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Archive for the ‘Robots’ Category

project-x

Project X building, lower Manhattan at 33 Thomas Street, NYC

This week, The Intercept ran a fascinating article– well, quite disturbing actually – describing the possible surveillance roles of building Project-X, an AT&T owned property in the middle of Manhattan, sitting on top of some major telephone and communication switches (and apparently many other buildings like this in the USA and most probably elsewhere).

It even becomes super scary if you read the article with the backdrop of the first names and background of some of the people appointed in the last couple of days in the Trump administration.

The building was designed by the architectural firm John Carl Warnecke & Associates, whose grand vision was to create a communication nerve center like a “20th century fortress, with spears and arrows replaced by protons and neutrons laying quiet siege to an army of machines within.”

Some of Warnecke’s original architectural drawings for 33 Thomas Street are labeled “Project X.” It was alternatively referred to as the Broadway Building. His plans describe the structure as “a skyscraper to be inhabited by machines” and say that it was “designed to house long lines telephone equipment and to protect it and its operating personnel in the event of atomic attack.”

I spotted the article just two days after I saw a short 7-minute documentary (hence Doc7) on Belgian television about artist Renato Nicolodi

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Renato Nicolodi – a young artist from Flanders – makes architectural models of buildings that are not intended to be built.

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Pulpitum II by Renato Nicolodi, 2012

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Long Island Building NYC, by John Carl Warnecke & Associates

That made me think about my time as student in Architecture in Ghent, were we were allowed – or should I say incentivised? – to design buildings that never had to be built (at least in the first two years of the study). Full creativity nirvana, quoi.

The work of Nicolodi resonated with me for another reason. They are actually mausoleums that have a place in the memories of his grandfather, who spent the Second World War in various prisoner of war camps, which he meticulously describes in the conversations Renato argued with him. The recordings of those calls still are daily source of inspiration for Renato.

It woke up old memories from my youth when – at the age of 6 or 10 – I was visiting my grandmother, who lived in a place called Ledegem, a little village 17km east of Ieper, a town that will be remembered forever for the first time use of poison gas in World War One.

It makes me wonder about the working and selectiveness of my memory. Since I started my sabbatical begin Nov 2016, I feel restless.

Being disconnected from work – “the job” – gives me plenty of space for reflection, experimentation, silence, being alone – I love the sound of silence of the morning-house before the rest of the family has woken up.

But this stillness also seems to bring back many old memories, going way back to my childhood, things that I never thought about anymore in the last 50 years. On the other hand, it seems my short-term memory is getting very selective – almost ignoring mode. Up to a point that my lovely wife sometimes wonders if I should not go and see a doctor, but I think I am doing fine.

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Ledegem WWI cemetery today in 2016

At the end of my grandmother’s garden was a cemetery holding 85 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. I remember playing on the walls and the crucifix of the cemetery. In my memory, the place was much bigger than in this recent picture. I also remember some of the bunkers that you still find here and there scattered throughout the landscape in this region. I remember playing in one at the seaside before they were closed off for general public. I remember the smell of wet sand.

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German WW1 Command Bunker, Ypres Salient

The memory also put me in contact with another aspect of my onlyness (I am currently reading the draft manuscript of Nilofer Merchant’s next book), where I am coming from. My father is from a family of 7 kids, that all needed to be to taken care of by my grandmother all alone, as her husband died in a tragic car accident (he was on a bike) just before the start of the second world war. So, it was surviving on a shoestring.

Deep in my (un)consciousness, there is the fear for this shoestring poverty. That we’ll have to hide again in the coldness and humidity of bunkers in the polders. A dystopian threat of dark secrecy, manipulation, corruption and a fundamental loss of trust.

That is what bunkers and secret buildings do to me. Even if they are just architectural models that are not intended to be build.

The new models don’t seem to be intended for humans, they are intended to host machines. How can we reclaim back our humanity?

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At this year’s Innotribe Sibos, we have a session about digital ethics. Part of a full day on man-machine convergence.

Some of that conversation will be about the use and control of data. With this post, I would like to add my perspective to that conversation, based on some recent thinking on human agency.

At a recent MyData2016 event in Helsinki, i was surprised how little the thinking about personal data stores has evolved since 2012, when i was myself deeply in the trenches of the topic of distributed data sharing.

It was a really great conference, well organized, cool audience etc, but like many conferences, it was the tribe talking to tribe, believers talking to believers, all thinking that their lens to look at things was the right one, with little or no contrarian view.

I wanted to be that contrarian, and challenge a bit the assumptions.

At the event there was a lot of talk about “PIMS”: Personal Information Management Systems, or personal data stores, or personal data “clouds”. I don’t want to have a discussion about the subtle semantics here.

