    • People are starting to self-sensor, curtailing their own speech
    • Privacy is the right to enjoy the products of our own intellect
    • Privacy is the fountainhead of all other rights
    • Privacy is the right to a free mind, without having your ideas being pre-judged before they are fully formed
    • If no privacy, you live as a collective, in a state of reaction to your environment
    • “I don’t care about privacy because I have nothing to hide, is about the same as saying I don’t care about freedom of speech because I have nothing to say”
    • Rights are designed for those who are vulnerable. “Not caring about a right (because it does not apply to you) is probably the most anti-social thing I can imagine.”
    • Rights exist to protect the minority against the majority. Even if the majority does not care about privacy (or any other right), that majority view is irrelevant
    • Silicon Valley companies still don’t care about your privacy. What they fear is users would give their data to somebody else
    • The “Digital Self” is unhealthy, creates a sense of intimacy that is fraudulent, leads to very superficial interactions amongst people
    • Should there be state secrets at all? Governments classify EVERYTHING as Secret or Top Secret, because of their unwillingness for transparency
    • The elites decides on our behalf.
    • The elites change as quickly as possible the conversation to the theoretical risk of having a free press
    • Almost NOTHING is concerned with the security of the population; the population is the enemy, and they are not supposed to know what the government or corporates are doing
    • The (US) does not want you to know that the real battle is about world domination of the US doctrine
    • The trade off between security and privacy is is a false dichotomy
    • It leads to the illusion of democracy
  • On the European attacks:
    • Mass surveillance does not have ANY concrete results against terrorism
    • “When you collect everything, you understand nothing”, “you are blinded by the noise”
    • But if mass surveillance does not work for terrorism, it must work for something… What is it good for then? It is about setting and policing our policies and marking anything that is not conforming as suspicious
    • The resources are misallocated to mass surveillance in stead of addressing the route causes
  • On the Apple – FBI case
    • The FBI “wants it all” – all communications between human beings – in other words “wants to kill privacy”. They want access to everything, even your private conversations in between the safe four walls of your home.
    • Orwell interpretation “if you live in a society where you are always being watched, you loose freedom”. But that was an interpretation. What Orwell really wrote was “… a world where we COULD be watched at any moment…”
    • In such a world, you have to act AS IF you were being watched all the time, not knowing of the surveillance device is operating, watching you, or if somebody on the other side is doing something with the information collected
    • Who should be permitted to hold secrets: The citizens ? The governments? The corporations?
    • The content of San Bernardino calls already HAVE been given to the authorities (through the service providers)
    • By unlocking the phone, they would now also have access to the metadata
    • “Private citizens” should have full transparency on “Public officials”
    • The emerging culture is the opposite: Public officials’ activities becoming more and more opaque, and Private citizens’ activities becoming more public
  • On Journalism
    • “What is non-objective is significant” with respect to journalism and framing
    • A lot of journalistic framing follows from their own obedience to the framework of conformity that they learned at our best schools in the world (Oxford, Cambridge, etc.)
    • We have to continue to reveal things that should never have been concealed in the first place

On the same day of the Conversation on Privacy in Tucson, there was an interview with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Canvas (Flemish Television).

john kerry

The theme of that interview was “the need for an integrated system of information exchange to increase security”, and that some countries have reservations to such systems – specifically referring in to Edward Snowden.

Some extracts of what John Kerry said (i tried hard not to put things out of context):

“It is fair to say that in a number of countries, partly because of mister Edward Snowden, and the history, people had a reservation about doing some of these things, because they felt that might be an invasion of privacy”.

“I don’t worry about my privacy. The fact that I am getting on an airplane – if I were not flying in a military airplane now, but if I am flying in a civilian airplane which I was doing as a senator – I don’t care if they know if I am on that plane; because I am obeying the law.”

“So I think people have to relax a little bit and understand that there are plenty of ways to protect your privacy without creating greater danger in society at large.”

“I do know that you (Belgium) have a federal system, I know you have a fairly decentralized system,…. And I remember the difficulties we had in the US between federal authority, state authority, and local authority and the movement of information. So, we’ve streamlined much of that now.”

“It is up to Belgium to decide what it should do, but I would urge Belgium and all European countries to create a more integrated flow of information so that we can protect ourselves more effectively”

“And I would say to every citizen that there is a way to do that and still protect people’s legitimate privacy. There is absolutely a way to do that, and we’ve proven it and we’ve lived with it.

To be honest, I could not believe my ears when watching this interview. If you have done a little bit of homework on the topic of privacy, you would also revolt against some of these platitudes which are in the same category as “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. The journalist in case missed the opportunity to give pushback to Kerry and to offer a more comprehensive framing of the issues on the table.

It seems to me that the underlying theme in all of this is a cultural tipping point from “when public controls private” to “when private controls public”.

Which of course stands in stark contrast with the idealistic visions of a fully distributed society: also that is a big illusion, because in any system where there is power to be re-distributed, some bigger players like governments and corporations will try to take advantage and create monopolies.

One could discuss what “control” means in this context, and I believe it is related to setting, dictating, manipulating and policing our set of norms and behaviours.

Although the conversation in Tucson is addressing mainly the way western (read US) politics are ran, the whole reasoning is applicable to any other belief system that evolves towards totalitarianism.

Evgeny Morozov was razor sharp is this week’s “The state has lost control: tech firms now run western politics“:

The only solution that seems plausible is by having our political leaders transfer even more responsibility for problem-solving, from matters of welfare to matters of warfare, to Silicon Valley.

This might produce immense gains in efficiency but would this also not aggravate the democratic deficit that already plagues our public institutions? Sure, it would – but the crisis of democratic capitalism seems so acute that it has dropped any pretension to being democratic; hence the proliferation of euphemisms to describe the new normal (with Angela Merkel’s “market-conformed democracy” probably being the most popular one).

The “need for an integrated system of information exchange to increase security” leads to a corporate and government surveillance state. Artificial intelligence tech firms and powerhouses start penetrating every segment of industry, also financial services.

@suitpossum was spot on with his great post this week on “The dark side of digital finance: On financial machines, financial robots & financial AI”, about machines controlling the “body” of the organization. @suitpossum has a great way to articulate how AI and robots are gradually robbing us from our personal agency.

The issue is whether they collectively imprison people in digital infrastructures that increasingly undermine personal agency and replace it with coded, inflexible bureaucracy; or whether they truly offer forms of ‘democratisation’.

I start calling this “The Illusion of Agency” and it will be the topic of one of my upcoming talks and associated blog posts.

There are several ways our policy makers can react to the attacks:

  • One way is to chose for confrontation: to step up reaction and retaliation, enforcing this way the agenda set by the attackers to undermine our way of living. Hitting back includes these “integrated systems” and the access to encrypted data as suggested in the British Investigatory Powers Bill. See also great NYT article on this topic
  • Another way is to use our resources to address the route causes of all this: the disrespect and straight military attacks by the western powers on non-western cultures and economies, not in the interest of the security of their populations but in an attempt to protect the economical and power interests of an elite.

But as public becomes more and more private, and private becomes public, and knowing who is in power, I am rather pessimistic and afraid that they – not we – will chose for the confrontation.

In the meantime – as I said in the beginning of this post – I invite you to listen to the full conversation on privacy, so you get some other perspectives than the obvious and populist ones you can pick up in the mainstream press and television news programs.

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