At one moment, Jamie Smith from Ctrl-Shift – who i respect a lot – said something along the lines of “PIMS are all about giving people agency”.

I think that is a big illusion, and that was what my talk was about. The illusion that the problem is about taking back ownership and control of your data. And that a PIMS is the solution. I believe we are discussing the wrong problem and the wrong solution when talking about managing our own personal data at our terms and conditions.

Owning your own agency is more important than owning your data. That in essence is what my talk was about.

My presentation at #MyData2016 conference

UPDATE: here the link to the Prezi of this presentation. Because there is so much video in this Prezi it takes 2-3 min to load. Be patient😉

The talk is part of a longer story of more than one hour, wandering through a whole bunch of philosophical, ethical and artistic considerations. At this event, i got only 20 minutes, and i told the moderator he could cut me off, which he did most elegantly (no pun intended) at the end of my presentation.

My agency vs. my data is a pretty big deal.

  • It is not about buying but creating
  • It is not about my data but my agency
  • It is not about privacy but about shelter
  • It is not about power asymmetries but relationship symmetries
  • It is not about MyData but about OurData

In that sense the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is shooting at the wrong problem. In that sense our politicians and leaders in general are again outperforming in solving the problems of the past.

I got some good reactions after this talk, from Doc Searls saying “you gave the talk that i always wanted to give”, to somebody else sending me a tweet and a mail saying “your presentation has changed my life, i decided to leave Facebook after more than 10 years”.

There is such a strong tension between our actual reality and the desired reality that we are currently moving in some form of virtual or surreality. But as Magritte said:

“Surrealism is the immediate knowledge of reality”

And we feel lost. We escape and try to reconnect nostalgically to what was, and are afraid of what going to be. People focus on the surreality of their phones instead of real life.

People believe what is on their phones and PIMS is the reality, and are able to represent us as human beings. But as Markus Sabadello said at this event: “Technology will not be able to represent the full complexity of human beings”

Our devices and apps make us believe we are in control, because we now can “manage” our data and lives. But we are focused on managing life, rather than living it. That is our big illusion.

To summarise, I believe our plan and ambition towards our desired reality must at least have following components:

  • This space needs to be regulated. Regulation means setting ethical and moral norms, AND policing them
  • These norms must be ethical and moral
  • We must decide who sets these norms, who polices them, and who penalises/rewards good behaviour.

For that we must bring “Society-in-the-loop”, and not let this be decided by governments, corporations, or god forbid, algorithms

 

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Society-in-the-loop by Iyad Rahwan

We must expand ourselves from a problem (efficiency) orientation to a creative (value creating) orientation, because the future is not about solving the past but knowing what you want and use mastery to make that happen.

Last but not least, we must be very much aware of the shallowness of the actual reality, and strive for high quality work with high quality attention and presence and meaning also called “Deep Work”

Maybe next year, they should call the conference #MyAgency2016;

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Web

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.

 

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“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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This is my first post of the year, and I don’t believe I properly closed the previous year.

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Surreal traffic sign in Belgium

On the last day of 2015 I paid a visit to the Magritte Museum in Brussels. It was one of those surrealist days, when the Brussels mayor has just announced the cancellation of the new-year fireworks, and the city was still under terror alert level-3, meaning that a threat is “possible and likely.”

magritte logo

I was early – just before the opening of the museum – and the city had something unreal. The air was fresh, the light was bright, everything was peaceful, and mainly Japanese and American tourists were hanging around enjoying the square.

The entrance of the museum also was surreal: visitors now had to go through a x-ray scanner, like in airports. I am pretty sure the place must be full of CCTV cameras, whose output is possibly most of the time ignored by human or more advanced computer vision systems.

I think we are overreacting here, and that it will get worse. There is a big disconnect between the reality and the perceptions created. And it changes my behaviour. Already now, I notice how I change my behaviour when entering in surveyed territories like airports (and now also musea): I don’t try to look into the eyes of the guard, maybe I dress more conforming, become submissive, and become more careful in the wordings and subjects of my posts and tweets.

I have become submissive.

Luckily, the queue at the museum was not long yet, and I could shrug off the defeat and start enjoying the museum tour.

The Magritte museum is part of a the complex of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, located in the heart of Brussels at the Place Royale. It is housed in the neo-classical landmark Altenloh Hotel, superbly restored in 1984. I had visited the Royal Museums complex before, but never the wing where Magritte is hosted.

The main entrance of the museum is via a big elevator (the museum is spread over three floors, and the tour starts on the 3rd floor). I go quite frequently to an exhibition and one immediately notices when you are entering a league in its own right. This is an absolute world-class collection and museum, I recommend it to anybody who visits our city and has a couple of hours to spare.

“The museum’s multi-disciplinary collection is unrivalled. It contains more than 200 works consisting of oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects as well as advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films produced by the artist.”

magritte headshot

Headshot René Magritte

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fall under the umbrella of surrealism. His work is known for challenging observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality. (from Wikipedia).

I believe that the skill to “challenge observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality” – in other words curating, creating, and making sense – is becoming more and more important is this age of rapid change, where shortcuts and platitudes are rather the norm, in stead of depth in our reflections about cultural change.

Robert Fritz said: “Structure determines behaviour, and behaviour drives culture”.

book marvelous clouds

In that context, I highly recommend the book “The Marvelous Clouds” by John Durham Peters, who starts where Marshall McLuhan left it in 1964 (that is now more that 50 years ago), when he coined the phrase “The Medium is the message” in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

McLuhan proposed that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

When I start playing and mixing with Fritz and McLuhan, I get to something like:

“The medium informs the structure,

Structure informs behaviour,

Behaviour informs culture”

A significant part of the structure we operate in is made of media. Media as in plural of medium.

The air is medium, water is medium, the Internet is medium.

But like Magritte, we are unaware how easily the medium can be tricked. Is what we see real, unreal, surreal, or pure illusion?

Check out this great post about Adversarial Machines by Sanim on how easy our machines can get fooled by adversarial robots.

“At the heart of many modern computer vision systems are Convolutional Neural Networks. On some vision tasks, CNNs have surpassed human performance. Industries such as Web-Services, Research, Transport, Medical, Manufacturing, Defence and Intelligence rely on them every day.”

And

“Adversarial Examples are a fascinating area of ongoing research. They highlight limitations of current systems and raise a number of interesting questions. While industries are racing to include visual intelligence systems in mission-critical infrastructure, looking at edge-cases and exploring solutions is a productive path. 

The discussion in that post – and especially the part on generating adversarial images and “mangas” – is fascinating. And should us make think very carefully how all this can be used and misused in a medium of networks, CCTV cameras, and online and offline surveillance.

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In other words, the image of the reality is not the reality.

The map is not the territory (Alfred Korzybski in 1931), meaning:

  • A map may have a structure similar or dissimilar to the structure of the territory…
  • A map is not the territory.

In The Medium Is the MassageMarshall McLuhan expanded this argument to electronic media. Media representations, especially on screens, are abstractions; are virtual “extensions” of what our sensory channels, bodies, thinking and feeling do for us in real life (Source: Wikipedia)

Which brings us full circle back to our friend Magritte who hits the nail – or should I say pipe – in many of his paintings, the most famous work entitled The Treachery of Images, which consists of a drawing of a pipe with the caption, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe“).

pipe

The spirit if Magritte is still very much alive. In true surreal traditions, Belgians started posting pictures of cats during threat level-4 in November 2015.

cats

These are deeply human and intended reactions to ever more chaotic environments and media.

I believe it is very important to nurture these human intentions, and the arts of humor, surrealism, and deeper languages than pure digital representations of reality.

Yes, we are talking here about the language of art.

Brian Eno recently defined art as:

“Everything that you don’t have to do

In that spirit, I leave you with some quotes from Magritte. They are displayed across the three floors of the museum in the same typography of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” All quotations are consolidated in a nice PDF that you can find on the museum’s website, with the original French version, and translations in Dutch, English, German and Spanish.

quotes

Many of the quotes are very powerful. Here a selection of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I wish for real love, the impossible and the utopian. I fear knowledge of my exact limits.

To be surrealist is to banish the notion of ‘déjà vu’ and seek out the not yet seen. By this I mean this moment of clarity that no method can reveal.

The real value of art is measured by its capacity for liberating revelation.

Nothing is as strong a defense as love, which allows lovers to enter into an enchanted world perfectly formed for them and where they are protected admirably by isolation.

Rebellion is a reflex of the living man.

Liberty is the possibility of being and not the obligation to be

All that I desire is to be enriched by intensely exciting new thoughts

Please do share with me your intensely exciting new thoughts. Onwards for a fantastic 2016. Happy new year !

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I have been away for some while. Many of you thought I was on a sabbatical leave, but that was just a smoke curtain for a much more dramatic makeover and re-invention of myself. I decided to become a true cyborg.

Oculus Ruft Headset Shoot

Zuck was onto something when he decided to acquire Oculus for 1.9B$ earlier this month: blurring the virtual world with the physical world to tap into the enormous opportunity of virtual experiences. But I believe he did not go till the end of his thoughts. You see, the Oculus is “only” one-directional. Giving you the input of virtual worlds. What if you could also give-back and share-back into the virtual world? The ultimate sharing economy?

That’s why I recently decided to become angel investor in a small start-up from Ukraine called “The Fishery”. We are really in stealth mode, I can’t say too much of it. But we are applying the lean startup methodology and we now have our first MVP (Minimal Viable Product) that we start iterating with our celebrity customers. I hope you will understand I can’t share names at this stage.

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Whereas products such as FitBit, Jawbone and others focus on QS (Quantified Self), we believe that with the Fishery we are entering the space of the Qualified Self – it’s about depth and quality, not quantity. We are still hesitating what will be the name of the product: something between the “Fishbit” of the “iFish”: indeed, what we are doing is starting to fish into the deep oceans of the subconscious and the unconscious, where data and the human species become integral one and holistic.

For quite some time, I was a big believer in so called “Personal Data Stores”: tools for the user that allow us to decide ourselves which pieces of our data we share with what vendor in what particular transaction context. But I realized that this only covers the data that we share intentionally. It does not cover data that we share non-intentionally (like the signals from our SIM cards), or data that are collected in surveillance and co-veillance scenarios.

So why not bite the bullet, accept that privacy is dead, and move into the realm of extreme transparency? And what if we could just plainly connect our own human brain to the internet, and create a distributed peer-to-peer exchange of human brainpower, and start to keep a human ledger that is cryptographically secured and trusted? This goes way beyond the Minority Report scenarios (after all, a film of more that a decade old). In this case, you only have to start thinking about something you would do, and hop! It would be immediately shared and algorithmically processed by the hive of connected brains. Of course, we’d have to make some major changes to legislation and regulation, but that can be overcome, it has been done before.

Anyway, last week I was back in our labs in Ukraine, and I volunteered to become the first test case for the latest beta version of our Fishbit.

Petervan with Fishbit

What you see on the picture is me on the lab-bed, right after the 3 hour operation. The little brick on my chest is the prototype of the Fishbit. About 35 wires are connected to different sensors on my brain, my heart, my blood pressure, my lungs, skin, my legs, arms, etc: it’s a true virtual and “brick”-and-mortar tricoder of all my physical and mental sensations and experiences, not only at the cognitive level, but more importantly also tracking and tracing the sub- and unconscious activities of my brain and body.

The Fishbit has of course a number of well-documented open APIs, as this is clearly a platform play where developers can let explode their creativity for thousands of apps tapping into my body, mind, and soul. And to fully bite the bullet of transparency and surveillance, we have added a couple of more secret “dark” APIs to give direct access to governments and other trustworthy organizations looking after the greater good of society at large. But I am deviating.

The mask and the tube are there to add extra oxygen and creative gases, because the sensations are so strong that I need to breath much more consciously to let my heart pumps more oxygen in the blood streams. I can tune the tube, for example per season or month, when for example in April I get an extra dose of laughing gas, and in May some smell or spring blossoms to bring me back to my 60ies hippie memories.

One of the earlier versions had an API with Twitter that made it much easier for me to tweet. I just had to think “tweet”, and hop, there where 140 characters describing what I had spotted in my 2,500 RSS feeds that I follow on a daily basis.

But now we can go a lot further

Jung Man and his Symbols

Many of you know that I am a deep expert in the works of Carl Jung, especially his Book of Dreams, The Man and his Symbols, and his work on the Self, the Archetypes, the personal and the collective unconscious

Jung Sphere

Illustration from the book: “Jung, a very short introduction” by Anthony Stevens

What we discovered with Fishbit, is that sharing as we know in Facebook, Twitter, etc is so… well, outdated. If we reflect on Jung, this sort of FB-sharing only addresses the outer shell of who we are, the ego. In many cases that ego is made up and self-created, and by no means reflecting our deeper selves and motivations. Now, with Fishbit we can tap into that power.

Now, I can share my dreams as they happen. The Fishbit sensors sense when I am entering my REM sleep, can capture my dreams, and in the preferences I can set whether I want my dream to be shared as a literal transcript, as a film scenario or as a piece of poetry.

Now, I can connect my collective and personal conscious to the grid, and share with vendors my really true subconscious needs, to they can shoot better ads to me, the target. Finally! Indeed, as my hero Frank Zappa used to say: “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

Zappa deviation norm

And is it not progress when now, for the first time, data, dualism, humanism and the deep unconscious merge into a exciting melting pot with unseen business opportunities on the medium and long term? I hope you share my enthusiasm for this wonderful new world. Welcome to the world of Fishbit. Welcome to my ultimate cyborg make-over.

UPDATE: obviously this post was related to it’s fishy publication date. Thanks for your reactions of concern about my health, I am doing 100% fine😉

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On 10-12 June 2013, I was invited as a panel participant to the ISACA Insights World Congress. It was the second time in two weeks – the previous time was during a session at the Amplify Festival – that the panel was asked by the moderator what the future would look like in 2040. At Amplify the question was around the future of work. At ISACA, the question was even more open ended.

untitled-by-allison-mcd-on-flickr

Although nobody of course knows what the future will hold, and everything I say on this topic is almost wrong by definition, I believe I surprised my audience with my very dystopian view on the future.

Many seem to believe that the future will be “bright”, with lots of possibilities for hyper-collaboration, in open and shared spaces, where serendipities happen every minute, where hierarchies don’t exist anymore, sort of love-and-peace in a sharing collaborative back-to-Woodstock environment.

woodstock-poster-for-sale

That may be the case in 2020, but I think the picture will be less rosy in 2040. Already today, algorithms trade in matter of milliseconds, a real-time world that we as humans can’t even grasp, let only survive. Where those algorithms now work for stock trading companies, by 2040 we will most probably be “augmented” – at best – by our personal algorithms.

It will not be a nice picture to look forward to: by that time, we will be totally ruled by robots and algorithms, and we will have to fight – assisted by our “devices” – for that very last minute of work in a crowded world marketplace where we will have to compete at rates of 1.5$ per hour. And this for probably high-skilled tasks, as the rest will be taken over by robots: a “Present Shock” of technological presence, a world undone of human presence, a very disturbing place where we are ruled by algorithms working on our behalf, where betting on peoples future is the new normal, where siren server masters raise interest fees on the mortgage of the personal success/failure of the data slaves.

The Singularity will have happened, but in quite a different way, in a way that technology owns us, eats us, swallows us, not a singularity of jolly happy people being more intelligent or augmented. A world of technology versus machines, where technology will dictate what it wants from us (See also Kevin Kelly “What Technology Wants” – with Kelly being the technology optimist he is – and Jaron Lanier “Who Owns the Future?”).

What we have witnessed during the last weeks’ revelations represents a true tipping point. Where we still may have had the illusion that we could empower ourselves, take charge, we will be at best be empowered by other powers: a new dystopian world where authoritarian technology rules, an authoritarian singularity, where we are reduced to data slaves of the new data masters.

As part of the Digital Asset Grid (DAG) project (an Innotribe project stopped after its incubation phase, and given back to the community), I have written in the past about the “Catastrophic Complexity” that is emerging right now through the explosion of the number of nodes on the grid, ànd the explosion of data. Where these data are more and more stored by “Siren Servers” – a metaphor used by Jaron Lanier – and where the DAG proposed a 100% distributed model of data storage in personal or corporate clouds, but with a choice of appropriate Trust Models, so that we don’t end up in another worldwide west. Indeed, with the advent of trillions of nodes on the grid, we will require a new kind of species, a new kind of architecture, but more importantly a new type of governance.

camel

I am also getting more and more disturbed by a sort of “over-glorification of technology. This may be surprising as a “Techonomist”, where the belief is that technology will enable a new philosophy for progress – I still believe that – but we need some solid healthy criticism in the debate.

techonomy

When I read this week in The Guardian – a quality newspaper, right? – about the “gadgetry and behavior concepts for the 21 century” and the related comments that these are “super important” new behaviors, I believe we are missing the point; we need to counterbalance all this excitement with way more attention for humanizing our businesses.

I am afraid we are slipping into an “Authoritarian Surveillance State” as described in Washington Post, or even a “Techtarian State” as articulated by Stan Stalnaker in The Huffington Post.

To understand what’s really going on, let’s looks at some understreams that cause the waves of change at the surface. I have split them in technological and more societal changes:

  • Technological:
    • SMAC: Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud
    • Platforms and APIs leading towards the end of highly vertically integrated organizations, and where the new skill becomes horizontal sourcing of pin-point functionality
    • Explosion and loss of control of data.
    • Explosion of Cyber-threats
    • Our identity schemes not keeping up with the sheer explosion of nodes, hampering our security, as the internet was never built with identity in mind
    • Disintermediation through hyper-connectivity (example Über)
  • Societal
    • Erosion of Privacy
    • Platform, everything as a service
    • New economies (P2P, Sharing, Reputation,…)
    • New expression of value, currencies, assets, cred, influence, reputation,
    • Crowdsourcing everything (credit cards, funding, investing, lending, mapping, reputation, …)

We probably most underestimate this trend of crowd-everything. There is something deeper going on: this is really about the use of external power to scale; think platform, using crowds as change accelerators, like developers for building on your APIs, but now through users. Google recently acquired Waze for 1B$ !.

waze

The industrial scale application of crowd is very much a “Singularity University Meme”, says Haydn Shaughnessy in Forbes.  Crowd-recording, crowd-sensing, crowd-data collection, more eyes and ears and sensors, through Waze, through Glasses, etc. It’s clear some parties want way more data to be available,  searchable, to be monetized, with us working like slaves to provide all these data for free. We evolve from democracy to “crowdocracy”.

Our near future will witness the “fragmentation of everything”: the fragmentation of work, of applications, of hierarchies, and states giving in to power data houses, data guerillas, pods, and cells.

We will see the “asymmetry of everything”: asymmetry of transparency, of search and computing power, of concentration of data. This will lead to power unbalances, to surveillance mania, to loss of freedom of speech. Already now the recent developments makes me more selective on what I tweet and share. The only way out is a 100% distributed system, but I am afraid that it is already too late for that and that our future is already owned by Jaron Lanier’s “Siren Servers”

We already see the “exceptionalism of everything”, where the exceptions become the norm: events such as stock exchange black swans become the norm. We take for granted the exceptional qualities of uber-people like Marissa Mayer, Zuckerberg, and other “heroes”.

We are “attacked by everything”: our secrecy is attacked by Wikileaks, our privacy by Siren-Servers, our security by cyber-attacks, our value creation by thousands of narrow innovations at the speed of light. All this happens at the speed of light, at “Un-Human” speeds, runs on a different clock, lives in another world.

We seem to live in a “perpetual crisis”, jumping from one incident to another, where there is no room anymore for building a story with a begin, middle, and an end; no room for reflection, no room to assess and scan the waves of change on the surface of the data ocean.

The world enters into a complexity

that cannot be addressed anymore

by conventional binary linear thinking.

 

We need new tools, capabilities, and ways of thinking, more non-linear, be prepared to open up for more options. These new tools are about forecasting and assessing in different ways (scenario thinking), decide our options in different ways, design thinking in context with intent and within constraints, and richer ways of expressing our options through visual thinking and other techniques more leveraging the human senses of color, sound, smell, trust, sensuality, presence.

We have come at a point where our only options out are a revolution of the data slaves and evolving as a new kind of species in the data ocean, trying to preserve what makes us human.

I have no clue how we can avoid this dystopia, but we will need a new set of practices for value creation; where data slaves dare to stand up and call for a revolution; where value creation and tax declarations go way beyond being compliant with the law; where we see the emergence of ethically responsible individuals and organizations. But it will be very difficult to turn back the wheel that has already been set in motion several decades ago.

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The last couple of weeks I have been aroused with many ideas and reflections on Personal Digital Assets and on Digital Assets in general.

The journey started some weeks ago with my prezi talk at TEDxNewWallStreet and included my participation to the WEF “tiger team” on Personal Data, where a group of 30 experts are looking at what is needed to make realize the vision of Personal data as a new economic “asset class”. Personal data created by and about people, touching all aspects of society. That group is stitching the pieces together for a framework of business, technical and legal elements that are needed to underpin this vision.

However, the following video from Kynetx was the big aha-moment during my 4-weeks tour on the subject.

I never thought of a Personal Data Store as a “Personal Event Network”.

This changes everything ™

indeed as Phil Windley (@windley), CTO of Kynetx says.

One years ago, there was this beautiful video animation by David Siegel (@pullnews), a great vision of distributed nodes of personal data content talking to each other through API’s.

In the meantime, there is a rich ecosystem of start-ups that are building something very similar as we speak.

Maybe not yet to its fullest grand vision, but definitely going way beyond the traditional concept of a “personal data store”.

Check out leading start-ups such as Personal.com. Btw I dream of one day seeing an integration of Personal.com with an on-line bank. Anybody needing a brokering service here ?😉

What Kynetx is adding to the mix are three important things:

  • the “event” based thinking
  • the prototol for the data-web
  • Cloud Operating System

Event based thinking:

He really nailed it down for me last time I met him:

  • In the past we had RPC (Remote Procedure Calls), in essence fire and forget
  • Then came request/response: you ask for something, and you get it
  • Now there is the “event-signal”. It does not ask for something, it just says “something’s happened”, and any entity in the network can subscribe to the event and decide itself to do something with it.

Protocol for the data-web:

The other aha-moment was when Phil was doing his talk at the New Digital Economies conference on 27 March 2012.

For those who remember, in the past we had silo-d email systems. AOL, Compuserve, etc. They did not interoperate. We got rid of those silos when there was a standard protocol, allowing competing commercial and open source servers to talk to each other in SMTP.

We now see the same with data, personal data, social graphs. We have data-silos (Facebook, Google, Bank systems, Health systems, Government systems, etc). What we need is a “Data-Server” and a “Protocol” that allows these data servers to be interoperable.

Cloud Operating Systems:

Phil has explained all this beautifully in a series of blogs on www.windley.com and I get very inspired when he makes a call for thinking about personal clouds as “cloud operating systems”

All this, Phil calls “The Live Web” (Amazon Associates link). He is so excited about this that he has written a book about it.

In other words, start thinking about your “Personal Data Locker” become a “Personal Event Cloud”: your personal data-server in the cloud that can talk and do things on your behalf, can make decisions, interpret rules, etc…

And it can talk to any entity, any node in the web (or at least nodes in any discoverable namespace). In real-time. In multiplexing mode (meaning the node can be both a server and a client).

It suddenly dawned to me that over the last years we have been hyping “The Programmable WEB”, and that if we are serious about customer centric identity or “customer centric” or “personal” whatever, we may wish to start with the “me”.

Suddenly it was flashing in my brain: “The  Programmable Me”

“Me” is becoming a node in the grid. We are all nodes in the grid, sending and receiving signals. Like neurons passing an electrical or chemical signal to another cell. And start thinking “synapses” when you talk about the API’s of your Programmable Me.

From Wikipedia:

Synapses are essential to neuronal function: neurons are cells that are specialized to pass signals to individual target cells, and synapses are the means by which they do so”

The APIs of your “Programmable Me”, of your Personal Event Cloud are indeed the means to make all these nodes interoperable.

Add to this the graph-thinking of Drummond Reed (@drummondreed), Co-Chair of the XDI/XRI Technical Committee of OASIS. Check-out http://wiki.oasis-open.org/xdi/XdiGraphModel and more specifically some of the Powerpoints out there:

Each circle in this drawing represents a node in the grid. I really encourage you to look at this as a graph – this ensemble of inter-connected nodes – as something 3-dimensional, possibly multi-dimensional.

We have all been trained to think hierarchical. Flat files with a root, that sort of thing.

We have to learn to think in graph-models.

You can start anywhere in the galaxy. Every point can be the center of the universe. There is no root. At least, not in absolute terms. Yes, in relative terms with respect to the other nodes in the universe…

A grand vision starts to develop when you realize that the nodes can be any type of entities:

  • Humans (or their agents)
  • Circles (like Google Circles) of humans (entities without legal form)
  • Corporations, non-profits, governmental or educational institution (aka organizational constructs of humans with specific legal form)
  • We should also include less traditional forms of organizational constructs such as co-operatives, P2P communities, Commons,…
  • Programs (yes, software code), that perform tasks on behalf of the entities above or that operates as fully independent entities.

Each of these nodes/entities can participate in transactions – or better, “value dances”. “Dance” because the protocol is multiplexing, not one-way request-response.

Of course all these entities will require identity, in the broadest sense, not only URI or ID number, but in the sense of a spectrum, a graph that can be shared in context with other nodes/entities.

Sharing the spectrum becomes the essence of trade

What we are witnessing is a 180° turn in the power balance between client and server, slave and master, buyer and supplier, consumer and merchant.

All entities are equal.

We are all equal

Doc Searls (@dsearls) has written a book about it. The Intention Economy. (Amazon Associates Link)

But look at the subtitle: “When Customers Take Charge”.

I like Doc a lot, but his subtitle may suggest that somebody else is in charge: the empowered customer. I am afraid that we may end-up with another un-balance, where the pendulum has swung the other side: where the customer has an unfair data-advantage versus the merchant. But let their be no doubt that today the merchant has the unfair data-advantage, and I read Doc’s book more like a plea for getting the balance right rather than a socialist rant against establishment represented by the “big boys”, the vendors, the merchants, the silos like Facebook and Google.

In all the discussions about the Empowered Customers, we see classic commerce use cases like buying a book, buying flowers for grandma, etc

But I would like to make the jump to truly balanced financial transactions and what “dances between equals” would mean in that space. I invite you to think about your bank as the merchant, the merchant of financial services, and the consumer as the retail or wholesale customer of the bank.

In such scenario, the fundamental shift in thinking already happens at the Point of Sale (POS). We even have the question the term “Point of Sale”. It stems from an old thinking where the merchant “owns” the customer.

YOU are the point of sale

YOU are the point of data integration!

In the past the POS was the master,

now it will be YOU who is in charge,

or your agent,

the “Programmable Me”.

What if we start thinking about banking where YOU are the point of data-integration? What if your bank would offer you a service that enables you to manage your Personal Event Cloud?

I don’t know how it would look like, but it probably would be something triggered from your mobile phone. It probably would look like one of the Next-Gen banks (Simple, Movenbank, Fidor) with a Personal Event Network out-of-the-box.

Some of these Next-Gen banks are already accepting the CRED of your Social Graph as a much richer (in all senses of the word) basis for “Know you Customer”. Although we probably also have to inverse that: from the captive notion of “know your customer” to the user-centric meaning of “know your bank”. Then we may come back to the “primitive” of the meaning of “bank”: a bench where two people meet to build a relationship of value.

So, the discussion is NOT about the next coolest thing for doing a copy-cat of existing money-transactions through the latest greatest gadget like NFC or Bump, or whatever.

Some of all this already permeates in a recent Techcrunch article suggesting the “NFC is already out-moded”

“The thing to keep in mind here” says Crone, “is that NFC was developed more than 20 years ago. It was first deployed 10 years ago. 10 years ago, we didn’t have ubiquitous access to data plans. We didn’t have more smartphones in circulation than feature phones and we had to depend on an ‘offline’ connection for processing payments. But now, there are 124 million households that have more than one device connected to the internet. Typically, that’s a smartphone, but very quickly it’s becoming a tablet.”

Also Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi) starts thinking in this direction in his recent post “Musings in Small Data”.  In there, he refers to a video of Jerry Michalski (@jerrymichalski) of the REXpedition doing a demo his “Personal Brain”. (Disclosure: I am member of the REXpedition). The video is titled “Gardening My Brain” and the talk was given at Personal Digital Archiving on February 22, 2012 in San Francisco.

It’s a pity that this talk is in the context of a personal digital archiving conference. Because, in my opinion, we have dramatically evolved from archiving to sharing.

Sharing of information and digital assets is becoming the new normal in this world of Abundance of information.

Christopher Carfi nails it when he says:

As these issues become more widely understood, more individuals will be tracking their own information. Perhaps it won’t be to the level that Jerry has done it in the video above, but it will be happening. This means that we, while wearing our business hats, will need to be developing real relationships with our customers. We need to listen to what they are saying, what they are asking for, and working collaboratively with them in order to help them fulfill their needs. In the best cases, we’ll have built up levels of trust with our customers and will have been given the explicit permission to access our customers’ personal data stores. In doing so, we’ll be able to actually take the guesswork out of the equation that was noted so clearly above in the Facebook example and will, instead, be able to connect directly with our customers’ intentions and deliver value on their terms.

Creating an economy based on the principles of relations is of course at the heart of the REXpedition. It is probably the next territory for competitive advantage beyond the mundane money transaction.

All this is about creating “Relationship Channels”, channels the vendor can tune into of the user has opened the channel.

All the above are of course very much related to our Innotribe incubation project “Digital Asset Grid” (DAG), which is about the sharing of any digital asset with any party.

All of the above is also very relevant to Mark Pesce’s (@mpesce) thinking about “hypereconomics”, described in one of my previous posts “The future rarely arrives when planned”.

The real question is then: “Where will value be created when all the connections between nodes have become frictionless?” Mark has some ideas on this, and he describes them as “irreducibles

No matter how ‘smooth’ and frictionless hyperconnected commerce becomes, certain frictions in the business world will persist.  These represent both speed humps and opportunities.  The businesses of the 21st century will find leverage and differentiation by identifying and exploiting them.”

What those “irreducibles” are, you will be able to discover at our upcoming Innotribe event in Bangkok on 26-27 April 2012, where together with Mark Pesce we will have some great interactive learning experiences. Be there, or read the report that we will make on this post-conference.

If you really want to take a meta-view on all this, I believe all the examples above illustrate our species being in search for a deeper meaning, a thicker value in everything we experience:

  • We are in search for a higher level of consciousness, a further evolution in Spiral Dynamics, in search for a richer value system, much richer than the pure transaction world that is the narrow lens of today
  • We start looking at companies being nodes in the grid, in fair-trade constellations of equals, trying to maximize the commons and contribution and giving back to society
  • We want to go beyond the “advertising” thinking of “let’s hit the target with an ad”. We are in search for a better world with more Thick value and less Thin value
  • We are starting to see the emergence of “The universe as a Computer” as wonderfully described by Nova Spivack (@novaspivack) in one of his milestone posts last month.

All the above is about defining, articulating, and living lives of greater meaning. With the “M” of meaning. Umair Hague (@umairh) already in 2009 called this “Generation-M”, which in essence is anchored in “constructive capitalism”

Generation M is more about what you do and who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century – or the 21st?

I would like to close with a reference to The Wellbeing Revolution (Amazon Associates Link) by James McWhinney (@JamesMcWhinney).

What I liked about this book is that it encourages you to look at where you are in your life, and to look at it through the “M” lens. The lens of meaning.

I then discover that what I am writing today, what job I am doing, who I am married to, was probably all meant to be this way. Not “meant” in a deterministic way. No, “meant” as everything I have done, the decisions I have made, my architecture studies, my infection by the identity virus, my journey in Leading By Being, etc… all these things have made me who I am.

What if I could capture all this richness about me, and have a tool and an infrastructure to share that on my terms and conditions, in context, and with the parties or nodes in the grid that I choose to? What if I could share my meaning in a programmable way?

I would end up with something called “the programmable me”

By @petervan from the SWIFT Innotribe team.

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